Torch Plant Light is a “botanical candle” in the tradition on bonsai

Written by: Japan Trends on March 4, 2015 at 9:00 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

We loved the Forestarium Lamp, so we were super excited to hear about another plant-related product from the same brand.

Created by Pianta x Stanza, the Torch Plant Light Botanical Candle is a brilliant ornamental (and horticultural) lamp. In contrast to the larger Forestarium, the Torch Plant Light is cute and small, though just as clever.

pianta stanza botanical candle torch

The plant sits in the glass vase, its “candle wick” dangling in the water. Underneath a gentle LED light glows, creating an enchanting effect in the evening.

Clearly inspired by the Japanese tradition of bonsai and making small things beautiful, the Torch Plant Light will make a great addition to a home setting, office, or cafe space.

pianta stanza botanical candle torch

There are four versions in two varying lamp vase sizes: Dwarf Umbrella Tree (medium), Ficus (medium), Dracaena (small), or Fern (small). The plants are real, though, so you will need to tend to them and take care of their needs. Yes, this is very much a lamp for gardeners.

pianta stanza botanical candle torch

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Kumiko Araki Dance Disco Exercise DVD takes us back to Juliana’s 1990s Tokyo nightclub

Written by: William on March 3, 2015 at 9:06 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Relive the 1990′s dance scene from Tokyo with the Kumiko Araki Juliana’s Tokyo Dance Disco Exercise DVD Set.

Araki was one of the dancers from Juliana’s, THE trendy nightclub in Tokyo during the first years of the 1990′s.

kumiko araki juliana's tokyo exercise dance disco fan dvd set

It was famous for its slinky girls dancing with brightly colored feather fans. The new nostalgic set includes a replica fan and DVD so you can not only resurrect those early Heisei moves, but also slim down (and return to your 1990′s shape).

According to a 2008 Japan Times interview she “spent almost every weekend at Juliana Tokyo during the time it was open from May 1991 to August 1994.”

“I don’t feel Juliana is something that once ended; I feel I have lived my life with Juliana’s. I will probably keep dancing even at an elderly care home,” she says.

Juliana’s was responsible for fads like bodi-kon (or bodycon), figure-hugging outfit for girls.

If you were pretty enough you could dance on one of the special raised platforms. Oh, those innocent days.

kumiko araki juliana's tokyo exercise dance disco fan dvd set

Araki was one of those ladies and she became a celebrity, appearing on TV to share her tips on dressing and dancing.

Though into her forties now, Araki still wears her trademark outfit. Having seen the fiery end of the Bubble days, she thinks men today are too wimpy today. She makes a living now teaching guys to be more macho and reenacting the dances she helped immortalize.

With the Kumiko Araki Juliana’s Tokyo Dance Disco Exercise DVD Set you can learn the dance moves to three songs, each with a different routine, and a double-colored feather fan.

No bodi-kon is included but we reckon one shouldn’t be hard to track down on eBay.

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JINS Paint: Create customized eyewear via your smartphone

Written by: William on March 2, 2015 at 8:30 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Customize your glasses with your smartphone, thanks to JINS Paint.

The promo is being run by the glasses brand JINS (aka J!NS) and uses an app available for iOS and Android.

jins paint customizable personalizable eyewear glasses japan

You can choose from a range of paints and stamps to decorate your frames, as well as upload photos and write messages on them. While the app includes all the tools you need, you can also use Photoshop or Illustrator to make your own illustrations.

Your finished design is sent to JINS so your glasses can be prepared as personalized and individually tailored eyewear.

jins paint customizable personalizable eyewear glasses japan

jins paint customizable personalizable eyewear glasses japan

Postage is free to everywhere in Japan and any eyewear, no matter how extravagant your design, is a flat ¥7,900 plus tax (around $66).

A “creator’s gallery” is promised soon with example designs online.

jins paint customizable personalizable eyewear glasses japan

JINS is a very innovative brand. In the past it has created the JINS MEME glasses to communicate with you, as well as Japan’s first eyewear vending machine.

