Shibuya Beer: a grapefruit, maca craft brew for Tokyo’s most colorful district

Written by: William on March 30, 2015 at 10:17 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Get ready for Shibuya Beer.

We already have Tokyo Black, made by the same people as Yona Yona, as well as Tokyo Ale.

So why not a craft beer for one of Tokyo’s most vibrant neighborhoods?

shibuya beer craft brew udagawa cafe grapefruit maca superfood peru tokyo

Shibuya Beer will go on release on “Shibuya Day” on April 28th. It will be served at Udagawa Cafe and six other restaurants in the Shibuya area.

This being a Shibuya-themed drink, the ingredients are understandably colorful. It features grapefruit and also Peruvian “superfood” maca, which is apparently a world first. The 5%-proof beer comes in 330ml bottles.

No surprise here that the drink is made by the always inventive Sankt Gallen, who recently gave us a cherry blossom-tasting brew.

Actually, scratch that: this is a bit of a surprise, since Sankt Gallen is not Shibuya-based. It’s located out in Kanagawa Prefecture! (But hey, Yo-Ho Brewing make “Tokyo Black” but they are based in Karuizawa, Nagano.)

shibuya beer craft brew udagawa cafe grapefruit maca superfood peru tokyo

Sankt Gallen’s frequently sweeter beers are popular with ladies. Part of the growing craft beer trend in Japan, which has manifest itself in an explosion of snazzy bars around Tokyo and beyond (including the much-publicized arrival of BrewDog), as well as lots of beer events and publications, has been the marketing of craft beer as an ideal drink for dates.

In the same way that Japan’s main beer makers have tried to experiment with “cool” beers and other special drinks and bars to appeal to a young demographic in the face of reduced sales, the craft beer brewers and bars have discovered that their offerings have a lot more versatility. They can use all kinds of interesting flavorings to make summer-themed and girl-friendlier brews, plus, being a little pricy anyway, they can also splash out in serving nice cuisine. The result is that craft beer bars in Tokyo are massive date night locations, and we don’t just mean for foreigners to take their latest squeeze. You can always find plenty of younger Japanese couples there too, looking forward to enjoying some nice food and unusual beers.

There is even a magazine for girls and craft beer.

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Long Piropiro Lung Exercise Tool: A party horn beauty gadget for blowing yourself to good health

Written by: Japan Trends on March 27, 2015 at 2:47 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 4 Comments

We think this might be one of the most original and ingenious beauty tools we’ve seen yet.

And that’s saying a lot.

Japan is a nation that has produced a serious wealth of beauty items, from hi-tech examples like the Panasonic skin care moisturizing steamer masks to the frankly wacky face gadgets like the Face Slimmer Exercise Mouthpiece, plus incredibly innovative face packs.

To be fair, it’s the anti-aging beauty tools that look the most outlandish, though that doesn’t mean they aren’t effective.

long piropiro lung exercise tool gadget japanese party horn blow

The best thing about the Long Piropiro Lung Exercise Tool, though, is how simple it is.

All you do is blow.

This exercises your chest and helps increase lung capacity over time. Your physique will be gradually strengthened just by blowing on the tool ten times a day.

long piropiro lung exercise tool gadget japanese party horn blow

It stretches up to 1 meter so it’s actually hard work to blow it fully out ten times in a row. Markings along the party horn-like tube show you how far you’ve achieved. But don’t bring it to kids’ parties, though, since it doesn’t make any fun noises.

The name comes from the alternative name in Japanese for a party blower or party horn. Strictly speaking they are called a fukimodoshi but kids also call them piropiro.

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Build and customize your own Japanese banjo with the Self-Assembly Shamisen

Written by: Japan Trends on March 26, 2015 at 9:03 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Self-Assembly Shamisen is, as the name suggests, a shamisen instrument that you can build yourself — and customize!

The shamisen is surely the most famous Japanese traditional instrument. You can see it at Kabuki performances, as well as other traditional events. Geisha play them and they are also part of Okinawan culture as the sanshin banjo.

However, they are expensive. Insanely expensive. Not only are they made solely by specialist artisans, the materials (snake leather?!) and twice-annual repairs all preclude any but those with the deepest pockets.

diy self assembly shamisen kit build customize own

Itouhei have noticed this and come up with this solution.

The Self-Assembly Shamisen is a genuine shamisen but is designed for the player to build themselves. Certain materials and elements of the design have been adjusted to bring down the overall cost, though these choices have the benefit of also increasing durability and reducing the need for regular repairs to the instrument.

Best of all, perhaps, is how this is a shamisen that you can customize with your own paints and patterns.

Here are some snazzy examples.

diy self assembly shamisen kit build customize own

Self-assembly toys and kits are very popular in Japan, as proved by the enduring success of the Otona no Kagaku (Science for Grown-Ups) series by Gakken. Entries in the series include a handmade home planetarium, mini electric guitar, and even theremin.

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Nail Puri: Customizable nail art sticker printer Purikura booth by Sega

Written by: William on March 24, 2015 at 9:59 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

Nail art is big in Japan.

