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Tokyo Designers Week 2013

Monday, October 28th, 2013

This year’s Tokyo Designers Week’s main event at Meiji Jingu-Gaien has had a bit of a makeover. As “Creative Fes,” it now includes a music venue, various food stalls and a market of hand-crafted goods. But, of course, the main focus remains design, and the event’s new Asia Awards, which includes categories for design schools, young creators and professionals, pulled in plenty of entries.

From architectural constructions to jewelry, we took a look at what the students and pros had to offer, as well as perused our old favorite — Designboom Mart. This year, we also found an extra favorite spot: the TAPAS Spanish Design for Food exhibition, which not only made us hungry for more, but proved that design can have a great sense of humor.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Design Week

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Today, the Isetan Department in Shinjuku launches its Designers Week product fair “Hand Made By For Me,” featuring numerous lifestyle brands across various floors of the Isetan main building. The fair runs till Nov. 5 and with all items also available to purchase, it could be a good opportunity to get a little Christmas shopping in early.

We took a sneak peak last night and selected some of our favorite Japanese designs.

Psssst! Wanna bottle of fresh air?

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Frisk is taking the phrase “like a breath of fresh air” quite seriously — or rather not seriously at all.

The breath-mints brand’s latest online campaign involves a lottery to win a grand prize of seven bottles filled to their brim with exotic air (or, if you’re a cynic, seven completely empty bottles).

The Frisk Select World Fresh Air Collection campaign is promoting the introduction of the brand’s newest flavor — Fresh Herb Mint — as well as the return of Frisk Spearmint. And, doing what must be one of the most enviable jobs, one Frisk employee is being sent to seven scenic destinations across the world, just to pump air into glass bottles.

So far he’s been to Waipio Valley in Hawaii to collect air of a “mysterious atmosphere.” You can watch a rather exhilarating video of the process.

Yes, who wouldn’t want this man’s job? He’s being jetted around the world to simply don a lab coat and white gloves, and then stick an air-compressor tube into a bottle for 15 seconds.

His next destination will be Canada’s glacial Moraine Lake for some “romantic” air, which will be followed by South America’s Iguazu falls (healing air), England’s Oxford (intelligent air), Matterhorn of the Northern Alps (freezing air), Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro (wild air) and finally Tasmania (beautiful air).

To prove that the air really has been obtained and make anyone with a desk job feel completely inferior, sad and jealous, a video of the air-collection at each destination will be uploaded onto the campaign site.

The Frisk Select World Fresh Air Collection is being described as a gift for people suffering the daily stress of modern life. Quite how it will help, though, is unclear. Perhaps it’s just a case of positive thinking: The bottles are NOT empty, they are full!

Five sets of bottles can be won, as well as 50 original Frisk gift boxes. To enter the lottery, you just fill out the form here. And do it before 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 31, when the opportunity to win will vanish . . . into thin air.

Crafty creators converge on HandMade in Japan Fes 2013

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

More than 2,000 creators converged on Tokyo Big Sight this past weekend for HandMade in Japan Fes 2013. While the range in styles and quality was wide, the creators did share one thing in common: they’re part of the virtual shopping/community site Creema, which is basically Japan’s version of Etsy. The inaugural event, while not yet on the scale of Design Festa, is definitely off to a strong start.

Here are a few of the creations on display that caught our eye. (All photos by Mio Yamada.)

Marketing that enters your brain through your nose

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

On Meiji Dori, between Harajuku and Shibuya, I recently came across a tall futuristic titanium-silver contraption staring down at the street with what looked like six portholes. When I got closer, I found it had a window display of small bottles with three signs below saying “touch here!”

Being the tragically curious Alice in Wonderland type, I did.

As soon as my hand passed over a sensor, a cool fragrant mist drifted out from a blower above and descended over my head. Naturally, I touched the other two panels . . . And then the first one again . . . and then the other ones again . . . then the first one yet again — and I was just considering doing it all again, despite how daft I looked with my nose in the air, when it happened . . .

I discovered how scent-marketing works: I saw the store behind the silver machine and walked straight in.

This is how @aroma, an aromatherapy and scent-marketing company, is enticing customers into its first Tokyo store.  And once you’ve been lured you in, there’s a whole range of essential oils for you to explore — this time invoked by 15 buttons.

Japan has no shortage of retailers selling essential oils, but @aroma has a few things that puts it notch above.

First is its gadgetry — the outdoors Aroma Shower mega diffuser is a novelty and staff will also let you test the store’s range of  sleek personal diffusers (battery and USB powered). But most impressive is its Aroma Oil Blender. Hooked up to 15 different bottles of essential oils, you can push a few buttons of your choice to create your own blend and it will be dispersed in a mist above your head. If you like your custom scent, the staff will make it on the spot for you to purchase (allow for a 30-minute wait, though).

