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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
In Japan retro sci-fi TV shows are not just for geeks, they can be forward-thinking fashion accessories too.
It’s official. Having glasses is cool.
Japan has long regarded glasses and eyewear as serious fashion items, which is why companies like Jin and Zoff go to great efforts to market their products in interesting ways, such as setting up vending machines for glasses.
Glasses are so cool they have even inspired their own typography by font designers.
And now glasses have their own dedicated hipster fashion magazine.
“Optical” will be published four times a year by Yoshimoto Books, with the first issue going on sale in Japan on September 25th. Aimed at men and women who wear and like glasses as lifestyle and fashion accessories — and not just tools for seeing better — the front cover features comedian Naoki Matayoshi and model and actress Akiko Kikuchi, who is also a part-time editor herself. Needless to say, Matayoshi and Kikuchi all wear glasses, and very snazzy they look in them too.
The content includes photo stories, interviews with celebrities who wear glasses, and more. The fashion pages include tips on coordinating your specs with your wardrobe in various scenarios (trips to a cafe, the park, a bookstore, etc). There is also trivia, shop guides, and other articles, all themed around the art of having a cool glasses lifestyle.
The publisher is a subsidiary of Yoshimoto Kogyo, the entertainment giant, so we can expect future issues to feature plenty of content with Yoshimoto comedians.
“Optical” is priced ¥926 (about $10) plus tax.
While Jins (aka J!NS) like to dabble in forward-thinking technology for glasses, they are also fully aware that spectacles are as much fashion accessories as they are practical vision tools. This is why J!NS invested a lot into creating stylish anti-pollen sunglasses and into a successful line of PC glasses for people who get tired eyes from staring at a computer screen.
There are three models: Rilakkuma (in blue or brown colors), Korilakkuma or Kiiroitori. Each comes with the character decorated on the temple or arm, as well as a cleaning cloth also featuring your character of choice.
J!NS have worked with a specialist to create PC glasses that protect your eyes from screen blue light so you get a better night’s sleep. After all, Rilakkuma is the bear who loves to relax.
The glasses cost ¥4,900 (about $50) plus tax and you can also change the lens to J!NS PC glasses prescription lens or regular prescription lens for an additional charge.
We suspect availability for these glasses is going to be very limited once they go on release in early September at J!NS stores.
Fun’iki Ambient Glasses: iPhone-integrated “smart spectacles” with light notifications coming to your eyes soonWritten by: William on August 8, 2014 at 10:18 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 6 Comments
How would you like to use your phone while it remains snug in your pocket or bag? These glasses bring us one step closer to this.
Here’s how the makers sell it:
FUN’IKI Glasses are linked to your smartphone, and their multicolored LED lights + sound signals from their micro speaker will notify you of numerous information without you ever taking any action. No more hassle of checking your smartphone every single minute and they look cool. We believe that FUN’IKI Glasses will be a part of your daily life in the most seamless way.
The Fun’iki Ambient Glasses remind us of the JINS Meme Glasses, which we reported on back in May, though there the focus was on notifications to the wearer’s physique. This time it’s all about handset and online interaction.
The glasses have arms with built-in speakers, plus six full-color LED lights and a lithium-ion battery that charges up via USB. It features an ambient light sensor (meaning light is brighter in dark environments) and an accelerometer, not to mention Bluetooth and Wi-fi. Oh, and Morse code for some unfathomable reason.
Using a free dedicated app, you assign the various lights and sounds to different notifications, such as email, phone call, social media updates, and so on. So if you see a “red” glow, it means you’ve got a message from someone or the weather has changed, your stock has jumped in value…
If you’re desperately waiting for that mail but don’t want to appear rude at a meeting by always checking your phone, you can just let the glasses tell you instead. Likewise, you can get schedule reminders without having to, well, check your schedule.
It’s like “a Tinker Bell”, as Matilde says!
The Bluetooth Smart technology comes from Nordic Semiconductor, while help has also been provided by Paris Miki and the Institute of Advanced Media arts and Sciences.
The designers even reckon that, with its changing lights, the Fun’iki Ambient Glasses will make you stand out at social gatherings and look cool, like a sort of mini illumination show. There is even a special “party” mode with disco-friendly light patterns, plus a “relax” setting offering gentle hues to help you calm down after a long day of reminders and notifications.
A current Makuake crowdfunding project has raised well over the ¥3 million (about $30,000) target with still more than 30 days left to go! The campaign is offering funders the chance to get a pair of glasses for ¥10,000 (about $100), a more than 50% discount on the regular retail price of ¥23,000 (about $230).
Bad news for Android users, though. The Fun’iki Ambient Glasses only support the iPhone at present.
Jins (strictly speaking, J!NS), the Japanese spectacles brand, has launched JINS MEME, the world’s first eyewear that lets you see yourself.
The glasses measure tiredness and concentration based on changes in eye moment. JINS MEME can then judge how much mental or physical strain you are under, even if you yourself don’t notice. The glasses then actually alert you before you cross the threshold after which you won’t be able to recover.
The glasses contain small metallic electrooculography (EOG) sensors in the bridge, nose pads and the ear bars. These sensors track electrical potential in eye movements and differences between cornea and retina can be checked against standards for alertness.
