J!NS Rilakkuma PC glasses for seriously kawaii eyewear

Written by: William on August 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

While Jins (aka J!NS) like to dabble in forward-thinking technology for glasses, they are also fully aware that spectacles are as much fashion accessories as they are practical vision tools. This is why J!NS invested a lot into creating stylish anti-pollen sunglasses and into a successful line of PC glasses for people who get tired eyes from staring at a computer screen.

But in Japan fashionable can also mean cute, since this is the land of the kawaii. And so we get J!NS launching a new series of Rilakkuma PC glasses.

jins rilakkuma pc glasses j!ns

jins rilakkuma pc glasses j!ns

There are three models: Rilakkuma (in blue or brown colors), Korilakkuma or Kiiroitori. Each comes with the character decorated on the temple or arm, as well as a cleaning cloth also featuring your character of choice.

J!NS have worked with a specialist to create PC glasses that protect your eyes from screen blue light so you get a better night’s sleep. After all, Rilakkuma is the bear who loves to relax.

jins rilakkuma pc glasses j!ns

jins rilakkuma pc glasses j!ns

jins rilakkuma pc glasses j!ns

The glasses cost ¥4,900 (about $50) plus tax and you can also change the lens to J!NS PC glasses prescription lens or regular prescription lens for an additional charge.

jins rilakkuma pc glasses j!ns

jins rilakkuma pc glasses j!ns

We suspect availability for these glasses is going to be very limited once they go on release in early September at J!NS stores.

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Business giants and celebrities in Japan take on the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

Written by: William on August 28, 2014 at 10:40 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

It seems that you can’t claim to be famous these days unless you take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge to promote awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

In Japan there have been a fair few big names enjoying the fun of the charity campaign this month. While Ayumi Hamasaki and other pop stars nobly undertook to get drenched in cold water, the biggest headlines were actually generated by businessmen accepting the 24-hour challenge.

Most notably, buckets of cold water were dumped on SoftBank’s CEO Masayoshi Son (and Japan’s richest man) did it, as did Yasushi Akimoto, the head of the company behind AKB48, Akio Toyoda (of Toyota), and even Kumamon, the regional mascot for Kumamkoto Prefecture.

softbank masayoshi son ceo ice bucket challenge als japan

Masayoshi Son was the only major businessman we know of in Japan who had the guts to pour the water over himself. We’d expect nothing less from the self-made millionaire. However, we presume that the SoftBank Pepper robot, a celebrity in its own right now, is safe from the water? Who knows what it would do to the circuitry.

This video features a roundup of the most famous Japanese celebrities taking on the ice bucket challenge.

Other local celebrities who have taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge include figure skater Mao Asada, singer Kaela Kimura, EXILE’s Takahiro, and AKB48′s Mayu Watanabe, as well as figures from the worlds of sports, rakugo, tennis, politics, comedy and more.

There is a timeline of some of the significant Japanese ice bucket challengers on Jonathan Axup’s blog. We’re still waiting for the Prime Minister to comply!

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Robotic pets making a comeback in Japan with new models and upgrades

Written by: Japan Trends on August 27, 2014 at 5:54 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Robotic pets, also known as robo-pets (not to be confused with the actual Robopet), are making something of a return to the shelves of stores in Japan in a valiant effort to buck the trend of local toy manufacturers’ sales declining as the birth rate falls.

We all remember the days when Paro and AIBO first burst into our lives. Now such robotic and interactive animal toys are pretty standard. But let’s take a look at some of the new entries in the market and also take a trip down memory lane while we’re at it.

Back in the 1980′s Tomy (long before it merged with Takara) launched a successful range of robotic toys called Omnibot. They included such high-tech functions as an integrated cassette player (no sniggering at the back!) and could carry things for you if you were lazy enough. Omnibot’s reign in the hearts of kids and geeky teens was brief but it has made a bit of a comeback, at least in name. Takara Tomy have borrowed the brand for two recent new robo-pets.

The Omnibot Hello! MiP is a two-wheeled robot that can dance for you and even carry your drinks!

omnibot hello mip two-wheel robot

Things have certainly moved on since the original Omnibot. No cassettes in sight here. reThe Hello! MiP can move around by motion sensors responding to your movements — e.g. place your hand in front of it — as well as be controlled by your phone.

They also released the local Japan version of Zoomer, renaming it the Omnibot Hello! Zoomer, an interactive dalmatian that can understand 45 English and Japanese words.

omnibot hello zoomer dog robot

Takara Tomy’s awesome line of motion-activated samurai warrior were also christened the Omnibot Battroborg as a nod to the earlier toys.

