Live-sized Patlabor model stands guard at Himeji Castle

Written by: William on April 16, 2015 at 9:03 am | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

How best to advertise road safety and an upcoming movie?

Easy. Stick a full-size replica of the animation character Patlabor AV-98 in front of a World Heritage site.

patlabor robot model himeji castle movie film promo

The Patlabor model is part of marketing for an upcoming live-action adaptation release of the Patlabor series.

On April 15th visitors to Himeji Castle got their chance to see the Patlabor AV-98 Ingram model up-close as it stood guard in a park in front of the famous white citadel.

The castle has only just reopened after a long series of restoration works. Since Patlabor is a police patrol machine, the local cops used the occasion to announce a traffic safety campaign, calling on bicyclists and motorists to drive with care. Apparently local citizen groups in Himeji saw that the Patlabor robot had been in nearby Kobe on April 12th and asked for it to be sent next to the home of the White Egret Castle.

patlabor robot model himeji castle movie film promo

The final episode in the film series, The Next Generation Patlabor: Shuto Kessen, will open at movie theaters in Japan in May. To promote the film the life-sized model used for the movie has been touring Japan, which is certainly one original take on the usual press junket.

The Patlabor model was also previously seen in Tokyo’s bayside area.

See more images on Getty.

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Funassyi Fantasy World: Funassyi’s first exhibition, at Shibuya Parco Museum

Written by: William on April 15, 2015 at 9:23 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Everything you ever wanted to know and see about Funassyi in one place? Then head to the Parco Museum at Shibuya Parco Part 1 from April 24th for “Funassyi Fantasy World”, the first exhibition by the insanely popular unofficial Funabashi City mascot.

funassyi fantasy world parco shibuya exhibition

The hyperactive yellow pear now has its own TV anime series and came out as a pacifist in front of the world press. Shibuya Parco also previously hosted a temporary Funassyi cafe last year.

“Funassyi Fantasy World” promises archive videos, photographs, toys, merchandise and more.

funassyi fantasy world parco shibuya exhibition

There is an interactive augmented reality booth where you can have fun with the giant yellow fruit, though that might freak some visitors out. Are we the only ones who sometimes find the mad jumping antics a bit scary?

funassyi fantasy world parco shibuya exhibition

This being a Funnassyi event, the organizers’ eyes are on the coffers, so there are plenty of tie-in products and merchandise for sale too, including Funnassyi gacha gacha vending machines with magnets and badges.

funassyi fantasy world parco shibuya exhibition

The exhibition is resident at Parco Museum until May 17th, before touring to Sapporo Parco (May 22nd — June 8th).

Entry costs ¥500 for adults but is free for kids of elementary school age or younger.

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Tokujin Yoshioka’s “Kou-an Glass Tea House” on show to public in Kyoto temple

Written by: William on April 8, 2015 at 8:42 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Tokujin Yoshioka is one of Japan’s most famous and popular designers, known for his use of transparent materials.

“Kou-an Glass Tea House” started life as a small-scale model at Glasstress 2011 at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Now a full-scale reproduction of the glass teahouse is on display at a temple in Japan.

tokujin yoshioka kou-an temple kyoto seiryuden shonen-in glass tea house transparent

Kansai Art Beat has more on the event:

Yoshioka has been interested in the Japanese conception of nature which is characterized by its distinctive spacial perception that involves the sensory realization of the surrounding atmosphere through what may be described as signs of energies or aura. Such a sensual appreciation of nature’s intrinsics and beauty can be recognized in Japanese tea ceremony practice.

Until April 30th, 2016 visitors can experience Yoshioka’s work at Seiryu-den, which is part of Shoren-in Temple.

tokujin yoshioka kou-an temple kyoto seiryuden shonen-in glass tea house transparent

The tea house has been installed on a platform 220 meters (721 ft) above ground, offering a stunning view of the old capital.

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Hello Kitty does regional cosplay for Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance exhibition

Written by: William on April 7, 2015 at 8:56 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Hello Kitty is no stranger to spin-offs and tie-ups. But this one is pretty innovative.

Sanrio’s iconic cat character has teamed up with Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Company for an exhibition in central Tokyo featuring Kitty-chan in a series of different cosplay outfits, each representing the area or city where Fukoku has a regional branch.

There are 62 illustrations of Hello Kitty in various regional garb.

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

This is very much old Japan meets new Japan. There are large noren traditional split curtains hanging over the entrance.

