Doraemon Giant Speaker has light-up cat bell that flashes in time to music

Written by: Japan Trends on May 20, 2015 at 10:31 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

When I first arrived in Japan, my room mate had an alarm clock that played the Doraemon theme song — very, very loudly. So when he had to get up for his morning shift, it was like a full blue-and-white cat orchestra was playing right beside my ear, every single day.

This colored my perception of the time-travelling cat somewhat, though who can resist his charms for long? And who doesn’t want a door that takes you anywhere?

Fujiko Fujio’s Doraemon, despite being one of the longest-running manga and anime series in Japan, continues to attract new fans, and this then inspires new merchandise.

Like this Doraemon Giant Speaker.

doraemon giant speaker audio toy flashing cat bell

The large Doraemon figure features a speaker on the base that plays music from your MP3 player, phone or other audio device.

doraemon giant speaker audio toy flashing cat bell

doraemon giant speaker audio toy flashing cat bell

doraemon giant speaker audio toy flashing cat bell

But perhaps the coolest thing is how Doraemon’s cat bell lights up and flashes in time to whatever music playing.

There has been a revival of interest in the classic Doraemon franchise of late. The feature film Doraemon: Nobita no Himitsu Dogu Museum was the fifth highest-grossing movie of 2013 in Japan and made Doraemon more lucrative than Godzilla for studio Toho.

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The Second Stage: a magazine about ex-Takarazuka Revue performers

Written by: William on April 29, 2015 at 9:37 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

A new magazine has been launched dedicated to former performers with the all-female Takarazuka Revue.

The Second Stage was released this week and examines the lives of ex-Takarazuka stars, now in their thirties or older, and the beauty tips they can offer readers.

second stage takarazuka revue former ex actress performer magazine

The first issue, priced ¥1,200 (around $10), features Kei Aran and Tsubasa Makoto. It is produced by a music magazine specialist, rather than Takarazuka itself, and there is no word yet on how regular it will.

The famous Takarazuka Revue attracts passion fans, mostly female, for its kitschy performances of musicals. Entering the troupe is very competitive and, like Kabuki, performers are assigned to play “male” or “female” roles. Members lead a closeted life, training for years with the company and living in dorms. Like with music idol groups, are restricted in what they can do in their private lives.
 
The afterlife of Takarazuka actresses (so-called Takarasiennes) can be up and down.

They often go on to marry well (former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama’s wife was a Takarazuka actress, for example) but only a few have retained a career in entertainment.

These include Hitomi Kuroki, Yuki Amami, Rei Dan, Miki Maya and Sarara Tsukifune.

takarazuka revue actress performer magazine graph

Not surprisingly for a phenomenon that has been around for 100-plus years, Takarazuka already has several magazine titles, joining Japan’s pantheon of niche magazines.

takarazuka revue actress performer magazine graph

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Hikaru Skirt: The flashing costume (possibly) set to revolutionize music idol culture

Written by: William on April 14, 2015 at 9:24 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

Self-indulgent geekdom gone mad or an inventive play on an otaku motif?

A little while ago there was some buzz about a “flashing skirt” created by Kamakura-based Kayac Inc’s Kiyoyuki Amano.

hikaru skirt zettai ryoiki otaku kayac amano moso calibration flashing music idol japan

The idea behind the Hikaru Skirt was to literally highlight the zettai ryouiki, the “absolute zone” — the area of flesh on a girl’s upper leg between her skirt and her socks. This is a common trope in otaku fantasies and Hikaru Skirt was playing on this by making a skirt that flashes in multicolor, drawing attention to the “zone” in a fun but hopefully not pervy way.

hikaru skirt zettai ryoiki otaku kayac amano moso calibration flashing music idol japan

hikaru skirt zettai ryoiki otaku kayac amano moso calibration flashing music idol japan

It actually looks much cooler than it sounds and the public response was good.

Or at least, good enough apparently for this one-off project to evolve into a crowdfunding campaign to commercialize the idea. The aim is to get it out as a product by October 2015.

Will they succeed?

Well, only 16 people have sponsored the campaign so far — 7% of the required ¥3.9 million. But there’s still 49 days to go, so let’s not write off Japan’s designer geeks quite yet.

Judging by the official website, the makers have hopes that the Hikaru Skirt could be a game-changer in music idol culture. The flashing lights change automatically according to music and can be adjusted by your smartphone. Just charge up the skirt by USB and then it can go for 3 hours, which is more than enough time for a leisurely walk around Akihabara or Harajuku.

Here is the group Moso Calibration demonstrating the Hikaru Skirt in action.

Be prepared to pay ¥16,000 (about $130) to claim one of the first skirts as your campaign perk. Presumably if it’s a hit, it will be available more widely in the future.

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Idol support app Cheerz to feature at overseas events: Japan Expo, Connect Japan, J-Pop Summit Festival

Written by: William on April 1, 2015 at 9:09 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Cheerz is an app for showing your support for certain idols. It allows users to browse selfies and photos taken by over 250 music idols.

Users can then “cheer” the photos they like, which raises the ranking of an idol. The top-ranking idols then take part in special events and feature in Cheerz books.

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

The app will be showcased at a forthcoming series of Japanese pop culture and subculture events overseas, including Connect Japan in Thailand in May, Japan Expo in France in July, and J-Pop Summit Festival in America in August.

The idols on Cheerz will be joined from Arpil by new ladies, including regional idol groups like Orange Port and Star T, and the unfortunately named Soft Prick Kei Guso Drop.

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

Bands like Guso Drop join the growing popularity of “kawaii metal” around the world, led especially by Babymetal.

