“Terminator Genisys” gets unlikely promo with Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel schoolgirl cosplay dance video

Written by: William on June 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

How do you promote the new Terminator movie in Japan?

Simple. You dress up a dancer in a Japanese schoolgirl uniform and have her perform deep under the ground. Crank up the iconic Terminator theme melody with a special dance remix… and you probably have a recipe for viral success.

Terminator Genisys manako promo school uniform japanese Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel dance video

Take a look.

The slinky performer is sailor uniform music idol Manako.

Okay, so this may not be wholly official but it’s still better than anything the forthcoming movie’s PR team could have come up with.

Terminator Genisys manako promo school uniform japanese Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel dance video

Architecture fans will instantly recognize the setting.

It’s the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, a vast flood water facility located in Saitama. The epic storm drain is like a video game level come to life — appropriately sci-fi for the film.

Terminator Genisys manako promo school uniform japanese Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel dance video

Quite what a dancing schoolgirl has to do with Terminator Genisys is anyone’s guess but since the franchise jumped the shark a long time ago, cosplay silliness is probably the last thing that can damage it now.

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Picturerium Digital Fish Tank: an interactive aquarium toy for artistic kids

Written by: Japan Trends on June 19, 2015 at 3:26 pm | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

Get your drawing skills ready, kids. Here is the perfect aquarium that doesn’t require any maintenance — only creativity!

The Picturerium is a digital fish tank. There are no live fish inside the “aquarium”. Instead you create your own fish by drawing them on special cards.

picturerium interactive digital fish tank aquarium toy

There are then scanned by your iPhone camera so that the fish appear inside the Picturerium. There are “food cards” too, where you can draw a cake and the snack is then “eaten” by the inhabitants of the underwater world. You can even insert your own photos onto the fish and other characters (mermaid, octopus, etc) so you or your friends appear to be swimming inside the tank.

picturerium interactive digital fish tank aquarium toy

picturerium interactive digital fish tank aquarium toy

You need to use the dedicated app with your iPhone 5 or iPhone 6 (available in different languages) but most of the hard work involves analog skills with drawing tools and paper!

Similar to other recent interactive digital toys like the JouJou Cube Touch or Eederu Sunaba, Japan’s toy makers once again show us how to fight against the curve of a declining birthrate in style!

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Seibu ageHa Train: All aboard Tokyo’s chartered mobile EDM nightclub party!

Written by: William on June 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm | In GO SEE | 1 Comment

Seibu hosted a special “nightclub train” event on June 5th-6th, featuring on-board DJs and music as passengers were transported in the charted train from Nerima non-stop all the way to Shin-Kiba.

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

The sold-out event was devised in partnership with well-known nightclub ageHa, which is based in Shin-Kiba. A Seibu train was refurbished with DJ booth, speakers and everything needed to transform a regular commuter train into a club on wheels.

Seibu has a pretty dull reputation; it runs the train lines that people who live in the suburbs west and northwest of Tokyo take to go home. Adding go-go dancers and a thumping club soundtrack to the carriage facilities is certainly one way to liven up your brand image!

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

Seibu trains don’t actually go all the way to Shin-Kiba, of course. The railway company partnered with Tokyo Metro so the ageHa Train could run on the Yurakucho subway line.

DJ Alisa Ueno was in charge of the tunes while the dancers were CyberJapan. Strobes, alcohol, costumes. This was no ordinary train: this was a crowded EDM locomotive, a forty-minute mobile mosh pit!

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

The intrepid The Japan Times had a nice write-up:

“It’s just a regular train!” says a man in a suit next to me. Before I give him a “geez, old people” eye-roll, I look at the train and see that he’s right — a plain old train save for the windows, which are covered in black vinyl. The inside looks normal, too, except that speakers have been placed on the luggage racks above the seats. For five minutes as the crowd boards, we replicate Tokyo’s morning rush hour. Instead of grumpy office workers, though, we’ve got giggling young women in glow-in-the-dark cat ears.

