Japan’s first robot wedding: Maywa Denki’s Frois and Yuki Kashiwagi android Yukirin join together in holy matrimonyWritten by: William on May 4, 2015 at 11:03 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments
Get ready for what tech fans have been waiting their whole lives for: a robot wedding.
The mechanical bride and groom will be walking (or equivalent motion) down the aisle at Aoyama Cay on June 27th in central Tokyo.
Who are the happy couple?
The “groom” is Frois, a robot developed by Maywa Denki with a head inspired by a bath stool (we’re not kidding), while the “bride” is Yukirin, the android made in the likeness of AKB48 idol Yuki Kashiwagi.
For the occasion — and perhaps copyright reasons — Yukirin has been renamed Roborin by creator Takayuki Todo. Fear not, “she” still looks like Yuki Kashiwagi.
If you want to see Frois and Yukirin exchange their vows, tickets cost ¥10,000 (over $80) and are limited to the first 100 persons.
Shibuya ward recently gave tacit approval to same-sex marriage. Is human-robot marriage next on the agenda?
After all, there are no android receptionists in Japan’s department stores.
Appropriately enough, the MC for the wedding ceremony will be Pepper, the robot co-developed by Softbank and who is “manning” some branches of the mobile phone giant in Tokyo.
We’re looking forward to the way the ceremony will work. Will there be a kiss? And what will they be wearing?!
To launch a new lipstick Clinique Pop, New York-based cosmetics brand Clinique has created a digital campaign and pop-up store event at a Roppongi Hills cafe.
The #ootd_WITH CLINIQUE iPhone app allows you to regram (repost someone’s photos on Instagram) and save photos or videos from Instagram.
The Clinique Pop Happy Lounge event at Roppongi was held over two days on April 18-19th, offering visitors the chance to try Clinique Pop and then make videos and photos with Clinique Pop digital items at a special photo booth.
As we know, Japanese consumers love photo booths and these ladies certainly seemed to have a ball.
Clinique Pop comes in 15 vibrant colors and as such, Clinique has marketed the product in a fun, “happy” way.
While the #ootd_WITH app has been around for some time, it now features special downloadable content until May 17th, such as special digital stamps made by illustrator Shogo Sekine and Cookieboy in Clinique Pop colors. There are also downloadable wallpapers by Sekine in Clinique Pop themes.
The displays in the pop-up also had a nice spring vibe.
The new arrival in Tokyo will be surprised by the trains. We don’t mean how efficient the transport system or its modest fares. Nor that the trains run more or less always on time. Or even the notorious rush hour crush.
No, we mean the sleeping.
People seem to have an innate ability to doze off wherever they are: riding a train, on a park bench, at their desk… And if it’s the former, they also seem to have an inherent faculty that tells them to wake up in time for their stop.
This penchant for napping recently inspired a great marketing campaign for a real estate service, and also means you get lots of great “sleeping” products like these pillows.
Here are some great local examples.
The King Eye Mask is a very smart-looking face pillow that covers your eyes but also gives you support behind, so you don’t get a crick in your neck.
The Dictionary Desk Pillow, though, is more unusual. It is designed for use at a desk or table, and takes the classic over-worked student trope to the max: it’s a “book” that functions as a pillow. A clever way to fool your boss or teacher!
If books are not your thing, how about a woman’s lap? Yes, the Hizamakura Lap Pillow Mini Skirt is more risque and is clearly playing on certain male fantasies.
Stepping back within the boundaries of respectability now, the Igloo Dome Pillow is a mini “tent” that gives you privacy and silence for your nap. Although it requires more space than a wearable eye pillow or mask, it is surprisingly versatile.
The My Dome Pal Travel Sleeping Hood is halfway between the Igloo Dome and a more conventional sleeping mask. It looks rather refined and means you don’t have to worry about other passengers looking at you when you are dozing off on the plane or train.
Talking of wearable items, here are two more extreme examples.
The King Jim Wearable Futon Air Mat proved a big hit when it came out. Part emergency gear, part sleepover set for earnest employees, King Jim’s futon is snug and compact when not in use, and means you walk around with your sleeping bag “on”.
In a similar vein, the Doppelganger Outdoors Wearable Sleeping Bag is a coat-suit ideal for camping.
