A lot happened in 2015, not least for Japan Trends, as we relaunched the website. We hope you like the new design.

What were the big trends of the year?

Political Renaissance

During the course of the year we saw political protest and civil disobedience on a new scale in Japan.

Some of it was light-hearted and took place online, such as the mockery of both the Olympic logo debacle and the stadium fiasco.

japan tokyo national stadium parody twitter monsters

Other protests happened on the streets, such as the mass protests over the summer in response to the government’s state security bills. The media in particular went ape about the photogenic student activist group SEALDs.

We also saw quiet resistance to the introduction of the controversial My Number system.

Even the murders of two Japanese citizens by Islamic State in January did not quell this spirit: the horrors inspired more online satire.

islamic state japanese hostages meme

However, the last laugh may be on the spoofers, though, since another Japanese journalist is allegedly now held in Syria.

Olympics in Crisis

So far the run-up to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo is a disaster.

The launch of the cultural program has been tepid and the stadium was scrapped at the eleventh hour due to budget overruns. Worse still, the official logo was withdrawn after a plagiarism scandal.

Last week, Kengo Kuma’s stadium proposal was selected to replace Zaha Hadid’s, so perhaps things will finally start to proceed more smoothly.

kengo kuma new national stadium 2020 olympics tokyo games design winner

On the other hand, we have seen some interesting trends in sports retail in Japan. Expect more of these over the next 3-4 years.


As covered last week, drones were one of the words of the year.

drone japan laws regulation amazon

In April a drone was found on the Prime Minister’s official residence, having landed there a week before as a protest against nuclear power. Then in May a teenager got himself arrested for playing pranks with drones. Authorities want to clamp down on the recreational use of drones, while simultaneously exploiting their military and commercial potential.


Halloween has developed into a massive cosplay event in Japan, starting in the weekends before All Hallows’ Eve itself and often involving costumes quite unrelated to the traditional ones.

This year’s Halloween was the biggest yet, with thousands turning Shibuya into an epic cosplay flash mob. 800 police were on hand to try to control the crowds and there was at least one arrest.

The costumes were fantastic.

Goodbye to Hotel Okura

The hipsters of the world wept as the Hotel Okura Tokyo closed it doors forever, despite a petition by Monocle to save it. Hotel Okura joined several vintage and much-loved pieces of the Tokyo cityscape that we lost this year, such as the original National Stadium and Meguro Gajoen, as well as the much-loved 82-year-old Daimaru Shinsaibashi in central Osaka, whose main building faces the wrecking ball after it closes on December 30th.

star wars the force awakens wind god thunder god fujin raijin kiyomizu temple screens panels kyoto buddhist rimpa rinpa

Star Wars

Ahead of the release of the new film, Star Wars fever in Japan went into hyperdrive, with lots of products, airplanes, and even artworks at a temple.

Tourism Boom

The massive increase in inbound tourism has led to a changing Shinjuku and Kabukicho, the latter fast approaching respectability and even kitsch status.

Retailers have reaped the benefits of Chinese wallets and now stores in Ginza and Shinjuku prominently display where customers from overseas can get their consumption tax rebate.

The tourist boom has also affected Narita Airport, which opened a funky-looking third terminal for low-cost carriers.

LGBT Rights

We are finally seeing some progress for LGBT rights in Japan, with two Tokyo wards — Shibuya and Setagaya — leading the way in recognizing same-sex couples. Other regional governments are following suit.

tokyo rainbow pride gay march

But in a blow to civil rights’ campaigners, the Supreme Court recently upheld the current law in Japan against married couples having separate surnames.

What does 2016 have in store for the Land of the Rising Sun? Keep an eye on Japan Trends to stay up to date.


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