R/C Tractor Kumamon: Mascot farmer bear does wheelies

Written by: Japan Trends on November 26, 2014 at 8:26 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

If you like unusual RC toys and if you like yuru-kyaru (Japanese mascots), then these two things are about to come crashing together in amazing style with this R/C Tractor Kumamon from Tamiya.

rc tractor kumamon macot bear tamiya toy

The tractor sees arguably Japan’s most popular mascot, the bear from Kumamoto Prefecture, driving a tractor while he goes about farming his region’s favorite offerings — water melons and tomatoes.

rc tractor kumamon macot bear tamiya toy

Stickers of Kumamon’s fruit crops decorate the chassis. The tractor also has two sizes of wheels so with some skill you can make Kumamon do wheelies. That’s something you don’t see every day.

We’ve seen some novel Japanese RC toys over the years, from cockroaches to cleaning mops and more, but Kumamon on a large tractor is certainly a new advance for the medium.

rc tractor kumamon macot bear tamiya toy

The R/C Tractor Kumamon is available in the full assembled and painted version with the controller on pre-order from JapanTrendShop.

Our previous favorite Kumamon toy had been the Soccer Robot Kumamon.

kumamonsoccer robot player football rc toy mascot bear

As the name suggests, it is a mini robot that can play football using an infrared controller. The robot is surprisingly agile and can move in eight different way.

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Nanoblock transforms into customizable mini Shinkansen electric train model set

Written by: Japan Trends on November 20, 2014 at 8:46 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Nanoblock, Japan’s homegrown answer to Lego, never stops evolving.

Just when you thought the micro building blocks had been used to transform every famous monument or building around the world, along comes a completely new direction for the Kawada series to explore.

Electric trains!

Nanoblock has now started making railway sets and of course, you can customize the railways and scenery around the tracks with other Nanoblocks.

nanoblock model train bullet shinkansen electric toy railway set hayabusa nanogauge

The Nanoblock nanoGauge Shinkansen Series E5 Hayabusa Electric Train is the first in this new nanoGauge series for Kawada and we shouldn’t be surprised that the makers opted for Japan’s most famous train to start things off.

nanoblock model train bullet shinkansen electric toy railway set hayabusa nanogauge

nanoblock model train bullet shinkansen electric toy railway set hayabusa nanogauge

Now you can build your own bullet train and tracks with the set, and then watch it zip around the loop.

It goes without saying that the best thing here is how you can also build up a Nanoblock city around the tracks. After all, landscaping is so important when it comes to railway modeling cultre. You could add all kinds of incongruous fantasy elements — like Tokyo Tower, Himeji Castle, a WW2 battleship, or something completely original.

nanoblock model train bullet shinkansen electric toy railway set hayabusa nanogauge

Here is a video of someone making the Nanoblock bullet train model set.

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100 yen shop toy guns and musical instruments customized to look amazingly realistic

Written by: William on October 20, 2014 at 6:23 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Japan’s 100 yen shops are treasure troves. Enter these Aladdin’s Caves and you can find almost anything you need for your kitchen or home, plus all kinds of surprising items you didn’t even know existed, let alone could be purchased for a dollar.

Despite the price (these days actually ¥108 due to sales tax hike), the quality is usually pretty good (in proportion), though you’d best not buy batteries and so on if you want them to last more than a couple of weeks.

And some creative people have proved that with some skill, you can make even a cheap 100-yen-shop toy look amazing.

Take Twitter user @m_kondo3, a photographer specializing in cosplay and survival games (a growing fashion and cosplay trend in Japan).

He took some plastic toys from a 100 yen store and painted them so they look incredibly real. When he shared them online, he got a massive response — nearly 10,000 retweets at the time of writing.

Take a look. This is a plastic toy gun.

100 yen store shop gun ray toy customize paint amazingly realistic

And now here’s the “real” thing.

100 yen store shop gun ray toy customize paint amazingly realistic

Likewise a plastic trumpet…

100 yen store shop trumpet instrument musical toy customize paint amazingly realistic

…becomes a genuine-looking musical instrument.

100 yen store shop trumpet instrument musical toy customize paint amazingly realistic

Okay, ultimately this is just the visuals. A bit of paint doesn’t mean you can start zapping alien invaders with your ray gun or blowing out great tunes, but it does prove that creativity and skill can do wonders with any materials.

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Kokoro Scanner Lie Detector Headset, a wearable truth-or-liar gadget by Takara Tomy

Written by: Japan Trends on October 9, 2014 at 9:36 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 2 Comments

Winter is coming, as a certain HBO series constantly reminds us. But in Japan as we can stuck into the chill of the winter, there is a bright spark part of the way through — New Year. Not only does this mean plenty of family time and traditional food, it also means lots of end-of-year parties with coworkers.

