Fancy a spot of Kabuki before you step onto a plane?
Yes, if you want your taste of traditional Japanese at the airport, from this spring you can.
Narita International Airport Terminal 1′s South Wing will host the Kabuki Gate, featuring costumes, props, and other Kabuki-themed items.
Strangely, it’s actually located in the area after you have passed through immigration for departures. So only people who are leaving Japan (i.e. tourists who already spent time there or Japanese passengers) will get their chance to experience the Kabuki Gate. The logic of this feels peculiar to us: surely you want to enchant tourists coming into Japan, so as to encourage them to go see the real thing?
There are tablets in the Kabuki Gate where you can take your picture and then match it to Kumadori Kabuki makeup. The final image of yourself as a Kabuki star can then be sent to your own phone.
Of course, there is also a shop selling Kabuki merchandise and the costumes will be changed seasonally. Unfortunately you can’t try on the costumes or any actual makeup. Instead, for this we recommend the Kabuki Face Pack series, which also has the added benefit of helping your skin (ironically, also sold at Narita Airport — or otherwise on Japan Trend Shop).
The Kabuki Gate opens March 27th and is free to enter.
As we head towards the 2020 Olympics, expect to see more and more of these overtly “Japanese” initiatives everywhere as the powers that be attempt to present their preferred image of the nation to everyone.
Roppongi has its fair share of bright lights and other-worldly experiences, though this is certainly something new.
Finnair is sponsoring a stimulated aurora experience event at Tokyo Midtown on November 7th and November 8th.
Finnair Aurora will showcase various Scandinavian tourist destinations for discerning Roppongi visitors but best of all is the “aurora booth” attraction, which will provide a virtual aurora experience for those who can’t make it to the other side of the planet to see the real thing.
There will also be a booth where you can superimpose yourself over the aurora to create a special commemorative image of your “trip”.
For the linguists out there, there will be customized badges which can be printed using a “Finn Generator” that converts your name into Finnish.
And after all that traveling around the Arctic Circle, no doubt you will be parched. Not to worry, aurora-themed drinks and Glühwein will be one hand, as well as other Scandinavian snacks.
Japanese people really love the aurora and sightseeing trips to the various parts of the world where you can see the light spectacle are very popular. Flights depart for Finnish cities offering vistas of the autumn aurora from Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, setting you down in 9.5 hours. (For the unlucky ones without the vacation budget, there are aurora home planetarium devices instead.)
Finnair Aurora is open 13:00-17:00 on November 7th and 11:00-21:00 on November 8th at Tokyo Midtown’s Canopy Square.
When in Rome, as the saying goes. And so when in Kyoto, wear a kimono. There’s nothing pretentious about getting into “costume”, so to speak, and exploring Japan’s old capital in a kimono. It’s fairly common to see both Japanese tourists (men and women) doing it.
But kimonos are not designed for walking fast and are certainly not designed for riding a bicycle — which is a shame, because Kyoto is a city ideal for cycling around, its layout being in the old grid system of Japanese capitals (see Nara).
Enter the KOTO LX-20, a kimono bike — that is, a bicycle designed for riders wearing kimonos.
Its concept might have traditional clothing in mind but the design itself feels retro and pop — not dissimilar to a Brompton — with the bottom bar set very low so your straight and long kimono won’t have issues with the pedals and so on. The chain looks fully covered so getting oil on the kimono also shouldn’t be a problem.
There are current three versions, each in its own wa (Japanese) color: OBOROZUKI (light blue), YUUGAO (white) and KOMURASAKI (purple). Wearing a matching kimono the best effects while cycling around Gion.
The bikes costs ¥48,000 ($440) and come with a snazzy leather saddle and three gears (there are some slopes in Kyoto). The KOTO LX-20 went on sale in April this year in Kyoto — has anyone seen them around the city? — but were recently showcased on Japaan.com and Rocket News 24.
We’re not sure if they are available for rental yet but surely it’s just a matter of time before kimono rental shops and hostels offer them.
