Archive for January, 2013

Today’s J-blip: Anti-Loneliness Ramen Bowl

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Had enough fun playing with your food? For the times you find yourself having a meal alone and wishing for some virtual company, your solitude can now be relieved with the Anti-Loneliness Ramen Bowl.

Conceptualized by MisoSoupDesign, the dish comes with an in-built iPhone dock that gives you a hands-free way to do the things you’ve already been awkwardly trying to do with your phone as you slurp away. This could be the ideal resting spot for your virtual dinner date. The bowl was created after one of its designers, Minnie Jan, witnessed a man eating with one hand while browsing through his phone with the other, she told the New York Daily News. “We did it for fun — it’s kind of sarcastic,” the paper quoted her as saying. But we think there might be a market for it in Japan. As Japan Pulse has noted, plenty of Japanese diners eat alone, and there is no shortage of restaurants catering to them. These solo-friendly place settings would make a lot of sense in hitorisama establishments.

The bowls will come in black, white and red and the company is now accepting a limited number of orders via email (info@misosoupdesign.com) and Facebook. The price has yet to be announced, but they are expected to arrive around April or May. Whatever happened to simply savoring the experience of feeding the body, though? How about some tips on mindful eating? Yes, you can read them on your phone.

 

 

“Fasting guys” not interested in women – at all

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

The Japanese media is lamenting the decline of red-blooded males and the rise of "fasting guys" in their place. Photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr

The Japanese media is lamenting the decline of red-blooded males and the rise of “fasting guys” in their place. Photo: Tambako the Jaguar

For the last few years, the Japanese media have been dishing out label after label in an attempt to describe the modern Japanese male. The latest tag they’ve pinned on these much-analyzed specimens is the term zesshoku-kei danshi. Literally, “fasting guys,” these are guys so uninterested in women that they don’t even – gasp – have a favorite female TV talent or idol.

The moniker is a play on sōshoku-kei danshi, a phrase coined by the media a few years ago. These so-called “herbivore guys” preferred, like the fabled brontosaurus, to graze peacefully. Which is to say, they showed little ambition in romance, or likely their careers, either. The term proved to be a big hit, resulting in a whole glossary of hilarious spin-off words (see below). But the fasting guys make the herbivores look downright ambitious. In fact, some women have taken a liking to the gentle herbivores and the term has become a lot more neutral than its original critical tone.

Fasting guys exploded on the internet around the end of last year, following a survey of single men released by marriage match-making company O-net. The results were published on sites like Nico News and were subsequently tweeted like mad.

According to the survey, 12.1% of those aged 25-29 and 16.1% of those aged 30-34 – or about 14% total – identified with the “fasting” group. That’s roughly the same percentage as those who self-identified as nikushoku-kei danshi, red-blooded “meat-eating” types.

Of the fasting guys, half reported that they’d never had a girlfriend. Some 70% said it had never once occurred to them to get married.

Tough luck for all the women pining for Sagawa-danshi – the guys who work for the delivery company Sagawa Express and who have been fashioned by the media into pin-ups of the strong, dependable type.

However, not everyone is buying into this new development. The top-ranked commenter on the Yahoo story (to which over 7,000 readers clicked “I agree”) says, in sum: “Of course you’re going to get these results if you survey single men. The ones who haven’t got it together by 30 are going to be the inexperienced or uninterested ones.”

The internet also abounds with warnings of fake fasting guys – ones who pretend to be uninterested in women to mask their own wounding unpopularity with the opposite sex.

Don’t take it too hard, guys. At least you still get to be “guys,” unlike women who, in the past, have been makeinu (“loser dogs” – women who don’t marry, but are probably otherwise successful) and kurisumasu kēki (“Christmas cake” – women unmarried after 25, considered past their sell-by date).

