Archive for May, 2013

Tweet Beat: #真4, #ソクラテスの死, #キスの日

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

The Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags for each week. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag. 

Demons and Samurai

“Shin Megami Tensei IV,” the first numbered title in the Shin Megami Tensei role-playing game series in 10 years, was released on May 23 in Japan. Between the anticipation of the release date, the build up of PR like the 10-minute gameplay video above and the tweets of fans buying and playing the game, it’s not surprising that the hashtags #真4 (“shin”) and #メガテン4 (“Megaten” is the series’s nickname among fans) would trend.

“Shin Megami Tensei” is known for its brutal difficulty. One player finds a humorous way to say he was annihilated in the tutorial. This time around, the characters are samurai from the Mikado Kingdom, but they still become stronger via the series hallmark of negotiating with demons for help. The game is due out in North America July 16.

“The Death of Socrates” as re-created by Japanese students

Jacques-Louis David painted “The Death of Socrates” in 1787. According to Plato in “The Apology of Socrates,” the great thinker was sentenced to death by poison for “act[ing] unjustly in corrupting the youth, and in not believing in those gods in whom the city believes, but in other strange divinities.” David’s work is said to be somewhat historically inaccurate, though it is nonetheless famous.

In fact, it’s so famous that some Japanese students decided to re-create it as a photo the other day. Once tweeted May 25, with the hashtag #ソクラテスの死 (“The Death of Socrates”) the image promptly blew up (on a popularity trajectory that had it beating out a tweet from kawaii idol Kyary Pamyu Pamyu by some metrics) as people expressed their interest in giving it a shot, wished they had enough real-life friends to be able to pull it off or just laughed.

Taking creative photos like this has been a popular hobby lately, it seems. You may remember Makankosappo but have you seen the “Attack on Titan” meme yet?

Kiss Day

May 23 is #キスの日 (Kiss Day). No, really! It commemorates the first time a kissing scene was shown in a movie in Japan, which, by the way, was the premiere of Yasushi Sasaki’s “Hatachi no Seishun” in 1946. People tweeted a lot of kissing pictures, whether of celebritiesDisney characters, dolls or their single selves. There is also plenty of fan art, even some featuring Harry Potter characters.

Can Etsy’s crafty goodness be recycled in Japan?

Monday, May 27th, 2013

On May 16, NTT DoCoMo launched d creators, an online market service for creative people in Japan. Similar to Etsy, all the items available are handmade and the content is user generated. Unlike Etsy, though, to sell and buy via the website, you will need a Japanese bank account and purchases are made using bank transfers. This means that it’s likely that the majority of products are being designed and made in Japan, and judging from the exhibition held last weekend (May 25-26) at Daikanyama T-Site Gallery, quite a few of the goods do appear to inspired by Japanese aesthetics.

The website was created for NTT DoCoMo by the advertising agency Dentsu, who have so far curated the current sellers and their goods. Predictably, some of the chosen creators may be familiar to those who like to peruse Tokyo’s design stores. There’s Kokechi’s kokeshi dolls, for example, and Ribbonesia’s brooches. The standards are pretty high, and prices vary, but anyone is allowed to sell products via the site, so there will be more variety in the future.

Products available online include interior goods, accessories, tableware, art, fashion, textiles — even comics, novels and essays.

There’s also information on hands-on workshops led by sellers, the next one being held by Ribbonesia at the Fab cafe in Shibuya on June 9.

Tweet Beat: #NintendoDirectJP, #華麗なる公式 , #デザフェス

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

The Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags for each week. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag. 

The latest news from Nintendo

When Nintendo has something to announce, it has been tending in recent years to do it via a Nintendo Direct presentation. These streaming events allow “direct” communication with fans of their games. On May 17 the latest #NintendoDirectJP included a special focus on Sega. The next three Sonic the Hedgehog games will be made exclusively for Nintendo platforms; “Sonic: Lost World” is slated for release on Wii U and 3DS this fall. Sega is also bringing “Yakuza 1 & 2 HD” to Wii U in Japan.

Another highlight was downloadable content for “New Super Mario Brothers U” called “New Super Luigi U” with 82 revamped Luigi-only levels. It will also be available as a stand-alone Wii U game. For the the full details of the presentation, check your local Nintendo Twitter account: @Nintendo, @NintendoAmerica, @NintendoEurope.

The “magnificent” presence of official Twitter accounts in Japan

If you follow Japanese companies on Twitter, you may have noticed some of them have boatloads more personality than you might expect. Forgoing stiff PR and capitalizing on the “social” in “social media,” accounts such as @kumamototaxi (a taxi service), @enganbus (a bus company), and @imuraya_dm (food company known for red bean sweets) became known as #病気公式アカ (“sick official accounts”) last fall (perhaps because it seemed as if they had gone off the deep end). The tweets that chronicle the history of the hashtag are archived here.

suggestion from @nhk_pr that they come up with something less insensitive to people who are actually suffering from illness led to adopting #華麗なる公式 (“magnificent official [accounts]). For a good example of how these accounts interact with each other, see this collection of tweets between @tanitaofficial and @sharp_jp. Note the liberal emoticon usage.

So how did #華麗なる公式 end up so trendy this particular week? It’s hard to say for sure, since it’s continuously active, but I’d like to think because of this play on words by the Japan Self Defense Force Miyagi Provincial Cooperation Office:

They were having trouble cooking their Friday curry, but the best part is the hashtag duo: #華麗なる公式 (karei naru koushiki, “magnificent official [accounts]“) is joined by #カレーなる金曜日 (karē naru kinyoubi, “curry Friday”).

