Shibuya Scramble Crossing recreated in 1/100 scale paper model as stop-motion animation

Written by: William on July 2, 2015 at 5:49 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

We recently featured a beautiful video featuring miniatures of traditional Japanese architecture and gardens.

Well, here’s the modern-day version!

This is a contemporary Tokyo landmark in minimal 1/100 scale.

shibuya scramble crossing tokyo intersection model terada mokei paper 1/100 scale stop motion animation

The Terada Mokei team have created a stop-motion animation of the most famous intersection in the world — Shibuya Crossing in front of Shibuya Station, informally known as “Scramble Crossing”.

shibuya scramble crossing tokyo intersection model terada mokei paper 1/100 scale stop motion animation

The animation features around 1,000 different “characters” called Genki-kun, made using paper models from the Terada Mokei architectural models. Look out for tiny buses, cars and more.

The animation was directed by Tomohiro Okazaki, with production direction by Naoki Terada.

shibuya scramble crossing tokyo intersection model terada mokei paper 1/100 scale stop motion animation

Terada Mokei also produced this cool 1/100-scale sumo wrestling model.

pen light yozora oekaki art penlight iphone

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Create your own PythagoraSwitch Rube Goldberg machines

Written by: Japan Trends on July 2, 2015 at 9:17 am | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

PythagoraSwitch is an educational NHK TV show about science and engineering. It has inspired a generation of youngsters (and dads) to try building and figuring out how things work. It’s unashamedly geeky but also creative, since the contraptions showcased in its most famous segment are essentially “useless” Rube Goldberg machines.

Of course, PythagoraSwitch has spawned a thousand imitators at home: families and kids building intricate routes for balls to travel across.

But now you can add the official NHK touch to your homemade devices with the PythagoraSwitch Goal Machine No.1.

pythagoraswitch goal machine toy nhk tv rube goldberg device

Happinet has teamed up with NHK to make this toy, which replicates the feel of the original show.

When the ball enters the “goal machine” the green PythagoraSwitch flag is raised and the iconic jingle from the TV show is played.

pythagoraswitch goal machine toy nhk tv rube goldberg device

For the engineering buffs, here’s how the inside of the goal machine itself works.

pythagoraswitch goal machine toy nhk tv rube goldberg device

And here it is in action.

The makers prepared more examples of the kind of elaborate contraptions you can create.

Here is one involving laundry pegs and a bridge.

This one has a tunnel, Jenga blocks and more!

This one has a mini whiteboard, chopsticks, and even a toy bus.

Finally, this ingenious design starts with a vibrating cellphone causing the ball to roll… and then keeps on become more and more elaborate.

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Mercedes-Benz takes over Haneda Airport with branded gallery terminal space

Written by: William on July 1, 2015 at 10:22 am | In GO SEE | No Comments

Recently, Narita Airport has been on a mission to reinvent itself from dull and controversial Chiba hub to an exciting destination with a running track LCC terminal and Kabuki experience center.

Now Haneda is undergoing a mini make-over, courtesy of Mercedes-Benz.

mercedes-benz me tokyo airport haneda

From July 22nd, Haneda Airport Terminal 2’s basement floor will get a new branded space, including a lounge installed with digital devices, a “collection shop” with fashion and lifestyle curation, and restaurants and cafes. Around the stores will be a gallery space, showcasing exhibits of the latest vehicle models.

mercedes-benz me tokyo airport haneda

mercedes-benz me tokyo airport haneda

mercedes-benz me tokyo airport haneda

The eateries announced so far are eggcellent BITES and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, who aren’t the most obvious choices of partners for a luxury automobile maker. They will serve food and drink original to the Haneda terminal.

Mercedes me Tokyo Haneda is the first “Mercedes me” outlet in Asia and the first time the global brand portal has ventured into an airport. The Shinagawa Mercedes dealer will actually handle the services, so there won’t actually be a separate Mercedes-Benz dealership inside the airport.

mercedes-benz me tokyo airport haneda

mercedes-benz me tokyo airport haneda

Mercedes, like Audi and Lexus, also maintains a brand “third space” in central Tokyo. Mercedes-Benz Connection is located in Roppongi and functions as an event and food space.

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Yutaka Foods ad video showcases Japanese love for all things miniature

Written by: William on June 30, 2015 at 9:09 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

People in Japan may not know Yutaka Foods but if you’ve bought any Japanese food in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, the chances are it was imported by them.

Yutaka Foods has just released an ad, Japanese Diorama, that revels in Japan’s “miniature” image, using a series of intricately detailed models of Japanese settings.

