Archive for December, 2012

2012: The year in buildings

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

There was a lot going up in Tokyo in 2012, most notably Tokyo Skytree. It really felt like the landscape of the city shifted this year, more than it has in the nearly 10 years since Roppongi Hills opened.

Trendy magazine ranked Tokyo Skytree as the biggest new-development hit of the year, noting that some 20 million people visited the tower within the first four months after it opened to the public on May 22. In addition to the tower, a shopping center and a half dozen hotels opened up around it – more concentrated, large-scale development than the area east of the Sumida River has seen in decades, if not ever. The recreational complex is called Solamachi (“skytown”), and it was named one of Japan’s top 10 buzzwords for 2012.

Trendy also had a good roundup of other construction milestones of the past year, and some impressive statistics – proving (as if it needed to be proved) just how much Tokyoites love new things.

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu

This mega outlet mall, with 171 shops, opened on April 13 just across Tokyo Bay in Chiba — on the less-visited “uchibo” (inner) coast. As a result, use of the Aqua Line (the toll road that traverses the bay) doubled on weekends for the first half of the year.

Diver City Tokyo Plaza

Odaiba’s latest shopping center, filled with fast fashion brands, opened just a few days later, on April 19. Within the first two months, 4,000,000 people had paid a visit. Diver City did get a little help from a great big guest of honor — a 1:1 scale model of Gundam, which demonstrated the mainstream marketability of anime.

Shibuya Hikarie

This 34-story glass tower, which opened on April 26, is a big deal. It’s the first in a series of redevelopment projects that Tokyu Corp has planned for Shibuya over the next decade to bring moneyed sophisticates (read: shoppers older than Shibuya girls) back to the neighborhood. By the end of the first five months, 10,000,000 people had visited Hikarie and sales were 20% higher than projected.

Tokyo Station

On Oct. 1, Tokyo Station unveiled the results of a painstaking renovation project that saw its domes – destroyed in WWII air raids – finally restored. During the first week of October, passengers using Tokyo Station increased by 140%.

With all of this, next year is likely to feel dull in comparison. Or will it? 2013 will see the continued renaissance of the Marunouchi area, with the opening of the JP Tower in March, which incorporates the original 1933 Japan Post Office facade and promises nearly 100 shops. In April, Kabuki-za will reopen after a three-year renovation, and Mitsui has another outlet mall planned for the summer, also in Chiba.

Japan’s top 10 buzzwords for 2012

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

And the winner is . . .  wairudo darō (wild, isn’t it? ワイルドだろぉ).

Every year Jiyu Kokuminsha, which publishes an annual tome of new words, selects its top buzzwords – or more often than not, catchphrases — for the year. And today the committee picked Sugi-chan’s profound words as the year’s best.

A popular comedian, Sugi-chan (real name Eiji Sugiyama) is known for his tough-guy parodies. In September he broke his back while filming a stunt for a TV Asahi variety show, so maybe he’s also getting a sympathy vote here.

Still, it’s a far cry from last year’s winner and symbol of national pride, Nadeshiko Japan, the women’s soccer team.

Here’s the rest of the top 10 (chosen from an original pool of 50):

iPS saibō (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, iPS 細胞): The discovery – of how to turn ordinary skin cells into stem cells – that earned a Nobel Prize in medicine for Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University.

How low will they go?

LCC (short for Low Cost Carrier): This year saw the birth of several budget airlines — Peach Aviation, Air Asia Japan and Jet Star Japan – which promise to upset the reign of JAL and ANA and change the nature of domestic travel in Japan.

Ishin (restoration, 維新): A nod to controversial, ambitious Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and his political party Ishin no Kai — later broadened to the national Nippon Ishin no Kai – both of which dominated news headlines this year.

Shūkatsu (end activities, 終活) A play on the word for “job-hunting” (also pronounced shūkatsu, but spelled with different characters) that became popular with Boomers making preparations for “the end.”

Daisan kyoku (third power, 第3極): Another political entry, referring to the potential for a third party – possibly the tenuous collaboration of Hashimoto and former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara – to shake things up.

Bakudan teikiatsu (爆弾低気圧 literally “low pressure bomb”): A rapid drop in atmospheric pressure that precipitates a sudden and intense storm, like typhoon Guchol, which caused dramatic flooding, injuries, and rail line closures in June.

Chikai uchi ni (In the near future, 近いうちに): In August Prime Minister Noda promised to declare parliamentary elections “in the near future.” Elections will finally take place later this month.

Tebura de karaseru wake ni ha ikenai (We can’t let him go home empty-handed, 手ぶらで帰らせるわけにはいかない): Said by Olympic swimmer Takeshi Matsuda after Japan took silver in the medley relay about his teammate Kosuke Kitajima, who failed to win any medals in the individual events. Even though Kitajima has four golds from previous Olympics.

Tokyo Solamachi beats out the big Skytree

Tokyo Solamachi (東京ソラマチ Tokyo Skytown): We’re not sure why this – the shopping center under Tokyo Skytree – beat out the tower itself.

To be honest, the results were a bit disappointing – and not just because a few of the trends we’ve covered over the past year failed to make the final cut (like shio kōji, Tanita Shokudō and Sagawa danshi).

Seeing as this was a year of ongoing protests and politicians making bold statements in favor, or against, taking all nuclear plants offline, surely genpatsu zero (no nukes) should have made the top 10.

None of the web-related words – sōkatsu (social media job-hunting), netōyo (internet nationalists), or ii ne! (the Japanese version of Facebook’s “like”) –  made the final list either.

We were also rooting for bimajo, “beautiful witches” who seem to defy aging.

This year was, oddly, not without scandal. The word namapo was struck from the list at the last minute, for fear that it promoted discrimination against the poor.

Namapo is a contraction of seikatsu hogo – Japanese for “welfare” (the first character can also be read as “nama”). The word spread on Internet forums, becoming part of the web’s colloquial language. Welfare recipients have been increasing in Japan, to the tune of 5,499 a month, and a successful (read: wealthy) comedian, Junichi Komoto, was  slammed by the media earlier this year when it was revealed that his mother was living off of welfare (rather than her son).

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