Archive for September, 2012

Bagel head trend is a big distortion

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

La Carmina with two hosts from Fuel TV, who featured – and received – bagel heads on camera. (photo courtesy of La Carmina)

It would appear that the Western media have, yet again, conjured up a “Big in Japan” trend.

If  “bagel head” means nothing to you, here’s a recap: “Taboo,” a show on National Geographic, ran a segment earlier this week on a kind of extreme body modification that has been happening in Japan’s underground for years. It involves injecting saline into the forehead and then sometimes putting a depression into the bulge in a way that comes out looking like a bagel or a doughnut.

Predictably, U.S. media outlets such as the Huffington Post, CNN and Mashable, and the U.K.’s The Sun and Daily Mail quickly turned out attention-grabbing stories that insinuated that this was the latest Japanese trend. “Japan’s hot new beauty trend?” asks the HuffPo headline, for example.

People outside of Japan seem to be taking the “news” at face value. A tweet from @OMGFact about the “Japanese trend” has been retweeted hundreds of times.

Most observers in Japan, however, know better. @SublightMonster tweeted “Bagel heads: hot new trend, or yet another lazy journalist turning in yet another ‘wacky Japan’ piece?” @Mulboyne, a British Twitter user based in Tokyo, wrote that he was surprised to run into some bulging foreheads at an underground party in 2009. He told us the hardcore body-modification fans there simply called it “seerin durippu” — saline drip. “One reaction was ‘Kimochi warui!‘ (gross!). It looked a bit unsafe,” he said. “There was a lot of amusement, too, of course.”

To set the record straight, we spoke with La Carmina, a well-known subculture blogger and TV host. Her team, La Carmina and the Pirates, actually did the legwork for National Geographic. They hooked the producers up with Kerropy Maeda, the man who brought this type of saline injection to Japan in 2007 after seeing it in Canada. La Carmina and her crew even supplied the show with its models. (To learn more about Maeda and the Tokyo scene, read this excellent interview in Vice  published last year.)

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Pulsations (9.28.12)

Friday, September 28th, 2012

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 . . .

Visual Pulse:

Need something to perk you up at work besides coffee? Try Morning Rescue, a Japanese energy drink popularized by the anime “Puella Magi Madoka Magica.” What would you do if a group of men dressed in orange overalls smashed through your ceiling and popped up right next to you so early in the morning?

Bicqlo – Bic Camera meets Uniqlo – is here!

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Bicqlo

JR Shinjuku Station on opening day for Bicqlo. (Rebecca Milner photos)

Bicqlo—the much-hyped Bic Camera and Uniqlo mash-up store—opened in Shinjuku today. And for those who weren’t aware yet of its impending existence, the floors of the JR station in Shinjuku were papered with announcements. Plenty did seem to know, as there were plenty of people inside (and plenty of press leading up to the opening). It wasn’t H&M-opening crowded (no lines to get in after the initial early birds got inside), but there was still a healthy line for the dressing room and enough pushing and shoving to make one question Japan’s prevailing image as a polite and orderly place.

So what exactly is Bicqlo? Sadly, not much more than an ordinary Bic Camera with a Uniqlo sandwiched in the middle. Fans of both brands might be tickled to hear the familiar Bic Camera theme song give a nod to Uniqlo, or see Uniqlo staff wearing Bic Camera-style happi coats. The merchandise, however, save for a few in-store-only Uniqlo items, is essentially the same.

It is all also the same color. As Uniqlo mannequins wearing the brand’s new fall line-up and accessorized with Bic Camera goods (cameras and electric kettles, for example) demonstrate, everyone seems to be working from the same color forecasting charts. Good news for those who want to match their jeggings with their appliances.

However, we’re wondering what Uniqlo is doing matching its clothes with suggestions of housework. The brand has worked so hard over the last few years to give itself a more fashionable image, first with the now-closed UT store in Harajuku and then through its designer capsule collections (with designers like Jun Takahashi no less) and, most recently, by sharing real estate with the decidedly upmarket Dover Street Market in Ginza. Paired with a vacuum, even if it is a sexy Dyson, that down vest just doesn’t look anything but functional — but perhaps that’s back where we’re at, economy-wise.

Indeed the bargain-basement prices that both stores are offering throughout the opening weekend (Sept. 27-30) seem to be the real attraction here. Those who spend ¥7,000 or more can also try their luck at winning limited edition collaboration goods from a gashapon-style capsule game. And, for the time being, you can exchange ¥1,500 worth of Bic Camera points for a ¥1,000 “Bicqlo Coupon,” which can be used at the Uniqlo here. (Unfortunately, it’s a one-way trade: Uniqlo purchases do not earn you points at Bic Camera.)

We’ve been seeing heaps of name-brand collaborations in Japan recently, like the Mos Burger meets Mister Donut shop Mosdo (which also plays on the Japanese fondness for squashing two words together to make a catchy new one). We also like the crossover advertising campaign that pairs Softbank’s popular and endearing “Shirato family” with the iconic Suntory Boss character, played by Tommy Lee Jones; like the individual campaigns, this mash-up is just plain clever.

