Marco releases first photography book, “Spring Pedals by lovely hickey”

Written by: William on October 30, 2014 at 10:00 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Photographer Marco’s first photography book “Spring Pedals by lovely hickey” will be released by Futabasha on November 7th. Featuring mostly portraits previously showcased by Marco on the website JADICT, it features young models such as Nana Komatsu and Mona Matsuoka.

Marco is a “disciple” of Mika Ninagawa, and that photographer’s influence is obvious: female models, lots of flower visuals, soft aesthetic, and so on.

marco spring pedals by lovely hickey photography

marco spring pedals by lovely hickey photography

marco spring pedals by lovely hickey photography

Some might find the emphasis almost exclusively on girls in their late teens slightly unsettling but this kind of photography is popular with a certain market of female consumers.

Marco started working for Ninagawa in 2003 and then kicked off his own career as a photographer in 2008. He mainly works in advertising and fashion catalogs.

marco spring pedals by lovely hickey photography

marco spring pedals by lovely hickey photography

marco spring pedals by lovely hickey photography

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Tokyo International Film Festival 2014 stirs up controversy with nationalist advertising slogan

Written by: William on October 29, 2014 at 7:31 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Tokyo International Film Festival is currently running in Roppongi. Japan’s premier film event always draws crowds and plenty of press attention.

So far this year’s biggest headlines have perhaps been generated by comments by director Takeshi Kitano, who has reached the age where he doesn’t care what people think anymore. He criticized the monopoly of the major Japanese film studios which control movie theaters, and how the local media never writes proper reviews. “The Japanese film industry is going to ruins,” he decried. He also admitted his dislike for anime. “I dislike Hayao Miyazaki the most. But I give credit to his works for earning so much money.”

Meanwhile Hideaki Anno, whose work is being showcased in a retrospected at TIFF, lamented the state of the local anime industry. “The Japanese animation industry has hit a dead end — it will be tough to escape unless we can make animation without commercial considerations.”

Hardly the stuff of a buoyant festival that the organizers were no doubt hoping for.

tokyo international film festival criticism copy advert slogan

However, there has been even more criticism of the festival itself by industry people and the public alike about the way TIFF is presenting itself. TIFF has never been very sophisticated in its PR but this year might be the most crass.

In large print adverts run in major newspapers it has been pushing the country’s “legacy” for producing cinema maestros. This nationalist tendency might well meet the approval of the current government and no one would surely doubt Japan’s pedigree when it comes to past masterpieces, but this is bullishness verging on the right wing.

ニッポンは世界中から尊敬されている映画監督の出身国だった。お忘れなく。

The official English translation of the copy is even worse:

Lest we forget; our nation gave birth to some of the world’s most respected directors.

The “lest we forget” is horribly formal and also sounds like an intonement at a memorial service. It is the kind of phrase you hear uttered after terrible events. And the “our nation” is, needless to say, hardly welcoming to the many foreign visitors to the festival.

It has been harshly criticized by director Tetsuaki Matsue.

Our question is also this: Who has forgotten? Just as no one has forgotten about the great directors of France, America, Germany et al, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi and Ozu have not been blotted out of the public’s mind, as far as we know. Does TIFF need to remind us, especially like this?

tokyo international film festival criticism copy advert slogan

Better alternatives have been suggested:

世界から敬愛される映画監督たちはこの国から生まれた。

Some of the world’s most respected directors were born here.

However, no matter how you adjust the copy, the rightist nuance reminds.

It is also perhaps no surprise that AKB48 producer and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe favorite Yasushi Akimoto was invited to produce the film festival this year. The rather inexplicable appointment by the government has resulted (directly or otherwise) in a nasty taint of politics over the event.

The festival was sponsored by Toyota until 2012 and it was in past festivals that the copy really rankled with us personally. That year the theme was all about ecology and the environment, including even a “green carpet”. This from an international event based in that eco paradise Roppongi, flying in guests and staff from all over the world. And sponsored by the biggest car manufacturer on the planet. “Action! for Earth” [sic] the slogan said. Yes, quite.