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100,000 Slimes Battle in Shinjuku: Gamers pop bubble wrap in Shinjuku Station to celebrate Dragon Quest Heroes launch

Written by: William on February 24, 2015 at 12:16 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 5 Comments

Head to Shinjuku Station to try popping 100,000 Slime bubbles.

No, it’s not what it sounds. Slime is the mascot character in the PlayStation game Dragon Quest and this is a promotional stunt by Sony and Square Enix to advertise the release of Dragon Quest Heroes on February 26th.

slime bubble wrap shinjuku poster wall station battle dragon quest heroes promotional campaign

For one week only, Shinjuku train commuters can have fun popping Slime-decorated air bubbles along the wall of a promenade in the subway station. Gamers will notice the music playing in the station passageway is also taken from the first nine Dragon Quest games. “Defeat” all the bubbles and there will be online wallpaper giveaways.

The “100,000 Slimes Battle in Shinjuku” bubble wrap poster covers a long wall in the Marunouchi Line Tokyo Metro section of Tokyo’s busiest station. To get there, head to Exit A9 at Shinjuku Station’s East Exit, near the Alta underground entrance.

slime bubble wrap shinjuku poster wall station battle dragon quest heroes promotional campaign

Check out the official website to see how many Slimes have been popped so far. Imagine having the fun job of having to do the counting!

The installation will be there from February 23rd until March 1st, from 10:00-21:00. Will all the Slimes be “defeated”? Given the popularity of the game in Japan, we suspect yes.

slime bubble wrap shinjuku poster wall station battle dragon quest heroes promotional campaign

Plus, Sony have been clever here since this promo appeals to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a Dragon Quest fan. Who doesn’t love popping bubble wrap?! In fact, in Japan this is so addictive they even once made an “infinite bubble wrap” toy!

The space on the long concourse between the main East and West Exits of Shinjuku Station is also frequently the location for large wall advertising stunts, including free manga samples. Another similar passageway in Omotesando Station was used to give out free cosmetic samples.

However, these stunts haven’t been without controversy. A big poster of Arashi boy band attracted such crowds of fanatical fans that it prevented ordinary passengers from using the Shinjuku concourse.

Will Slime’s bubble wrap generate the same level of frenzy?

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Bandai takes us back to the future with the DeLorean iPhone 6 Case

Written by: Japan Trends on February 23, 2015 at 11:02 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

Bandai has created a second installment in its Crazy Case series of phone covers.

The Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case takes your right back to 1989 and the coolest thing every boy in the world had ever seen — hoverboards!

back to the future part 2 poster

Now, remember the flying car in The Back to the Future: Part II? Yes. Surprised not to see them in use today? Well, no. But the film was actually set in 2015, perhaps indicating some seriously wishful thinking on the filmmakers’ parts.

So while we can take a trip in a flying car right now, you can get the next best thing… for your phone.

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

The Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case is shaped just like the famous 1980′s time-travel machine and with all kinds of details designed to trigger nostalgic memories of seeing the flying DeLorean on the big screen.

Flaps, fold-up wheels… This is more like a puzzle than a case. And the really cool thing are the LED lights that glow blue whenever you get a call. Which should definitely get your attention, and that of your neighbor.

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

Despite the added the bulk of this “crazy case”, the camera can still be used. The bonnet slides over so the lens is free to snap away at whatever Marty McFly wants to photograph.

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Sankt Gallen Sakura beer offers alcoholic tastes of cherry blossom season

Written by: William on February 19, 2015 at 10:26 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The cherry blossom season always brings a gazillion sakura-themed products and campaigns. It’s easy to get tired of this, and yet every year still manages to bring a surprise.

We’ve already heard about the upcoming Starbucks new cherry blossom-themed store designs and special menu items. Now comes something a little stronger — Sakura Beer by Sankt Gallen.

