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 | No Comments

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 | 1 Comment

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 | No Comments

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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Female college students design wearable devices as smart fashion accessories

Written by: William on March 20, 2015 at 10:57 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 3 Comments

Ten types of stylish wearable smart accessories designed by current female college students have been unveiled. The designs are the results of a project run in partnership between Recruit Technologies’ Advanced Technology Lab and Rikejo, a service for supporting “scientific girls” by the publisher Kodansha.

The designs were themed around making female-friendly lifestyle gadgets, to include such functions as morning wake-up alarms, schedule reminders, friend notifications, compasses, timers, last train alerts, and so on.

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

At first glance, these designs may look more fashionable than overtly technological; on the surface just bracelets, necklaces, hair bands and more. But they are all meant to integrate certain wearable devices functions.

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

The project saw the prototypes created within six months, with the designers hailing from a range of colleges such as Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, Hosei University and Aoyama Gakuin University.

The local obsession with females in science took a hit with the Haruko Obokata stem cell scandal last year but that still hasn’t stopped institutions trying to promote women in lab coats who can inject some glamor into the sterile world of academia. Earlier this year, for example, the University of Tokyo released an encyclopedia of beautiful female students. Obokata was the pinnacle of a brief flurry of interest in Rikejo — “scientist women” — though there is a precedent. A few years there was a similar trend for so-called Reki-jo, female history buffs.

[Image via FashionSnap.com]

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Yahoo’s beautiful girls and boys show how to combat hay fever

Written by: William on March 16, 2015 at 9:06 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

As we head into the spring, get ready for hay fever.

Pollen allergy is big in Japan, caused by the large numbers of cedar trees planted in the postwar period. The corollary is that these trees release vast amounts of pollen in the air, causing sinus catastrophes for much of the population.

During this season there is a sudden spike in face masks as people don protection as a way to keep the pollen from entering their nostrils. There are also anti-pollen glasses to stop the pollen irritating the eyes.

A more extreme way to shield yourself from hay fever is the USB Pollen Blocker suit by Thanko!

kafun taisaku bijo binan yahoo hay fever pollen allergy website

As a way to show that you can still look pretty even when your face is all covered up against the pollen, Yahoo Japan has created the Hay Fever Countermeasure Beautiful Girls and Boys website.

The name basically says it all. It features pretty members of both genders, one per day, demonstrating how to look nice while masked up.

kafun taisaku bijo binan yahoo hay fever pollen allergy website

You get to check out their profiles and can watch a short video where each hay fever sufferer shares tips on how to combat the ailment. There is also a pollen map, plus other online resources for how to deal with the annual phenomenon.

kafun taisaku bijo binan yahoo hay fever pollen allergy website

kafun taisaku bijo binan yahoo hay fever pollen allergy website

The platform is clearly inspired by the now iconic Bijin Tokei, the “beautiful girl clock” that produced a thousand imitations. In it, pretty random girls would hold a sign with the time. Every minute it would change to a different face. The numerous spin-offs (and unofficial rip-offs) included male versions, regional versions, porn star versions, and more!

Of course, in Japan the white face mask can be as much a fashion accessory as a hygiene item.

No surprises that there are character versions, such as Doraemon. For a while, the “black surgical mask” became a trendy alternative design, though our all time favorite has got to be the chimpanzee face mask by Mint Design.

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Discontinued hostess culture magazine Koakuma Ageha relaunches

Written by: William on March 12, 2015 at 8:52 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

Almost a year after we blogged that iconic gyaru and hostess subculture magazine Koakuma Ageha was closing down comes some unexpected good news: Ageha is returning.

koakuma ageha hostess magazine relaunch memorial book

Last year was a gloomy one for fashion magazines, with gyaru magazine egg also shuttering. The recent news that established art magazine Bijutsu Techo’s managing company is in financial trouble is a further sign that the industry is in trouble.

koakuma ageha hostess gyaru magazine fashion japan

So the announcement that Ageha, which once sold between 300-400,000 copies a month, is coming back to life is a rare glimmer of hope — or merely a bold move by the publisher.

koakuma ageha hostess gyaru magazine fashion japan

In late 2014 the Koakuma Ageha Memorial Book was published, collecting together the eight years of the magazine.

koakuma ageha hostess magazine relaunch memorial book

Readers and fans gave it an enthusiastic response, enough to merit reviving the magazine itself, it seems.

And so now comes the announcement that in April there will be a new issue of the magazine, now published by Dunnery Deluxe. The resurrected Ageha will be on sale at bookstores around Japan priced ¥680.

Of course, there’s an adage in the music industry that the best way to sell records is to kill off your artist. In the same way, Koakuma Ageha’s “death” generated a lot of publicity for a title no longer in vogue. The question now is whether it can ride this new wave of interest to establish another monthly readership like it had years ago.

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Capsule Hotels: Minimalist, Budget-Friendly Accommodation

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on March 6, 2015 at 8:47 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Tiffany first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

It’s past midnight, and you just missed the last train. A hotel is out of the question, much too pricey, but you definitely want more privacy than a tiny cubicle in a manga cafe. What’s a cheapo to do?

