Tokyo Dome City hosts TenQ space museum and planet earth theater this summer

Written by: William on April 17, 2014 at 4:24 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Tokyo Dome City will be converted into a remarkable planetarium event this summer. TenQ is a space museum that opens on July 8th in Tokyo Dome City, complete with a 11-meter “Theater Sora” that gives a view over Planet Earth in 4K.

tokyo dome city tenq

There is also a projection mapping room so you can experience humanity’s ideas about space. Hajimari no Heya might look like a set from the “Cube” sci-fi movies but it promises to educate and entertain visitors with the ideas we have had about the universe from ancient times to the modern age.

tokyo dome city tenq

Admission is ¥1,800 for adults. Pricy but it looks worth it.

tokyo dome city tenq

tokyo dome city tenq

And if you can’t get to Tokyo Dome City this summer for the event, you can always get yourself the next best thing, a Sega Toys Homestar Planetarium, designed by Takayuki Ohira.



Simulation video of Shibuya Scramble Crossing pedestrian smartphone chaos is online hit

Written by: William on April 14, 2014 at 7:25 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Almost no sight says “Tokyo” more than Shibuya’s “scramble crossing”, the immense intersection in front of the Hachiko exit of the station in which multiple banks of pedestrians converge on each other like a battle scene from a movie.

Trying to weave through the crowds can be tricky, especially as many are tourists or visitors intent on taking pictures, and trying to take an unusual diagonal route across the flow can literally feel dangerous at times.

These days we are all glued to our smartphones, perhaps especially in Shibuya since we are searching for that hard-to-find store or bar. This reduces vision to a twentieth of what it is ordinarily, meaning you are much more likely to collide with other people or objects, or fail to spot hazards. Phone carriers campaign for their customers to use their products responsibly and safely, and this includes walking while using your trusty friend to search, mail or chat.

ntt docomo shibuya scramble crossing video pedestrian smartphone use simulation

How many times have you sighed when someone almost ran into you because they were doing something on their handheld screen, or when you have been held up by someone in front moving at a snail pace due to being preoccupied by sending an email?

As phone carrier NTT DoCoMo say:

One in five people texting while walking are involved in an accident or injuries.
Staring at the smartphone screen while walking distracts your attention from what is going on around you and is very dangerous.
And it is not only dangerous for you, but there is also the possibility of causing other people to be in a major accident.

Today, there is no end to the number of people text while walking.

Well, this video might very well increase awareness of this most modern of problems.

ntt docomo shibuya scramble crossing video pedestrian smartphone use simulation

What would happen if all the pedestrians using the famous crossing at Shibuya were all simultaneously looking at their phones?

Well, NTT DoCoMo has created a minor internet meme with this video simulation of that scenario. Since March 28th the video has been viewed nearly 2 million times.

The simulation calculated 1,500 pedestrians walking at speeds of 3, 4 of 6 kph. The pedestrians were created at the average height and weight for Japanese people.

ntt docomo shibuya scramble crossing video pedestrian smartphone use simulation

The video then shows the “chaos and comedy” in the 46 seconds until the lights turn red again, all recreated in memorable SIMs.

The results?

ntt docomo shibuya scramble crossing video pedestrian smartphone use simulation

446 collisions. 103 people falling over. And 21 dropped (and damaged) smartphones.

Less than half the pedestrians made it to the other side of scramble crossing without incident.

So… you have been warned!



US Embassy Tokyo creates “Noriko’s Study Abroad” drama series with yuru-kyara TOM

Written by: William on April 11, 2014 at 11:44 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Tears. Tantrums. And a yuru-kyara mascot character.

The Public Affairs Section/Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has produced a very original video promoting studying abroad in America. Noriko’s Study Abroad Story Episode 1 “I want to study in the U.S.” promises to be the first in a series of a drama episodes documenting the travails of a girl with her sights set on going overseas to learn more.

noriko study abroad us embassy

But rather than simply focussing on the “amazing experience” young Japanese men and women can have in the States, the approach is more domestic and realistic. It starts by showing the difficulties of persuading your father about the benefits of spending a year in the New World.

Here’s how they write it up:

Noriko is a Japanese college student who is thinking about studying abroad in the U.S. But when she tells her friends and family about her idea, their response is not quite what she was expecting…

But the biggest surprise is the yuru-kyara (mascot) who appears at the end to comfort the troubled girl and offer her some life lessons.

noriko study abroad us embassy

Noriko first announces her intention to study abroad in America to her parents but gets an obstinately negative response from her father. She then asks an older peer for help. But it’s not until TOM (“the U.S. Embassy Tokyo social media friendship ambassador”, a caption tell us) turns up that she gets some decent advice.

We don’t want to spoilt it too much. Take a look at the five-minute first episode for yourselves…


Other categories: PRODUCT INNOVATION

Dance with idol Ayami Muto with this Ezaki-Glico Seventeen ice cream Shibuya vending machine

Written by: William on April 10, 2014 at 11:51 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Vending machines come in all shapes and sizes, and seem to sell everything from books to snacks, drinks, used panties and more.

But how about a vending machine that lets you have a private dance with an idol?