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

Sankt Gallen Sakura beer goes on sale from February 24th. Could there be a more appropriate product for the cherry blossom? After all, the unspoken rule about the custom of cherry blossom is that it’s actually just an excuse to get horrendously drunk. Ambulances stand by at the major parks since there’s inevitably a few people who need to be taken away after passing out.

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

The Sankt Gallen Sakura beer is 5% alcohol — low for craft beer — and is made with cherry blossom and cherry blossom petals from Ina in Nagano, selected as one of the best places for seeing the annual bloom. The beer is meant to have the flavor of sakuramochi, the sweet pink rice cake covered with the leaf of a cherry blossom. Yes, this may not appeal to conventional beer fans!

Sankt Gallen is a Kanagawa Prefecture craft beer brewery that specializes in sweeter beers popular with female drinkers. For this new product it has used yaezakura, the “double” cherry blossom strain of sakura.

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

Sankt Gallen Sakura beer is priced ¥450 (under $4) per bottle, though like most craft beers in Japan you won’t be able to find it in your usual supermarket or convenience store.

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KISS Face Pack: Wear glam rocker makeup face mask every day, and improve your skin

Written by: Japan Trends on February 18, 2015 at 8:39 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Flamboyant rock band KISS continue to conquer Japan. The makeup-loving rockers have for years been a staple of both summer music festivals and mainstream advertising campaigns.

And now they have joined the likes of Kabuki actors and animals from Ueno Zoo.

The KISS Face Pack comes from the same makers of the brilliant Kabuki mask (now there are TWO of those).

kiss face pack beauty mask japan

kiss face pack beauty mask japan

Isshin Do Honpo Inc has created the KISS Face Pack, a genuine mask meant to be worn by men or women to improve skin. It comes in two different two-packs based on the makeup of the glam metal band’s performers: Starchild (Paul Stanley) and Spaceman (Tommy Thayer), or Demon (Gene Simmons) and Cat (Eric Singer).

kiss face pack beauty mask japan

kiss face pack beauty mask japan

Despite their penchant for tongue-licking guitar solos and rumors of Satan worship, KISS is seen as harmless fun in the land of the rising sun.

KISS also collaborated with Momoiro Clover Z (who also love costumes and contentious makeup) earlier this year for perhaps the strangest musical release of 2015 so far: “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saite Mina”.

The face pack series so far includes JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, the musical Cats, classic Hollywood horror movie characters, Kansai Yamamoto fashion, and even a spin-off Hello Kitty version from different makers.

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UNIQLO and Shochiku launch Kabuki-inspired t-shirts and clothes in March

Written by: William on February 17, 2015 at 9:28 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

For such a ubiquitous apparel chain, UNIQLO demonstrates a healthy tendency to innovate. Every year its UT t-shirts change and it always works with a massive range of designers and famous franchises to create original collectible clothing.

While in the past these have included pop series from anime and cinema, this time UNIQLO has sought out inspiration from the past.

The Shochiku Kabuki x UNIQLO Project kicks off with a series of t-shirts and other items on sale from March 26th.

Shochiku is a film and theater production company, and runs the Kabuki-za in Ginza, the most famous Kabuki theater.

uniqlo kabuki shochiku t-shirt clothes theater ichikawa ennosuke france japan

In the words of the official press release, the new project will “present to the world Japan’s traditional culture in the form of
modern pop culture through Kabuki and clothes.”

Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ennosuke IV will be the “Project Ambassador” and the line will go on sale in 14 markets around the world. The launch is actually happening first in France — Japan has an obsession with France as the pinnacle of high culture and the affection is reciprocated — on March 20th, a week ahead of the Japan release.

