Koakuma Ageha magazine celebrates relaunch with Omotesando Hills pop-up shop

Written by: William on April 21, 2015 at 9:01 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

When “hostess bible” Koakuma Ageha closed down last year, it seemed like the end of an era for Japanese fashion magazines.

But then it relaunched under new management and the status quo was preserved: gyaru culture is still, it seems, alive and well.

koakuma ageha hostess gyaru fashion magazine japan shibuya omotesando pop-up store relaunch issue

To celebrate the relaunch of the magazine, a Koakuma Ageha pop-up store has opened on Omotesando from April 18th to April 29th.

koakuma ageha hostess gyaru fashion magazine japan shibuya omotesando pop-up store relaunch issue

It will sell books by popular age-hime (Little Devil Princesses). Find it on the ground floor of Omotesando Hills. The opening day on April 18th saw hostesses attend and give signed copies of the new magazine to visitors.

This is a typical marketing event for such a title: these kinds of magazines were popular because the models were dokusha “reader” models — i.e. not aloof supermodels but ordinary folk selected as role models — and who the readers could relate to, communicate with and meet. This is similar to how idol groups like AKB48 are promoted as being populated with “ordinary” girls who you can meet.

koakuma ageha model gyaru hostess

Image via @

koakuma ageha model gyaru hostess

Image via @aiuchicocoa

The new bimonthly magazine is hoping to sell 80-100,000 copies. Pictured are some of the models.

koakuma ageha hostess gyaru fashion magazine japan shibuya omotesando pop-up store relaunch issue

koakuma ageha hostess gyaru fashion magazine japan shibuya omotesando pop-up store relaunch issue

koakuma ageha hostess gyaru fashion magazine japan shibuya omotesando pop-up store relaunch issue

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Kirin enters craft beer market with Spring Valley Brewery in Daikanyama

Written by: William on April 17, 2015 at 12:39 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Kirin has cemented its entry into the craft beer market with the opening on April 17th of Spring Valley Brewery, a brewpub in Daikanyama. Another SVB brewpub has opened in Yokohama.

The name derives from William Copeland’s brewery, which was a pioneer of beer production in Japan and became the genesis of Kirin’s own brewery in the early twentieth century.

kirin spring valley brewery daikanyama tokyo craft beer brewpub

In July 2014, Kirin announced that Spring Valley Brewery would be a wholly new subsidiary, offering microbrews served at the two brewpubs sites.

The chic 200-seat Daikanyama space opens at a new development in the neighborhood called Log Road, located along where the tracks of the now underground Toyoko Line used to run.

kirin spring valley brewery daikanyama tokyo craft beer brewpub

There are six brews on tap: 496, Jazzberry, on the cloud, Copeland, Daydream, and Afterdark.

kirin spring valley brewery daikanyama tokyo craft beer brewpub

kirin spring valley brewery daikanyama tokyo craft beer brewpub

kirin spring valley brewery daikanyama tokyo craft beer brewpub

While the Daikanyama brewpub has opted for a wooden look, the Yokohama space is brick, in keeping with the spirit of the city famous for its foreign architectural styles.

kirin spring valley brewery daikanyama tokyo craft beer brewpub yokohama

Kirin has already experimented with craft beer-esque brews, including its Kirin Stout, so this isn’t such a giant leap for the 100-year-old company.

However, the major Japanese beer makers have been committing commercial suicide for too long. As young people drifted away from beer, their tactic was to create countless numbers of happoushu and daisan beers — fake beers, essentially — that got around the tax on beer and so could be marketed as cheap ersatz beer. As Japan continued to linger in recession, this worked to keep their annual sales afloat, especially as they were constantly devising new products to make mini spikes of interest. Beer became just another FMCG, as expendable and forgettable as any other snack in the convenience store.

Quality went out the window. Finally we seem to be emerging from this quagmire.