Finally, two more funny ones.
The Bibilab Twintails Pillow is perhaps the most unusual pillow design we’ve seen in a while, though it is incredibly practical since it can be twisted into all sorts of positions and two people can even use it at once.
Lastly, the Hi-Tech Snore Stopper Pillow is an oldie but a classic. The foam pillow is designed for maximum comfort but uses an audio sensor to detect snoring. It then responds with a light vibration that helps reduce snoring. And the external audio jack also allows you to record the offending snores and monitor the pillow’s effectiveness — or collect undeniable proof of the disruptive habit.
Of course, Japan’s fondness for sleeping doesn’t only inspire products. The service industry is also here to assist you get some shuteye. Take Qusca, a women-only sleeping cafe in Tokyo, or the more dubious Soine-ya, a place for snuggling up with cute girls.
One of the big social issues last year was the rising usage of semi-legal drugs (dappo), what the police call “dangerous drugs” (kikken duraggu). Due to legal loopholes users did not face arrest for taking these herbs, which are smoked to produce hallucinations, agitation, ecstasy and dulled senses, though there are other potential risks.
In the first nine months of 2014, 74 people died due to the use of such drugs and there were several traffic incidents involving people high on the herbs. 400,000 people are estimated to have used them.
The Pharmaceutical Affairs Law has now been revised to prohibit buying, possessing or using compounds on the list of “danger drugs”. The production, sale or import for medical purposes remains legal, though. In late summer and early autumn 2014, police raided dozens of head shops around the country, but many have continued operating.
The police are on a big drive to discourage people from using these stimulants. In July last year they announced a new name. Previously known as “law-evading” (dappo) drugs, the new label chosen from public submissions was “unsafe” or “danger” drugs.
And now the police have got some help from an unusual source. A paper company in Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture, has produced the “Say ‘No!’ to Danger Drugs” toilet paper. Costing ¥120 (around $1) per roll, the toilet paper tells you about the health risks through six sets of illustrated messages printed on the paper. It was designed in partnership with an anti-drug non-profit organisation.
The manufacturer behind the “Say ‘No!’ to Danger Drugs” toilet paper has previously developed other socially aware rolls, including unique toilet paper with messages about bank transfer fraud and drink driving.
It hopes to sell 100,000 rolls, in addition to being stocked in police or medical facility lavatories.
A horror story was also once printed on toilet paper and a place in Mie Prefecture even created its own “ninja toilet paper” to promote tourism. In the past we have seen tape measure toilet paper and a local Odawara toilet paper was even printed with messages to encourage people to vote.
When we think of Japanese food we think of sushi, noodles and miso soup. But actually there’s plenty of curry in the country’s diet too, especially so-called curry rice, which is basically white rice on a plate with some roux. It’s a staple of the businessman’s lunch.
And every staple gets reinvented after a while, so there are plenty of unusual curry rice dishes out there, from oyster to deer, apple and even fermented beans.
Local regions and tourist spots often create curries using famous produce from the area as a way of drumming up buzz. And curries can even be a form of tie-in merchandise for franchises.
Here are is a selection of some of the most unusual Japanese curries.
Curry of the Biohazard Resident Evil Zombie Roux
The Curry of the Biohazard Resident Evil Zombie Roux is a green herb curry officially endorsed by Capcom, who make the Biohazard/Resident Evil game series. “Have the Biohazard Green Herb Curry and survive,” says the box. It’s less chilling than it sounds. Apparently eating this curry will save you from the zombies, rather than turn you into one.
Tottori Yamanote Story Hana Kifujin Pink Curry
The Tottori Yamanote Story Hana Kifujin Pink Curry is a garish as it sounds and uses local Tottori Prefecture beetroot. The mock-European theme of Hana Kifujin comes from one of the tourist spots in Tottori, a 1907 French Renaissance-style manor called Jinpukaku. Not just a kitsch idea, the beetroot ingredients help fight anemia and constipation.
Regional Fruits Curries
This set of regional fruit curries includes four unique flavors made with produce from prefectures around the country: melon, Japanese cherry (sakuranbo), strawberry, and pear. The fruits come from local growers in Yamagata, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures.