The passengers alighted at Shin-Kiba for a group date event at the club itself.

A ticket for one of the two ageHa Trains that ran on June 5th and June 6th didn’t come cheap, though. Male passengers/clubbers had to fork up ¥7,000, or nearly $60 (the ladies got on cheaper, at just ¥3,000 or about $25).

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

In total there were 480 places available, divided evenly per gender since the party was ostensible a gokon group date.

Given the amount of media attention the event received, we expect it will be repeated again in the near future. How about a Shinkansen version to really raise the stakes?

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Musical Kendama by DJ Koo: latest example of kendama global craze

Written by: Japan Trends on June 17, 2015 at 8:21 am | In COOL PRODUCTS | No Comments

Kendama have made a big comeback. The traditional cup-and-ball Japanese toy has been gaining in popularity in foreign countries for a little while now and in Japan too, the Japan Kendama Association is determined to milk this new-found following.

And so it is has helped make this Musical Kendama by DJ Koo, which combines the functions of the kendama with a musical beatbox.

musical kendama toy dj koo

DJ Koo might be a little long in the tooth but he’s a bit of a veteran figure in Japan. The Japan Kendama Association’s gamble might seem strange from overseas: if they want to make the kendama look cool, why did they use someone from a previous generation? That’s not ageist — just commonsense.

Well, frankly it doesn’t matter which DJ Koo first started spinning his tunes. The Musical Kendama is awesome.

This kendama lights up when you play it: every time you catch the ball on one of the cups, there is a sound. You can hear DJ Koo counting how many catches you have achieved, or there are record scratching sound effects or remixes of Koo’s famous tracks.

musical kendama toy dj koo

Other modes include dub and techno.

Playing a kendama is so simple anyone can enjoy it, just like the best of toys. However, it also offers a lot for players who want to build up their skills. The Japan Kendama Association administers 10 kyu rankings depending on your ability, and says there are 101 different tricks you can do with the toy.

All this encourages people with nifty hands. See the videos of overseas kendama aces if you really want to be impressed.

And it’s not just Japanophiles or hipsters who are getting their kendama groove on. It’s regular school kids too.

CBS News 8 recently reported that there is a “kendama craze sweeping the country”, while even Singapore is experiencing a mini book. “Kendamas are the latest schoolyard craze,” boldly declared The Sacremento Bee in 2013. It quotes a local store that has seen the demand for kendama swell since the 2012 holiday season. It was selling 200 kendamas a week at the time the article was written.

In 2014 The Japan Times also reported on the new popularity of kendama at home and abroad.

“Definitely, people who had never been associated with kendama, especially young people (in their 20s and 30s), have become hooked for a year or two, with fans forming kendama-playing groups across the nation,” says Tamotsu Kubota, head of the Global Kendamas Network, or Gloken, which promotes the game.

Kubota says kendama used to be enjoyed mainly by Japanese children and grandparents, while people outside of those age groups considered it “old and uncool.”

“Kendama can be enjoyed by anybody, regardless of age, gender and nationality. But preconceived notions discouraged people from enjoying kendama,” he says.

Interestingly, the current boom was spawned by new kendama tricks developed overseas.

“Many people began to rediscover the appeal of kendama after watching videos uploaded online from the United States, which introduced impressive tricks,” notes Kubota, 32, who has been playing the game for about 14 years.

He says Americans who saw kendama toys in Japan took them home, practiced with them and eventually developed original tricks. This trend started around 2007, Kubota estimates.

This is called gyaku-unyuu in Japanese — a “reverse import” — when something “native” gets taken and received overseas, and then makes a comeback at home.

In particular, with kendama is was international players and their freestyle tricks that sparked a Japanese surge. Once the preserve of specialists, kendama is back in parks and streets, and is apparently a frequently sight in Harajuku.

There have since been many new types of kendama released in special designs. The first Kendama World Cup was also held in Japan in 2014.

