Archive for October, 2010

Beer campaign stirs up the ire of working wives

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The nostalgic ad campaign for Suntory’s hugely popular drink Kin Mugi has proved a hit with middle-aged men who are pining for the simple charms of yesteryear. The campaign depicts a smiling wife played by actress Rei Dan who, while waiting for her husband to return home from work to down a few refreshing glasses of beer-like Kin Mugi, passes the time by enjoying fireworks, running through clouds of cherry blossoms and posing cutely in a yukata. Though men are lapping up the nostalgic picture of the carefree, stay-at-home cutie, some women of the same generation find the whole thing deeply offensive.

“Every time I watch that actress playing the wife wait for her husband to return from work with a big smile on her face, I get the sense that something’s deeply wrong with this picture. If I think about that carefree spoilt woman, I get really irritated. These days households that can survive on only a husband’s salary are in the minority,” a woman in her 40s wrote earlier in the year in Tokyo Shimbun newspaper. She’s not the only one, journalist Yuzumi Yamashita raised the issue again in an article written on Oct. 3 in News Post Seven. Yamashita writes that she’s heard the same opinion from other people and that economic realities these days mean that it’s typical for Japanese wives to take a job.

The (what seemed to be mostly male) response to the article on 2ch News ranged from the juvenile: “You’re just jealous,” to the more reasoned, “If women read young boy’s manga it seems odd to them, if men read young girl’s manga it seems odd to them. That’s all there is to it.”

Personally, I have to doubt a scenario in which men who are drinking cheap beer substitutes (called dai san in Japan) are able to afford the luxury of having a stay-at-home wife. What do you think? Does this advert raise your hackles or make you go all warm and fuzzy?

Today’s menu: frisky fun rolled in novelty

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Nadeshiko serves up sushi handmade by cute young women

Nadeshiko serves up sushi prepared by cute young women

The appetites of Tokyo’s novelty-hungry clientele should be satisfied in October by a platter of new cafes and restaurants, running the gamut from photographer Miwa Yanagi’s pop up Café Rotten-Meier to Hooters, which is opening its first shop in Japan on Oct. 25. Whether you like a coffee served up in high style or prefer a beer delivered to your table by a cute girl with a wide smile, yet more options are now on offer for a one-of-a-kind meal in Tokyo:

  • Hooters: The idea of girls singing songs, playing games and generally entertaining customers has long been the selling point of maid cafes, so we’re certain Japanese men won’t have any trouble getting their minds round the concept. In fact, we have to wonder what took them so long, given the considerable expansion of Hooters overseas. Hooters Tokyo, Akasaka Tokyu Plaza 2F,  2-14-3 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku.
  • Nadeshico Sushi: The girls show a little less flesh here, with the focus instead on appreciating their delicate sushi-making hands. “Bare armed young women handling sushi will make me happy,” commented one netizen on the concept for this new Akihabara eaterie. Nadeshico Sushi (lovable sushi), which opened Oct. 1, features nigiri sushi prepared by women aged between 18 and 25. The menu includes Edo-era nigiri or super kawaii sushi rolls shaped into hearts or animal faces. Chichibu Denki Building 2F, Sotokanda 3-12-15, Chiyoda-ku.
  • Café Rotten-Meier: As part of Festival/Tokyo 10, photographer Miwa Yanagi has dreamed up a concept cafe for lovers of performance art. Visitors will be served up tea and cakes by a coterie of grandmothers and over the final weekend one of the grandmothers will be played by Yanagi herself. There’s no age limit for those who want to perform as grandmother maids, but applicants must have an interest in performance and food. Rotten-Meier is the severe grandmother maid character from Heidi, so we’re not sure whether service will be delivered with a smile, but even if your tea is poured with a sneer, it’s bound to be an entertaining experience. The space will be decorated by Yanagi so expect to enter an enchanting if slightly unsettling fairytale world. The cafe will be located in front of Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space in Ikebukuro and will be open weekends only from midday till 10pm, from Dec. 30 till Nov. 28.

