Archive for August, 2010

Crash leggings are no accident

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Evenly spaced crash leggings spotted in Fruits magazine

Evenly spaced crash leggings spotted in streets fashion magazine Fruits

Trendy Japanese girls are ripping it up right now and flashing quite a bit of flesh while they’re at it as they take a pair of scissors to classic black pantyhose or leggings. While some girls interpret this as a punk fashion by randomly slashing Lycra, creating gaping holes and ladders aplenty, other postmodernists are more careful about how their crash tights or crash leggings appear, taking time to ensure that slits are evenly spaced exposing equal parts of tempting flesh all the way up the leg.

The trend could be symptom of Japan’s Lady Gaga mania. Gaga turned up at Narita airport last summer in a pair of artfully slashed leggings paired with a black jacket. Apparently the longish jacket was necessary to conceal the fact that a little too much flesh was peeping through around her panty line.

Crash (クラッシュ) is a word initially used to describe the process of customizing jeans to make them look distressed. As with jeans, you can buy pre-ripped leggings if you’re not confident enough with a pair of scissors. But as one girl on  Yahoo Japan comments, the pre-ripped numbers sometimes look too neat. She asked users for advice on how to achieve the random look at home.

While the look is catching on with girly women, currently it’s being sported mainly by cutting-edge fashionista chicks like the one pictured. No matter what their style, one thing is for sure, unlike Lady Gaga’s get up, they’ll be no slices of rump on display: The trick for Japanese girls is to pair their messed up leg wear with a suitably concealing mini skirt or dress.

DIY robots: How to build your own lean, mean fighting machine

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Aug. 29 sees the 22nd All Japan Robot Sumo Tournament kicking off with the Tohoku playoffs in Akita.  The tournament is an opportunity for Japan’s amateur robot enthusiasts to show off their skills, as their homemade robots do battle within the confines of a 124 cm diameter ring. With this in mind, we thought we’d take the opportunity to take a look at what kind of robots are being constructed by hobbyists these days.

Robot building is a popular activity in Japan, especially among university students studying science-related subjects, and there are a wide range of kits available for the hobbyist. The mecca for these budding robot scientists is Tsukumo Robot Kingdom in Akihabara, which stocks a wide range of robots construction kits from the ridiculously simple to the brain fryingly complex. A visit to the store is pretty exciting as you can usually get to check robots out in action on a little stage set up for them to roam free upon.

Right now in Tsukumo Robot Kingdom, these are the top five best-selling robots, according to Nikkei Trendy:

1) KHR-3HV from Kondo Kagaku, ¥149,800. The KHR-3HV was released on the market last summer and wowed fans with its capacity to emulate human movements: It walks, somersaults, climbs steps and does back flips. This bipedal bot stands 401  mm tall and is extremely flexible with 17 joint motors (one for the head, six for the arms and 10 for the feet); those who are willing to get even more technical, can soup him up by adding an extra five joint motors.

2) Robovie-nano from Vstone, ¥63,000. Standing 230 mm tall and weighing in at 575 grams, this radio-remote controlled bi-pedal robot is competitively priced compared to the KHR-3HV but limber all the same, with 15 joint motors, including hands that can grip.

3) Robot Arm MR-999 from Elekit, ¥4,980. Aimed at beginner hobbyists who want to get down to the nuts and bolts of how things work, the Robot Arm is 360mm in length with five joint motors. You can get it to grip and pick up stuff by operating it with the radio remote controller.

4) Line Trace Car from Elekit, ¥1,800. Again, for beginners, this 120 x 170mm robot does what it says on the tin and little else: i.e. follows a black line on white paper.

5) Robot Designer RDS-X01U Platform Plus USB from Robotech Ltd, ¥12,915. For the expert, this simple bare-bones robot (basically just a sensor on wheels) can be the foundation to the mecha-killing machine of your dreams. You basically increase the robots functionality by buying extra parts.

While robots Nos. 1 through 4 are good for honing your skills, entrants to the sumo tournament will be looking at creating their own cyborg Asashoryu from scratch, using something that gives them more creative freedom, like No. 5.

If you want to see the bots in action, here’s the list of dates and venues for the nationwide tournament.

Big (only) in Japan? Oshibori

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

A typical place setting with the oshibori on the right waiting to be enjoyed.

A typical place setting with the oshibori on the right waiting to be enjoyed.

Japan prides itself not only on cleanliness but also a heightened appreciation of the senses, and nowhere do these two meet more pleasurably than in oshibori – the moist hand towels that are used before meals. People living abroad may be familiar with this practice from sushi restaurants, but in Japan they are everywhere – at restaurants, coffee shops, Internet cafes, hotel lobbies, apartments and homes. There doesn’t always have to be a meal – sometimes oshibori are given to visitors at an office. In general the towels are heated, although during the summer months, cold towels are often used instead.

