The Snap Up by en route, a crowdsourced fashion show on the streets of Tokyo

Written by: William on October 8, 2014 at 10:36 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Last month United Arrows’ en route brand ran a special “crowdsourced fashion show” on the streets of Omotesando and Harajuku.

In the words of, The Snap Up campaign saw “fashion brand encourage the public to act like the paparazzi in Tokyo”.

We’re a little late to the party with this story but because it’s pretty cool, we reckon it still merits a write-up one month after the fact.

En Route sent models for three hours wearing its 2014 autumn-winter line out into the streets during the Vogue Fashion Night Out, the annual bonanza which sees lots brands and stores in Omotesando running special evening events.

en route the snap up crowdsourced fashion show tokyo streets vogue fashion night out 2014 campaign united arrows

Members of the public were invited to hunt for the wandering models, take their pictures, and then upload them via the dedicated The Snap Up iPhone app. These were then judged in realtime and uploaded to the campaign website. The selected images netted the photographer a small cash prize of ¥1,000 (under $10).

en route the snap up crowdsourced fashion show tokyo streets vogue fashion night out 2014 campaign united arrows

And apparently there was a mysterious “Cashier Man” also walking the streets. If they stumbled across him, you could swipe your phone on his arm and claim money on the spot. Nice! According to,1,000 people took 27,000 photos.

en route the snap up crowdsourced fashion show tokyo streets vogue fashion night out 2014 campaign united arrows

Here’s a trailer giving you a taster of the campaign.

Although the photos themselves no longer seem to be available, on The Snap Up website you can even watch a four-hour-plus “live” video of the event.

En route is aimed at men and women in their thirties, centering around fashion and sports under the concept of “Wearable Tokyo”. It opened its first store in Ginza in September, shortly after it ran The Snap Up campaign.

en route the snap up crowd sourced fashion show tokyo streets vogue fashion night out 2014 campaign united arrows

In Japan privacy has more respect than other places and TV shows will typically blur out the faces of random people who happen to walk into shot during filming. There has also been a lot of brouhaha recently about fans snapping photos of celebrities without explicit permission from the person being lensed.

And so for a brand to encourage profligate photography and indiscriminate social media sharing is quite a bold marketing move, locally at least.


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CEATEC 2014: Toshiba unveils Aiko Chihira, a talking, signing android robot

Written by: William on October 8, 2014 at 10:54 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 2 Comments

It seems that everyone has a robot these days, even SoftBank.

At CEATEC 2014, Japan’s biggest tech event, Toshiba has unveiled its contribution to the Japanese robot canon — an android that can talk and sign.

ceatec 2014 aiko chihira android robot sign language toshibaImage via The Verge

Aiko Chihira is an example of what Toshiba hopes will be a new line in humanoid communication robots that can “man” receptions and also help with nursing people, a chronic problem as Japan’s population ages.

Aiko Chihira has silicone skin — uncannily like Orient Industry sex dolls, then! — and was jointed developed by aLab Inc., Osaka University, Shibaura Institute of Technology and Shonan Institute of Technology.

Aiko Chihira is equipped with 43 servomotors that move her arms and hands. While it is common to see androids and robots that can interact and converse, one that has also mastered sign language is unusual.

Toshiba anticipates having enhanced Aiko Chihira’s technology so much by 2020 that it will be able to serve as an actual guide for foreign visitors to the Tokyo Olympic Games! Would that make you feel more welcome to the Olympics or rather put off?

CEATEC kicked off yesterday in Chiba’s Makuhari Messe and this year features a host of 4K televisions, fuel-cell and hydrogen technology, as well as a Sharp-developed color infrared car camera.

toshiba glasses ceatec 2014Image via The Verge

Toshiba also showed off its answer to the Google Glasses at the expo, Toshiba Glass, though we’re not sure why it has opted for the peculiarly singular noun. Is there only one lens?

Oh, and there was an obligatory ping-pong robot from Omron. If Aiko Chihira is going to take care of visitors, will this table tennis bot be a future Olympic athlete, then?

ceatec 2014 omron table tennis ping pong rally robotImage via The Verge

Probably not, since Omron has designed the tech so it doesn’t try to beat the opponent, just sustain a rally of a 100 strokes. Phew. Saying that, the sheer size of the robot still makes it pretty intimating to play against!