That’s where the capsule hotel comes in. First built by Kisho Kurakawa in Osaka in 1979, a capsule hotel consists of pod-like rooms—if you can call them rooms, as they’re more like compartments—stacked together, providing the bare minimum in terms of space and amenities. Inside, there’s just enough room for a person to crawl inside, lie down, and sit up (but if you’re too tall, even this might be impossible). Basic amenities include a light, an air conditioner, and alarm clock, but some capsule hotels may also provide a TV, power outlet, and/or radio. There are no locks, only a shutter for you to get some quiet and privacy—which isn’t always guaranteed, as you may have the misfortune of sharing the hotel with rowdy guests.

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap

While capsule hotels used to primarily have salarymen as their clientele, tourists have also come to appreciate capsule hotels for their cheaper rates compared to most regular hotels, as well as the novelty of staying in something thought to be unique and futuristic. Capsule hotels are no longer just places to spontaneously spend the night in, but also accommodations that people purposely intend to stay in. But before you start booking one, here are some things you might not know about capsule hotels:

1. They’re not necessarily cheaper than a hotel or hostel.

The average rate per night at a capsule hotel ranges from ¥2,000-6,000. While ¥2,000 is definitely cheap, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel that charges that cheaply for a night, there are some budget hotels and hostels that can offer you a room for about ¥3,000-6,000 a night. Here’s an example for comparison: some branches of the popular budget hotel chain, Toyoko Inn, have a midnight-time service, which means that checking in past midnight can get you a room for ¥4,500, about as much as a room in some capsule hotels. Some hostels even have private rooms that cost about as much, or are cheaper than, capsule hotel rooms. If you’re looking for a comfortable stay that’s on a budget but not dirt-cheap, and aren’t after the capsule hotel experience, you might be better off in a cheap hotel or hostel.

2. They’re more than just pods stacked together.

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
A mini-game center inside the capsule hotel I stayed in. | Photo by Tiffany Lim under CC

Don’t worry; capsule hotels are not that sterile and impersonal. The capsule hotel I stayed in had a bath and sauna, vending machines, a manga library, some arcade games, massage services, a communal space for watching TV, and even a restaurant. Not all capsule hotels have that many facilities and amenities, but you can rest assured that capsule hotels provide more than the rooms. The least that they provide are bathing facilities, lockers (usually one locker area for shoes, and another one for other belongings), and a lounge. While capsule hotels don’t exactly exude the social vibe that hostels are known for, who knows—you might be able to make some friends at a capsule hotel lounge! Also, note that baths tend to be communal (but still gender-segregated, of course), and that those with tattoos are usually not allowed into the baths and saunas.

3. Many capsule hotels are only for men.

This is said to be for women’s safety, but nowadays, capsule hotels are offering the more sensible solution of catering to women but keeping the floors or areas segregated by gender. Guests usually need a special key to access the sleeping quarters.

4. You have to check out for each day of your stay.

Capsule hotels aren’t really meant for long-term stay. That doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in a capsule hotel for, say, a week, but you’ll have to check out then check in again every day. Check-out time is usually at 10:00 am, but you can extend for a small fee, usually ¥300-500 per hour.

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Inside a typical capsule pod. | Photo by Travis Rigel Lukas Hornung used under CC

Recommended Capsule Hotels in Tokyo

All the capsule hotels listed here are open to both men and women.

1. Nine Hours Narita Airport

Welcome to Japan! Are you stuck waiting for a connecting flight? Did you arrive past midnight? If so, this capsule hotel in Terminal 2 of Narita Airport is a godsend. The hotel has lockers, showers, and a lounge. Toiletries are also provided. Overnight prices start at ¥3,900, but vary depending on the season. Currently, a standard plan costs ¥4,900 a night on weekdays, and ¥5,900 on Fridays and weekends, although the price drops to ¥4,400 or ¥5,400 if you stay for more than a night. Checking out each day doesn’t seem necessary here. A plan with a breakfast coupon is also available for ¥5,440 on weekdays and ¥6,440 on Fridays and weekends. Hourly rates are also available for those who just want a short rest: it’s ¥1,500 for the first hour and ¥500 for each succeeding hour.

Address: 1-1 Furugome, Narita-City, Chiba 282-0004

Check-in: 12:00 pm-5:00 am | Check-out: 10:00 am

2. First Cabin Haneda

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Photo by Meredith P used under CC

Not to be beaten by Narita, Haneda Airport also has a capsule hotel of its own, inside Terminal 1. As the name implies, this is fancier than your average capsule hotel. In fact, their rooms are called “cabins” rather than “capsules,” and they, indeed, have much more space and actual beds, making their rooms look more like mini-hotel rooms than capsule pods. Size aside, the only other reminder that you’re not in a regular hotel is the lack of a lockable door. An overnight stay here costs ¥6,000 a night (¥6,300 on Fridays and Saturdays) for a first-class cabin, while it’s ¥5,000 (¥5,300 on Fridays and Saturdays) for a smaller cabin. The only difference between first and business class is size—the former has more space for your luggage. Short-term stays are also available for ¥800-1,000 an hour for business and first class, respectively. Toiletries and earplugs are provided.

