Archive for October, 2011

AKBaby invites fans to breed with their favorite pop idols

Monday, October 31st, 2011

"Won't you make a baby with me?" asks AKB48's Yuko Oshima

AKB48’s Yuko Oshima has just had a baby with Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko — a virtual baby that is. Brandishing a toy baby with a mask depicting the composite infant features of the two parents stuck over its face, Model Press reported that Oshima made the happy announcement to a pack of stunned journalists at a recent press conference. “He’s adorable,” she said beaming at the bemused crowd. “He’s destined to become a high flyer.”

There to promote the launch of AKB’s official site on Nov. 1, Oshima was singing the praises of one of the services available to subscribers. Hardcore fans who cough up ¥1,480 a month will be able to use the AKBaby app that allows them to see what kind of baby they might have in the extremely unlikely event that they got to impregnate their favorite pop idol. The app merges the features of mouth-breathing otaku with those of their most beloved AKB48 member and voila — a downloadable photo of the resulting baby is born.

From Nov. 1 a commercial will be aired nationwide that appears to show Oshima suckling a real live baby (see above) accompanied by the hurl-worthy tagline, “Won’t you make a baby with me?” Oshima was keen to point out that she didn’t really get her boobs out for the campaign shoot. “The photograph was taken in a way that made it look like that,” she told reporters.

Other perks available to members are a little less creepy. Subscribers get an AKB48 email address, tickets to concerts at the AKB48 theater and access to “special content” made exclusively for AKB fans.

The reaction thus far from netizens has been less than enthusiastic: ”It seems too expensive, one year costs more than ¥20,000,” commented one fan. “Who the hell dreamt up this messed-up scheme?” asked another anonymous commentator.

Entrepreneurs make Korean ikemen the dish du jour

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Handsome young Korean men seem to the dish du jour for many Japanese women, and eateries offering just that appear to be popping up all over the place, according to Nikkei Women Online. As the hanryu (Korean pop culture boom) continues apace, many ladies want to get an actual taste of spicy Korean delights  . . . and they’d also like to sample the food too!

The latest such establishment is Ginza K-Place, a restaurant that opened in September and doubles as a live venue on weekends. The lunch course costs a rather pricey ¥8,000, but diners also get extra eye candy thrown in, in the form of handsome Korean artists. A journalist from Nikkei Women Online who caught a performance by Korean star Pianoman LEN was extremely moved by the floor show. “He’s very manly, and before I knew it, I had become entranced,” the journalist gushed. After the show, she writes, it’s even possible to shake hands with the artist and have your photo taken with him! “There were stars in all of the customers’ eyes. Regardless of their age they were transformed into a bunch of young girls in love.”

Continue reading about capitalizing on the Korean boom →

Get your virtual freak on this Halloween

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Don’t you hate it when you go to a Halloween party in a sweet costume and nobody else has even made an effort? Luckily there’s one party this year, at which you can be assured all guests will be dressed to kill, at least they will be in the virtual world. Bacardi Halloween Bat Night at Parco Shibuya is featuing a “digital costume attraction” to get folks in a spooky mood.

Using motion capture technology from Microsoft Kinect, the faces of party-goers will be digitally mapped in real time and then altered to sinister effect. The video above  is just a teaser of what will be on the menu. On the night a wider variety of costumes and scary faces will be available, courtesy of Rhizomatiks, a team that specializes in interactive digital installations and performances.

By being the first to unveil this technology to Japan, Bacardi will probably be able to create a good bit of buzz about the event. They’re also teasing potential party-goers by withholding information on how you can get a hold of tickets. To find out how to attend you have to like Bat Night on Facebook and keep checking for updates, a cunning way to keep their brand upmost in the minds of party-goers.

This much we do know: The event will take place at Parco SR-6 on Oct. 29 from 5 p.m., and DJs Kaori and Rocketman will perform. Entry will be limited to 60 people. Drinks are also, of course, limited to Bacardi cocktails. And as you know, virtual costumes will be provided at the venue.

Burger franchises take a second go at success

Friday, October 21st, 2011

After an extended absence, Wendy's is scheduled to return to Japan in December.