This isn’t just for when you are at your desk. The glasses can help warn you if you are about to get sleeping when, say, driving. Yes, these glasses might actually save your live and the lives of others. It can do this because it “detects every movement of the eyeballs and the strength of each blink, then lets you know you’re becoming sleepy”.
JINS MEM works in tandem with a phone so you can log your health and physical condition in real time. “It’s like having a live broadcast of the changes happening in your body,” the makers say. “Wearing JINS MEME during running or walking can provide at-a-glance information, including calories burned, speed, and posture.”
Of course, these aren’t ordinary glasses and so they require power, though you can still get 8 hours of continuous use out of them. What about the OS? JINS MEME is “anticipated to be compatible with Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android”, plus they are promised to have both Japanese and English language support.
There are three designs. Wellington is “today’s most classic eyewear form”. It puts the device functions at the ends of the temple pieces, “giving this style loved the world over a unique MEME twist”.
Half-Rim is an “intellectual-looking model” that is meant to fit any everyday wardrobe.
Lastly, the Sunglass [sic] model comes in “a sporty, fashionable teardrop shape” with “frames with a round crosssection designed to provide the ultimate simplicity.”
No word yet on availability except a vague spring 2015 date but Jins seems keen to roll this out globally. The spectacles will also work with an official app, set to be released when the glasses also go on sale.
Jins is also going to provide a software developer’s kit to increase the potential of the JINS MEME. There will be data available for blinking, blink duration, vision shifts (VV/VH threshold data for each of eight directions), and data from three-axis gyro-sensor/Three-axis acceleration sensor, as well as api for mental tiredness levels, sleepiness, number of steps taken, calories burned and posture. Just imagine what you can do with all that!
As if it didn’t have enough issues with nature to deal with, on top of the earthquakes, tsunami, and volcanoes, every year Japan also has a famous problem with hay fever.
After the war, in its infinite wisdom the government decided to plant lots of cedar trees around the country to make up for timber shortages. The unexpected side-effect, though, are the large amounts of pollen that are released stiflingly into the air every spring, creating havoc with suffering locals.
It’s not just cedars; there is also nasty pollen that comes from the grass and cypress trees. Something like twenty percent of the popular is now said to suffer from pollen allergies.
The solution is to bung yourself up with drugs that make you sleepy, and/or strap the most anti-social yet tightest of face masks as possible onto your mug… and then grim and bear it till the season lifts and your inflamed eyes and nose can return to normal.
But here’s a more stylish way to deal with hay fever.
Wearing glasses or shades will prevent pollen reaching your eyes and causing irritation, and this particular model has been apparently designed to work even better than regular sunglasses, making sure 90% of foreign particles do not get through. And they look pretty nice too.
JINS have offered these kinds of glasses for a while — they have several related series, including ones that help maintain moisture in your eyes through a special “water pocket” — and likewise there are other similar protective models on the market from other names. However JINS is perhaps trying the hardest to change the image of these kinds of products to be both fashion and health accessories.
We’ve blogged before about how Japanese eyewear brands are pretty interesting in what they do to promote themselves to a circumspect but myopic public.
Now eyewear retailer ALOOK has got together with game franchise Monster Hunter to offer a series of glasses, Hito-kake ikouze!
Sounds like a bit of a mouthful but it’s a play on words using the video game’s catch-phrase, “Let’s go for a hunt!” (Hito-kari ikouze!) with the verb for wearing glasses (kakeru). So I guess it translates roughly as “Let’s go for a wear!” Right, in English it isn’t going to win any copywriting awards.
Monster Hunter is a hit RPG from Capcom and a new version of the game comes out for the Wii U very soon.
There are ten species in this new line-up of ALOOK glasses, each one based on a different character in the Monster Hunter beastiary.
Each pair of spectacles comes with its own special colored case and customized wipe cloth.
Curiously (or am I just being an unwitting snob?), it’s being presented as a stylish collaborative design eyewear accessory, not just yet another example tie-up merchandise trying to lure collectors and fans.
Jins, one of Japan’s big spectacles sellers, set up the country’s (the world’s?) first vending machine for glasses earlier this year in July.
The first ones were in Tokyo Bay and three other rather lackluster spots, namely Aeon malls in the ‘burbs.
They have since announced they are planning a further fifty locations, including now at Kansai Airport.
It’s not just a pop-in-your-coins kind of vendor either. This is a “next generation vending machine” (okay, these are often trumpeted but perhaps there is more than one generation round the corner?) and has a flashy name, the Jins Self Shop.
It is complete with touch panels and can go online to manage its stock. It even takes credit cards, a rarity in cash-happy Japan.
This is nice, since you see a lot of different kinds of things being sold from machines in Japan (bananas, batteries, canned coffee) but, except for prototypes and the occasional super energy-zapping hi-tech one, most are actually pretty low-fi. The novelty of the purchase is often the selling point.
Glasses in Japan are not your usual kettle of fish.
Jins and its main rival Zoff both run big ad campaigns and target young consumers. Jins uses Yu Aoi while Zoff has the equally lovely Kiko Mizuhara, plus they indulge in fancy augmented reality “digital glasses” projects from time to time too. Both chains also have large stores in Harajuku.
We’ve always liked how almost all regular spectacles stores will usually have a little cleaning spray machine set up outside, so as you pass by you can give your specs a rinse. Especially useful in the humid summer!