US Embassy Tokyo creates “Noriko’s Study Abroad” drama series with yuru-kyara TOM

Written by: William on April 11, 2014 at 11:44 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Tears. Tantrums. And a yuru-kyara mascot character.

The Public Affairs Section/Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has produced a very original video promoting studying abroad in America. Noriko’s Study Abroad Story Episode 1 “I want to study in the U.S.” promises to be the first in a series of a drama episodes documenting the travails of a girl with her sights set on going overseas to learn more.

noriko study abroad us embassy

But rather than simply focussing on the “amazing experience” young Japanese men and women can have in the States, the approach is more domestic and realistic. It starts by showing the difficulties of persuading your father about the benefits of spending a year in the New World.

Here’s how they write it up:

Noriko is a Japanese college student who is thinking about studying abroad in the U.S. But when she tells her friends and family about her idea, their response is not quite what she was expecting…

But the biggest surprise is the yuru-kyara (mascot) who appears at the end to comfort the troubled girl and offer her some life lessons.

noriko study abroad us embassy

Noriko first announces her intention to study abroad in America to her parents but gets an obstinately negative response from her father. She then asks an older peer for help. But it’s not until TOM (“the U.S. Embassy Tokyo social media friendship ambassador”, a caption tell us) turns up that she gets some decent advice.

We don’t want to spoilt it too much. Take a look at the five-minute first episode for yourselves…

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Dance with idol Ayami Muto with this Ezaki-Glico Seventeen ice cream Shibuya vending machine

Written by: William on April 10, 2014 at 11:51 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Vending machines come in all shapes and sizes, and seem to sell everything from books to snacks, drinks, used panties and more.

But how about a vending machine that lets you have a private dance with an idol?

For one day only, Shibuya’s Marui City will let fans do just that.

It’s being organized by Ezaki-Glico, one of Japan’s biggest sweets makers, and especially as a promo for their long-standing Seventeen ice cream brand. While it is common to see Seventeen vending machines all over Tokyo, this is a whole new kind of experience.

ayami muto seventeen vending machine glico ezaki dance idol shibuya ice cream

The idol in question is a newbie, Ayami Muto, who is making her debut this spring.

On April 26th, brand ambassador Ayami Muto will be dancing on a big display on the Seventeen Ice Original Vending Machine, which changes depending on the flavor of Seventeen ice cream you choose. Ayami’s costume colors will also be different in each video to match the flavors, of which there are, not surprisingly, seventeen.

Dancers will have their movements digitally regenerated as computer graphics, to be put together later as a special animated video. If you dance correctly matching Ayami’s choreography then you can get yourself a complimentary ice cream — perfect as the weather turns hotter.

ayami muto seventeen vending machine glico ezaki dance idol shibuya ice cream

Vending machine boffins will probably have already spotted that this ice cream idol vendor is very similar to the Dance Dance Revolution vending machine from Coca-Cola that was a big hit in Korea in 2012.

Dancing with Ayami is free and Ayami herself is expecting to turn up in Shibuya as well at around 14:00, though we expect a dance with the physical idol might be asking too much.

Check out the vending machine from 11:00 to 19:00.

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Snoopy Chaya is a Peanuts-themed maccha green tea cafe in Yufuin, Kyushu

Written by: William on April 10, 2014 at 11:21 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Snoopy and green tea? Whatever will they think of next.

Actually, this isn’t such a big shock, since Snoopy is a popular character in Japan, though this is still a pretty original way to utilize the lovable Peanuts pooch.

Snoopy Chaya is a maccha (matcha) green tea-themed cafe opening in Yufuin in Oita Prefecture, Kyushu, on April 19th. It will be serving up maccha sweets and cakes, as well as “Snoopy omelet rice” and a host of other things, including Snoopy merchandise.

snoopy cafe chaya green tea matcha maccha yufuin oita kyushu japan

While Charles M. Schulz may not immediately spring to mind when you fancy some “wa” deserts, this will no doubt prove a super popular eatery. This is being advertising as “shop #1″ so others may soon follow!

snoopy cafe chaya green tea matcha maccha yufuin oita kyushu japan

Check it out from April 19th at 1524-27 Yufuincho Kawakami, Yufuin City, Oita Prefecture.

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FamilyMart opens first combined convenience store-karaoke in Tokyo

Written by: William on April 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Take two things Japan does very well — and combine them!

Just when you think there isn’t much more room for innovation with the world of karaoke, along comes FamilyMart with a new branch, FamilyMart + Karaoke DAM Kamata Minamiguchi Ekimae.

The chain has got together with karaoke parlor Dam to launch this special half-conbini, half-karaoke singing joint at the south exit of Kamata Station, in west Tokyo. The 27-room parlor opens on April 17th and if it succeeds, it could be the start of a new business model.

family mart karaoke convenience store tokyo kamata

This isn’t just a collaboration between two service industry chains and a simple “combined facility”. They have come up with a way to fuse the services, so customers are now allowed to purchase food and drinks from the convenience store and then take them into the karaoke box. For example, normally at a karaoke parlor, you can only order from the menu — and sometimes they have complicated one-drink mandatory rules. Either way, the drinks will usually be pretty poor (watered down beer) and the food is of the deep-fried and fast variety. Plus it will cost you more than a convenience store, naturally.

This way you can get a bit more choice and things will be cheaper. The new store also presumably doesn’t need to hire more staff and set up extra facilities to handle the cooking and drink preparation.

After all, convenience stores in Japan already offer a host of services, from dry-cleaning drop-off and pick-up to ticket purchasing, paying for online purchases via Amazon and other vendors, courier drop-off, and even buying tickets for special garbage disposal.

Karaoke Dam has 369 karaoke parlors around Japan, while FamilyMart currently has over 10,000 stores nationwide. That’s a lot of chances, then

Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku ponders if the next step is allowing the karaoke singing to take place actually inside the convenience store!

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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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