Hobonichi has opened Tobichi, a store and gallery in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo, where it will hold special events and sell its merchandise. It does has a rather unfortunate name in English (the “bichi” part sounds like another word entirely!) but this is significant because it’s the first ever bricks-and-mortar store for the Hobonichi brand.
Hobonichi (“almost daily”) is one of Japan’s best-kept secrets, despite the valiant efforts of a few. Founded by copywriter Shigesato Itoi, it is a kind of web magazine cum fan club with a carefully managed editorial tone.
It is very hard to define why Hobonichi is so successful, especially with a certain kind of Japanese female urbanite in their thirties. Its business model just wouldn’t seem to work on paper — but then that’s because it’s not on paper, it’s online. The Hobonichi method consists of building up a popular content portal called 1101.com as a “media” and then selling products alongside this. Since the products are fully integrated into the style of the Hobonichi content, this works very well.
Hobonichi carries no advertising; its revenue is solely from the branded products it offers to fans, everything from calendars to t-shirts and books. The Hobonichi staple product has always been the daily pocketbook/appointment diary, the Hobonichi Techo, now available in English as the Hobonichi Planner. It is full of the usual cute Hobonichi gimmicks, such as little quotes at the bottom of each page, and inspires creative use of its pages.
The planner is Hobonichi’s strongest seller and they have sold it through their own online shop and in select other stores, such as Loft. Part of Hobonichi’s success lies in how it hasn’t spread too far too fast; it has held back, concentrating on curating the distinctly lackadaisical voice of the 1101.com website and its products rather than only trying to flog ever more products to the greatest number of customers.
The new store is located not far from the Hobonichi office and, on top of being a physical place for stocking Hobonichi goods, will also champion the artists that Hobonichi likes, exhibiting their work for free in the space. As such opening times will vary depending on the event or exhibit it is running, though the exterior alone looks impressive enough. If you’re in the area (very close to the Nezu Museum), be sure to check it out.
Mitsukoshi Isetan have teamed up with fashion brand minä perhonen (despite the name, not actually Finnish) to offer a new take on a classic item of modern Japanese convenience.
Isetan is currently holding a “future summer gift” event on the ground floor of its Shinjuku head store. This includes a new design for Katori Senko mosquito coils by minä perhonen. Kincho was the first company to make what a now a standard sight in the humid summer in Japan, the coil-designed green poison (using Pyrethrum flower seeds originally from Serbia) that burns slowly with the smell of incense and keeps pesky mosquitoes at bay.
While its coil product has been copied by numerous competitors, Kincho’s design is still much loved, not least for its rather retro but charming cockerel icon. The status of the Kincho mosquito coils is such that the brand received the Good Design Long Life Award from the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2012. Surprisingly Kincho has not made much of an inroad overseas but you can get a set of two “cans” of thirty coils, complete with holder to keep the coil over the can, of the Kincho Uzumaki Katori Senko Mosquito Coil from JapanTrendShop. Trust us, your summers will be much better!
The new minä perhonen version is made with Kincho and has fused the familiar household product with the chic-cute look of the quasi-Finnish brand. Fear not, the famous Kincho cockerel has been retained in all his red glory but the rest of the packaging is recreated in the trademark minä perhonen minimal white.
Isetan’s fair contains a host of other interesting products, mostly unusual reinterpretations of traditional items and sweets. Like New Year, summer is a time in Japan to give gifts and even convenience stores offer suitable items, such as sets of beer and so on. This custom is known as Ochugen and Isetan is hoping its offerings will persuade people to opt for something a bit more unusual. The fair runs from July 30th to August 5th on the ground floor of Isetan Shinjuku.
Wearable Clothing by Urban Research virtual dressing room vendor lets you try on clothing digitally, purchase onlineWritten 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.
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.
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.
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?
GU opens at Shibuya Parco with new GU Fitting service, lets you try out unpaid clothes around ShibuyaWritten 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.