Bicqlo wins on convenience: It really is useful to be able to pick up socks and printer cartridges in the same place. But as far as innovation, or even novelty, is concerned, isn’t the concept — cheap clothes and electronics in one store — essentially that of any big-box store, the likes of which are littered all over the (gasp!) suburbs?

BK’s Kuro Burger to ignite new trend?

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Burger King’s limited edition Kuro Burger

True to its name,  Burger King’s new Kuro Burger has a jet-black bun. The secret ingredient is a dash of bamboo charcoal that BK claims brings out the flame-grilled flavor of the beef. The ketchup is blackened with squid ink. But why? The company says its celebrating its fifth year in Japan with a burger that “defies common sense.” No comment. Aside from the inky ketchup, the burger is the same size and has the same toppings as a regular Whopper, and at ¥450, it costs only ¥30 more. The burgers will be on sale for a limited time starting Friday, Sept. 28.

Could bamboo ash become a trend in cuisine?  Chikutan Hime (Bamboo Charcoal Princess) webstore sells a range of black snacks, including peanuts, senbei rice crackers, and sweet fried karintou. If the hue fits, but you’re not keen on eating burnt wood, then you could get in line in Shibuya for a squid-ink baguette at upmarket French bakery Gontran Cherrier.

J!NS eyeglasses vending machine at TGS

Friday, September 21st, 2012

jin vending machine

Anime characters need to protect their eyes, too.

If staring at a computer screen is as bad for your eyes as they say, J!NS found just the right place to set up its latest vending machine.

The eyewear company plopped one of its new eyeglasses dispensers right in the middle of this year’s Tokyo Game Show. These aren’t just any eyeglasses; the J!NS PC models in the machines are specially designed to protect your eyes when looking at an electronic screen.

Several of the touchscreen vending machines opened in Japan this summer, including a brand new one at Kansai International Airport. The company is planning to set up 50 more of the so-called J!NS Self Shops around the country. Different styles and colors are priced at ¥3,990 and ¥5,990, payable by credit card.

The company’s slogan is “Glasses that can see the future.” Are they seeing the future of retail?

 

 

 

Today’s J-blip: Gatsby Moving Rubber hair wax

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Men’s hair product Gatsby’s Moving Rubber promises change for all kinds of hair. Their new ad campaign near Shinjuku Station’s West Exit now brings the message to life. Passers-by in one of the world’s busiest train stations can stand under wigs hung at head-height on a big mirror to try out a new ‘do or two. Considering weaving in some dreadlocks or perming up an afro? Forget Photoshop; nothing can give you a clearer picture than this.

With seven different types of hair wax, some of which include Wild Shake, Loose Shuffle and Grunge Mat, the options are widely varied. Gatsby’s colorful pucks are differentiated by texture, holding strength and  hair length. The range has been around for years and is hugely popular both in and out of Japan.

And if you need tips on how to use a particular Moving Rubber, here you go.

Today’s J-blip: Name the Tokyu train mascot

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

He’s got a big, goofy grin and a funky headpiece, but one thing the Tokyu train line’s newest mascot doesn’t have is a name. The little guy’s purpose in life is to raise awareness — and “get children excited about” — the Tokyu-Toyoko line’s Fukutoshin extension, which is set to open in March of next year.

Word is that he’s a playful 10-year-old from Kanagawa Prefecture who is secretly on a diet. (What’s that all about? Every yurukyara needs a little bit of a backstory, and this one is a reference to the new trains running on less electricity.) The contest’s entry form has spots for writing the name in Japanese or English. The name should be accompanied by an explanation in Japanese. The winning entry, which will become the character’s official name, will get a ¥50,000 Tokyu gift certificate. Fifty runners-up will get Tokyu swag. The contest ends on Sept. 28. Think we’ve got a chance with “Stripey?”

Photo courtesy of J.L. Gatewood, aka @StarrWulfe.

Today’s J-blip: Gari Gari Kun corn soup ice pop sold out in three days

Monday, September 10th, 2012

From horsemeat-flavored ice cream to tomato-flavored chocolate, the Japanese have amazed the world with their  appetite for weird and wonderful confectionery. Frozen soup on a stick is the latest novelty product to hit the jackpot in Japan’s convenience stores. According to Rocket News, within just three days of being released on Sept. 4, stocks of Gari Gari Kun Rich Corn Soup Flavor popsicles have completely sold out, forcing the company to announce that sales will be suspended for a short while. J-Cast points out that there was a huge amount of pre-launch buzz on the web by consumers eager to find out what this new frozen treat might taste like. Twitter has been abuzz with positive reviews like, “It’s surprisingly tasty.” Not convinced? We can’t guarantee that it’s delicious, but the video above proves that at the very least, it’s inspiring some creativity.

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