Underwater High-Knee Girls Plus: a photography book devoted to ladies in knee-high socks, in water

Written by: William on September 19, 2014 at 11:00 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

The first one came out in July 2013 and caused quite a stir. Now comes the follow-up.

“Suichu Ni-so” (“underwater knee-high socks”) is a photography series by Manabu Koga devoted to — you’ve guessed it! — young ladies diving under the water wearing knee-high socks (and swimwear too, of course). The idea sounds ridiculously simple but actually the visuals are quite fresh, almost hypnotic, like a whole new aquatic landscape.

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

Koga’s new 96-page photography book “Underwater High-Knee Girls Plus” hits local stores on October 20th, priced ¥1,800 (around $18) plus tax.

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

Part of the appeal comes from the fact that the models have all kinds of props with them, some of which — like umbrellas, raincoats and rabbit ears — just shouldn’t be there (i.e., underwater) in the first place. Apparently the knee-high socks are designed especially for diving in, created by a “mecha designer” who is also working on the new “Gundam Build Fighters” TV anime series.

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

Models featured include Risu Shima and Manami Yamaguchi.

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Sweet viewing? Q-pot and Sharp create Melty Chocolate TV

Written by: William on September 2, 2014 at 4:00 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

The fashion accessory brand Q-pot, known for its chocolate-themed products, has got together with Sharp to create a special limited edition Q-pot. Melty Chocolate TV, which it is selling exclusively through its online shop and Harajuku store from September 17th.

q-pot melty chocolate tv sharp

Obviously, like all of Q-pots sugary accessories, it’s not actually made of chocolate. Don’t try eating the screen! The frame is in fact black walnut wood. Also look out for the ten ants disguised around the TV.

Why ants? Well, ants like chocolate and this is a Japanese pun. The word for ant is “ari” and the word for ten is “tou”. In this way it is saying both “There are 10 ants” (ari ga tou) and “thank you” (arigatou). Quite what the gratitude is for, we’re not sure…

The “melting” chocolate part can be taken off and attached to wherever you want it to be on the TV, and the whole thing turns into a mirror when you turn off the power.

q-pot melty chocolate tv sharp

q-pot melty chocolate tv sharp

q-pot melty chocolate tv sharp

q-pot melty chocolate tv sharp

There is even a box for the remote control box in the same design and the whole frame can be hung on the wall.

The Q-pot Melty Chocolate TV does come at a price rather more than a bar of chocolate — ¥171,000 (over $1,600), plus tax, to be exact. That’s about 17 times what I paid for my television set, though mine is made of boring materials like plastic.

q-pot melty chocolate tv sharp

q-pot melty chocolate tv sharp

q-pot melty chocolate tv sharp

q-pot melty chocolate tv sharp

The Q-pot. brand was launched in 2002 by Tadaaki Wakamatsu. Its previous headline-grabbing products and projects include the Q-pot Cafe in Tokyo and a series of Sharp chocolate phones and iPod accessories.

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Toyo tire tread marks inspire Japanese yukata fashion

Written by: William on August 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 4 Comments

Toyo Tire and Rubber Co., Ltd. has created a series of yukata based on the tread designs of three of its tire products.

Here are what the Toyo tire tread yukata look like, modeled by Toyo employees. While you might associate tire treads with a somewhat rough or dirty image — since they are the parts of the tire that are gripping a road surface — or at least to be rather brawny or tough, the resulting yukata are as colorful and fun as you’d expect from the summer wear.

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

Yukata are, of course, Japanese summer kimonos and a frequent sight at firework displays and festivals in the hot months, though we’ve never seen any designed from tires!

“In order to give customers a sense of the rich expression of our tires,” Toyo says, “which are renowned for their original designs, we had our tread designs tailored into the patterns for yukata, a garment commonly worn during summers in Japan. By transposing the originality of tires, normally thought of as a simple round, black object, into the feminine world of color dimensions apart, we have created another unique touch point distinctive of Toyo Tires.”

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

The particular tread patterns come from popular Toyo tires PROXES R1R, OPEN COUNTRY M/T and NANOENERGY 0, while the dyeing in the yukata is in a traditional style.

The bad news is that that tire tread yukata are not for sale, though Toyo, after announcing the project back in July, promises to use the yukata at company promotional events.