The new/old face of fashion: oji-girls

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Old-man cute

Old-man cute

The dapper old gents of Tokyo may may want to lock up their closets till the latest fashion wave passes. Their time-worn basics are new again for young women getting into one of this fall’s fashion looks: “old-man cute.” Boxy beige jackets, baggy trousers with suspenders, tweedy vests and wingtip shoes are all key items. The trend is being called ojikawa, a combination of “uncle” or “old man” and “cute.” The women who wear it have predictably been dubbed “ojigaaru (old-man girls),” adding to the growing list of “~girl” tribes.

As you would expect, the Oji Girl focus is on muted colors and comfortable, often oversized pieces. Oji-pan (oji pants) are rolled up at the ankles and often made to be worn with wide waists gathered with a drawstring, while blazers are roomy to the point of looking droopy. Suspenders (or braces, for you there in the back snickering) come with long pants or shorts or are sold separately. The ensemble can all be topped off with a necktie and some fatherly marumegane.

PS, a magazine aimed at women in their late teens and early twenties, is calling the trend “the next big thing” after Mori Girls, though it’s yet to be seen if the look will resonate with the masses. The magazine advises adding a  “slightly girly touch” to complete the look. They show actress Airi Taira wearing a tweedy outfit that any uncle would be pleased to take his Sunday drive in – except for the long lace shawl layered under the jacket.

Japan’s Women’s Wear Daily also highlighted the outdoor-to-indoor shift in fashion inspiration with a style showdown in its pages. They pit the free-spirited Forest Girls (Mori Gaaru, 森ガール) and spiritual Witch Girls (Majo Gaaru, 魔女ガール) against the granddad-chic Oji Girls.

Shoe store Magical, selling online through Rakuten, has a collection of desert boots with soft rubber soles “recommended for oji-girls.” They come in gray, green, and camel. The popular  women’s brand Snidel has several pieces in the fall/winter lineup that fit the trend, like this button-up vest and these pants with suspenders. How will you know if the clothes you’re eyeing are old-man worthy? Elementary. (Sherlock Holmes would surely be an oji-icon.)  Just keep an eye out for the “oji” prefix. It’s getting stuck in front of anything that can be shoehorned into the trend: Oji shoes, Oji pants, and overall “Oji- style.”

Whether or not people will love the look, it is a trend with budget-friendly potential. The aspiring Annie Halls of Japan could skip the online retailers, boutiques and department stores, and assemble an ensemble from thrift store finds. And of course, there’s always Grampa’s closet.

Leggy K-pop girls stand tall on J-pop scene

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Following in the footsteps of their male counterparts, long-legged South Korean beauties are taking the Japanese pop scene by storm this year. When all-girl K-pop act Kara released their debut single “Mister (ミスター)” in August, it went straight to No. 5 in the Oricon weekly singles chart, and Shojo Jidai (known as SNSD in South Korea), who also debuted recently (on Sept. 8), sold a whopping 75,000 copies of their first single “Genie.”

The bands are about to go head to head in what the Japanese media are dubbing a “hot pants war”: all five members of Kara appear in teeny tiny black hot pants on the cover of their new album while Shojo Jidai’s new single, out later this month, has the nine-member unit sporting short shorts, while showing off their amazingly long legs.

Other female K-pop acts to debut in Japan this year were Brown Eyed Girls, who released their first album on Aug. 26, 4Minute, who released their first single in Japan on May 5 and most recently K-pop indie solo artist Tensi Love, who made her debut performance on Sept. 24 at a private show for industry types at Star Lounge in Shibuya.

The girls are following the lead of Korean boy bands such as Big Bang and TVXQ, who have already become big hits over here. Big Bang were awarded the “Best New Artist” award at the 51st Japan Records Awards in December 2009 and TVXQ, who debuted here in 2005, broke the Oricon record for foreign artists who have the largest amount of sales of a single in its first week of release.

Unlike Japanese bands, Korean bands are groomed for overseas success, so that along with taking singing and dance classes, members often study a foreign language in order to communicate with overseas fans. Shojo Jidai not only have a Japanese speaking member but even went so far as to release a Japanese version of their single “Genie” (see video above). Whether this will be enough to outsell Japan’s homegrown J-pop acts remains to be seen.

