Ultra Seven x Black Ice Eyewear for superhero stylish retro glasses

Written by: William on October 21, 2014 at 8:52 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

What in some countries would be merely retro or even geeky, in Japan can be mainstream and inventive.

The Ultraman franchise continues to innovate and expand despite its age. As promotion for the Blu-Ray release of Ultra Seven in November, Tsuburaya Productions has got together with a manufacturer from Sabae in Fukui Prefecture, said to be home to Japan’s eyeglass frame manufacturing industry.

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

The Ultra Seven x Black Ice is a series of eight eyeglasses products designed in the trademark Ultra Seven colors that use highly durable Carbotitan hybrid materials to create the eyewear worthy of a superhero.

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

The special limited edition spectacles will set you back over ¥50,000 (nearly $500) and won’t be yours until next April (you can pre-order them from December). Clearly these are for the serious collector!

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

This latest development follows previous Ultra Seven hashed beef food products, an Ultraman luxury guitar, and even an appearance by Mother of Ultra in a series of Kyushu shopping mall TV ads. And if that’s not enough, head on down for a drink at the Ultraman Monster Bar in Kawasaki.

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

This time we see Japan’s love of stylish retro combining with its very lively eyewear market — an industry which has seen the launch of its own fashion magazine of late, plus collaborations with the likes of Monster Hunter and Rilakkuma, and hi-tech advances such as JINS Meme glasses that tell you when you’re tired and the Fun’iki Ambient Glasses, which link with your smart device.

ultra seven black ice eyewear eye glasses spectacles frames

In Japan retro sci-fi TV shows are not just for geeks, they can be forward-thinking fashion accessories too.

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100 yen shop toy guns and musical instruments customized to look amazingly realistic

Written by: William on October 20, 2014 at 6:23 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Japan’s 100 yen shops are treasure troves. Enter these Aladdin’s Caves and you can find almost anything you need for your kitchen or home, plus all kinds of surprising items you didn’t even know existed, let alone could be purchased for a dollar.

Despite the price (these days actually ¥108 due to sales tax hike), the quality is usually pretty good (in proportion), though you’d best not buy batteries and so on if you want them to last more than a couple of weeks.

And some creative people have proved that with some skill, you can make even a cheap 100-yen-shop toy look amazing.

Take Twitter user @m_kondo3, a photographer specializing in cosplay and survival games (a growing fashion and cosplay trend in Japan).

He took some plastic toys from a 100 yen store and painted them so they look incredibly real. When he shared them online, he got a massive response — nearly 10,000 retweets at the time of writing.

Take a look. This is a plastic toy gun.

100 yen store shop gun ray toy customize paint amazingly realistic

And now here’s the “real” thing.

100 yen store shop gun ray toy customize paint amazingly realistic

Likewise a plastic trumpet…

100 yen store shop trumpet instrument musical toy customize paint amazingly realistic

…becomes a genuine-looking musical instrument.

100 yen store shop trumpet instrument musical toy customize paint amazingly realistic

Okay, ultimately this is just the visuals. A bit of paint doesn’t mean you can start zapping alien invaders with your ray gun or blowing out great tunes, but it does prove that creativity and skill can do wonders with any materials.

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Phonetikana by johnson banks: A katakana font for foreigners

Written by: William on October 17, 2014 at 8:00 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

UK design studio johnson banks has come up with this brilliant take on Japanese katakana that combines the phonetical reading of the character in the font.

They call it Phonetikana.

The font came out in 2009 but for some reason Japanese and other blogs have just discovered it. It’s a nice idea for making Tokyo signage more accessible to foreign visitors at the 2020 Olympics.

Multiple trips to Japan and constant frustration at being unable to read the language has sparked off an unusual typographic project at johnson banks. Earlier in the year we started seeing if we could combine the English language and Japanese script in some way.

One of the three typographic styles that is used in Japan is essentially phonetic, and is called Katakana. We’ve been attempting to find ways to incorporate phonetic sounds with the Katakana letterforms.

Here is the full syllabary.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

Here is Uniqlo.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

Michael.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

And some of the Phonetikana are also pictographic. Here is “big apple”.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

Here is “cheese”.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

“Superhero” borrows a motif from a certain American comic book character.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

This is “dokidoki”, an onomatopoeia for expressing excitement, here cleverly rendered inside a heart.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

Sheep and cow sounds.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

“Big in Japan” is literally inside the Japanese flag.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

“Niko niko” — meaning laughter.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

“Kurukuru” — meaning spinning around and around.

johnson banks phonetikana katakana phonetic reading alphabetic character font

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Funassyi has a kid brother: Chiba pear mascot gets a sibling called Funagoro

Written by: William on October 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Yes, Japan’s most famous unofficial mascot, that lovable jumping yellow pear Funassyi now has a kid brother.

If you believed Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture already had enough mascots with just one, others thought otherwise. The unstoppable industry that is Funnassyi has been joined by a sibling, Funagoro.

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

Funagoro is half-pear, half-caterpillar. While he is a similar color to Funassyi, if a bit smaller, there is one major difference: he has a tail. And he can squirt pear juice out of it.