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

[Hat tip to @nippon_en]

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Wearable Clothing by Urban Research virtual dressing room vendor lets you try on clothing digitally, purchase online

Written by: William on July 7, 2014 at 9:29 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Wearable Clothing by Urban Research is a virtual dressing room interactive digital unit was recently installed for a trial run in Ikebukuro Parco department. The fashion brand Urban Research created the unit which can be set up anywhere there’s electricity and wifi, and enough space. Like the many next-generation smart touchscreen vendors now commonly found in central Tokyo train stations, it uses a camera to scan the user’s body and in this case lets you browser Urban Research products, “try” them on, and connect to the label’s e-commerce platform so you can purchase them online.

The first test unit was available as a pop-up for use by shoppers (in English, Chines or Japanese) in Ikebukuro from June 17th to 30th. Look out for similar machines in train stations, departments stores and airport terminals; Urban Research plans to install six virtual fitting room vendors in 2014 and to have around 100 units in operation by 2020, including overseas. The brand already has a showroom in Taipei and wants to push the new virtual dressing room to Asian markets in the future, since it is much cheaper than opening up actual branches in new regions. Its online retail arm also currently occupies roughly a 20% share of its sales and it is aggressively expanding on this.

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

This kind of tryvertising technology has been developing in Japan for several years now. Past successes include Shiseido’s “digital cosmetic mirror”. Japan also has a well-established tradition of “unmanned shops”, from its thousands of varied vending machines to roadside vegetable stalls.

The Wearable Clothing system uses Kinect, a 60-inch LCD display, and an iPad. Kinect is increasingly the software of choice for these augmented reality virtual fitting units; a similar one for Topshop also utilized back in 2011. Urban Research spent a year working on the project with a web development company, spent some ¥20 million ($200,000) to create two initial vendors.

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

It responds to the user’s movements in real time as you try on your selected item (3D “real-time fitting”, as the makers term it) and even promises to give you a virtual experience of the texture of the clothing materials (so-called “cloth simulation”). As the Time Out blogger put it, “way more satisfying than fiddling with zips and buttons and bad lighting in a real dressing room.” If what you browse or try on takes your fancy, you can then add it to your basket and use the QR code it prints to access the brand’s online store and complete your purchase of the item.

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

Urban Research is boasting that this is the first example in the apparel industry of a single unit offering a virtual fitting and retail service all in one, as well as coordination with users’ social media.

The Wearable Clothing virtual fitting room is planned to appear next at Tokyo Skytree’s Solamachi mall this August.

The question, though, is whether in Japan, a culture with a very strong customer service ethos, could these types of virtual vendors truly take off and replace staffed stores completely?

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

[Image sources: here and here]

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Scotch Kousaku by Sumitomo 3M: Kids make paper clothes online, design by their voices and shouting

Written by: William on July 4, 2014 at 3:25 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Sumitomo 3M has created a special website for creating fashion items online, controlled by the volume of your voice. The “Scotch Summer Holidays Family Kousaku Paper Fashion Kids” (or just Scotch Kousaku — “Scotch handicrafts”) allows users to design their own clothing using the internal mic in their computer and voice recognition. By printing the design out, budding fashionistas can then assemble the pieces together using scissors or paper cutters.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

Scotch Kousaku is live now and is available until August 31st, making it a cool activity for parents to give kids to do at home while they are off school.

The Scotch brand has been doing these kinds of online campaigns locally for kids and parents every summer since 2012 and 2014′s one is built around the idea of turning children into young designers.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

The site is only in Japanese but is fairly easy to navigate. 3M provides you with ten wallpaper designs — a few basic clothes (t-shirts, dresses etc) and accessories (bags, hats) that are plain to get you started. You then supply the colors and patterns by selecting certain options — and shouting! The colors then respond to the volume and tone of your voice. For example, the more noise you make the more various multicolored leaves, splashes, circles and other patterns will appear.

Since kids are well-known for being loud, this is the perfect way to vent their vocal and creative skills.

Here is one we tried making… All right, we’re not natural fashion designers! Clearly we aren’t loud enough.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

Here are some examples that 3M have put on the website to give you inspiration. They are downloadable as PDFs.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

The clothes come in three sizes: Small (100-110cm), medium (110-120cm) and large (120-130cm).