In the late 1990′s we saw a more serious and forward-thinking application of home robo-pets with the Paro, the healing seal designed for the elderly and hospital patients who need some therapy from a cute companion.

But for many, the robotic pet will always be the AIBO, the massive hit for Sony (how it must dream of those days now) in the second half of the 1990′s.

It was rivaled by the Poo-chi in the early 2000′s, a collaboration between Hasbro and Sega.

This has also been updated with the Heart Energy Poochi, which Sega hopes will replicate some of the success of the earlier dog. Since our lives now have other devices in them, inter-device communication seems to be the trick the makers are playing now. In the Heart Energy Poochi’s case, it can interact with your Nintendo 3DS. And it goes without saying that he likes being stroked but will respond badly if you pull his tail.

sega toys poochi heart energy robot dog pet

Bandai also got in on the canine act a few years ago with the Smartpet Robot Dog, which lets you slot your iPod or iPhone into the dog’s head to make a face out of the screen. No animals were harmed in the development of this product!

bandai smartpet smart pet iphone ipod dog robot

Another classic in the genre is the Yume Neko Dream Cat by Sega Toys, which has very realistic internal sensors that respond to your touch. It started off as an interactive robotic cat, though it was followed by other animals like chicks, squirrels, puppies and rabbits.

The Yume Neko was given an update by Sega Toys recently as the Yume Neko Dream Cat Celeb, providing all the cute interaction of a feline friend without the hassle or mess. This is particularly important in Japan where many people living in apartments are not allowed by the landlord to own real pets. They turn to cat cafes and robots instead.

yume neko dream cat celeb therapy robot cat pet

Of course, this isn’t just domestic manufacturers. The plush toy Furby is also undergoing a bit of a revival here, with Takara Tomy distributing the new model from Hasbro that responds to English commands and has upgraded eyes.

It forms part of a post-2010 trend for “huggable” plush robotic toys, the most sophisticated of which are aimed at helping infants and older kids sleep. The Hug & Dream Mickey and Minnier were big hits, though they were preceded by Takara Tomy’s pioneering Issho ni Nenne “womb doll”, which helped babies get better sleep cycles.

issho ni nenne minnie mouse baby womb doll

And big surprise, this has also been re-launched fairly recently as three new Disney character and Pooh versions.

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JR Tokai files for permission to build maglev train line between Nagoya and Tokyo

Written by: William on August 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Now this is going to be fast.

Kyodo News has reported that Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) has formally filed an application today with the Japanese transport ministry to build a maglev (magnetically levitated train) line between Tokyo and Nagoya.

Maglevs in Japan go back to the 1980′s. There are two trains, HSST by Japan Airlines and SCMaglev by the Central Japan Railway Company. The HSST train uses imported German technology, making the SCMaglev Japan’s only real homegrown maglev. One of the HSST models is the popular Linimo train, built for the 2005 Expo in Aichi, though it is relatively slow by maglev standards.

jr tokai central railway japan scmaglev tokyo nagoya construction 2027

JR Tokai’s SCMaglev (Superconducting Maglev) started development back in 1969 but went through a radical redesign in time for a new test in 1987. Tests have been continuing on special tracks in Miyazaki and Yamanashi. In 2003 the SCMaglev achieved record speeds of 581 km/h (361 mph). The government deemed it ready for commercial rollout in 2009 and since then plans have been proceeding for the new linking the capital and Japan’s third city, to be followed by a further line connecting Nagoya with Osaka by 2045.

If the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry give the go-ahead, JR Tokai may start building the new SCMaglev in October, though we will have to wait until at least 2027 before the actual line is operational! But if that sounds like a long time to twiddle your thumbs, then consider how time you (or your kids) will save hopping from Tokyo to Nagoya in the future. As we know, the Shinkansen bullet train is fast. But this maglev will cut the 100 minutes that express takes down to a mere 40! Once extended to Osaka, a trip between Tokyo and Kansai will be just over an hour.

The cost of the construction of what may be the world’s fastest train is estimated at ¥9 trillion.

JR Tokai and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also hope that the SCMaglev will be adopted in America as an intercity system fit to meet the challenges of such a vast nation.

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Batman spotted driving the Batpod on expressway in Chiba

Written by: William on August 25, 2014 at 11:01 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Batman no longer lives in Gotham. He’s fighting crime in Japan!

