Archive for the ‘Marketing/advertising’ Category

Some Japanese women crave a rougher cut of man

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Young, fresh faced and ripped, the nikushokukei danshi is the dish du jour for the modern Japanese woman, according to some media outlets.

Young, fresh faced and ripped. The new ideal guy?

Young, fresh faced and ripped. The new ideal guy?

The word refers to beefy guys who do a physically demanding job and is a reversal of sōshokukei danshi (grass-eating men), a term popularized in 2008 that describes the new breed of gentle, passive men emerging in Japanese society. While sōshokukei reflected an emerging social reality, nikushokukei reveals an a female fantasy that is in part a reaction against the grass-eating males.

It all got started in August when “Sagawa Danshi,” a photo book featuring 51 cute young Sagawa Express delivery guys was published. The book was a surprise hit, going into its second print run in a matter of only two weeks. Excite News reported that a meet-and-greet session last month was attended by more than 100 fans, both male and female, who came to take snaps of their favorite pin-ups.

In September, nikushokukei danshi were featured on Fuji TV’s “Tokudane” show. The show highlighted the success of the Sagawara book and also mentioned the Okinawa Firemen’s Calendar 2012, which sold its first print run of 1,000 copies in just two weeks and a further limited-edition run of 3,000 on the web after a flood of media interest. Profits went to an NPO that raises money for Okinawa’s first-aid helicopter, and they are already taking orders for 2013. Though such news wouldn’t have much impact in the West, where calendars of ripped hunks are nothing new, in Japan it was somewhat of a new phenomenon.

So what, exactly defines a nikushokukei danshi apart from a nice bod? There’s a big clue in the word itself. Shoku can mean either profession or type of diet, depending on the Chinese characters used in the word. It sounds like an antonym of the “grass-eaters” that these guys tower over. But it’s a pun — in this case, the reading of the characters is “physical laborer.” Fuji TV’s show highlighted the fact that nikushokukei danshi get their muscles not from the gym but from doing a job that requires manual labor, hence the popularity of the Sagawa Men and Okinawan fire fighters.

The second important feature of these new pin-ups is that they are wholesome, fresh faced and bright eyed. Journalist Kiriya Takahashi, in an article for Happyism, expanded on this point by stating that their character should come through in their sparkling eyes, and that any hint of lechery or violence is a definite no-no. Takahashi goes further and suggests that what Japan needs in these turbulent times is not weedy sōshokukei danshi but more nikushokukei danshi who can make decisions and emerge as tomorrow’s leaders.

Another word that sums up the nikushokukei danshi physical aesthetic is hoso macho, or slender macho, a term that was popularized back in 2009 with Suntory’s Protein Water ad. Hoso macho refers to guys that are ripped but not obscenely so and is used to describe hunky celebrities, like Hidetoshi Nakata, who work out but still stay svelte. If the term nikushokukei danshi takes off, it will be used to refer to guys who exemplify not just the hoso macho aesthetic but who take it to another level with their fresh-faced charm. Whether the grass-eating types will give up their desk jobs and try to transform themselves into rippling upstanding citizens remains to be seen.

Bicqlo – Bic Camera meets Uniqlo – is here!

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Bicqlo

JR Shinjuku Station on opening day for Bicqlo. (Rebecca Milner photos)

Bicqlo—the much-hyped Bic Camera and Uniqlo mash-up store—opened in Shinjuku today. And for those who weren’t aware yet of its impending existence, the floors of the JR station in Shinjuku were papered with announcements. Plenty did seem to know, as there were plenty of people inside (and plenty of press leading up to the opening). It wasn’t H&M-opening crowded (no lines to get in after the initial early birds got inside), but there was still a healthy line for the dressing room and enough pushing and shoving to make one question Japan’s prevailing image as a polite and orderly place.

So what exactly is Bicqlo? Sadly, not much more than an ordinary Bic Camera with a Uniqlo sandwiched in the middle. Fans of both brands might be tickled to hear the familiar Bic Camera theme song give a nod to Uniqlo, or see Uniqlo staff wearing Bic Camera-style happi coats. The merchandise, however, save for a few in-store-only Uniqlo items, is essentially the same.

It is all also the same color. As Uniqlo mannequins wearing the brand’s new fall line-up and accessorized with Bic Camera goods (cameras and electric kettles, for example) demonstrate, everyone seems to be working from the same color forecasting charts. Good news for those who want to match their jeggings with their appliances.

However, we’re wondering what Uniqlo is doing matching its clothes with suggestions of housework. The brand has worked so hard over the last few years to give itself a more fashionable image, first with the now-closed UT store in Harajuku and then through its designer capsule collections (with designers like Jun Takahashi no less) and, most recently, by sharing real estate with the decidedly upmarket Dover Street Market in Ginza. Paired with a vacuum, even if it is a sexy Dyson, that down vest just doesn’t look anything but functional — but perhaps that’s back where we’re at, economy-wise.

Indeed the bargain-basement prices that both stores are offering throughout the opening weekend (Sept. 27-30) seem to be the real attraction here. Those who spend ¥7,000 or more can also try their luck at winning limited edition collaboration goods from a gashapon-style capsule game. And, for the time being, you can exchange ¥1,500 worth of Bic Camera points for a ¥1,000 “Bicqlo Coupon,” which can be used at the Uniqlo here. (Unfortunately, it’s a one-way trade: Uniqlo purchases do not earn you points at Bic Camera.)

We’ve been seeing heaps of name-brand collaborations in Japan recently, like the Mos Burger meets Mister Donut shop Mosdo (which also plays on the Japanese fondness for squashing two words together to make a catchy new one). We also like the crossover advertising campaign that pairs Softbank’s popular and endearing “Shirato family” with the iconic Suntory Boss character, played by Tommy Lee Jones; like the individual campaigns, this mash-up is just plain clever.