Dragon Quest Slime Curry
The most visually striking of the curries on our short list, the Dragon Quest Slime Curry is a weird blue roux inspired by the popular video game series character. Add rice and pickles to create the Slime face effect.
Hello Kitty Mazekomi Curry Pilaf
No list is complete without at least one entry from Hello Kitty. The Hello Kitty Mazekomi Curry Pilaf is not a roux like the others but a bag of curry pilaf flavoring for adding Hello Kitty-tastic tastes to rice.
So, are you feeling hungry now?
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.
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.
There are six brews on tap: 496, Jazzberry, on the cloud, Copeland, Daydream, and Afterdark.
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 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.
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.
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.
Meet Aiko Chihira. She speaks Japanese and wears a kimono. She greets customers and conveys information.
But Aiko’s not Japanese. She’s not even human.
She’s an android made by Toshiba and now she works at Mitsukoshi, the high-end department store in Nihonbashi.
Unfortunately she can’t converse or respond to questions, unlike the more interactive Nao humanoid robot, currently serving Mitsubishi UFJ bank customers, or Pepper, the friendly droid greeting visitors to Softbank stores.
But she blinks, bows, moves her (sorry, its) mouth and lips. She is programmed with human-like facial expressions and can offer a looped vocal guidance to department store customers.
For example, if you want to hear about the layout or an event, this robot will tell you.
She can even communicate in sign language, so at least the uncanny valley is barrier free for the deaf.
Toshiba describes her as the “quiet type” who is “happy to help people”. Something tells us there might be some male fantasies at play here…
Find Aiko on the ground floor of Mitsukoshi. Sadly, she’s not a permanent addition. She will only be “working” at the store on April 20th and April 21st. She is a promotional feature as part of a longer Toshiba event at the seventh floor Hajimarino Cafe from April 22nd to May 5th.
Self-indulgent geekdom gone mad or an inventive play on an otaku motif?
A little while ago there was some buzz about a “flashing skirt” created by Kamakura-based Kayac Inc’s Kiyoyuki Amano.
The idea behind the Hikaru Skirt was to literally highlight the zettai ryouiki, the “absolute zone” — the area of flesh on a girl’s upper leg between her skirt and her socks. This is a common trope in otaku fantasies and Hikaru Skirt was playing on this by making a skirt that flashes in multicolor, drawing attention to the “zone” in a fun but hopefully not pervy way.
It actually looks much cooler than it sounds and the public response was good.
Or at least, good enough apparently for this one-off project to evolve into a crowdfunding campaign to commercialize the idea. The aim is to get it out as a product by October 2015.
Will they succeed?
Well, only 16 people have sponsored the campaign so far — 7% of the required ¥3.9 million. But there’s still 49 days to go, so let’s not write off Japan’s designer geeks quite yet.
Judging by the official website, the makers have hopes that the Hikaru Skirt could be a game-changer in music idol culture. The flashing lights change automatically according to music and can be adjusted by your smartphone. Just charge up the skirt by USB and then it can go for 3 hours, which is more than enough time for a leisurely walk around Akihabara or Harajuku.
Here is the group Moso Calibration demonstrating the Hikaru Skirt in action.
Be prepared to pay ¥16,000 (about $130) to claim one of the first skirts as your campaign perk. Presumably if it’s a hit, it will be available more widely in the future.
Much mocked it may be, the industry is never less than innovative and evolving.
The Iyashi Octopus Sucker Massager is another great example.
It offers “skin suction” treatment with special suckers, similar to the kind that octopi have on their eight legs. Okay, if that sounds gross, then perhaps this item is not for you!
How does it work? Place your hands or feet inside to get a mini shiatsu-style massage from the suckers, which will “stick” to you and pull on your skin (painlessly, of course).
Or you can inverse it so you can apply the same stimulating treatment to your skin elsewhere on your body, such as your neck, arms, legs — or even your face.
The suckers firmly but harmlessly “pull” on the skin, applying a massage that helps improve blood circulation and the flow of water in the layers of your skin.
The design is actually inspired by the tako-tsubo, a type of earthenware octopus pot fishing trap used in Japan since the Jomon Period. We love the tongue-in-cheek marketing images!