The initial goal of an oshibori is uncontroversial – the user takes the towel, unrolls it, wipes his or her hands and enjoys the steamy sensation that seems to clean and renew. Anyone who has ever used an oshibori, however, knows that the next thought most people have is, “I must have this wonderful sensation on the entirety of my body.” This is where the controversy begins. Many wipe their face with the towel, some go as far as rubbing down their neck and a few are bold enough to unbutton the top button on their shirt and wipe down their chest.

While this seems like a good idea, especially in the summer when one is often covered in sweat, Oshibori Ohkoku (Oshibori Kingdom) provides very clear limits in their description of oshibori manners: “When wiping the face, press the oshibori to the face only so that the warmth may be felt. Never wipe anywhere other than the hands or face!”

To assess the quality of your oshibori, take a whiff. Does it smell funky? You may have a moldy oshibori. If you smell a minty, floral or citrus scent, then you can rest assured that your oshibori has been treated with an aroma to heighten the sensory pleasure.

Perhaps due to hygienic reasons, perhaps because of convenience, many places use disposable oshibori that come in plastic wrap. These are similar to wet wipes and are also often included with bento lunches and with purchases at convenience stores across the country.

Oshibori folded and decorated into little birds.

Oshibori folded and decorated into little birds.

Oshibori have also created a huge industry associated with it. There are companies that collect, clean and deliver oshibori; trays to hold the towels; machines to keep the towels heated; and an izakaya in Utsunomiya has even trained a monkey to deliver the towels to customers.

While oshibori regulations might seem strict at first, Oshibori Ohkoku does know how to have fun: While you shouldn’t wipe up spills or clean your mouth of food with an oshibori, you can fold them into neat shapes as long as you return them to their original position. “Oshibori art” has generated many blogs, including “Sasa Blog,” where you can learn how to fold your oshibori into a Totoro.

How big are oshibori in your neck of the woods? As big as in Japan?

Photo: Charles Haynes (top), Daiji Hirata (bottom)

Asakatsu: up and at ‘em

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Fuji sunrise

The worms of Japan better watch their backs: The country’s early birds are out in force as the “morning activities ” trend takes root. Asakatsu, the practice of getting up early to pursue hobbies, has followers among office workers and unemployed people alike who are looking for a way to establish a fixed time for personal interests and self-improvement.

An asakatsu survey this spring by  the JMA Research Institute found that one in seven people (out of 1,000 men and women, age 20-50) was actively pursuing some kind of morning activity. Not bad for mere mortals. On the other hand, brand new company hires were a different species altogether: 82% said that they were doing morning activities or, um, said that at least they really wanted to.

A “businessman” survey by Asahi Beverages (which happened to include a section on the “power of canned coffee”) reported that about 17% of the people they surveyed were working toward some kind of degree or studying languages in the morning. Language schools in Tokyo with early morning classes include Linguuaphone Language Plaza’s “Early Bird Morning Challenge” at 7 and “Asakatsu English” lessons with Pan Nations at 7:30. An asakatsu book group meets at restaurants near Tsukiji market for sushi breakfast talks with authors. Rikkyo Business Creator “cram school” holds morning seminars to increase skills important in business.

The book “Asa 5jihan Oki no Shukan de, Jinsei wa Umaku Iku” (“Life Goes Well When you Get into the Habit of Getting up at 5:30″) is stacked up at bookstore endcaps and has been appearing prominently in front of the magazine racks at convenience stores. The cover is a bright, rosy pink sky of a hue that we’ve never seen, though who can say what the sky might look like at that hour?

Hiroki Baba told Pulse he gets up at 6:25 every weekday morning to do 20 or 30 minutes of energy work similar to tai chi before he takes off for his job as an engineer. “It gives me energy all day,” he says.  He is typical of the respondents in the JMA Research survey, who, on average, reported spending a little less than an hour on their activities of choice.

Cafe chain Wired opened a branch on the grounds of Yoyogi National Stadium called Cafe Wired <>Fit. The combination gym and cafe runs a class that combines a brisk walk in the park with a yoga session at 7:30 in the morning, and a plain morning yoga class as early as 7 a.m. Not far away in Sendagaya, restaurant Good Morning Cafe opens at 6. For those who don’t fancy a post-yoga “good morning hamburger plate,” there are other “first thing in the morning” options, including okayu porridge and an acai berry bowl. They also have a design-influenced take on the standard kissaten egg-and-toast breakfast set: Brushed stainless steel squares replace traditional coffee shops’ nondescript tableware, and the parboiled egg stands in its own cup. The restaurant’s slogan says it all: “Why don’t you start a first-thing-in-the morning lifestyle?”

