We have long ago run out of those “standard” Japanese gifts that we can get away with sending out relatives back home. You know the ones, right? Green tea. Chopsticks. Sake cups. And so on. What happens when you run out of ideas?
Well, if you look around, though, there are loads of cool gadgets, designer accessories, toys and household items that will make great and unexpected gifts.
The follow is just a very small sampling of the range of lifestyle and tech products available from the JapanTrendShop.
Learning can be fun and awe-inspiring, as Gakken is well aware. That’s why they created this remarkable Worldeye, a dome screen that offers you a realistic visual experience of the world. Discover science and geography like you never knew you could with this projection globe, featuring high quality images of world altitudes, seismic faults, forestation, bird migration, wind patterns and more.
Be smelly no more with these Deoest Odor Eliminating Deodorant Underwear, which has been designed to kill some 95% of gas and sweat and other foul odors. It might look like an ordinary pair of boxers but the Deoest Odor Eliminating Deodorant Underwear by Inodore has nano-level ceramic and metallic ions that fight and break down stinky particles. A life-saver!
This has been around for a few years now but it still looks great, and super practical too! Product designer Masayuki Kurakata knows how important it is to consider even something so banal as an extension lead, and that’s why he came up with the Plugo by Monos, a donut-shaped three-plug receptacle and extension lead.
This “microfiber hop ball” is one of the funnest in the recent trend for robotic vacuum cleaners in Japan. The Mocoro might sound like a bizarre but sophisticated piece of technology — a colorful “fur” ball that rolls automatically around home cleaning — but actually its beauty lies in its simplicity. All you need to do is clean the furry cover and then let the ball do the rest!
Not for Christmas per se, but you can celebrate New Year in a unique way with this. The Japanese send each other New Year postcards rather than Xmas cars. These are called nengajo and can be rather generic, though a lot of people write or even paint their own. Now you can be really unusual with this Nanoblock 2014 Nengajo Horse New Year Card, that uses the popular micro blocks to build a horse and bird model. (2014 is the Year of the Horse in Japan.)
This is for the gadget-lovers out there. This Hybrid Hard iPhone5 Protective Film is getting great reviews locally. Smashed screen? Scratched display? These will be problems no longer with this Hybrid Hard iPhone5 Protective Film. The Hybrid Hard is easy to apply and keep clean, and is made from Acier, a UV cure type hard coating solvent, combined with a transparent SHORAYAL film. Highly resistant to abrasion and shocks, it also protects against pesky fingerprints.
Another gadget, this time from Thanko, who know a thing or two about unusual gizmos. Keep yourself powered up for work whether it’s winter (or summer) with the USB Cup Warmer, Cooler Holder. Just connect your computer or other device’s USB port to the cup holder and it will maintain a cool or hot temperature perfect for continuing to enjoy your drink no matter how long that presentation takes you to finish. After all, when it’s winter and you’re keeping yourself warm with a hot cup of tea, the last thing you want is it to cool down. And likewise, in the summer, you want a drink that stays chilled.
For lovers (young and old) of kawaii and Japan’s favorite cat character, this Pop Up Pirate Hello Kitty is based on the 1975 Pop-up Pirate toy where you have to place swords in the barrel until the pirate jumps up. This time the buccaneer is super cute, as Kitty-chan always is!
Heck, if this isn’t enough for you, check out all the other Hello Kitty items there are!
This is an awesome innovation on what many people would say is a dying medium. And the best thing about it is that it doesn’t resort to digital or technological gimmicks. It just takes two very analogue things and makes them even better.
Mieru Record is a combination of a music box and a manga comic strip. With the former you usually have a cylinder, but there are types which use a punched tape strips of paper for the music box to “read” as musical notation, like the book music read by mechanical organs.
Mieru Record, a project which explores ways to fuse sound and manga, added manga cells to the music box punched tape strip, creating a manga music box organ, the Mieru Record with Otowa.
In other words, it is a book that you listen to — and music that you read.
The idea is that the sounds and music accompany the manga strip both in terms of the melody and also the speed. As you turn you control the speed of the soundtrack, which in turn controls the speed with which you read the manga images that are revealed.
See how it works in practice with this video. Note how you slow down to read the parts with dialogue and then speed up over the more visual cells.
I guess this is like the pianists who used to accompany a silent film back in the days before talkies.
Mieru Record is a project that started earlier this year and this Mieru Record with Otowa is still only a prototype, so don’t expect it to be on sale any time soon.