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”.
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.
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!
Mother of Ultra in swimwear joins Ultraman monsters on beach for Fukuoka, Kagoshima Amu Plaza malls summer campaignWritten by: William on June 21, 2014 at 3:42 pm | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment
When you think of summer in Japan you will usually come up with a stream of images of matsuri festivals, firework displays, flash rain storms, and sweaty Tokyo trains. What you probably won’t get is an image of Ultraman’s mother dressed for a swim at the seaside.
But that’s apparently the way to appeal to shoppers in Kyushu.
Clearly tongue-in-cheek, the TV ads are very well made and should amuse aficionados and non-fans alike.
And if you have ever wanted to know what Jamila, Pigmon and Dada look like when dancing, now you can find out…
Here are the cast dressed for the beach.
If you thought that old Tsuburaya sci-fi series were the preserve of geeky guys and hipsters, think again. After all, these days fans can even go to special Ultraman monster bars and enjoy special hashed rice meals.
This is not the first time the Kyushu mall has used giant images from the retro Ultraman franchise. When it re-opened in March this year the campaign TV ad and poster featured Ultraman’s mother posed up against the building.
There are already more than enough hotels in Shibuya, you might think, including the colorful ones behind Dougenzaka for, ahem, shorter stays.
So we weren’t too excited to hear about this new one opening called Hotel Emanon. Only we then realized that it’s not a hotel at all, but a space deliberately seeking to evoke a “hotel-esque” atmosphere.
Hotel Emanon but opens in Shibuya on June 21st and promises to be a lifestyle hub base. While it doesn’t offer accommodation options, it does include a restaurant, coffee bar and select shop.
A ten-minute walk from Shibuya Station, Hotel Emanon is located in Nanpeidaicho, a surprisingly residential oasis at the top of Dougenzaka. Interior design comes courtesy of Keisuke Inatsugu and others, while the cups, lights, furniture and miscellaneous furnishings you can find throughout the “hotel” are actually for sale.
It will function as a regular pop-up store for a range of stylish retail. If you’re hungry, the ground floor has a deli restaurant serving organic-style food. A coffee bar, meanwhile, also sells cigarettes and gift items.
There has a been a string of these kinds of lifestyle spaces recently, joining the growing numbers of co-working spaces in Tokyo. Idol in Aoyama is a cafe and lounge, while Tabloid is a former warehouse turned gallery, cafe and rental space in Minato Ward’s Hinode. Not surprisingly, Idol, Tabloid and Hotel Emanon come from the same people, Soul Planet.
All these eclectic lifestyle spaces try to outdo each other in the copywriting department too. Hotel Emanon’s slogan is “Daily Restaurant Eat Local.” However, sometimes the hipsters can overreach themselves with unexpected side effects. Tabloid, for example, claims on its website to be a “Tokyo Creator’s District, for a person who gropers [sic] fpr [sic] a new work style”. Oh, dear.
Starbucks may well have coffee shops in around sixty countries and regions worldwide but other than North America, Japan is the first to reach 1,000 branches. Despite being seen initially as a more luxury and stylish coffee shop in Japan, now the chain is about to challenge Doutor, which has around 1,100 outlets.
Sometimes the situation is getting ridiculous. There are almost half a dozen Starbucks within a few minutes’ walk of each other in the Omotesando/Minami-Aoyama/Kotto-dori area.
The first Japanese branch opened seventeen years ago and the chain is present in almost every prefecture in the country.
Starbucks also likes to indulge in specially designed and localized coffee shops, such as the one in Ueno Park, the Kuma Kengo-designed branch in Fukuoka, or the popular outlet on Sanjo in Kyoto with a terrace that overlooks the Kamogawa river.
The Starbucks Coffee Japan headquarters recently moved to Meguro in March and has also opened a new “concept store” on the ground floor to celebrate.
