R/C Tractor Kumamon: Mascot farmer bear does wheelies

Written by: Japan Trends on November 26, 2014 at 8:26 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

If you like unusual RC toys and if you like yuru-kyaru (Japanese mascots), then these two things are about to come crashing together in amazing style with this R/C Tractor Kumamon from Tamiya.

rc tractor kumamon macot bear tamiya toy

The tractor sees arguably Japan’s most popular mascot, the bear from Kumamoto Prefecture, driving a tractor while he goes about farming his region’s favorite offerings — water melons and tomatoes.

rc tractor kumamon macot bear tamiya toy

Stickers of Kumamon’s fruit crops decorate the chassis. The tractor also has two sizes of wheels so with some skill you can make Kumamon do wheelies. That’s something you don’t see every day.

We’ve seen some novel Japanese RC toys over the years, from cockroaches to cleaning mops and more, but Kumamon on a large tractor is certainly a new advance for the medium.

rc tractor kumamon macot bear tamiya toy

The R/C Tractor Kumamon is available in the full assembled and painted version with the controller on pre-order from JapanTrendShop.

Our previous favorite Kumamon toy had been the Soccer Robot Kumamon.

kumamonsoccer robot player football rc toy mascot bear

As the name suggests, it is a mini robot that can play football using an infrared controller. The robot is surprisingly agile and can move in eight different way.

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Beauty meets cute with the Hello Kitty Narikiri Face Pack

Written by: Japan Trends on November 24, 2014 at 8:07 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

First we had the Kabuki Face Pack, a skincare tool based on genuine Kabuki make-up. This was a hit and was followed by the Animal Face Pack (a charity model based on a real tiger and panda in Ueno Zoo) and Cats Face Pack (based on characters from the musical Cats), and then the Fashion Face Pack (inspired by the fashion of by Kansai Yamamoto).

Now the inevitable has happened.

We have the Hello Kitty Narikiri Face Pack.

hello kitty narikiri face pack beauty mask

This is exactly what it sounds like — a face pack that looks like the Sanrio character. (It’s not made by the same people as the Kabuki, Animal, Cats or Fashion Face Pack, though.)

hello kitty narikiri face pack beauty mask

hello kitty narikiri face pack beauty mask

Japan’s most popular and enduring ambassador of cute is now helping you look better by transforming you (narikiri) into the famous cat. One pack features two face masks, each one a genuine face pack that can improve your skin quality. There are three versions with different ribbon colors (red, pink, purple). The colors also have varying scents: red is rose, pink is cherry blossom, and purple is lavender.

hello kitty narikiri face pack beauty mask

Currently the Hello Kitty Narikiri Face Pack has limited availability at certain stores like the Sanrio souvenir shop at Tokyo Tower. Also look out for them on pre-order from Japan Trend Shop. A second set of Hello Kitty Face Packs is planned for early next year, though, which should have a wider release if these first ones are a hit.

hello kitty narikiri face pack beauty mask

Of course, there is already a host of other Hello Kitty merchandise out there, from vacuum cleaners to toasters, clothes, memory cards, cameras, and more.

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Nanoblock transforms into customizable mini Shinkansen electric train model set

Written by: Japan Trends on November 20, 2014 at 8:46 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Nanoblock, Japan’s homegrown answer to Lego, never stops evolving.

Just when you thought the micro building blocks had been used to transform every famous monument or building around the world, along comes a completely new direction for the Kawada series to explore.

Electric trains!

Nanoblock has now started making railway sets and of course, you can customize the railways and scenery around the tracks with other Nanoblocks.

nanoblock model train bullet shinkansen electric toy railway set hayabusa nanogauge

The Nanoblock nanoGauge Shinkansen Series E5 Hayabusa Electric Train is the first in this new nanoGauge series for Kawada and we shouldn’t be surprised that the makers opted for Japan’s most famous train to start things off.

nanoblock model train bullet shinkansen electric toy railway set hayabusa nanogauge

nanoblock model train bullet shinkansen electric toy railway set hayabusa nanogauge

Now you can build your own bullet train and tracks with the set, and then watch it zip around the loop.