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

The commercial referenced how we associate Japan as the land where everything is “tiny” but also pays homage to its love of miniatures.

Model-making culture is alive and kicking in Japan, from impressive museum models (take a trip to the Ghibli Museum or the Edo-Tokyo Museum to see what we mean) to “fake food” samples at restaurants, while hobbyists still enjoy the art of making papercraft models and die-cast models like the innovative Tamashi series by Bandai.

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

The video was made by GetNewDesign, a London design agency.

Here’s what James Reeve, who runs GetNewDesign, had to say about the making of the ad.

The 70-second ad was shot in London using miniature models painstakingly created by our team of model makers. (It took them 5 weeks to build 5 different sets.) The actual shoot took 5 days and the entire video was shot on 16mm film. We wanted to use traditional film cameras to give the video a sense of nostalgia that you can only achieve with a real film grain.

Even better than the real thing.

So reads the tagline and these models truly live up to that: for the first few seconds you cannot tell they are replicas.

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

There are trees and moss, stone steps and a lantern. Also look out for the perfectly made sunken hearth (iori), sliding doors, tatami mats, and even shrine gates.

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

Here’s the video.

Here are some images from behind the scenes, showing the scale of the models.

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

yutaka foods advert video commercial models miniatures replica japanese

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Maywa Denki robot Frois “marries” android Roborin in Japan’s first robot wedding ceremony

Written by: William on June 29, 2015 at 9:26 am | In NEW TECH | 1 Comment

Just an ordinary weekend in Tokyo? Wrong. Saturday witnessed the first ever robot wedding.

As we reported back in May, Maywa Denki’s Frois bot and the AKB48 Yuki Kashiwagi idol-lookalike android Yukirin (here renamed Roborin) joined together in holy matrimony at Aoyama Cay in Spiral, central Tokyo.

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

The non-legally binding ceremony was an event (called Robo-kon, or “robot wedding”) produced by Japan’s favorite tech and music anarchists, Maywa Denki, who created the “groom” (Frois). The “bride” was made by Takayuki Todo in the likeness of a certain Japanese music idol (whose name was withheld from the official PR materials).

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

The handful of lucky guests who attended (paying ¥10,000, or more than $80 for the privilege) witnessed the happy occasion as the mechanical couple tied the knot.

The proceedings were presided over by Aldebaran and Softbank’s robot Pepper, who can normally be found in certain Softbank phone stores offering entertainment to customers. Frois may not be the most conventionally good-looking of grooms: “he” is a kind of large red bath stool robot. Well, who says romance is dead?

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

The wedding ceremony pulled out all the bells and whistles, with a male and female MC, Pepper as the “priest”, plus a walk (actually, more like being gently wheeled) down the aisle, a cake — and even a kiss.

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

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Head-kun: a robotic vacuum cleaner that creates drip painting art

Written by: William on June 26, 2015 at 11:03 am | In NEW TECH | 3 Comments

Tails of Head is a project by HYdeJII where a specially adapted robotic vacuum cleaner creates paintings using multiple colors.

Head-kun (aka Mr Head) is the artist. According to his (?) profile, Head-kun is 15 years old and a robotic painter converted from an unnamed robotic vacuum cleaner product by iRobot.

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

The process is very time-consuming but involves Head-kun traveling over the same space countless times, dripping different acrylic paints onto a canvas measuring 1,000mm x 1,000mm.

This is Spring Starburst (2015).

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

This is Spring Worm Hole (2014).

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

While paintings created by robots is not a new gimmick by any means, we haven’t seen one done by a vacuum cleaner bot like this before. Sure there was a nice light painting by Roomba cleaners and a iRobot Scooba 450 did some impressive seascapes, but Head-kun is surely the Jackson Pollock of this genre.

Here is how Head-kun created his drip paintings.

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Dominique Ansel Tokyo opens in Omotesando with new Japan-inspired menu

Written by: William on June 25, 2015 at 8:42 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Dominique Ansel, the acclaimed Parisian-style New York bakery, has opened its first overseas outlet — in Tokyo.

The new bakery opened at the plush Omotesando Hills complex on June 20th, joining the growing ranks of high-end global food and drink creators, especially third-wave coffee roasters like Blue Bottle and Fuglen, or craft beer makers like BrewDog, who have opted to expand overseas with a first outpost in Tokyo.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

The menu features all the Dominique Ansel Tokyo favorites like Cronuts (the Dominique Ansel-trademarked croissant and donut hybrid), Frozen S’More, and Cookie Shot, plus many Japan-exclusive items developed and inspired by local cuisine elements.