So is Purikura, the “print club” photo booths where you can take inventive shots with your friends.

Combine the two and you should have a recipe for success. At least, that’s what Sega (who originally developed Purikura) is hoping with the Nail Puri (Nail Sticker Print), opening in Ikebukuro March 27th-29th.

sega nail art puri purikura sticker printer customize ikebukuro booth

Girls (or guys) can go to the booth to customize their nail design from over 1,500 designs. As far as we can tell, there is no charge or fee to try the prototype machine.

There’s even a free smartphone app so you can customize your choice of design using your own patterns, photos and text. Then you take the final data to the nail art printer and get your nails “printed” the way you want them.

sega nail art puri purikura sticker printer customize ikebukuro booth

sega nail art puri purikura sticker printer customize ikebukuro booth

Strictly speaking, the booth only prints stickers, which you then put on your nails, rather than genuinely painting onto them. Check out the official Twitter account for examples of nail art stickers you can make.

But perhaps printing directly onto your nails is the next step? We all remember that awesome scene from the original Total Recall movie where the woman paints her nails electronically in less than a second? Well, we’re not far off that now. After all, Japan has had “digital mirror” tryvertizing technology for years.

sega nail art puri purikura sticker printer customize ikebukuro booth

The dream futuristic nail art maker would be kind of like a 3D printer meets Purikura.

You can find the Nail Puri booth at Sega GiGO game center in Ikebukuro on the sixth and seven floors. If it’s a hit, no doubt we can expect to see more of the technology soon.

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Female college students design wearable devices as smart fashion accessories

Written by: William on March 20, 2015 at 10:57 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 3 Comments

Ten types of stylish wearable smart accessories designed by current female college students have been unveiled. The designs are the results of a project run in partnership between Recruit Technologies’ Advanced Technology Lab and Rikejo, a service for supporting “scientific girls” by the publisher Kodansha.

The designs were themed around making female-friendly lifestyle gadgets, to include such functions as morning wake-up alarms, schedule reminders, friend notifications, compasses, timers, last train alerts, and so on.

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

At first glance, these designs may look more fashionable than overtly technological; on the surface just bracelets, necklaces, hair bands and more. But they are all meant to integrate certain wearable devices functions.

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

rikejo wearable device technology fashion female scientist gadget japanese trend

The project saw the prototypes created within six months, with the designers hailing from a range of colleges such as Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, Hosei University and Aoyama Gakuin University.

The local obsession with females in science took a hit with the Haruko Obokata stem cell scandal last year but that still hasn’t stopped institutions trying to promote women in lab coats who can inject some glamor into the sterile world of academia. Earlier this year, for example, the University of Tokyo released an encyclopedia of beautiful female students. Obokata was the pinnacle of a brief flurry of interest in Rikejo — “scientist women” — though there is a precedent. A few years there was a similar trend for so-called Reki-jo, female history buffs.

[Image via FashionSnap.com]

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Sonic Hour Portable: A handheld way to get foamy head on your beer

Written by: Japan Trends on March 19, 2015 at 8:39 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

As we reported last May, the “cool/cold beer” trend has crossed over from actual bars and restaurants to home “toys”. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried Kirin’s Frozen Beer at least once (for some, once is more than enough!).

Takara Tomy has led this movement of household beverage coolers, though the veteran toy maker has also had more than its fair share of imitators. Most are designed for beer, since the Japanese summer is ridiculously hot and humid, plus in any season, a frothy head on a beer is regarded locally as a good thing. With the help of these gadgets, you can pour yourself a draft-style sud even when it’s just out of a can.

The demand for these types of toy-gadgets is not only the Japanese obsession with frothy beer. Surprisingly many people aren’t aware how the angle of the pour affects the amount of foam, meaning there is a demand for convenient devices that can do the hard work for you.

One of the Takara Tomy Arts products is the Sonic Hour, a mini plate that you place your beer glass on to generate foam by ultrasonic waves.

sonic hour beer portable foam froth generator head takara tomy arts japanese

Now the makers have created an update for 2015 — Sonic Hour Portable.

This is the mobile, handheld version that is even easier to take around with you.

sonic hour beer portable foam froth generator head takara tomy arts japanese

Now the process is simpler. All you need to do is turn on the Sonic Hour Portable, place it directly on the glass (only partly filled with beer), and let the ultrasonic waves pass through into the liquid to generate a thirst-quenching foamy head.

The makers say it works best with ordinary glasses, rather than mugs or thick tankards (e.g. the classic Japanese jokki glass).

sonic hour beer portable foam froth generator head takara tomy arts japanese

Since it’s so light and easy to use, slipping the Sonic Hour Portable (available in white or blue) into your bag or hamper when you go hiking or out on a picnic is one sure way to get that freshly pulled draft beer taste wherever you are.

