It has been one of the biggest trends of recent years and then just like that, it has faded away.
So-called “tattoo tights” exploded into the popular and digital consciousness in 2011, even garnering overseas attention. The streets of areas like Harajuku and Shibuya were filled with the pins of young girls wearing fake body art-style leggings. The sheer variety of the “tattoo” designs was impressive: from Hello Kitty aplenty to cats, rabbits, onions, and more.
Avantgarde is the main brand behind the street fashion trend and as such opened a tattoo tights store in Harajuku in October 2011. It seems the legs of the fashionista have moved on, since Avantgarde will be closing the brand’s basement-level boutique on November 24th in the face of declining demand for their stockings.
Tattoo tights were a victim of their own success, with numerous replica and cheap imitations flooding the market. Yes, fake-fake tattoo tights!
Launched in 2009 by Kazuhiro Watanabe, MAM Avantgarde was constantly thinking up new bold designs as well as wide-ranging collaborations, including Hello Kitty and Disney. In 2012 Tokyo Fashion.com called Avantgarde Harajuku “the most influential legwear boutique in the Tokyo street fashion scene today”. Sadly, it was not enough to ride the notoriously capricious waves of street fashion for long.
Avantgarde has not announced any new plans for other stores but will continue to sell online. There are still lots of tattoo tights around so perhaps we shouldn’t write off the trend quite yet.
It’s sold 40 million comic books and counting. The live-action film adaptation is coming to a big screen near you soon. And now you can design your own Attack on Titan character and have it eat people. The “Titan Montage” app lets you mutate a face to create an original titan, and then places it into scenes from the anime so you can see your monster run amok trying to devour victims.
The app has been launched as a promo for an Attack on Titan exhibition about to kick off in Ueno in Tokyo. You can go to the special website and design a portrait in the distinctive Attack on Titan style, customizing all the parts of the face from the teeth to the hair, eyebrows, nose, mouth and facial structure.
Your titan character is then inserted into the world of the manga. Your creation is first placed into an Attack on Titan pose against a randomly selected background image from the comic and anime series. Needless to say the titan is not looking to make friends with the smaller humans. There is also an option to have the site generate an anime scene with your titan racing around the landscape looking for people to gobble up.
This is then dispatched into the digital nether of Facebook and Twitter, populating Japanese social media with caricature crowd-sourced titans!
Kentucky Fried Chicken has entered the coffee shop market in Japan, in a direct challenge to the McDonald’s McCafé format. From November 28th, the Colonel’s Cafe in Kobe will be serving French press espresso and hot teas such as Earl Grey or Darjeeling, as well as cheese cakes and other desserts.
A new type of menu requires a new type of interior. The iconic red has been jettisoned for plants, snazzy flooring, and wooden tables seating 26. In other words, a Japanese city cafe. Much like McCafé, the regular KFC menu will also be available (fear not, the “C” from the name has not warped into “coffee”).
A few years ago McDonald’s started opening stylish, spunked-up branches in key areas like Aoyama, Harajuku, Shibuya and so on. Certain restaurants later added standalone branded McCafé “barista” coffee bars offering cakes and lattes alongside the regular McDonald’s counter, starting with the Omotesando branch. KFC also has some of these “luxury fast food” outlets (check out the one in Shibuya near the Apple store, for example). Ever the underdog trying to prove itself, KFC boldly opened a whisky bar in Shimokitazawa in 2012.
For its first coffee shop, KFC has opted to go down a slightly different path to McCafé, opening the debut cafe in a mall at JR Rokkomichi Station in Kobe at the end of this month. McCafé has succeeded, though, because while it expanded the McDonald’s menu to include espressos and fitted in with certain higher-class environs, it ultimately remained the cheap choice and still undercut the prices of Starbucks et al. In my (relatively few) experiences visiting these “posh” fast food restaurants, the clientele is the same. The menu upgrade is intriguing but in the end, the new format is only a cosmetic one that makes the chain sit better in areas like Omotesando.
A quick glance at the Colonel’s Cafe menu reveals the prices are a little higher than expected, certainly more expensive than dirt-cheap coffee shops like Doutor. But if shelling out nearly ¥500 for a Mexican coffee sounds too much like a trip to Starbucks, rest assured the ordinary cheap KFC coffee will also be available.
We will have to see if people like the Colonel’s Cafe before branches start appearing in Tokyo. KFC does have at least one guaranteed income boost coming up next month. KFC is actually most popular in Japan at Christmas, where everyone lines up outside in the cold to get chicken on Christmas Eve.
NEC GAZIRU-F image recognition tech integrates fashion magazine mobile shopping for smartphone, tablet camerasWritten by: William on November 13, 2014 at 9:09 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments
NEC has got together with Fashion TV to offer a smartphone and tablet service for mobile eCommerce for apparel items you see in a magazine. If you see an item in a magazine you like, you can use GAZIRU-F to snap a shot of it and be connected to a shopping portal to purchase the product.
The service will be available through an app for the fashion magazine persona from spring 2015. GAZIRU-F will be expanded to 20 further companies by 2016 if it proves successful.
NEC has been developing the cloud-based Gaziru technology for a while. Dig Info did a report on it back in 2012.
The name is coined from combining two Japanese words: gazo (image) and shiru (know, recognize).
Similar to Google Goggles or Bing Vision, you can just take a snap of something and get a readout of the information it can draw from a database. No text input is required.
GAZIRU is not restricted to images of 2D objects. Further uses for GAZIRU tech may include helping people operate equipment — take a photograph of something and get an operation manual on your screen in seconds. Likewise there are benefits for health, such as being able to provide nutritional data for certain foods. The educational implications are immense; a museum or exhibition can become interact with further information for visitors who want to know more about a certain item on display.
The days of the humble barcode or QR code are surely limited.
Man burns himself to death in Hibiya Park in protest at collective self-defense, Henoko Bay base relocationWritten by: William on November 12, 2014 at 8:58 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments
Police were called at 6:55 p.m. on November 11th with reports of a man who had set fire to himself in Hibiya Park, in central Tokyo.
The man, who later died, had apparently committed self-immolation in protest at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s constitutional reform to allow Japan to engage in so-called “collective self-defense”.
At time of writing, the identity of the man is unknown. The police and fire brigade were able to douse the flames quickly, and the victim was taken to hospital but later died from his burns. He left behind a note protesting collective self-defense, as well as the controversial relocation of the US air base from Futenma to Henoko Bay in Okinawa. He also apparently filmed himself on a camera found on the scene.
Following the previous attempted self-immolation in Shinjuku in June this year, this is the second such dramatic suicide-by-protest Japan has witnessed in response to the policies of the Abe government. However, Japan has a precedent for such acts.
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.