Sumitomo 3M likes to do these kinds of campaigns to liven up the potentially mundane world of adhesive tape and Post-its. A few years ago they even had a very funky pop-up store in Omotesando that was more like an arts and crafts outlet than a shop to buy stationery.

There are no details available at present but the Scotch Kousaku website also promises a bricks-and-mortar store from late August where kids can try their hand at designing clothes.

For really releasing the need to shout, though, we recommend the Shouting Vase!

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Zoo Jeans see lions, tigers and bears “design” denim clothes for zoo charity fashion brand

Written by: William on July 3, 2014 at 12:04 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

We’ve already seen the Animal Face Pack, which took animals from Tokyo’s famous Ueno Zoo and turned them into beauty tools.

Now how about taking this fashion idea even further?

Zoo Jeans is a range of clothing designed by tigers and other animals. Huh? Yes, we’re not lying.

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

Zoo Jeans, the maker say, are “the only jeans on earth designed by dangerous animals”.

The denim materials have been wrapped around tires and rubber balls and then given to the animals to play with. They “roar, gnaw and claw at their toys,” as the organizers say! The materials are carefully reclaimed from the creatures and, complete with claw and bite marks, are made into the final jeans by a small factory in Okayama.

There are three models, each with the scratches and bites of their respective “designers”: lions, Ussuri brown bears and Bengal tigers.

Here’s a kind of making-of gallery…

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

You can then wear jeans that make you look like you have survived a battle with nature’s most fearsome beasts… and lived to tell the tale.

An initiative by the zoo’s volunteer suppporters’ club, all the clothes will be displayed at Kamine Zoo in Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture, from July 6th to July 21st.

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

The tiger and lion jeans will be available for one week only on Yahoo! Auction, starting on July 7th. Profits from the sales will be donated to the WWF and Kamine Zoo.

Here’s a video showing how they did it.

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GU opens at Shibuya Parco with new GU Fitting service, lets you try out unpaid clothes around Shibuya

Written by: William on June 23, 2014 at 9:05 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

UNIQLO’s spin-off casual wear brand GU has opened a major new branch at Parco Part 3 in Shibuya.

In fitting with its name GU — pronounced “gee you”, a play on the word jiyu in Japan meaning “free” — a new service lets customers really see how their potential purchases look on them. Not only can you try the clothes on, you are then allowed to wear them outside so you can see how you look in a more natural context and can also check out other clothes in Shibuya to coordinate your fashion.

gu fitting free service shibuya parco 3 unpaid clothes

Of course, you still have to return the clothes and/or pay for them (when we said that “GU” meant “free”, it’s not the “no cost” meaning!) on the same day.

The new GU Shibuya Parco branch is located in the baseball floor of Parco 3 and, appropriately for Shibuya, specializes in women’s wear. The new shopping-fitting room service is apparently inspired by the concept of providing a “Girls Special Shop”.

gu fitting free service shibuya parco 3 unpaid clothes

The GU Fitting service will be a trial initially available until the end of June only for 30 customers per day. There is also free shipping for purchases over ¥3,000, in case you don’t want to be burdened by heavy shopping bags during your later jaunt around Shibuya.

All you have to do is go up to the GU Fitting counter with your choice of clothes (up to three items), give your name and phone number, and then you can saunter out of the store with the clothes on. You can then check out other apparel and try to find the right item to match your new GU wear, or even go home and see how the clothes fit in with the rest of your wardrobe.

gu fitting free service shibuya parco 3 unpaid clothes

The only condition is that you have to return the clothes within business hours of the same day but you are under no obligation to buy them. GU says that items returned but ultimately not purchased will then be used for mannequins and won’t be sold.

No photo ID is required. GU trusts shoppers to give a real name and phone number, and of course return the items to pay!

I think we can safely say that this service would never work outside of Japan!

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Colombian embassy in Japan holds origami fashion show at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills

Written by: William on June 19, 2014 at 8:58 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

The Embassy of the Republic of Colombia in Tokyo put on a show for shoppers at the Roppongi Hills on a summer evening this week. These models performed in a fashion show wearing dresses and other accessories inspired by origami, reports Shingetsu News.

origami fashion show diana gamboa roppongi hills tokyo japan  cyclops a love story

Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper, though here the designers are not Japanese. Diana Gamboa, a visual artist, created the origami dresses while the metallic animal sculptures the models are dragging behind them in the performance were courtesy of Luis Fernando Bohorquez. The soundtrack is also traditional Colombian music.