Design Festa Vol. 37

The “international art event” #デザフェス (“dezafesu,” short for “Design Festa”) vol. 37 was held May 18 and 19 at Tokyo Big Sight. Just browsing the tweets gives a great taste of what was on offer as exhibitors posted photos to promote their booth and attendees were documenting on the fly. If you’re distraught over discovering this gathering after the fact, don’t despair! Vol. 38 is already on the calendar for Nov. 2 and 3.

Fighting for their lives, local governments shell out for matchmaking services

Friday, May 24th, 2013

If you’re single, looking for love and live in Itoigawa city, Niigata Prefecture, the local government will be happy to pick up the hefty tab for registering with an online dating agency. According to a recent article in J-Cast, the municipality of Itoigawa has taken the unusual step of partnering up with professional matchmakers Zwei in the hopes that young local singletons will find love through the web.

Itoigawa municipality is offering to pay sign up fees for marriage hunting website Zwei

Itoigawa municipality is offering to pay sign up fees for marriage hunting website Zwei

Declining birth rates threaten the future productivity of Japan, so it’s in the best interests of local government to help romance bloom between residents via konkatsu (marriage hunting) activities. By lending financial support to machikon (large-scale singles mixers),  konkatsu seminars, day trips and group dates, the local government obviously wants its citizens to make babies.

Unfortunately there’s little hard data available to show whether spending public money on konkatsu activities actually leads to  marriages. In March 2011 the Cabinet Office published a survey on marriage and family structures. Out the 1698 municipalities that took part, 552 had actively supported konkatsu activites. However, 283 of these had stopped these activities because of a perceived limit to their effectiveness, lack of funds and a decline in demand. Some simply held one event and that was it.

Itoigawa, however, don’t seem to have done too badly. Since it began supporting konkatsu activities in 2007, 18 local couples have tied the knot. Feeling it could do better and hearing about a similar scheme in Inami, Wakayama Prefecture, where the municipality helped citizens out with Zwei’s fees, Itoigawa decided to call in the professionals.

Single people aged 20 or above who’ve been living in Itoigawa for more than a year and are up to date with their residency taxes can get the initial fees of ¥63,840 (roughly $621) paid by local government; however, they will have to foot the monthly membership fees themselves. Zwei offers quite a comprehensive service, not only organizing omiai (interviews to gauge marriage potential between parties), but also mixers where people might find someone special.

It’s too early to say if this scheme will be a success. In Wakayama, four people applied for financial support with fees for Zwei in 2011, though it’s not known if any of these led to marriage. Nobody applied in 2012, despite inquiries from parents with unmarried children.

One of the key stumbling blocks might be the stigma attached to online dating in Japan. The launch of Xlace, another konkatsu website, back in April this year, however, does seem to indicate that the market is slowly growing; whether other local governments will also enlist help from online dating agencies to stimulate couple generation remains to be seen.

Tweet Beat: #이노래를듣고돌 #wizard #finalburning

Friday, May 17th, 2013

The Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags for each week. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag. 

Fresh tunes from 2PM and B1A4

Aside from #ozzfest (aka #オズフェス) Japan 2013, which took place over the weekend at Makuhari Messe in Chiba featuring artists from Black Sabbath to Momoiro Clover Z, the other big music trends this week were all written in Hangul as K-pop fandom continues to flourish.

Korean boy band 2PM‘s music video for # 이노래를듣고돌 (“Come Back When You Hear This Song”), released on May 5, was followed by one for #하니뿐 (“A.D.T.O.Y.”) on the 11th. Both track are off their third album, “Grown,” which came out on the 13th.

2PM wasn’t the only Korean boy band trending last week. B1A4 (a name which distractingly resembles paper sizing lingo, but means “Be the one, all for one”) held a live streaming event on May 8 that got people talking about their just-released 4th mini album #이게무슨일이야 (“What’s Happening?”).

Sunday Morning on TV Asahi

Sunday morning TV trended as usual as fans of tokusatsu (“Kamen Rider”) #wizard and (“Juden Sentai”) #kyoruger  tweeted up a storm during #sht (“Super Hero Time”). Even though these shows are aimed at kids you can always expect a flurry of activity from adult fans when they are on. By the way, do you know the other two that bookend “Super Hero Time” to make up #nitiasa (short for “Sunday Morning Kids Time,”  the unofficial nickname of a two-hour programming block)? The current schedule includes (“Doki Doki”) #precure and #battlespirits (“Sword Eyes”).

Pro wrestler Kenta Kobashi retires

After a career spanning 26 years that included overcoming both injury and kidney cancer, pro wrestler Kenta Kobashi has retired. A commemorative fight#finalburning, took place at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on May 11, but you can bet it will trend again when the six-hour “complete” version with documentary footage added airs on May 26.

J-blip: The secret behind Disney + Gogo no Koucha

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Kirin is currently collaborating with Disney to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Disneyland. Not only are they giving away a grand prize of a 30-night stay for four at the DisneySea Hotel Miracosta, year-long passes to both parks and a resort giftcard worth a million yen, but each flavor of their popular Gogo no Koucha (“Afternoon Tea”) features a different character on the package:  the straight tea has Mickey Mouse; lemon has Winnie the Pooh; and milk has Donald Duck.

Recently, an observant fan noticed there are different numbers on each bottle and decided to investigate. To his delight he found  60 numbers on the the straight tea version and 18 on the lemon tea and milk tea. His interest piqued, he bought all of them and took photos of each in sequence.

Although it is hinted at on Gogo no Koucha’s site, only a clever and dedicated tea drinker would go to all this trouble. By lining up each “frame” in video form, he revealed short animations of each character.

While we’d like to praise this creative campaign, it’s a bit ironic considering Disney just laid off nine veteran hand-animators.

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