Ultraman goes classical with Ultra Violin and symphony orchestra concert

Written by: William on July 7, 2015 at 5:07 pm | In GO SEE | No Comments

Get ready for the most unlikely classical music event (and instrument) Japan has perhaps ever seen.

Ultraman Symphony Concert 2015 happens at Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre Concert Hall on November 2nd, not only featuring the music of Ultraman, the seemingly eternally popular tokusatsu retro sci-fi series, but also a Ultra Violin that pays full tribute to the suited folk from the nebula Messier 78.

ultraman symphony concert classical musical event tokyo

This instrument is unique in many ways, one of which is literal — there is only one of them and it will be sold to a single buyer at the concert.

It will fetch the lucky purchaser the princely sum of ¥780,000 ($6,350), though they will no doubt admire the spruce finish, the maple neck, and the ebony saddle.

ultra violin ultraman musical instrument

Not only is the bout decorated in iconic Ultra colors, including the neck and fingerboard, but the f-holes are also in the shape of the SSSP logo.

It will be exclusively on sale at the venue for the concert. If they get more than one order, then there will be a lottery to determine who gets to take the violin home. (The violin won’t actually be played during the concert, it seems.)

If you don’t fancy forking up over $6,000 for an Ultra Violin but do want to catch the concert, tickets cost between ¥5,000 ($40) and ¥15,000 ($122).

Despite the publicity image for the concert, though, Ultraman is not actually conducting the orchestra. That job will be handled by Sadaaki Yazawa.

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Yamaha showcases concept mobility vehicles and insane musical instruments

Written by: William on July 6, 2015 at 9:33 am | In COOL PRODUCTS, GO SEE | No Comments

Over the weekend, Yamaha demonstrated that it doesn’t just make keyboards and bikes.

The “Two Yamahas, One Passion” exhibition at Roppongi Hills showcased prototype musical instruments and mobility machines created under the umbrella of the oddly named “project AH A MAY“, the Yamaha concept design project which was also presented at the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2015 in March.

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic

The project is a joint venture between the two Yamaha arms: Yamaha Corporation and Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. One creates tools for sound, the other creates tools for mobility.

There were 13 exhibits, 6 of which were being shown in Japan for the first time. One of exhibits was a world premiere.

Fujin (God of Wind)

This marimba is designed for two performers and allows them to add and multiply their energy. The seating of the performers brings to mind the image of a two-seater motorcycle and enables the performers to enjoy the thrill of unexpected swigs and gaps as they play the marimba.

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic marimba fujin

Raijin (God of Thunder)

Is this a drummer’s nightmare or a dream come true? Perhaps we should test it out with Terence Fletcher.

This design seeks to create an ideal form that will allow human beings to go beyond existing methods to express themselves. The design resembles a globe and allows performers to let their imaginations run wild on an assortment of different kinds of drums. Energy erupts centered on the performer and creates an increasingly visually dynamic world of sound.

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic raijin rum

Electric-Power Assisted Bicycle

This prototype was “inspired” by 0±0 (Zero plus/minus Zero).

yamaha prototype concept motorbike plus minsu zero

The electric-power assisted bicycle is placed on a recharging stand, and when cyclists pedal it, this recharges the battery. The battery power can then be taken out of the stand and the electricity generated shared with the family and used to power musical instruments and other electric appliances. The design aims to suggest a lifestyle that takes a positive attitude and approach toward power usage.

√ (Root)

By taking the meters on the instrument panel off the motorcycle rider’s view, the idea of the design is to enable him or her to be a part of the passing scenery. The form was created to flow from the seat to the fuel tank and was inspired by a horse motif that aims to give a sense of unity among people, nature, and the vehicle.

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic root

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic root

01GEN

This is a three-wheel, multi-terrain motorbike that lights up in cool blue.

yamaha concept bike three-wheel motorbike prototype

The on & off crossover of the concept refers to the multi wheel’s command over a variety of terrain – both on-road and off – that is grounded in the maneuverability unique to the format. A distinctive feature is the seamless design that sees the front and back overlap and interlace with no distinction between the two. The shape advocates a new and racy design expression evolving from the harmony of interweaving the mechanical framework with the flowing body line that makes the most of the volume of the double front wheels.

02GEN

This concept model brings to life the ideal of a wheelchair that can be controlled with ease and moves elegantly while being adaptable to the needs of each individual user. It is meant to “Merge” all of the functionality required in an electrically power-assisted wheelchair with a design that creates a beautiful sitting posture and a sense of unity between the user and the chair. All this makes it a design concept model that offers excellence in CMF (Color, Material and Finish) in a design aimed at enriching the lifestyles of wheelchair users.

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic

03GEN

These two concept models explore the potential fun of mobility based on two themes that express expectations for the future, the allure of a racing machine, respect for time-honored forms and styling, and the exhilaration that comes from experiencing the cutting-edge. With a design theme of “Future Racing,” the 03GEN-f expresses the futuristic appeal of Yamaha LMW models with racing-inspired styling. The 03GEN-x features a timeless design based on a “Cross” (crossover) theme that combines classic off-road model elements with the latest LMW structure.

