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.
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.
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.
Create your own latte art coffee foam sculptures with the 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino by Takara TomyWritten 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino is now on pre-order and will be available in early December.
Oh, and Takara Tomy made this funny commercial.
Premium Cocorobo Imouto Version: Sharp’s moe “little sister” character robotic vacuum cleaner goes on saleWritten 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.
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.
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.
Japan’s biggest design showcase Tokyo Designers Week (TDW) landed again for the year in the Gaienmae Aoyama area.
We went along to check out the exhibits. Here are our highlights.
Real estate company Chintai are a regular face at TDW. Here they created a “Tokyo Merry-Go-Round” with artist Asami Kiyokawa.
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.
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.
Here we entered the Uncanny Valley. The android Asuna was a “receptionist” created by A-Lab.
This booth was very popular, a manga sticker world presented by Toyo Ink and manga-ka Shintaro Kago.
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”.
The outdoor schools section featured this “Tanjo no Katachi” by Nihon University, a primitive representation of form itself.
Staying outside, these kids seemed to love this container installation designed by Sebastian Masuda (an art director for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu).
It wasn’t all “new” stuff, though. A special pavilion was devoted to the work of Edo-era ukiyoe print artist Hokusai.
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.
Shiori Yano’s “MOTHERS MOUNTAIN” bottled up motifs of street culture.
Finally, Sato Sugamoto’s “Non-Verbal Communication” shows two “hats of thought” of two people meeting and trying to communicate.
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.
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.
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.
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“.
Orders are being taken for the neo-kotatsu, though it will set you back at least ¥255,000 ($2,500).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Panasonic Beauty Premium Booster Mask EH-XM10 is available on pre-order from JapanTrendShop now.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
The reliable folk from Kai-You were out and about in the streets of Shibuya snapping this fun gallery of images.