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

It’s not the first time that Funassyi’s family members have been mentioned but this is the first public appearance. Apparently the pear mascot has a whopping 274 brothers and sisters. Funagoro is the 56th brother, just in case you are counting.

What next for Funagoro? It depends on whether the world can cope with two Funassyis.

funnassyi funagoro brother pear mascot chiba funabashi caterpillar tail

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Denso Corp’s X-mobility is mini electric mobility vehicle with in-wheel motor system controlled by smartphone

Written by: William on October 15, 2014 at 8:54 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

At Ceatec Japan 2014 last week Denso Corp showcased a prototype mobility device for transporting babies and light luggage that can be controlled by your smartphone or tablet.

The X-mobility can have three or four spherical wheels, each with its own motor, battery, decelerator, controller, sensor and Bluetooth module.

denso x-mobility electric vehicle carry luggage in-wheel motor smartphone tablet app control

It could be used to carry babies (presumably it would have to be made a bit taller) and also small luggage at futuristic airports and train stations, or even at malls to transport customers’ shopping to their cars. It can hold up 20kg, 44 lbs.

The X-mobility uses a smartphone or tablet app called X-mobi to steer the vehicle. The wheels exchange data by infrared light and their batteries last around three hours on a single charge.

See the X-mobility in action here, being controlled by a tablet.

No plans have been announced for commercialization yet but we think there will be lots of applications for such a nifty small mobility device.

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The Japan Trends guide to the most unique Japanese Halloween costumes

Written by: Japan Trends on October 14, 2014 at 10:43 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Halloween is about to be upon us again.

Japan is the land of cosplay so for the locals, dressing up needn’t be restricted to just October 31st. That said, these days there are lots of Halloween parties, zombie events and other such seasonal happenings.

But rather than resorting to the usual suspects at Don Quijote, how can you really stand out this Halloween?

To help you choose, JapanTrendShop is having a Halloween sale right now — offering 10% off any purchase. Just use the code “zombiejapan” to claim your discount.

We then started browsing the JapanTrendShop digital shelves and found heaps of products which, while not released originally as Halloween costumes, nonetheless can be utilized for that purpose if you are so inclined.

The beauty gadgets are of course, meant to help improve your skin and so on. But some of them are unusual-looking, to say the least, so something like the Facewaver Exercise Mask will really give you a special look on Halloween (and perhaps also fight against the effects of aging).

facewaver face stretcher mask wacky japanese beauty product

If you want to transform your lower half, the last few years have seen a fun “tattoo tights” street fashion trend in Japan. The cutest we’ve seen so far are these Cat Tights.

cat tights neko leggings tattoo japan fashion

Continuing the animal theme, there are also Bear Tights and Rabbit Tights.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of deliberately humorous (and slightly cheeky) clothing items out there, such as this Mousou Mapping Bra T-Shirt. In the similar vein, there’s also the Shiridashi Butt Reveal Underwear, whose name we think says it all.

mousou mapping bra t-shirt bust reveal fake clothes

And this is before you even start looking at fundoshi loincloths for girls, yaeba snaggletooth fake teeth, or even “never-nude” JeanPants underwear (though they might be a bit cold at this time of year).

jean pants underwear japanese never nude cosplay costume

For those searching for that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu look or something for their head, try the Pop Candy Harajuku Fashion Cosplay Wig on for size.

pop candy japanese wig harajuku fashion cosplay street style

Our prizes for best Japanese Halloween costume ideas, though, go to these two.

The Kuroko Kabuki Black Stagehand Costume replicates the look of the “invisible” people who change the scenery in Kabuki. The uninitiated might also mistake you for a ninja!

kuroko kurogo kabuki stagehead japanese theater ninja costume cosplay

Finally, the Kabutte Kirimi-chan Costume is a heavy-looking blow-up headpiece inspired by a new Sanrio salmon fillet character.

kabutte kirimi-chan sanrio salmon fillet character head piece

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2.5D Masks: Cute, maybe creepy anime masks invade the Internet

Written by: William on October 13, 2014 at 7:59 am | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

Okay, we don’t know if this qualifies as a “trend”. It may only be one inventive person. But it got us thinking nonetheless: Is this cute or creepy?

The realm of Japanese kawaii has certainly spawned some manifestations that are hard to categorize or understand. And there is already a word for when the “cute” ventures into the grotesque — kimo-kawaii.

But “2.5D masks” — two and a half dimensional paper masks — might need an adjective all of their own.

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

The series of anime face masks have sprung up recently on Japanese social media, originating from a tumblr account that documents the creators adventures around Japan wearing the anime character face decorations.

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

The designer also includes details on how they are made — in funky animated gifs, natch — and downloadable files for those who want to make their own masks. Just don’t choose the mask model that’s called “Lolita”. (The other three choices are “Timidity”, “Cheerful” and “Grace”.)

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

The 2.5D Mask tumblr account began in September and showcases the female creator and her masks as she goes to various locations around Japan (typically incongruous ones). The anonymous designer’s Twitter account goes back further, though, at least to July, so this project has been developing over the summer.

