JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Face Pack turns Hirohiko Araki manga into skin care tool

Written by: Japan Trends on January 19, 2015 at 8:57 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The makers of the Kabuki Face Pack just keep on finding new source material for skin care tools that blow all the competition out of the water.

Combining Japan’s love for dressing up (cosplay) with its robust beauty industry, the face packs by Isshindo Honpo have so far featured the likes of Cats, Ueno Zoo animals, and even Hollywood ghouls.

jojos bizarre adventure face pack beauty skin care tool

Now comes two face packs inspired by the popular manga and anime series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

jojos bizarre adventure face pack beauty skin care tool

The JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Face Pack is a genuine beauty tool, like regular face packs designed to reinvigorate your skin and help fight the signs of aging.

This time the masks are based on the Stone Mask and the Star Platinum. As JoJo fans will know, the Stone Mask was featured in the first story in the JoJo series, while the Star Platinum is the Stand of Jotaro Kujo, from Stardust Crusaders.

jojo bizarre adventure stone mask

The pack includes both masks… so which do you want to be?!

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Shikumi Design launches Kagura, a futuristic gesture-controlled musical instrument system

Written by: William on January 16, 2015 at 8:36 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Bridge has shared a story about Fukuoka-based startup Shikumi Design and their futuristic musical instrument, Kagura.

While the name might imply traditional Japanese music, the “motion perform instrument” system is anything but historical, allowing you to “play” it intuitively through gesture recognition.

kagura motion perform instrument shikumi design gesture recognition

The makers describe as an instrument that “makes it possible to perform music by moving your body, without touching anything.”

It uses a patented technology that recognizes human movements and gestures so that the user can perform music freely.

It generates new music performance with visual effects.You can also append your voice to Kagura, arrange the tempo of music and where to put the sounds on the screen. And you can enjoy all of them by your gesture with the Intel RealSense 3D camera.

As The Bridge writes:

The Kagura app won the grand prize at the Intel Perceptual Computing Challenge competition in 2013. The new version introduced at this time has been upgraded to support Intel RealSense 3D, a new technology available on PCs from Lenovo, Acer, and others, enabling an app to understand and respond to natural movement in 3D with a built-in camera.

However, vision analysis for playing instruments is conducted in 2D, so if you are satisfied with playing instruments only, the app can work with any Windows PC with a built-in camera regardless of whether it supports the RealSense technology.

Currently it is designed for 64-bit Windows 8.1 only, but sure a Mac version is coming soon? iOS and Android mobile versions are also in development. Otherwise, all you need is the app and a webcam.

There is no limit to how many people can “play” it at the same time, though the makers recommend one or two maximum, since it can only recognize two hands simultaneously.

Where can expect to see the Kagura? Well, at special live events, perhaps, since it will be ideal for taking the role of the DJ or VJ to the next level.

Here’s an earlier prototype they made showing how your dance creates music and graphics.

Let’s have this in the 2020 Olympic opening ceremony please!

Learn more and download the app on the Kagura website.

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High-res & Analog Spincoaster Music Bar is Shinjuku/Yoyogi co-working space storing LP records for customers

Written by: William on January 15, 2015 at 8:28 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Music media Spincoaster has launched a new crowd-funding campaign on Makuake to create a music bar they claim is the world’s first to focus on LP and high-resolution audio.

Seating 17, the High-res & Analog Spincoaster Music Bar will play LP records at the request of customers and offer a “record keep” service where customer’s records can be stored for safekeeping at the bar.

music-bar-spincoaster-hi-res-analog-1

This later service may seem strange to an outsider but in space-strapped Tokyo, it makes a very cool alternative to a storage unit rental. (In this way, it reminds of the “library bar” in Shibuya that also had a successful crowd-funding campaign last year.)

music bar spincoaster hi-res analog

The makers are also selling the Music Bar as a daytime co-working space — a growing trend in Tokyo — with free Wi-Fi and fixed seats. The evening will see it transform more into the “bar” of its name.

At time of writing, they have already exceeded their initial funding goal of ¥1 million (about $10,000) with nearly 90 supporters, and with more than 36 days still to go they are continuing to collect funds. It seems Tokyo has enough analog music fans to keep this bar in business for a while.

music bar spincoaster hi-res analog

It will open at the end of March, four minutes’ walk from JR Yoyogi or JR Shinjuku stations.

music bar spincoaster hi-res analog

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More cast photos released for upcoming stage version of “Naruto”

Written by: William on January 14, 2015 at 8:02 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

More photos have been released for the upcoming stage musical version of beloved anime and manga “Naruto”.

