Archive for September, 2009

I want my Augmented Reality TV phone!

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Yesterday, after almost of year of cruel teasing and prodding, gadget hounds finally got an up-close look at the Sekai Camera, a highly anticipated Augmented Reality application for mobile phones, named iPhone and Android-based phones.

Tech-man-about-town Nobi Hayashi was one of the lucky ones to attend the event at Loewe, a Spanish fashion ship in Tokyo’s Ginza. As his video shows, Sekai Camera users view their surroundings through the iPhone screen, which displays “Air Tags” floating in an overlay of reality. Tapping a tag brings up relevant info about the onscreen object.  At Loewe, visitors were able to learn more about high-end products (and we can imagine, some folks might need a lot of persuading.)

Wedding the iPhone’s GPS and video capabilities, the app’s creators, Tonchidot Corporation, appear to be targeting retailers in search of a new gimmick, but the camera’s uses aren’t purely commercial. For instance, you could leave a personal review of a restaurant or consult the reviews of previous patrons.  People visiting a new city could look up historical information about buildings that interest them from the local tourist office. In fact, Tonchidot is already aligning itself with a very interesting iPhone-centric tourism project in Gifu Prefecture.

But wait! There’s more! Behold Air Tagging, features include Air Filters (to weed out visual clutter); Air Shouts (to users within a 300 meter radius), Air Pocket (for saving those tags) and even Air Voice (for an audio recording).

Continue about Sekai Camera →

Showa Boys a go go

Friday, September 18th, 2009

"Tokyo 2016" by Tenan Ito, "Tanoshii Yonensei" (Happy 4th Year Student),  1961

“The Tokyo of 2061″ by Tenan Ito, “Tanoshii Yonensei” (Happy 4th Year Student), 1961

We generally are obsessed by the next shiny, shiny thing on the horizon, but “Showa Boys SF Guide,” a collection of 1950-1970 memorabilia, had us transfixed from the get-go. The modestly sized Yayoi Museum, nestled in the back streets of Nezu, has put together a terrific trip back to the future as imagined in Japan’s Show Era.

Need more proof of its brilliance? Click the thumbnails below or read the review of “Showa Boys SF Guide” on Japan Times Online.

The show closes soon, so hop in your personal air car, or strap on your jet pack, and whiz over to Nezu to see how we really are supposed to be living.

Google Japan explains Street View adorably

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

When web behemoth, Google started their ambitious Street View project, they knew they would run into cultural and privacy issues in every country it was introduced. But the level of resistance in Japan seems to have caught them completely off guard. First they were forced to re-shoot with lower cameras this spring, and recently they have been accused not only of destroying privacy but also of encouraging crime.

What to do? Well, earlier this month, Google Japan released the video below to assure naysayers that they are on top of the problem. The adorable “camera-man” in the clip is disarmingly cute – by design, I’m sure. Does he look like the type who wants to take pictures of your girlfriend’s underwear? I didn’t think so!

 

Tokyo Meatrea: a cut above your usual food court

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Artist's rendition of Namco's Miitorea "theme park," slated to open this winter in Hachioiji City.

Artist’s rendition of Namco’s Tokyo Meatrea “theme park,” slated to open this winter in Hachioiji City.

In a nation that worships at the temple of food and loves to travel, even virtually, it’s a no-brainer that gourmet theme parks would prove popular in Japan.

Over the past decade, there’s been a parade of restaurant clusters grouped around a concept, from Odaiba Little Hong Kong and ShinYokohama Ramen Museum to Global Dining’s Glien Passage of Italian, Asian, Japanese and Mexican simulacrum.

The one company that has really carved this niche deeply is Namco, the amusement company behind Ikebukuro Gyoza Stadium, Ice Cream City and Tokyo Dessert Republic and a handful of Sweets Forests scattered around the country.

So naturally we’re curious to check out Namco’s latest culinary adventure, opening this winter in Hachioji City. The concept? A theme park that celebrates meat. Yep, you read that right.

Read more about Meatrea →

The pill still hard to swallow in Japan

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

thePILL

Ten years ago this month, the pill was approved for use in Japan, yet despite its popularity overseas, very few Japanese women use it. In fact, Japan was the last UN member country to approve the pill. Of all industrialized nations, France has the highest number of pill advocates at 44%, with the U.K. at 26% and the United States at 18%.

In Japan it stands at 3%. Why?

In a country where porn is abundant, condoms are readily available and love hotels are beating the recession, it’s certainly not from a lack of interest in sex but more a lack of confidence in the pill itself. More than half of the women surveyed about the pill mentioned concern over side effects, and of the 3% of women actually taking the pill, only 30% claim it is for contraception purposes (the pill also alleviates menstrual pain in some women).

More about birth control in Japan →

Will Japan drink old wine in a new bottle?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

main_2 [Desktop Resolution]In recent years we’ve seen Hollywood remakes of Japanese cinema experiencing varying degrees of success, from horror movies, such as “The Grudge” and “Ring,” to feel-good comedies like “Shall We Dance?”

So we’re a bit surprised to hear that a Japanese version of “Sideways” is to be released by Fox Japan on Oct. 31. While the title and plot line remain the same, according wine blogger W Blake Gray of The Gray Market Report, there are some notable differences.  Extra humor is injected into the story with Rinko Kikuchi playing the spurned lover who speaks comically bad Japanese and the ending is also reportedly different to the original version. Still set in California, the movie has a Japanese cast and basically remains a buddy movie about the difficulties and disappointments of life.

Read more about remakes →

The feminine side of Gundam

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

deco_gundam_310This summer, Tokyo was in the grips of some serious Gundam fever. To mark the 30th anniversary of one of Japan’s most beloved protectors, a massive 1/1 scale replica was built in Odaiba, making the shopping and entertainment area a temporary otaku Mecca.

Now that the fever is subsiding and the famous robot has been disassembled, those whose still thirst for all things Gundam (and there are many) may find Akihabara’s “New Type” bar of interest — that is, of course, if you also enjoy the company of cross-dressing men. Leave it to Japan with its ever-evolving cosplay, host-club, hostess-club and cafe cultures,  to dream up New Type: a Gundam-themed transvestite bar.

Interestingly, New Type is only open late night on weekends, as the staff are all salarymen with regular jobs (now that I’ve seen their evening attire, I’d be curious to see their daytime ensembles). Return guests will be delighted to hear that entrance fees lower as one rises in “rank” at the bar: from ¥1300 a drink as a “Private” all the way down to ¥0 as an “Admiral.”

Image of the fabulously bejeweled, fan-made Gundam from Pink Tentacle

Transcontinental collaborations

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

pastels_tenniscoats [Desktop Resolution]

As a rule, East-West musical crossovers used to be a one-way street, with Japanese bands typically absorbing Western influences and making the music their own. However, bit by bit, the flow of ideas and sounds has started to shift direction, and this month two releases come bearing the fruits of two-way traffic.

The single “Lightning Runaway” (part of Tower Records’ “No Music No Life” compilation), released on Sept. 2, 2009, is the product of cross-pollination between Japanese indie act The Pillows and U.S. singer/songwriter Ben Kweller (touring Japan this month). The other release, “Two Sunsets,” an album made by Scottish alternative act The Pastels and cult Japanese act Tenniscoats, came online on Sept. 7, 2009.

While The Pillows have long cited Kweller as an influence on their sweet shoe-gazing sound, the band’s fame in the West grew largely out the exposure the band received via the soundtrack of  the groundbreaking anime series “FLCL.” This eventually led to tours of the U.S., appearances at SXSW and the collaboration with Kweller.

Read more about transcontinental collaborations →

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.