The new series will include t-shirts, lounge wear, bandanas and tote bags. The designs will include motifs from the Ichikawa yago as well as kumadori stage makeup. Full details of designs will be released on March 19th.

uniqlo kabuki shochiku t-shirt clothes theater ichikawa ennosuke france japan

“I believe Japan can rightfully take pride in the artistic traditions and beauty of Kabuki, which we have been promoting ever since our foundation in 1895. Working together with UNIQLO has given us the opportunity to express Kabuki’s bold, yet delicate, aesthetics on clothing in a way never seen before to millions of UNIQLO fans around the world,” says Jay Sakomoto, Shochiku President and CEO.

The new range is a very nice boost for Kabuki, which was declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2005. While not as inaccessible as Noh, it is nonetheless an esoteric taste today and most Japanese have trouble understanding all the complex stylistic points, let alone the actual language (performances are surtitled). Foreign tourists, though, are always fascinated by its color and flair, and the right people seem to know this, as evidenced by upcoming March opening of a “Kabuki Gate” at Narita Airport. This spring really will have a Kabuki flavor.

There is a precedent for this from the beauty industry. Isshin Do Honpo Inc has had great success with its series of Kabuki face packs. Like the UNIQLO t-shirts, they too have been made with the help of genuine Kabuki performers and reflect the makeup of characters in real Kabuki plays.

This is the true “cool Japan”: traditions mixed with modern convenience and lifestyle.

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Shibuya ward proposes recognition of same-sex couples

Written by: William on February 12, 2015 at 9:31 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

A proposal to give recognition same-sex couple has been submitted to Shibuya City, one of the wards in central Tokyo.

A bylaw proposal will be submitted to the ward congress in March which would allow for the certificates to be issued recognizing same-same couples, reports Kyodo News. If approved, it would be effective from April 1st and the start of the 2015 fiscal year.

It would make Shibuya the only governing body in Japan issuing such documentation to same-sex couples.

japanese celebrity lesbian couple same-sex marriage shibuya

While the certificates would have no legal power, they might help same-sex couples get apartments together or in situations when a hospital only permits a patient to have visitors from family members.

The proposed document would be a “proof of partnership” and be available for anyone living in Shibuya ward aged 20 or over. It would be “equivalent” to marriage but not a genuine marriage certificate.

While the proposed change won’t challenge the legal authority of the current constitutional interpretation of marriage in Japan, Shibuya would be offering a completely “separate system” to marriage that may nonetheless be a first step towards legalization.

The issue of same-sex marriage has been growing in Japan.

In late last year the model and television personality Ayaka Ichinose (34) and actress Akane Sugimori (28) (pictured above) announced that they were a couple and planned to “marry” (ceremonially) in Tokyo in April.

2014 also saw more developments. Hotel Granvia in Kyoto now offers a “gay weddings” service, in cooperation with a local Buddhist temple, joining Tokyo Disneyland in accommodating gay couples who want to marry in Japan.

And as we wrote back in December, June 2014 also saw a lesbian couple submit a wedding application to Aomori City, which was rejected on constitutional grounds. They are now suing the city. The 23rd Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival included a reading of the play 8 by Dustin Lance Black, which portrays the federal trial that led to the overturning of Proposition 8 in California. This was followed by a play, Invisible Neighbours, about same-sex couples in Japan at the largest performing arts festival in the country.

But despite Japan’s rich history of gay and other types of sexuality, the officials are in denial. Openly gay celebrities are fairly rare and only a very small number of people in politics are out of the closet, none of whom serve in the national Diet. Prominent politicians are not known for their support of gay rights. Quite the opposite — the then governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, called homosexuality a “genetic defect” in December 2010, without repercussions.

Gay photographer Ryudai Takano was forced to cover up his male nude portraits at an art museum after the police complained (you can read a recent interview with Takano about the incident on Tokyo Art Beat).

If approved in Shibuya, there is still a lot of work to be done to persuade the general public. While the Prime Minister’s wife is a noted supporter of LGBT rights, a survey in March 2014 found that over half of people did not agree with same-sex marriage, though homosexuality itself is relatively accepted compared to other Asian nations.

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