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Talkable Vegetables: Farmers talk to consumers when they touch supermarket produce

Written by: William on March 18, 2015 at 9:41 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

Yesterday we introduced the iDoll, currently being showcased by ad agency Hakuhodo at SXSW Interactive Festival.

Another prototype by Hakuhodo — and just as outlandish — are the Talkable Vegetables, also featured at the SXSWi Hakuhodo Prototyping the Future booth.

hakuhodo talkable vegetables talking produce farmer voice traceability supermarket suba lab hackist

This unique in-store promotional tool is a “machine that delivers farmers’ honesty” and takes the produce section of the supermarket into the future.

Jointly developed by Suda Lab and Hakuhodo i-studio’s HACKist creative lab, the Talkable Vegetables are, perhaps not surprisingly, a world first. The voice of the farmers that grew the produce actually tells the potential consumer where the veggies are from and what is special about them.

hakuhodo talkable vegetables talking produce farmer voice traceability supermarket suba lab hackist

How does it work?

By turning the voltage differential between the moisture in humans and vegetables into an audio signal, just [by] picking up a vegetable, customers initiate an interaction in which various messages can be conveyed.

This tech makes it possible for:

(1) Customers to confirm a farm product’s safety and trustworthiness by listening to the information from the farmer.
(2) Customers to get a sense of the farming environment, and the origins and values of the produce at the point of sale, no matter how removed from agricultural regions.
(3) Customers to enjoy a fun, next-generation experiences of vegetables themselves becoming part of the retail system.

Vegetables with personality? We’re not sure if this is scary or brilliant.

Clearly the infrastructure required — recording the farmers’ messages individually for each crop, special speakers set up to deliver the sound to the holder — will surely limit the application of the system, but this is one neat way to bridge the growers and the consumers. Traceability has also been a big issue in Japan of late, following a spate of food scandals in 2013. In certain supermarkets it is common to see signage and labelling directly naming the farmer and farm where the produce came from.

The system has already been tested successfully in Hug Mart, a store in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

Another exhibit at the Hakuhodo SXSWi booth is the award-winning Rice Code, an “smartphone app that turns scenes of all kinds into a sales floor”. You point the camera of your smartphone at a large piece of rice paddy art. The installed dedicated app then recognizes the art and takes the user to an e-commerce site where they can buy rice.

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Hakuhodo showcases iDoll and other “prototypes of the future” at SXSW Interactive Festival

Written by: William on March 17, 2015 at 9:04 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 4 Comments

Visitors to SXSW Interactive Festival (SXSWi) (March 13-22, 2015) in Austin should head to the Hakuhodo Group exhibition booth, “Prototyping the Future”.

Hakuhodo will be showcasing several of its futuristic product ideas, including the Memory Clock, a device which shows photos the same date they were taken. If you have more than one Memory Clock, even if you are apart from your loved ones, you can still view the photos at the same time.

The Memory Clock is just one of the monom innovation project that advertising agency Hakuhodo has been developing. The name means “mono” (thing) and a series of “m” words: magic, marketing, message, move.

idoll hakuhodo robot doll moe otaku character south by southwest austin interactive festival

The first product in the series is the iDoll. This mini robotic doll dances, greets you and even jokes around like it has a personality. It reproduces human movements in a realistic way

Jointly developed by Yukai Engineering, iDoll is controlled by the user’s mobile phone and can acquire movements and speech that you teach it.

idoll hakuhodo robot doll moe otaku character south by southwest austin interactive festival

It is small enough to sit on your palm and is about 15cm tall. There are three versions currently developed: a plain prototype one, and two female moe character versions.

idoll hakuhodo robot doll moe otaku character south by southwest austin interactive festival

The iDoll prototype will apparently be available “soon”. For now, head to Austin to check out the SXSWi booth.

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Candy-smelling stationery with Zebra Sarasa Clip Chupa Chups Aroma Gel Pen

Written by: Japan Trends on March 11, 2015 at 9:52 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

We all love candy and who will not admit to getting cravings for something sweet during long study or work sessions?

Sometimes in our agony we might be tempted to nibble the pen we are holding and imagine it is a lollipop.

Well, with this pen, you have something approaching that desk fantasy.

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

Chupa Chups has got together with Japanese stationery brand Zebra Pens to create the Sarasa Clip Chupa Chups Aroma Gel Pen.

This pen is features actual fragrances in Chupa Chups flavors in the gel pen ink!

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

All right, so the pens are not actually edible. Don’t try eating them, please.

If you want a snack, get a real Chupa Chups to suck on.

But how cool is this? Candy aroma pens! So you can feed your candy addiction through the smell of the pen as you write. Talk about a way to encourage students to pen those homework assignments!

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

The gel pens also have feature the classic Chupa Chups logo (designed by Salvador Dali), so any pop culture design fan will love them too.

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

Japan Trend Shop is offering the full set of all ten pens, each with a different ink color and candy smell: black (chocolate vanilla), red orange (orange), magenta (grape), pink (peach), blue (coke), red (cherry), yellow (pudding), light blue (vanilla), orange (mango), and green (green apple).

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