The shops have cold cases carrying zero-alcohol, zero-calorie, zero-sugar "beer" next to hot cases stocked with canned coffees and teas. A glimpse in the freezer reveals a familiar brand -- Haagen-Dazs -- but in Japan the ice cream comes not only in tiny tubs but sandwiched between crispy wafers or rolled into soft crepes, a product launched last year by TBWA Hakuhodo.
Look for the line helpfully taped to the floor several feet from the register when you go to pay. It's one customer at a time at the counter, though the rule is unspoken and not immediately clear to newcomers. One frequently feels like a walking faux pas.
Japanese women are the most dynamic demographic at the moment, though few consumer trends seem to stick. Many urban working women are eschewing traditional gender roles to focus on careers and themselves. Women are increasingly dining alone (which used to make them feel self-conscious), and restaurants have responded with female-friendly meals for one.
Young urban men, on the other hand, have rejected the machismo of their fathers' generation of salarymen and adopted a gentler outlook. Cooking classes are popular, as are grooming products and desserts for men. Young office workers in Tokyo still wear black suits (things in Japan haven't changed that much), but their outfits feature unique personal touches -- colorful silk ties and buttery-leather shoes.
It's impossible to talk about marketing in Japan without mentioning Dentsu, which with No. 2 agency, Hakuhodo, dominates the market. Though Dentsu's international profile is still growing, no advertising agency comes close to matching its scale or media-buying power at home. Its soaring glass headquarters is one of the tallest buildings in Japan, with the excellent Advertising Museum Tokyo in the basement.