Last weekend Roppongi Art Night 2015 took over the Roppongi area for a night of art and
The events, performances and installations stretched out from sundown on April 25 to sunrise on 26th.
This year’s theme was “shining, connecting, joining in”.
Here are a few highlights.
A wall of “light boxes” made at workshops at Suntory Museum of Art.
The “Lungplant” by Tim van Cromvoirt was a street installation that “depicts a landscape with living, luminous organisms and explores the influence this landscape has on its spectators.”
The “Comic Foreground Gods Clock” transformed a regular clock tower landmark into a succession of spring deities.
The Dance Truck featured performances by Tsuyoshi Shirai, MOKK, Yukio Suzuki, JON THE DOG, Kumotaro Mukai, Mirai.Co, AEROBIX, Ippei Shintaku, Yo Nakamura x TOYOFUKU Akifumi, and Wataru Kitao.
“Emaki/Wave” by Takashi Ishida gave the usual industrial look of a car park a more interesting edge.
“TME – Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway” by Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani was a projection of footage from the Tarkovsky sci-fi classic Solaris (1972) that features a car trip on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway, plus a parallel second screen with a contemporary “remake” of the ride.
Images via official RAN Twitter
Last year there was a lot of buzz about a strange thing that happened in Shibuya. A Russian-looking woman was apparently leading a live polar bear through the crowds of Center Gai and then across Scramble Crossing. This obviously drew a lot of attention from people in the area, who weren’t sure what was taking place.
Of course, it wasn’t real and, also of course, it was a marketing stunt — for Halls (rearrange the letters “LALASH” and you’ll get it).
Now comes the follow-up: Halls Delivery Bear Service.
Since Halls’ sweets deliver a cooling menthol sensation and since their icon is a polar bear, it makes sense that they play on the two. And Japanese consumers are suckers for anything cute, as we know.
This “service” offers you the chance to meet a bear, whose cuddly charms will relieve you of your stress. One lucky winner will win the unique experience with the huggable bear.
Applications are being accepted from April 20th to May 18th, 2:59 p.m.
Halls will dispatch their “animal therapy” to anywhere in Japan for free. As we can see from the marketing, this is being aimed squarely at kids and women in need of some iyashi (healing).
The “delivery service” has been launched to celebrate the release of two new Halls products into Japan’s packed FMCG market.
Halls demonstrated what the lucky winner can expect with voice actress Yoshino Nanjo.
The question everyone wants to know the answer to is: Will it be a real polar bear or this fake one?
There is a disclaimer at the bottom of the campaign site saying the polar bear “feels handmade”, which is an ambiguous way of saying it is a guy in a furry suit.
Still, such gripes aside, compared to most Japanese marketing that predominantly resorts to lazy advertising with a pop star or celebrity, this is a cool idea.
The new arrival in Tokyo will be surprised by the trains. We don’t mean how efficient the transport system or its modest fares. Nor that the trains run more or less always on time. Or even the notorious rush hour crush.
No, we mean the sleeping.
People seem to have an innate ability to doze off wherever they are: riding a train, on a park bench, at their desk… And if it’s the former, they also seem to have an inherent faculty that tells them to wake up in time for their stop.
This penchant for napping recently inspired a great marketing campaign for a real estate service, and also means you get lots of great “sleeping” products like these pillows.
Here are some great local examples.
The King Eye Mask is a very smart-looking face pillow that covers your eyes but also gives you support behind, so you don’t get a crick in your neck.
The Dictionary Desk Pillow, though, is more unusual. It is designed for use at a desk or table, and takes the classic over-worked student trope to the max: it’s a “book” that functions as a pillow. A clever way to fool your boss or teacher!
If books are not your thing, how about a woman’s lap? Yes, the Hizamakura Lap Pillow Mini Skirt is more risque and is clearly playing on certain male fantasies.
Stepping back within the boundaries of respectability now, the Igloo Dome Pillow is a mini “tent” that gives you privacy and silence for your nap. Although it requires more space than a wearable eye pillow or mask, it is surprisingly versatile.
The My Dome Pal Travel Sleeping Hood is halfway between the Igloo Dome and a more conventional sleeping mask. It looks rather refined and means you don’t have to worry about other passengers looking at you when you are dozing off on the plane or train.
Talking of wearable items, here are two more extreme examples.
The King Jim Wearable Futon Air Mat proved a big hit when it came out. Part emergency gear, part sleepover set for earnest employees, King Jim’s futon is snug and compact when not in use, and means you walk around with your sleeping bag “on”.
In a similar vein, the Doppelganger Outdoors Wearable Sleeping Bag is a coat-suit ideal for camping.
Finally, two more funny ones.
The Bibilab Twintails Pillow is perhaps the most unusual pillow design we’ve seen in a while, though it is incredibly practical since it can be twisted into all sorts of positions and two people can even use it at once.
Lastly, the Hi-Tech Snore Stopper Pillow is an oldie but a classic. The foam pillow is designed for maximum comfort but uses an audio sensor to detect snoring. It then responds with a light vibration that helps reduce snoring. And the external audio jack also allows you to record the offending snores and monitor the pillow’s effectiveness — or collect undeniable proof of the disruptive habit.