For one day only, Shibuya’s Marui City will let fans do just that.

It’s being organized by Ezaki-Glico, one of Japan’s biggest sweets makers, and especially as a promo for their long-standing Seventeen ice cream brand. While it is common to see Seventeen vending machines all over Tokyo, this is a whole new kind of experience.

ayami muto seventeen vending machine glico ezaki dance idol shibuya ice cream

The idol in question is a newbie, Ayami Muto, who is making her debut this spring.

On April 26th, brand ambassador Ayami Muto will be dancing on a big display on the Seventeen Ice Original Vending Machine, which changes depending on the flavor of Seventeen ice cream you choose. Ayami’s costume colors will also be different in each video to match the flavors, of which there are, not surprisingly, seventeen.

Dancers will have their movements digitally regenerated as computer graphics, to be put together later as a special animated video. If you dance correctly matching Ayami’s choreography then you can get yourself a complimentary ice cream — perfect as the weather turns hotter.

ayami muto seventeen vending machine glico ezaki dance idol shibuya ice cream

Vending machine boffins will probably have already spotted that this ice cream idol vendor is very similar to the Dance Dance Revolution vending machine from Coca-Cola that was a big hit in Korea in 2012.

Dancing with Ayami is free and Ayami herself is expecting to turn up in Shibuya as well at around 14:00, though we expect a dance with the physical idol might be asking too much.

Check out the vending machine from 11:00 to 19:00.


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Other categories: PRODUCT INNOVATION

Snoopy Chaya is a Peanuts-themed maccha green tea cafe in Yufuin, Kyushu

Written by: William on April 10, 2014 at 11:21 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Snoopy and green tea? Whatever will they think of next.

Actually, this isn’t such a big shock, since Snoopy is a popular character in Japan, though this is still a pretty original way to utilize the lovable Peanuts pooch.

Snoopy Chaya is a maccha (matcha) green tea-themed cafe opening in Yufuin in Oita Prefecture, Kyushu, on April 19th. It will be serving up maccha sweets and cakes, as well as “Snoopy omelet rice” and a host of other things, including Snoopy merchandise.

snoopy cafe chaya green tea matcha maccha yufuin oita kyushu japan

While Charles M. Schulz may not immediately spring to mind when you fancy some “wa” deserts, this will no doubt prove a super popular eatery. This is being advertising as “shop #1″ so others may soon follow!

snoopy cafe chaya green tea matcha maccha yufuin oita kyushu japan

Check it out from April 19th at 1524-27 Yufuincho Kawakami, Yufuin City, Oita Prefecture.



FamilyMart opens first combined convenience store-karaoke in Tokyo

Written by: William on April 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Take two things Japan does very well — and combine them!

Just when you think there isn’t much more room for innovation with the world of karaoke, along comes FamilyMart with a new branch, FamilyMart + Karaoke DAM Kamata Minamiguchi Ekimae.

The chain has got together with karaoke parlor Dam to launch this special half-conbini, half-karaoke singing joint at the south exit of Kamata Station, in west Tokyo. The 27-room parlor opens on April 17th and if it succeeds, it could be the start of a new business model.

family mart karaoke convenience store tokyo kamata

This isn’t just a collaboration between two service industry chains and a simple “combined facility”. They have come up with a way to fuse the services, so customers are now allowed to purchase food and drinks from the convenience store and then take them into the karaoke box. For example, normally at a karaoke parlor, you can only order from the menu — and sometimes they have complicated one-drink mandatory rules. Either way, the drinks will usually be pretty poor (watered down beer) and the food is of the deep-fried and fast variety. Plus it will cost you more than a convenience store, naturally.

This way you can get a bit more choice and things will be cheaper. The new store also presumably doesn’t need to hire more staff and set up extra facilities to handle the cooking and drink preparation.

After all, convenience stores in Japan already offer a host of services, from dry-cleaning drop-off and pick-up to ticket purchasing, paying for online purchases via Amazon and other vendors, courier drop-off, and even buying tickets for special garbage disposal.

Karaoke Dam has 369 karaoke parlors around Japan, while FamilyMart currently has over 10,000 stores nationwide. That’s a lot of chances, then

Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku ponders if the next step is allowing the karaoke singing to take place actually inside the convenience store!


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Astigu tights black-up for provocative minstrel-esque ad campaign

Written by: William on April 7, 2014 at 8:06 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Blackface or a clever marketing campaign?

astigu tao okamoto legs japanese models black face tights stockings

Imagine a female minstrel show with svelte legs and you might have the right image of this Astigu, a Japanese tights brand. The ads feature 11 good-looking Japanese models with short skirts showing off their legs. Familiar enough so far, perhaps, but then consider that the girls are all dressed in black — including their faces.

In most other countries, this would probably be too sensitive, though Japanese street fashion has the well-established “ganguro“, where girls would liberally apply dark tan to their faces.

The black is presumably meant to make a strong contrast with the girls’ legs — the focus of the ad — and to create an air of “mystery” (the campaign is called “the mysterious beautiful legs corps”). And we can also find some justification for it in the rather neat ad copy: Ashi wa kao (“your legs are your face”).

astigu tao okamoto legs japanese models black face tights stockings

The main model is Astigu’s regular, Tao Okamoto.