Japanese social media has been abuzz with some amazing images of Batman driving in his Batpod along the highways in the Tokyo area.

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

Okay, it’s not quite as good as it sounds. This “Batman” was spotted by motorists on the roads of Chiba, the prefecture next to Tokyo.

Some images of “Chi-battoman”, as he’s been dubbed, was snapped on Sunday afternoon and the images went viral on Twitter.

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

Other pictures soon followed.

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

All right, it’s not exactly Christopher Nolan but you’d still be impressed if you saw this Caped Crusader drive past you on the expressway.

We’d not sure how legal this Batpod is. At least at one point the driver attracted the attention of the police.

batman batpod chiba tokyo expressway highway cosplay driver japan

Of course, cosplay (costume play) on the mean streets of Japan is nothing new.

In the past we’ve seen motorcycle parades zipping around Roppongi and Harajuku with quite spectacular results.

And if you want to drive around the city like you’re playing Mario Kart for real, you should check out Akiba Cart in Akihabara. It rents out go-karts that can be driven legally on regular roads. Not surprisingly, it attracts plenty of fun video game cosplay.

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Origami Humidifiers: Moisturizing the air in style

Written by: Japan Trends on August 25, 2014 at 2:52 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Japan may well be the land of home electronics (Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba et al) but on the whole apartments and houses are small. It only takes a few appliances for things to get very cluttered. But Japan is also the land of great design solutions to problems.

And so we have what we like to call “origami humidifiers”. Okay, so they’re not actually made from origami paper but they do work by evaporation rather than batteries or cords. In other words, the humidifier is a filter that water in a dish passes through to release moisture into the dry air. And they conjure up fantastic natural imagery that can transform clinical and bare Japanese urban apartments.

uruoi animal forest natural humidifier origami

One recent example is the Uruoi Animal Forest, a veritable landscape painting of creatures and natural scenery. There is a trio of zoological sights here. Spot the wolf, the stag and the rabbits, each in its own vibrant colors.

uruoi animal forest natural humidifier origami

The Uruoi humidifiers are a new series. Misty, on the other hand, have been around for a while and there are several variations on the market.

We especially love the Misty Tree, which is just that — a filter designed to look like foliage.

misty tree natural humidifier origami

It also comes in a baby version.

misty baby tree natural humidifier origami

The Misty Garden Second Apple Green will make you feel more like a gardener.

misty garden natural humidifier

The most compact we’ve seen in a while is the Tower Pot Humidifier, which you pull out into a standing humidifier filter.

tower pot natural humidifier origami

Meanwhile the Room Mist is now a standard model in this mini genre. It even comes in Hello Kitty and Disney versions.

room mist natural humidifier origami

As the humid summer gives way to the dry autumn and winter, perhaps it’s time to pop a humidifier like this on your desk?

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Shag Bizarre Style Factory opens on Omotesando with a fusion of fashion and fetish

Written by: William on August 23, 2014 at 12:17 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Another day, another crazy use of English in the world of Tokyo retail?

But no, this isn’t another new entry in the long annals of places in Japan with unfortunate English names. The innuendo is deliberate.

shag bizarre style factory omotesando fashion fetish space nightclub bar tokyo aoyama

Opening on Omotesando on September 5th, Shag — see what we mean? — is Japan’s first mainstream nightclub devoted to fashion and fetish. The name was inspired by Sex, the legendary boutique run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.

shag bizarre style factory omotesando fashion fetish space nightclub bar tokyo aoyama

Over three floors Tokyoites will be able to enjoy attending dress-code-only events that promise something a bit more exciting than the usual brand flagship stores that line the city’s most exclusive strip.

Situated right on Omotesando junction, Shag is in the same building as the cafe Atlantis.

shag bizarre style factory omotesando fashion fetish space nightclub bar tokyo aoyama

We love the concept behind Shag and its neat three words of copy: Bizarre Style Factory.

Cinematic influences should also be apparent.

