Hakuhodo showcases iDoll and other “prototypes of the future” at SXSW Interactive Festival

Written by: William on March 17, 2015 at 9:04 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 4 Comments

Visitors to SXSW Interactive Festival (SXSWi) (March 13-22, 2015) in Austin should head to the Hakuhodo Group exhibition booth, “Prototyping the Future”.

Hakuhodo will be showcasing several of its futuristic product ideas, including the Memory Clock, a device which shows photos the same date they were taken. If you have more than one Memory Clock, even if you are apart from your loved ones, you can still view the photos at the same time.

The Memory Clock is just one of the monom innovation project that advertising agency Hakuhodo has been developing. The name means “mono” (thing) and a series of “m” words: magic, marketing, message, move.

idoll hakuhodo robot doll moe otaku character south by southwest austin interactive festival

The first product in the series is the iDoll. This mini robotic doll dances, greets you and even jokes around like it has a personality. It reproduces human movements in a realistic way

Jointly developed by Yukai Engineering, iDoll is controlled by the user’s mobile phone and can acquire movements and speech that you teach it.

idoll hakuhodo robot doll moe otaku character south by southwest austin interactive festival

It is small enough to sit on your palm and is about 15cm tall. There are three versions currently developed: a plain prototype one, and two female moe character versions.

idoll hakuhodo robot doll moe otaku character south by southwest austin interactive festival

The iDoll prototype will apparently be available “soon”. For now, head to Austin to check out the SXSWi booth.

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Yahoo’s beautiful girls and boys show how to combat hay fever

Written by: William on March 16, 2015 at 9:06 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

As we head into the spring, get ready for hay fever.

Pollen allergy is big in Japan, caused by the large numbers of cedar trees planted in the postwar period. The corollary is that these trees release vast amounts of pollen in the air, causing sinus catastrophes for much of the population.

During this season there is a sudden spike in face masks as people don protection as a way to keep the pollen from entering their nostrils. There are also anti-pollen glasses to stop the pollen irritating the eyes.

A more extreme way to shield yourself from hay fever is the USB Pollen Blocker suit by Thanko!

kafun taisaku bijo binan yahoo hay fever pollen allergy website

As a way to show that you can still look pretty even when your face is all covered up against the pollen, Yahoo Japan has created the Hay Fever Countermeasure Beautiful Girls and Boys website.

The name basically says it all. It features pretty members of both genders, one per day, demonstrating how to look nice while masked up.

kafun taisaku bijo binan yahoo hay fever pollen allergy website

You get to check out their profiles and can watch a short video where each hay fever sufferer shares tips on how to combat the ailment. There is also a pollen map, plus other online resources for how to deal with the annual phenomenon.

kafun taisaku bijo binan yahoo hay fever pollen allergy website

kafun taisaku bijo binan yahoo hay fever pollen allergy website

The platform is clearly inspired by the now iconic Bijin Tokei, the “beautiful girl clock” that produced a thousand imitations. In it, pretty random girls would hold a sign with the time. Every minute it would change to a different face. The numerous spin-offs (and unofficial rip-offs) included male versions, regional versions, porn star versions, and more!

Of course, in Japan the white face mask can be as much a fashion accessory as a hygiene item.

No surprises that there are character versions, such as Doraemon. For a while, the “black surgical mask” became a trendy alternative design, though our all time favorite has got to be the chimpanzee face mask by Mint Design.

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Kenchiku Soko (Architecture Warehouse): Japan’s first architecture model museum

Written by: William on March 13, 2015 at 8:40 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Japan’s first architecture model museum is opening this summer.

It is set to open as a museum in August, though will begin operating from April. Applications for architecture scale model exhibits are now open.

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

As well as serving as a de facto classroom for students of Japanese architecture hungry for case studies, the museum will also function as a sort of showroom for architects, since it can act as a sales agent for the models.

The “depot” offers five types of service: storage of models; exhibition to the general public through permanent and temporary exhibitions; sales to art museums and collectors; collecting and archiving, so models can be loaned to other museums and exhibitions; and education, being a venue for talks, lectures and workshops.

