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Boys who like girls’ manga for girls who like boys who like boys

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

boyz

Playing with a loaded gun

If you go down to the Boys’ Love section of Animate in Otome Road in Ikebukuro today, you’ll most likely see, alongside the crowds of fujoshi (“rotten girls”) browsing the stacks for a fix of sugar sweet boy-on-boy romance, the occasional guy checking out the mildly titillating depictions of young gay love. Yes, Fudanshi are boys who like manga written by girls for a female audience about boys who like boys, and, according to J-Cast, they’re on the rise.

Though Boys’ Love — yaoi — is a niche genre that’s been going strong for some time, with a fervid if furtive following of female fans, up until recently it was thought that men had little or no interest in the scene. Indeed, with their own, far more explicit “bara” (or Mens’ Love) titles, gay men have generally scorned the rather treacly voyeuristic erotic fantasies of female Boys’ Love authors.

Now, however, more and more fudanshi are coming out of the woodwork. J-Cast reports a lot of fudanshi activity on Twitter. Tweets tend to be imagined romances between pop idols or favorite anime characters, as well as discussions between those who share the same interests. A 2chan fudanshi thread has also attracted a lot of traffic. One 2chan user explained how he got into the genre: “My eyes were opened thanks to the influence of my sister.”

The influence of older sisters, a fondness for shōjo manga (young girls’ manga) or mistakenly buying a boy’s love dōjinshi (amateur manga title) featuring a well loved character from a favorite manga or anime, were all reasons cited for stirring up a passion for boy’s love in male hearts.

Taimatsu Yoshimoto,  a self-described fudanshi who does research into the history of the otaku, agrees that fudanshi appear to have increased lately. He’s quoted by J-cast as saying, “It’s a hidden hobby, but around ’05 to ’06 society began to be a lot less censorious of fujoshi, that is, those who’d previously hidden it would introduce themselves as fujoshi. On Mixi and Twitter men calling themselves fudanshi started to appear.”

Fudanshi can, of course, be gay, but they are also bisexual or even straight. “Fudanshi Nante Yomu no?” is a blog by Tamaki, a self-confessed Boys’ Love manga fan. In his profile he describes his sexuality this way: “If you had to sum it up in one word, I’m gay. I’m not interested in any other guys apart from my boyfriend, but because I like women I guess you could say I’m bi.”

It’s hard to say just how many fudanshi there are out there as Boys’ Love continues to be a secret passion even among female fans. However, we were interested to note that the Japanese Wikipedia page on Otome Road states that fudanshi have been spotted shopping for Boys’ Love in the area.

Photo courtesy of Jamiecat.

The bird is the latest word in animal cafes

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eurasian_Eagle-Owl_Maurice_van_Bruggen.JPG

Whooo would like a cup of coffee?

 

For feline fanciers who aren’t allowed to keep pets at home, Japan has no end of cat cafes. But now bird lovers of a feather can also flock together at Tokyo’s new wave of cafes that host birds of prey. According to Daily Portal, this burgeoning trend started with Café Little Zoo in Chiba. A cafe that houses not only a number of owls and hawks outside its doors, but also reptiles within. Visitors to the cafe get to hold and pet the animals under the supervision of staff. The cafe is now so busy that groups of four or more are advised to make reservations.

Tori no Iru Cafe

Tori no Iru Cafe — where the birds are

Also taking reservations due to a flurry of recent media coverage is Tori no Iru cafe near Kiba station on the Tozai line. The shop is home to a Harris Hawk, a Eurasian Eagle Owl, parakeets, parrots and other birds.  Here too, customers are allowed to pet and hold the birds — while a staff member watches like a hawk, of course.

The manager, Ms. Toriyama,  opened the establishment after keeping birds as pets herself. Although she gushes in her  Daily Portal interview that owls are quiet and easy to take care of, a British charity called the Suffolk Owl sanctuary begs to differ. The sanctuary emphasizes that birds of prey are unpredictable creatures with sharp claws that do not take well to confined spaces. Indeed, according to the BBC, high numbers of owls were abandoned in the UK last year for just this reason, after the popularity of the Harry Potter films triggered a trend for keeping the birds as pets. All the more reason, perhaps, that owl-lovers might want to visit the birds instead of trying to keep them at home.

Fukuro no Mise (“owl shop”) near Tsukishima station has sweaters, cards and other goods shaped like or decorated with owls, as well as items to help you raise your very own owl at home. (However, the sanctuary recommends building an aviary to keep owls — we can’t help but wonder where a Tokyoite might find the space for one.) At Fukuro no Mise, just like at the other bird cafes, owls that have been raised in captivity to be docile can be held and petted for the price of a cup of coffee. Their talons are trimmed and their beaks are filed to reduce scratching.

