Extreme readers stay overnight at Junkudo bookstore in Tokyo

Written by: William on October 2, 2014 at 9:27 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

There are many kinds of bibliophiles and bookworms in Japan. There are the hipsters who hang out at pristine artsy bookshops like T-Site in Daikanyama or Nadiff in Ebisu, et al. There are the manga fans who chase down rare titles at Mandarake or the serious aficionado searching for that first edition among the dusty shelves of Kanda. There are the socialites who would flock to Combine (now closed) in Nakameguro and now go to events at B&B in Shimokitazawa or the Mori no Tosho Shitsu “beer library” in Shibuya.

And then there are people who love being surrounded by books so much they want to stay overnight in a bookshop.

Junkudo, one of the main bookstore chains in Japan, has apparently spotted a demand for this kind of service and that’s why they are offering lucky group of customers the chance to do a “try living in Junkudo tour” on November 1st in the Kasumigaseki Press Center branch in Tokyo.

junkudo stay overnight sleeping service accommodation tokyo book store bookshop japan tour

Of course, guests are allowed to read the books and magazines during the overnight stay. Junkudo recruited applicants for the trial run until September 30th, having been inspired to offer the service after receiving requests on social media from people keen to “live” in Junkudo.

The bookstore night camp will run from 5pm on November 1st until 8am on November 2nd. Reading lights will be kept on for late-night sessions with your tome of choice. You have to bring your own sleeping bag and other equipment (we recommend the King Jim Wearable Futon, aimed at officer workers pulling in all-nighters), and though it’s free to stay overnight, Junkudo asks you to purchase at least one book or magazine.

junkudo stay overnight sleeping service accommodation tokyo book store bookshop japan tour

Junkudo received a lot of applicants and so will hold a lottery in October to choose who gets to experience the bookshop sleepover. There will be three sets of six guests at the bookstore-cum-hotel, though we imagine if it’s a success in terms of publicity Junkudo will make it a regular fixture.

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Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robot: Taro Okamoto’s Taiyo no To recreated as transforming mechanical action figure

Written by: Japan Trends on October 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Tower of the Sun is one of the great icons of postwar Japan and the Showa era. The huge sculpture is a kind of totem pole that was created by artist Taro Okamoto as one of the signature attractions at the 1970 Osaka World Expo.

After the Expo closed, the Tower of the Sun (Taiyo no To) was one of the few structures that was preserved at the park in Senri, north Osaka.

taro okamoto tower of the sun expo 1970 osaka

The park is now mostly empty — though we highly recommend the ethnology museum in its grounds — but Okamoto’s massive tower still greets visitors as soon as they enter the gates.

Well, the Taiyo no To has now become a die-cast model in the Tamashii Chogokin alloy series — and one that transforms into an action figure!

chogokin tamashii taro okamoto tower of the sun robot taiyo no to expo osaka 1970 sculpture

A kind of tribute-cum-remake of Okamoto’s vision, the Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robot is only “robotic” in name, though it is certainly mechanical. It has moveable parts, including a chest that opens up and an extendable neck.

taro okamoto taiyo no to expo osaka 1970 tower of the sun chogokin bandai tamashii robot action figure toy

Okamoto was a playful artist who believed in art for the masses, so we don’t think he would disapprove of this merchandising of his primitivist sculpture.

This is far from the first time that the Tower of the Sun has been turned into a product but it’s definitely the best we’ve ever seen.

Bandai Tamashii’s Chogokin is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary at the moment and as such has embarked on an ambitious series of releases. This includes the truly remarkable Chogokin Hello Kitty Robot Model, which is Kitty-chan like we’ve never seen her before. It also created a kind of “mutant” of six Fujiko F Fujio characters for the Chogattai SF Robot, which is just so many levels of awesome we don’t know where to begin.

Chogokin also has a series of models for “grown-ups” too, such as this Otona no Chogokin Series 0 Shinkansen Bullet Train Model and Hayabusa Spacecraft Model Kit (based in the JAXA design), for the more serious enthusiast who wants a challenge.

Still, nothing quite beats a Tower of the Sun Transformer-style action figure!

The Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robot is now available from JapanTrendShop.

