Hatsune Miku + Gakken create Otona no Kagaku Pocket Miku Singing Keyboard

Written by: Japan Trends on April 8, 2014 at 8:16 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Another day, another intriguing Hatsune Miku collaboration.

From expensive opera productions to every piece of merchandise an otaku can get his hands on, Hatsune Miku is not just a virtual idol, she’s a veritable industry in her own right.

Now her paymasters have got together with Gakken, the company behind the Otona no Kagaku (“adult science”) series of magazines that always come with some sort of model or build-it-yourself kit.

Hatsune Miku Gakken Otona no Kagaku Pocket Miku Singing Keyboard

The latest issue of Otona no Kagaku is bound to sell out fast because it features a Pocket Miku Singing Keyboard. The nifty DSX-39 digital pocket keyboard is preloaded with samples of Hatsune Miku’s unique vocals. Just use the touch stylus to play five sounds in the signature eVocaloid style.

Hatsune Miku Gakken Otona no Kagaku Pocket Miku Singing Keyboard

You can vary the octave and do other tricks. Here you can see someone trying it out.

If you’re a fan of Hatsune Miku, you can order your own Pocket Miku Singing Keyboard via JapanTrendShop.

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Astigu tights black-up for provocative minstrel-esque ad campaign

Written by: William on April 7, 2014 at 8:06 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Blackface or a clever marketing campaign?

astigu tao okamoto legs japanese models black face tights stockings

Imagine a female minstrel show with svelte legs and you might have the right image of this Astigu, a Japanese tights brand. The ads feature 11 good-looking Japanese models with short skirts showing off their legs. Familiar enough so far, perhaps, but then consider that the girls are all dressed in black — including their faces.

In most other countries, this would probably be too sensitive, though Japanese street fashion has the well-established “ganguro“, where girls would liberally apply dark tan to their faces.

The black is presumably meant to make a strong contrast with the girls’ legs — the focus of the ad — and to create an air of “mystery” (the campaign is called “the mysterious beautiful legs corps”). And we can also find some justification for it in the rather neat ad copy: Ashi wa kao (“your legs are your face”).

astigu tao okamoto legs japanese models black face tights stockings

The main model is Astigu’s regular, Tao Okamoto.

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Nissan surprises hard-working mom with unique drive-in theater

Written by: William on April 4, 2014 at 7:52 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Nissan has created a fun film of an eight-year-old giving his mom a very nice surprise.

Hinata and his mom take a drive in a Nissan Dayz Highway Star.

Mrs. Masuda thinks she is going to be appearing in a marketing video but instead gets directed to a special car park where her family proceeds to put on a play to tell her how much they appreciate her efforts to bring them up.

nissan presents happy smile drive in theater

It’s a bit sentimental, but still makes a very welcome change to the usual approaches to advertising from major Japanese corporations that rely on using the latest popular celebrity face.

We don’t want to spoil things too much for you so here’s the video.

Nissan has done this kind of “Happy Surprise” film before. Last year they rewarded another young mother with a whole spectacle featuring her relatives, led by a husband who wanted to propose to her properly after 11 years of marriage.

The resulting video became a word-of-mouth hit, generating nearly 800,000 views at time of writing.

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Nendo designs coffee mugs for Starbucks Japan

Written by: William on April 3, 2014 at 10:33 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Top Japanese design studio nendo has designed this coffee mugs for Starbuck’s in Japan.

Sold at Starbucks branches throughout Japan, the mugs have a print on the bottom that makes it look like the cup is full of coffee. This means when they are drying or sitting upside down on your kitchen shelf, your cup will still seem brimming with coffee! Just be careful not to get confused over which end to drink from.

They cost 1,200 yen (about $12) and are available in either latte, caramel macchiato or Americano versions.

starbucks japan mug nendo design tokyo

starbucks japan mug nendo design tokyo

starbucks japan mug nendo design tokyo

starbucks japan mug nendo design tokyo

starbucks japan mug nendo design tokyo

It’s not the first time that nendo has worked with Starbucks brand in Japan. In late 2012 it created Starbucks Espresso Journey, a special pop-up shop in Tokyo dedicated to the chain’s espresso drinks.

Visitors could learn more about lattes, cappuccinos and cafe mochas in the “library” space. It featured bookshelves with books in nine colors, each corresponding to a different drink.

starbucks espresso journey nendo pop-up store

starbucks espresso journey nendo pop-up store

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Jeroen Bisscheroux’s “POOL loss of colour” brings Tohoku swimming pool carpet art to Osaka

Written by: William on April 2, 2014 at 12:09 pm | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

Dutch artist Jeroen Bisscheroux installed a brilliant swimming pool artwork in Osaka as part of the Namura Shipyard Creative Center Osaka’s artist-in-residency program.

“POOL loss of colour” was shown from March 7th to March 11th at Grand Front Osaka, and looked like a lot of fun!

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

This flat artwork is a large carpet, 7.5 by 15 meters in size. Its one image “unites the tsunami in Sendai and the disaster in Fukushima” on the floor. By having people play and explore the empty, discolored Tohoku swimming pool, they are re-populating the disaster zone.