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Yumetenbo plus plumprimo: A new Japanese fashion shopping app for pocchari plus-size ladies

Written by: William on October 8, 2014 at 9:05 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Japanese women are known for being on the slender side but beauty of course comes in all shapes and sizes. As such, we have seen a shift towards a greater mainstream acceptance of larger ladies in the Japanese fashion world, which is typified by women with spider-thin arms and legs and chopping board-thin bodies.

A pioneer in this was La Farfa, the first fashion magazine in Japan for women who can be described as pocchari — an informal Japanese word that can be translated as “chubby”, though its nuance is not at all negative (quite the opposite, the word often has a cute connotation).

The launch of La Farfa was followed by Japan’s first pocchari fashion show, featuring only women of a certain size range.

plusprimo yumetenbo app fashion japanese women larger size plus chubby pocchari

And now we have Yumetenbo + plumprimo, a new Android and iPhone app on the Yumetenbo (“Dream Platform”) system that showcases the apparel brand plumprimo, which as its name suggests, is exclusively for plus-size women.

plusprimo yumetenbo app fashion japanese women larger size plus chubby pocchari

plusprimo yumetenbo app fashion japanese women larger size plus chubby pocchari

Yumetenbo runs a fashion e-commerce service for women. The new partnership with plumprimo will allow users to search for plus-size plumprimo items on Yumetenbo + and buy them through the Yumetenbo platform. While there are a lot of niches in Japanese fashion and, as we said, you might be forgiven for presuming Japan didn’t have much demand for plus-size digital fashion tools like this, the makers are hoping for 10,000 downloads of the free app in a year.

plusprimo yumetenbo app fashion japanese women larger size plus chubby pocchari

Here are some examples of plumprimo’s range.


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Citizen Chasing Horizons: Watch-maker flies across Arctic Circle time zones to steal time from the sun

Written by: William on October 7, 2014 at 8:51 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

There are advertising stunts, and then there are advertising stunts.

Japanese watch brand Citizen teamed up the Tokyo and Amsterdam branches of Wieden & Kennedy to challenge landscape photographer Simon Roberts to chase the sun.

In late February, Roberts turned Icarus and flew across the Earth’s time zones in an airplane to photograph sunsets and “discover how long it is humanly possible to live in the same hour”.

citizen chasing horizons simon roberts sunset time zones arctic circle fly airplane watch eco satellite wave f100

The Chasing Horizons project took the organizers back to the basics of navigation: paper maps, understanding the movement of the sun and the rotation of the Earth, and having a trustworthy time-keeping device. They had no previous flight route to fall back on; what they were doing had never been done before and was a risky venture in terms of allowing for the logistics. Precise minute-by-minute scheduling for the flight was a must. The second refueling stop was at an airport in the Arctic Circle so cold that filming there would have broken the camera.

The project is a promo for the Citizen watch Eco-Drive Satellite Wave F100, which the team make ample use of to keep track of which time zone they are in. As the watch’s marketing proclaims: “wherever you are on earth, [it] adjusts to your current time zone in just 3 seconds”.

This is the result, a “race against time” where they “steal one night from the planet” and demonstrate the capabilities of the watch.

The mission lasted for over 24 hours and the two pilots had to take turns to sleep. As the plane moved across into a new time zone, the Eco-Drive Satellite Wave F100 adjusted one hour back. It was then that Simon Roberts snapped his shots of the sunset. The resulting collage shows a series of sunsets across the time zones — shot at the exact same hour and minute, all in one day.


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feast by Gomi Hayakawa: Video game-themed fashion show for lingerie brand for women with modest chests

Written by: William on October 6, 2014 at 12:08 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Less is more, as they say, and beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. These two truism perhaps best sum up one savvy project by a talented fashion design student who has found success already at a young age.

Let’s be frank, most Japanese woman are not well-equipped in the chest area. The slang for this in Japanese is hinnyuu — literally “poor breasts”. But Gomi Hayakawa doesn’t agree. The 19-year-old has taken the concept of being flat-chested and replaced the first Kanji character (for “poor”) with one that has the same sound but means “quality”.