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How to Use Shibaura House: A video guide to the designer Tokyo community space

Written by: William on September 30, 2014 at 8:21 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Shibaura House is a community space in the Tokyo district of Shibaura, a neighborhood in the south of the city near the port. The stylish glass building is designed by Kazuyo Sejima and hosts private functions, as well as regular workshops and art events.

shibaura house kazuyo sejima community space tokyo workshops

Sometimes these can be creative events for kids, dance workshops, yoga lessons, cooking and food events, and more. Check the Shibaura House Facebook page for photos from past events.

shibaura house kazuyo sejima community space tokyo workshops

When the center first opened in 2011 its translucent architecture attracted quite a bit of gushing from the likes of Design Boom et al. Arc Space compared the building to a Japanese paper lantern: “Public and private programs interweave in this cunning, white-clad amalgamation of boxy geometric volumes and playful curves… The most luxurious thing about Shibaura House is the spaciousness of its rooms in a city notorious for its exorbitant land prices. This is architecture far more down to earth, stripped down and pragmatic, yet with a playfulness instigated by the rounded shapes and shifting heights of its interior and semi-interior spaces.”

shibaura house kazuyo sejima community space tokyo workshops

Earlier this year Shibaura House published a series of illustrated bilingual “Kanto Tour Guides” with the help of 10 foreigners (why only foreigners, we’re not sure). Contributors included Lucas Badtke-Berkow, Jean Snow, Vivian Morelli, and Jared Braiterman.

shibaura house kanto tour guides

It also recently produced this funny English-language video introducing its facility and services.

how to use shibaura house

The presenter is “Charlie”, who for reasons unknown does the whole video in a top hat.

While casual visitors are perhaps unlikely to be passing through the business district of Shibaura (though a walk by the canals is nice), do pop in if you are nearby. Shibaura House has a free ground-floor space open to the public and which also has wi-fi. There is also a library with many books about architecture (of course!) and the staff can speak English. Oh, and a cup of coffee only costs ¥100.

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Maywa Denki’s latest musical instrument, Mr Knocky, is an awesome drum toy

Written by: Japan Trends on September 29, 2014 at 9:37 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Maywa Denki are one of Japan’s best-kept secrets. Part music unit, part toy designers, part performance artists, the group is now 20 years old but continues to come up with great ideas.

Their biggest hit was likely the Otamatone Sound Toy, a remake of the theremin that came out a few years ago, though they are involved with new projects the whole time. Led by the irrepressible Novumichi Tosa, the boss puts himself front and center of the marketing. He’s the guy in the video below demonstrating Maywa Denki’s latest product, Mr Knocky. As Tosa shows, Mr Knocky is a surprisingly inventive drum instrument toy.

maywa denki mr knocky drum toy musical instrument

It doesn’t use batteries, instead relying on what Tosa calls “wire action”. As you shake the “mallet controller”, it makes Mr Knock drum. He has two drums and so there are two controllers. Switch the way you shake them to vary the drumming. This requires real skill to do well. You can hang Mr Knocky around your neck too if you want to walk around town playing his drums.

The second way you can play Mr Knocky is by putting the controllers flat on a surface (they helpfully have sticky pads to make this easier) and fitting them together. This makes them into de facto piano keys and now you can use your fingers to play the drums. Even better, get two Mr Knocky toys and combine the controllers so you have four drumming piano keys, all fitted together to make one mega percussion unit.

maywa denki mr knocky drum toy musical instrument

Here’s the full demo. Towards the end Tosa gives a showcase of some of the more difficult things you can do with Mr Knocky, such as “crescendo knock”, “paradiddle knock” and “unison knock”.

Here Tosa plays a Otamatone-Mr Knocky duet with himself!

Mr Knocky comes in two colors (white or black) and can even be given some extra character with the mustache accessory that is included.

But if you’re really keen on customizing things, take off Mr Knocky’s drums and replace them with other items like empty drink cans. The angle of Mr Knocky’s drumming arm can also be adjusted depending on the size of the ersatz drum.

Mr Knocky will be released in early October and can be purchased via JapanTrendShop.

To end, here’s Maywa Denki performing with the SoftBank robot Pepper earlier this year, along with a whole gaggle of their wacky inventions.