It worked with seven manga artist to create the music box’s music roll paper, and the results were exhibited in a book store and gallery in Tokyo over the summer.
With more sophisticated music roll strips and organs we reckon you could create all kinds of audio manga experiences.
Omotenashi means “hospitality” and that is what we know and love Japan for. But, of course, this is not where the dreams of a tolerant and friendly society end. If you have ever visited or lived in Japan and you proudly have a tattoo you might well have experienced discrimination you have never even thought of. Fitness centers, public bath houses, swimming pools and even parts of public beaches are increasingly refusing access to people who have a tattoo.
While years ago this illegal “rule” was just limited in some way to family spa lands and some more private clubs, it has now spread into public areas, and even international hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo are refusing access to their spa facilities unless you are wearing a full-cover body suit to cover your tattoos. Asked for the reason, the official statement of a Ritz Carlton Executive in Tokyo was: “It is a Japanese custom and we respect it”.
I see. As a German I cannot help remembering the history lessons we had to endure over and over again at school. For so many years we barely learned anything else than about our terrible Nazi history not so long ago. We saw Jewish people getting refused access at first, later to be branded with first stars on their cloth and then tattooed numbers. We saw pictures of them walking and living separately from us “Aryan” Germans. Of course it did not end with the Jewish people. Basically anybody that could possible harm the society (which one?). And it was a lot. In the end we killed 6 million people and we could have surely killed more if we had not run out of cash that we stole from the people we killed and put into camps.
Anyway, when I went to stay in South Africa for a year at the age of 17, Apartheid was still in bloom, also we could think it was the final bloom. Nevertheless, i saw people separated by skin colour when they entered buses or went to toilets. In good establishments you would barely see a “kaffir” (black person) except as a waiter. It was quite an experience to be thrown back into history and just a few years later experience the fall of apartheid. Nelson Mandela died a couple of days ago. Thank you for what you did!
Japan, I love you! But what are you doing? Have you not learned your history lessons? Do you really want to go down that road?
We could argue that tattoo is a symbol of the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia, which had its high time back in the 1980′s. People are scared of them and the tattoos make them feel uneasy during relaxing time at the spa or in the gym. People fear for their kids, so they have a special space where people with tattoos are not allowed.
Ok, just the fact is that there are barely any incidents where “normal” (non-Yakuza) people are involved. Yakuza incidents are usually limited to within their groups and even the definition of Yakuza is very fuzzy. Many of the Yakuza do not have tattoos and some could pass as a normal salaryman or bank manager from their appearance.
In any way, a tattoo is hardly a way of recognising a “bad person” (悪い人). And even if that person might be a “bad person”, it does not mean that he (or she, in fact… the rule applies also to the ladies) will in any way interrupt the business or annoy the other guests.
Japan, this is discrimination and I would like you to stop it. Also, by the way, it’s against the law. Please consult your lawyer.
It might be hard for you to think that you can just change a rule like that overnight. Ok, take your time but start today. You have six more years to go before the whole world will be looking at you. When world-famous athletes and millions of foreign guests will flock to Japan. To experience the Olympics but also a country that is admired in the West for its hospitality and kindness.
Foreign media will report about every little corner and cultural aspects and you can be sure that refusing entry to foreign visitors to onsen (hot springs), one of Japan’s most valuable tourist assets, is not going to stand good in the light of an open, global society.
Thank you so much for your consideration!
Here in Japan, you can get a decent meal for (arguably) as little as 500 yen. Some people choose to spend the same amount on a cup of coffee at a café or on the go. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer as to how we should spend our money, yet the majority of us are still inclined to think that cheaper is better. Needless to say, we can argue that the price of a drink at a café includes cover charge giving you the right to occupy a seat for the next couple of hours — or even more — without being disturbed.
But if we could get a coffee of the nearly equal or same quality for half the price offered at giant chains, we would be tempted at least to try it, right? And that’s where convenience stores come in and are thriving now to satisfy Japanese coffee lovers of all ages.
At Seven Eleven, a regular-size coffee is offered at 100 yen. Their coffee brand, Seven Café, is proud to present an original drip coffee machine. Simply order a coffee at the cashier, receive a cup (for iced coffee, you need to get a different cup from the frozen section and bring it over yourself), place it in the machine and press the button. There you have a freshly brewed hot coffee in less than a minute.
Self-service convenience store coffee (or “konbini coffee”) has already been voted the number one trend of the year by Nikkei Trendy. Each chain has established its own brand to differentiate their product from one another.