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OK Go “I Won’t Let You Down” music video: Drones, Honda UNI-CUBs, Perfume, umbrellas, Japanese girls

Written by: William on October 28, 2014 at 8:23 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

American band OK Go have released a music video for their song “I Won’t Let You Down”, from the album “Hungry Ghosts”.

Filmed using a “multi-copter camera” and directed by Morihiro Harano, the choreography for the video has been clearly sped up in the editing process but it still has the usual OK Go fun vibe and charm.

ok go i wont let you down honda uni-cub music video drone camera multi-copter japan dancers

OK Go are famous for their inventive music videos that feature challenging set-ups and long takes. “I Won’t Let You Down” is no exception, including some bravado moments such as an aerial shot and the band “dancing” the whole time while riding self-balancing unicycles. And holding umbrellas.

The “Japanese” elements are pretty inconsequential. Some anonymous Japanese girls appear, twirl their umbrellas and legs in synchronized group movements, and occasionally chant “Ichi, ni, san…” (Look out for the three members of Perfume, who pop up for a few seconds at the start.)

The setting would also appear to be Japan, though certainly not Tokyo, given the expansive surroudings.

ok go i wont let you down honda uni-cub music video drone camera multi-copter japan dancers

The machines the band members ride are Honda UNI-CUBs, a robotic scooter kind of like a very small Segway that can balance itself. The customized drone camera that filmed the whole enterprise was also apparently contributed by Honda.

ok go i wont let you down honda uni-cub music video drone camera multi-copter japan dancers

There is a worrying precedent when overseas music artists come and make a “Japan-inspired” song or music video. The biggest criminal of recent times has been Avril Lavigne and her wacky “Hello Kitty” music video. We might be tempted to say the OK Go have almost opted for that cliche of Japanese or Asian people prancing around in mass games-style crowd choreography, but on the whole they pull it off with the emphasis leaning much more on fun tribute than cultural appropriation.

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“Princess Jellyfish” exhibition at Shibuya Parco Museum: Male visitors must “cross-dress” in female clothes

Written by: William on October 27, 2014 at 8:47 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

A new exhibition event in Shibuya will turn all male visitors into crossdressers.

All right, let’s qualify that.

The exhibition, held in December and January at Shibuya Parco Museum, is a promo for the upcoming live-action film adaptation of the manga “Princess Jellyfish”.

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

The original, called “Kuragehime” in Japanese, is all about the goings-on at an apartment building populated only by female otaku, such as a girl obsessed with kimono and another with Chinese history. The tenants of the apartment in the threatened “Amamizukan” building are all girls. No boys are allowed, though the main character Tsukimi Kurashita (her mania is for jellyfish, hence the title) eventually allows a cross-dressing politician’s son into her life and of course, we can probably all guess how things turn out between them.

The exhibition will feature props, costumes and more from the world of the film and manga.

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

As men are “banned” from the apartment building in the story, likewise the exhibition is ostensibly only open to female visitors. Should men turn up, they will be forced to wear “female items” if they want to enter the exhibition. At the time of writing we aren’t sure exactly what these are, though we doubt a mainstream space like Parco Museum would actually force young guys in Shibuya to wear skirts. If you want to see that kind of thing, head over to Shinjuku or Akihabara for the otoko no ko cross-dressing cosplay subculture trend.

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko renna nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

Following an anime series in 2010, the live-action film version of Akiko Higashimura’s comic is set for release on December 27th and stars Rena Nounen (of “Amachan” fame) in the gauche lead role.

