Nikon repair dead Ontake hiker’s camera, recover digital photographs for family

Written by: William on November 11, 2014 at 8:46 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

It has been over a month from the surprising Mt Ontake volcanic eruption in late September, which ultimately killed 57 people.

One of those who perished was Kazuo Wakabayashi (66), from Matsumoto City in Nagano Prefecture.

It goes without saying that his family struggles to cope with their loss and nothing will bring back Wakabayashi. However, Japanese camera maker Nikon have tried to help in the best way they can.

Wakabayashi was a camera buff who loved to shoot landscapes when he went hiking or fishing. He took a Nikon camera with him on his fateful hike to Ontake and the device was later returned to his family on October 1st, coated in ash and broken.

nikon camera restore repair mt ontake volcano hiker dead kazuo wakabayashi japan

The camera was a new one; he had only bought it in July. The data had also been lost in the disaster and Wakabayshi’s family was only able to view images taken on one day. The rest were gone. Nikon heard about the camera in a Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper article and then offered to repair it for the family.

Though it was damaged beyond repair in the eruption, over 10 days Nikon was able to restore the lens, the filter, and the circuit board, all without charge of course. The camera body was also cleaned up and handed back to Wakabayashi’s eldest daughter on October 30th.

nikon camera restore repair mt ontake volcano hiker dead kazuo wakabayashi japan

They were able to recover the digital data for the family so that they could see the roughly 200 photographs Wakabayashi took before his death and which his family feared had been lost forever.

nikon camera restore repair mt ontake volcano hiker dead kazuo wakabayashi japan

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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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Peach John’s Yummy Mart releases SpongeBob SquarePants pajamas and underwear

Written by: William on November 5, 2014 at 7:44 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 3 Comments

We’re not sure if this qualifies as a “trend” but it made us laugh.

To us, SpongeBob SquarePants has always been a bit creepy, but in Japan the yellow character is apparently a cutie. This must be the reason why he has been chosen as the theme of a new range of pajamas and underwear for Yummy Mart.

yummy mart peach john underwear pajamas spongebob squarepants character clothes

The six items in the collection — including slippers, eye mask, underwear, and robe — are modeled here by Monika Sahara, Yui Sakuma and Elaiza Ikeda, and go on sale in Yummy Mart stores from November 12th. No surprises, they’ve gone with yellow.

yummy mart peach john underwear pajamas spongebob squarepants character clothes

yummy mart peach john underwear pajamas spongebob squarepants character clothes

yummy mart peach john underwear pajamas spongebob squarepants character clothes

yummy mart peach john underwear pajamas spongebob squarepants character clothes

Yummy Mart is Peach John’s brand for younger girls. Whereas Peach John has famously and successively combined the cute with the sexy, Yummy Mart has more of an innocent pop and fun vibe.

yummy mart peach john underwear pajamas spongebob squarepants character clothes

yummy mart peach john underwear pajamas spongebob squarepants character clothes

In general, Peach John is a pretty innovative lingerie brand. Its previous ideas include a range of Sailor Moon-inspired cosplay underwear that sells out as soon as new products are added to the range.

yummy mart peach john underwear pajamas spongebob squarepants character clothes

If you’re a SpongeBob fan and want to get your hands on these Yummy Mart clothes, you can contact JapanTrendShop to request a special order.

Way back in 2007, the Associated Press reported on the popularity of SpongeBob among Japanese women and how Viacom deliberately target female consumers in the licensing.

Square and loud, SpongeBob wasn’t supposed to have much chance for success in Japan, a nation famous for its love of more cuddly characters like Hello Kitty and Pikachu.

But the perky, bucktoothed American cartoon is proving the skeptics wrong. “SpongeBob SquarePants” attracts nearly 1.9 million Japanese households to his TV show daily and is raking in a growing share of the $5 billion in annual retail sales for Nickelodeon, the Viacom Inc. unit behind the show.

And he’s doing it by capturing the hearts of Japan’s young women — not children, his most loyal fans in the U.S.

“I started collecting Bob because I think he’s cute and he stands out,” said Mayu Takahashi, a 21-year-old student, shopping in Tokyo’s fashionable Harajuku district holding a SpongeBob tote bag. “Some of my friends say he’s a creepy kind of cute.”

Well, the jury may still be out on that question but SpongeBob’s success in Japan is now established.

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Panasonic Beauty Premium Booster Mask EH-XM10, a new hi-tech skincare face steamer

Written by: Japan Trends on November 4, 2014 at 2:58 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Not all beauty masks in Japan are of the animal or face pack variety.

And while there are certainly some strange-looking (but still theoretically functioning) beauty gadgets out there, it doesn’t mean the major Japanese manufacturers aren’t creating products for the industry.

Take Panasonic, one of the biggest producers of cosmetic tools and electronics. Its line of steamers and other skincare gadgets are very successful, and it has established itself as a leader in the field through marketing such as the series of “beauty tutorials” that play on the JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo.

Panasonic Beauty Premium Booster Mask EH-XM10 face steamer skincare hi tech gadget

The Panasonic Beauty Premium Booster Mask EH-XM10 is a new addition to its catalog. We were interested in this product because it combines both the skin steamer and beauty mask genres.

While there is an unmistakeable Darth Vader vibe to the publicity images, this is a hi-tech solution designed based on data collected from some 5,000 female research subjects.

You soak the mask’s water plate in water and then warm it on the stand, before setting it on your face for 10 minutes. You can also combine the gadget with regular cosme items, such as face pack sheets, which can be placed over the Booster Mask.

Panasonic Beauty Premium Booster Mask EH-XM10 face steamer skincare hi tech gadget

The Panasonic Beauty Premium Booster Mask EH-XM10 is available on pre-order from JapanTrendShop now.