The exhibits themselves hang from the ceiling on plain white panels against a chic white floor with an abstract map of Japan. The space is designed by Naoya Iwama.

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Each regional Hello Kitty character features a costume, props or other motifs representative of the respective area or city in Japan.

Here is Hello Kitty Hakodate with its famous squid.

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Kagoshima and a black pig

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Kobe

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Maebashi and a daruma doll

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Nagoya and its castle

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Oita

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

North Osaka and takoyaki

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

South Osaka

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

Sapporo and skiing

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

The event is part of a general campaign by Fukoku using Hello Kitty as brand spokesperson. The insurance firm ran a poll contest to see which Hello Kitty regional character was the most popular. Surprisingly, the owl-themed Ikebukuro Hello Kitty came out top from the nearly 150,000 votes.

hello kitty exhibition fukoku mutual life insurance seimei museum regional character cosplay

You can visit the show at the Fukoku Seimei Building (the Fukoku headquarters) at 2-2-2 Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda-ku in Tokyo. The exhibition runs until June 30th.

Images via Animal Cafes, Design Boom and Fashion Headline

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Idol support app Cheerz to feature at overseas events: Japan Expo, Connect Japan, J-Pop Summit Festival

Written by: William on April 1, 2015 at 9:09 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Cheerz is an app for showing your support for certain idols. It allows users to browse selfies and photos taken by over 250 music idols.

Users can then “cheer” the photos they like, which raises the ranking of an idol. The top-ranking idols then take part in special events and feature in Cheerz books.

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

The app will be showcased at a forthcoming series of Japanese pop culture and subculture events overseas, including Connect Japan in Thailand in May, Japan Expo in France in July, and J-Pop Summit Festival in America in August.

The idols on Cheerz will be joined from Arpil by new ladies, including regional idol groups like Orange Port and Star T, and the unfortunately named Soft Prick Kei Guso Drop.

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

Bands like Guso Drop join the growing popularity of “kawaii metal” around the world, led especially by Babymetal.

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

The Cheerz app has acquired a cult following. Since it started in late 2014, it has accumulated 50 million “cheers” from fans. The first Cheerz photo book with the most popular idols was published in march.

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

Cheerz is also available in Japanese, Chinese and English, and they even have an English slogan:

It’s up to you whether you find an [sic] new diamond or support your favorite idol!

Unfortunately, we have no idea what that really means but presumably they will sort out the linguistic issues before they head overseas.

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Kenchiku Soko (Architecture Warehouse): Japan’s first architecture model museum

Written by: William on March 13, 2015 at 8:40 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Japan’s first architecture model museum is opening this summer.

It is set to open as a museum in August, though will begin operating from April. Applications for architecture scale model exhibits are now open.

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

As well as serving as a de facto classroom for students of Japanese architecture hungry for case studies, the museum will also function as a sort of showroom for architects, since it can act as a sales agent for the models.

The “depot” offers five types of service: storage of models; exhibition to the general public through permanent and temporary exhibitions; sales to art museums and collectors; collecting and archiving, so models can be loaned to other museums and exhibitions; and education, being a venue for talks, lectures and workshops.

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

The tentatively named Kenchiku Soko (Architecture Warehouse) will be housed in the ground floor of Terrada Warehouse in the Shinagawa area. The closest station is Tennozu Isle.

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

Facilities include 120 shelves measuring 3.8 meters tall and 1.5 meters wide.

[Images: Openers]

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Funassyi TV anime series, starts March 30th

Written by: William on March 10, 2015 at 8:42 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

It was surely just the next logical step: Funassyi the anime is here.

A series of animated shorts will premiere on March 30th on Nippon TV’s Sukkiri starring the yellow pear mascot.

funassyi anime tv series nippon mascot character sukkiri

Funassyi no funafunafuna hiyori (Funassyi’s Aimless Days) will be broadcast every weekday and feature Funassyi, as well as Guressyi (voiced by Lynn) and Nashigami-sama (voiced by Naoki Tatsuta). Funassyi will be voiced by, well, Funassyi.

The rise, rise and rise of Funassyi is the most incredible story of Japan’s regional mascots (yuru-kyara), not least because the pear character is such an oddity but because it is not the official mascot of Funabashi. It was created by people power alone and its subsequent popularity laughs in the face of the bureaucrats of the city in Chiba who wanted a tamer mascot.

funassyi anime tv series nippon mascot character sukkiri

The hyperactive Funassyi even recently made a lively appearance at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (imagine trying to be the interpreter for that press conference!), where it lent its support to Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

funassyi anime tv series nippon mascot character sukkiri japan foreign correspondents club japan

So far the Funassyi Industry includes manga, games, music releases, food, toys, clothes, and so much more. Now anime has been added to that long list, what can be next? Politics?!