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic

Vocaloid Keyboard

This keyboard has a nice Eighties feel to it!

yamaha concept musical instruments prototype design motorbike mobility wheelchair futuristic vocaloid keyboard

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“Terminator Genisys” gets unlikely promo with Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel schoolgirl cosplay dance video

Written by: William on June 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

How do you promote the new Terminator movie in Japan?

Simple. You dress up a dancer in a Japanese schoolgirl uniform and have her perform deep under the ground. Crank up the iconic Terminator theme melody with a special dance remix… and you probably have a recipe for viral success.

Terminator Genisys manako promo school uniform japanese Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel dance video

Take a look.

The slinky performer is sailor uniform music idol Manako.

Okay, so this may not be wholly official but it’s still better than anything the forthcoming movie’s PR team could have come up with.

Terminator Genisys manako promo school uniform japanese Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel dance video

Architecture fans will instantly recognize the setting.

It’s the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, a vast flood water facility located in Saitama. The epic storm drain is like a video game level come to life — appropriately sci-fi for the film.

Terminator Genisys manako promo school uniform japanese Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel dance video

Quite what a dancing schoolgirl has to do with Terminator Genisys is anyone’s guess but since the franchise jumped the shark a long time ago, cosplay silliness is probably the last thing that can damage it now.

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Seibu ageHa Train: All aboard Tokyo’s chartered mobile EDM nightclub party!

Written by: William on June 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm | In GO SEE | 1 Comment

Seibu hosted a special “nightclub train” event on June 5th-6th, featuring on-board DJs and music as passengers were transported in the charted train from Nerima non-stop all the way to Shin-Kiba.

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

The sold-out event was devised in partnership with well-known nightclub ageHa, which is based in Shin-Kiba. A Seibu train was refurbished with DJ booth, speakers and everything needed to transform a regular commuter train into a club on wheels.

Seibu has a pretty dull reputation; it runs the train lines that people who live in the suburbs west and northwest of Tokyo take to go home. Adding go-go dancers and a thumping club soundtrack to the carriage facilities is certainly one way to liven up your brand image!

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

Seibu trains don’t actually go all the way to Shin-Kiba, of course. The railway company partnered with Tokyo Metro so the ageHa Train could run on the Yurakucho subway line.

DJ Alisa Ueno was in charge of the tunes while the dancers were CyberJapan. Strobes, alcohol, costumes. This was no ordinary train: this was a crowded EDM locomotive, a forty-minute mobile mosh pit!

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

The intrepid The Japan Times had a nice write-up:

“It’s just a regular train!” says a man in a suit next to me. Before I give him a “geez, old people” eye-roll, I look at the train and see that he’s right — a plain old train save for the windows, which are covered in black vinyl. The inside looks normal, too, except that speakers have been placed on the luggage racks above the seats. For five minutes as the crowd boards, we replicate Tokyo’s morning rush hour. Instead of grumpy office workers, though, we’ve got giggling young women in glow-in-the-dark cat ears.

The passengers alighted at Shin-Kiba for a group date event at the club itself.

A ticket for one of the two ageHa Trains that ran on June 5th and June 6th didn’t come cheap, though. Male passengers/clubbers had to fork up ¥7,000, or nearly $60 (the ladies got on cheaper, at just ¥3,000 or about $25).

seibu ageha train nightclub music edm club event tokyo japan dj dance

In total there were 480 places available, divided evenly per gender since the party was ostensible a gokon group date.

Given the amount of media attention the event received, we expect it will be repeated again in the near future. How about a Shinkansen version to really raise the stakes?

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Namie Amuro’s new “interactive” music video “Golden Touch” will have your finger tapping (the screen)

Written by: William on June 3, 2015 at 8:07 am | In NEW TECH | No Comments

Namie Amuro has launched a new album, “_genic”, with a music video. Absolutely nothing innovative about that — the Okinawan singer is insanely prolific.

But the video for “Golden Touch” is being touted as an interactive music video experience.

namie amuro golden touch music video interactive finger

The “Golden Touch” video doesn’t even feature the doll-like idol for once, but it does have a “dot” in the center which you are instructed to keep touching throughout the song. The video content then “responds” to this point almost as if you are controlling things.

namie amuro golden touch music video interactive finger

The makers say it’s best viewed in full-screen mode.

Okay, the future of music video-viewing is not here quite yet.

This isn’t really an interactive video. You swiftly realize that the same things happen in the video regardless of whether you are touching the dot in the middle or not. It’s ultimately more of a test to see how long you can keep your finger in one spot, which feels even more ridiculous if you are watching the video on a laptop.

namie amuro golden touch music video interactive finger

However, there is a very colorful array of characters and creatures to keep this 3.5 minutes of bubble gum pop lively: a disco Dachshund, a skateboarder, goldfish, a house of cards, guys in furry costumes… you name it, it’s in there. Boy, we wish we could have attended that brain-storming session.

namie amuro golden touch music video interactive finger

It is a good marketing stunt for a dying industry and overseas media has picked the story up too. The video has 5 million views and counting, about ten times more than most Amuro videos on YouTube.

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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 COOL PRODUCTS | 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 COOL PRODUCTS | 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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