At the Falconer’s Café in Mitaka, falconry enthusiasts bring their own birds to compare and contrast. The concept of this cafe is rather similar to dog cafes where dogs are not held captive within the cafe but brought along by their owners. Though Japan isn’t the most litigious of societies, bringing together small children and birds of prey doesn’t strike us as the brightest of ideas for a business. Smoothed claws aside, it might take just one nasty scratch or peck to ground this trend before it really takes flight — or at least to ruffle a few feathers.

Photo courtesy of WikiCommons.

J-Blip: Mini kotatsu a cozy spot for singles

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Warmth for one

The humble domestic kotatsu is enjoying something of a revival since the disaster at Fukushima made the nation painfully aware of the need to conserve energy. The device is a table with a heating element underneath and a warm blanket draped over it keep one’s legs nice and toasty; without using up excess energy, the kotatsu has been keeping families huddled together in the winter months since its charcoal forerunner first warmed feet in the 14th century.

But what about those living alone, who want to bring down their electric bill but might not have room for a large kotatsu table?

Enter the mini kotatsu heater from Yamazen. On sale from September last year, Tokyo Walker reports that 18,000 of these tiny heated tables have already been sold. A wooden cage around the heating element protects the skin from nasty burns and a large blanket means that you can stretch out on the floor while enjoying the heat it kicks out. The device is also portable and can be placed under a desk to keep feet toasty while browsing the web. If you’re interested in buying one, Rakuten has them in stock for 5,580 yen.

Sales surge for men’s fashion magazines

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Leon is the leading magazine for the more mature man in Japan

An unexpected surge in sales of fashion magazines aimed at men in their 30s and 40s has taken the magazine industry by surprise. Bucking the general downward trend in sales for print magazines, titles like Leon have been getting snapped up by style-conscious guys over the past two years.

According to the National Publication Association’s Publishing Research Institute, sales of men’s magazines for the 30-40 age bracket began to rise around 2010. Sales of these magazines were up a whopping 38.3% from Jan. to Nov. in 2012 compared to the same period the previous year, climbing from 2.66 million copies sold in 2011 to 3.68 in 2012. Just five magazines fit into this niche market, with Leon taking the largest slice of the market share, accounting for a third of sales. The other magazines are Oceans, Uomo, Men’s Ex, and 2nd.

Though Leon was responsible for creating the concept of the “choi waru oyaji” — which roughly translates as “bad-ass middle-aged dude” — personified by fashionable middle-aged guys like Italian heartthrob Panzetta Girolamo, this does not appear to have been the trigger for the trend. It’s more likely that the recent women’s magazine concept of the “ikedan,” or cool husband, has inspired women to buy men’s magazines for their husbands in an effort to get them to improve their appearance.

For single men in their 30s and 40s, it may have been the explosion in en masse dating activities, such as machi kon events, that drove them to the magazine racks for tips on sharpening up their looks, making them better equipped to duel it out with younger, more fashionable rivals. According to J-Cast, these guys aren’t a bunch of aging rams dressed up as lamb, they’re simply men who would like to take care of their looks, whether to score a date or simply to score brownie points with the wife.

The trend has, of course, had a positive impact on the clothing industry. Yano Research Institute reports that in 2011, sales for menswear (including suits, western clothing, and accessories) were up 2% on the previous year. Meanwhile, the Japan Department Stores Association reported a 1.7% rise in the sale of men’s suits in 2011 compared to the previous year. Furthermore, the men’s department of Isetan in Shinjuku reported that sales of suits and western clothes were up 2% for the period between April and September in 2012.

The growing market has inspired Hankyu department store, which previously concentrated on women’s clothing, to open up Hankyu Men’s Tokyo in Yurakucho in Oct 2011. Since then, they’ve clocked in impressive sales of over 12 billion yen. We expect to see other department stores follow their lead.

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.”

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!

2012: Food and drink trends in Japan

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Whether it be moldy salt, lunch in a cup or frozen soup on a stick, the thriving Japanese food scene spawned a diverse array of surprising culinary wonders this year. Behind the fads, a pragmatic consciousness about healthy eating and a desire to economize were major factors affecting food and drink trends during 2012.

Eating out

According to Nikkei Trendy, the poor economy and the aging population have dealt blows to the high end of the restaurant trade. Enter the low-cost posh restaurant. Massively successful in 2012, a chain of restaurants run by Value Create is serving up top-end French and Italian food designed by “super chefs” in a bistro environment. There are now five “Ore no Itarian” (My Italian) and four “Ore no Furenchi” (My French) restaurants in the Ginza area. Meals cost around  ¥3,000 to  ¥4,000 per head, a huge saving compared to the ¥30,000 per head charged at the poshest restaurants. Nikkei Trendy says that other high-end restaurants are cutting costs and following suit.

A new casual restaurant called Tanita Shokudo turned up on Jiyu Kokuminsha’s 50 top buzzwords of 2012. Run by Tanita, a company that manufactures scales, this hugely popular restaurant in the Marunouchi area of Tokyo serves up the same menu — and nutritional advice — as the company’s own cafeteria to health-conscious customers. This year has also seen a revival of interest in restaurants serving yakuzen (Chinese medicinal) cuisine. Some of these restaurants also advise customers on what dishes might have a beneficial effect on their health. This is a trend we feel might spread in 2013.