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Super Mario Bros. Tower Records Cafe pops up in Tokyo

Written by: William on June 16, 2015 at 1:02 pm | In GO SEE | No Comments

Super Mario Bros. fans should head on down to Tower Records (yes, the chain still exists in Japan!) for the Super Mario Bros. Tower Records Cafe at the Shibuya, Ebisu and Omotesando branches from June 22nd to July 1st.

To celebrate 30 years since Japan’s most famous game export first appeared on the NES (Famicon), Tower Records is offering discounts, as well as selling special anniversary merchandise like cups, plates and t-shirts at Tower Records stores and spin-off dining branches in Tokyo.

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

But the really super goodies are on the cafe menu, where you can get a Mario Latte, tiramisu and even squid ink pasta. Of course, everything is themed around the iconic video game, from individual game characters and items (Super Star omelette) to overall color schemes, such as drink inspired by the underwater levels we love.

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

The menus vary a little depending on whether you head to Tower Records Cafe Shibuya, Tower Records Cafe Omotesando or Tower Records Dining Ebisu. The Shibuya branch cafe also opens on June 23rd, a day later than the Omotesando and Ebisu cafes.

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

super mario bros cafe tower records tokyo shibuya ebisu omotesando

Customers also receive a special “2.5-dimensional” themed figure when they order a main set dish and a free character coaster with a drink order.

The pop-up cafe is a mainstay of Japanese promos. In the past we’ve seen a Pokémon Cafe, Funassyi Cafe, and Snoopy and Woodstock cafes (also at Tower Records).

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Fresh from the Yatai: Tokyo Cheapo’s Guide to Japanese Street (Festival) Food

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on June 15, 2015 at 8:52 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

This article by Tiffany first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

While Japan has its own share of street food, street food culture just isn’t as common in Japan as it is in Southeast Asia, where locals and tourists alike flock to weekend or night markets to chow down.

That’s not to say that Japan has a shortage of comfort food. Osaka’s Dotonbori is a great place to get your fill of Japanese comfort food; and areas like Hokkaido and Hiroshima have alleys dedicated to their regional specialties: miso ramen and okonomiyaki, respectively. But actually buying and eating food on the streets, and in a market-like setting? Aside from Fukuoka, which has areas dotted with street food stalls, hardly any other areas where you can regularly expect street food vendors come to mind – especially not for Tokyo!

Nevertheless, the humble yatai at festivals are, for many, the best opportunities to try some Japanese street food. In fact, one could say that the atmosphere at a Japanese festival can be likened to that of a food market.

takoyaki stall food festival

Takoyaki Stall | Photo by Dick Thomas Johnson used under CC

Translating to “stall,” yatai isn’t exclusively used to refer to stalls that just pop up at festivals. Fukuoka’s yatai open nightly, and the few ramen or sweet potato carts as you may see are also known as yatai. They also don’t just refer to food stalls, as many festivals also have stalls where visitors can play games and win prizes. In this article, though, I’ll be focusing on yatai food at festivals. It’ll be summer festival season soon, after all, so now’s a good time to talk about yatai food.

When a festival is going on in Japan, you can bet that there’ll be yatai, and after attending one festival after another, you can more or less get an idea of what food to expect. Whether it’s festivals at temples and shrines, or school festivals, there are certain foods that just happen to be associated with yatai, and here are some of them. Yatai food usually costs no more than ¥1,000, with the average price being about ¥500.

Savory Delights

yakisoba yatai stall food japan

Yakisoba | Photo by katsuuu44 used under CC

Yakisoba

No festival is complete without good ol’ yakisoba. This simple-to-prepare dish consists of fried noodles (which is what the word “yakisoba” literally translates to, anyway), strips of pork, and cabbage. It’s then garnished with katsuobushi (bonito flakes), benishoga (pickled ginger), and/or aonori (powdered seaweed), and some also add mayonnaise to it.