The result was feast, her line of bras and lingerie for women with modest chests.

gomi hayakawa feast lingerie breasts small chests japanese women

And now to fund her first fashion show on November 30th at Shibuya’s Garret Udagawa, she has taken to crowdfunding service Campfire. She aimed to raise ¥250,000 (around $2,300) by the end of October.

Let’s keep in mind that Hayakawa is still only a first-year student at Tama Art University. She clearly knows how to market her ideas, not to mention having brilliant design ideas in the first place.

feast gomi hayakawa lingerie bra hinnyuu small breasts chest

feast sold out of its entire 450-item run in the first day when it was launched earlier in the year. It received a lot of attention online and from some mainstream media outlets, and also found some free publicity from cosplay models like Luchino Fujisaki. She has since launched a second line of feast items (A cup or smaller!), with colors inspired by sweets.

gomi hayakawa feast lingerie breasts small chests japanese women

The fashion show Hayakawa is planning will feature DJ and VJ performances, new feast lingerie, and other “interactive” elements. She said she doesn’t just want to present designs to people — she wants “to design people”. The fashion show “RPG” will be themed around the concept of a role-playing video game and in this vein Hayakawa has even created a video game as a taster, plus this promo video.

On her Campfire project Hayakawa offers donation packages starting at a mere ¥500 ($5). At the time of writing she has already achieved almost double her funding from over 60 funders, proving yet again that she has really tapped into a formidable niche here.

gomi hayakawa feast bra lingerie underwear small bust chest breasts

Feast or famine? I think we have the answer.


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Photographer Matthew Pillsbury shoots Tokyo in long-exposure glory

Written by: William on October 6, 2014 at 8:20 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Tokyo is a city that is a paradise to photographers; it opens up just so many opportunities for images — the technology, lights, crowds, fashion, subcultures, architecture, businessmen, seasons, festivals… We would venture that Japan has been responsible for more Flickr accounts that any other “source materials” but of course, we may be wrong there.

And so with such competition out there competing for eyeball space, it takes a project with something special to stand out. And while there are legions of talented photographers — local or expat — resident in the city, perhaps Matthew Pillsbury succeeded because he’s an outsider — he’d only come to Tokyo once before he started creating the images for his new show, aptly titled “Tokyo”, showing at Benrubi Gallery in New York until October 25th.

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography

“The growing use of technology in our lives has simultaneously allowed for instantaneous global communication, but it also can isolate us by favoring virtual contact as opposed to real-world interaction,” he told Slate.

While making his epic long-exposure shots of various locations throughout the city he ran into classic Japanese bureaucracy, which made getting permission to shoot in some places difficult. Shoots at some locations, such as a sumo tournament, ultimately did not work out because the management would not allow him in. We would have loved to see a long-exposure sumo bout!

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography

Phillsbury usually works in color but we can certainly see why he broke his own rule for this series.

How many of the places in the photographs do you recognize?

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography

matthew phillsbury tokyo long exposure photography


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Times Car Plus – Affordable Car Sharing for City Dwellers

Written by: William on October 3, 2014 at 7:40 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Greg Lane first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

While it’s great not needing to own a car in Tokyo (with all the incumbent expenses) there’s no question that it can be fun or sometimes necessary (big shopping trips) to get behind the wheel. That’s where car sharing services – like Times Car Plus – come in really handy, and for much less money than you might expect.

car sharing services tokyo japan times plus

Times Car Plus is a service run by the company that operates the Times Car 24 parking lots which seem to sprout up on vacant land whenever a building gets demolished. There are literally thousands of locations dotted throughout the metropolis and beyond, so there is more than likely one nearby wherever you are in Tokyo. While the carparks are almost ubiquitous, not all of them have Times Car Plus cars available. Small parking lots may have only 1 or 2 cars while the bigger ones may have up to 10 or more cars available.

Getting Signed Up

Although sign-up and reservation is all in Japanese (if you don’t read Japanese, you’ll definitely need a friend to help). When you sign-up, you’ll have the option of joining as a corporate member or as an individual. If you have your own company in Japan, you’re best to sign-up as a company as it’s cheaper. Individual membership fees are ¥1,030 a month while the company plan has no monthly fees. The individual plan however, does include ¥1,030 worth of free driving each month, so if you use it regularly it will balance out.