These are known as bounenkai in Japan — “forget-the-year gatherings” — and invariably involve lots of drinking and more often than not, games. And while office workers letting their hair down at such late December parties are probably not the official main target for this product, we reckon they will get some of the highest levels of satisfaction from it.

Forget the polygraph. Takara Tomy has now come up with a great gizmo for having some fun at work parties. It’s a wearable lie detector toy!

kokoro scanner lie detector headset takara tomy

The Kokoro Scanner Lie Detector Headset will be released later this month and we are sure it will prove a big hit at parties with colleagues, students and family members.

What better a way to liven up a gathering than by testing if someone is lying or telling the truth?

How does it work? Well, the genius lies in how simple it is. No complicated wires or graphs. Just slip the headset on and answer whatever questions you are asked.

Assuming you are not a consummate actor able to control your body to perfection, the Kokoro Scanner measures fluctuations in your pulse. The logic here is that if you are telling the truth, your pulse will remain steady. If you are lying, you will be nervous and your heartbeat will increase.

The light on the top of the headset will flash green if you are telling the truth. If you get a yellow it means the headset is suspicious of your answer but not certain. If there’s a red light, then you’ve been branded a liar!

Okay, we’ve no idea if this works for real but there’s only one way to find out.

Get the Kokoro Scanner Lie Detector Headset from JapanTrendShop.

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Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robot: Taro Okamoto’s Taiyo no To recreated as transforming mechanical action figure

Written by: Japan Trends on October 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Tower of the Sun is one of the great icons of postwar Japan and the Showa era. The huge sculpture is a kind of totem pole that was created by artist Taro Okamoto as one of the signature attractions at the 1970 Osaka World Expo.

After the Expo closed, the Tower of the Sun (Taiyo no To) was one of the few structures that was preserved at the park in Senri, north Osaka.

taro okamoto tower of the sun expo 1970 osaka

The park is now mostly empty — though we highly recommend the ethnology museum in its grounds — but Okamoto’s massive tower still greets visitors as soon as they enter the gates.

Well, the Taiyo no To has now become a die-cast model in the Tamashii Chogokin alloy series — and one that transforms into an action figure!

chogokin tamashii taro okamoto tower of the sun robot taiyo no to expo osaka 1970 sculpture

A kind of tribute-cum-remake of Okamoto’s vision, the Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robot is only “robotic” in name, though it is certainly mechanical. It has moveable parts, including a chest that opens up and an extendable neck.

taro okamoto taiyo no to expo osaka 1970 tower of the sun chogokin bandai tamashii robot action figure toy

Okamoto was a playful artist who believed in art for the masses, so we don’t think he would disapprove of this merchandising of his primitivist sculpture.

This is far from the first time that the Tower of the Sun has been turned into a product but it’s definitely the best we’ve ever seen.

Bandai Tamashii’s Chogokin is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary at the moment and as such has embarked on an ambitious series of releases. This includes the truly remarkable Chogokin Hello Kitty Robot Model, which is Kitty-chan like we’ve never seen her before. It also created a kind of “mutant” of six Fujiko F Fujio characters for the Chogattai SF Robot, which is just so many levels of awesome we don’t know where to begin.

Chogokin also has a series of models for “grown-ups” too, such as this Otona no Chogokin Series 0 Shinkansen Bullet Train Model and Hayabusa Spacecraft Model Kit (based in the JAXA design), for the more serious enthusiast who wants a challenge.

Still, nothing quite beats a Tower of the Sun Transformer-style action figure!

The Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robot is now available from JapanTrendShop.

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Maywa Denki’s latest musical instrument, Mr Knocky, is an awesome drum toy

Written by: Japan Trends on September 29, 2014 at 9:37 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Maywa Denki are one of Japan’s best-kept secrets. Part music unit, part toy designers, part performance artists, the group is now 20 years old but continues to come up with great ideas.

Their biggest hit was likely the Otamatone Sound Toy, a remake of the theremin that came out a few years ago, though they are involved with new projects the whole time. Led by the irrepressible Novumichi Tosa, the boss puts himself front and center of the marketing. He’s the guy in the video below demonstrating Maywa Denki’s latest product, Mr Knocky. As Tosa shows, Mr Knocky is a surprisingly inventive drum instrument toy.

maywa denki mr knocky drum toy musical instrument

It doesn’t use batteries, instead relying on what Tosa calls “wire action”. As you shake the “mallet controller”, it makes Mr Knock drum. He has two drums and so there are two controllers. Switch the way you shake them to vary the drumming. This requires real skill to do well. You can hang Mr Knocky around your neck too if you want to walk around town playing his drums.