Japan is a land full of cyclists, both of the hipster variety, the designer variety, and just the humble mama-chari “granny bike” variety. And so now we have the “traditional” Japanese bike, of sorts.
Here you can see the KOTO LX-20 in action around the old capital.
The sad truth is that sometimes Japanese consumers are a simple bunch. Forget complex marketing strategies or clever stunts. The way to their hearts is just to put a famous person on the front of whatever it is you’re selling.
Hence why there are so many TV commercials and other ads featuring the same gallery of celebrities. Hence why Hollywood films will have some random Japanese model appear at a press conference to promote the movie. And hence why this free 126-page guide for Hiroshima Prefecture tourism has sold out immediately after it hit the shelves.
It was published and released on July 14th but reprints have already been ordered. How come? Well, in order to give the booklet a push, the folk at Hiroshima made the decision to pay a no doubt not inconsiderable pile of cash to have Perfume to appear on the cover, looking cute and pop like the trio of young girls always do.
Within two hours of launching the campaign website, they had already reached the limit for 2,000 reservations, and now the publishers are getting orders from book stores all over the country, desperate to get their hands on the rare booklet. The initial run of 50,000 copies is almost all gone and the next run won’t arrive until mid-August.
The idea to include Perfume in the “Nakeru! Hiroshima-ken” (literally, “Hiroshima Prefecture that will make you cry!”) booklet and campaign is not as cynical as it sounds, since the girls originally hail from the region (it does, though, time in nicely with the release of their latest single). They also appear in a short PR video and are interviewed in the book.
The best place to get a copy in Tokyo is from the TAU Hiroshima Prefecture Store in Ginza, though at time of writing it no longer has any guidebooks left.
We’ve long struggled to understand the popularity of Perfume. On a superficial level, they are hardly what you might think of as glamorous. Rather, like many idol groups, they are presented as “amateurs” and this is reflected in that basically only one could be called beautiful. But it also shows in their ultimately fairly limited abilities to sing and dance, let alone write their own songs. Their managers are savvy folk and know to employ talented people to make cool music videos and album covers, which raises their sophistication. But what is the appeal of the Perfume girls themselves? Clearly they must have something, as this latest development shows!
Now we just have to see if the Perfume effect can actually increase tourism in Hiroshima.
JR West traditional crafts tourist train gets decorated with Wajima lacquer and Kaga Yuzen kimono dyeing designWritten by: William on July 10, 2014 at 10:56 am | In CULTURE | No Comments
JR West has announced a special new tourism train that will run between Kanazawa and Wakura hot spring in 2015.
Kanazawa, known as a “mini Kyoto”, is the main city in Ishikawa Prefecture, which sticks out on the west coast of Japan in the Hokuriku region. The prefecture is famed for its sushi, kimono dyeing, lacquerware, gold leaf, and other traditional crafts. Along with Kanazawa, another major center for the arts is Wajima, a small city located further along the Noto peninsular.
Not surprisingly then, the new JR West train’s interior and exterior is inspired by the wa and bi (Japanese beauty) of Wajima lacquer and Kaga Yuzen, a local kimono silk fabric dyeing technique (Kaga was the old samurai domain when the Maeda clan ruled Ishikawa before the Meiji Restoration).
The crafts train starts running in October 2015. It has capacity for 52 passengers in two carriages, including private cabins. The carriages are differently designed, either with Wajima lacquer or Kaga Yuzen themes. It will run for around 150 days a year on weekends and holidays.
JR often creates special trains for sightseeing lines. Along with Japanese prefectures’ penchant for yuru-kyara mascots, it is one of the most successful tactics for luring local tourists. They go as much for the experience of the transportation — whether it be kitsch or luxury — as to visit the place itself. JR West also recently teamed up with Sanrio to create a Hello Kitty locomotive for Wakayama Prefecture.
Kanazawa is anticipating a huge boost to its already fairly large tourism industry when the extension of the Shinkansen bullet train from Nagano to Kanazawa opens in spring 2015. While Kansai sightseers can take the Thunderbird express from Osaka to Kanazawa, until now Kanto folk had no equivalent and usually change in Niigata to the slower coastal train that passes down through Niigata, Toyama to Ishikawa. With the Shinkansen, they will be able to take one express from Tokyo straight to Kanazawa.