“Naruto” recently ended its long, successful manga serialization, leaving the door open for a second life on film or stage.

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

As the publicity photos suggest, though, the new theatrical version has a grittier look than the manga. It is being dubbed a “live spectacle” rather than a play or musical, so expect lots of visuals rather than a sensical story.

Starring Kodai Matsuoka as Naruto, the jury’s still out on whether the adaptation will beguile or betray fans when the curtain goes up.

Starting in March, the production will tour four venues in Japan in Tokyo, Osaka, Miyagi and Fukuoka, before going on to Macao, Malaysia and Singapore.

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

naruto stage musical adaptation theater version costumes cast

Big-budget stage adaptations of manga and anime are a growing trend in Japan.

“One Piece” is being turned into a Kabuki play this autumn, while the spring sees “Death Note, the Musical”, with music by veteran American composer Frank Wildhorn.

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University of Tokyo releases “encyclopedia” book of “beautiful” female students

Written by: William on January 13, 2015 at 8:40 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Sexist or working to challenge stereotypes? This is a project bound to divide.

We might be forgiven for thinking that female students at Japan’s top college, the University of Tokyo, could be called brainy, or even nerdy. Heck, that doesn’t need to be a bad thing, right? Nor does it preclude being a nice person or having glamor.

Well, students at the University of Tokyo themselves seem to be worried about this. So worried, apparently, that they have persuaded a bunch of the college’s female enrolees to pose for photos in a campus club photo book.

Todai Bijo Zukan University of Tokyo Beauties Encyclopedia photo book female student hot cute

Reports the Asahi Shimbun, Todai Bijo Zukan (University of Tokyo Beauties Encyclopedia) first went on sale last May at a college event and sold out. It was followed by another volume, which increased the print run from 300 to 1,000. A third volume is set for release this May, a bonanza issue with portraits of 50 female cuties.

One student featured is Yu Yoshiuchi (22), who says, “At first, I thought it must be an indelicate project from a male standpoint. But it’s true people think female students in private universities are more cheerful, so I thought it would be great if we could change that impression.”

Todai Bijo Zukan University of Tokyo Beauties Encyclopedia photo book female student hot cute

Todai Bijo Zukan University of Tokyo Beauties Encyclopedia photo book female student hot cute

Most university students spend their college days obsessed with the opposite sex (or the same sex, if they are so inclined), but this state of affairs is chronic at the University of Tokyo, where the male-to-female student ratio is apparently 8-to-2! You can bet that the Stems UT club members who conceived the project had no shortage of volunteers to help scout female subjects and do the interviews and shoots.

The club members came up with the project because they wanted to “promote the fact that our school has a lot of cute women, even though many people may not think we do.”

The books also include the students’ scores on the standardized tests they took to enter the university as indicators of their intelligence.

So is this sexist? Or just a sweet way to try to change prevailing attitudes towards clever students?

Todai Bijo Zukan University of Tokyo Beauties Encyclopedia photo book female student hot cute

Todai Bijo Zukan University of Tokyo Beauties Encyclopedia photo book female student hot cute

You might think that after the whole Haruko Obokata fiasco, where the media went into a frenzy over a beautiful female Japanese scientist, that prestigious institutions might be treading carefully when it comes to this kind of area. Apparently the male undergrads don’t think so!

Let’s not worry about these ladies too much, though. As Yoshiuchi says, “If male students go too far (in the photo sessions), I make sure to stop them.”

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Otamatone Digital: Japan’s tadpole theremin gets a “rock” update!

Written by: Japan Trends on January 9, 2015 at 9:08 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Our love for all things Maywa Denki is no secret. We recently went wild about Mr Knocky, their unique drum toy, and also think their retro Otona no Kagaku Maywa Denki Automa-te Auto Writer Hand is cool as hell.

If you’re a fan of original gadgets, especially musical ones, then Maywa Denki are the folk for you.

The original Otamatone came out a few years and was quite a global hit. It’s seen some updates over the time since but here’s the first major re-release: the Otamatone Digital.

otamatone digital sound toy musical instrument japanese theremin

This is a reinterpretation of the theremin (as we know, a popular instrument in Japan) but it reinvents the musical instrument in terms of look, sound and action.

