Get your own Star Wars Battle Pod… for $37,000

Written by: William on May 28, 2015 at 2:13 pm | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

Bandai Namco has announced it is offering individual customers a chance to their hands on their own Star Wars arcade machine!

Yes, if you’re a real Star Wars fan you will definitely want to step inside the Star Wars Battle Pod, a fully immersive arcade game machine.

There’s only one snag: it will cost you ¥4,560,000, roughly $37,000.

star wars battle pod arcade machine game bandai namco

According to Kotaku, there is also a “premium edition” version that is even more: ¥12,000,000, or nearly $100,000!

The designs—a Rebel pilot’s helmet and Darth Vader—are unique to the premium versions. The pod’s movable seats are covered with real leather, the cabinet has exclusive carpeting, and the machine comes with a specially bound owner’s manual.

Each cabinet is numbered and emblazoned with the owner’s name on a plaque. And in the game, the owner’s name appears in the credit scroll. And so, a hundred grand price tag.

However, the Bandai Namco website says that currently there are no plans to sell the premium edition.

Orders are only being taken domestically for the regular Star Wars Battle from June 18th.

In the words of the official website:

Star Wars™: Battle Pod™ is a experiential arcade game that features a dome-shaped screen, transporting players into heated battles in a galaxy far, far away. In iconic locations like the Death Star, players will be able to take control of some of the most memorable vehicles and morments in the Star Wars universe and pilot them to victory.

The new interactive arcade shooter by Lucasfilm, Disney Interactive, and Bandai Namco has multiple games and locations, including Hoth, Yavin, Endor and the Death Star.

If you can’t afford your own Star Wars Battle Pod, you can check for arcade locations in America, the UK and Japan. There are currently two machines in Tokyo.

star wars battle pod arcade machine game bandai namco

The Japan market frequently has exclusive tie-in merchandise that no one else gets.

The latest example is the Star Wars Interactive Bluetooth Snow Globe, which syncs with your smart device to create a “powder snow dance” effect in time with your music.

star wars snow globe amadana imp interactive bluetooth

Past products include a holographic R2-D2 Original Sound Virtual Keyboard, the bestselling Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary for Padawan Learners, the R2-D2 Talking Fridge Gadget, and the Star Wars Nestle Gold Blend Coffee Machine.

Star Wars is huge in Japan at the moment, including a massive exhibition in Roppongi.

Oh, and of course there’s a certain small movie getting released this December. We can’t wait to see what tie-ins that brings!

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Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt: Buy here!

Written by: Japan Trends on May 26, 2015 at 10:14 am | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

Japan’s pet trends are never anything but surprising. Sometimes they are a bit silly, sometimes they are incredibly innovative. Sometimes they are just plain indefinable, such as the Oppo Dog Muzzle Quack, which went viral a couple of years ago.

The latest to get a lot of attention, online at least, is the Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt. This is a special item of clothing designed by Unihabitat to include a “cuddle pocket” so your cat will always be near, whether you are watching TV, working, or just relaxing at home.

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

Even better, the medium-sized version has nekomimi (cat ears) so you can really make your feline friend feel at home with some cosplay.

There are also cat paw markings on the sleeves and dangling balls for the cat to play with while nestling up to you in the pocket.

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

Don’t worry, if you’re a dog lover, small pooches should also fit in the Mewgaroo too.

The good news is that the waiting is over: after some days of frantic online buzz while it was still only on preorder, the Mewgaroo is now available for overseas orders.

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

The hoodie comes in two sizes and in a gray color — bizarrely the color choice is claimed by Unihabitat to be motivated by the color that “best suits” Japanese skin. We think that’s bosh but anyway, the Mewgaroo looks great.

Due to high demand, stock is limited so be sure to order your Mewgaroo as soon as you can.

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

Mewgaroo Hoodie Pet Pouch Sweatshirt buy japanese cat snuggle cuddle pocket clothing buy

It’s practical too: the pet pocket lining can be removed for ease of cleaning, since it’s going to get a lot of hair in there.

Unihabitat is a newcomer to the scene but has already established themselves very firmly with a series of bold and fun pet accessories: there’s the Katatsu Mobile Kotatsu Cat Table, the Hot Dog Canine Clothes, and the Extreme Cat Tunnel, to name just some.

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Doraemon Giant Speaker has light-up cat bell that flashes in time to music

Written by: Japan Trends on May 20, 2015 at 10:31 am | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

When I first arrived in Japan, my room mate had an alarm clock that played the Doraemon theme song — very, very loudly. So when he had to get up for his morning shift, it was like a full blue-and-white cat orchestra was playing right beside my ear, every single day.