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

The tentatively named Kenchiku Soko (Architecture Warehouse) will be housed in the ground floor of Terada Warehouse in the Shinagawa area. The closest station is Tennozu Isle.

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

Facilities include 120 shelves measuring 3.8 meters tall and 1.5 meters wide.

[Images: Openers]

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Discontinued hostess culture magazine Koakuma Ageha relaunches

Written by: William on March 12, 2015 at 8:52 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Almost a year after we blogged that iconic gyaru and hostess subculture magazine Koakuma Ageha was closing down comes some unexpected good news: Ageha is returning.

koakuma ageha hostess magazine relaunch memorial book

Last year was a gloomy one for fashion magazines, with gyaru magazine egg also shuttering. The recent news that established art magazine Bijutsu Techo’s managing company is in financial trouble is a further sign that the industry is in trouble.

koakuma ageha hostess gyaru magazine fashion japan

So the announcement that Ageha, which once sold between 300-400,000 copies a month, is coming back to life is a rare glimmer of hope — or merely a bold move by the publisher.

koakuma ageha hostess gyaru magazine fashion japan

In late 2014 the Koakuma Ageha Memorial Book was published, collecting together the eight years of the magazine.

koakuma ageha hostess magazine relaunch memorial book

Readers and fans gave it an enthusiastic response, enough to merit reviving the magazine itself, it seems.

And so now comes the announcement that in April there will be a new issue of the magazine, now published by Dunnery Deluxe. The resurrected Ageha will be on sale at bookstores around Japan priced ¥680.

Of course, there’s an adage in the music industry that the best way to sell records is to kill off your artist. In the same way, Koakuma Ageha’s “death” generated a lot of publicity for a title no longer in vogue. The question now is whether it can ride this new wave of interest to establish another monthly readership like it had years ago.

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Candy-smelling stationery with Zebra Sarasa Clip Chupa Chups Aroma Gel Pen

Written by: Japan Trends on March 11, 2015 at 9:52 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

We all love candy and who will not admit to getting cravings for something sweet during long study or work sessions?

Sometimes in our agony we might be tempted to nibble the pen we are holding and imagine it is a lollipop.

Well, with this pen, you have something approaching that desk fantasy.

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

Chupa Chups has got together with Japanese stationery brand Zebra Pens to create the Sarasa Clip Chupa Chups Aroma Gel Pen.

This pen is features actual fragrances in Chupa Chups flavors in the gel pen ink!

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

All right, so the pens are not actually edible. Don’t try eating them, please.

If you want a snack, get a real Chupa Chups to suck on.

But how cool is this? Candy aroma pens! So you can feed your candy addiction through the smell of the pen as you write. Talk about a way to encourage students to pen those homework assignments!

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

The gel pens also have feature the classic Chupa Chups logo (designed by Salvador Dali), so any pop culture design fan will love them too.

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

zebra chupa chups sarasa candy smell aroma gel pen smell

Japan Trend Shop is offering the full set of all ten pens, each with a different ink color and candy smell: black (chocolate vanilla), red orange (orange), magenta (grape), pink (peach), blue (coke), red (cherry), yellow (pudding), light blue (vanilla), orange (mango), and green (green apple).

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Funassyi TV anime series, starts March 30th

Written by: William on March 10, 2015 at 8:42 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

It was surely just the next logical step: Funassyi the anime is here.

A series of animated shorts will premiere on March 30th on Nippon TV’s Sukkiri starring the yellow pear mascot.

funassyi anime tv series nippon mascot character sukkiri

Funassyi no funafunafuna hiyori (Funassyi’s Aimless Days) will be broadcast every weekday and feature Funassyi, as well as Guressyi (voiced by Lynn) and Nashigami-sama (voiced by Naoki Tatsuta). Funassyi will be voiced by, well, Funassyi.

The rise, rise and rise of Funassyi is the most incredible story of Japan’s regional mascots (yuru-kyara), not least because the pear character is such an oddity but because it is not the official mascot of Funabashi. It was created by people power alone and its subsequent popularity laughs in the face of the bureaucrats of the city in Chiba who wanted a tamer mascot.

funassyi anime tv series nippon mascot character sukkiri

The hyperactive Funassyi even recently made a lively appearance at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (imagine trying to be the interpreter for that press conference!), where it lent its support to Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

funassyi anime tv series nippon mascot character sukkiri japan foreign correspondents club japan

So far the Funassyi Industry includes manga, games, music releases, food, toys, clothes, and so much more. Now anime has been added to that long list, what can be next? Politics?!