While it looks very pretty, what does it all mean? Shingetsu reports that “the audience was told [the performance expressed] a love story between a man and a woman.” The performance was called “The Cyclops: a Love Story” and took place at 66 Plaza on the evening of June 14th.

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Where to Buy a Kimono Without Breaking the Bank

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on June 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

This article by Yulia Mizushima first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

Some outfits never go out of fashion. Kimonos are a prime example – they’ve been making people look elegant for centuries. These stylish rags certainly aren’t cheap though – unless you know where to look…

buy kimono tokyo heap
Kimono girls image via Shutterstock

If you stand in the middle of a scramble at Shibuya crossing, how many internationally-renowned, high-fashion outfits can you spot? I bet it wouldn’t take even a minute to spot at least a dozen without turning your head. Tokyo might be glorified as a fashion capital of the world, but no matter how “it” the handbag or how tailored the suit, chances are there’ll be someone else with the same outfit somewhere nearby. Next time, before you waste money on another unfulfilling retail therapy session, think about checking out your local second-hand kimono shop instead.

In today’s fashion world where unique stands above all, what’s more exclusive than the kimono? Leaders of the time-honored industry have traditionally catered to the status-conscious elite, but modern-day kimono designers and manufacturers are having a hard time selling what typically costs thousands of dollars to anyone who isn’t a refined and wealthy middle-aged Japanese woman. As a result, while most of today’s kimono industry is struggling to stay above water, budget second-hand shops are gaining popularity.

furugiya kimono shop tokyo
Local furugiya. Image by Chris Gladis, used under a Creative Commons Licence

You can pick up an authentic kimono for $100 or under, if you rustle around the right places. Your local furugiya (the name for a second-hand clothing store) is your first stop when looking for kimonos at an affordable price.

If you don’t know where to look, don’t stress — a lot of second-hand kimono shopping can be done online. Rakuten’s kimono page is a cheap, mix-and-match stop for easy access to inventory from hundreds of shops from all over Japan. it also gives you a quick and informative overlook of the different types of kimono and accessories out there. Random fact — Rakuten apparently is responsible for a full 10% of the kimono industry’s sales these days. Kimonos on Rakuten range from below a hundred dollars up to a couple of thousand — keep an eye out for special deals.

Another competitive option is Ichiroya, an online flea market that sells genuine, family-owned kimonos from Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, with the goods ranging from vintage to practically new. Their kimonos cost anything from 28 to 1 800 dollars, but most seem to range in the low hundreds. They have a handy Youtube page with short guide videos on kimono purchasing and wearing too.

If you can speak decent Japanese and are more inclined towards brick and mortar shops, any of the numerous Tansuya stores are ideal places to score a routinely-offered discount, as well as face-to-face kimono dressing assistance. A popular chain that sells new and recycled kimonos, Tansuya is a go-to choice for both kimono experts and newbies. Their prices are known to be a bit higher; second-hand kimonos usually cost a couple of hundred dollars, but if you’re just after the experience, you can rent one for around ¥8,000 a day. Depending on the branch, you can complement your shopping by exploring Japanese tea culture at the historic tea house district in Kagurazaka, ride a rickshaw in Asakusa, or do a bunch of equally cool stuff near the 38 other stores scattered around Tokyo.

inside a kimono shop tokyo buy cheap
Inside a kimono shop. Image by Okinawa Soba, used under a Creative Commons licence

Lastly, my favorite second-hand kimono shop is only a five-minute walk away from JR Harajuku Station. The family that has been running Sakaeya for over 50 years is now on Facebook and Tumblr (in English), making their social media a great place to start your kimono quest. The ultimate in cheapo kimono, Sakaeya not only sells second-hand kimono for as low as ¥1,000 (yes, you read that right), they also rent starting at ¥5,000, which includes dressing assistance and a tea ceremony. For a little extra, you can join their dance and photo shoot events as well. Plus, their CEO is an adorable cat named Totoro and their bucho, or department chief, is a raccoon who lives at the nearby Meiji Shrine. Why aren’t you trying on a kimono already?

sword bamboo buy ninja princess kimono warrior knife japan
Ed’s note: Once you’ve got your cheapo kimono, all you need is a sword and bit of bamboo to complete your experience. Death stare optional. Woman in bamboo forest pic via Shutterstock.

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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