At Family Mart, Famima Café offers a blend coffee for 150 yen (120 yen for a small cup) and uses an espresso coffee machine made in Germany.
Lawson’s Machi Café, on the other hand, boasts the “hospitality” of its employees, unlike other chains, where they make the coffee behind the counter and hand it to customers themselves.
M’s Style Coffee at Mini Stop uses two different coffee blends: one for hot coffee and the other for iced coffee.
And finally, at CircleK Sunkus you can choose from four types of (hot) coffee at its Fast Relax Cafe: Original Taste (100 yen), Organic (150 yen), Extra Blend (160 yen), and Blue Mountain Blend (180 yen). They also have iced coffee and Lipton tea on the menu.
For all coffee lovers out there, konbini coffee might now have become a serious alternative to Starbucks, which is almost as ubiquitous today as a convenience store. While convenience stores have always been appreciated for just being there, ready to serve customers 24/7, authentic coffee at the counter is certainly a great addition to their service and may even attract fans in its own right.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP government has succeeded in passing the immensely controversial new state secrets bill, in spite of a human chain around the Diet today, a wave of protests over the past few weeks, and the opposition of most of the other parties in the parliament.
After being rushed through the Lower House, it was today approved in the Upper House Special Committee on National Security to become law.
Abe is in danger of becoming the Kishi of the new century. Nobusuke Kishi was the arrogant and impervious premier during the 1960 renewal of the Anpo security treaty with America, that was ratified in the face of massive protests across the country.
A nice summary of the bill was provided by Jake Adelstein in the Japan Times:
The first rule of the pending state secrets bill is that a secret is a secret. The second rule is that anyone who leaks a secret and/or a reporter who makes it public via a published report or broadcast can face up to 10 years in prison. The third rule is that there are no rules as to which government agencies can declare information to be a state secret and no checks on them to determine that they don’t abuse the privilege; even defunct agencies can rule their information to be secret. The fourth rule is that anything pertaining to nuclear energy is a state secret, which means there will no longer be any problems with nuclear power in this country because we won’t know anything about it. And what we don’t know can’t hurt us.
The right to know has now officially been superseded by the right of the government to make sure you don’t know what they don’t want you to know.
In a time of increasing territorial tensions with China, many see the new state secrets bill as another erosion of Japan’s liberties as Abe seems to be turning the nation ever more to the right.
Japan already has a very low press freedom ranking compared to its economic status, and this looks set to plunge to the levels of China with the passing of this new bill.
Protestors worry the new bill could be used to prosecute people seeking public disclosure of sensitive information. The government disputes this and points to Article 21 in the Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression, including public demonstrations.
And yet the latter has the government has hardly sold its argument well to the public. Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba likened protesting against the new act to an act of “terrorism”!
A survey by the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun showed 61% of ordinary voters are worried about the speed with which the bill has been pushed through the two parliaments, where the LDP holds a majority in both.
With the new state secrets bill about to become law, don’t expect a Japanese Edward Snowden any time soon.
Can you tell which is the “real” Gaga in this picture?
Here’s the official description:
Japan’s latest and finest technologies were put into the creation of the “GAGADOLL”. It’s the world’s first life-size human-shaped listening station that closely resembles Lady Gaga. The bone conduction system enables one to listen to her songs and message.
The “GAGADOLL” was inspired by the concept of “ARTPOP” and this masterpiece made by Japan’s master craftsmen has been highly-praised by Lady Gaga herself.
Orient Industry are more craftsmen than “adult toy” manufacturers, and their commitment to extreme detail and realism is legendary. From movable fingers and eyes to a myriad variations in body, bust and face, they provide customizable life companions for those who dare to desire one.
The Gagadoll is not on sale but it can be booked for events and appearances, according to the official website.
ARTPOP opened at number one in Japan and no doubt this marketing stunt can’t have hurt sales.
As the name tells itself, LowCarbonLife.net provides yet another possible solution for saving the earth. Online they have a variety of furniture on sale, but it’s neither the design nor the build-it-yourself concept that separates the brand from other competitors in the market. It’s JGBOARD, the patented material that makes the difference.
In short, JGBOARD is a 100% recyclable wooden board that is made from used paper. JGBOARD furniture, then, can be disposed of as recyclable waste just like ordinary cardboard boxes (which are collected separately and recycled in Japan).