It goes without saying that the best thing here is how you can also build up a Nanoblock city around the tracks. After all, landscaping is so important when it comes to railway modeling cultre. You could add all kinds of incongruous fantasy elements — like Tokyo Tower, Himeji Castle, a WW2 battleship, or something completely original.

nanoblock model train bullet shinkansen electric toy railway set hayabusa nanogauge

Here is a video of someone making the Nanoblock bullet train model set.

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Trend no more? Pioneering Harajuku tattoo tights store Avantgarde closes, street fashion moves on

Written by: William on November 18, 2014 at 7:38 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

It has been one of the biggest trends of recent years and then just like that, it has faded away.

So-called “tattoo tights” exploded into the popular and digital consciousness in 2011, even garnering overseas attention. The streets of areas like Harajuku and Shibuya were filled with the pins of young girls wearing fake body art-style leggings. The sheer variety of the “tattoo” designs was impressive: from Hello Kitty aplenty to cats, rabbits, onions, and more.

avantgarde-tattoo tights street fashion japan harajuku leggings

Avantgarde is the main brand behind the street fashion trend and as such opened a tattoo tights store in Harajuku in October 2011. It seems the legs of the fashionista have moved on, since Avantgarde will be closing the brand’s basement-level boutique on November 24th in the face of declining demand for their stockings.

Tattoo tights were a victim of their own success, with numerous replica and cheap imitations flooding the market. Yes, fake-fake tattoo tights!

avantgarde-tattoo tights street fashion japan harajuku leggings
[Image source]

Launched in 2009 by Kazuhiro Watanabe, MAM Avantgarde was constantly thinking up new bold designs as well as wide-ranging collaborations, including Hello Kitty and Disney. In 2012 Tokyo Fashion.com called Avantgarde Harajuku “the most influential legwear boutique in the Tokyo street fashion scene today”. Sadly, it was not enough to ride the notoriously capricious waves of street fashion for long.

Avantgarde has not announced any new plans for other stores but will continue to sell online. There are still lots of tattoo tights around so perhaps we shouldn’t write off the trend quite yet.

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NEC GAZIRU-F image recognition tech integrates fashion magazine mobile shopping for smartphone, tablet cameras

Written by: William on November 13, 2014 at 9:09 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

NEC has got together with Fashion TV to offer a smartphone and tablet service for mobile eCommerce for apparel items you see in a magazine. If you see an item in a magazine you like, you can use GAZIRU-F to snap a shot of it and be connected to a shopping portal to purchase the product.

The service will be available through an app for the fashion magazine persona from spring 2015. GAZIRU-F will be expanded to 20 further companies by 2016 if it proves successful.

nec fashion tv gaziru-f mobile ecommerce image recognition shopping tech photograph smartphone tablet

NEC has been developing the cloud-based Gaziru technology for a while. Dig Info did a report on it back in 2012.

The name is coined from combining two Japanese words: gazo (image) and shiru (know, recognize).

Similar to Google Goggles or Bing Vision, you can just take a snap of something and get a readout of the information it can draw from a database. No text input is required.

GAZIRU is not restricted to images of 2D objects. Further uses for GAZIRU tech may include helping people operate equipment — take a photograph of something and get an operation manual on your screen in seconds. Likewise there are benefits for health, such as being able to provide nutritional data for certain foods. The educational implications are immense; a museum or exhibition can become interact with further information for visitors who want to know more about a certain item on display.

The days of the humble barcode or QR code are surely limited.

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Create your own latte art coffee foam sculptures with the 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino by Takara Tomy

Written by: Japan Trends on November 10, 2014 at 10:46 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

Japan has gone a bit coffee-crazy in recent times. We have seen lots of rather tony cafes and espresso bars opening up around Tokyo for hipsters to sip on froth. Starbucks is the second largest chain of coffee shops. Even convenience stores have also started offering real coffee drinks.