Dominique Ansel Tokyo is a standalone three-story affair, with two dining spaces and an upstairs kitchen. The ground floor offers take-out and eat-in, while the second floor is a restaurant with waiters and a separate menu.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

The first floor interior is inspired by Paris and New York subway stations, with a seasonally changing photo diorama. The subway theme continues with custom art by Vahram Muratyan that shows a mashup of the two cities’ train systems. Observant visitors will spot that the “stations” are actually various chefs’ names.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

Clearly, the Japanese obsession with lining up outside stores for hours, or even overnight in advance of major releases, also extends to Cronuts. Two men started camping in front of the Tokyo bakery 12 hours before the doors opened on Saturday morning.

The Japan-only food items include a special Cronut, made with Hokkaido milk honey and yuzu cream.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

There is also Paris Tokyo (“A twist on the traditional Paris Brest with matcha ganache and a soft passion fruit curd”), Monaka Cookie (“A fun texture twist with a crispy monaka shell and a moist matcha financier cookie”), Mr Roboto (“Our take on the melon pan filled with a caramel black truffle custard”), and Mont Blanc Wagashi (“Chestnut cream, meringue, and orange confit done in the style of a wagashi pairs perfectly with tea and is only offered in our private Japanese tea room”).

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

There are even yuzu- and vanilla-filled cream puffs stacked and shaped to look like Maneki Neko cat figures.

dominique ansel tokyo bakery japan menu cronuts omotesando hills

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“Kokeshi, from Tohoku with Love”: An interview with Manami Okazaki about her book

Written by: William on June 24, 2015 at 8:32 am | In COOL PRODUCTS, CULTURE | No Comments

Manami Okazaki has released a second edition of her book “Kokeshi, from Tohoku with Love”, featuring interviews with 23 kokeshi artisans as well as 200 photos documenting how the unique wooden dolls are made in northeast Japan.

Okazaki, the author of several books about aspects of Japanese culture, from tattoos to toy cameras, wrote the first edition as a charity project. It sold out in 18 months and now is available again in a new expanded version.

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

We spoke to her about her new book.

Q. Why did you choose to write about kokeshi?

Manami Okazaki: There are a couple of reasons. When I was interviewing people for a previous book I wrote on kawaii culture, many mentioned kokeshi as having the same design sensibilities as modern cute character design. Designers such as Bukkuro (known for designing the Taiko no Tatsujin game) find kokeshi designs inspirational. Traditional types of kokeshi, like a lot of kawaii characters, lack any facial expression (famously, Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth), and their simplicity leaves a lot to the imagination.

Since 3/11, the country began to focus on the Tohoku region, and kokeshi became a kind of mascot for the region. There were exhibitions at trendy places like Claska and PARCO gallery, events in Koenji, and a slew of gorgeously designed publications like “Kokeshi Jidai”, which all instigated a boom in kokeshi culture. I write a lot about kawaii culture in any case, and kokeshi aligned with the notion of shibu kawaii (subdued, old school cute).

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

Last but not least, my grandparents on my mum’s side lived in Onagawa post-war, and my mum grew up there. I am really grateful I experienced Japanese rural life there, and have great memories of visiting them. We also went to Naruko and kokeshi studios when I was a kid, so there is a sense of nostalgia for me as well. I should also add that my mum’s childhood home was swept away in the tsunami, and in an instant, many people died, and the town she grew up in disappeared. When I went up post-tsunami, the playground I used to play in was lined with coffins.

Nothing in life is permanent, but books leave behind a legacy that carries on for generations — it is one way to leave behind a culture. It is not the only way, of course, there is a scholar who did her doctoral dissertation on kokeshi, and there are also documentaries, but it is the way I am familiar with.

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

Q. Why do you think the first print sold out? Why is there a strong interest in kokeshi?

Manami Okazaki: I think there was just a hole in the market, there are some books which are beautiful, but have little to no text and, are a decade old, and expensive.

The book is in English, so it is intended for an audience abroad — a lot of people recognize kokeshi, and like them, but in reality, a lot of the items that are called “kokeshi” in English are plastic mass-produced products in the likeness of geishas. If you do a google image search for kokeshi in English, most of the images are not kokeshi, but kitschy cartoony toys. I met an owner of a kokeshi shop in Paris who had never seen a real kokeshi in his life, and was asking where he can get wholesale quantities!

I think people were curious to know what these well-known dolls really were. I think there is also a general interest in artisan culture due to things like the slow life movement, and influential taste-makers like Kinfolk and Monocle magazine celebrating crafts.