It’s official, the square burger is back on the menu in Japan. Wendy’s Burgers, which withdrew from the Japanese market at the end of 2009, is now back, just two years later. Scheduled to open in December, the exact location of the first new store has not yet been announced, but Shibuya Keizai Shimbun has revealed that it will be somewhere in the fashionable Omotesando area.

The swanky location is probably a sign of things to come. When Wendy’s announced that they were planning to reopen earlier in the year, it was reported in the Independent newspaper that they “promised to add new products like premium sandwiches and hamburgers with gourmet toppings served in a ‘contemporary atmosphere.’ ”

Though Wendy’s control the external image of stores, the internal image is up to whoever is running the franchise in a particular country. From 1980 to 2009 that company was Zensho, but it appears that this company wasn’t forward-thinking enough to compete in the ever-evolving world of fast food in Japan. This time franchise will be managed by Higa Industries, the company who operate the hugely successful Domino’s Pizza chain in Japan.

Burger King, which also withdrew from the Japanese market (back in 2001), only to relaunch in 2007, seems now to have a firm grip on things and are staying up to speed with the changing market by luring customers with limited-edition burgers and promotional campaigns. In November, for instance, the company will be offering a 30-minute tabehodai (eat all you can) on Whoppers. From Nov. 1-15, if you order a L set whopper, it’s possible to get as many second helpings as you can eat within the allotted time by simply presenting your receipt and empty wrapper at the counter.

To relaunch Wendy’s, the company is now running a campaign to recruit a fresh face to represent the brand. Budding young stars can apply via Oricon Style. Applications will be accepted up until Oct 24. The winner will be named “Wendy-chan” and will travel the country for two months promoting the upgraded version of the fast-food chain.

Local hero Ryujin Mabuya to save the day

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

This month an unusual tokusatsu hero appeared on TV screens throughout Tokyo. Hailing from Okinawa, Ryujin Mabuya has an accent so thick that subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen to help viewers of TOKYO MX understand the dialogue. Despite, or perhaps because of this strong regional flavor, the channel is obviously anticipating that the show will have a wide appeal as it is broadcast on Saturdays between 18:15 and 18:30.

According to Cyzo, it’s the first time that TOKYO MX has picked up a local hero show but they reckon that it’ll pay off. Prior to its Tokyo debut on Oct. 1, a DVD box set of the show went on sale nationwide. The event to promote the sale of the DVD organized by TOKYO MX was packed to the gills with enthusiastic fans and the channel received over 2,000 applications for 250 available pairs of tickets.

Local, or gotouchi heros, often used to promote moral values to children in their region, have been popular for some time and some even make it to nationwide fame. Take Hokkaido’s Marimokkori, for example, whose likeness is seen reproduced on cell-phone charms or stuffed toys throughout the country. Ryujin Mabuya is already hugely popular in Okinawa and, at its height of popularity, the show had 17.8% viewing figures. Now it’s been picked up by TOKYO MX, the hero’s status is likely to rise even higher.

The show is full of local character: Shisaa (lion dog) statues, which can often be seen guarding homes in Okinawa from evil spirits, suddenly come to life, eyes flashing red as they shoot up into the sky and Ryujin Mabuya’s enemy, Habu Devil, has distinctive snake arms calling to mind Okinawa’s famous habu awamori (a distilled rice liquor that contains a snake).

Unlike other tokusatsu that feature storylines in which good conquers evil, the conclusion of a Ryujin Mabuya series has this hero reconciling with his enemy, showing local children the power of forgiveness. That doesn’t stop Habu Devil and his Devil Gang from getting up to lots of mischief in the meantime, giving viewers the chance to witness lots of glorious fights between our hero and his colorfully costumed enemies.

At the start of next year, a Ryujin Mabuya movie will be released nationwide after first being shown on local Okinawan TV. If successful, 2012 could be the year in which this local hero breaks into the big time.

Say cheers to these limited edition beers

Friday, October 14th, 2011

The appearance of a rather special Tokyo Sky Tree commemorative beer can from Asahi got us frothing at the mouth and thirsty to find out more about this season’s crop of limited edition beers.

Asahi Sky Tree Tower Cans: The miniature Tokyo Sky Tree on the side of this can changes color with a change in temperature. At room temperature it’s blue but once chilled, it darkens to purple. In the run up to the opening of the tower in spring next year, Asahi will be giving away a load of Sky Tree Tower related goods and 50 lucky people who buy one of these six packs of Super Dry or Clear Asahi will win a Sky Tree Tower themed prize. The cans are on sale until Oct 25.