The second way you can play Mr Knocky is by putting the controllers flat on a surface (they helpfully have sticky pads to make this easier) and fitting them together. This makes them into de facto piano keys and now you can use your fingers to play the drums. Even better, get two Mr Knocky toys and combine the controllers so you have four drumming piano keys, all fitted together to make one mega percussion unit.

maywa denki mr knocky drum toy musical instrument

Here’s the full demo. Towards the end Tosa gives a showcase of some of the more difficult things you can do with Mr Knocky, such as “crescendo knock”, “paradiddle knock” and “unison knock”.

Here Tosa plays a Otamatone-Mr Knocky duet with himself!

Mr Knocky comes in two colors (white or black) and can even be given some extra character with the mustache accessory that is included.

But if you’re really keen on customizing things, take off Mr Knocky’s drums and replace them with other items like empty drink cans. The angle of Mr Knocky’s drumming arm can also be adjusted depending on the size of the ersatz drum.

Mr Knocky will be released in early October and can be purchased via JapanTrendShop.

To end, here’s Maywa Denki performing with the SoftBank robot Pepper earlier this year, along with a whole gaggle of their wacky inventions.

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Sega’s Eederu Sunaba is interactive sandbox with realtime projectors, height sensors

Written by: William on September 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 16 Comments

Sega have created an interactive sandpit for kids. The Eederu Sunaba (translating literally as “Wow, appears! Sandbox”) uses projectors and special non-sticky sand so that kids can have fun playing god by re-modeling the landscape in any way they fancy. As they make hills, lakes and rivers with the sand, the projection mapping changes in realtime to match the shifting topography.

Sega plans to install the system in arcade game centers in Japan from this autumn, reports Nikkei Technology, and also in playroom facilities at showrooms for cars and houses, to keep the kids occupied while the grown-ups sort out the important purchase.

sega interactive sand sandpit sandbox projector projection responsive colors make landscape eederu sunaba asobi arcade game system

The system above the sandbox has a senor that measures distance so it can detect the changing height of the sound and generate imagery according to the shapes. If, say, it detects a hole it will create a river or lake image, complete with swimming fish. When the player piles some sand into a mound the projection will make a mountain.

Judging from the videos, the system seems very fast and intuitive, and the colors are great. There are lots of cool gimmicks like the shadows of aircraft flying over the scenery and the seasons change too. It seems to have no trouble interacting with multiple players at once.

sega interactive sand sandpit sandbox projector projection responsive colors make landscape eederu sunaba asobi arcade game system

It also detects movement. It projects animal characters and when the player touches these, they respond as they move around the landscape. Current examples of the creatures are ladybugs and beetles, though surely the possibilities are nearly endless here. (Future ideas could be tie-ups with Disney, Sanrio or other character-driven franchises.)

sega interactive sand sandpit sandbox projector projection responsive colors make landscape eederu sunaba asobi arcade game system

There are two modes. “Suna Asobi” (sand play) is for playing around freely in the box while “Dekirukana” (I can do it) mode allows players to draw pictures according to various themes, which are shown on a display for the kids to imitate.

It’s not necessarily the first sand pit of its kind; there have been Kinect sandpits and augmented reality sandboxes before. However, this may well be the first fully commercial example of a system like this.

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Okashina Tamago Mawashite Purin Egg Flan Maker: Takara Tomy’s latest food cooking toy

Written by: Japan Trends on September 11, 2014 at 9:47 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Japan is a nation obsessed with food and also, so people say, childishness. And so it is only natural that the two things would be combined at some point. The result is cooking toys, which Takara Tomy in particular has been really pushing over the past three years.

The latest is the Okashina Tamago Mawashite Purin Egg Flan Maker, which allows you to cook egg flan just by moving a lever back and forth for two minutes.

okashina tamago mawashite mawashite purin flan egg maker toy japanese

Part a game, part a genuine way to make a dessert, the video promoting the product is frankly remarkable.

This cooking toy trend has been rolling out over the last couple of years now.

Takara Tomy started it off in 2012 with the Takara Tomy Gurefuru Chuchu, a kind of mini-blender attachment to make orange juice inside the fruit itself.

takara tomy gurefuru chuchu toy fruit juice maker

Just watch this video and you will see the instant appeal of the product!