Japan Rail knows how to attract customers. In between rolling out snazzy new bullet trains and other technological advances, it periodically customizes JR Yamanote Line trains to look like a chocolate product or a manga and anime franchise.
From September, a special Hello Kitty Wakayama Train will be running on JR lines as part of its Wakayama Destination Campaign. The sightseeing train will be an express with all seats reserved.
JR has consulted with locals and got advice about the sightseeing spots to include on the design. The prefecture is famed for the sacred sites and pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountain Range, a UNESCO World Heritage site for ten years now. Southern Wakayama is also home to Taiji, one of the (controversial) centers of Japanese traditional coastal whaling and dolphin hunting, and its Whale Museum is on of the tourist destinations featured on the train, along with a uniformed Hello Kitty.
The interior of the train will also be painted with characters but the design has yet to be announced.
Although JR West is trying to push how it has worked hard to find a design that shows off the locality of the region, we have yet to find a tangible reason for the choice of Hello Kitty other than her apparently universal popularity (after all, Kitty-chan is not even Japanese, she is meant to be British). Perhaps someone can enlighten us? Sanrio, never afraid to license out its character to all and sundry, must be happy with the extra coffers, though.
The Hello Kitty Wakayama Train will be running for 33 days on weekends and holidays from September 13th to December 14th, 2014.
Wakayama must have a thing for felines and locomotives. The fortunes of the small Kishigawa Line were famously reversed by the promotion of Tama the cat to station master.
Heading to a Japanese onsen (hot spring) is one of the best trips you can do in Japan during the winter.
But the exclusive onsen resorts don’t come cheap and they need to keep innovating to attract people to pay top dollar rather than just head to one of the spas in the cities.
Dogo Onsen is one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Japan but it isn’t resting on its laurels. It has set up the Dogo Onsenart 2014 festival in ten hotels and Japanese inns (ryokan). This includes some pretty cool and flashy re-designing of hotel rooms as special art concept resorts for the festival.
Sites include Chaharu Inn, Takaraso Hotel, Dogo-kan, Hotel Kowakuen, Hotel Hanayuzuki and Hotel Horizontal. The Onsen Art Collection also changes the streets and outside of the onsens themselves.
There are also special art souvenirs, an artist residency, and one-off events such as Art Parade, which will be held on July 20th involving dance choreographer Kaiji Moriyama.
Participants include the ubiquitous Yayoi Kusama and her trademark polka-dot pumpkins Takaraso Hotel.
Even the seating cushions get the polka dot treatment!
If you are visiting Dogo for a dirty weekend away, stay at this room in Hotel Kowakuen with some erotic photos by Nobuyoshi Araki. You need to be at least 18 years old to stay at this room.
And for more literary tastes, the poetry of Shuntaro Tachikawa features in all kinds of places in this room.
There is also fashion designer Akira Minagawa’s re-design for at Hotel Hanayuzuki.
Other participating artists include Stephen Mushin and Mimi Shinko.
“We’d like visitors to enjoy ‘the chemical reaction’ of the guest rooms and the audacious ideas of the artists,” a festival official said.
The Shikoku district already has plenty of mixture of modern art and tourism, not least the successful Setouchi Triennale and the “art island” of Naoshima, as well as the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum near Takamatsu.
Produced by Wacoal/Spiral, Dogo Onsen Art then comes at an opportune time but we need to see how it competes in the summer against such major art events as the Yokohama Triennale. However, there is no Setouchi Triennale this year and it might be a great stop-off after visiting Naoshima.
The art hotel rooms have been available to guests since the end of December but the festival does not fully open until April 10th. It then runs until the end of 2014. There are a total of 10 rooms that are available for overnight stays and viewings until mid-January 2015.
See more images on YouPouch.
Sometimes I just wonder.