@aroma products are marketed with a design-conscious consumer in mind; no flower-child or pot-pourri aesthetics going on here. The packaging is simple and brightly color-coded, while the naming of the essential-oil ranges is no nonsense — Design Air, Clean Air, Botanical Air or Eco Air.

And, as a Japanese company, it also focuses on native fragrances with three of its lineups. Botanical Air Japan includes a woody Mount Koya scent, a Kyoto cedar one and a Japanese citrus yuzu one. Sense of Japan uses fragrances associated with the country — including hinoki wood, perilla and sandalwood — and is named with words associated with Japanese tradition, such as Sei (purity) Miyabi (Kyoto aesthetics) and Iki (Edo aesthetics). The Message Aroma range uses Japanese phrases as names, including the virtually untranslatable Otsukaresama (the thing you say when you finish work — a concoction of hinoki, pine, marjoram, sandalwood, clary sage, and kopa iba) and Gambate (try hard! — spearmint, rosemary, niaouli, tea tree and lime).

But what about the aromas that lured me in the first place? It started with a floral Stylish Glamour, followed by an original blend called Scent of Tokyo. And when the real smell of Tokyo returned, the minty Eco Air -2 Cool Feel was enough to make me want to follow my nose into the store.


A whiff of scent marketing in Japan

Japan, it appears, is at the forefront of scent marketing. At least, plenty of scent marketers like to quote Japanese companies on the subject.

Skyword Scent Strategy states research carried out by fragrance producer Takasago. When computer users worked with different fragrances, it found the following:

  • 20% fewer typing errors with lavender-scented air
  • 33% fewer errors with jasmine-scented air
  • 54% fewer errors with lemon-scented air

Micro Fragrance is rolling out Japan’s largest-ever scenting program and using thousands of Prolitec diffusion systems to pump a Pomegranate Fusion fragrance into possibly the smelliest places in country — every single Maruhan pachinko parlor.

Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology announced in April that it’s working on a Smelling Screen display system, which will release different odors depending on what is being shown on the screen.

Japan’s household goods market is seeing a boost in scented goods, particularly fabric-softeners, which some people are preferring to the smell of perfume.  Lenor is even suggesting you mix laundry scent boosters to create your own personal aroma.

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.

The Korean beauty secrets are out

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Beauty products containing snake venom, distributed by Dodo Japan, on display at Cosme Tokyo 2012 (Mio Yamada photo)

In the West, Japanese cosmetics have developed quite a devout following, so it might come as a surprise that in Japan, women are actually becoming more interested in South Korean beauty products and treatments.

At Japan’s first-ever Cosme Tokyo fair, South Korean companies made a strong showing, taking the top slot among the non-Japanese exhibitors. In addition to shiny eyeliners, sparkling eye shadows, bright blushers and other makeup items, they presented crowd-drawing snail-slime moisturizers and synthetic snake-venom face packs.

Like K-Pop and Korean TV dramas, the popularity of Korean cosmetics has been undeniable for the past few years. And as South Korea has become a popular tourist destination, Korean cosmetic companies have begun to realize that Japanese tourists were perhaps some of their best customers. While it’s not all going to Japan, one thing is certain: Korea’s cosmetic exports climbed $600 million in 2010, up from $80 million in 2001.

Exotic ingredients aside, there’s not a lot to distinguish many of the Korean goods from Japanese cosmetics.  So what is it that gets consumer attention? While we can’t discount the lure of bright colors and cute motifs on the packaging, the most attractive draw is most likely the use of natural ingredients or the focus on natural derivatives for products. They’re also often far cheaper than their Japanese counterparts.

Skin Food, which opened its first store in Harajuku in 2009, for example, bases all its products on food extracts, using fruit, vegetable, grains and snail (well, yes, snails can be viewed as food). Missha, which is famous for its Missha BB “blemish balm” cream, uses snail and mixes it with natural plant extracts, as does Etude House, a popular line of products aimed at a younger generation — both brands opened their first stores in Shinjuku in March this year.

“Made in Korea” has become a selling point, and not only have prominent Korean brands opened up shop in Tokyo, but more Korean cosmetics in general have started appearing on the shelves of the city’s major drug stores (see DoDo Japan’s line of makeup).  A couple of new Korean-goods-specific stores have also opened in the city. In March, Chongane & Skin Garden in Shin-Okubo opened its doors to offer Korean foods, accessories and cosmetics, while  Skin holic, which opened last month, stocks a wide range of Korean cosmetics, including some of those already mentioned here.

The right platform for selling to women on the go

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Even though Tokyo Metro tried to stop women putting on makeup while riding trains with an ad campaign, it seems that everywhere else on Tokyo’s public transport system, women are being encouraged to indulge in a little personal care. Stores that have popped up in stations include: Ranking-Ranqueen, which, among other things, offers a wide range of best-selling toiletries, cosmetics and skincare products;  Fancl, a preservative-free skincare range; and, more recently, Plazastyle’s cosmetics-focused Beautilicious in the Echika shopping complex inside Ikebukero Station.

Continue reading about station shopping →

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