The initial response was “cool beer”, quite literally. Kirin and other major breweries started to market beer as a great drink for the summer through temporary drinking spaces in Tokyo. This was a big success and got younger consumers excited about drinking beer again, even if it was at “sub-zero” temperatures.

Concurrently we then started to see many types of “beer toys” from Takara Tomy and others, designed to help you create the experience of drinking freshly poured foamy cold beer at home or on picnic. The zenith of this was surely when Takara Tomy stepped in to make a product of the Frozen Beer Slushie Maker, which had previously only been available at Kirin’s special summer beer gardens.

kirin ichiban frozen beer slushie maker

And now we have come full circle: Kirin is a microbrewery again.

The Japanese craft beer scene itself has been around since the 1990′s. What’s really changed things in the past few years has been the explosion of craft beer bars, brewpubs and craft beer festivals all over the country, especially in the Tokyo area.

Yona Yona’s ales are now stocked in regular convenience stores and have their own plush restaurant in Akasaka. Even Shibuya got its own craft beer recently.

While sometimes the craft beers have wandered into the gimmicky, breweries like Coedo and Hitachino Nest have seen their beers acclaimed overseas.

Foreign breweries have noticed. Scottish craft beer maker BrewDog saw enough growth in Asia that it opened its a dedicated bar in Roppongi.

There’s an interesting parallel to this: Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Budweiser tried to muscle in on the craft beer market in America by appearing at fairs and events with its regular lagers, and has started buying up craft breweries. In response to the growing popularity of craft beer, it even resorted to mocking the culture with a snarky Super Bowl ad that prompted a backlash. Kirin, be warned.

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YouTube Space Tokyo and Toei open samurai drama studio for YouTubers to create own ninja movies

Written by: William on April 13, 2015 at 8:55 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Google Japan has opened YouTube Space Tokyo, a production studio for YouTube users to film, edit and create original videos.

Made in partnership with film studio Toei, the space also features a set that can be altered into four different period settings. Ever wanted to make a YouTube video on a samurai soundstage? Now’s your chance!

youtube space tokyo studio set samurai drama period jidaigeki toei roppongi hills youtuber

Or at least, it is until May 20th.

YouTube Space Tokyo is located on the 29th floor of Roppongi Hills and joins other studios in Los Angeles, London and elsewhere. It offers tutorials on sword-fighting, special effects and filming. Additional shoots can be done at Toei’s Eigamura in Kyoto, a kind of theme park cum film studio.

The soundstage is currently being used by popular YouTubers such as Asahi Sasaki, Chuck Johnson and Rin Rin Doll. You need to have over 5,000 subscribers on your YouTube channel to qualify (the more subscribers you have, the longer you can use the studio). For collaborations between several YouTubers, the studio can be rented for up to six months.

There are also workshops and a “creators’ cafe”, plus other events.

youtube space tokyo studio set samurai drama period jidaigeki toei roppongi hills youtuber

Toei is famed for its samurai dramas (jidaigeki), a genre usually associated with an older demographic. Now YouTube is making its young and funky again. It’s a notable collaboration between the leader of the digital revolution and one of the stalwarts of Japan’s conservative film industry.

Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, YouTube has been heavily promoting local semi-celebrity YouTubers, hoping to harness grassroots support for the platform. Japan is YouTube’s biggest success story in Asia and it wants to build on its achievements with the help of Japanese-language online stars like Bilingirl, Hikakin, and Hajime.

While the samurai studio is only available until May, the YouTube Space Tokyo is not going away, so look out for more interesting tie-ups in the future.

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Narita International Airport Terminal Three for budget airlines opens with running track design, Muji furniture

Written by: William on April 9, 2015 at 8:53 am | In LIFESTYLE | 3 Comments

Narita International Airport’s much-anticipated third terminal opened on April 8th.

Three years in development, Terminal 3 is exclusively for low-cost carriers and short-haul flights.

The design has been handled by Nikken Sekkei, who also designed Tokyo Skytree. The terminal also features furniture by Muji and creative direction by PARTY.