The installation “brings the impact of the disaster back to human proportions; the understandable human proportions of the dimension of a swimming pool”.

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

Bisscheroux says:

In my artwork and as an artist I focus on concepts for public and urban space, projects with a social character are playing a major role. These concepts generate a great deal of energy and engagement from the widely diverse groups whom I’m working with.

This way I gain a sharper picture of what is happening in the society around me, how public processes evolve, how decisions are reached and what the results of these decisions are. I’m interested in all of this in order to more clearly determine my own role as artist and apply myself in relevant social contexts.

The practical limitations of art in public space are part of the creative process. The field of tension between the power of the imagination and existing rules and regulations is an interesting factor. Within the margins of what is physically or technically possible, it is the imagination that must ultimately transcend the limitations. This way, I’m trying to offer the users, participants and audiences a different, more personal reality.

My work is increasingly balanced between architecture, fine art and design.

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

This is how the team made the carpet artwork.

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

And here it is being installed in parts in the venue.

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

The artist and his work.

jeroen bisscheroux pool loss of color swimming osaka fukushima

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Tokyo Cherry Blossoms: Top 5 Hanami Spots

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on April 1, 2014 at 11:28 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Frances Maeda first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

At last — hanami season is here! Grab your camera, pack a picnic and prepare for your anime moment under the falling petals. We’ve put together a list of some of the best places in the city to get into the spring mood.

Hanami, which literally means, “flower viewing”, is our favorite Japanese tradition (and it’s a very cheapo-friendly one too). You haven’t experienced Japan until you’ve had a party under the cherry blossoms. This year, the forecast for Tokyo puts first bloom at the 28th of March, with the trees expected to be in full bloom by the 5th of April.

Here are our recommendations for hanami venues…


Ueno Park

ueno park hanami cherry blossom tokyo

Image by David Martin Clavo, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

One of the most popular (and crowded) hanami spots in Tokyo, where the trees famously bloom a bit earlier. An estimated 800 cherry trees line the central path, and people picnic on both sides, using blankets or tarps to claim whatever space they can. If you time it right, you might be able to boat around the pond-lake thing too. Whatever you decide to do, our advice is to get there early! Lanterns are strung up, so you can party on into the evening.

Access: Ueno Station.

Shinjuku Gyoen

shinjuku gyoen park hanami cherry blossom tokyo

Image by Rob Towell, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

If you’re keen on somewhere a little more peaceful, this is a good place. There are around 1,000 cherry trees — a whole bunch of different varieties — which bloom at different stages. The park is spacious, with nice big lawns and plenty of walking paths, so even when it’s crowded, you can still enjoy a chilled stroll under the blossoms. There’s an English garden, French garden and Japanese garden — head to the English one for the best picnic spots. Entrance to Shinjuku Gyoen is 200 yen.

Access: Shinjukugyoenmae Station or Sendagaya Station.

Koukyo — Imperial Palace

koukyo imperial palace tokyo hanami cherry blossom

Pic by Dave King, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

To celebrate Emperor Akihito’s 80th birthday (which was in December), the cherry tree-lined Inui-Dori will be open to the public for five days of cherry blossom viewing this year. It’s normally closed off, so this is a pretty big deal and a rare chance to see what we assume are especially exquisite sakura (cherry blossoms). It will only be open from the 4th-8th of April, from 10-4 (last entrance at 3), so get there early, and prepare to queue! It’s probably best not to bother with a picnic, as you’ll just be ambling (or more likely, jostling with the masses).

Access: Head for the palace’s Sakashita Gate from Nijubashimae Station (take Exit 6) or Otemachi Station (Mita Line, take Exit D2).

Chidorigafuchi and Chidorigafuchi Park

chidorigafuchi park hanami cherry blossom tokyo

Image by ganaselmi, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Chidorigafuchi may be difficult to pronounce, but it’s one of the city’s most scenic hanami spots — and also a place where you can hop in a boat and row your date (or lazy friends) around an Edo-era moat (which is part of the Imperial Palace). If you’re wobbly on the water, you can mosey along the 700m-long path, ooh-ing and ah-ing your way through the tunnel of cherry blossoms. Yasukuni Shrine, which also has loads of cherry blossoms, is nearby.

Access: Kudanshita Station

Sumida Park

sumida park hanami cherry blossom tokyo

Image by Kimono Berlin, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

The area stretching from Azumabashi Bridge to Sakurabashi Bridge on the Sumida River is a super famous hanami spot, and has been for centuries. More than 1,000 cherry trees line the river, making for great photo opps. You can also see Tokyo Skytree from here. The area can get crowded — if you feel frazzled, you can duck out and take a mini cruise on a yakatabune boat.

Access: Asakusa Station.

Bonus: Showa Kinen Park

If you’re keen on getting out of Tokyo central, or miss the main hanami season by a few days, you can always check out this park in Tachikawa (about 40 minutes from Shinjuku). It’s huge, and has 1,500 cherry blossom trees – you might even see some daffodils, tulips and lavender too!