Kushiyaki

Kushiyaki is a catch-all term for grilled, skewered meats, the most popular type being yakitori. Yakitori can be thought of as a another sub-category, since there are different kinds, including momo (thigh), tsukune (chicken ground into meatballs), and kawa (skin). Yakitori aside, it’s also not surprising to see beef, pork, and fish (usually known as shioyaki, which means “salt-grilled”). You’ll also occasionally see other kinds of grilled seafood, like squid and scallop.

okonomiyaki japanese food fried pancake

Okonomiyaki | Photo by Jean-François Chénier used under CC

Okonomiyaki

You can read more about okonomiyaki here, but put simply, it’s a savory pancake. Aside from the non-negotiables (cabbage, okonomiyaki sauce, and, of course, the batter), anything goes for the rest of the ingredients. Okonomiyaki, after all, translates to “as you like it.” Common okonomiyaki ingredients are pork and seafood.

Takoyaki

These are octopus balls, made of the same batter that’s used to make okonomiyaki. The sauce is even similar. Interestingly enough, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, and takoyaki share some basic ingredients. (A friend of mine once made okonomiyaki, then mixed the leftover cabbage, katsuobushi, benishoga, and aonori with noodles to make yakisoba.)

oden japanese food yatai stall

Oden | Photo by 5th Luna used under CC

Oden

Since oden is a dish consisting of various ingredients (mostly variants of tofu and fish cakes) immersed in a hearty broth made of dashi (soup stock) and soy sauce, it’s popular in wintertime, but you can still find stalls selling oden even in warmer months. Oden can be an acquired taste for some foreigners, though, mostly because of how some think that it looks unappealing.

Jaga-bataa

“Jaga” means potato, and “bataa” is the Japanese way of saying butter. Put those together and what do they make? A baked potato with butter.

Kebabs

Brought over by Turkish migrants in Japan, kebabs are arguably one of the most popular international foods in Japan. In many urban areas (Tokyo, for instance), you’re bound to encounter at least one kebab stand, stall, or cart. Kebab vendors have been known to participate in festivals, too!

Frankfurters and American dogs

Frankfurters are pretty self-explanatory, but as for American dogs, they’re corn dogs. Don’t call them corn dogs in Japan, as you’ll most likely be met with confusion.

Sweet Treats

Choco banana and candied apples

While candied apples are not as ubiquitous, you’d be hard-pressed to find a festival without choco banana, which is, as the name implies, a banana coated in chocolate.

Wataame

It’s Japanese for cotton candy, and is quite popular among children.

baby castella japanese food stall festival yatai

Baby castella stall | Photo by Shinichi Sugiyama used under CC

Baby castella

A specialty of Nagasaki Prefecture, castella is a sponge cake that was introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Whereas castella is typically rectangular, baby castella come in small, round, bite-size pieces, and have fillings inside.

Age-aisu

That’s pronounced “ah-geh,” by the way. Age-aisu means fried ice cream. It’s not a common sight at festivals, but for some reason, it’s quite popular at school festivals. It’s basically fried breading wrapped around ice cream, creating a contrast of hot and cold flavors.

kakigoori japanese shaved ice cream

Kakigorri | Photo by 世書 名付 used under CC

Kakigoori

This popular summer treat consists of fluffy shaved ice, colored syrup, and a sweetener. It comes in different flavors, but if you want to try something different, go for matcha, ramune (soda pop, which I’ll get to later), or Blue Hawaii (which tastes like pineapple with milk)

taiyaki japanese food stall yatai matsuri festival

Taiyaki | Photo by Takanori Nakanowatari used under CC

Taiyaki

Taiyaki is a fish-shaped pastry (with a pancake-like texture) with red bean paste as filling, although some variants have custard, cream, matcha, or even savory ingredients as filling.

Beverages

Aside from these drinks, of course you can also find alcohol at festivals!

ramune japanese soda drink

Ramune | Photo by matt used under CC

Ramune

This is a uniquely Japanese soda, mostly because of the design of its bottle, which has a marble seal. It’s a fixture at summer festivals. Its original taste is lemon-lime, but it also comes in other flavors.

