Ieyasu Tokugawa canned eggplant and miso meat sauce celebrate 400 years since death of Shogun

Written by: William on January 21, 2015 at 8:48 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Cultures usually mark important anniversaries with a ceremony. In Japan they produce special food… in a can.

2015 is the fourth centenary of the death of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first Shogun and whose rise to power signalled in the start of the stable Edo Period. To celebrate, Hagoromo Foods, probably most famous for their “sea chicken”, has created two special canned dishes with ingredients related to Ieyasu.

The “meat sauce” cans feature either eggplant or haccho miso, which is a specialty of Aichi Prefecture.

tokugawa ieyasu hagoromo shogun meat sauce eggplant miso food canned

Priced ¥800, the cans are being sold only in Shizuoka and Aichi prefectures from January 16th.

Each can is 250 calories and serves 2-4 people.

The eggplant might sound a bit random but it’s associated with the idea of hatsuyume — the first dream of the year. Apparently the first Tokugawa ruled was fond of eggplant, along with Mt Fuji and falconry. So if in your first dream of the new year you see all three, then you are in for an auspicious twelve months.

tokugawa ieyasu hagoromo shogun meat sauce eggplant miso food canned

Canned food in Japan can be pretty awesome, even the stuff sold at the convenience store. You can also spot some pretty original canned offerings at vending machines, including soups and desserts.

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Nico Nico Douga Self-Switching-Off Robot: A gloriously “useless” gadget

Written by: Japan Trends on January 20, 2015 at 8:31 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

One of the top Japanese internet memes of the past few years finally becomes a real product.

The Nico Nico Douga Self-Switching-Off Robot was created by user Kairoshi as a video uploaded to his Nico Nico Douga channel. It is a “pointless” gadget: you flip the switch on top of the black box and then a hand appears to turn it back the other way. That’s it.

nico nico douga self switching off robot gadget japaanese

It apeared at the Nico Nico Gakkai Beta Symposium in 2013 and spawned many more videos like the one below.

Now this “useless” gadget that turns itself off has become an actual product so you can recreate the eternal battle of man versus machine.

It’s only been made in very limited numbers so don’t expect it to last very long.

Of course, the boffins among you will already know that Kairoshi’s gadget is a rift on the Ultimate Machine created by American mathematician Claude Shannon in the 1950′s. This plain box, conceived with Marvin Minsky, also switched itself off but otherwise did “nothing”.

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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Face Pack turns Hirohiko Araki manga into skin care tool

Written by: Japan Trends on January 19, 2015 at 8:57 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The makers of the Kabuki Face Pack just keep on finding new source material for skin care tools that blow all the competition out of the water.

Combining Japan’s love for dressing up (cosplay) with its robust beauty industry, the face packs by Isshindo Honpo have so far featured the likes of Cats, Ueno Zoo animals, and even Hollywood ghouls.

jojos bizarre adventure face pack beauty skin care tool

Now comes two face packs inspired by the popular manga and anime series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

jojos bizarre adventure face pack beauty skin care tool

The JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Face Pack is a genuine beauty tool, like regular face packs designed to reinvigorate your skin and help fight the signs of aging.

This time the masks are based on the Stone Mask and the Star Platinum. As JoJo fans will know, the Stone Mask was featured in the first story in the JoJo series, while the Star Platinum is the Stand of Jotaro Kujo, from Stardust Crusaders.

jojo bizarre adventure stone mask

The pack includes both masks… so which do you want to be?!

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Shikumi Design launches Kagura, a futuristic gesture-controlled musical instrument system

Written by: William on January 16, 2015 at 8:36 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Bridge has shared a story about Fukuoka-based startup Shikumi Design and their futuristic musical instrument, Kagura.

While the name might imply traditional Japanese music, the “motion perform instrument” system is anything but historical, allowing you to “play” it intuitively through gesture recognition.

kagura motion perform instrument shikumi design gesture recognition

The makers describe as an instrument that “makes it possible to perform music by moving your body, without touching anything.”

It uses a patented technology that recognizes human movements and gestures so that the user can perform music freely.

It generates new music performance with visual effects.You can also append your voice to Kagura, arrange the tempo of music and where to put the sounds on the screen. And you can enjoy all of them by your gesture with the Intel RealSense 3D camera.

As The Bridge writes:

The Kagura app won the grand prize at the Intel Perceptual Computing Challenge competition in 2013. The new version introduced at this time has been upgraded to support Intel RealSense 3D, a new technology available on PCs from Lenovo, Acer, and others, enabling an app to understand and respond to natural movement in 3D with a built-in camera.

However, vision analysis for playing instruments is conducted in 2D, so if you are satisfied with playing instruments only, the app can work with any Windows PC with a built-in camera regardless of whether it supports the RealSense technology.

Currently it is designed for 64-bit Windows 8.1 only, but sure a Mac version is coming soon? iOS and Android mobile versions are also in development. Otherwise, all you need is the app and a webcam.