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Nissan Ultimate Smart BBQ Vehicle: All-electric car for barbecues with karaoke, drone

Written by: William on March 9, 2015 at 9:02 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 5 Comments

Every year there are some pretty outlandish concept cars, mostly designed to generate headlines and buzz.

But forget robots and bizarre shapes. Nissan have gone for a more practical, family-oriented approach. The Ultimate Smart BBQ Vehicle, showcased recently at the Japan Campign Car Show at Makuhari Messe Convention Center, Chiba, has been developed with the Japan BBQ Association.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

It promises “everything you need for a barbecue in an effectless waste-efficient electric-powered unit”.

It includes a 1,500W grill, shower, karaoke machine, mist shower to cool you down… and even a drone to document the whole experience.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

Camping in Japan in the summer can be a recipe for disaster because of the high density of mosquitos. Not so with the BBQ Car: it has a “mosquito barrier system”, which repells mosquitos with ultrasonic waves and insect repellent aromas!

You can even take snaps of your family excursion with the “flying selfie camera”.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

Finally, a smartphone-linked display system means the car window can become a screen.

We love the straight-faced narration that sounds more like a bad audition for a movie trailer (“Quick Electric Grill!”) than a light-hearted concept car video.

The Ultimate Smart BBQ Vehicle is adapted from the e-NV200 and is all-electric, as we’d expect from the car maker that is leading the world EV development.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

The BBQ Vehicle is concerned about the environment not only in terms of its power source. It wants to make sure you don’t leave any garbage behind when you go home, so it includes a disposer.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

The BBQ Vehicle is not available as a car yet, though there is a funding page for it over at Green Funding Lab if you fancy investing in the future of automotive transport for family outings.

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Capsule Hotels: Minimalist, Budget-Friendly Accommodation

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on March 6, 2015 at 8:47 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Tiffany first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

It’s past midnight, and you just missed the last train. A hotel is out of the question, much too pricey, but you definitely want more privacy than a tiny cubicle in a manga cafe. What’s a cheapo to do?

That’s where the capsule hotel comes in. First built by Kisho Kurakawa in Osaka in 1979, a capsule hotel consists of pod-like rooms—if you can call them rooms, as they’re more like compartments—stacked together, providing the bare minimum in terms of space and amenities. Inside, there’s just enough room for a person to crawl inside, lie down, and sit up (but if you’re too tall, even this might be impossible). Basic amenities include a light, an air conditioner, and alarm clock, but some capsule hotels may also provide a TV, power outlet, and/or radio. There are no locks, only a shutter for you to get some quiet and privacy—which isn’t always guaranteed, as you may have the misfortune of sharing the hotel with rowdy guests.

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap

While capsule hotels used to primarily have salarymen as their clientele, tourists have also come to appreciate capsule hotels for their cheaper rates compared to most regular hotels, as well as the novelty of staying in something thought to be unique and futuristic. Capsule hotels are no longer just places to spontaneously spend the night in, but also accommodations that people purposely intend to stay in. But before you start booking one, here are some things you might not know about capsule hotels:

1. They’re not necessarily cheaper than a hotel or hostel.

The average rate per night at a capsule hotel ranges from ¥2,000-6,000. While ¥2,000 is definitely cheap, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel that charges that cheaply for a night, there are some budget hotels and hostels that can offer you a room for about ¥3,000-6,000 a night. Here’s an example for comparison: some branches of the popular budget hotel chain, Toyoko Inn, have a midnight-time service, which means that checking in past midnight can get you a room for ¥4,500, about as much as a room in some capsule hotels. Some hostels even have private rooms that cost about as much, or are cheaper than, capsule hotel rooms. If you’re looking for a comfortable stay that’s on a budget but not dirt-cheap, and aren’t after the capsule hotel experience, you might be better off in a cheap hotel or hostel.