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party opens

The design concept was “more than 2 into 1″ (sic), a nod to how the terminal has been made with around half the budget ordinarily consigned to a new airport terminal construction project.

The floor of the terminal features blue running tracks (now you really can spring for your flight) and other minimal but striking flourishes. The designers wanted to create a positive impression of “low cost” and so opted for chic simplicity.

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party opens

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party opens

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party opens

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party open

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party open

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party open

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party open

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party open

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party open

narita international airport terminal 3 lcc budget airline running track design muji furniture party open

The development of Narita International has been immensely controversial. Ever since the site was first proposed it has been protested at every stage, especially by local farmer residents and left-wing activists. During the 1970′s in particular the demonstrations were violent and several people ultimately died, including police officers.

The new opening of the third terminal may be another small step towards realizing the full original plan of the airport. When it opened in 1978 it was ultimately reduced to a small fraction of its planned size. A second runway was added but a third is still stalled.

The government hopes Narita will become a hub for flights coming in and out of Asia. However, this dream is hampered by Japanese airports’ high landing fees and Japan’s location on the edge of the continent. Moreover, there is also strong competition from other passenger flight and freight hubs in Asia, such as Hong Kong or Incheon, as well as Tokyo’s original airport, Haneda, which also has international flights again.

Narita previously opened the “Kabuki Gate” at Terminal 1, featuring Kabuki costumes and props.

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Tokyo Cheapo’s Guide to Shopping for Unusual Japanese Kit Kats

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on April 2, 2015 at 9:12 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Tiffany first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

No other country in the world has as many Kit Kat flavors as Japan does, having released over 200 flavors since 2000. One reason for the immense popularity of Kit Kats in Japan is that its Japanese pronunciation, kitto katto, sounds like kitto katsu, which means “to surely win”, thus making it a good-luck charm of sorts for exam takers. That aside, Nestle was clever enough to tap into the Japanese fondness for seasonal flavors and regional specialties, leading to a proliferation of Kit Kats in different flavors.

So you want to buy some Japanese Kit Kats, huh? Great, because they make for some pretty unique souvenirs! The good news? Matcha (green tea) Kit Kats are not that uncommon or hard to find in Japan; in fact, they may be unique or unusual for foreign tourists, but Japan’s got stranger flavors that make matcha Kit Kats look like plain ol’ milk chocolate. The bad news? If you’re looking for unusual, limited-edition, or regional flavors, you’ll need to know where to look. Here are some establishments where Kit Kats are sold and what kind you can expect at those places.

1. Pharmacies and Discount Candy Shops

japanese unusual kit kat flavors

Many Japanese drug stores tend to be indistinguishable from general-purpose shops, what with cosmetics, shampoos, other beauty products, and sweets usually being on display outside and/or on the first floor. At these drug stores (Matsumoto Kiyoshi being one famous example), you can find Kit Kats sold in packs of 9-12 pieces, usually for ¥198-400 a pack. Don’t expect a wide array of flavors at drug stores, though: they usually only sell regular Kit Kats, dark chocolate ones, strawberry, and matcha (green tea). These are part of the otona no amasa (adult flavor) line, which means subtler, less sweet tastes. Matcha and strawberry are seasonal, with the former being off the shelves in summer. It’s also uncommon for these packs to come in unusual flavors or variants, although they came out with Kit Kats that you could bake with an oven toaster in 2014.

You may be wondering what pharmacies and discount candy shops, known as dagashiya, have to do with each other: the latter also sells the same Kit Kat packs. One prominent chain is called Okashi no Machioka, which we’ve written about before. They have a branch on Ikebukuro’s Sunshine Street, for one.