Keeping trim

The inevitable diet fad surfaced in 2012 with the appearance of the tomato boom. It was kicked off by the publication of a study that appeared to indicate consuming large amounts of tomato juice would help alleviate metabolic syndrome. Though the trend has slowed somewhat, just as the notorious banana boom did, tomato sales stayed higher for longer than your typical fad.

Continuing on a health tip, one of the most successful new beverages to emerge in 2012 was a health drink — at least according to the Japanese government. Endorsed as the Japanese equivalent of a FOSHU (food for specified health use) by Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency, Mets Cola sold so well that its manufacturer, Kirin, met its annual sales target in just two weeks. Popular with health-conscious men and women in their 30s to 40s, the cola contains an ingredient that helps reduce the absorption of fat. Other tokuho (health) drinks that deliver the fizzy pop experience without the calories have also been popular. The trend looks set to continue with more and more products gaining accreditation.

Spicing things up

Another versatile ingredient that’s still trending is koji salt. Combined with salt, koji, a domesticated fungus used in the production of miso, soy sauce and sake, can be used as a marinade that increases the umami (savory) flavors of meat or fish. It also turned up flavoring packaged foods like potato chips and drizzled on salads and grilled vegetables as a dressing at trendy restaurants. Following salt koji’s huge success, salty yogurt also enjoyed a mini boom with a number of cookery books utilizing this rather odd ingredient. Both savory sauces can be homemade, meshing with the trend toward cheaply producing food at home.

Taking it with you

Hot on the heels of the phenomenon of bento danshi (guys who bring a packed lunch to work), home-made lunch boxes continued to be popular in 2012. This time it was women who were behind a trend to pack their lunch into plastic tumblers. Colorful, versatile and fun, the trend for tumbler bento was also great for keeping portion sizes under control and was popular with dieters as well as the budget-conscious.

Keeping things interesting

As well as economizing, the Japanese food and beverage industry continues to innovate, producing a range of weird and wonderful new products. Among our favorites this year were Gari Gari Kun corn soup on a stick and frozen beer suds. In keeping with that, we’d like to raise a glass of the recently released limited-edition Coffee Porter hot beer coffee (got that?) and wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year — a year which will no doubt be filled with delicious new treats.

 

Manga inspire women to embrace ‘male’ hobbies

Friday, November 30th, 2012

From enthusiastic train spotters to history buffs, young women are getting into hobbies that have been traditionally thought of in Japan as being mostly for men. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly down to changing attitudes towards gender roles, but both of these trends were in part due to the popularity of manga that presented these hobbies in an appealing light to a female audience. With manga so popular with young adults these days, it’s more than likely that the next big hobby trend amongst women could well be fueled or even ignited by a popular manga title. Indeed, according to Nikkei Entertainment, the next male hobbies to be embraced by the fairer sex will be shogi, rakugo and mah-jongg.

”March Comes in Like a Lion” might inspire a trend among women for shogi

Manga and anime for adults has been increasingly popular since the 1990s. “Tetsuko no Tabi,” for instance, was serialized in the weekly manga magazine Big Comic from 2002-2006 and adapted into an anime in 2007. It tells the true story of female illustrator Naoe Kikuchi accompanying travel writer and train freak Hirohiko Yokomi on a tour of Japan’s railways. Soon tetsu-ko or tetsu-chan (female train-spotters) could be seen at railway stations checking out the rolling stock.

Similarly, reki-jo (female history buffs) caught the bug after being inspired by titles such as “Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story.”

So what’s next? Well, it seems like shogi, which is known as Japanese chess, is already attracting an increasing number of female spectators at professional matches and this could well lead to increasing numbers of female players.

Two popular shogi titles —  “Hachi-one Diver” and “Hirake Goma!” — have been going for a while, but the title that’s particularly drawing in the ladies is “March Comes in Like a Lion,” which combines both romance and game play in its storyline. Winning the Annual Manga Taisho in 2011 and the Kodansha Manga Award in the same year, the series has been a huge hit.

Rakugo, a stylized Japanese form of storytelling, is already enjoying a renaissance, especially among women, who now make up about 50 percent of rakugo audiences. This has only been strengthened by the serialization of “Jyoraku” in 2009, a manga about a female rakugo storyteller. Hopefully this will inspire more women to to perform themselves in this traditionally male-dominated field.

The popularity of the manga “Saki” might inspire a mah-jongg trend. First serialized in 2006, the manga tells the story of a bunch of high school girls getting into mah-jongg. Now that a third anime adaptation of the title is in production, perhaps high school girls will soon be clamoring to play the game, in just the same way that female high school students were inspired to pick up the guitar and form bands after the phenomenal success of the K-On series.

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