After you’ve entered your information in the website, you’ll be given a few options to complete the membership. The fastest way is to head to the one of the Times Car Plus offices with your Japanese driver’s license. If everything is OK, they’ll hand you your membership card – which you need to unlock the cars.

How It Works

Reserving the car is relatively easy – even if you don’t speak much Japanese. Just install the Android or iPhone app, play with the map until you find a car nearby that meets your search criteria and then click the reserve button. This is where the system breaks down slightly – you’ll be sent to the mobile web page (which you’ll need to sign-in to) to complete your booking. When it’s time to pick up your car, head to the designated car park, put your card over the touch scanner on the back window and then climb in. The car will then start talking to you, telling you to remove the key from the device in the glove box. Then, you’re free to drive off. When you return it (to the same car park) you just do this in reverse.

car sharing services tokyo japan times plus
Using the map, you can find nearby cars that fit your search criteria, then book them.

The Charges

Times Car Plus has a super simple system for charging. If you just want to grab a car and start driving, the cost is ¥206 for each 15-minute interval. So if you drive around for an hour, you’ll be charged ¥824. There are no charges for fuel or mileage. If you need to fill up, there is a fuel card attached to the driver side visor which you can use almost anywhere. If you do stop to fill up, they even give you a 15-minute free bonus. The ¥206 fee is for what they term “basic” cars – Suzuki Swifts, Mazda Demios and even larger Toyota Prius and Honda Fit Shuttles. If you want a “premium” car, the pay as you go fee is ¥412 for each 15-minute interval. The premium cars include BMW 116s, Mini One Crossovers, all electric Nissan Leafs (leaves?) and Audi A1s. However, if you reserve one of the longer time packs, you can get the premium cars for the same price as the basic ones. For example, if you get the 6-hour pack, you can choose any car you like and the total stays at ¥4,020. The only condition is that the premium cars are popular, so you should make sure you reserve early.

car sharing services tokyo japan times plus
Nothing like a Chiba traffic jam to remind you how awesome the train system is.

After you’ve completed your trip, you’ll be sent an email summary of your trip – with surprising detail. Listed, is the total time of rental, distance covered, maximum speed reached (I hit 99mk/h), emergency accelerations (apparently I had two), emergency braking (zero) and any subsequent penalties. The fact that it records everything means you should think very carefully before opening up the throttle on a deserted country road. As the maximum speed limit in Japan is 100km/h, presumably if I had gone a few kilometres an hour faster, I would have incurred a penalty.

Special Deals

In addition to the 6 hour pack, there are 12-hour packs, 24-hour packs, early night packs, late night packs and all night (strangely termed “double night”) packs – each with a mileage component. They also run regular campaigns. For example, there is currently a whole weekend pack during autumn for approx. ¥9,000. Generally, for longer rental periods, you may find places like Niconico Rentacar to be better value.

So how is it?

It generally works really well. However, you are sharing the car with others, so you’re hoping that the previous occupants cleaned up properly after themselves. On my first experience, the car was spotless. On the second, it contained rubbish, empty drink containers, food crumbs and even two boxes of cigarettes – all of which I had to throw away. After you’ve returned the car, Times Car Plus sends you an email asking about the state of the car which gives you the chance to tell them that it contained rubbish – so presumably the previous driver will get a black mark against their membership or some kind of penalty.

The actual driving is more fun than I expected. Tokyo’s blade runner style road system with tunnels, multilevel bridges and elevated motorways taller than a 10-storey building and toll booths every 5 minutes can seem intimidating, but you’ll likely find traffic levels much lower to what you’re used to at home and finding your way around isn’t difficult at all. If you can’t use the Japanese sat nav system, Google Maps turn by turn instructions also work pretty well.


Car sharing has really taken off in Japan recently. In addition to Times Car Plus, there is Orix Car Sharing and a another company called Careco – both of which partner with other car park providers to offer similar services so if Times Car Plus is not available near you, these may be good alternatives. We hope to review both of these at some time in the future, so stay tuned!