Access: Tachikawa Station.

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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Mousou Mapping Bra T-Shirt is the best bachelor party item ever!

Written by: Japan Trends on March 31, 2014 at 10:51 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

These are guaranteed to be a hit at any bachelor party!

The Mousou Mapping Bra T-Shirt are a series of tees with a difference. Their fronts are decorated with the object of every man’s daydreams (mousou) — breasts! Specifically, a “cut-away” picture revealing a tantalizing (and by Japanese standards, not so realistic) bust in a range of bra colors.

mousou mapping t-shirt bra bust

Along with the Shiridashi Butt Reveal Underwear, the Mousou Mapping Bra T-Shirts are sure to be a great addition to any party, especially if worn by someone who clearly doesn’t have the assets on display.

chu-lip pot vase kissing lips

The makers are independent studio ekoD Works, who obviously have a thing for cheeky merchandise. Other examples of their creations include the Chu-Lip Pot, a vase or teapot shaped like a kissing mouth, or the Hanaga Tap Nose Outlet, whose name is pretty self-explanatory!

hanaga tap nose outlet japan

We also think the t-shirts are unofficially inspired by “Mosatsu”, a series of cult photo books and a spin-off app where you can “rip” off part of the clothes of Gravure idol models. (And before people get too offended, there are ones for the ladies too, depicting men with “torn” clothes revealing hunky bodies.)

mosatsu rip gravure idol reveal photo underwear japanese

Get the Mousou Mapping Bra T-Shirt via JapanTrendShop.

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Iwao Hakamada, on death row for 48 years, is freed

Written by: William on March 28, 2014 at 11:30 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Yesterday an extraordinary thing happened. A man who had been in prison since the 1960′s finally went free after nearly five decades behind bars for a crime he almost certainly did not commit.

Iwao Hakamada, a former boxer, is now 78 years old and walked unsteadily out of the detention center, the 48 years of imprisonment clearly having had a great impact on his physique.

Hakamada was accused of murdering a family of four. He was arrested in 1966 for the arson, robbery and the murder of the family of his boss. Police found blood-stained clothes, extracted a confession from Hakamada, and he was sentenced to death in 1968.

Supported by his sister Hideko and many others, Hakamada maintained his innocence, though the Supreme Court rejected his final appeal in 1980, thereby sealing his fate to either die in prison or at the hangman’s noose. However, doubts about the case persisted and he was never executed.

A district court in Shizuoka Prefecture ordered Hakamada to be released so he can stand for retrial, and he finally walked free (but not yet cleared) yesterday. The court found that DNA tests indicates that original investigators falsified evidence.

iwao hakamada freed 48 years death row japan

Hakamada was believed the be the longest-serving death row inmate in the world. He now suffers from dementia. Following the Govinda Prasad Mainali and Toshikazu Sugaya cases, this is another blow for Japan’s much-criticized justice system, which relies heavily on confessions and has a dubious 99% conviction rate.

Confessions are written by police and then signed by the detainee after weeks of 12-hour interrogations with no lawyer present. Even if, as in Hakamada’s case, the suspect then withdraws their confession, in court the original police statement still stands and overrides any further testimony they give.

This practice has been immensely criticized and shown to be flawed, since Hakamada, Toshikazu Sugaya and Kazuo Ishikawa all “confessed”. Another similar case is that of Fumiaki Hoshino, a political prisoner serving a life sentence based on the “confessions” of purported “witnesses”, all of which have refuted what they said to the police.

The conditions of death row in Japan — Japan is one of the few remaining major “democracies” that keeps the death penalty — have also been criticized by international bodies. Prisoners are literally unaware that their sentence will be carried out until the final moments. This means most spend years, sometimes decades, never knowing if the next hour will be their last.

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Kabuki Face Pack improves your skin, turns you into a stage performer

Written by: Japan Trends on March 27, 2014 at 10:42 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

While Japan’s beauty and skincare product designers have produced no shortage of original and sometimes alarming-looking face masks, this might just be the most intriguing we’ve encountered in a while.

The Kabuki Face Pack comes as a set of two colorful masks that, like any standard face pack, work to rejuvenate your skin. However, here’s the difference: They also cast you as Kabuki actors!

kabuki face pack mask

Yes, as any glance at the visual design of the masks will reveal, the face packs come in red and blue inspired by the genuine makeup that Kabuki stage performers when playing two roles in the classics “Funabenkei” and “Shibaraku”.

kabuki face pack mask

Isshin Do Honpo Inc produced the Kabuki Face Packs with the cooperation of Ichikawa Somegoro, a real and respected Kabuki actor, and the design matches actual makeup used on the stage. After all, why should skincare be dull?

kabuki face pack mask

Meanwhile, if you’re suffering from hay fever at the moment, slip on a Doraemon face mask or these Hello Kitty Anti-Pollen Glasses. Whenever there’s an ailment or allergy, trust Japan to come up with a fun way to deal with it.

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