Of course, Japan’s fondness for sleeping doesn’t only inspire products. The service industry is also here to assist you get some shuteye. Take Qusca, a women-only sleeping cafe in Tokyo, or the more dubious Soine-ya, a place for snuggling up with cute girls.
One of the big social issues last year was the rising usage of semi-legal drugs (dappo), what the police call “dangerous drugs” (kikken duraggu). Due to legal loopholes users did not face arrest for taking these herbs, which are smoked to produce hallucinations, agitation, ecstasy and dulled senses, though there are other potential risks.
In the first nine months of 2014, 74 people died due to the use of such drugs and there were several traffic incidents involving people high on the herbs. 400,000 people are estimated to have used them.
The Pharmaceutical Affairs Law has now been revised to prohibit buying, possessing or using compounds on the list of “danger drugs”. The production, sale or import for medical purposes remains legal, though. In late summer and early autumn 2014, police raided dozens of head shops around the country, but many have continued operating.
The police are on a big drive to discourage people from using these stimulants. In July last year they announced a new name. Previously known as “law-evading” (dappo) drugs, the new label chosen from public submissions was “unsafe” or “danger” drugs.
And now the police have got some help from an unusual source. A paper company in Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture, has produced the “Say ‘No!’ to Danger Drugs” toilet paper. Costing ¥120 (around $1) per roll, the toilet paper tells you about the health risks through six sets of illustrated messages printed on the paper. It was designed in partnership with an anti-drug non-profit organisation.
The manufacturer behind the “Say ‘No!’ to Danger Drugs” toilet paper has previously developed other socially aware rolls, including unique toilet paper with messages about bank transfer fraud and drink driving.
It hopes to sell 100,000 rolls, in addition to being stocked in police or medical facility lavatories.
A horror story was also once printed on toilet paper and a place in Mie Prefecture even created its own “ninja toilet paper” to promote tourism. In the past we have seen tape measure toilet paper and a local Odawara toilet paper was even printed with messages to encourage people to vote.
When “hostess bible” Koakuma Ageha closed down last year, it seemed like the end of an era for Japanese fashion magazines.
But then it relaunched under new management and the status quo was preserved: gyaru culture is still, it seems, alive and well.
To celebrate the relaunch of the magazine, a Koakuma Ageha pop-up store has opened on Omotesando from April 18th to April 29th.
It will sell books by popular age-hime (Little Devil Princesses). Find it on the ground floor of Omotesando Hills. The opening day on April 18th saw hostesses attend and give signed copies of the new magazine to visitors.
This is a typical marketing event for such a title: these kinds of magazines were popular because the models were dokusha “reader” models — i.e. not aloof supermodels but ordinary folk selected as role models — and who the readers could relate to, communicate with and meet. This is similar to how idol groups like AKB48 are promoted as being populated with “ordinary” girls who you can meet.
Image via @
Image via @aiuchicocoa
The new bimonthly magazine is hoping to sell 80-100,000 copies. Pictured are some of the models.
When we think of Japanese food we think of sushi, noodles and miso soup. But actually there’s plenty of curry in the country’s diet too, especially so-called curry rice, which is basically white rice on a plate with some roux. It’s a staple of the businessman’s lunch.
And every staple gets reinvented after a while, so there are plenty of unusual curry rice dishes out there, from oyster to deer, apple and even fermented beans.
Local regions and tourist spots often create curries using famous produce from the area as a way of drumming up buzz. And curries can even be a form of tie-in merchandise for franchises.
Here are is a selection of some of the most unusual Japanese curries.
Curry of the Biohazard Resident Evil Zombie Roux
The Curry of the Biohazard Resident Evil Zombie Roux is a green herb curry officially endorsed by Capcom, who make the Biohazard/Resident Evil game series. “Have the Biohazard Green Herb Curry and survive,” says the box. It’s less chilling than it sounds. Apparently eating this curry will save you from the zombies, rather than turn you into one.
Tottori Yamanote Story Hana Kifujin Pink Curry
The Tottori Yamanote Story Hana Kifujin Pink Curry is a garish as it sounds and uses local Tottori Prefecture beetroot. The mock-European theme of Hana Kifujin comes from one of the tourist spots in Tottori, a 1907 French Renaissance-style manor called Jinpukaku. Not just a kitsch idea, the beetroot ingredients help fight anemia and constipation.
Regional Fruits Curries
This set of regional fruit curries includes four unique flavors made with produce from prefectures around the country: melon, Japanese cherry (sakuranbo), strawberry, and pear. The fruits come from local growers in Yamagata, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures.
Dragon Quest Slime Curry
The most visually striking of the curries on our short list, the Dragon Quest Slime Curry is a weird blue roux inspired by the popular video game series character. Add rice and pickles to create the Slime face effect.
Hello Kitty Mazekomi Curry Pilaf
No list is complete without at least one entry from Hello Kitty. The Hello Kitty Mazekomi Curry Pilaf is not a roux like the others but a bag of curry pilaf flavoring for adding Hello Kitty-tastic tastes to rice.