This colored my perception of the time-travelling cat somewhat, though who can resist his charms for long? And who doesn’t want a door that takes you anywhere?

Fujiko Fujio’s Doraemon, despite being one of the longest-running manga and anime series in Japan, continues to attract new fans, and this then inspires new merchandise.

Like this Doraemon Giant Speaker.

doraemon giant speaker audio toy flashing cat bell

The large Doraemon figure features a speaker on the base that plays music from your MP3 player, phone or other audio device.

doraemon giant speaker audio toy flashing cat bell

doraemon giant speaker audio toy flashing cat bell

doraemon giant speaker audio toy flashing cat bell

But perhaps the coolest thing is how Doraemon’s cat bell lights up and flashes in time to whatever music playing.

There has been a revival of interest in the classic Doraemon franchise of late. The feature film Doraemon: Nobita no Himitsu Dogu Museum was the fifth highest-grossing movie of 2013 in Japan and made Doraemon more lucrative than Godzilla for studio Toho.

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Panasonic develops enhanced LED optical ID-reading smartphone data communication tech

Written by: William on May 18, 2015 at 3:11 pm | In COOL PRODUCTS, NEW TECH | 6 Comments

Dig Info has released a nice video showcasing an interesting smartphone optical data communication development by Panasonic.

The new technology uses an LED light source to allow a smartphone to read optical ID signals coming off something.

panasonic LED optical ID read smartphone data communication technology system invisible data communication

While this concept is not new per se, Panasonic has enhanced the speed to be hundreds of times faster than previous systems and no longer require fluctuation brightness visible to the human eye. Now the user does not “see” anything but their smartphone can pick up a signal from the item.

Potential applications include consumer product information in retail spaces. For example, use your smartphone to “read” a dress and view information about available stock and the materials, as well as videos and images of models.

Museums and public transport could use the technology to offer multi-lingual guidance.

A Panasonic representative explains:

“The device that sends the signals with this technology can be in, for example, a store or public place. Meanwhile, the person receiving the information can be a consumer or passerby. Unless that person can use their regular smartphone, such a system is meaningless; that was the basic idea behind our development of this technology. Going forward, we think this should involve not only Panasonic, but also alliances with manufacturers that can put the technology into many forms, as well as IT system integrators, and businesses that can provide services using the technology.”

According to Dig Info, Panasonic will release products that transmit optical ID signals by March 2016, and plans to develop this business full-scale from fiscal 2016.

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A different kind of soft power: Japanese toilets and lavatory technology heading overseas

Written by: William on May 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

The Japanese government has faith in soft power, hence all the “cool Japan” campaigns.

This might be J-Pop. It might be anime. It might be cuisine.

But there’s another unusual source of “cool” in Japan — toilets.

toto washlet hi-tech toilet technology japan

While the actual “Japanese” toilets (i.e. squat toilets) as they were originally designed are slowly disappearing except for some unfortunate train stations or far-flung corners of the land, makers like Toto have impressed the world and gone viral with their successful toilet technology innovations… like the talking toilet, the heated seat, the Otohime modesty sound blocker, and more.

The Japanese household toilet is as much an awesome part of what makes Japanese homes so different as tatami mats, sliding doors and futons. And the Japanese take them seriously. Junichiro Tanizaki waxed lyrical about the Japanese toilet in In Praise of Shadows, while a major toilet-themed exhibition at the Miraikan last year saw lines of kids with poop-shaped hats on climb into a giant toilet bowl. We are not kidding about that last one.

gallery toto narita airport toilet showroom dytham klein

Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham recently created Gallery Toto, a toilet “digital gallery” showroom at Narita Airport to demonstrate the wonders of the Japanese privy.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Toto is one of the exhibitors at Tokyo Designers Week.

According to news reports, the government wants to help Japan’s eco-friendly, forward-thinking toilet makers:

The government will support firms and organizations in the industries to obtain an international standard for household and similar electrical appliances certified by the International Electrotechnical Commission to boost the export of toilet products, including those equipped with warm-water spray options, according to the sources. It also plans to establish a system by the end of this fiscal year that would reward efforts to keep restrooms neat and clean.

Apparently wealthy Chinese tourists have taken an interest in Japanese toilets, with their multiple spray options and functions.

Toto, which is nearly 100 years old, makes one fifth of its sales overseas. A surge in Chinese wealth has finally seen it make profit in the market.

Could Toto et al be the answer to thawing the icy relations between China and Japan? Yes, toilet diplomacy could be a “thing”.