Japan is such a small country (geographically speaking, at least), so why do they even have to divide themselves into forty-seven prefectures and compete against each other? Recently I wrote a post on the result of recent survey which basically defined Japan’s most and least attractive places. The battle of yuru-kyara mascots is another means through which we get to know the undiscovered parts of this string of islands. Maybe we are all subconsciously waiting for super heroes who could represent all that Japan has to offer and unite us all together.
And One Piece might just offer the gang of heroes to do it.
Now that the manga series has sold over 300 million copies, One Piece has no doubt proven its worth to be the ultimate representative of all prefectures in Japan. In the 3-Oku [300 million] campaign, forty-seven characters from One Piece appear on ads in local newspapers to represent each prefecture in collaboration with various local specialties, events and tourist destinations across the nation.
Although almost all the featured items in these ads can be seen on the cover of major guidebooks, it’s a new approach that each prefecture is taking to show what they are proud of — whether it be the Tokyo Skytree (above), the hot springs of Gunma, Nebuta Festival of Aomori, Sasakamaboko (fish cake in the shape of a bamboo leaf) of Miyagi — or wara natto (natto wrapped in rice straw) for Ibaraki (below), recently announced the most unappealing prefecture in Japan.
About two-thirds of the ads have been revealed on the website so far, and we have yet to see the remaining works.
In addition to newspaper ads, One Piece posters can be seen on the walls of seven major stations across the country (Sapporo, Sendai, Shibuya, Nagoya, Umeda, Hiroshima and Nishitetsu Fukuoka Tenjin) from November 4th to 26th at intervals of a week or so.
While I’m not the biggest fan of the manga, I do have to admit that One Piece is loved by so many that it has the power to surpass regionalism, which sometimes can get really ugly and messy.
Out of all forty-seven prefectures in Japan, which do you think is the most appealing?
Since 2006, Brand Research Institute has been conducting an annual survey, one of the biggest kinds in Japan, to make a ranking of all the prefectures in Japan based on their attractiveness. Survey participants are asked to answer questions on various factors that help determine how attractive and appealing a place is, such factors being its degree of recognition, its exposure, the impressions you have of it, your willingness to travel or move there, or purchase local specialties.
The top five prefectures come as no surprise. Hokkaido is once again awarded the title of the most appealing prefecture in Japan, the title it has owned since the research started. Kyoto comes in second, followed by Okinawa, Tokyo and Kanagawa. We would probably get the same list of prefectures (though the order might vary a little bit) if we asked the same question anywhere in the world.
In fact, it’s not only the top ranked prefectures that catch our attention. The bottom ones often become a topic for discussion as well. This year, Ibaraki made a “comeback” as the most unappealing prefecture in the country, jumping down from being 46th place last year. Ibaraki in fact had ranked 47th for three years in a row from 2009, which ironically made the prefecture famous as the most likely candidate to get the dishonorable title of the most unattractive prefecture in Japan.
What’s more, its reclaiming of the lowest rung comes only a few months months after Ibaraki launched a big campaign in July this year to promote itself, with the cheerful (or self-deprecating?) choice of Yoshimoto‘s two young comedians, Yuji Ayabe and Naomi Watanabe, both of whom are from Ibaraki.
So what do they do now?
Don’t you (dare) look down on Ibaraki! says their new slogan, though the tone in the original is softened by the heart symbol in the middle. Ayabe and Watanabe are once again facing the desperate need to show what Ibaraki has to offer to the rest of the world, other than being the all-time favorite for a booby prize.
Located in the northern part of Kanto, Ibaraki has yet to prove its worth against its flashy competitors in the region. If Andes Quincy melons, Hitachi Autumn soba and Hitachi beef are not good enough, then how about a visit to Kairakuen Park or Fukuroda Waterfall? Japanese netizens seem to love the underdog spirit shown by this new campaign, and Ibaraki is already creating a big buzz on the web.
So far their new strategy is working just fine, but will they be able to make a jump up next year? Or the real question is, do we want to see them move up in the ranking? Already we are finding ourselves more and more attracted to this prefecture, so who cares if they climb a bit in the rankings?
As with anything, how we look at things means much more to us than the things themselves, don’t you think?