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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Extreme readers stay overnight at Junkudo bookstore in Tokyo

Written by: William on October 2, 2014 at 9:27 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

There are many kinds of bibliophiles and bookworms in Japan. There are the hipsters who hang out at pristine artsy bookshops like T-Site in Daikanyama or Nadiff in Ebisu, et al. There are the manga fans who chase down rare titles at Mandarake or the serious aficionado searching for that first edition among the dusty shelves of Kanda. There are the socialites who would flock to Combine (now closed) in Nakameguro and now go to events at B&B in Shimokitazawa or the Mori no Tosho Shitsu “beer library” in Shibuya.

And then there are people who love being surrounded by books so much they want to stay overnight in a bookshop.

Junkudo, one of the main bookstore chains in Japan, has apparently spotted a demand for this kind of service and that’s why they are offering lucky group of customers the chance to do a “try living in Junkudo tour” on November 1st in the Kasumigaseki Press Center branch in Tokyo.

junkudo stay overnight sleeping service accommodation tokyo book store bookshop japan tour

Of course, guests are allowed to read the books and magazines during the overnight stay. Junkudo recruited applicants for the trial run until September 30th, having been inspired to offer the service after receiving requests on social media from people keen to “live” in Junkudo.

The bookstore night camp will run from 5pm on November 1st until 8am on November 2nd. Reading lights will be kept on for late-night sessions with your tome of choice. You have to bring your own sleeping bag and other equipment (we recommend the King Jim Wearable Futon, aimed at officer workers pulling in all-nighters), and though it’s free to stay overnight, Junkudo asks you to purchase at least one book or magazine.

junkudo stay overnight sleeping service accommodation tokyo book store bookshop japan tour

Junkudo received a lot of applicants and so will hold a lottery in October to choose who gets to experience the bookshop sleepover. There will be three sets of six guests at the bookstore-cum-hotel, though we imagine if it’s a success in terms of publicity Junkudo will make it a regular fixture.



Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robot: Taro Okamoto’s Taiyo no To recreated as transforming mechanical action figure

Written by: Japan Trends on October 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Tower of the Sun is one of the great icons of postwar Japan and the Showa era. The huge sculpture is a kind of totem pole that was created by artist Taro Okamoto as one of the signature attractions at the 1970 Osaka World Expo.

After the Expo closed, the Tower of the Sun (Taiyo no To) was one of the few structures that was preserved at the park in Senri, north Osaka.

taro okamoto tower of the sun expo 1970 osaka

The park is now mostly empty — though we highly recommend the ethnology museum in its grounds — but Okamoto’s massive tower still greets visitors as soon as they enter the gates.

Well, the Taiyo no To has now become a die-cast model in the Tamashii Chogokin alloy series — and one that transforms into an action figure!

chogokin tamashii taro okamoto tower of the sun robot taiyo no to expo osaka 1970 sculpture

A kind of tribute-cum-remake of Okamoto’s vision, the Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robot is only “robotic” in name, though it is certainly mechanical. It has moveable parts, including a chest that opens up and an extendable neck.

taro okamoto taiyo no to expo osaka 1970 tower of the sun chogokin bandai tamashii robot action figure toy

Okamoto was a playful artist who believed in art for the masses, so we don’t think he would disapprove of this merchandising of his primitivist sculpture.

This is far from the first time that the Tower of the Sun has been turned into a product but it’s definitely the best we’ve ever seen.

Bandai Tamashii’s Chogokin is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary at the moment and as such has embarked on an ambitious series of releases. This includes the truly remarkable Chogokin Hello Kitty Robot Model, which is Kitty-chan like we’ve never seen her before. It also created a kind of “mutant” of six Fujiko F Fujio characters for the Chogattai SF Robot, which is just so many levels of awesome we don’t know where to begin.

Chogokin also has a series of models for “grown-ups” too, such as this Otona no Chogokin Series 0 Shinkansen Bullet Train Model and Hayabusa Spacecraft Model Kit (based in the JAXA design), for the more serious enthusiast who wants a challenge.

Still, nothing quite beats a Tower of the Sun Transformer-style action figure!

The Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robot is now available from JapanTrendShop.


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