Archive for September, 2009

Where maids get slap happy … for a price

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Haruhi could be considered tsundere

Haruhi could be considered tsundere

Another month, another maid café opening. Cute Room opening in Akihabara on Oct. 4 boasts a bevy of girls who offer a wide range of services from a relaxing shoulder massage to a slap in the face. Why on earth, you ask, would any self-respecting otaku pay for this, when you can get smacked in the gob free of charge while taking up skirt shots of girls on the Yamanote Line?

Despite the obvious advantage of avoiding prosecution by the transport police for perversion, there are added advantages of doing this in privacy of the maid kissa (café). First, you get to dress the girl up in a costume of your choice. Then she can act out the moe (roughly translates as character charm) of your favorite tsundere anime character. The tsundere character type is basically a pretty disagreeable figure, whether it be stroppy, conceited or just plain mean, who suddenly becomes sweet and agreeable in certain situations, revealing her inner charms.

To see a tsundere girl in action watch this video of the Little Sister maid café in Akihabara. It doesn’t contain subtitles, but here’s the gist of one of the funnier moments. When the men are at the door of the café, the girl says, “Why did you come here? Just go home. Well, if you’re going to stay standing in the way, you might as well come in.” After grumpily throwing down their napkins, she takes their order, grumbling, “That’s a pain to make.” As you see, toward the end of the video, she finds it hard to keep her tsundere character up as the hosts of the show tease her and she bursts into giggles.

Continue reading about slap happy maids →

What’s in the cards for the future of sumo?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

akawashi_625

One of sumo’s two present yokozuna (grand champions) may have just cemented his place in the sport’s history last weekend, but far fewer people were watching than just a decade earlier. Could playing cards help rekindle interest?

The traditional Japanese sport has been simultaneously battling two nebulous forces: controversy and apathy. Not only are popularity and new recruits dropping, but at the same time a number of scandals continue to fester. There was the hazing death of a young wrestler in 2007, the recent accusations of special treatment of yakuza bosses in Nagoya and an assault charge and civil suit filed this month by a tokoyama (sumo hair stylists). And, of course, few have forgotten the marijuana busts.

Long before these pratfalls, many of Japan’s purist (and arguably nationalist) fans were already decrying the influx of non-Japanese grapplers – including the two present yokozuna, both  Mongolians – and their lack of deference to the sport’s rigid and time-honored traditions. Asashoryu, last week’s victor and 24-time winner of the Imperial Cup, has been repeatedly criticized for his behavior, which may seem tame when compared to Western athletes but is considered barbaric by sumo’s strict standards.

Controversy generates attention, so one could argue that such scandals actually help sumo attract more eyeballs, but certainly not enough. Interest in sumo among younger generations has been waning for some time, overtaken by video games and J. League soccer, the youth’s pro sport of choice.

What to do? One proven method of garnering attention in Japan is by developing your own line of adorable character goods. Enter Sekitori-kun. The name for these chicken littles is a play on the word sekitori (関取, top-ranked wrestler) and the kanji for bird (鳥) which also has the sound “tori”. The characters are packaged as playing cards similar to the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! brands – with strength, endurance and other fighting characteristics mapped out – and then handed out to kids at tournaments.

Is the pre-teen demographic what they’re aiming for? That would explain the recent flirtation with fast food – I’m imagining Asashoryu-shaped Happy Meal toys at McDonald’s by 2010. If Japanese kids buy enough of them – and eat enough of those hamburgers – then sumo may form its next generation sooner than expected.

New products coming out out of the woodwork

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

DoCoMo unveiled a very nice pair of wood-encased mobile phones a few days ago. The prototypes developed by Sharp and Olympus are made from cypress trees that have been selectively cut from ecologically sustainable forests. The product, sweetly named “Touch Wood,” is part of the more trees campaign that was started by musician Ryuichi Sakamoto back in 2007. The campaign is aimed at maintaining and replanting forest in Japan.

With the rise of the Mori Girl (forest girl) trend, not to mention increased public concern for the environment, we can see more natural products coming out of the woodwork. Here’s a few that are already available:

  • More trees is also behind a nice wooden 1 GB USB stick. It might be saving the environment but at ¥6,825 you won’t be saving your pennies.
  • Nippon Style Project make a handmade wooden keyboard that hopefully doesn’t warp if you spill your coffee over it.
  • While digital wooden clocks have been around for a few years, we dig this one is from designer Koji Iwasaki.
  • Lastly and possibly the most obvious candidate for a wood finish is the digital photo frame.

