J-Pop diva Namie Amuro becomes Koppu no Fuchiko capsule toy who sits on your cup

Written by: William on July 25, 2014 at 9:33 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Fancy having Namie Amuro on your cup?

If you recall, Koppu no Fuchiko (literally “Fuchiko on the edge of the cup”) was originally a Gachapon capsule toy created by Kitan Club. The mini mini Office Lady figure perches or hangs from your cup. A simple but cute idea — and it took off. There have been several series, a pop-up cafe in Harajuku, and the capsule toy has even now become a piece of merchandising for Japan’s biggest pop diva, Namie Amuro.

koppu no fuchiko namie amuro j-pop singer capsule toy

This isn’t as random as it sounds, since Amuro is a famous example of hattoushin bijin, a beautiful girl with her head one-eighth the size of her body. In other words, she kind of looks like a doll!

koppu no fuchiko namie amuro j-pop singer capsule toy

To coincide with Amuro’s latest arena tour, there is going to be a new Fuchiko model called “Diva who came down to earth to sit on your cup” — or just “Koppu no Fuchi no Amuro” for short. Look out for it around Japan from August 22nd, when her tour kicks off in Shizuoka. It will be sold through Namie Amuro’s website, Tower Records online store, and at Amuro’s concerts as part of a ¥3,000 ($30) concert pack.

koppu no fuchiko namie amuro j-pop singer capsule toy

As miniature J-Pop divas go, this is quite well done. Amuro’s trademark knee-high boots and hairstyle have been faithfully replicated on this mini toy, which measures a very petite 50mm. But does she sing?

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Tamagotchi 4U: Bandai’s latest Tamagotchi digital pet with interactive NFC tech

Written by: Japan Trends on July 24, 2014 at 10:04 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Bandai’s Tamagotchi is one of those series that just continues to survive — and not only survive, but keep on innovating and coming up with new tricks.

Tamagotchi probably needs no introduction to any reader of a blog called “Japan Trends”. The digital pet was a phenomenon in the 1990′s, its egg shape as funky as its concept, and as addictive as pressing the three buttons. It first hit stores in late 1996 and has since sold over 78 million units.

Needless to say, the world of toys is a fickle one and subsequent Tamagotchi have been no match for the sales of the original, which was a global smash. The sea change led to maker Bandai over-stretching itself and posting large losses for 1998.

tamagotchi 4u nfc bandai digital pet near field communication

Bandai then went back to the drawing board and came up with enhanced Tamagotchi with more sophisticated functionality: new models to meet the changing times. Tamagotchi Plus had infrared communication functions (infrared was once a standard in many Japanese flip phones) and then Tamagotchi iD could interact with cellphones. The series underwent a further revival in 2011 with the release of a 15th anniversary model of the Tamagotchi iD L and this went on to shift around 500,000 units in 2011.

So, not quite the sensation it once was but still going strong. Not bad for a nation with a declining birthrate, and so less and less young consumers every year.

The latest Tamagotchi is the Tamagotchi 4U, which ups the tech by adding NFC but still looks as cute as ever. This allows the handheld pet to interact with “Touch Spots” that are located around Japan, plus with other Tamagotchis and devices. You can download new characters, clothes, items, and “collaborate” digitally.

tamagotchi 4u nfc bandai digital pet near field communication

For example, go past a vending machine and pick up a “drink” for your Tamagotchi, or a “dress” at a clothes store.

The city is now your Tamagotchi playground! There are also various covers and straps to accessorize and coordinate the style of your Tamagotchi device.

Get your hands on the Tamagotchi 4U in September.

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Green House Beach Ball Inflatable Waterproof LED Solar Lantern floats, lights up, collapses flat as a pancake!

Written by: Japan Trends on July 18, 2014 at 9:13 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Heading to the beach this summer? Of course, you’ll need a beach ball.

But does your beach ball light up?

No. This one does, though. The Green House Beach Ball Inflatable Waterproof LED Solar Lantern is just as awesome as it sounds.

Green House Beach Ball Inflatable Waterproof LED Solar Lantern lamp light

It floats. It lights up. It charges itself by sunlight. It collapses flat!