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Climbers killed in volcano Mt Ontake eruption, breathtaking videos of ash cloud

Written by: William on September 27, 2014 at 5:45 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Mt Ontake, a volcanic mountain between Nagano and Gifu prefectures, erupted at 11:53 a.m on September 27th, resulting in a 4km ash cloud.

mt ontake volcano japan eruption
[Image source: Asahi]

japan volcano eruption mountain mt ontake hikers climbers flee escape

japan volcano eruption mountain mt ontake hikers climbers flee escape

The eruption took hikers on the mountain by surprise (an alarm was sounded 10 minutes before the eruption) and sent them running for cover from the ash, as this video shows.

We have been updating this post as more information is released.

It is now thought over 30 people have been killed in the eruption, likely smothered in the ash cloud. Many others have been reported badly injured and hundreds more evacuated. The mountain is over 3,000 meters tall and aircraft are being diverted from the plumes of ash in the skies above the volcano. The side of the mountain is coated in a vast coat of ash, making it resemble a lunar landscape.

Mt Ontake, Japan’s second largest volcano, also previously erupted in the late 1970′s.

Watch the sky change after the eruption at around noon in this time lapse video.

You can see more images and videos of today’s eruption on Gigazine.

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Optical: a new fashion magazine in Japan devoted to wearing glasses

Written by: William on September 26, 2014 at 8:35 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

It’s official. Having glasses is cool.

Japan has long regarded glasses and eyewear as serious fashion items, which is why companies like Jin and Zoff go to great efforts to market their products in interesting ways, such as setting up vending machines for glasses.

Glasses are so cool they have even inspired their own typography by font designers.

And now glasses have their own dedicated hipster fashion magazine.

optical glasses eyewear fashion magazine japan

“Optical” will be published four times a year by Yoshimoto Books, with the first issue going on sale in Japan on September 25th. Aimed at men and women who wear and like glasses as lifestyle and fashion accessories — and not just tools for seeing better — the front cover features comedian Naoki Matayoshi and model and actress Akiko Kikuchi, who is also a part-time editor herself. Needless to say, Matayoshi and Kikuchi all wear glasses, and very snazzy they look in them too.

The content includes photo stories, interviews with celebrities who wear glasses, and more. The fashion pages include tips on coordinating your specs with your wardrobe in various scenarios (trips to a cafe, the park, a bookstore, etc). There is also trivia, shop guides, and other articles, all themed around the art of having a cool glasses lifestyle.

The publisher is a subsidiary of Yoshimoto Kogyo, the entertainment giant, so we can expect future issues to feature plenty of content with Yoshimoto comedians.

“Optical” is priced ¥926 (about $10) plus tax.

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Oppo Ketori Pet Hair Collector: a clever way to clean up dog or cat fur

Written by: Japan Trends on September 25, 2014 at 8:56 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Pet trends are one of the funnest things we keep our eyes on.

After all, what other nation on Earth has such a variety of dog fashion (dog wigs?!), cat cafes — or even Architecture for Dogs? The unique living environment of Japanese cities — small apartments, crowded buildings — create all kinds of special needs for pets, plus, as the demographic trend is showing, people seem to prefer dogs and cats to having actual babies.

From the makers of the immensely popular duckbill-design Oppo Dog Muzzle now comes the Oppo Ketori Pet Hair Collector, a very neat and effective way to clean up after your pooch or cat.

oppo ketori dog cat fur pet hair collector cleaner

Fur can get everywhere and anywhere when it comes to pets and if you home is as small as a Japanese one, you will find yourself very aware of your canine or feline friend’s hairs on the sofa.

Oppo came up with the Ketori, which literally means “take hair” and is a kind of catcher device that you can hold at the round base, using the nozzle-like tip to sweep up the hair and fur from nooks and corners into one place. The final fur bundle can then be “swallowed” by the Ketori’s base itself!

oppo ketori dog cat fur pet hair collector cleaner

oppo ketori dog cat fur pet hair collector cleaner

oppo ketori dog cat fur pet hair collector cleaner

And as we’ve come to expect from Oppo, the Ketori is offered in three fun pop colors.

Available from JapanTrendShop.