Morning mochi makes waves

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Mochi cakes, image courtesy of Kropsoq at Wikicommons

Top of the mochi to you

Breakfast used to mean one of two things in Japan: either the traditional time-consuming but stomach-filling option of rice, side dishes and miso soup, or the quicker option of couple of slices of toast and jam wolfed down before dashing out the door. This summer, a product that is as quick to prepare as toast but as filling as rice has proven to be a big hit. Since the product went on sale in April, sales of Marushin’s Good Morning Breakfast Mochi have risen so much that they’re now up 180 percent up from the company’s typical annual mochi sales.

Mochi, a sticky cake made from pounded rice, is a traditionally a New Year’s treat, but the dish has now found a new lease of life as a breakfast food. The idea is that rice is easy to digest, and mochi is a great source of energy and easy to prepare: All you need to do is to zap it quickly in the microwave before tucking in. The Good Morning Breakfast Mochi is 20 percent thinner than normal mochi cakes so that it’ll take less time to cool down – like tofu, the dense foodstuff retains heat much longer than a slice of toast.

The mochi boom follows on from other breakfast fads that have recently swept the nation. Last year saw the nation embracing the curry breakfast (as recommended by baseball superstar Ichiro) and this year we reported on the trend of office workers who chose to slurp down bowls of ramen for brekkie. Rather than simply eating the cake plain, Marushin’s website encourages customers to experiment with quick and easy, if deeply weird, recipes such as mochi pizza or mochi with chilli topping.

According to Nikkei Trendy, the easy-to-prepare product was launched with young singletons in mind but become a a hit with kids, perhaps because the squishy and Play Doh-like consistency of the mochi. The company has decided to see if they can cash in further on the boom by launching a new mochi snack aimed at students studying hard into the night. Bearing in mind the fact that every year a number of people choke to death on New Year’s mochi cakes, we’re wondering whether parents will be as keen to allow their kids to chow down unsupervised on mochi at night.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Pulsations (10.04.10)

Monday, October 4th, 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 . . .

Fall’s furry ‘n’ fluffy fashions

Friday, October 1st, 2010

These boots were made for customizing: update last season's boots to the Nordic look

These boots were made for customizing: update last season's boots to the Nordic look

After one of the hottest summers on record, Japan appears to be coming under the cooling influence of the frozen north, style-wise that is.  Nordic fashions in in. Fashion magazines Non-no and Betty are both dictating that fur is the hot item this season (quite literally on sunnier autumn days, when the temperature still hovers over 20 degrees Celsius) and stores are now well stocked with fluffy garments for girls who want to embrace Scandinavian chic.

The trend combines Nordic-patterned knit dresses with furry waistcoats, fur boots and fur earmuffs or headbands. The emphasis in on creating a cute, fluffy, girly look that will have you looking as much at home in the fashionable streets of Shibuya as on a sled in a frozen wasteland.

There’s also now an economical route to the fluffy boot trend. While many stores are selling fur-topped or fully furry boots, sock shops are also stocking fur legwarmers that can give last season’s boots the furry look for a fraction of the cost. We’ve also spotted special fur stocking tops for a raunchier take on the trend.

If you’re looking to accessorize further, then why not invest in one of NTT DoCoMo’s Marimekko phones? The Finnish brand is very hot right now so if you can’t stretch to a phone, a snazzy Marimekko bag will do just as well.

Once you’ve got the Nordic look sorted, where oh where can you go to show off your Scandinavian style? What about the Finland Cafe, which opened up in Daikanyama in July? During October pottery and fashion designers will be exhibiting their work at the cafe. You can also get a further icy blast of cool Scandinavian design by attending the Hirameki Design x Finland exhibition, which will be held Oct. 29 -Nov. 7 at the Living Design Center Ozone.

So what are you waiting for? Pull on your furry boots, harness the huskies, down a shot of vodka and set your style compass to north.

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