Address: 1F Haneda Airport Terminal 1 | 3-3-2 Haneda Airport, Ota-ku, Tokyo

Phone: 03-5757-8755

Check-in: 7:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am

3. Green Plaza Shinjuku / Le Luck Spa

This capsule hotel complex goes above and beyond the bare minimum, what with its saunas, outdoor bath, hot springs, massages, napping room (for those looking to unwind after a bath), lounge, and restaurant. The complex’s facilities are segregated by gender, with a standard room costing ¥4,500 a night for men and ¥5,200 a night at Le Luck Spa for women. For that price, men get a TV, alarm, and radio, while women get all that plus Wi-Fi and power outlets. For men, an upgraded room is ¥5,300-5,400, the latter price consisting of everything previously mentioned plus a LAN cable. Early-morning stay plans and spa-and-sauna-only plans are also available. Le Luck Spa promises a full range of amenities for women, so this is a place to visit for some pampering.

Address: 1-29-2 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Access: Shinjuku Station

Phone: 03-3207-5411 (men), 03-3207-4921 (women)

Check-in: 3:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am

4. Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Photo by Dom Pates

Also close to Shinjuku Station’s east exit is this hotel, which has a 24-hour bath and sauna, and a business-and-relaxation lounge with Wi-Fi and PCs. The hotel also has a restaurant and coin laundries. A room costs ¥3,500 on average, but this hotel regularly has discounted plans. For 2015, the first 10 women to book a room for any given day can do so for only ¥2,000 a night, and male job-hunters who can present a valid Japanese school ID can book a room for ¥2,100-2,800 a night. Otherwise, it’s ¥2,500-3,800 a night for women, and ¥2,600-3,600 a night for men. All rooms come with Wi-Fi and power outlets.

Address: Touyo Building 3/F, 1-2-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Access: Shinjuku Station

Phone: 03-3232-1110

Check-in: 4:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am

5. Hotel Asakusa & Capsule

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Photo by Daa Nell used under CC

Hotel Asakusa & Capsule’s rates are pretty cheap, at ¥2,200 a night. Students can get a capsule for ¥1,700 a night. A bathhouse, coin laundries, PCs,vending machines, and microwaves are just some of their shared amenities. If you’d rather get a room, their rooms are also quite inexpensive at ¥4,400 a night, or ¥3,300 for students. Remember to present a student ID for proof!

Address: 4-14-9 Kotobuki, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Access: Asakusa Station

Phone: 03-3847-4477

Check-in: 4:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am

6. Capsule Value Kanda

Located near Akihabara, Capsule Value Kanda is owned by the same people behind Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel. Its price range is similar, and you can also expect the same quality of rooms and facilities. A standard room costs ¥2,900-3,400 a night, but they also have discounts and promos. Those under 30 can get a room for ¥2,400-2,900 a night, as long as proof of age can be shown. The first 7 guests to book on any given day can get a room for only ¥2,100. Moreover, those who book online can get ¥100 off their reservation. Like their sister hotel in Shinjuku, all rooms have Wi-Fi and power outlets.

Address: 1-4-5 Kajicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Access: Kanda Station

Phone: 03-6206-0724

Check-in: 10:00 am | Check-out: 10:00 am

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Photo by Joanne and Matt used under CC

Read more and see maps at Tokyo Cheapo

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A music rave in a Shibuya library? Silent disco at Mori no Tosho Shitsu book bar

Written by: William on March 5, 2015 at 8:32 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

On April 4th, Mori no Tosho Shitsu (Mori’s Library) in Shibuya will be transformed into a club for a silent disco event.

Remember Mori no Tosho Shitsu? It was the crowdfunded “book and beer” library opened by a book worm in Shibuya last year. Not only can you go there for a drink and a bite to eat, if you become a member you can borrow the books, just like a library.

mori no tosho tsyo shitsu shibuya tokyo book bar library silent disco

While there are plenty of public libraries in Tokyo (there’s even one right in the same building as the Cosmo Planetarium), places like Mori no Tosho Shitsu attract interest because their book curation is special. You don’t go there just to see any books; you go there to see THE books the owner has selected. This is similar to the appeal of places like B&B in Shimokitazawa, Village Vanguard, and Shibuya Publishing Booksellers.

Silent discos are nothing new, not even in Japan.

But this is a silent disco inside a “library” in the heart of noisy Shibuya. How cool is that?

mori no tosho tsyo shitsu shibuya tokyo book bar library silent disco

Audiences to the silent disco event will get to enjoy the music through wireless headphones, in the unique bibliographical surroundings of Mori no Tosho Shitsu.

If you like your drink too, you’ll be pleased to know the event is being supplied by Tokyo Craft Beer Mania. Craft beer will be available from ¥500 a glass.

Music is by DE DE MOUSE and others.

mori no tosho tsyo shitsu shibuya tokyo book bar library silent disco

It’s also being billed as a club event, since it starts at 11pm and carries on until 5am.

Tickets cost ¥3,500.

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