Archive for July, 2011

Women sound off on Super Cool Biz fashions

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Where are the lines drawn with super cool biz fashions?

This summer, encouraged by the government’s Super Cool Biz campaign, Japanese men are daring to bare a bit more flesh. As neckties and heavy blazers are discarded, almost anything goes, and many braver businessmen are now sporting calf-length trousers, polo shirts and “aloha shirts.” For the first time female colleagues are seeing their male coworkers in a whole new light, but according to a poll by Nikkei Woman Online, there’s a fine line to be drawn between kakui (cool) and kakkowarui (unattractive).

The poll, published in Nikkei Trendy, reveals that too much flesh in the office can be a bad thing. Revealing tank tops were the most objectionable office-fashion item, with 90 percent of 409 respondents rating this “NG” (thumbs down). Shorts came in a close second, at around 80 percent NG. While most women did not object to plain short sleeve shirts, if the material is sheer, around 60 percent of respondents preferred men to wear a vest underneath to cover up exposed nipples and chest hair.

Continue reading about super cool biz fashions →

Tracking QR codes in the wild

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Checking in?

Checking in?

People might climb mountains to get away from the distractions of  ubiquitous technology, but it could be the thing that saves them if things go awry. Yamanashi Prefecture is the most recent hiking spot to set up a system of QR codes at points along the way on popular climbing and hiking routes. Accessing these points from a keitai or smart phone with a QR-reader app can deliver static information like maps, elevation and amenities along the way as well as information that other hikers have updated recently, such as any problems with the trail and weather conditions up ahead. In the mountains, where storms can come in fast, this could be a lifesaver, for both the old folks who have always climbed in large numbers and the hip yama-girls who have recently started heading for the hills in droves.

The codes serve another function, too: By reading the codes, a hiker leaves a trail of where he or she has been. If hikers need to be rescued and have lost contact, search and rescue teams can follow their digital footprints and narrow down the location where they were last active. The service can be set to automatically send out emails to the folks back home telling them where you are along the hike.

The new system in Yamanashi is called “M-navi,” for Minami [southern] Alps. It was built in cooperation with a system that has been running in Kyushu since 2009 called “yama-aruki nabi,” or “mountain-walking navigation.” It started with the purpose of “making hiking safer and more comfortable, for even one person.” No surprise, they’ve got a Twitter account, with a curated list of people and organizations tweeting about hiking.

Cool foods for a chilled-out summer

Friday, July 1st, 2011

For obvious reasons, many of the summer’s food trends are being geared to beat the heat, from unusual sauces for somen (cold noodles) to original recipes for chilled seafood ramen.

Kagome's tomato somen tsuyu serving suggestion

According to Nikkei Trendy, the somen tsuyu (sauce) trend, which began back in 2008, has really caught on this year. While somen has always traditionally been served with shiso (green perilla) as a garnish, Yamasa was the first company to incorporate that flavor into a somen tsuyu. These new readymade sauces, which fall somewhere between salad dressing and soup, are designed to be splashed on top of somen and go well with salad, vegetables or meat. Since the product’s launch, Yamasa has brought out different flavors each year (this year’s is yuzu and pepper), but  according to Nikkei Trendy, the most popular product by far has been their chilled curry sauce; the novel idea of cold curry is said to appeal to young and old.

Yamasa isn’t the only food company riding the trend.  Kikkoman launched their first Salad Men Tsuyu in 2010 (shredded onion, vinegar and olive oil flavor) and this year have added an extra yuzu ponzu flavor to the range. Mizkan, Kagome and Marumiya also launched similar sauces in 2010. Kagome’s tomato tsuyu was particularly popular, echoing the success of their tomato nabe sauces. The trend definitely echoes the winter nabe soup trend we wrote about late last year, in that both give a Western twist to traditional Japanese cuisine.

In restaurants, Tokyo Walker has spotted  new types of chilled ramen being served with seafood, such as eel, snapper and shrimp. Though “traditional” chilled ramen has been a specialty of Yamagata since the 50s (and is served there no matter the season) it’s really took off nationwide in recent years as a cooling food for summer months. Eel too is seen as a cooling food, so the idea of using it instead of slices of pork to ease our woes during an especially difficult summer is a no-brainer.

Foodies might want to take note of the Tokyo Walker’s seafood cold ramen restaurant recommendations for the summer: Chilled sea bream soup ¥780 from Shinmen Shirohachi; chilled seafood soup ¥900 from Menya Busashibukots; and conger eel and green tea soup ¥980 from Men Yashiyouno.

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