So, are you feeling hungry now?
Kirin has cemented its entry into the craft beer market with the opening on April 17th of Spring Valley Brewery, a brewpub in Daikanyama. Another SVB brewpub has opened in Yokohama.
The name derives from William Copeland’s brewery, which was a pioneer of beer production in Japan and became the genesis of Kirin’s own brewery in the early twentieth century.
In July 2014, Kirin announced that Spring Valley Brewery would be a wholly new subsidiary, offering microbrews served at the two brewpubs sites.
The chic 200-seat Daikanyama space opens at a new development in the neighborhood called Log Road, located along where the tracks of the now underground Toyoko Line used to run.
There are six brews on tap: 496, Jazzberry, on the cloud, Copeland, Daydream, and Afterdark.
While the Daikanyama brewpub has opted for a wooden look, the Yokohama space is brick, in keeping with the spirit of the city famous for its foreign architectural styles.
Kirin has already experimented with craft beer-esque brews, including its Kirin Stout, so this isn’t such a giant leap for the 100-year-old company.
However, the major Japanese beer makers have been committing commercial suicide for too long. As young people drifted away from beer, their tactic was to create countless numbers of happoushu and daisan beers — fake beers, essentially — that got around the tax on beer and so could be marketed as cheap ersatz beer. As Japan continued to linger in recession, this worked to keep their annual sales afloat, especially as they were constantly devising new products to make mini spikes of interest. Beer became just another FMCG, as expendable and forgettable as any other snack in the convenience store.
Quality went out the window. Finally we seem to be emerging from this quagmire.
The initial response was “cool beer”, quite literally. Kirin and other major breweries started to market beer as a great drink for the summer through temporary drinking spaces in Tokyo. This was a big success and got younger consumers excited about drinking beer again, even if it was at “sub-zero” temperatures.
Concurrently we then started to see many types of “beer toys” from Takara Tomy and others, designed to help you create the experience of drinking freshly poured foamy cold beer at home or on picnic. The zenith of this was surely when Takara Tomy stepped in to make a product of the Frozen Beer Slushie Maker, which had previously only been available at Kirin’s special summer beer gardens.
And now we have come full circle: Kirin is a microbrewery again.
The Japanese craft beer scene itself has been around since the 1990’s. What’s really changed things in the past few years has been the explosion of craft beer bars, brewpubs and craft beer festivals all over the country, especially in the Tokyo area.
Foreign breweries have noticed. Scottish craft beer maker BrewDog saw enough growth in Asia that it opened its a dedicated bar in Roppongi.
There’s an interesting parallel to this: Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Budweiser tried to muscle in on the craft beer market in America by appearing at fairs and events with its regular lagers, and has started buying up craft breweries. In response to the growing popularity of craft beer, it even resorted to mocking the culture with a snarky Super Bowl ad that prompted a backlash. Kirin, be warned.
Meet Aiko Chihira. She speaks Japanese and wears a kimono. She greets customers and conveys information.
But Aiko’s not Japanese. She’s not even human.
She’s an android made by Toshiba and now she works at Mitsukoshi, the high-end department store in Nihonbashi.
Unfortunately she can’t converse or respond to questions, unlike the more interactive Nao humanoid robot, currently serving Mitsubishi UFJ bank customers, or Pepper, the friendly droid greeting visitors to Softbank stores.
But she blinks, bows, moves her (sorry, its) mouth and lips. She is programmed with human-like facial expressions and can offer a looped vocal guidance to department store customers.
For example, if you want to hear about the layout or an event, this robot will tell you.
She can even communicate in sign language, so at least the uncanny valley is barrier free for the deaf.
Toshiba describes her as the “quiet type” who is “happy to help people”. Something tells us there might be some male fantasies at play here…
Find Aiko on the ground floor of Mitsukoshi. Sadly, she’s not a permanent addition. She will only be “working” at the store on April 20th and April 21st. She is a promotional feature as part of a longer Toshiba event at the seventh floor Hajimarino Cafe from April 22nd to May 5th.
How best to advertise road safety and an upcoming movie?
Easy. Stick a full-size replica of the animation character Patlabor AV-98 in front of a World Heritage site.
The Patlabor model is part of marketing for an upcoming live-action adaptation release of the Patlabor series.
On April 15th visitors to Himeji Castle got their chance to see the Patlabor AV-98 Ingram model up-close as it stood guard in a park in front of the famous white citadel.
The castle has only just reopened after a long series of restoration works. Since Patlabor is a police patrol machine, the local cops used the occasion to announce a traffic safety campaign, calling on bicyclists and motorists to drive with care. Apparently local citizen groups in Himeji saw that the Patlabor robot had been in nearby Kobe on April 12th and asked for it to be sent next to the home of the White Egret Castle.
The final episode in the film series, The Next Generation Patlabor: Shuto Kessen, will open at movie theaters in Japan in May. To promote the film the life-sized model used for the movie has been touring Japan, which is certainly one original take on the usual press junket.
The Patlabor model was also previously seen in Tokyo’s bayside area.
See more images on Getty.