While it’d be nice if there were more products out there that cut down on plastic in favor of more sustainable materials, you still have to bear in mind that the core workings of all these products are going to end up in landfill sites. But for now, we’re quite taken with the lovely wooden sheen of DoCoMo’s phones and are looking forward to seeing them on display Oct. 6-10 at the CEATEC JAPAN 2009 at Makuhari Messe.

Bandai and KitKat let patrons get personal

Friday, September 25th, 2009

chocollabo [Desktop Resolution]Bandai have just released a new customizable bendy doll on the toy market. Costing only ¥500 the doll kit contains special stickers on which you can print the faces and bodies of yourself, your family, friends or enemies. The idea is that once you stick the image onto the doll’s body you can enjoy playing with miniature versions of the people in your life. Perhaps you place them in cute poses on your desk, or alternatively torture your modern voodoo doll with pins and a cigarette lighter, though sadly the press release makes no claims for the magical properties of the life-like figurines.

If you find the idea of having your own customized doll a little creepy, perhaps a box of KitKat displaying a mug shot of your nearest and dearest is a little easier to digest. This month KitKat launched their Chocollabo Web site, which allows fans of the chocolate to upload pictures onto a KitKat box and decorate them with personalized messages and a variety of cute icons. The concept is taken from the popular Print Club photo booths, where you can draw all manner of sparkly stuff over your own photo. More recently it has also been seen in Docomo’s Deco Mail cell phone service that allows you to transform a mundane text message into a gaudy work of art. Costing ¥2,100 for a box of 10, the chocs would make a good gift for a birthday or graduation.

Haikyo: exploring abandoned Japan

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Urban exploring has grown quite popular in Japan. Image from Gunkanjima courtesy of Juergen Specht

Urban exploring is growing in Japan. Image from Hashima Island (Gunkanjima) courtesy of Juergen Specht

For a growing number of people in Japan, a rewarding weekend involves ducking under rusty pipes, inching up crumbling stairs and soaking in the ambiance of rotting hotels, desolate amusement parks and empty hospitals where decaying surgical tools still lie on the operating table.

Sound fun? Well you’re not alone. Urban exploration has grown in popularity across Japan over the last few years. What started as a fringe activity for goths, hardcore photographers and teens looking for a thrill is now attracting tour groups and dedicated Web sites.

Advocates of haikyo (廃虚, or “ruins” in Japanese) have also developed their own code of conduct, which is quite similar to the environmental mantra of “take only photographs, leave only footprints,” but with an added prohibition of forcing one’s way inside (ie. cutting wires, breaking glass).

Continue reading about haikyo →

Meiji & Yamanote celebrate with a wrapper’s delight

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Commuters on the Yamanote line will be able to enjoy a nostalgic sight this autumn as the train line celebrates its 100th birthday by discarding its modern silver and green livery for an old-fashioned brown exterior. The clever folks at Japan Railways have collaborated with Meiji, whose 100th birthday is also coming up. The sides of the train display the company’s logo in gold, and carriages are also embossed with images of Meiji milk chocolate bars (click the play button for the full-on trainspotting experience).

Ad campaigns on train exteriors are a common sight in Japan, possibly in part due to the fact that trains are almost never defaced by graffiti artists. Pokemon trains are a firm favorite and have appeared on many different campaigns, namely the annual stamp rallies. Trains are not necessarily decorated to advertise a product either. Pink Tentacle has a nice gallery of trains decorated with anime and manga characters. It’s not only exteriors that enjoy creative ad campaigns; last year Ikea replaced seats on Kobe trains with comfy, funky sofas.

To tie in with the decorated Yamanote trains there is currently a rather sweet Meiji ad campaign on TV showing four girls aboard an old-fashioned train, the décor mimicking the frilly cluttered aesthetic of the Meiji Era (though it might be more appropriate to dub it the Victorian era as the train appears to be in Europe). Out of the four girls, who are all well-known singers and actresses, only one actually looks like she regularly eats chocolate. This particular advert shows her chowing down on a bar while she talks about her dream, “To fall in love and become beautiful, also to like myself . . . ” The beautiful girl next to her says, “I was thinking the same thing!”

It’s times like these a girl needs to reach for a giant bar of Meiji chocolate.

Dating sim ‘Love Plus’ touches a nerve

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Konami’s new dating simulation game “Love Plus” is so realistic that some users’ wives are getting the hump. The game allows you to interact with girls in real time, going out on dates and making plans together for the future.

