Archive for May, 2015

Wear Japan’s past this summer with yukata and monpe

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

uniqlo-yukata1

Japan’s summer fashion are starting to appear on store shelves, and increasingly retailers are turning to tradition for new yet tried and true ideas.

This week clothing chain Uniqlo launched a line of colorful yukata for women and girls who don’t have the time or budget for a custom-made outfit. The yukata comes in a variety of colors and designs inspired by Japan’s past.

As Uniqlo often does, the motifs of the women’s yukata are borrowed from famous artists, in this case, the roses and polka dots of Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934) and the fields and flowers of Junichi Nakahara (1913-1988). Girls’ yukata have elements of Japanese summer with goldfish and uchiwa fans adorning the clothes.

To get the younger generation up to speed on retro clothes, Uniqlo will be releasing a series of how-to videos online to show people the proper way to wear yukata. The line goes on sale June 8 with yukata in the affordable range of ¥4,990-5,990.

Loft is also warming up to summer by setting aside a special pop-up for monpe, the multipurpose farming pants made with traditional yet breathable fabrics.

The pants come in a variety of colors and patterns, and in a more flattering silhouette than regularly baggy monpe work pants are known for. Advertising them as “Japanese jeans,” Loft will sell monpe at its Shibuya location for the rest of the season.

The company behind the pants, Unagi no Nedoko, will also be holding special monpe exhibitions in Tokyo, Yame and Fukuoka this summer.

While you’re at Loft, you can also stock on traditional and stylish fans, colorful two-toed tabi socks and straw sandals.

Save your breath and let ‘Suimasen!’ make the call

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

suimasen3

Getting the attention of a server can make some people feel a little anxious. Should I raise my hand? Do I wait to make eye contact? How loud should I yell?

Well rest your nerves (and your voice) because there is a new app that makes eating out a little less stressful for soft-spoken diners.

Suimasen Daikō” (“Excuse Me Agent”) is an application where users simply tap a button and their phone will let out a hearty “すいませ~~~ん!” (“Excuse me!”)

Users can choose between a female voice, a male voice and even an ikemen voice for the cool kids. In addition, there is a bell and buzzer button to grab someone’s attention.

Need to adjust the volume? The app comes with three scene settings ranging from quiet cafes to noisy izakaya.

Suimasen Daikō is now available on iTunes.

Funassyi — Japan’s favorite shrieking pear

Friday, May 15th, 2015

funassyi-pic

In a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the British comedian dove into the weird and excessive world of Japan’s yuru-kyara. During his on-air explanation of the nation’s many mascots, Oliver highlighted Funassyi, the giant yellow pear who is the unofficial mascot of Funabashi in Chiba, and included one of his more explosive moments on TV.

Need to know more about Japan’s most popular pear?

At first Funnasyi was rejected as the official mascot of his hometown but unlike other successful official mascots, such as Kumamon of Kumamoto Prefecture, Funassyi has come to symbolize Funabashi despite its lack of government sponsorship and become just as popular as any yuru-kyara.

Funnasyi has appeared in national commercials for the Asahi, released a CD single, and been crowned the Grand-Prix winner at an international trade show for character and brand businesses best license in Japan in 2014 as he traveled across Japan and the world to spread his pear-y special brand of energy.

Here are just a few of highlights from 2014:

Funassyi’s popularity hit a milestone last year when, as he was being featured on CNN in June, the news reporter couldn’t help but laugh throughout the broadcast when she saw the mascot flapping his arms around.

In July, Funassyi tried to kickstart a fashion trend by donning a black cap with a “274” logo (a play on the numbers 2-7-4 with can sound like “fu-na-shi”) and appeared in a TV commercial for Shimamura, a fashion shopping center. The fast-running pear with non-stop squealing had fans wondering how he survived the summer heat in his suit.

In September, FUNAcafe, a collaboration event of Funassyi and Shibuya Parco’s The Guest Cafe & Diner, served a special Funassyi-inspired menu including the “funa” burger (with his face on the burger), nashi pear cake, nashi pear tea and even dandan noodles.

The character’s popularity went international when he visited Hong Kong in October, attending a local shopping mall event and bringing Japanese yuru-kyara culture with him. Judging by this video, Funassyi’s fans in Hong Kong are just as passionate as those in Tokyo.

In December, the toy company “Kitan Club” released a Funnasyi-style version of its famous Cup-no-Fuchiko cup-straddling toys. The brands are literally embracing each other as the tiny figurines can cling to each other in three different kinds of positions and as expected of Cup-no-Fuchiko both can sit on the edge of the cup. The announcement climbed to the top of Fuji Television’s weekly Twitter rankings, beating out the hot issue of Japan’s strict state secrets law.

Funassyi is expanding his brand aggressively by creating Funassyi stories everywhere in Japan. Funassyiland, a Funaasyi goods store, opened in Fukuoka in December. According to Asahi Digital News, Funassyi devotees from as far as Tokyo were making the trek.

Funassyi’s naturally fragile yet good-natured personality seems to be a starting point.

The pear rounded out 2014 on Nippon TV by rocking out with his hero, Ozzy Osbourne, performing a headbanging rendition of Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Funassyi got a little wet and wild when Osbourne dumped a bucket of water on him before pushing him into a swimming pool.

In the same month, whilst making a cameo during a commemorative concert for The Alfee, Funassyi took an untimely tumble but nothing went pear-shaped: the resilient character sprung back into action minutes later.

Without a doubt, Funassyi was a hit in 2014 but only time will tell if the rest of 2015 will keep rewarding the fruits of his labor.

Grow a new boyfriend with ‘ikemen’ seeds

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

ikemen-seeds

Sick of waiting to meet your dream man? Why not grow your boyfriend from the ground up?

That’s the idea behind “Tabegoro kareshi Ikusei Setto” (“Ripe Boyfriend Growing Set”), a line of vegetable seeds that are adorned with cute ikemen.

The manufacturers hope to turn up the heat in the greenhouse as each vegetable features a handsome animated character (Mr. Habanero Pepper has fiery red hair, Mr. Eggplant as smooth purple hair, and so on). Girls are encouraged to buy their favorite boy and watch him grow right before their eyes . . . after some tender love and care.

Gardeners might have to turn the hose on themselves to cool down after reading the salacious details and backstories behind each boy. Spoiler alert — Mr. Mint likes to eat mint chocolate ice cream.

The mail-order males can be purchased for ¥900. Available vegetables include cherry tomatoes, arugula, baby carrots, mint, habanero peppers and eggplant.

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