Have at it, folks. Let us know how it goes. We’ll be catching a little shut-eye.

Spill-proof suits for slick guys

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Champagne proof

Stay out late enough into the night and something will spill on your suit. Was that an ancient Japanese proverb, or just a few words of wisdom passed along from a spiky-haired host as he blinked outside into a Kabukicho dawn? No matter, what’s true is true, regardless of the source. Whether it’s due to dancing in a club or pouring drinks in a bar, something’s bound to get sloshed on your nice togs – white wine if you’re lucky, much worse if you’re not. But the nightlife doesn’t pause for the dry cleaner to work his magic.

What’s a nightcrawler to do? Buffalo Bob’s to the rescue, with waterproof suits for the glamorous men of the night.

Buffalo Bob’s makes suits and  leather clothes and accessories for “bad-boy pioneers.” Hip-hugging boot-cut slacks promise “nice legs.” Broad-shouldered jackets with pinched waists hide silky linings in jewel tones and animal prints. Now, the waterproof line weaves a bit of teflon into the fabric to repel spills before they sink in.

Publicity before the July release boasted that, with only a limited run of these suits, they’d surely sell out instantly. Will they catch on? Well, the Shower Clean Suit from Konaka was a 2008 hit that garnered international attention. There are now almost a quarter of a million of the rinse-and-go garments dripping dry in bathrooms around Japan. (They can be hosed down with lukewarm water in the shower, and take two to three hours to dry.) Are waterproof suits the next logical step in the evolution of clothing that doesn’t need a dry cleaner, or just a gimmick that will never be seen outside of a host club? Something to ponder the next time you’re mopping up the suds your drinking buddy tipped into your lap.

Thanks to Patrick Macias at An Eternal Thought in the Mind of Godzilla for discovering this.

Japan by the numbers (08.21.10)

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Summer pick-me-ups for salarymen

Friday, August 20th, 2010

A salaryman sleeper, obviously in need of a kakigori shampoo

A salaryman sleeper, obviously in need of a kakigori shampoo

The weather is taking its toll on all of us, but there’s no doubt that things must be far worse for Japan’s army of long-suffering salarymen who are struggling to make it to work every day in the blistering heat. We thought it would be nice to take a look at a few new services on offer this summer that might make the life of these beleaguered businessmen just that little bit more bearable.

First up is the refreshing kakigori (shaved ice) shampoo that’s being offered for the first time this summer by a Yokohama hairdresser. The perfect way to cool down your hot head after a day in the office, the ice is mixed with a menthol shampoo then gently massaged into your tingling skull for that minty fresh feeling.

Then there’s Katsuyama Dojo Style Pub, a new izakaya outside Kanda Station that opened its doors Aug 18. It’s a traditional-style retreat for tired office workers in their 40s and 50s, but the hook here is that drinks are served by cute girls wearing hot pants who are happy to give you a free back massage if you request one. Ah, bliss!

Mibyou Salaryman Shindan (rundown businessman diagnosis) maybe sound depressing but it’s actually a fun new website run by health-drink manufacturer Yomeishu. Designed to help those with a poor work-life balance, it asks questions like “Do you do too much overtime?” and “Do you finish your food faster than others?” to gauge how stressful your lifestyle is. It’s worth doing the quiz just to watch the animated salaryman act out your answers. For example, if you answer yes to the question “Do you like meat more than fish dishes?” your little salaryman will chow down on a drum stick while his waist expands.

If ice shampoos, massages or internet advice doesn’t cheer up Japan’s put-upon businessman, perhaps Salaryman Man can help. This cartoon by Takashi Taniguchi elevates the humble office worker to superhero status. With the aid of his trusty meishi, he flies through the sky, defeating evil.

Photo credit: soul_flow

Pulsations (08.20.10)

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Comiket 78: Day 3 (from Tokyo Scum Brigade): Chronicling the third day of Comiket 78 and featuring elaborate costumes that require true devotion in the intense summer heat.
  • Matsuri da! (114): Angels with Dirty Faces (from Ampontan): Something only the most impish of kids would enjoy.
  • The Line (from Kirainet.com): Another addition to Tokyo’s endless collection of lines.
  • Abandoned Ginza (from Mike’s Blender): Ever wondered what a post-apocalyptic Ginza might look like? Here’s a slightly spooky first look . . .
  • Comparing bento box materials (from Just Bento): For those who want lunchtime perfection.
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.