2. Convenience Stores

japanese unusual kit kat flavors
Photo by Tiffany Lim used under CC

Although this is not really the place to look for unique flavors like sakura or wasabi, here you can find cheapo deals on Kit Kats sold in thin boxes, usually for no more than ¥200. Most of the time, all they have are regular flavors and variations on chocolate (e.g. white or dark). They also have some seasonal variants, matcha being one of them (and they also had rum raisin Kit Kats last year), but it’s uncommon for them to have wacky flavors. As of February 2015, though, oven-toaster Kit Kats are being sold in 7-11s.

3. Souvenir (Sweet) Shops

japanese unusual kit kat flavors
Photo by Graham Stanley used under CC

Some of Akihabara’s duty-free shops like Laox sell Kit Kats in different flavors. Also, head to Odaiba, where there are 2 souvenir shops that sell wacky Kit Kat flavors: Le Edo on the first floor of Aqua City, and Kyoro-chan no Okashi na Okashiyasan on the second floor of Diver City (actually more of a sweets shop than a souvenir shop, but most people buy the sweets as souvenirs anyway). Both are a short walk from Tokyo Teleport Station. Let me give you an idea of the flavors I saw in Odaiba last time: soy sauce, wasabi, rum raisin, strawberry cheesecake, Kobe pudding, and chili. But if you think that’s already a lot, wait till you check out First Avenue Tokyo Station, which has an entire zone devoted to sweets, and probably the most diverse selection of Kit Kat flavors in Tokyo. Since the sweets in these shops are primarily sold as souvenirs, the Kit Kats come in boxes that usually cost 800 yen onwards.

Le Edo: 1/F Aqua City, 1-7-1 Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo | Business Hours: 11:00 am-9:00 pm | Access: Tokyo Teleport Station/Daiba Station

Kyoro-chan no Okashi no Okashiyasan: 2/F Aomi 1-1-10, Koto-ku, Tokyo | Business Hours: 10:00 am-9:00 pm | Access: Tokyo Teleport Station/Daiba Station

First Avenue Tokyo Station Business Hours: 9:00 am-9:00 pm | Access: Tokyo Station (connected to the Yaesu Exits)

4. Kit Kat Chocolatory

japanese unusual kit kat flavors
Photo by Guilhem Vellut used under CC

This Kit Kat boutique made the headlines even before it opened, but be warned: if you’re expecting something like a shop with Kit Kat flavors from Hokkaido all the way to Okinawa (as some news reports misleadingly made it sound), you’re in for some major disappointment. Sure, you can find matcha, sakura, chili, cream cheese, and seasonal Kit Kats here, but this is more of a luxury Kit Kat store than a collection of Kit Kats from all over Japan. The packaging is classier, and the ingredients are said to be of higher quality. The prices are indicative of this: a single, regular-sized Kit Kat bar costs ¥324, while a box of 4 mini Kit Kats costs ¥432. The Chocolatory has branches in Seibu department store in Ikebukuro, and in Tokyo Station’s Daimaru.

Ikebukuro Branch: B1F, Seibu Ikebukuro Honten, Minami-Ikebukuro 1-28-1, Toshima-ku, Tokyo | Business Hours: 10:00 am-9:00 pm (Mondays-Saturdays), 10:00 am-8:00 pm (Sundays and holidays) | Access: Ikebukuro Station

Daimaru Tokyo Branch: B1F Hoppe Town, Daimaru Tokyo, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo | Business Hours: 10:00 am-9:00 pm (Mondays-Saturdays), 10:00 am-8:00 pm (Sundays and holidays) | Access: Tokyo Station

5. Airports

japanese unusual kit kat flavors
Photo by Jordi Sanchez Teruel used under CC

If you weren’t able to shop for Kit Kats while touring Japan, you can always do some last-minute shopping at Narita and Haneda, where the souvenir shops sell matcha, sakura-matcha, and strawberry cheesecake Kit Kats, among others. These are sold in thin boxes like the ones you can get at convenience stores, and usually cost ¥160 a box, but you can get a large box for about ¥1,600.