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New documentary examines changing face of Shimokitazawa, 2003-2014

Written by: William on February 27, 2015 at 8:56 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Shimokita: 2003 to 2014 is a new documentary charting the changes in the landscape of one of Tokyo’s best-loved areas.

Located just west of Shinjuku and Shibuya, Shimokitazawa (aka Shimokita) is the site of a major redevelopment plan, which is protested by residents.

shimokitazawa documentary 2003 2014 station redevelopment plans

Long a charming chaos of two overlapping train lines and multiple railway crossings, the controversial redevelopment of the station into an underground complex meant we had to say goodbye to some of the most atmosphere arcades and shops and restaurants around the Odakyu railway line. Needless to say, this land won’t be turned over to public use when there’s a buck to be made.

shimokitazawa documentary 2003 2014 station redevelopment plans

shimokitazawa documentary 2003 2014 station redevelopment plans

There have been other redevelopments, such as the large commercial building erected behind the station, full of the generic chains that can be found anywhere in Japan.

It is all connected to a wider, long-dormant local government redevelopment project that, its detractors say, will turn Shimokita into a calm suburban district like nearby Kyodo. Nice for land prices and real estate agents, but not for counterculture. Route 54 will be extended and Shimokita’s trademark narrow alleyways face “rezoning”.

Shimokitazawa is the center of Japan’s fringe theatre scene and is also home to many music venues. Like Ura-Harajuku or Koenji, the neighborhood is a warren of independent shops, restaurants and bars. That being said, there is plenty of chic outlets for the discerning shopper and cool hang-outs for the fussy hipster. Nonetheless, there is a tangible buzz on the streets which you cannot find in major developed centers like Shinjuku or Shibuya.

shimokitazawa documentary 2003 2014 station redevelopment plans

shimokitazawa documentary 2003 2014 station redevelopment plans

shimokitazawa documentary 2003 2014 station redevelopment plans

The 95-minute documentary follows the progress of the redevelopment plans and other contributions to the Shimokita cultural scene.

Shimokita: 2003 to 2014 is screening at Tollywood (a venue in Shimokita, natch) until March 13th.

Take a long look at Shimokita, since it won’t be the same in the near future.

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Stay at the Godzilla Room inside Hotel Gracery, opening April in Kabukicho, Shinjuku

Written by: William on February 25, 2015 at 9:02 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

The new Hotel Gracery opens in Kabukicho in the heart of Shinjuku on April 24th, part of the changing landscape of a district more known for sleaze than sightseeing.

This being a Japanese hotel, they decided to create a special themed room to celebrate the opening. And they chose Godzilla!

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

Up on the thirtieth floor, the Godzilla Room will cost you just under ¥40,000 (over $300) for a weeknight, while at weekends and holidays the rate jumps to nearly ¥50,000 (over $400). It features a chamber decked out in items from the Godzilla films, including a large model of the iconic kaiju. Even the restroom is decorated in Godzillas. Best of all, though, is Godzilla’s hand bursting through the wall to grab you while you sleep. Definitely guaranteed to help you get a good night’s sleep.

If you are lucky enough to secure a reservation, you can stay at the Godzilla Room between May 6th and June 30th.

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

For a different experience, you can go for one of the two ninth floor Godzilla View Rooms, offering you a vista of Japan’s most famous beast at your window. Staying at one of these will cost you a mere ¥15,000 ($125) per night — pretty much the cost of a regular central Shinjuku hotel room.

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

The choice of Godzilla is not merely due to the newly revived popularity of the monster movie series, which has come thanks to a Hollywood film last year and another home-grown live-action reboot scheduled for the future.

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

The hotel building also includes a Toho movie theater complex and Toho is, of course, the film studio responsible for the Godzilla franchise. On top of the cinema there is going to be a huge Godzilla head, which, Kotaku says, “will peek out of the Toho Cinema’s roof, looking over the Shinjuku streets below.”

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

If you fancy a romantic spot for the evening in Kabukicho, head to the observation deck on the roof to see Godzilla up close.

godzilla hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho themed room tokyo

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