Nissan surprises hard-working mom with unique drive-in theater

Written by: William on April 4, 2014 at 7:52 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Nissan has created a fun film of an eight-year-old giving his mom a very nice surprise.

Hinata and his mom take a drive in a Nissan Dayz Highway Star.

Mrs. Masuda thinks she is going to be appearing in a marketing video but instead gets directed to a special car park where her family proceeds to put on a play to tell her how much they appreciate her efforts to bring them up.

nissan presents happy smile drive in theater

It’s a bit sentimental, but still makes a very welcome change to the usual approaches to advertising from major Japanese corporations that rely on using the latest popular celebrity face.

We don’t want to spoil things too much for you so here’s the video.

Nissan has done this kind of “Happy Surprise” film before. Last year they rewarded another young mother with a whole spectacle featuring her relatives, led by a husband who wanted to propose to her properly after 11 years of marriage.

The resulting video became a word-of-mouth hit, generating nearly 800,000 views at time of writing.


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Tokyo Cherry Blossoms: Top 5 Hanami Spots

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on April 1, 2014 at 11:28 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Frances Maeda first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

At last — hanami season is here! Grab your camera, pack a picnic and prepare for your anime moment under the falling petals. We’ve put together a list of some of the best places in the city to get into the spring mood.

Hanami, which literally means, “flower viewing”, is our favorite Japanese tradition (and it’s a very cheapo-friendly one too). You haven’t experienced Japan until you’ve had a party under the cherry blossoms. This year, the forecast for Tokyo puts first bloom at the 28th of March, with the trees expected to be in full bloom by the 5th of April.

Here are our recommendations for hanami venues…

Ueno Park

ueno park hanami cherry blossom tokyo

Image by David Martin Clavo, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

One of the most popular (and crowded) hanami spots in Tokyo, where the trees famously bloom a bit earlier. An estimated 800 cherry trees line the central path, and people picnic on both sides, using blankets or tarps to claim whatever space they can. If you time it right, you might be able to boat around the pond-lake thing too. Whatever you decide to do, our advice is to get there early! Lanterns are strung up, so you can party on into the evening.

Access: Ueno Station.

Shinjuku Gyoen

shinjuku gyoen park hanami cherry blossom tokyo

Image by Rob Towell, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

If you’re keen on somewhere a little more peaceful, this is a good place. There are around 1,000 cherry trees — a whole bunch of different varieties — which bloom at different stages. The park is spacious, with nice big lawns and plenty of walking paths, so even when it’s crowded, you can still enjoy a chilled stroll under the blossoms. There’s an English garden, French garden and Japanese garden — head to the English one for the best picnic spots. Entrance to Shinjuku Gyoen is 200 yen.

Access: Shinjukugyoenmae Station or Sendagaya Station.

Koukyo — Imperial Palace

koukyo imperial palace tokyo hanami cherry blossom

Pic by Dave King, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

To celebrate Emperor Akihito’s 80th birthday (which was in December), the cherry tree-lined Inui-Dori will be open to the public for five days of cherry blossom viewing this year. It’s normally closed off, so this is a pretty big deal and a rare chance to see what we assume are especially exquisite sakura (cherry blossoms). It will only be open from the 4th-8th of April, from 10-4 (last entrance at 3), so get there early, and prepare to queue! It’s probably best not to bother with a picnic, as you’ll just be ambling (or more likely, jostling with the masses).

Access: Head for the palace’s Sakashita Gate from Nijubashimae Station (take Exit 6) or Otemachi Station (Mita Line, take Exit D2).

Chidorigafuchi and Chidorigafuchi Park

chidorigafuchi park hanami cherry blossom tokyo

Image by ganaselmi, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Chidorigafuchi may be difficult to pronounce, but it’s one of the city’s most scenic hanami spots — and also a place where you can hop in a boat and row your date (or lazy friends) around an Edo-era moat (which is part of the Imperial Palace). If you’re wobbly on the water, you can mosey along the 700m-long path, ooh-ing and ah-ing your way through the tunnel of cherry blossoms. Yasukuni Shrine, which also has loads of cherry blossoms, is nearby.

Access: Kudanshita Station

Sumida Park

sumida park hanami cherry blossom tokyo

Image by Kimono Berlin, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

The area stretching from Azumabashi Bridge to Sakurabashi Bridge on the Sumida River is a super famous hanami spot, and has been for centuries. More than 1,000 cherry trees line the river, making for great photo opps. You can also see Tokyo Skytree from here. The area can get crowded — if you feel frazzled, you can duck out and take a mini cruise on a yakatabune boat.

Access: Asakusa Station.

Bonus: Showa Kinen Park

If you’re keen on getting out of Tokyo central, or miss the main hanami season by a few days, you can always check out this park in Tachikawa (about 40 minutes from Shinjuku). It’s huge, and has 1,500 cherry blossom trees – you might even see some daffodils, tulips and lavender too!

Access: Tachikawa Station.

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.


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