Just blow it up and then turn it on. You can hang it up, leave it on the ground, let it float in the bath or in a pool… Just as long as you don’t fully submerge it, you shouldn’t have to worry about leakage or damage, so it’s great for having in the garden during night parties (on the grass, by the pond) since the odd splash from a drink will be fine and even morning dew on the lawn won’t affect it.

Green House Beach Ball Inflatable Waterproof LED Solar Lantern lamp light

Gizmodo featured the Luci Hands On last year, a cheap inflatable LED lantern, but we prefer the design on this Green House one. It’s a beach ball!

Green House Beach Ball Inflatable Waterproof LED Solar Lantern lamp light

A full hour of sunny weather gives the Beach Ball Solar Lantern enough juice to go for 5.5 hours (on low setting), and on a full charge (around 20 hours) it can stay bright for up to 17 hours.

While not quite as cool as the Balloon Lamp, we reckon this will be much appreciated by folk with big gardens or people who like to go camping. There are two slightly different color versions (clear or white).

Green House Beach Ball Inflatable Waterproof LED Solar Lantern lamp light

Get the Green House Beach Ball Inflatable Waterproof LED Solar Lantern on JapanTrendShop.

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Transformers, Anime in Disguise: Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot is an amazing six anime character combo!

Written by: Japan Trends on July 15, 2014 at 10:14 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

While the latest Michael Bay Transformers movie is shooting up the box office around the world (though not yet in Japan), it’s worth taking a look at a pretty spectacular local Japanese version. A veritable manga character Transformer!

Celebrating 80 years since the birth of Hiroshi Fujimoto, one of the manga-writing duo Fujiko Fujio, here is Bandai Tamashii’s Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot! We don’t know how to begin describing this. It is made up of SIX Fujiko F Fujio (Hiroshi Fujimoto) characters that combine into one model. The “SF” in the name stands for both “sci-fi” and “sukoshi fushigi” (a bit mysterious), while “Chogattai” is a play on the name of the series (Chogokin) and means “super combo”.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

How’s your anime and manga character knowledge? How many of the “parts” can you name?

Okay, here’s a spoiler: The cast is made up Doraemon, Dorami (Doraemon’s sister), Perman, Korosuke (from Kiteretsu Daihyakka), Chinpui, and Gonsuke (from 21emon).

If you wondering what that big thing the Chogattai is carrying, it’s artist Fujimoto’s iconic red beret hat and pen. Another accessory included is the popular time machine from the Doraemon series.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

This rather strange but also rather awesome model/toy will get a release in late November.

Chogokin (literally “super alloy”) is a series of die-cast metal toys and models that first appeared in the late 1970′s. It’s pretty geekily Japanese — after all, who names a series after a fake material?! It is undergoing something of a revival at the moment. It’s the 40th anniversary of the model series owned by parent company Bandai, who now release the series through its Tamashii arm.

In recent years Chogokin has only been known for superior scale models of bullet trains, GX-64 Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and other modes of transport. However, of late we have seen an incredible Chogokin Hello Kitty there are more original releases to come, it seems. Look out for a Chogokin model based on the iconic Tower of the Sun by Taro Okamoto!

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You-Bumi Waterproof Book Cover Bath Bag: A book jacket for analog types who like reading in the bath!

Written by: Japan Trends on July 9, 2014 at 8:55 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Japanese are obsessed with bathing. From hot springs (onsen) to public baths (sento), and even home foot baths for feet saunas, the Japanese take the water, temperature, location and duration of a bath very seriously. They will make special trips to a place just to visit a certain bath.

But sometimes this isn’t practical. It’s hard to read in the bath, as we know, and it’s also getting more dangerous for the wallet as we change the way we read. Dropping a magazine or paperback in the tub is one thing; letting slip your tablet or smartphone is quite another. Luckily there are some waterproof covers and bags to help you stay safe from butterfingers while browsing on your device.

you-bumi reading book cover case jacket bath bag

But what about books? Yes, Japan once had the reputation for being the world’s leading producer of hi-tech, a status it has ceded recently to Korea (i.e., Samsung) and America (i.e., Apple). But this nifty product reminds that people are still innovating — just not in the way you may initially assume. After all, why always move forwards when there is space sideways?

