Konica Minolta Planetarium Manten in Sunshine City is set to undergo renovations in September and reopen in December with special “grass lawn” and cloud” seats.
The idea is that you can lie back and pretend you are watching the stars from your garden or while floating in the air.
Located in Ikebukuro, a neighborhood in northwest Tokyo, the planetarium will still have regular seats but for anyone who has ever dreamed of riding a cloud to watch the heavens, now is your chance. The lighting is also going to be adjusted so it resembles candle light.
Hoping to benefit from the kind of renaissance east Tokyo has seen thanks to the Tokyo Skytree, Ikebukuro is attempting a face-lift ahead of the Olympics. While it’s not quite the Hikarie, the oddly named Wacca complex opened in the famously rather run-down district last September. The local Toshima ward government also pours lots of funds into arts projects in the area, including Japan’s largest theatre festival that takes place mostly at venues around Ikebukuro.
Japan has a fondness for planetariums (or planetaria, if we want to be formal). There are a surprising amount of planetarium facilities tucked away inside malls and even public libraries.
Back in the 1990’s, Takayuki Ohira designed the Megastar, the largest ever planetarium with over a million stars.
He also helped developed the Sega Toys Homestar series of home planetariums. Though they have stopped releasing new entries in recent years, this was a phenomenally successful series and testifies to the interest in planetariums among Japanese consumers.
Get ready for “Kiss Day”.
Yes, this Saturday, May 23rd, is apparently the day of smooching, at least in Japan at any rate.
And Edition, a club in Akasaka, central Tokyo, is celebrating by asking couples to kiss, though not in the way you’d think.
May 23rd is “Kiss Day” because it’s the day that saw the release in 1946 of the first Japanese film with a kissing scene, Hatachi no seishun (20-Year-Old Youth). Not surprisingly, the scene was a decorous one by the standards of today but at the time it was a big deal.
Directed by Yasushi Sasaki and starring Kaoru Aikawa and Michiko Ikuno, the actors actually kissed each other through a gauze to protect their modesty.
Borrowing this concept, Edition’s plan is to get several hundred couples to kiss through acrylic plastic panels of see-through plastic.
The party event is expected to attract around 250 people, though you have to be aged between 20 and 35 to join in. Oh, and it costs guys ¥5,500 ($45) and girls ¥3,000 ($25). That’s an expensive kiss and we’re not even sure if this counts as getting to first base.
Who says romance is dead?
In 2011 there was also this “kiss transmission” device. While the “acrylic kiss” is certainly more low-fi, we’re not sure if it’s any less weird.
Japan actually seems obsessed with anniversaries of late, from “Condom Day” (May 6th) to “Ninja Day” (February 22nd). Every month seems to bring another oddity, though the possibilities they present for promotional events are interesting enough.
When I first arrived in Japan, my room mate had an alarm clock that played the Doraemon theme song — very, very loudly. So when he had to get up for his morning shift, it was like a full blue-and-white cat orchestra was playing right beside my ear, every single day.
This colored my perception of the time-travelling cat somewhat, though who can resist his charms for long? And who doesn’t want a door that takes you anywhere?
Fujiko Fujio’s Doraemon, despite being one of the longest-running manga and anime series in Japan, continues to attract new fans, and this then inspires new merchandise.
Like this Doraemon Giant Speaker.
The large Doraemon figure features a speaker on the base that plays music from your MP3 player, phone or other audio device.
But perhaps the coolest thing is how Doraemon’s cat bell lights up and flashes in time to whatever music playing.
There has been a revival of interest in the classic Doraemon franchise of late. The feature film Doraemon: Nobita no Himitsu Dogu Museum was the fifth highest-grossing movie of 2013 in Japan and made Doraemon more lucrative than Godzilla for studio Toho.
It was meant to be the triumph of the 2020 Olympic Games. But now it’s going to be naked.
The controversial New National Stadium, the centerpiece of the Tokyo Games, will not be ready for the opening of the Olympics in five years’ time. In order to be usable, the government says it wants to abandon the plan to have the stadium’s dramatic retractable roof.