For a start, it looks like a large musical note (or tadpole) with a face. You use the stem to “play” the notes and then control the “mouth” to adjust the sound that is produced.

The Otamatone Digital can play chords and has a back switch to change octaves. As before, you play the notes along the stem (they even provide you with “stickers” so you can see what you are playing) and vary the sound through the mouth, though now there are improved “modes” so you can create great sounds like a kick drum, snare, bell or cymbal.

Here’s Maywa Denki honcho Novumichi Tosa giving a demonstration.

You can play chords (even “power chords”) and “drums” on this tadpole. A mini theremin rock concert? You bet!

Here are several Otamatone Digital instruments playing “The Frog Song”.

The Otamatone Digital is available in black or white versions.

You can get the Otamatone Digital from Japan Trend Shop.

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Shonan T-Site: Tsutaya’s new chic retail complex in surfer town

Written by: William on January 8, 2015 at 9:03 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

After wowing hipsters the world over with the first T-Site in Tokyo’s upmarket Daikanyama district three years ago, Tsutaya continues its quest to stop being the Blockbuster of Japan and be taken seriously as a sophisticated retailer: Shonan T-Site opened in mid-December, a complex of over 30 stores.

Like its Tokyo predecessor, the new T-Site in the beach resort area of Shonan, some 50km from the capital, is sleek and curated, with an uber-hip bookstore, restaurants, cafes, an Apple reseller, and even a posh FamilyMart convenience store. The same design team, led by architecture studio Klein Dytham, is behind the latest addition to Culture Convenience Club’s money-spinners.

Mark Dytham told The Japan Times: “The goal of the space is, as Tsutaya puts it, ‘cultural navigation.’ In an era when you can get everything online, what’s the point of shopping? I have 13 million Spotify tracks on my phone but don’t know what to play. Virtually everything is available on Amazon. The T-Site projects give you something you cannot get online: curation and concierges who know intimately about which section they oversee, whether it’s cars, food, travel, design, photography, fashion.”

shonan t-site tsutaya

So the white cubes from the Daikanyama complex are still here, along with the range of curated retail options. What is different is the location, of course, since Shonan is a beach area full of surfing and sun. That said, the money is still there, since Shonan is a plush area home to the well-to-do who can afford the long commute to Tokyo (think the elite families who gave us the taiyo-zoku in the 1950′s), and Tokyoites with second homes in the peninsula.

Shonan T-Site is actually part of something bigger and quite exciting — Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (FSST), a model town for the future being developed by Panasonic.

As Panasonic puts it: “[Shonan T-Site is] not a site just for selling products. It’s a base for inspiring residents and visitors to the Shonan area, nurturing new lifestyles, and making this lifestyle known to people outside the town. Lifestyles born in the town called Fujisawa SST have great potential to affect lifestyles in Japan, and furthermore, in the world.”

You can grab a coffee at the customized designer Starbucks or indulge in some designing of yourself since, following in the craze arguably started by the likes of Fab Cafe in Shibuya, you can use 3D printers and laser cutters in the upstairs lounge area, or even try out Panasonic home appliances in a special tryvertising space called Square Lab Ferment.

The Daikanyama complex was touted as an attempt to meet the retail needs for middle-aged or older moneyed urbanites in search of experiences worthy of Daikanyama — quiet, curated, expensive. That said, its demographic is always mixed, full of younger couples on dates in Daikanyama, though they may not necessarily make a purchase.

Shonan has some of this too, since the population is older and life is slower, but there are also plenty of young visitors in the summer, who may want to combine a trip to Enoshima beach with some browsing at T-Site. Look for it to get busier as the weather get warmer.

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Tatsuo Horiuchi’s Excel Art New Year Card 2015 for the Year of the Sheep

Written by: William on January 7, 2015 at 8:47 am | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

The 74-year-old artist Tatsuo Horiuchi continues to prove that age and technology can mix very well, as can tradition and computer software.

Horiuchi might well be almost halfway through his eighth decade on this planet but he continues to wow people with his artworks created entirely using Microsoft Excel. Typically these are traditional Japanese landscapes, of the kinds you might find on a folding screen panel.

His beautiful Nengajo (New Year card) for 2015 put any postcards you might have purchased from a convenience store to shame.