2. They’re more than just pods stacked together.

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
A mini-game center inside the capsule hotel I stayed in. | Photo by Tiffany Lim under CC

Don’t worry; capsule hotels are not that sterile and impersonal. The capsule hotel I stayed in had a bath and sauna, vending machines, a manga library, some arcade games, massage services, a communal space for watching TV, and even a restaurant. Not all capsule hotels have that many facilities and amenities, but you can rest assured that capsule hotels provide more than the rooms. The least that they provide are bathing facilities, lockers (usually one locker area for shoes, and another one for other belongings), and a lounge. While capsule hotels don’t exactly exude the social vibe that hostels are known for, who knows—you might be able to make some friends at a capsule hotel lounge! Also, note that baths tend to be communal (but still gender-segregated, of course), and that those with tattoos are usually not allowed into the baths and saunas.

3. Many capsule hotels are only for men.

This is said to be for women’s safety, but nowadays, capsule hotels are offering the more sensible solution of catering to women but keeping the floors or areas segregated by gender. Guests usually need a special key to access the sleeping quarters.

4. You have to check out for each day of your stay.

Capsule hotels aren’t really meant for long-term stay. That doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in a capsule hotel for, say, a week, but you’ll have to check out then check in again every day. Check-out time is usually at 10:00 am, but you can extend for a small fee, usually ¥300-500 per hour.

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Inside a typical capsule pod. | Photo by Travis Rigel Lukas Hornung used under CC

Recommended Capsule Hotels in Tokyo

All the capsule hotels listed here are open to both men and women.

1. Nine Hours Narita Airport

Welcome to Japan! Are you stuck waiting for a connecting flight? Did you arrive past midnight? If so, this capsule hotel in Terminal 2 of Narita Airport is a godsend. The hotel has lockers, showers, and a lounge. Toiletries are also provided. Overnight prices start at ¥3,900, but vary depending on the season. Currently, a standard plan costs ¥4,900 a night on weekdays, and ¥5,900 on Fridays and weekends, although the price drops to ¥4,400 or ¥5,400 if you stay for more than a night. Checking out each day doesn’t seem necessary here. A plan with a breakfast coupon is also available for ¥5,440 on weekdays and ¥6,440 on Fridays and weekends. Hourly rates are also available for those who just want a short rest: it’s ¥1,500 for the first hour and ¥500 for each succeeding hour.

Address: 1-1 Furugome, Narita-City, Chiba 282-0004

Check-in: 12:00 pm-5:00 am | Check-out: 10:00 am

2. First Cabin Haneda

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Photo by Meredith P used under CC

Not to be beaten by Narita, Haneda Airport also has a capsule hotel of its own, inside Terminal 1. As the name implies, this is fancier than your average capsule hotel. In fact, their rooms are called “cabins” rather than “capsules,” and they, indeed, have much more space and actual beds, making their rooms look more like mini-hotel rooms than capsule pods. Size aside, the only other reminder that you’re not in a regular hotel is the lack of a lockable door. An overnight stay here costs ¥6,000 a night (¥6,300 on Fridays and Saturdays) for a first-class cabin, while it’s ¥5,000 (¥5,300 on Fridays and Saturdays) for a smaller cabin. The only difference between first and business class is size—the former has more space for your luggage. Short-term stays are also available for ¥800-1,000 an hour for business and first class, respectively. Toiletries and earplugs are provided.

Address: 1F Haneda Airport Terminal 1 | 3-3-2 Haneda Airport, Ota-ku, Tokyo

Phone: 03-5757-8755

Check-in: 7:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am

3. Green Plaza Shinjuku / Le Luck Spa

This capsule hotel complex goes above and beyond the bare minimum, what with its saunas, outdoor bath, hot springs, massages, napping room (for those looking to unwind after a bath), lounge, and restaurant. The complex’s facilities are segregated by gender, with a standard room costing ¥4,500 a night for men and ¥5,200 a night at Le Luck Spa for women. For that price, men get a TV, alarm, and radio, while women get all that plus Wi-Fi and power outlets. For men, an upgraded room is ¥5,300-5,400, the latter price consisting of everything previously mentioned plus a LAN cable. Early-morning stay plans and spa-and-sauna-only plans are also available. Le Luck Spa promises a full range of amenities for women, so this is a place to visit for some pampering.