Japan’s sports minister, Hakubun Shimomura, says it won’t be complete in time and they need to make cuts to ensure it is ready for the opening. This also entails making 35% of the seats into temporary seating.
Designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the stadium’s arching roof is meant to rise 70m into the air. The stadium was proposed as a main venue for the 2020 Games as well as the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which is also taking place in Japan.
The 80,000-capacity stadium has been an albatross around the neck of the capital’s Olympic preparations. Much criticized by Japanese architects since it was designed by an outsider and looks like a giant bicycle helmet, its size and budget has been heavily scaled back (it was $3 billion, now it’s “just” $1.42 billion), and the national government and Tokyo are also haggling over who will foot the bill.
One of the main criticisms levelled at the stadium by Japanese architects was the roof, which heavily increases the cost of the project. However, the retractable roof was proposed to give the stadium a second life as a concert venue.
An opening ceremony in the stadium sans roof will affect the content of the ceremony, since the stadium is located in central Tokyo where there are strict rules on noise pollution.
The Tokyo Olympics was marketed as an “eco Games” because it could reuse many venues and facilities from the iconic 1964 Olympics.
However, in reality, the 2020 bonanza has proved a major boon for real estate development around Tokyo Bay and the previous National Stadium has been completely demolished to make way for Hadid’s new stadium.
Dig Info has released a nice video showcasing an interesting smartphone optical data communication development by Panasonic.
The new technology uses an LED light source to allow a smartphone to read optical ID signals coming off something.
While this concept is not new per se, Panasonic has enhanced the speed to be hundreds of times faster than previous systems and no longer require fluctuation brightness visible to the human eye. Now the user does not “see” anything but their smartphone can pick up a signal from the item.
Potential applications include consumer product information in retail spaces. For example, use your smartphone to “read” a dress and view information about available stock and the materials, as well as videos and images of models.
Museums and public transport could use the technology to offer multi-lingual guidance.
A Panasonic representative explains:
“The device that sends the signals with this technology can be in, for example, a store or public place. Meanwhile, the person receiving the information can be a consumer or passerby. Unless that person can use their regular smartphone, such a system is meaningless; that was the basic idea behind our development of this technology. Going forward, we think this should involve not only Panasonic, but also alliances with manufacturers that can put the technology into many forms, as well as IT system integrators, and businesses that can provide services using the technology.”
According to Dig Info, Panasonic will release products that transmit optical ID signals by March 2016, and plans to develop this business full-scale from fiscal 2016.
Sonia Rykiel has opened a new store in Aoyama, the designer fashion district of central Tokyo. Located at the former Jil Sander Navy flagship address, the shop features a unique interior with striking red fittings and floor-to-ceiling bookcases.
The Japan branch is part of a global campaign. The designer’s flagship store in Paris recently featured 50,000 books as a pop-up makeover themed on the history of the Left Bank. A similar theme is going to transform the London store in May.
In partnership with artistic director Julie de Libran, publisher Thomas Lenthal and artist André Saraïva, the launch is to present the Sonia Rykiel autumn-winter 2015 collection.
The two-floor, 165-square-meter Tokyo location features a carpet with artwork by Saraïva, as well as an exclusive fragrance created especially by Daniela Andrier.
The new Sonia Rykiel boutique can be found at 5-2-12 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku.
We’ve seen a growing interest in bibliophilic spaces in Tokyo.
And although it’s now long-closed, Nakameguro was once home to Combine, a kind of hipster book lounge bar-cafe, for many years.
The Japanese government has faith in soft power, hence all the “cool Japan” campaigns.
This might be J-Pop. It might be anime. It might be cuisine.
But there’s another unusual source of “cool” in Japan — toilets.
While the actual “Japanese” toilets (i.e. squat toilets) as they were originally designed are slowly disappearing except for some unfortunate train stations or far-flung corners of the land, makers like Toto have impressed the world and gone viral with their successful toilet technology innovations… like the talking toilet, the heated seat, the Otohime modesty sound blocker, and more.
