Archive for September, 2012

New Japanese tourists: have social network, will travel

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Users post original ideas for adventurous holidays on Trippeace to find new traveling companions

Fancy learning how to ride an elephant in Laos? How about shouting your New Year’s dreams from the top of Ayer’s Rock in Australia? Trippeace, a “social travel service,” is helping a new generation of Japanese travelers make their wildest vacation dreams a reality. Since its launch in August last year, the site has picked up over 20,000 members, over a thousand of whom have taken part in group vacations.

The project is the brainchild of Ian Ishida, a 22-year-old university student, and the idea is to enable young Japanese to experience a different kind of vacation. Members post ideas for a holiday and via Facebook, Twitter or Google+, they can discuss the details with other interested parties. Once a concrete travel plan has been made, Trippeace acts as a travel agent, making all the travel arrangements for participants. With a 10 percent commission on these arrangements, according to an article in Nikkei Trendy, Trippeace had made ¥200,000,000 by June this year.

It’s a remarkable achievement, seeing as this generation of young Japanese is much less adventurous when it comes to traveling abroad than the previous generation. Immigration statistics compiled by the Ministry of Justice show that overseas travel by young Japanese has fallen significantly from a peak in the mid-’90s.

Ishida isn’t the only one to come up with this concept. A similar service called Grvel was launched in December 2011. The name is pronounced “guruvelu,” a mash-up of “group travel.” But although Grvel made a selling point of offering group discounts to users who got together for a proposed trip, the lack of recent activity on the site seems to suggest that the scheme isn’t taking off in the same way as Trippeace. For those who want to cut out the middleman and book trips themselves, Taviko, a service that has been running since 2011, focuses on helping users find fellow travelers for whatever destination they have in mind via Facebook and Twitter. But again, it hasn’t seen anything like the level of traffic as Trippeace.

Canny marketing seems to have contributed a great deal to Trippeace’s success and the website is currently offering to pay the travel expenses of the first group to recruit 100 participants for a trip idea. Ishida is hoping this helps get 100,000 people registered for the service by October this year, with a view to possibly taking the service global in the future.

Today’s J-blip: Google celebrate’s Doraemon’s -100th

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Doraemon, as most people reading this blog will probably know, is the loveable robot cat hero of the popular manga/anime series. Sparking the imaginations of children since 1969, the popular cartoon character has been featured in 1,344 stories and almost 2,000 TV anime episodes.

In the lore of the series, Doraemon is born on Sept. 3, 2112, and sent back to the present with an inexhaustible pocketful of tricks and tools from the future to keep Nobita, his lazy and unlucky fourth grade co-star, out of trouble.

With  a video tribute that celebrates the blue earless cat’s “minus 100th birthday,” Google Japan seems to be suggesting that the corporate monolith can bring us closer to the future and Doraemon’s time-saving capabilities. Real-life versions of Doraemon’s “bamboo helicopter” and cloak of invisibility — or at least people’s best attempts at them — are only a Google search away.  Via Streetview, Google itself virtually whisks us around the world much like Doraemon’s “anywhere door.” These experiences are no longer just the stuff of cartoons, and the company has cleverly tapped into the popularity of the cat to show the parallels.

And with just the click of a magical hyperlink, you too can find out how the city of Kawasaki is celebrating the minus birthday of its most famous time traveler.

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