There is no limit to how many people can “play” it at the same time, though the makers recommend one or two maximum, since it can only recognize two hands simultaneously.

Where can expect to see the Kagura? Well, at special live events, perhaps, since it will be ideal for taking the role of the DJ or VJ to the next level.

Here’s an earlier prototype they made showing how your dance creates music and graphics.

Let’s have this in the 2020 Olympic opening ceremony please!

Learn more and download the app on the Kagura website.

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Otamatone Digital: Japan’s tadpole theremin gets a “rock” update!

Written by: Japan Trends on January 9, 2015 at 9:08 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Our love for all things Maywa Denki is no secret. We recently went wild about Mr Knocky, their unique drum toy, and also think their retro Otona no Kagaku Maywa Denki Automa-te Auto Writer Hand is cool as hell.

If you’re a fan of original gadgets, especially musical ones, then Maywa Denki are the folk for you.

The original Otamatone came out a few years and was quite a global hit. It’s seen some updates over the time since but here’s the first major re-release: the Otamatone Digital.

otamatone digital sound toy musical instrument japanese theremin

This is a reinterpretation of the theremin (as we know, a popular instrument in Japan) but it reinvents the musical instrument in terms of look, sound and action.

For a start, it looks like a large musical note (or tadpole) with a face. You use the stem to “play” the notes and then control the “mouth” to adjust the sound that is produced.

The Otamatone Digital can play chords and has a back switch to change octaves. As before, you play the notes along the stem (they even provide you with “stickers” so you can see what you are playing) and vary the sound through the mouth, though now there are improved “modes” so you can create great sounds like a kick drum, snare, bell or cymbal.

Here’s Maywa Denki honcho Novumichi Tosa giving a demonstration.

You can play chords (even “power chords”) and “drums” on this tadpole. A mini theremin rock concert? You bet!

Here are several Otamatone Digital instruments playing “The Frog Song”.

The Otamatone Digital is available in black or white versions.

You can get the Otamatone Digital from Japan Trend Shop.

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Japan’s extraordinary pet clothes trends: Mobile kotatsu for cats, hot dog backpack for dogs

Written by: Japan Trends on December 26, 2014 at 9:22 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Japan’s love affair with the pet rarely fails to impress.

And now just in time for New Year and the winter, we have the Katatsu Mobile Kotatsu Cat Table. While not an actual kotatsu (a table with a heater and blanket) — or as impressive as the Neo-Kotatsu fashion we saw earlier in the year — this pet clothing set by brand Unihabitat is designed to help you recreate those cute pictures of cats snuggling under the kotatsu.

katatsu catatsu neko kotatsu cat portable table clothes

If you can persuade your feline friend to wear this Velcro-strap contraption, complete with “orange” and “tea” on the top, then you are guaranteed a thousand photo opportunities.

katatsu catatsu neko kotatsu cat portable table clothes

Not to be left out, Unihabitat also make something for the pooches too. Although hot dogs are not especially common snacks in Japan, that didn’t stop these pet clothes designers from coming up with a sausage-and-bun-themed “backpack” for dogs.

hot dog pet clothes sausage bun

Yes, the naming should be obvious here — it’s the Hot Dog Pet Clothes.

hot dog pet clothes sausage bun

We love the ever-evolving world of Japanese pet trends.

Dog wine? Here it is.

dog wine wan wan sparkling drink pet japan

A t-shirt for your dog made from Japanese paper? Here it is.

A special box for storing your cat’s whiskers? Of course. (And there’s even one for storing their old teeth too!)

cat whiskers case store feline pet hair japan trends

Still, perhaps nothing beats the Pet Emergency Evacuation Jacket, designed to protect your animal chum even if Mother Nature turns nasty (actually there are many of these types of bags and items for helping your pet in an earthquake or disaster).

japan sos pet bag shoulder emergency pack dog carry earthquake

And for less “wacky” products, there are clever tools for cleaning up pet hair and even stylish “architecture for dogs”. Saying that, the duckbill-shaped Oppo Dog Muzzle Quack, while brilliantly original in design, probably did not do much for the reputation of Japan’s pet industry overseas.

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I WRAP Heart: Plaza Ginza’s personalized photo portrait gift wrapping service

Written by: William on December 24, 2014 at 8:54 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Want to give a special something to that special someone? But it’s not just what you give. It’s how you give.

And in Japan, the wrapping and packaging of a gift item is traditionally viewed almost as important as the content of the gift itself.