Some people are still very analog (hey, we’re not all digital immigrants, after all) and like to read using good ol’ fashioned paper pages. If you also like to take long baths, you arrive back to that well-known conundrum of how to avoid getting your book wet and wrinkling the pages. Well, the You-Bumi Waterproof Book Cover Bath Bag has you covered, or, to be precise, it has your book covered.

you-bumi reading book cover case jacket bath bag

Available now from the JapanTrendShop, this unusual device is a special inflatable bag for holding your book in the bath. It can hold a variety of book sizes and comes with carefully designed finger slots so you can grasp your favorite tome more easily and — here’s the rub — TURN the pages without getting any page-blotting water involved.

It comes in a pale blue color (obviously transparent) and while you shouldn’t fully submerge the You-Bumi (the name means “bath literature”, by the way) when you’ve got a book inside, it should mean you never had to worry about getting a damp book again.

Created by Jerry Cole Design (despite the name, they are Japanese), Gizmodo makes a nice comparison to the water wings that kids wear when learning to swim and calls it an inflatable, waterproof life jacket for books that means you can even read in the rain.

you-bumi reading book cover case jacket bath bag

You can order the You-Bumi Waterproof Book Cover Bath Bag from JapanTrendShop.

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Wearable Clothing by Urban Research virtual dressing room vendor lets you try on clothing digitally, purchase online

Written by: William on July 7, 2014 at 9:29 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Wearable Clothing by Urban Research is a virtual dressing room interactive digital unit was recently installed for a trial run in Ikebukuro Parco department. The fashion brand Urban Research created the unit which can be set up anywhere there’s electricity and wifi, and enough space. Like the many next-generation smart touchscreen vendors now commonly found in central Tokyo train stations, it uses a camera to scan the user’s body and in this case lets you browser Urban Research products, “try” them on, and connect to the label’s e-commerce platform so you can purchase them online.

The first test unit was available as a pop-up for use by shoppers (in English, Chines or Japanese) in Ikebukuro from June 17th to 30th. Look out for similar machines in train stations, departments stores and airport terminals; Urban Research plans to install six virtual fitting room vendors in 2014 and to have around 100 units in operation by 2020, including overseas. The brand already has a showroom in Taipei and wants to push the new virtual dressing room to Asian markets in the future, since it is much cheaper than opening up actual branches in new regions. Its online retail arm also currently occupies roughly a 20% share of its sales and it is aggressively expanding on this.

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

This kind of tryvertising technology has been developing in Japan for several years now. Past successes include Shiseido’s “digital cosmetic mirror”. Japan also has a well-established tradition of “unmanned shops”, from its thousands of varied vending machines to roadside vegetable stalls.

The Wearable Clothing system uses Kinect, a 60-inch LCD display, and an iPad. Kinect is increasingly the software of choice for these augmented reality virtual fitting units; a similar one for Topshop also utilized back in 2011. Urban Research spent a year working on the project with a web development company, spent some ¥20 million ($200,000) to create two initial vendors.

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

It responds to the user’s movements in real time as you try on your selected item (3D “real-time fitting”, as the makers term it) and even promises to give you a virtual experience of the texture of the clothing materials (so-called “cloth simulation”). As the Time Out blogger put it, “way more satisfying than fiddling with zips and buttons and bad lighting in a real dressing room.” If what you browse or try on takes your fancy, you can then add it to your basket and use the QR code it prints to access the brand’s online store and complete your purchase of the item.

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

Urban Research is boasting that this is the first example in the apparel industry of a single unit offering a virtual fitting and retail service all in one, as well as coordination with users’ social media.

The Wearable Clothing virtual fitting room is planned to appear next at Tokyo Skytree’s Solamachi mall this August.

The question, though, is whether in Japan, a culture with a very strong customer service ethos, could these types of virtual vendors truly take off and replace staffed stores completely?

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

[Image sources: here and here]

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Scotch Kousaku by Sumitomo 3M: Kids make paper clothes online, design by their voices and shouting

Written by: William on July 4, 2014 at 3:25 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Sumitomo 3M has created a special website for creating fashion items online, controlled by the volume of your voice. The “Scotch Summer Holidays Family Kousaku Paper Fashion Kids” (or just Scotch Kousaku — “Scotch handicrafts”) allows users to design their own clothing using the internal mic in their computer and voice recognition. By printing the design out, budding fashionistas can then assemble the pieces together using scissors or paper cutters.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

Scotch Kousaku is live now and is available until August 31st, making it a cool activity for parents to give kids to do at home while they are off school.