Time will tell if this kicks off beyond a minor subculture into a real meme. People are encouraged to download, print and make their own 2.5D masks, and then share them online using the hashtag #2_5dmask. Could this start a revolution?

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

2.5d mask anime face cosplay japanese tumblr wear

Japan has always had a thing for papercraft and 2.5D Mask says making the mask only requires a regular household printer and some basic tools. It also taps into the love for dressing up (cosplay) and is like a paper kigurumi costume, only because it’s just a mask, it kind of looks a bit spooky. It’s like the girl’s body has been taken over by an anime invader.

Perfect for Halloween?

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Japanese fundoshi loincloths back in fashion… for girls

Written by: William on October 10, 2014 at 11:34 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Everything comes back into fashion. And that includes Japanese loincloths. Fundoshi are usually only seen on the bodies (and buttocks) of men taking part in Japanese festivals or on sumo wrestlers (technically called mawashi).

But how about girls? Yes, fundoshi for women is a thing.

Actually, for the past few years people have been talking about this. Even venerable Japanese subculture guru Danny Choo blogged about it back in 2009.

fundoshi loincloth japan women girls trend

Wacoal were pretty pioneering in this with their Nana Fun fundoshi for women product back in 2008 (sadly no longer on sale).

It led to the start of a trend and a revival in fortune for fundoshi. The Japan Fundoshi Association was even set up a little while later to promote the loincloth. And if you thought that February 14th was Valentine’s Day, you are very much mistaken. It is (also) Fundoshi Day… since 2013 at any rate.

Retailers have sprung up to cope with the demand. Ai Fun is an online store that specializes in “stylish” fundoshi for women. Odakyu Department Store in Shinjuku has a shop called Desk My Style with around 60 kinds of fundoshi on sale for men and women. Apparently they are popular with women in their thirties. There is even growing interest in the trend in other parts of Japan. A specialist fundoshi select store, Teraya, opened in Nagasaki City last November.

fundoshi loincloth japan women girls trend

As part of this, we recently saw the release of a “mook” for fundoshi. Mooks are a popular element of the Japanese magazine publishing world, semi-regular magazines or spin-off booklets which often include merchandise. In this case, the Fundoshi Panties Loincloth Underwear Mook includes a pair of fundoshi. While officially unisex, the cover and magazine make it clear that this loincloth is being marketed squarely at the girls.

fundoshi loincloth japan women girls trend

But fundoshi are not just being promoted for girls (and men) because they are novel or traditional. There are health benefits, such as improved blood circulation. Most importantly, fundoshi loincloths are being suggested as excellent nighttime wear for women to help them sleep.

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Morinaga opens pop-up “Kabe-don Cafe” in Harajuku with doll-waiter for seducing women against a wall

Written by: William on October 9, 2014 at 10:25 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Food maker Morinaga is opening a pop-up cafe that has a special “kabe-don doll” artificial waiter to seduce female patrons.

To celebrate the release of its Cafe Marriage caramel and chocolate pudding dessert on October 7th and the Cafe Marriage Mont Blanc aux marrons and almond pudding on October 14th, Morinaga has decided to create an interactive experience for lonely women who want to get the sensation of being placed against a wall and kissed.

kabe-don cafe morinaga tokyo harajuku waiter doll puppet women wall hand against seduce kiss sweets cafe marriage pudding pop-up

It is opening a pop-up “Melt! Kabe-don Cafe” in Harajuku’s SoLaDo from October 11th for six days, every weekend for the rest of the month. If you go there and try the new Cafe Marriage (that’s marriage in the French sense of the word, meaning a blend), you can then experience kabe-don with a special waiter/doll/mannequin contraption.

We expect most women in other countries would find this creepy but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. And besides, there are plenty of odd cafes for men to perv over girls in Japan. Why shouldn’t the women get their fantasies realized once in a while?

kabe-don cafe morinaga tokyo harajuku waiter doll puppet women wall hand against seduce kiss sweets cafe marriage pudding pop-up

Kabe-don is a word meaning when a man places his hand against a wall, trapping (in a good way!) his female partner there so he can lean in for a smooch. Okay, when we write it like that it sounds rather scary but you can imagine the pose, right? Of course, it is only a “fantasy” if the guy is a hunk.

Here the look of the “waiter” puppet (does he it qualify as a “hunk”) is clearly a rift on the butler cosplay cafes that already exist for women who like to be served by a handsome man dressed to the nines like a servant.

Don’t believe us? Watch this promo video.

The kabe-don doll itself (or is it more like a puppet? The word in Japanese is the same, ningyou) is a bit reminiscent of a sex doll, which as we know has more mainstream acceptance in Japan and even appears in promos for major recording artists. Don’t get us wrong — we’re not suggesting that Morinaga’s cafe offers any extras on the menu that involve getting more personal with the artificial waiter! Either way, Morinaga’s “waiter” is definitely in an uncanny valley all of its own.

kabe-don cafe morinaga tokyo harajuku waiter doll puppet women wall hand against seduce kiss sweets cafe marriage pudding pop-up

Try the sweets and kabe-don doll experience at SoLaDo Harajuku on October 11th, October 12th, October 18th, October 19th, October 25th and October 26th.

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