Others then followed in the “Okashina” (literally “silly”) series, including the Takara Tomy Chupa Chups Ice Candy Maker and the Okashina Banana Juice Mixer.

takara tomy chupa chups ice candy maker toy

Invariably the products are all marketed with a suitable silly video, usually with an annoyingly catchy song and music. And sometimes dancing too.

Another recent example is the Maracas de Popcorn, which combines making popcorn with a musical instrument (yes, these are also maracas).

maracas de popcorn japan food cooking toy musical instrument

No surprise that there is also a funny video.

Besides the tone of the marketing, something common to most of the cooking toys is also that they do not require batteries or electricity for the most part, instead relying on a bit of elbow grease and the enthusiasm of kids. They are also actually very simple technologically but rely on the fun pop design, and the accompanying “action” (or even dance) to appeal to kids and parents.

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Robotic pets making a comeback in Japan with new models and upgrades

Written by: Japan Trends on August 27, 2014 at 5:54 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Robotic pets, also known as robo-pets (not to be confused with the actual Robopet), are making something of a return to the shelves of stores in Japan in a valiant effort to buck the trend of local toy manufacturers’ sales declining as the birth rate falls.

We all remember the days when Paro and AIBO first burst into our lives. Now such robotic and interactive animal toys are pretty standard. But let’s take a look at some of the new entries in the market and also take a trip down memory lane while we’re at it.

Back in the 1980′s Tomy (long before it merged with Takara) launched a successful range of robotic toys called Omnibot. They included such high-tech functions as an integrated cassette player (no sniggering at the back!) and could carry things for you if you were lazy enough. Omnibot’s reign in the hearts of kids and geeky teens was brief but it has made a bit of a comeback, at least in name. Takara Tomy have borrowed the brand for two recent new robo-pets.

The Omnibot Hello! MiP is a two-wheeled robot that can dance for you and even carry your drinks!

omnibot hello mip two-wheel robot

Things have certainly moved on since the original Omnibot. No cassettes in sight here. reThe Hello! MiP can move around by motion sensors responding to your movements — e.g. place your hand in front of it — as well as be controlled by your phone.

They also released the local Japan version of Zoomer, renaming it the Omnibot Hello! Zoomer, an interactive dalmatian that can understand 45 English and Japanese words.

omnibot hello zoomer dog robot

Takara Tomy’s awesome line of motion-activated samurai warrior were also christened the Omnibot Battroborg as a nod to the earlier toys.

In the late 1990′s we saw a more serious and forward-thinking application of home robo-pets with the Paro, the healing seal designed for the elderly and hospital patients who need some therapy from a cute companion.

But for many, the robotic pet will always be the AIBO, the massive hit for Sony (how it must dream of those days now) in the second half of the 1990′s.

It was rivaled by the Poo-chi in the early 2000′s, a collaboration between Hasbro and Sega.

This has also been updated with the Heart Energy Poochi, which Sega hopes will replicate some of the success of the earlier dog. Since our lives now have other devices in them, inter-device communication seems to be the trick the makers are playing now. In the Heart Energy Poochi’s case, it can interact with your Nintendo 3DS. And it goes without saying that he likes being stroked but will respond badly if you pull his tail.

sega toys poochi heart energy robot dog pet

Bandai also got in on the canine act a few years ago with the Smartpet Robot Dog, which lets you slot your iPod or iPhone into the dog’s head to make a face out of the screen. No animals were harmed in the development of this product!

bandai smartpet smart pet iphone ipod dog robot

Another classic in the genre is the Yume Neko Dream Cat by Sega Toys, which has very realistic internal sensors that respond to your touch. It started off as an interactive robotic cat, though it was followed by other animals like chicks, squirrels, puppies and rabbits.

The Yume Neko was given an update by Sega Toys recently as the Yume Neko Dream Cat Celeb, providing all the cute interaction of a feline friend without the hassle or mess. This is particularly important in Japan where many people living in apartments are not allowed by the landlord to own real pets. They turn to cat cafes and robots instead.

yume neko dream cat celeb therapy robot cat pet

Of course, this isn’t just domestic manufacturers. The plush toy Furby is also undergoing a bit of a revival here, with Takara Tomy distributing the new model from Hasbro that responds to English commands and has upgraded eyes.

It forms part of a post-2010 trend for “huggable” plush robotic toys, the most sophisticated of which are aimed at helping infants and older kids sleep. The Hug & Dream Mickey and Minnier were big hits, though they were preceded by Takara Tomy’s pioneering Issho ni Nenne “womb doll”, which helped babies get better sleep cycles.

issho ni nenne minnie mouse baby womb doll

And big surprise, this has also been re-launched fairly recently as three new Disney character and Pooh versions.

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