“Kuragehime Exhibition”
Parco Museum (Shibuya Parco Part 1, 3F)
December 19th to January 12th
Tickets: ¥500

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Underwater Knee-High Girls: Now swimming onto your iPhone

Written by: William on October 23, 2014 at 8:07 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The “Underwater Knee-High Girls” series of aquatic slinky ladies by photographer Manabu Koga has already produced two photography books and a current photography exhibition. Now they can be swimming seductively on your iPhone too.

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

The “Suichu Ni-so” features models swimming underwater in a variety of poses and with all manner of unusual props (umbrellas, mecha-esque bodysuits, toy guns), but always wearing knee-high socks.

Given how easy it is to make phone cases and covers these days, we guess it was inevitable that the next merchandise in the series would be coming to our handsets.

Manabu Koga has reproduced his series of images as iPhone 5 covers. All 190 of the models and outfits featured in the new photography book are available as iPhone 5 covers, though if you want overseas shipping you’d be better off asking JapanTrendShop to track down a case for you.

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

The “Underwater Knee-High Girls” photography exhibition also runs at PATER’S Shop and Gallery in Harajuku from October 24th to November 5th, with exhibits including images not featured in the final photography book.

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

Here’s a make-of video showing one of the models taking a self-portrait.

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Ultra Seven x Black Ice Eyewear for superhero stylish retro glasses

Written by: William on October 21, 2014 at 8:52 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

What in some countries would be merely retro or even geeky, in Japan can be mainstream and inventive.

The Ultraman franchise continues to innovate and expand despite its age. As promotion for the Blu-Ray release of Ultra Seven in November, Tsuburaya Productions has got together with a manufacturer from Sabae in Fukui Prefecture, said to be home to Japan’s eyeglass frame manufacturing industry.

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

The Ultra Seven x Black Ice is a series of eight eyeglasses products designed in the trademark Ultra Seven colors that use highly durable Carbotitan hybrid materials to create the eyewear worthy of a superhero.

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

The special limited edition spectacles will set you back over ¥50,000 (nearly $500) and won’t be yours until next April (you can pre-order them from December). Clearly these are for the serious collector!

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

This latest development follows previous Ultra Seven hashed beef food products, an Ultraman luxury guitar, and even an appearance by Mother of Ultra in a series of Kyushu shopping mall TV ads. And if that’s not enough, head on down for a drink at the Ultraman Monster Bar in Kawasaki.

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

This time we see Japan’s love of stylish retro combining with its very lively eyewear market — an industry which has seen the launch of its own fashion magazine of late, plus collaborations with the likes of Monster Hunter and Rilakkuma, and hi-tech advances such as JINS Meme glasses that tell you when you’re tired and the Fun’iki Ambient Glasses, which link with your smart device.

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

In Japan retro sci-fi TV shows are not just for geeks, they can be forward-thinking fashion accessories too.

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Funassyi has a kid brother: Chiba pear mascot gets a sibling called Funagoro

Written by: William on October 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Yes, Japan’s most famous unofficial mascot, that lovable jumping yellow pear Funassyi now has a kid brother.

If you believed Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture already had enough mascots with just one, others thought otherwise. The unstoppable industry that is Funnassyi has been joined by a sibling, Funagoro.

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

Funagoro is half-pear, half-caterpillar. While he is a similar color to Funassyi, if a bit smaller, there is one major difference: he has a tail. And he can squirt pear juice out of it.

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

It’s not the first time that Funassyi’s family members have been mentioned but this is the first public appearance. Apparently the pear mascot has a whopping 274 brothers and sisters. Funagoro is the 56th brother, just in case you are counting.

What next for Funagoro? It depends on whether the world can cope with two Funassyis.

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

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2.5D Masks: Cute, maybe creepy anime masks invade the Internet

Written by: William on October 13, 2014 at 7:59 am | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

Okay, we don’t know if this qualifies as a “trend”. It may only be one inventive person. But it got us thinking nonetheless: Is this cute or creepy?

The realm of Japanese kawaii has certainly spawned some manifestations that are hard to categorize or understand. And there is already a word for when the “cute” ventures into the grotesque — kimo-kawaii.