The ground floor main hall space Asylum takes its cue from the cult 1997 British film “Preaching to the Perverted”, while the second-floor bar Cat Milk Bar is both erotic and stylish, in the manner of “A Clockwork Orange” (1971). Lounge bar Utamaro back on the ground floor again, is meant to be a cross between “Bladerunner” and the 1987 Japanese film “Yoshiware Enjo”. (For the uninitiated, Yoshiwara is the area of east Tokyo where the historical pleasure quarter was located, and even today it is home to a healthy sex trade.)

shag bizarre style factory omotesando fashion fetish space nightclub bar tokyo aoyama

There are private karaoke rooms and a range of different cubbyholes to drink and make merry (we like the sound of the “Secret Relax Sofas” on both the floors). The people behind Shag hope the club will be hired out for events and parties.

shag bizarre style factory omotesando fashion fetish space nightclub bar tokyo aoyama

shag bizarre style factory omotesando fashion fetish space nightclub bar tokyo aoyama

It will make a very welcome contrast to the tony and pampered designer stores and expensive eateries of the Aoyama area, even if it might actually be more at home in Shinjuku or Akihabara.

Should we be too surprised by the arrival of a fetish nightclub in Aoyama? Well, Omotesando is already home to the quirky and popular Condomania… so perhaps no!

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Funassyi fans! Head down to Funa Cafe in Shibuya Parco for dishes dedicated to the pear mascot

Written by: William on August 21, 2014 at 12:10 am | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

Funassyi just can’t be stopped. The pear (nashi) character that famously started off as an unofficial yuru-kyara mascot for Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture has become so popular that he now has his own cafe, the Funa Cafe.

He came out of nowhere in 2012, ranking a mere 506 out of 865 regional mascots from around Japan in one major “mascot contest”.

Funassyi is now on TV regularly, he has launched a veritable industry of DVDs, CDs, magazines, photo books, toys, games… everything.

Why is he so successful? Well, he can jump very high and pretend to play the guitar. And that’s about it as far as his special skills go. But perhaps it’s because he started off as an unofficial city mascot and people embraced the yellow underdog.

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

In September you can get a taste of Funassyi at the Funa Cafe in Shibuya Parco Part 1. Opening at The Guest Cafe & Diner on September 2nd and running for a limited time only until September 30th, customers can enjoy drinks, food, sweets and more, all with a Funassyi twist.

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

Take a look at these pictures and you’ll get an idea about how inventive the Funassyi-themed menu is!

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

The organizers have gone to a real effort here, creating a host of pear dishes and drinks, everything from pear juice soda to noodles. There will also be around 30 special items on sale, including aprons, mirrors, and more.

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

funa cafe funassyi shibuya parco mascot tokyo

It’s actually the third themed cafe of its kind at the venue, following the wildly popular My Melody Cafe and Kiki and Lala Cafe which saw lines three hours long. It’s also a recreation of the Funa Cafe that appears in a picture book published by Parco.

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Stay in a Hello Kitty hotel room at the Tokyo Keio Plaza in Shinjuku or Tama

Written by: William on August 20, 2014 at 2:48 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Recently many people were excited by the artist-designed rooms at the Park Hotel Tokyo that let guests stay in spaces incorporating calligraphy and matsuri-inspired colorful murals. We’ll have to wait until 2016 for that project to be completed, when there should be an entire hotel floor of customized art rooms.

But if Hello Kitty is more your thing, you’re in for a real treat if you stay at the Keio Plaza Hotel in either Shinjuku, central Tokyo, and Tama, west Tokyo.

hello kitty hotel room keio plaza tokyo tama shinjuku

There are two types of rooms: Kitty Town and Princess Kitty.

Kitty Town is a pop design more suited for friends and families to stay in, while the Princess Kitty is filled with pinks and reds, and is probably better suited to couples or female guests who want to feel like a princess.

hello kitty hotel room keio plaza tokyo tama shinjuku

The Keio Plaza Shinjuku features four rooms of both designs (eight rooms in total), while the Keio Plaza Tama has four rooms in the Kitty Town design only.

Reservations will be taken from September 1st. The rooms at the Shinjuku Keio Plaza cost ¥71,000 (around $700) for 1-3 persons. The Keio Tama Plaza rooms cost ¥28,000 (around $270) for single individuals, ¥31,000 (around $300) for two, or ¥35,000 (around $340) for three. (Prices are not including service charges or tax.)

hello kitty hotel room keio plaza tokyo tama shinjuku

The Keio Plaza Tama is also near Sanrio Puroland, the theme park for Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty, so we can see the hotel rooms being very popular with visitors wanting to give their day in the world of Sanrio a perfect finish.

Hello Kitty is on a mission for maximum exposure this year as it’s the fortieth anniversary since the Sanrio cat character came into our lives. So far we’ve seen Hello Kitty launched into space (!), a Hello Kitty train in Wakayama, and a tie-up with the Chogokin model series.

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