6. Online

Like Pokemon, Kit Kats can be addictive—you just gotta catch ‘em all. Sadly, Tokyo’s souvenir candy shops are never quite complete. When all else fails, you can order online from Japan Trend Shop. Without having to travel to every region of Japan, you can try some yubari melon Kit Kats from Hokkaido, hojicha (roasted tea)-flavored ones from Kyoto, Amaou strawberry Kit Kats from Kyushu (Amaou being a kind of strawberry unique to the region), and purple yam-flavored ones from Okinawa, among others.

Read more and see location map at Tokyo Cheapo

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Taco Bell returns to Japan: First look at new restaurant opening in Shibuya on April 21st

Written by: William on March 31, 2015 at 9:53 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Taco Bell is returning to Japan.

Its first new branch will open in Shibuya in the Dogenzaka area on April 21st.

taco bell shibuya dogenzaka tokyo japan new restaurant open april 21st

Of course, Taco Bell has been a mainstay of U.S. military bases in Japan for years, but these are off-limits to regular Japanese civilians.

Taco Bell previously attempted to enter the Japanese market in the 1980′s but like many other foreign fast food outlets, it failed and left. It suffered similar initial issues in the UK and South Korean markets, but management is now much confident in its expansion plans.

taco bell shibuya dogenzaka tokyo japan new restaurant open april 21st

Overseas fast food chains don’t always have it easy. While McDonald’s (in Japan since 1971) and KFC have established a strong market locally, Wendy’s has already left and come back once under a new franchise partner in 2012. Burger King also withdrew, citing defeat in a price war with McDonald’s, though returned in 2007.

New image and details about the branch have been announced, which is being operated by franchise partner Asrapport Dining.

It will seat 104 diners and serve the Mexican cuisine menu that has made it a household name stateside. It will be open 10:00-23:00.

Japan-only menu items will include taco rice and shrimp & avocado burrito.

taco bell shibuya dogenzaka tokyo japan new restaurant open april 21st

Taco Bell’s re-entry into Japan is part of a ten-year global campaign, where the chain plans to open 2,000 more branches outside the United States by 2022. So expect to see more Taco Bell restaurants popping up around Japan and other countries in the near future.

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Chanel opens Rouge Coco lipstick-themed pop-up in Omotesando

Written by: William on March 25, 2015 at 10:27 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Chanel is opening a temporary Omotesando pop-up space to advertise its new Rouge Coco lipstick, which went on sale on March 20th.

From March 27th to April 5th, visitors to Rouge Coco at Omotesando can test make-up in 24 colors, as well as check out video screenings and photos. There is even a reservations-only “Rouge Coco taxi”, though we’re not sure where that takes you.

coco rouge lipstick chanel pop up sampling space omotesando tokyo

The idea is to create a whole Rouge Coco lipstick “experience” for visitors.

The space is free to enter and located just one minute’s walk from Omotesando Station exit B3 or B4.

coco rouge lipstick chanel pop up sampling space omotesando tokyo

Most interesting of all, though, is how Chanel is designing the exterior of the space. It features two giant lipstick “boxes” on the top and the three floors will be lit up in varying color tones at night.

coco rouge lipstick chanel pop up sampling space omotesando tokyo

These kinds of retail stunts can certainly generate buzz. 109 in Shibuya frequently makes use of its prominent central billboard to host eye-catching images, while the Sony Building in Ginza has a regular “art wall” project with always colorful results.

Topshop in Shinjuku did something a little similar a few years ago, decorating its entire glass facade like a Christmas present to mark the December season. Sadly, that Topshop has now closed, along with all Topshop stores in Japan.

The alternative is a Tokyo cityscape imagined without any ads or billboards.

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Nail Puri: Customizable nail art sticker printer Purikura booth by Sega

Written by: William on March 24, 2015 at 9:59 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 3 Comments

Nail art is big in Japan.

So is Purikura, the “print club” photo booths where you can take inventive shots with your friends.