Kirin Ichiban Shibori Toretate Hoppu: Though Asahi’s cans are cool, the product inside is still your standard dry larger, but this one ought to tickle the fancy of beer connoisseurs. Made from hops that have just been harvested in Iwate this beer has a clean finish and a fruity scent. Kirin reopened their Sendai factory, which was damaged in the quake, just in time to get this beer made. The company points out that buying this beer is a way to show your support for the beleaguered farmers in the area. On sale from Nov 9.

Yebisu Kokaku: A seasonal favorite, this beer comes out each autumn and is quickly snapped up. It’s got a rich, hoppy taste that appeals to those who like a richer beer and, though made by Sapporo, is bound to appeal to those who favor microbrewery beer. On sale now.

Sapporo Vegalta Sendai: Sapporo is also getting behind the movement to support Tohoku and have produced some limited edition Vegalta Sendai cans on restricted sale in six north eastern prefectures for just that purpose. The cans have a picture of the J-league team’s mascot printed on the side. On sale now.

Japanified burgers on the tourism menu

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Seared skipjack tuna served in a toasted bun with salad, available only in Kochi Prefecture

Would you go travel hundreds of kilometers just to get a bite of an unusual burger? According to Tokyo Walker, the residents of Kuroshio in Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku, are hoping foodies from around Japan will be induced to do just that. At a special one-day event in Ginza this summer they unveiled their katsuo tataki burger at a store selling Shikoku produce. Made with a slice of seared salted tuna, topped off with veggies, special sauce and katsuo flakes, the burger is a regular item on the menu in restaurants in Kuroshio.

Foodie tourism is a big thing in Japan: Several years back, one town was reinvigorated by an influx of tourists keen to test sanuki udon (noodles) on the basis of a popular book on the subject.

Lately, unusual burgers have also proved to be a big draw with travelers. The ramen burger, for example, invented a few years ago, has attracted tourists to Kitakata, Fukushima Prefecture. Visitors are keen to sample this original snack, which utilizes fried noodles instead of bread as the burger bun, thought recent events may, understandably, have slowed trade down somewhat.

Others have followed suit. The hotate (scallop) burger, invented in Betsukai, Hokkaido, consists of two giant scallops wrapped and fried in a spring roll casing then popped in a burger bun along with lettuce, onion and a slice of cheese. Though the burger sounds a little odd to us, in the 2010 Gotouchi Gurume (local cuisine) Grand Prix in Ginza it pleased the judges and came first place.

If none of these burgers tickle your fancy, then perhaps you ought to Matsushima Island, Miyagi Prefecture, for a bite of oyster burger. Coated in batter and breadcrumbs then deep fried, the oyster is served between a bun with the usual garnishes. Sounds pretty yummy to us but we’re still not convinced we’d travel all that way just for some original fun in a bun.

If you are that type, though, be sure to book a ticket for Tottori Burger Festa, where you can sample all the local burger meibutsu (signature dishes) in one place.

Cola Lemon KitKat? Let’s take a vote on that

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The best drinks created on Creap Cafe Producer will actually go on sale in cafes

In Japan, where new varieties of familiar products appear and disappear with the seasons, consumers are often left feeling bereft when their favorite flavor suddenly becomes unavailable. “What happened to that delicious Milk Tea KitKat?” shoppers moan as they scour konbini shelves for that elusive treat. But a couple of campaigns from Nestle and Nissin have brought a small degree of relief to those suffering from this first world problem.

Both companies launched grand election campaigns this year, allowing customers to vote for the reintroduction of their favorite flavor. Nissin kicked things off earlier this year with its Cup Noodle election campaign. Visitors to the election website were able to vote for their favorite retro flavor out of a possible 73 options. The winning product, with 133,144 votes was tempura soba, and will be available in stores from January next year.

Not to be outdone, Nestle, the maker of KitKat, has also launched an almost identical campaign in which voters online get to choose their favorite discontinued variety of the chocolately snack. However, KitKat’s campaign is a little more limited in scope: the candidates include only 19 varieties. And one of my friends did grumble that their favorite Cola Lemon KitKat didn’t make the list.

Continue reading about consumer elections →

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.