A Glossary of Modern Japanese Males

nikushoku-kei danshi (肉食系男子; carnivore guys): Classic macho guys who go after what – and who – they want.

sōshoku-kei danshi (草食系男子; herbivore guys): Shy guys who don’t make a move; prey for the growing number of nikushoku-kei josei (carnivore girls).

roru kyabetsu danshi (ロールキャベツ男子; roll cabbage guys): Guys who appear to be herbivores but are actually carnivore to the core; named for the classic yōshoku (Japanese-style western food) dish of cooked cabbage stuffed with meat.

asupara bēkon-maki danshi (アスパラベーコン巻き男子; bacon-wrapped asparagus guys): Guys who come across as carnivores but later reveal themselves to be herbivores; named for the yakitori dish.

zasshoku-kei danshi (雑食系男子; omnivorous guys): Guys who will go with whatever works.

zesshoku-kei danshi (絶食系男子; fasting guys): Guys with zero interest in women.

Photo: Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr

Sisters are DIYing it for themselves

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

With the economic outlook for Japan continuing to look gloomy, the cost of “getting a man in” to do those odd jobs around the house is getting way too high for the average single girl. Increasingly, over the past couple of years, however, young women are picking up a hammer and taking matters into their own hands by enthusiastically having a bash at do-it-yourself projects. The trend is a natural progression from the surge in interest in handicrafts, and, with big name hardware store Tokyu Hands putting out special DIY Jyoshi (DIY girl) displays this past autumn, it looks like this new breed of power-tool empowered women is here to stay.

DIY Jyoshi Bu, a website set up in March 2011, is at the forefront of the trend. A network of female DIY enthusiasts, local groups hold workshops to pass on skills like building shelves or hanging wallpaper. Since an article appeared about the burgeoning trend in the Yomiuri in March last year, membership has rapidly risen from 170 to 653. The focus is on helping beginners get started by teaching the basics of woodwork, gardening, decorative painting and home decoration.

In a recent interview for Sankei News, Maki Kaneuchi the leader of the Kinki branch of DIY Jyoshi, told readers why she thought DIY was booming amongst young women: “About five years ago there was a boom in handicrafts. I feel that the DIY boom among women is an extension of that. It seems like among women there’s a sense that they aren’t content with just buying things, they want to make something for the family.”

Girly web store Felissimo has also gotten in on the act by launching their own Jyoshi DIY web store that sells a range of DIY goods aimed at women, such as cute pots of “rose garden” wood stain. Not only that, but a team of female Felissimo staff members write a blog about their own DIY projects, giving readers tips on how to undertake projects like reupholstering chairs or repainting tables.

Tool manufacturers have also taken note of the trend. Kakuri, based in Sanjo, Nigata produces a range of lightweight tools that are easy for women to use. The range includes a small saw for detailed work and a half-size drill. Perhaps inevitably, there are companies who believe that if it’s for “girls” it’s got to be pink. Hence Cainz hardware stores are now flogging hot pink electric drills and screwdrivers. Cainz also stocks a small pink tool kit that can be easily stored on a bookshelf or, perhaps, popped in an over-sized handbag.

There are quite a few books on the market now showing women how to get busy with a hammer and nails. The most recent title was published in June last year and was written by actress Joshiko Nakada, who has been a keen DIY enthusiast for more than 30 years: “When I was in my 20s I went to work in Germany. During that time I was stunned to see young couples renovating their own homes with materials they’d bought themselves. Because of that experience, when I returned home I had a go at hanging my own wallpaper and liked the feeling that I was able to do it myself.”

Hit the road: Japan’s 2013 trend forecast

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

'Long Trail' hiking is Trendy magazine's number one trend pick for 2013

‘Long Trail’ hiking is Trendy magazine’s number one trend pick for 2013.

In 2012 we got cat-ear hair-dos, an increasing appetite for salty mold, and a tower with a silly name. What wonders will 2013 bring? We’ve gone through Trendy’s predictions and came up with a list of themes that look good to us. Basically it boils down to this: smart phones continue to up the convenience factor, and people have to work harder to get away from convenience and to make up for all the energy it saves.

People will get moving – even more

Running and hiking have been big the last few years, and Trendy predicts that this will continue, and that people will invest even more in these hobbies. The magazine anticipates that hikers will head further into the hills, taking to what it calls the “long trails” that are dozens (possibly hundreds) of kilometers long, mostly in the Alps of central Honshu.

Naturally, these overnight trips will require more gear than the yama girls have acquired thus far, including camp stoves and camp stove-operated mobile phone chargers. Hikes deep into the heart of the country also fit in nicely with other growing interests that have been driving travel trends recently, like history and power spots.