And certain baristas have created a social media storm in a coffee cup. Yes, it’s the latte art trend.

This essentially involves turning the foam of a cafe latte or cappuccino into a temporary sculpture floating on the top of the drink.

japan latte art coffee sculpture foam 3d maker awa taccino takara tomy toy

While some have bordered on the truly over-the-top, Kazuki Yamamoto in particular has impressed customers with his artistic skills creating animal figures and sculptures so cute you don’t want to start drinking.

If you don’t have the budget to go to these plush cafes around Tokyo, Takara Tomy has come up with a neat cooking toy so you can make your own latte art at home.

japan latte art coffee sculpture foam 3d maker awa taccino takara tomy toy

The 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino is the latest in Takara Tomy’s growing line of kitchen toys.

It is a special blender gadget that can dispense the milk foam onto the top of your coffee without you having to take a lengthy apprenticeship under Monsieur Yamamoto et al. Instead, just a minute or so to blend, and then control the foam as it comes out of Awa Taccino.

japan latte art coffee sculpture foam 3d maker awa taccino takara tomy toy

All you need is some milk and then the Awa Taccino will blend and dispense the milky foam in a way that’s easy to control and “sculpt” into your choice of latte art.

For the final touches, use syrup or chocolate to add extra features like a mouth, eyes, ears and so on.

Here are some ideas to give you inspiration.

japan latte art coffee sculpture foam 3d maker awa taccino takara tomy toy

The 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino is now on pre-order and will be available in early December.

*Update*

The 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino has got picked up by some major overseas blogs like Wired and Engadget, who seem to love how it resembles a “foam gun”.

Oh, and Takara Tomy made this funny commercial.

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Premium Cocorobo Imouto Version: Sharp’s moe “little sister” character robotic vacuum cleaner goes on sale

Written by: Japan Trends on November 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

After teasing us with the prototype back in the spring, Sharp has now made its moe version of the Cocorobo vacuum cleaner an actual product.

The Premium Cocorobo Imouto Version will only be available for online orders in November and December, with orders set to be delivered in mid-January. However, if it proves popular, we expect at the least the electronic stores in Akihabara will be carrying this “little sister” model of the cleaner.

Sharp’s Cocorobo is a successful robotic vacuum cleaner series that can talk to you. Add a cute female anime character (“Cocorobo-chan”) and a suitably moe “sister” voice and you have the concept for this Akiba-flavored version.

sharp cocorobo imouto premium vacuum cleaner robot anime moe character otaku talking akihabara

The Premium Cocorobo Imouto Version is voiced by the 16-year-old actress Ibuki Kido and with illustrations and character design by mangaka Kinusa Shimotsuki. It (she?) can tell you the weather and also greets you with a “Good morning, darling”, and even talks to you about famous regional spots around Japan. Since the voice actress hails from Aomori, Cocorobo-chan even switches into local dialect sometimes.

Sharp debuted the female robot in March and wanted 11 people to test it at home. They got over 1,200 applicants for the trial in just a week, so we can assume they are confident that mass production is going to be worthwhile for their coffers.

sharp cocorobo imouto premium vacuum cleaner robot anime moe character otaku talking akihabara

It draws on a cloud for the data to create the “conversations”, meaning it can respond to the season and weather for that day.

Such cuteness comes at a price. It costs a whopping ¥148,000 ($1,200).

If your budget doesn’t stretch that far or your tastes are rather different, we recommend you try out the regular Sharp Cocorobo vacuum cleaners instead.