Address: 1-29-2 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Access: Shinjuku Station

Phone: 03-3207-5411 (men), 03-3207-4921 (women)

Check-in: 3:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am

4. Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Photo by Dom Pates

Also close to Shinjuku Station’s east exit is this hotel, which has a 24-hour bath and sauna, and a business-and-relaxation lounge with Wi-Fi and PCs. The hotel also has a restaurant and coin laundries. A room costs ¥3,500 on average, but this hotel regularly has discounted plans. For 2015, the first 10 women to book a room for any given day can do so for only ¥2,000 a night, and male job-hunters who can present a valid Japanese school ID can book a room for ¥2,100-2,800 a night. Otherwise, it’s ¥2,500-3,800 a night for women, and ¥2,600-3,600 a night for men. All rooms come with Wi-Fi and power outlets.

Address: Touyo Building 3/F, 1-2-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Access: Shinjuku Station

Phone: 03-3232-1110

Check-in: 4:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am

5. Hotel Asakusa & Capsule

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Photo by Daa Nell used under CC

Hotel Asakusa & Capsule’s rates are pretty cheap, at ¥2,200 a night. Students can get a capsule for ¥1,700 a night. A bathhouse, coin laundries, PCs,vending machines, and microwaves are just some of their shared amenities. If you’d rather get a room, their rooms are also quite inexpensive at ¥4,400 a night, or ¥3,300 for students. Remember to present a student ID for proof!

Address: 4-14-9 Kotobuki, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Access: Asakusa Station

Phone: 03-3847-4477

Check-in: 4:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am

6. Capsule Value Kanda

Located near Akihabara, Capsule Value Kanda is owned by the same people behind Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel. Its price range is similar, and you can also expect the same quality of rooms and facilities. A standard room costs ¥2,900-3,400 a night, but they also have discounts and promos. Those under 30 can get a room for ¥2,400-2,900 a night, as long as proof of age can be shown. The first 7 guests to book on any given day can get a room for only ¥2,100. Moreover, those who book online can get ¥100 off their reservation. Like their sister hotel in Shinjuku, all rooms have Wi-Fi and power outlets.

Address: 1-4-5 Kajicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Access: Kanda Station

Phone: 03-6206-0724

Check-in: 10:00 am | Check-out: 10:00 am

tokyo capsule hotel accommodation stay cheap
Photo by Joanne and Matt used under CC

Read more and see maps at Tokyo Cheapo

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A music rave in a Shibuya library? Silent disco at Mori no Tosho Shitsu book bar

Written by: William on March 5, 2015 at 8:32 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

On April 4th, Mori no Tosho Shitsu (Mori’s Library) in Shibuya will be transformed into a club for a silent disco event.

Remember Mori no Tosho Shitsu? It was the crowdfunded “book and beer” library opened by a book worm in Shibuya last year. Not only can you go there for a drink and a bite to eat, if you become a member you can borrow the books, just like a library.

mori no tosho tsyo shitsu shibuya tokyo book bar library silent disco

While there are plenty of public libraries in Tokyo (there’s even one right in the same building as the Cosmo Planetarium), places like Mori no Tosho Shitsu attract interest because their book curation is special. You don’t go there just to see any books; you go there to see THE books the owner has selected. This is similar to the appeal of places like B&B in Shimokitazawa, Village Vanguard, and Shibuya Publishing Booksellers.

Silent discos are nothing new, not even in Japan.

But this is a silent disco inside a “library” in the heart of noisy Shibuya. How cool is that?

mori no tosho tsyo shitsu shibuya tokyo book bar library silent disco

Audiences to the silent disco event will get to enjoy the music through wireless headphones, in the unique bibliographical surroundings of Mori no Tosho Shitsu.

If you like your drink too, you’ll be pleased to know the event is being supplied by Tokyo Craft Beer Mania. Craft beer will be available from ¥500 a glass.

Music is by DE DE MOUSE and others.

mori no tosho tsyo shitsu shibuya tokyo book bar library silent disco

It’s also being billed as a club event, since it starts at 11pm and carries on until 5am.

Tickets cost ¥3,500.

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