Dieting will be more palatable, and fun

One of the biggest hits of 2012 was Kirin’s Mets Cola. Billed as the world’s first health-soda, the product claims to inhibit fat uptake. It got tokuho billing, the government-issued health food label usually reserved for products like bio-yogurt. Trendy anticipates that other ordinary edibles will ramp up their ingredients to qualify as tokuho products, and that 2013 will see more typically sweet things – from donuts to umeshu (plum wine) to teriyaki sauce – getting the low-calorie treatment with sweeteners like D-Psicose. Likewise, “water enhancers” like Kraft’s Mio Energy, which look like colored eye-drops but presumably have a Crystal Lite effect, look to make good, old-fashioned water more palatable to soda addicts.

Fujitsu's "Wandant" dog pedometer automatically uploads data to a cloud. Photo courtesy of Fujitsu.

Fujitsu’s “Wandant” dog pedometer automatically uploads data to the cloud. Photo courtesy of Fujitsu.

Trendy also sees gadgets that gamify weight-loss and fitness, like Nike’s FuelBand and Panasonic’s EW-NK63 pedometer – both of which beam data to smartphones – as being likely hits in 2013.

And (sigh) it looks like Fujitsu has gone and made a pedometer for dogs, the “wandant” (“wan-chan” being the word for puppy). As the pampered puppies of years past are now overweight middle-aged pooches, we’re probably going to see more human-driven weight-loss and exercise trends trickle down to the canine population.

Smartphones work their way further into our lives

Now that we’ve confirmed that Japanese consumers are buying into smartphones, it is likely that we’ll see more crossover products on the market. Expect more digital cameras that allow you to upload photos to a smartphone over Wi-Fi – like Nikon’s new Coolpix S800C, which is also an Android device itself – to hit the market in 2013, says Trendy.

Last year Moleskin introduced its “Smart Notebook” series, which is designed to sync nicely with the popular smartphone app Evernote. According to Trendy, Japanese office and school supply manufacturer Kokuyo (they make those ubiquitous “Campus” notebooks) has now launched its own series of smartphone-ready stationary, CamiApp, along with its own app.

 

J-blip: Sweets Marathon

Friday, January 18th, 2013

So, for the past few years, running has been really, really big in Japan. How do you make something already popular even more attractive? Cake, naturally. We’re guessing that was the logic behind Sweets Marathon, a running race with baked-goods stations set up along the way next to the usual water stations. You can run – and eat – your way through the whole 10k, or do it in a relay with a group of friends. And you can eat as much as of the little bite-sized cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and pudding cups as you like. It sounds a like a recipe for disaster, but the event handlers seem to do a pretty good job of moving everyone along.

Since 2010, there have been 13 of these events held in cities around Japan organized by Tokyo-based International Sports Marketing, Inc. Last month two Sweets Marathons took place at Tokyo Summerland and in Osaka, drawing 3,000 and 4,000 participants, respectively.

Next up is the Gourmet Run, which is already on track to happen in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya early this year. It costs ¥4000 to enter, which is pretty decent for access to a huge spread of regional cuisine – though you have to work for it.

J-blip: flu report app

Friday, January 11th, 2013

The U.S. is in the midst of a particularly severe flu season and Google’s trend map for Japan shows a near-vertical spike in flu searches in the last weeks. Apart from washing your hands regularly, eating healthily and staying fit, there’s not much you can do to prevent getting infected. Or is there?

A new Android app from Docomo called “Your Area’s Influenza Report“ allows users to keep an eye on the spread of influenza in their own locality and, if they’re thinking of taking a trip, check ahead of time to see if that area is an influenza hotspot or not.

The app draws data from the Infectious Disease Early Detection System designed by The Infectious Disease Information Center at the National Institute of Infectious Disease. Daily influenza forecasts are extrapolated from prescription information gathered from pharmacies and absentee records for schools. Info includes a report on the dryness level of the air, as drier air is associated with easier spread of flu.

Armed with this app, the modern-day Howard Hughes can decide whether it’s worth risking an outing to a different area or not, or indeed whether it’s safe to leave the house at all!

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