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Tokyo Designers Week 2014 Photo Report

Written by: Japan Trends on November 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Japan’s biggest design showcase Tokyo Designers Week (TDW) landed again for the year in the Gaienmae Aoyama area.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos

We went along to check out the exhibits. Here are our highlights.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos

tokyo designers week 2014 photos chintai asami kiyokawa

Real estate company Chintai are a regular face at TDW. Here they created a “Tokyo Merry-Go-Round” with artist Asami Kiyokawa.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos clappy pachi pachi

At the Robot Exhibition we liked this “clapping robot”, a kind of large version of the Pachi Pachi Clappy. Maywa Denki also participated in this part of TDW, showing off their latest instrument toy, Mr Knocky.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos noriko yamaguchi keitai girl suit

This was more mysterious. Artist and digital sculptor Noriko Yamaguchi created the “Keitai Girl Suit Chi”, whose entire body is covered in cellphone (keitai) keypads. It was a contemplation on how touch is still important to communication.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos asuna android a-lab uncanny valley receptionist

Here we entered the Uncanny Valley. The android Asuna was a “receptionist” created by A-Lab.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos toyo ink co shintaro kago manga stickers

tokyo designers week 2014 photos shintaro kago manga stickers

This booth was very popular, a manga sticker world presented by Toyo Ink and manga-ka Shintaro Kago.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos kengo kuma dnp tree metal

DNP and Kengo Kuma teamed up with technology that allows you to print directly onto a tree, fusing the texture of metal with wood and promising a “new materiality”.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos tanjo no katachi nihon university

The outdoor schools section featured this “Tanjo no Katachi” by Nihon University, a primitive representation of form itself.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos sebastian masuda container

Staying outside, these kids seemed to love this container installation designed by Sebastian Masuda (an art director for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu).

tokyo designers week 2014 photos hokusai exhibition

It wasn’t all “new” stuff, though. A special pavilion was devoted to the work of Edo-era ukiyoe print artist Hokusai.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos hokusai digital interaction

Here the Hokusai prints came into digital life. Using a special interactive app, holding up your phone brought the flat images into colorful life on your mobile screen.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos shiori yano mothers mountain

Shiori Yano’s “MOTHERS MOUNTAIN” bottled up motifs of street culture.

tokyo designers week 2014 photos sato sugamoto fashion non-verbal communication

Finally, Sato Sugamoto’s “Non-Verbal Communication” shows two “hats of thought” of two people meeting and trying to communicate.

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Neo-Kotatsu: Kotatsu Parka shows the (wearable) evolution of the Japanese heated table

Written by: William on November 5, 2014 at 1:21 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Winter is coming and it’s time to get cosy inside the kotatsu, the traditional Japanese low table with a large blanket and heater underneath. The kotatsu can be a homemade contraption with a regular table, futon and space heater — or they might be purpose-built models with the heater integrated into the table and radiating very snuggly through the futon.

But how about the kotatsu as a fashion item?

Hatra has created a “kotatsu parka”. The new product went on display recently as an example of a wearable “neo-kotatsu” from Kori-Show, by Itochu Fashion Systems.

hatra neo kotatsu parka japan furniture winter wearable itochu fashion

It uses four parkas integrated with “kuronos knit” water-repellant materials and connected by zips so you can climb in and out easily. You can attach it to a low household table, either round or rectangular.

While kind of like a heated version of King Jim’s visionary Wearable Futon Air Mat, it means several people can huddle in and keep warm in the winter but also retain your personal space.

hatra neo kotatsu parka japan furniture winter wearable itochu fashion

The designer from hatra said he was inspired by train seats and also wants to make a similar massage chair in the future. He has been developing the wearable kotatsu idea for a while, since Spoon & Tamago also reported on a prototype version in spring last year.

hatra neo kotatsu parka japan furniture winter wearable itochu fashion

For some reason Itochu Fashion System thought the best way to advertise a Japanese item of furniture was to get foreigners to try it out and pose for publicity photos, but even so we like the look of the “wearable kotatsu“.

hatra neo kotatsu parka japan furniture winter wearable itochu fashion

Orders are being taken for the neo-kotatsu, though it will set you back at least ¥255,000 ($2,500).

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