And so we get great services like this I WRAP Heart, now available at Plaza Ginza until December 25th. It allows you to gift wrap an item with your own portrait. In other words, that box or otherwise dull package will be transformed with a picture of you on the wrapping paper.

i wrap heart plaza ginza gift wrapping photo service

i wrap heart plaza ginza gift wrapping photo service

i wrap heart plaza ginza gift wrapping photo service

i wrap heart plaza ginza gift wrapping photo service

You stand in front of the camera in the store and then the staff will snap a shot of you however you want to pose. This is then printed onto special wrapping paper, which is then used to wrap up your item.

i wrap heart plaza ginza gift wrapping photo service

i wrap heart plaza ginza gift wrapping photo service

i wrap heart plaza ginza gift wrapping photo service

i wrap heart plaza ginza gift wrapping photo service

i wrap heart plaza ginza gift wrapping photo service

There is a small charge for the service. Small or medium size costs ¥200, while large is ¥500. Still, not much for a fast and truly personalized wrapping service (and a neat way to encourage people to give gifts at Christmas, not a tradition in Japan).

Here’s a video of a preview event they did with 400 participants.

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KDDI au and Hakuhodo create Sync Dinner, a “virtual Christmas Eve restaurant experience” for couples separated by distance

Written by: William on December 23, 2014 at 9:08 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

In Japan, Christmas Eve is not a time for church — it’s a time for couples. Restaurants in cities are packed with pairs of diners enjoying expensive, luxury courses.

But not everyone has a special someone on this romantic day, while others are separated from their partner due to work or other commitments. Fortunately, au has stepped in with Hakuhodo to create a one-day-only restaurant for those couples who cannot meet face-to-face on December 24th.

Syn Dinner is a virtual way to connect “two distant hearts.”

sync dinner au kddi hakuhodo christmas eve restaurant tokyo osaka virtual experience restaurant meal couples

Two couples have been selected who live 400km apart.

The couples reside apart in Tokyo and Osaka, but thanks to au’s realtime screen displays set up in hotel rooms in the respective cities they will be able to enjoy a virtual Christmas Eve meal.

sync dinner au kddi hakuhodo christmas eve restaurant tokyo osaka virtual experience restaurant meal couples

While the technology still has limitations and there will certainly be no post-dinner “dessert” — surely part of the draw for many couples! — participants will at least be able to eat and talk as if they are in the same restaurant.

As au say, “for long-distance lovers, this interactive dinner enables ‘heart-to-heart connection’ by sharing the same time and space together”.

sync dinner au kddi hakuhodo christmas eve restaurant tokyo osaka virtual experience restaurant meal couples

sync dinner au kddi hakuhodo christmas eve restaurant tokyo osaka virtual experience restaurant meal couples

Motion sensors sync your toast. The same waiter will seem to be traveling the 400km to serve both parties the dinner (we suspect twins are employed). You can blow through the display to blow out the Christmas cake candles served during the meal, and also add digital “decoration” to your face or hands via the display. And finally you can even have a romantic photo taken of the two of you “together” at the restaurant.

Unfortunately, au is no longer taking applications. The two couples already chosen will be sitting down to their long-distance meal in two separate sessions from 5pm on December 24th. Still, it would be neat if this kind of system became a permanent feature of certain restaurants and hotels in the near future.

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Monster Face Pack series turns Hollywood horror ghouls into skin care tools

Written by: Japan Trends on December 18, 2014 at 8:01 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

You got the original Kabuki Face Pack. Then you got the Animal Face Pack, the Cats Face Pack, and the Fashion Face Pack. You probably also went and got the Hello Kitty Face Pack.

Well, now how about the Monster Face Pack?

Makers Isshin Do Honpo’s next remarkable skin care tool is a series of four face packs inspired by classic Hollywood horror ghouls. They not only make you look like something straight out of an old movie, they are appropriately made with rosemary, a plant that has traditionally been used in Europe to ward off evil spirits.

monster face pack vampire dracula

First up is the Vampire Face Pack.

The red and white colors are as vibrant as you’d expect from the creators of the Kabuki Face Pack. The details are great, from the bat wings around the eyes to the fangs and the drip of blood on the mouth. Isshin promises that wearing it won’t make you develop an appetite for other people’s blood!

wolfman face pack werewolf

Here’s the Wolfman Face Pack, which transforms you into a werewolf. Feel free to wear the face pack at full moons or any other time of the month for that matter. Don’t worry, it’s not hairy.

monster face pack skeleton beauty mask

The Skeleton Monster Face Pack is, of course, black and white. We love the teeth! Since the one thing skeletons are seriously lacking is skin, we do wonder about the irony of a face pack with this particular undead creature!

monster face pack frankenstein

Lastly, Frankenstein’s Monster Face Pack is inspired by the classic Boris Karloff look of the creature Baron Frankenstein makes, from the green skin to the “stitches”. You don’t have to do a silly walk while wearing the face pack but it might help!

While these are obviously novelty ideas which put the fun back into skin care, they are still nonetheless genuine beauty treatment tools that contain nutrients and ingredients designed to improve the quality and vigor of your face. Such face packs are popular in Japan with women as daily items worn before bed.

kabuki face mask kotobuki make-up theare

Isshin Do Honpo have also issued a new Kabuki Face Pack, the Kabuki Face Pack Kotobuki with two new colorful designs based on Kabuki make-up.

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