Combine the two and you should have a recipe for success. At least, that’s what Sega (who originally developed Purikura) is hoping with the Nail Puri (Nail Sticker Print), opening in Ikebukuro March 27th-29th.

sega nail art puri purikura sticker printer customize ikebukuro booth

Girls (or guys) can go to the booth to customize their nail design from over 1,500 designs. As far as we can tell, there is no charge or fee to try the prototype machine.

There’s even a free smartphone app so you can customize your choice of design using your own patterns, photos and text. Then you take the final data to the nail art printer and get your nails “printed” the way you want them.

sega nail art puri purikura sticker printer customize ikebukuro booth

sega nail art puri purikura sticker printer customize ikebukuro booth

Strictly speaking, the booth only prints stickers, which you then put on your nails, rather than genuinely painting onto them. Check out the official Twitter account for examples of nail art stickers you can make.

But perhaps printing directly onto your nails is the next step? We all remember that awesome scene from the original Total Recall movie where the woman paints her nails electronically in less than a second? Well, we’re not far off that now. After all, Japan has had “digital mirror” tryvertizing technology for years.

sega nail art puri purikura sticker printer customize ikebukuro booth

The dream futuristic nail art maker would be kind of like a 3D printer meets Purikura.

You can find the Nail Puri booth at Sega GiGO game center in Ikebukuro on the sixth and seven floors. If it’s a hit, no doubt we can expect to see more of the technology soon.

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Keirin Japanese cycle racing promotes the girls

Written by: William on March 23, 2015 at 9:15 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

How do you promote cycle racing, a sport that rarely gets much of a look-in from the baseball-obsessed media?

Easy. You sex things up and push cute girls to the forefront.

Girl’s Keirin is a running a new promotional campaign for Keirin, the Japanese track cycling sport that is also an Olympic competition (and regarded by some as “similar to martial arts“).

girls keirin japan cycle racing bicycle

Female Keirin was introduced in 2012 and has done a lot to raise the profile of the sport, which has its roots in postwar Japan looking to find a way to offer legal gambling to men.

Currently the Keio Line, which offers direct transport to the Keiokaku Velodome, is decorated with posters of the smiling female cyclists, especially at the Shinjuku terminus.

We love the copy, which can be loosely translated: “It’s not faces; it’s big thighs.”

It might be too much to suggest that the Keirin regulating body is cultivating a fetish for muscular legs — do we spot an AKB48-Keirin tie-up some day? — but you get the idea… Sexist, perhaps, but better than letting the sport die.

This is part of a much longer campaign using the Keirin Girls to advertise the sport.

The plaza outside Shimbashi Station is home to La Pista Shimbashi (a venue in central Tokyo where you watch the races on a TV screen and bet), and we can recall the building a couple of years ago being dominated by a huge poster of popular female cyclist Maimi Tanaka showing off her shapely legs.

girls keirin japan cycle racing bicycle maimi tanaka

Typically the Shimbashi venue is associated with chain-smoking older men, so putting a female face on the sport does a lot to make it more welcoming to outsiders. To many, Keirin means cigarette smoke, drunk men, and gambling. The Girl’s Keirin campaign has dedicated TV commercials and promotions to showing a cleaner, funner side to the sport. (Actually, back in 2013 TokyoByBike made a very interesting suggestion: promote Keirin to the growing number of hipsters in Tokyo and their love for trendy bikes.)

The gambling part is accurate enough. Keirin is one of the few ways to bet legally on sports in Japan. Betters can place money on a trifecta (parimutuel) bet. The other three kouei kyougi sports where gambling is permitted are: horse racing, powerboat racing, and asphalt speedway motorcycle racing. Otherwise, your only choice is to buy a lottery ticket. No betting is allowed for baseball, soccer, sumo or the other major sports.

Japanese horse racing (Keiba) has also campaigned skilfully in recent years to make it more friendly to young and female audiences.

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