But “2.5D masks” — two and a half dimensional paper masks — might need an adjective all of their own.

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

The series of anime face masks have sprung up recently on Japanese social media, originating from a tumblr account that documents the creators adventures around Japan wearing the anime character face decorations.

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

The designer also includes details on how they are made — in funky animated gifs, natch — and downloadable files for those who want to make their own masks. Just don’t choose the mask model that’s called “Lolita”. (The other three choices are “Timidity”, “Cheerful” and “Grace”.)

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

The 2.5D Mask tumblr account began in September and showcases the female creator and her masks as she goes to various locations around Japan (typically incongruous ones). The anonymous designer’s Twitter account goes back further, though, at least to July, so this project has been developing over the summer.

Time will tell if this kicks off beyond a minor subculture into a real meme. People are encouraged to download, print and make their own 2.5D masks, and then share them online using the hashtag #2_5dmask. Could this start a revolution?

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

Japan has always had a thing for papercraft and 2.5D Mask says making the mask only requires a regular household printer and some basic tools. It also taps into the love for dressing up (cosplay) and is like a paper kigurumi costume, only because it’s just a mask, it kind of looks a bit spooky. It’s like the girl’s body has been taken over by an anime invader.

Perfect for Halloween?

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Morinaga opens pop-up “Kabe-don Cafe” in Harajuku with doll-waiter for seducing women against a wall

Written by: William on October 9, 2014 at 10:25 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Food maker Morinaga is opening a pop-up cafe that has a special “kabe-don doll” artificial waiter to seduce female patrons.

To celebrate the release of its Cafe Marriage caramel and chocolate pudding dessert on October 7th and the Cafe Marriage Mont Blanc aux marrons and almond pudding on October 14th, Morinaga has decided to create an interactive experience for lonely women who want to get the sensation of being placed against a wall and kissed.

kabe-don cafe morinaga tokyo harajuku waiter doll puppet women wall hand against seduce kiss sweets cafe marriage pudding pop-up

It is opening a pop-up “Melt! Kabe-don Cafe” in Harajuku’s SoLaDo from October 11th for six days, every weekend for the rest of the month. If you go there and try the new Cafe Marriage (that’s marriage in the French sense of the word, meaning a blend), you can then experience kabe-don with a special waiter/doll/mannequin contraption.

We expect most women in other countries would find this creepy but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. And besides, there are plenty of odd cafes for men to perv over girls in Japan. Why shouldn’t the women get their fantasies realized once in a while?

kabe-don cafe morinaga tokyo harajuku waiter doll puppet women wall hand against seduce kiss sweets cafe marriage pudding pop-up

Kabe-don is a word meaning when a man places his hand against a wall, trapping (in a good way!) his female partner there so he can lean in for a smooch. Okay, when we write it like that it sounds rather scary but you can imagine the pose, right? Of course, it is only a “fantasy” if the guy is a hunk.

Here the look of the “waiter” puppet (does he it qualify as a “hunk”) is clearly a rift on the butler cosplay cafes that already exist for women who like to be served by a handsome man dressed to the nines like a servant.

Don’t believe us? Watch this promo video.

The kabe-don doll itself (or is it more like a puppet? The word in Japanese is the same, ningyou) is a bit reminiscent of a sex doll, which as we know has more mainstream acceptance in Japan and even appears in promos for major recording artists. Don’t get us wrong — we’re not suggesting that Morinaga’s cafe offers any extras on the menu that involve getting more personal with the artificial waiter! Either way, Morinaga’s “waiter” is definitely in an uncanny valley all of its own.

kabe-don cafe morinaga tokyo harajuku waiter doll puppet women wall hand against seduce kiss sweets cafe marriage pudding pop-up

Try the sweets and kabe-don doll experience at SoLaDo Harajuku on October 11th, October 12th, October 18th, October 19th, October 25th and October 26th.

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