The Toto Washlet has been a multi-million-seller since it was introduced in 1982 and some 70% of Japanese households possess a toilet or toilet seat with enhanced functionality — on par with market penetration of computers and digital cameras.

Perhaps some day soon in the future, just as so many people now drive a Japanese automobile, most people may be sitting down on a Japanese toilet whenever nature calls.

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fukutegami turns clothes into a letter

Written by: William on May 13, 2015 at 9:08 am | In COOL PRODUCTS | 1 Comment

Turn your clothes into letters to be sent in the mail. That’s what fukutegami does.

The clever concept was launched on the crowdfunding platform Readyfor? and cleared its target of ¥550,000 ($4,500). Now it’s going to be send out to the funders in mid-June and eventually will be a regular product sold online or in shops.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

With fukutegami you write a “letter” directly onto the clothes (the name itself is a play on the words fuku — clothes — and tegami, letter), fold the clothes into an “envelope”, and then send it to someone in the mail. In these days of digital communication (how many school students today have actually even handwritten and sent a physical letter?!) it stands out as a great way to show someone you care.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

You write onto the “letter” space on the inside of the clothes, so your private message to the receiver is not shown on the outside. Wash the clothes and words will disappear, thanks to the qualities of the textiles. The clothes are designed to be folded into an “envelope”-like shape, and with a space to write the address and add the stamp. The set includes a pen and even a stamp.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

The unique product doesn’t come cheap, though, planning to retail for around ¥12,000 ($100).

It works best with a plain white shirt, since that most resembles letter paper. But the design can be adjusted for different colors and different types of clothing.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

It was developed by a media design grad student at Keio University. Masako Yokoi previously honed her idea through workshops and regional versions. Then she turned to crowdfunding to make it happen as a general product.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

It is being made in partnership with three factories in Iwate, Kyoto and Osaka.

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Write More by Hakuhodo: a new writing board with “writing sounds” audio feedback to help children write better

Written by: William on May 11, 2015 at 3:39 pm | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

Write More is a new type of writing instrument developed by Hakuhodo to help young kids write.

It works with an dedicated aim and iPhone to create enhanced “writing” sounds that encourage the scribe. An internal microphone and speaker amplifies the sounds when you write on paper placed over the board.

Research by the University of Tokyo shows that by hearing the sound of your own pen or writing instrument scraping or scratching on the surface, it assists in developing better and faster penmanship.

write more hakuhodo issue plus design writing board instrument sound aural responsive feedback kids children learning development tool prototype iphone

As we move more and more into the digital age, kids find themselves interacting with screens to type and tap. Produced by issue+design, Hakuhodo’s civic-minded concept studio, Write More promises to make writing by hand fun and responsive in a tactile and aural way.

Not just writing, it also offers opportunities for changing the way kids enjoy illustrating and coloring-in. Certain illustration templates could be downloaded so the system responds as the user draws and colors over the paper.

write more hakuhodo issue plus design writing board instrument sound aural responsive feedback kids children learning development tool prototype iphone

Hakuhodo’s prototype is tailored to the specifics of Japanese education and the Japanese language, since writing Japanese characters always requires a series of exact strokes in a certain order.

Traditionally Japan has had very high literacy, even in historical times, thanks to its unique writing system that involves multiple scripts, and a long-established temple school network. This continues today in how kids learn to write the complex Kanji characters in stages, first acquiring the base radicals and other simple characters by writing them out by rote. This is labor-intensive for little kids but an effective way to drill the stroke order into developing minds. As anyone who has tried to learn Kanji from an older age and without the foundational “training” stages will attest, the logographic script ain’t easy and to get to the stage where you can read, say, a newspaper requires you to slog up a long, steep path taking in something like 2,000 separate Kanji.

write more hakuhodo issue plus design writing board instrument sound aural responsive feedback kids children learning development tool prototype iphone

Bookworms aside, Japanese people are very familiar with reading on a daily level, despite the nation’s fame for “dumbed-down” literature like manga comic books. While some big kids-friendly Hollywood movies get dual releases in dubbed versions, audiences happily watch American and overseas films with subtitles — a format that is seen as a barrier to commercial success in English-speaking markets. Likewise, advertising always makes ample use of Japanese fonts and scripts to a far greater level than marketing in western nations.

That said, education standards in Japan are hardly universally praised and for years the media has deplored a phenomenon known as katsuji-banare — a “moving away from printed letters” — in spite of the bestselling likes of Haruki Murakami. Having a prime minister at one point who seemed barely literate also did little to assuage people’s fears that younger people are struggling with Kanji now.