Tapioca

This refers to bubble tea, although it seems that the bubble tea craze never really took off in Japan the way it did elsewhere.

Bonus Points If You Spot a Yakiimo Cart

yakiimo japanese baked sweet potato vendor

Photo by Chris Gladis used under CC

Yakiimo (Baked Sweet Potato)

Yakiimo (or baked sweet potato) is the original Tokyo street food. To indulge, you’ll have to spot a sweet potato vendor pushing around a cart or driving around in a truck equipped with a stone oven in the back. If you try to find some at a summertime festival, know that they’re not exactly festival food and definitely more of a winter/autumn thing; however, if you are here during summer and want to give it a taste, you’re more likely to find some during the evenings. Also, yakiimo vendors are slowing becoming extinct, so if you see one, don’t hesitate to get one as a real cultural treat (pardon the pun).

Read on Tokyo Cheapo

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Shaun in Japan: Shaun the Sheep takes over Tokyo in Evangelion, Hello Kitty designs

Written by: William on June 12, 2015 at 10:08 am | In GO SEE | No Comments

Go hunting for Shaun the Sheep in Omotesando this June in a special art and charity event called “Shaun in Japan”.

The Shaun-hunting event has already been a success in the Aardman Animations character’s native UK in the form of two “ewe-nique charity arts trails” in Bristol and London. 50 specially created Shaun sculptures were exhibited in the British capital and 70 in Bristol, a city in the far west of England. Kids were encouraged to go searching for all the sculptures in the “flock” as part of days out in the cities. The celebrity-designed sculptures were then sold off for charity at the end of the respective events.

shaun in japan tokyo sheep sculpture omotesando tokyu plaza harajuku hideki anno evangelion hello kitty

The “Shaun in the City” trail now arrives in the Japanese capital. (Wallace & Gromit is popular in Japan, even if some of the British jokes may go over viewers’ heads!) While the trail is not as big as the original UK versions, the designs of the sculptures have been considerably localized.

“Shaun in Japan” takes place from June 12th to June 25th, and features seven Shaun the Sheep sculptures at the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku designed by Japanese artists like acclaimed anime director Hideaki Anno.

shaun in japan tokyo sheep sculpture omotesando tokyu plaza harajuku hideki anno evangelion hello kitty

No surprises but Hideki Anno’s contribute is an Evangelion Shaun!

The Shaun sculptures measure 130cm in height. Only four designs have been unveiled so far, but they include a Hello Kitty Shaun and Sugar Sugar Rune Shaun!

shaun in japan tokyo sheep sculpture omotesando tokyu plaza harajuku hideki anno evangelion hello kitty

Aside from Anno, other designers and artists involved include manga-ka Moyoco Anno (who wrote the comic Sugar Sugar Rune), calligrapher Tomomi Kunishige, character designer Yuko Yamaguchi, manga-ka Ikuto Yamashita, and sweets artist Osamu Watanabe.

The British Council and Sanrio are also participating.

The fifth-floor Hands Cafe at the Tokyu Plaza will also offer special Shaun the Sheep menu items.

shaun in japan tokyo sheep sculpture omotesando tokyu plaza harajuku hideki anno evangelion hello kitty

“Shaun in Japan” is also being touted as a charity event, though the details are yet to be announced.

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China bans 38 Japanese anime from web, including “Attack on Titan”, “Death Note”, “Parasyte”

Written by: William on June 11, 2015 at 9:09 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

The Chinese government has cracked down on Japanese anime, banning the broadcast online of 38 titles via various Chinese websites and online services.

There is no suggestion that it is because they are Japanese per se but popular titles like Attack on Titan (soon to be a live-action movie), Death Note and Parasyte have been blacklisted from appearing online.