The Scotch brand has been doing these kinds of online campaigns locally for kids and parents every summer since 2012 and 2014′s one is built around the idea of turning children into young designers.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

The site is only in Japanese but is fairly easy to navigate. 3M provides you with ten wallpaper designs — a few basic clothes (t-shirts, dresses etc) and accessories (bags, hats) that are plain to get you started. You then supply the colors and patterns by selecting certain options — and shouting! The colors then respond to the volume and tone of your voice. For example, the more noise you make the more various multicolored leaves, splashes, circles and other patterns will appear.

Since kids are well-known for being loud, this is the perfect way to vent their vocal and creative skills.

Here is one we tried making… All right, we’re not natural fashion designers! Clearly we aren’t loud enough.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

Here are some examples that 3M have put on the website to give you inspiration. They are downloadable as PDFs.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

The clothes come in three sizes: Small (100-110cm), medium (110-120cm) and large (120-130cm).

Sumitomo 3M likes to do these kinds of campaigns to liven up the potentially mundane world of adhesive tape and Post-its. A few years ago they even had a very funky pop-up store in Omotesando that was more like an arts and crafts outlet than a shop to buy stationery.

There are no details available at present but the Scotch Kousaku website also promises a bricks-and-mortar store from late August where kids can try their hand at designing clothes.

For really releasing the need to shout, though, we recommend the Shouting Vase!

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Zoo Jeans see lions, tigers and bears “design” denim clothes for zoo charity fashion brand

Written by: William on July 3, 2014 at 12:04 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

We’ve already seen the Animal Face Pack, which took animals from Tokyo’s famous Ueno Zoo and turned them into beauty tools.

Now how about taking this fashion idea even further?

Zoo Jeans is a range of clothing designed by tigers and other animals. Huh? Yes, we’re not lying.

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

Zoo Jeans, the maker say, are “the only jeans on earth designed by dangerous animals”.

The denim materials have been wrapped around tires and rubber balls and then given to the animals to play with. They “roar, gnaw and claw at their toys,” as the organizers say! The materials are carefully reclaimed from the creatures and, complete with claw and bite marks, are made into the final jeans by a small factory in Okayama.

There are three models, each with the scratches and bites of their respective “designers”: lions, Ussuri brown bears and Bengal tigers.

Here’s a kind of making-of gallery…

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

You can then wear jeans that make you look like you have survived a battle with nature’s most fearsome beasts… and lived to tell the tale.

An initiative by the zoo’s volunteer suppporters’ club, all the clothes will be displayed at Kamine Zoo in Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture, from July 6th to July 21st.

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

The tiger and lion jeans will be available for one week only on Yahoo! Auction, starting on July 7th. Profits from the sales will be donated to the WWF and Kamine Zoo.

Here’s a video showing how they did it.

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No need to knead! Philips Noodle Maker pumps out ramen, udon, soba or spaghetti in minutes

Written by: Japan Trends on June 30, 2014 at 9:00 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 2 Comments

Dutch electronics maker have stolen the limelight from local manufacturers with this new must-have home item, the Philips Noodle Maker. The automatic raw noodle maker can churn out ramen, soba, udon and spaghetti noodles in minutes!

philips noodle maker ramen soba udon spaghetti pasta machine raw automatic

How does it work? Well, it’s super simple, as the best home appliances always are. You just put in your choice of ingredients (flour, of course, and water and egg, though you could also add other things to give your noodles some color) and then press the start button. According to Philips, you can make 500g (17.6 oz) of pasta/noodles in 15 minutes.

There are four different caps that will shape the mix into the raw noodles shape you want (ramen, udon, soba or spaghetti). These can then be stored neatly in the drawer at the bottom.

philips noodle maker ramen soba udon spaghetti pasta machine raw automatic

Much better than dry noodles and no kneading needed!

philips noodle maker ramen soba udon spaghetti pasta machine raw automatic

The Japanese go mad over these handy home cooking appliances. Much like the excitement over the Gopan machine that could bake bread out of rice a few years ago, now everyone seems to be talking about this noodle maker.

Currently only available in Japan and some limited Asian markets like Hong Kong and Taiwan, JapanTrendShop is now offering it for global deliveries.

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