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November-December Cheapo Calendar: 5 Events Not to Miss

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on November 3, 2014 at 7:19 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Frances Maeda first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

There are so many fantastic free events happening in Tokyo in November and December that it was tough choosing just five for this bimonthly events wrap. But we had to (because the editor said so). After much discount coffee-fueled deliberation, here is our pick of pure cheapo awesomeness to take you through to the new year.

1. Tokyo Chrysanthemum Exhibition: November 1st-23rd

tokyo chrysanthemum exhibition kiku
Photo by sigusr0 used under CC

Now in its 100th year, the Tokyo Metropolitan Tourism Chrysanthemum Exhibition is regarded as Japan’s prime event when it comes to kiku, as the delicate flowers are known in Japanese. Chrysanthemums are held in high regard in the country — the bloom is featured on Japan’s Imperial Seal and pops up on Japanese passports and in other places (including the controversial Yasukuni Shrine).

At the show you can expect top-notch blooms, and a dizzying variety of them too. There will be 2,000 displays featuring cut chrysanthemums, bonsai versions, ultra fancy bonsai versions, decoration versions, and more. You can also snag some seedlings and learn how to grow them properly (classy folk would say “cultivate” them).

More info here.

2. Asakusa Tori-no-ichi Fair: November 10th and 22nd

asakusa tori no ichi festival
Photo by Yoshikazu Takada used under CC

The Tori-no-ichi Fair is a fun traditional festival that is held at shrines and temples countrywide on Rooster (“tori”) days (following the Chinese calendar) every year. The Asakusa version has been going strong since the Edo period, when it was all about celebrating the new year. These days it’s focused on wishing for good luck and prosperity in business.

You have two chances to go this year (some years have three Rooster days in November, but those ones have a bit of an unlucky association with fires), so pick one, get yourself one of the glitzily decorated bamboo rakes, and soak up the experience. You can sample some tasty festival fare too.

Part 1 info here.

Part 2 info here.

3. Golden Ginkgo Trees: Mid-November – Mid-December

golden ginkgo trees tokyo autumn leaves
Photo by Haris Bahrudin

While some people associate them with rather unpleasant smells (yeah, just wait and see), ginkgo trees (ichou in Japanese) are undeniably beautiful and demand to be walked under in late autumn. Turning gorgeous yellows and gold, gingko leaves line paths in parks and even some of the city’s streets (some strategic planting there), making for incredible photo opportunities.

The Hachioji Ginkgo Festival is one way to enjoy the autumn colors. The Jingugaien Itcho Festival in the outer gardens of Meiji Shrine is another. Of course, you can always just roll down to your local park — these trees can be found virtually anywhere. Look out for grilled ginkgo nuts (ginnan) on the menus of Japanese pubs too — they’re a tasty and potent supposed superfood.

4. Odaiba Rainbow Fireworks: December 6th-27th

odaiba rainbow fireworks display
Photo by OiMax used under CC

Most of Tokyo’s fireworks shows take place in the sweltering heat of summer, but Odaiba insists on being different — and we aren’t complaining. You can wrap up nice and warm and enjoy small-scale displays every Saturday evening in December. The fireworks will be going up between Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge — making for some colorful scenery.

The shows start at 7pm and last for about ten minutes. Around 1,800 shots will be fired in each one. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s sufficient to sate any Japanese fireworks show cravings you might be having.

More info and tips for the best viewing spot here.

5. Winter Comiket: December 28th-30th

comiket tokyo comic market event
Photo by Hikaru Kazushime

Comiket, the short form of “Comic Market”, is a festival of all things comic-related, drawing crowds of close to 600 000. It’s held twice a year in Tokyo — once in summer and again in the cooler season. Tens of thousands of manga artists flog their self-published dojinsha (independent) works at the event, with a huge variety of genres and styles on offer.

Entrance is free unless you want to dress up — cosplaying will set you back ¥800 (and much more on materials). You can expect a fair few wacky outfits in addition to incredibly detailed (as well as incredibly revealing) representations of characters from games, manga and anime.

More info here.

Bonus Event #1: Winter Illuminations

If you’re a fan of shiny pretty things, you’re in luck. On winter evenings, Tokyo lights up with spectacular illumination displays all over the city. Noteworthy spots to suss out include Tokyo Midtown, the Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station, Shiodome and Tokyo Dome City. The colorful illumination at Rikugien Gardens is also worth seeing.

Bonus Event #2: Boroichi Market

Need to buy some cheap Christmas presents? You can’t go wrong at this gigantic flea market in Setagaya.

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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Halloween costumes take over Shibuya: Crowds go cosplay wild for October 31st

Written by: William on November 1, 2014 at 3:19 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

If you passed through Shibuya yesterday evening or night you cannot have failed to notice that it was Halloween. A bustling and manifold place at any time of the year, on October 31st it burst into even more colorful life with a motley bunch of locals (Japanese and foreign) taking to the streets wearing an impressive variety of costumes.

Japan is of course the land of cosplay, so importing Halloween culture makes perfect sense and teenagers in particular seemed to rise to the occasion.

From Jesus (on a pagan festival?!) to Kaonashi, Sento-kun and even Sailor Moon, the inspirations went beyond the usual Halloween motifs to draw on Japanese anime and more.

The reliable folk from Kai-You were out and about in the streets of Shibuya snapping this fun gallery of images.

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014 sailor moon

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014 matsuri omikoshi shrine portable

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014 omikoshi shrine matsuri

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014 santa where's wally waldo

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014 girls in police uniforms

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014 jesus sento-kun

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014 mario luigi

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014 tenga

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

halloween costume cosplay shibuya tokyo october 31st 2014

Images: Kai-You

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