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Issey Miyake celebrates anniversary with Mt Fuji pleats skirt, Otafuku t-shirts

Written by: Japan Trends on September 24, 2014 at 8:54 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Mt Fuji, being not only the tallest mountain in Japan and also a symmetrical beauty of nature, has always lent itself to being a motif for artists and designers to exploit. Perhaps starting with Katsushika Hokusai in the nineteenth century, perhaps no other landmark in Japan has been so reproduced and commodified.

This only increased when Fuji was given UNESCO World Heritage status last year amid a frenzy of self-congratulatory media coverage. The result is that it seems everywhere you look there are Fuji-themed products. Sure, some are tacky but a few of them are very good quality indeed. We are particular fans of the Fujiyama Beer Glass.

Now one of the top names in Japanese fashion Issey Miyake has got in on the Fuji craze as part of the five-year anniversary celebrations of its Aoyama store move.

issey miyake pleats please skirt mt fuji

The Pleats Please Issey Miyake series are only available from the brand’s Aoyama branch and focus on Mt Fuji and Otafuku motifs. The Mt Fuji design is for a rather snazzy skirt, available in three colors for ¥34,000 ($312).

issey miyake pleats please skirt mt fuji

Issey Miyake have also created some t-shirts with motifs of Otafuku, the female version of the folk character Hyottoko and another icon of Japan. The Otafuku t-shirts come in two colors and two designs, costing ¥16,000 ($150).

issey miyake otafuku t-shirt

For more modest budgets (and more practical functions), we recommend the Nippon-Ichi Fujisan Umbrella. This is also a combination of Mt Fuji with a design label, this time Nippon-Ichi (Japan Market), a label by Yu Nakagawa focus on crafts with a contemporary chic twist.

nippon ichi fujisan mt fuji umbrella snow triangles

Here the canopy of the umbrella is decorated with the snow-capped Fuji peak as seen from above — it’s a classic image of Fuji — and if you look closely, you’ll see that the image is actually composed of mini triangular Mt Fujis. The name “Fujisan” here is also a clever Japanese pun, meaning both “Mt Fuji” and “Fuji umbrella.”

nippon ichi fujisan mt fuji umbrella snow triangles

Available from JapanTrendShop.

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Create Me: Make 3D-printed figure of yourself in Akihabara, Tokyo

Written by: William on September 23, 2014 at 9:06 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Japan has always loved both technology and monozukuri craftsmanship.

So it comes as no surprised that Japan has fallen in love with 3D printing, even if it has meant artists have to watch what they do with it, especially female artists, and some people have been exploiting the technology to create firearms. 3D printers and related services are exploding, and now Japan is ahead of the curve in many ways. The world’s first 3D printing photo booth opened (temporarily) in Tokyo in late 2012 at Eye of Gyre.

Sometimes the craze has resulted in some more, well, grotesque variations, such as the gummy replicas of yourself that FabCafe had for a while in Shibuya.

Previously we also saw Clone Factory offer services where they put a 3D printing of your face onto a doll. Talk about entering Japan’s uncanny valley.

the bobble shop japan tokyo create me akihabara 3d printing figure yourself

Well, now you can create your own 3D figure of yourself (surely less narcissistic than it sounds!) at the aptly named Create Me. Though this time it’s not the hipsters of Shibuya and Omotesando, Create Me is located in the more low-brow district of Akihabara, also one of Tokyo’s most creative and energetic neighborhoods on a grassroots level.

It actually opened in mid-August but is now starting to get some press attention. Create Me uses The Bobble Shop, a 3D figure-making system that scans your face in five seconds. It’s the first use of The Bobble Shop’s system in Japan, which employs tech original developed by France’s Digiteyezer.

Then you can customize how you want your hair and clothes. Unfortunately you can’t (yet) pick up your own “mini me” right there and then, though you should be able to collect your 3D figure in between 10 days and two weeks.

The detail is very good but the figures are also quite delicate, though, being hollow, they are at least very light.

A mask costs just ¥1,500 (under $15) and a full figure ¥3,000 (under $30), with some customization options costing extra.

Right now the system mostly has the clothes and so on that came with the overseas system, though the company running Create Me hopes to increase its original items in the future to better suit Japanese customers’ tastes. Copyright laws allowing, we predict some anime character cosplay items being on the menu very soon!

We’re certainly looking forward to what the inventive folk of Akiba have in store for Create Me.

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