Does this seemingly eco-friendly material only help us feel less guilty about throwing out or replacing old furniture? Well, according to their description, their product is just as durable as any other wooden furniture, yet is 40% lighter, about 50% cheaper and waterproof. There is no need to use any tools, as paper tubes and double stick tape replace the role of nails to connect each board. Their video tutorials are also great help to build each piece of furniture which, to be quite frank, looks much like just placing a different combination of colored cardboard boxes onto one another.
The low table on the left below is 3,900 yen and the single bed on the right is a mere 14,499 yen.
At first I felt nothing but great respect for whoever came up with the idea of making 100% recyclable furniture. And yet I can’t also help but question one phrase that is written in their product description – use it as disposable furniture and feel at ease. It seems as though JGBOARD furniture is specifically targeted at those who need a set of simple furniture for a short period of time. The demand for such product is surely expected to increase in spring as it is the time of the new school year and fiscal year, with many people moving in and out of their places.
I don’t mean to boast here but the wooden desk that I have at home has been with me for almost twenty years and I never intend to throw it out. It’s one thing to be eco-friendly and move toward a world where everything is recyclable, but I can’t help thinking there should be some other ways, too.
Every year the publisher Jiyukokuminsha picks the word or phrase that has apparently created the most hype or buzz during the past twelve months.
You can read an excellent overview of the buzzword candidates over on Nippon.com.
But we finally found out the winner yesterday and it was surprising because it wasn’t one word — but four, the first time in prize’s 30-year history.
So, what beat “Abenomics” — the prime minister’s dubious fiscal policy — or “Kontororu sareteiru” — the prime minister’s even more dubious boast to the IOC in Buenos Aires that Fukushima was “under control”?
Well, these four contenders, that’s what.
This phrase was made famous by the popular NHK morning drama Amachan, set in the world of pearl divers in northeast Japan. It is an expression of surprise in the Iwate dialect.
An Olympic-themed one, where newsreader-turned-tarento Christel Takigawa used the phrase (meaning “hospitality”) as a concept buzzword promoting Japan. Takigawa’s presentation at the IOC has no doubt meant a massive financial boost to her career too.
A more esoteric one meaning “double payback”, it was popularized by the Hanzawa Naoki, a TV drama about a banker. We guess it didn’t help that Hanzawa was played by actor Masato Sakai.
“How about now?” might sound like a rather anti-climatic example of a buzzword, but then you haven’t thought about the hype created by university cram school instructor Osamu Hayashi, who has been featured in mountains of TV commercials this year.
So TV or televisual buzzwords seemed to have the most impact this year, ahead of more general social phenomenon or memes.
On November 23rd, Studio Ghibli’s latest film Kaguyahime no monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya) was released in all theaters across Japan.
I have already seen a number of reviews so far, most of which are specifically focused on how different the film looks, compared to other Ghibli works from the past. But I would like to take a different approach.
Director Isao Takahata is famous for his depiction of real life, while his longtime friend and another Ghibli guru Hayao Miyazaki uses fantasy as a basic setting of his stories.
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” is based on a Japanese folktale from the tenth century called Taketori monogatari – or ”The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”. It’s a story about an old bamboo cutter who finds a tiny baby girl inside a bamboo stalk and together with his wife raises the baby as his own. The girl grows up to be a woman of ordinary size and of extraordinary beauty. She is approached by a number of suitors, but she somehow manages to reject all proposals. Finally, she reveals her biggest secret to her parents that she was sent from the moon as a result of some “promise” that she made and must return there. In the end, an emissary from the moon takes her back to where she belongs, leaving everyone in tears. It definitely doesn’t sound like a happy ending, doesn’t it?
One could easily argue that this film might be the most “fantastic” of Takahata’s all past works. Yet the primary focus of the story is not the encounter between humans and aliens but answering many questions of why. Why was she sent from the moon in the first place? Why was she sent to earth? Why was she so sad when she left earth? Why did she need to return?
The tag line reads “The crime and punishment of a princess”, which implies that this is not a simple feel-good story of a lunar princess who comes down to experience life on earth. Takahata says in one interview that the earth and the moon stand opposite from each other: while the moon might represent sanctitude but without any color or life of its own, the earth is full of life, hardships – and joy.
If the earth was considered ultimate hell where all sinners are sent to serve their sentence, Princess Kaguya would be happy to return home, which is obviously not the case here. Perhaps this is where he portrays realism over fantasy, in an imaginative story setting where he suggests that life on earth might at times be too cruel, yet it does have something that even heavenly beings from above envy.