Drawing inspiration from traditional Japanese architecture and gardens, the drink counter and other elements of the store feel more like a chashitsu tearoom than an American coffee shop. Check out the wooden walls, the Japanese plants and the paintings with their distinctly “Oriental” air. There are also screens like shoji sliding doors and other partitions that recall Japanese spatial design.
Any branch of Starbucks will feature a line-up of mugs and thermos flasks for sale. The new Meguro store, though, sells Japanese ceramics-inspired mugs for when you want a splash of wa in your latte.
We also love how a third of the branch’s sixty-nine seats are designed for solo customers — perfect for metropolitan people who like to visit Starbucks to get some work done rather than chat with a friend.
It opened on May 11th a few minutes from Meguro Station and has been packed ever since.
The Meguro area is actually full of traditional crafts and design shops, so this is a very appropriate move by Starbucks. Meguro is also the home to the Japan Folk Crafts Museum, which is no stranger to modern chic either. In 2012 it appointed top designer Naoto Fukasawa to be its head.
As we’ve mentioned previously on JapanTrends, the Tokyu Toyoko line has recently merged with the underground Fukutoshin subway line at Shibuya Station. The merge has made the commute from outside of the city faster, and the Fukutoshin a little more useful. It’s also left a pretty hefty space left wide open in Shibuya station.
Whether you live in Tokyo, or not, it’s safe to say you know what a crowded city it is. There are literally millions of people in the streets at all times. Shops, restaurants, vending machines and train stations occupy every tiny space. If you want to get really particular, there are even all of the above within the train stations. Finding space for a new shop in Tokyo can be a pretty tough job.
So, in the spirit of no space wasted, UNIQLO has opened a pop-up t-shirt shop called UNIQLO UT POP-UP! TYO on the Toyoko platform. Literally on the platform.
While you’re sifting through hundreds of t-shirt designs, if you take a moment to look down, you’ll notice that the tracks are right below your feet. Or that you’re walking along the yellow line you’ve been so conditioned to stay behind.
The shop has more than 1,000 varieties of UNIQLO t-shirts, and boasts an inventory of over 12,000 garments on hand for sale. Given that this is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for a shop like this to exist, UNIQLO is launching 100 new designs while the shop is open.
UNIQLO actually has a history with train stations, having for a few years now already been operating mini branches (more pop-in than pop-up) inside the ticket barriers of major terminals, including JR Shibuya. This is also not the first store dedicated to its UT (UNIQLO T-shirts) line either, though it is the biggest.
The Toyoko Station pop-up is only open until April 7, so get down there and see it for yourself. And, you can get a t-shirt too!
Shinto, the native Japanese (quasi-?)religion, has never been averse to merchantile environs. Major corporations have their own shrines (jinja) and department stores may often have one on their roofs. No Jesus cleansing the traders out of the temple in this religion, that’s for sure.
Until Valentine’s Day, Tokyu Hands Hakata (Fukuoka) is also showing no qualms about bringing a jinja into the “den of thieves”.
In the store visitors will find a torii gate like the kind you pass through at the entrance to a Shinto shrine. The heart-themed design of the fake shrine is a copy of the actual Koinoki Jinja, the shrine for lovers located elsewhere in Fukuoka prefecture.
At the “shrine” you can buy a love fortune (omikuji) for ¥100, write a message and then post it on the heart-shaped board. At the end of the promotion, all the “offerings” will be collected and taken to the real Koinoki Jinja.
The same area of the store has also been holding chocolate-making workshops for those girls who want to give something unique on February 14th (in Japan, the women give the men something on Valentine’s Day, and then the men return the favor on March 14th).
Other than Koinoki Jinja, shrines famed as places to acquire fortune in romance include Kuzuryu Shrine, near Mt. Fuji, and Kasuga Taisha in Nara. Tokyoites can console their lonely hearts by heading to Imado Jinja in Asakusa or Tokyo Daijingu in Iidabashi.