Eight websites have been completely shut down and another 29 received warnings or fines, reports Kyodo.

attack on titan ban china anime

Senior Ministry official Liu Qiang stated, “The list is the result of evaluations by investigators, reviews by the ministry and the opinions of experts. It aims to guide websites in the proper review and importation of comics and animations.”

You can see the full list of banned anime here.

It isn’t just online either. A film festival in Shanghai set to show Attack on Titan has been forced to pull the eight Japanese entries from its line-up.

According to Kyodo, the anime are condemned by the Chinese authorities because they “encourage juvenile delinquency, glorify violence and include sexual content.”

Rumors of a blacklist have been circulating for a while, with the Chinese government investigating anime like Blood C that “lure minors to delinquency and glamorize violence, pornography, and terrorist activities”. New regulations required websites to get approval to stream foreign media content.

China has a history of banning anime from television and video games.

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How to survive the rainy season in style: Japan’s best umbrella design

Written by: Japan Trends on June 9, 2015 at 9:11 am | In COOL PRODUCTS | 1 Comment

The rainy season is upon us: get ready for several weeks of rain around Japan.

Any visit to a major store in Tokyo will mean you are confronted with a mountain of products designed to help you combat the wet time of the year. From umbrellas to raincoats, boots and towels, there is no end to “rainy season” merchandise.

Here is our pick of some the most interesting umbrellas in Japan.

UnBrella Upside Down Umbrella

Designed by Hiroshi Kajimoto for +d/H-concept, the UnBrella Upside Down Umbrella is awesome as it name sounds. No one will forget you in the rain when you unleash this umbrella! It works brilliantly and is super easy to open up and protect you from the elements.

unbrella umbrella upside down

It can stand up on its own, ideal for when you have nowhere to prop your umbrella up against. It will also keep the wet part of the umbrella inside once you’ve closed it, meaning things don’t get dripped on when you put it away after coming indoors. Instead, the water runs off while enclosed by the folds of the canopy.

unbrella umbrella upside down

unnurella Water-Repellant Umbrella

Made with special water-repellant coating technology by Komatsu Seiren, the unnurella (literally, the “un-wet umbrella”) by WPC and Kazuya Koike of Doogdesign can just be shaken once and the rain droplets will be all gone. Your umbrella will now feel dry and you can take it around without fear of getting your clothes or other people wet when you ride public transport.

unnurella water repellent umbrella japan

Vegetabrella Lettuce Umbrella

One of the funnest and most eye-catching entries on this list, the Vegetabrella Lettuce Umbrella looks like a romaine lettuce head.

vegetabrella lettuce umbrella salad japanese

Japan is famous for its “fake food” restaurant displays and having a general obsession with cuisine. Perhaps it’s only natural that Yurie Mano (h concept) came up with a salad-like way to keep off the rain. Folded up and wrapped in its cover, this parasol could easily be taken for a romaine lettuce. Opened up, it protects you from the elements as well as shows the world you like your greens!

vegetabrella lettuce umbrella salad japanese

Nippon-Ichi Fujisan Umbrella

The Nippon-Ichi Fujisan Umbrella is a tribute to one of the most instantly recognizable symbols in the land of the rising sun. The design on the canopy forms the famous snow-capped Fuji shape as seen from above but (and here’s the really cool thing), it’s made up of mini triangular Mt Fujis too! The name in Japanese is also a clever pun, meaning both “Mt Fuji” and “Fuji umbrella”.

nippon ichi fujisan umbrella

Shippo Tail Umbrella

A really self-indulgent choice this one but we love it. The Shippo Tail Umbrella by MicroWorks truly makes rainy days fun. The umbrella canopy is tied up with the tail of an animal, who then accompanies you around as you ward off nature’s elements. Made using leftover materials, these colorful umbrellas are environmentally friendly too. There are several different colors and three animals: monkey, cat or momonga – the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel.

shippo tail umbrella microworks animal

So now you know how to stay dry in style, folks!

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