The Japanese household toilet is as much an awesome part of what makes Japanese homes so different as tatami mats, sliding doors and futons. And the Japanese take them seriously. Junichiro Tanizaki waxed lyrical about the Japanese toilet in In Praise of Shadows, while a major toilet-themed exhibition at the Miraikan last year saw lines of kids with poop-shaped hats on climb into a giant toilet bowl. We are not kidding about that last one.
Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham recently created Gallery Toto, a toilet “digital gallery” showroom at Narita Airport to demonstrate the wonders of the Japanese privy.
It’s perhaps no surprise that Toto is one of the exhibitors at Tokyo Designers Week.
According to news reports, the government wants to help Japan’s eco-friendly, forward-thinking toilet makers:
The government will support firms and organizations in the industries to obtain an international standard for household and similar electrical appliances certified by the International Electrotechnical Commission to boost the export of toilet products, including those equipped with warm-water spray options, according to the sources. It also plans to establish a system by the end of this fiscal year that would reward efforts to keep restrooms neat and clean.
Apparently wealthy Chinese tourists have taken an interest in Japanese toilets, with their multiple spray options and functions.
Toto, which is nearly 100 years old, makes one fifth of its sales overseas. A surge in Chinese wealth has finally seen it make profit in the market.
Could Toto et al be the answer to thawing the icy relations between China and Japan? Yes, toilet diplomacy could be a “thing”.
The Toto Washlet has been a multi-million-seller since it was introduced in 1982 and some 70% of Japanese households possess a toilet or toilet seat with enhanced functionality — on par with market penetration of computers and digital cameras.
Perhaps some day soon in the future, just as so many people now drive a Japanese automobile, most people may be sitting down on a Japanese toilet whenever nature calls.
Turn your clothes into letters to be sent in the mail. That’s what fukutegami does.
The clever concept was launched on the crowdfunding platform Readyfor? and cleared its target of ¥550,000 ($4,500). Now it’s going to be send out to the funders in mid-June and eventually will be a regular product sold online or in shops.
With fukutegami you write a “letter” directly onto the clothes (the name itself is a play on the words fuku — clothes — and tegami, letter), fold the clothes into an “envelope”, and then send it to someone in the mail. In these days of digital communication (how many school students today have actually even handwritten and sent a physical letter?!) it stands out as a great way to show someone you care.
You write onto the “letter” space on the inside of the clothes, so your private message to the receiver is not shown on the outside. Wash the clothes and words will disappear, thanks to the qualities of the textiles. The clothes are designed to be folded into an “envelope”-like shape, and with a space to write the address and add the stamp. The set includes a pen and even a stamp.
The unique product doesn’t come cheap, though, planning to retail for around ¥12,000 ($100).
It works best with a plain white shirt, since that most resembles letter paper. But the design can be adjusted for different colors and different types of clothing.
It was developed by a media design grad student at Keio University. Masako Yokoi previously honed her idea through workshops and regional versions. Then she turned to crowdfunding to make it happen as a general product.
It is being made in partnership with three factories in Iwate, Kyoto and Osaka.
Publisher Kadokawa opened the beta version of Comic Walker Global on April 27th to be a platform for promoting the work of overseas manga artists.
Comic Walker already launched in 2014 as Japan’s premier official (i.e. not pirated!) online manga service, offering a vast library of titles and translation (into English or Chinese) options. It also started programming manga original to the digital service. The aim was to achieve 100 million page views by the end of the first year of operation.
While we’re not sure if they achieved that or not, Kadokawa’s confidence is obvious from how they have made good on their international aspirations, especially in the Asian region.
The Comic Walker Global site includes the work of popular manga-ka like Chiya, Foo Swee Chin, and more.
And the best thing about Comic Walker Global? It’s free to view on your smartphone (Android and iOS), tablet or computer via the dedicated app.
It now offers Chinese-language options and English is planned for the future.
Currently there are only 9 manga titles available, though with the gradual growth of overseas manga, US graphic novels and bandes dessinées in Japan, we can expect the portfolio to expand quickly from the summer.