The “Love Plus” Web site has a sample video clip showing a simpering girl asking her boyfriend what he thinks about the idea of her getting a new haircut. But the game isn’t all hearts and flowers, though. You can seriously cheese off your girlfriend with something insensitive like, “I didn’t want to say anything, but you really needed to do something about those split ends.” Some bemused users feel that their digital girlfriends are just too difficult to read. One Amazon reviewer of the game compared the experience of preparing to make his move, by touching his date with the DS stylus, with “playing Minesweeper.”

Continue reading about Love Plus →

Nawa Kohei: From the outside in

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

'pixcell - elk #2', 2009 mixed media image © OMOTE nobutada courtesy of the hermès Foundation

‘pixcell – elk #2′, 2009 mixed media image © OMOTE nobutada courtesy of the Hermès Foundation

Only a few more days to see the Nawa Kohei mini-show at Maison Hermès in Ginza. If you’ve never seen Nawa’s work up close, here’s your chance. Like many people, perhaps you’ve seen his work in the art press or on shopping bags for Beams, but standing in front of it is a completely different experience.

Nawa’s “Pixcell” series is,  in part, a comment on Internet culture: When you research a topic, whether it be a country, a celebrity or, say, the elk, each Web site you find will provide its own perspective of the subject, further obscuring your view of the subject as a whole and of the other perspectives you encounter.

Now look at the image above again. That’s a real elk under there, and with every step around it,  the view through each glass bead changes in relation to the others, further obscuring what lies beneath the crystalline casing. Some of the larger beads show the fur or antlers in magnified distortion. Other beads simply reflect an inverse world of the beads that surround it.

This is only one of three pieces – and concepts – that Nawa presents in this small (and free) show at the 8th floor of the Hermès building, and it closes Wednesday, so be quick.

Nawa Kohei’s Web site

More images from Nawa’s show at Maison Hermès at Design Boom.

RSS

Recent Posts

  • Marketers capitalize on university entrance exam time

    This week there is something weighing heavy on the minds of many students who’d like to advance to college: the National Center Test for University Admissions. It’s being held Jan. 18-19. Those with their heart set on a particular school who don’t get a good enough score may choose to spend a year, or in [...]

  • Pulsations 1.13.14

    The first batch of Pulsations in 2014 features a twist on chopstick design, a spectacular holiday illumination in Osaka and more.

  • Feelin’ lucky? The highs and lows of ‘fukubukuro’

    Whether you count fukubukuro “lucky bags” as a thank-you to shoppers, a scheme to unload less popular merchandise at the end of the year or just a way to kick off the New Year’s sales, buying a mystery pile of stuff worth [hopefully far] more than the price tag is a tempting offer to many. [...]

  • Pulsations (12.6.13)

    This collection of Pulsations brings holiday cheer in bento form, a must-see project for font-lovers, a solo stop-motion animation effort and more!

  • Joysound’s top 10 karaoke songs of 2013

    Joysound karaoke announced their top songs of 2013! However, just because they’re popular does not mean they came out this year . . .

  • Tokyo Eggs Benedict Bingo

    Eggs Benedict with awesome bacon, with a near lack of eggs, with raw tuna! Wait, raw tuna?! We sample a handful of Tokyo’s Hollandaise sauces.

  • Pulsations (11.19.13)

    Fashion, art and snacktime collide in this collection of Pulsations! Plus: Doraemon makes his 3D film debut!

  • J-blip: Tsutaya launches one-stop ‘lifestyle’ bookshop

    Bookseller Tsutaya moves into the lifestyle business and gives consumer more ways to use T-points.

  • Autumn crop of pumpkin, purple potato and pear products

    The change of season prompts a change of snack flavorings – great for those with a pumpkin craving.

  • Tokyo Designers Week 2013

    This year’s Tokyo Designers Week gets its creative juices flowing with more markets, music and a festival vibe.

Our Users Say

  • More Than Red: Great photos. Thank you for sharing.
  • kenji: A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!!
  • John Moore: I believed that blue, green, purple and black were inherently boy colors, while red, orange, yellow and...
  • deepak kumar: It is commom nature of guman being to play safe.
  • Janel: Not sure I could do the avocado before I read this. But it doesn’t really look too good on that burger!
Japan Times RSS Feed

RECENT JAPAN TIMES HEADLINES

  • No items