They are imperfect, as they are made by hand, and each one is different. Asides from that, they are very cute!

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

Q. What do you think the role of kokeshi is for Japan today? As crafts? Design? Toys?

Manami Okazaki: Mainly as interior decoration items and souvenirs. They started as a kids’ toy, and girls were dressing them up and carrying them on their back. During the Showa era, adults became enamored in them, instigating the first “kokeshi boom”. Tadao Watanabe, a kokeshi artisan in Fukushima told me, “Suddenly, these toys became a thing for urban intellectuals, and they would take dolls out of kids’ hands!”

They are also connected to tourism — they are a souvenir from the hot spring villages in Tohoku where they are made, and people would travel around collecting them. In the Showa era it was “collectors with big backpacks”. Nowadays it is Shimokitaza type, crafty and designer-y young females.

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

Q. What are the challenges facing kokeshi culture today?

Manami Okazaki: Primarily, the lack of successors and the aging demographic of the current artisans. The apprenticeship is grueling and lengthy, and there is little financial incentive to become a kokeshi maker. It is the same for all the artisans in Japan, across the board.

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

Q. What are some of the most unusual kokeshi you have encountered? And the most innovative?

Manami Okazaki: Prior to this kokeshi boom, a lot of young people thought that orthodox kokeshi with their demure expressions looked a bit creepy. In response, artisans usually make two types: the very traditional types that are true to their lineage, and ones that are hyper cute — with hats, in the shape of cats, sitting on beer barrels, with manga eyes, and so on. Recently, fashion retailer BEAMS collaborated with kokeshi maker Yasuhiro Satou, using both artificial blue ink, and indigo, as Japan has a rich heritage of indigo dying. Blue is never found in traditional kokeshi, so it was dubbed the “denim head” and they sold an incredible amount!

By and large, they are artisans, not artists though, and their main interest is in dutifully protecting their heritage. They try and “catch” new customers by making hyper kawaii types, in the hope that these some customers eventually get deeper into kokeshi culture, and go for the traditional types. This is something I also saw in the kimono industry as well; the casual, creative styles were seen as a bridge to the “real thing”.

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

Q. Have you made any significant changes/additions to this second edition?

Manami Okazaki: Yes. It is a second edition ,though, not a new book, so please keep this in mind if you have the first edition. The second edition has all the bells and whistles. It has a thick, textured hard cover, 100% FCS paper from sustainable sources in Europe, two times higher grade paper, larger format, 60 more photos, 3 more profiles, sections on how to buy kokeshi, and added information on Tohoku folklore.

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

Q. Why did you make the first edition a charity project?

Manami Okazaki: I think it makes sense as kokeshi are from Tohoku. Post-tsunami, almost everyone I knew was working on charity projects, and chipping in where they could, from making books to hosting band gigs and holding charity events. I felt there was a shift in consciousness amongst young people, and a reassessment about the way they (over) consumed. I remember around ten years ago, if you told someone to watch their water consumption, not use so much plastic or packaging, and whatnot, they would think you were a hippie (I’m exaggerating, but not by much). I don’t think many mainstream young people prior to 3/11 had even thought about charity, but everyone I knew, from fashion houses to underground artists were doing something.

It was a charity book, but mostly I am hoping it inspires people to visit these charming hot spring villages and to check out Japan’s artisan crafts. Kokeshi tourism is a really great way to experience rural Tohoku culture, and see craftsmen at work in their own studios.

manami okazaki kokeshi from tohoku with love design book japanese culture

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“Terminator Genisys” gets unlikely promo with Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel schoolgirl cosplay dance video

Written by: William on June 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

How do you promote the new Terminator movie in Japan?

Simple. You dress up a dancer in a Japanese schoolgirl uniform and have her perform deep under the ground. Crank up the iconic Terminator theme melody with a special dance remix… and you probably have a recipe for viral success.

Terminator Genisys manako promo school uniform japanese Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel dance video

Take a look.

The slinky performer is sailor uniform music idol Manako.

Okay, so this may not be wholly official but it’s still better than anything the forthcoming movie’s PR team could have come up with.

Terminator Genisys manako promo school uniform japanese Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel dance video

Architecture fans will instantly recognize the setting.

It’s the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, a vast flood water facility located in Saitama. The epic storm drain is like a video game level come to life — appropriately sci-fi for the film.

Terminator Genisys manako promo school uniform japanese Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel dance video

Quite what a dancing schoolgirl has to do with Terminator Genisys is anyone’s guess but since the franchise jumped the shark a long time ago, cosplay silliness is probably the last thing that can damage it now.

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