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

The Cheerz app has acquired a cult following. Since it started in late 2014, it has accumulated 50 million “cheers” from fans. The first Cheerz photo book with the most popular idols was published in march.

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

cheerz app idol japanese music support otaku ranking cheer

Cheerz is also available in Japanese, Chinese and English, and they even have an English slogan:

It’s up to you whether you find an [sic] new diamond or support your favorite idol!

Unfortunately, we have no idea what that really means but presumably they will sort out the linguistic issues before they head overseas.

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Build and customize your own Japanese banjo with the Self-Assembly Shamisen

Written by: Japan Trends on March 26, 2015 at 9:03 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Self-Assembly Shamisen is, as the name suggests, a shamisen instrument that you can build yourself — and customize!

The shamisen is surely the most famous Japanese traditional instrument. You can see it at Kabuki performances, as well as other traditional events. Geisha play them and they are also part of Okinawan culture as the sanshin banjo.

However, they are expensive. Insanely expensive. Not only are they made solely by specialist artisans, the materials (snake leather?!) and twice-annual repairs all preclude any but those with the deepest pockets.

diy self assembly shamisen kit build customize own

Itouhei have noticed this and come up with this solution.

The Self-Assembly Shamisen is a genuine shamisen but is designed for the player to build themselves. Certain materials and elements of the design have been adjusted to bring down the overall cost, though these choices have the benefit of also increasing durability and reducing the need for regular repairs to the instrument.

Best of all, perhaps, is how this is a shamisen that you can customize with your own paints and patterns.

Here are some snazzy examples.

diy self assembly shamisen kit build customize own

Self-assembly toys and kits are very popular in Japan, as proved by the enduring success of the Otona no Kagaku (Science for Grown-Ups) series by Gakken. Entries in the series include a handmade home planetarium, mini electric guitar, and even theremin.

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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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KISS Face Pack: Wear glam rocker makeup face mask every day, and improve your skin

Written by: Japan Trends on February 18, 2015 at 8:39 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Flamboyant rock band KISS continue to conquer Japan. The makeup-loving rockers have for years been a staple of both summer music festivals and mainstream advertising campaigns.

And now they have joined the likes of Kabuki actors and animals from Ueno Zoo.

The KISS Face Pack comes from the same makers of the brilliant Kabuki mask (now there are TWO of those).

kiss face pack beauty mask japan

kiss face pack beauty mask japan

Isshin Do Honpo Inc has created the KISS Face Pack, a genuine mask meant to be worn by men or women to improve skin. It comes in two different two-packs based on the makeup of the glam metal band’s performers: Starchild (Paul Stanley) and Spaceman (Tommy Thayer), or Demon (Gene Simmons) and Cat (Eric Singer).

kiss face pack beauty mask japan

kiss face pack beauty mask japan

Despite their penchant for tongue-licking guitar solos and rumors of Satan worship, KISS is seen as harmless fun in the land of the rising sun.

KISS also collaborated with Momoiro Clover Z (who also love costumes and contentious makeup) earlier this year for perhaps the strangest musical release of 2015 so far: “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saite Mina”.

The face pack series so far includes JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, the musical Cats, classic Hollywood horror movie characters, Kansai Yamamoto fashion, and even a spin-off Hello Kitty version from different makers.

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Blackface in Japan (again): Momoiro Clover Z and Rats & Star

Written by: William on February 16, 2015 at 9:27 am | In LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

It’s a dangerous game to throw the racism card around but this development has succeeded in getting that reaction from most corners.

A photo showing a behind-the-scenes shot from an upcoming Fuji TV show has idol group Momoiro Clover Z and veterans Rats & Star posing in blackface.

momoiro clover z blackface rats & star fuji tv racism japan

New York Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi and others shared the photo on Twitter and it has since gone viral.

Momoiro Clover Z are immensely popular right now, often appearing in mainstream TV commercials for major brands. They have previously teamed up with older music stars, such as their bizarre collaboration single with the rock band KISS.

As Kotaku points out, Rats & Star have a long history of blackface since they debuted in the 1980’s. But while Momoiro Clover Z are no strangers to costumes and dressing-up (the idol group’s concept is arguably a pastiche of anime like Sailor Moon), this is a whole new territory of role-play. Could their management really be so naive in this day and age?

momoiro clover z blackface rats & star fuji tv racism japan

Blackface in Japan is sometimes seen on television, though it is also sometimes adopted more foolishly by students and youngsters.

Unless the (online) controversy succeeds in forcing the broadcasters to change their programming, tune into Fuji TV on March 7th to see Momoiro Clover Z and Rats & Star appear together in blackface on the show “Music Fair”.

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Red Bull Studios Tokyo opens in Aoyama, designed by Kengo Kuma

Written by: William on February 13, 2015 at 9:00 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Red Bull Studios Tokyo opens at the end of this month in Aoyama, in the heart of Tokyo.

It is the beverage brand’s eleventh such studio in the world and is designed by Kengo Kuma. Red Bull will lend out the recording studio for free to certain music artists.

red bull studios tokyo aoyama kengo kuma

Red Bull is celebrating the opening with a three-day series of music events from February 27th, featuring Chip Tanaka/Hirokazu Tanaka. There will be special studio visits, workshops, concerts and more.

red bull studios tokyo aoyama kengo kuma

red bull studios tokyo aoyama kengo kuma

red bull studios tokyo aoyama kengo kuma

Red Bull’s association with the local music scene already has roots. It held its traveling music event, the Red Bull Music Academy, in Tokyo last year.

red bull music academy tokyo 2014 kengo kuma

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