Naturally he chose a lamb and sheep as the main motifs (2015 is the year of the sheep).

tatsuo horiuchi japanese nengajo new year card 2015 excel art

tatsuo horiuchi japanese nengajo new year card 2015 excel art

Forget spreadsheets, use autoshapes to connect and color custom shapes with Excel and the results can be this magnificent.

tatsuo horiuchi japanese autoshapes microsoft excel art spreadsheet software

Horiuchi has been tinkering away at Excel art since his retirement and has even attracted international attention for his work.

tatsuo horiuchi japanese autoshapes microsoft excel art spreadsheet software

tatsuo horiuchi japanese autoshapes microsoft excel art spreadsheet software

tatsuo horiuchi japanese autoshapes microsoft excel art spreadsheet software

tatsuo horiuchi japanese autoshapes microsoft excel art spreadsheet software

tatsuo horiuchi japanese autoshapes microsoft excel art spreadsheet software

See more over on Tatsuo Horiuchi’s website.

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Will the Tokyo 2020 Olympics be the “eco Olympics”?

Written by: William on January 6, 2015 at 8:59 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

When Tokyo made its ultimately successful bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it emphasized how its Games would be compact and ecological.

The Olympic Village to house athletes for 2020 Games in Tokyo will be a futuristic “hydrogen town”. Power and hot water will be generated from hydrogen gas supplied by stations and pipelines built by the city in other locations. These would feed into a network of clean hydrogen energy fuel cells.

tokyo 2020 olympic games athletes village eco hydrogen power cells sustainable

But the “eco Games” have already been controversial, not least for the decision to award the biggest feather in the contractors’ caps — the new Olympic Stadium — to a foreign architect, Zaha Hadid, and for a design that looks like a spaceship. So much for the green Olympics. Outrage over the cost and size of the stadium, far in excess of the original allocation, has led to it being scaled back dramatically. That said, the new stadium is still going to cost $1.37 billion, possibly the most expensive stadium in the world. “We aim to build Japan’s National Stadium to boast to the world,” said the Japan Sport Council. Leading Japanese architects have instead responded that Hadid’s stadium is a white elephant, a “turtle”.

The existing national stadium is going to be demolished this month. The new venue was proposed because the current one does not meet Olympic standards nor is it up to today’s levels of anti-seismic safety.

tokyo 2020 olympic games athletes village eco hydrogen power cells sustainable zaha hadid national stadium design

Clean energy automobiles is one area that no one would dispute Japan has been a pioneer. Toyota has become the top car manufacturer thanks to its hybrid electric vehicles, while the Nissan Leaf is the world’s best-selling all-electric vehicle. This trend looks set to continue as we approach the Games. Toyota have just released the Mirai, a sedan that is world’s first mass-market fuel-cell car in Japan. Even the buses to transport athletes in 2020 will be hydrogen-powered.

tokyo 2020 olympic games athletes village eco hydrogen power cells sustainable

Sustainable energy is the elephant in the room in Japan. The immense furore over nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima crisis has turned the argument predominantly into one of the risks of nuclear power versus the need for the so-called “nuclear village” system, which was erected by the government in the post-war period. However, the real issue is not only if nuclear power stations, especially old ones built decades ago, are sensible in a nation with so many natural disasters. The task at hand is not so just clean energy for the 17,000 athletes living for a few weeks at Harumi, but green energy for the whole of Japan.

The Olympic Village section of the 2020 Games proposal specifically highlights the eco nature of the plan.

Construction of the Olympic Village will produce minimal greenhouse gas emissions through a comprehensive and verifiable greenhouse gas reduction plan. It will be developed in compliance with the Tokyo 2020 Sustainability Strategy, and the “Green Building Program” and the “Tokyo Vision 2020” long-term urban plan. The CASBEE Urban Development standard will be applied, and specific elements of the LEED ND (Neighbourhood Development) standard applied where practicable.

Since the Olympic Village site is a stepping stone in the “Wind Trail” described in “Tokyo Vision 2020″, it has been designed so comfort zone winds will easily pass through. Landscaping, green roofs and walls are actively planned. These efforts are also incorporated in guidelines of the TMG’s development programmes. Implementation of environmental measures will be an incentive for development in the private sector.

It goes further to discuss the legacy of the Games in terms of sustainability.

The Olympic Village will become an urban residential “smart city pioneer model”, where Japanese sustainability technologies are assembled.

In other words, the Village will become a model for further smart city development rolled out over the rest of Tokyo and Japan.

If the Tokyo government is sincere about this, they have a lot of work to do.

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