Write More is one solution to making learning to write fun and effective for youngsters.

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E-Sakuga Evangelion 3:0 You Can (Not) Redo. utilizes “tap-motion” to show future of manga digital publishing

Written by: William on May 11, 2015 at 9:43 am | In COOL PRODUCTS, CULTURE | 4 Comments

E-Sakuga has released a next-generation e-book that serves as a neat example of anime tie-in merchandise and also an interesting idea for how anime and digital publishing can intersect successfully.

E-Sakuga Evangelion 3:0 You Can (Not) Redo. was released on iBooks on May 8th in a format specifically tailored to combine the advantages of digital publishing with the features of manga and other local types of literature.

e-sakuga evangelion 3:0 you can not redo ebook tap-motion digital book publishing content anime

The E-Sakuga series employs an original “Tap-motion” function that allows you to browse the digital content like a flip book. The interactive Evangelion e-book feature original drawings from the anime and allows the reader to view each frame in detail, and also “anime” key frames to see the drawings transform into the cult Evangelion film.

e-sakuga evangelion 3:0 you can not redo ebook tap-motion digital book publishing content anime

e-sakuga evangelion 3:0 you can not redo ebook tap-motion digital book publishing content anime

e-sakuga evangelion 3:0 you can not redo ebook tap-motion digital book publishing content anime

Priced ¥2,000 (around $16), E-Sakuga Evangelion 3:0 You Can (Not) Redo. is available only for iPad or Mac. It is published both in Japanese and in English.

E-publishing has been making headway in Japan, though the manga market remains dominated by big, heavy weekly comic magazines. Saying that, even these are far past their prime and no longer sell anything like the millions they did at the peak of the industry. Manga magazine sales have been dropping every year since 1996. That said, general manga sales have started to creep up since 2010 after years of decline, following the success of One Piece. So-called e-manga (manga e-books) dominate e-book sales, accounting for somewhere in the region of 80% of the market.

Innovations like this represent a way forward for manga and anime-related publishing.

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Japan’s super “cute” robot vacuum cleaners

Written by: Japan Trends on May 6, 2015 at 1:58 pm | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

Dyson, the UK vacuum cleaner brand, has chosen Japan to be the first market for its upcoming new robot vacuum cleaner, the Dyson 360 Eye. To get local consumers in the mood, it has opened a mini showroom in Omotesando. Japan is Dyson’s second-largest market, accounting for around 20% of overall sales, says Nikkei.

Japan’s vacuum sales rose 6% to 9.31 million units in 2014, with cordlesss, robot and stick designs very popular. All this means that robot vacuum cleaners are really big now in Japan, with most local electronics manufacturers producing a line, including Sharp’s Cocorobo and Toshiba’s Torneo.

While Dyson has gone for chic and other makers are pulling out all the technological stops (anti-allergen, anti-bacteria, talking, smartphone-controlled), some are content to opt for another tactic entirely. Making robot vacuum cleaners cute.

mopet vacuum robotic cleaner microfiber mop

The Mopet Microfiber Mop Robot Vacuum Cleaner is a new robotic cleaning gadget by CCP.

mopet vacuum robotic cleaner microfiber mop

Not only does this follow-up to the Mofa cleaning bot retain much the same functions, it also still has the flat, mop-like design. So what’s different? The Mopet has upped the cute ratio. It encourages you to customize and decorate your cleaner with the colorful stickers provided.

mopet vacuum robotic cleaner microfiber mop

In Japan, it used to be very popular to decorate your mobile phone with phone straps, stickers and more (until the iPhone arrived and everyone started being boring). Likewise, decorated nail art and customizable photo booths continue to evolve, sometimes even converging.

It’s far from the first time that we have seen this trend for “cute” (kawaii) robotic cleaners.

mocoro vacuum cleaner fur ball roll mop

The same makers previously gave us the Mocoro Robotic Fur Ball Vacuum Cleaner and the follow-up, the Mocoro Mop Ball CZ-564, a kind of fuzzball-style rolling cleaning gadget.

mocoro vacuum cleaner fur ball roll mop

The Auto Mee S reduced the scale but not the cuteness, cleaning the screen of your tablet or smartphone.

auto mee s robot cleaner smartphone tablet

Panasonic, meanwhile, developed the Fukitorimushi (“wiping cleaner”), a kimo-kawaii (creepy-cute) inchworm-style vacuum cleaner.

And then things enter the world of toys: the RC Sugoi Mop ostensibly helps you clean the house, but we suspect it’s more for fun.

rc sugoi mop remote control brush

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