Bicqlo wins on convenience: It really is useful to be able to pick up socks and printer cartridges in the same place. But as far as innovation, or even novelty, is concerned, isn’t the concept — cheap clothes and electronics in one store — essentially that of any big-box store, the likes of which are littered all over the (gasp!) suburbs?

J!NS eyeglasses vending machine at TGS

Friday, September 21st, 2012

jin vending machine

Anime characters need to protect their eyes, too.

If staring at a computer screen is as bad for your eyes as they say, J!NS found just the right place to set up its latest vending machine.

The eyewear company plopped one of its new eyeglasses dispensers right in the middle of this year’s Tokyo Game Show. These aren’t just any eyeglasses; the J!NS PC models in the machines are specially designed to protect your eyes when looking at an electronic screen.

Several of the touchscreen vending machines opened in Japan this summer, including a brand new one at Kansai International Airport. The company is planning to set up 50 more of the so-called J!NS Self Shops around the country. Different styles and colors are priced at ¥3,990 and ¥5,990, payable by credit card.

The company’s slogan is “Glasses that can see the future.” Are they seeing the future of retail?

 

 

 

Today’s J-blip: Gatsby Moving Rubber hair wax

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Men’s hair product Gatsby’s Moving Rubber promises change for all kinds of hair. Their new ad campaign near Shinjuku Station’s West Exit now brings the message to life. Passers-by in one of the world’s busiest train stations can stand under wigs hung at head-height on a big mirror to try out a new ‘do or two. Considering weaving in some dreadlocks or perming up an afro? Forget Photoshop; nothing can give you a clearer picture than this.

With seven different types of hair wax, some of which include Wild Shake, Loose Shuffle and Grunge Mat, the options are widely varied. Gatsby’s colorful pucks are differentiated by texture, holding strength and  hair length. The range has been around for years and is hugely popular both in and out of Japan.

And if you need tips on how to use a particular Moving Rubber, here you go.

Today’s J-blip: Name the Tokyu train mascot

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

He’s got a big, goofy grin and a funky headpiece, but one thing the Tokyu train line’s newest mascot doesn’t have is a name. The little guy’s purpose in life is to raise awareness — and “get children excited about” — the Tokyu-Toyoko line’s Fukutoshin extension, which is set to open in March of next year.

Word is that he’s a playful 10-year-old from Kanagawa Prefecture who is secretly on a diet. (What’s that all about? Every yurukyara needs a little bit of a backstory, and this one is a reference to the new trains running on less electricity.) The contest’s entry form has spots for writing the name in Japanese or English. The name should be accompanied by an explanation in Japanese. The winning entry, which will become the character’s official name, will get a ¥50,000 Tokyu gift certificate. Fifty runners-up will get Tokyu swag. The contest ends on Sept. 28. Think we’ve got a chance with “Stripey?”

Photo courtesy of J.L. Gatewood, aka @StarrWulfe.

New Japanese tourists: have social network, will travel

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Users post original ideas for adventurous holidays on Trippeace to find new traveling companions

Fancy learning how to ride an elephant in Laos? How about shouting your New Year’s dreams from the top of Ayer’s Rock in Australia? Trippeace, a “social travel service,” is helping a new generation of Japanese travelers make their wildest vacation dreams a reality. Since its launch in August last year, the site has picked up over 20,000 members, over a thousand of whom have taken part in group vacations.

The project is the brainchild of Ian Ishida, a 22-year-old university student, and the idea is to enable young Japanese to experience a different kind of vacation. Members post ideas for a holiday and via Facebook, Twitter or Google+, they can discuss the details with other interested parties. Once a concrete travel plan has been made, Trippeace acts as a travel agent, making all the travel arrangements for participants. With a 10 percent commission on these arrangements, according to an article in Nikkei Trendy, Trippeace had made ¥200,000,000 by June this year.

It’s a remarkable achievement, seeing as this generation of young Japanese is much less adventurous when it comes to traveling abroad than the previous generation. Immigration statistics compiled by the Ministry of Justice show that overseas travel by young Japanese has fallen significantly from a peak in the mid-’90s.

Ishida isn’t the only one to come up with this concept. A similar service called Grvel was launched in December 2011. The name is pronounced “guruvelu,” a mash-up of “group travel.” But although Grvel made a selling point of offering group discounts to users who got together for a proposed trip, the lack of recent activity on the site seems to suggest that the scheme isn’t taking off in the same way as Trippeace. For those who want to cut out the middleman and book trips themselves, Taviko, a service that has been running since 2011, focuses on helping users find fellow travelers for whatever destination they have in mind via Facebook and Twitter. But again, it hasn’t seen anything like the level of traffic as Trippeace.

Canny marketing seems to have contributed a great deal to Trippeace’s success and the website is currently offering to pay the travel expenses of the first group to recruit 100 participants for a trip idea. Ishida is hoping this helps get 100,000 people registered for the service by October this year, with a view to possibly taking the service global in the future.

Today’s J-blip: Google celebrate’s Doraemon’s -100th

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Doraemon, as most people reading this blog will probably know, is the loveable robot cat hero of the popular manga/anime series. Sparking the imaginations of children since 1969, the popular cartoon character has been featured in 1,344 stories and almost 2,000 TV anime episodes.

In the lore of the series, Doraemon is born on Sept. 3, 2112, and sent back to the present with an inexhaustible pocketful of tricks and tools from the future to keep Nobita, his lazy and unlucky fourth grade co-star, out of trouble.

With  a video tribute that celebrates the blue earless cat’s “minus 100th birthday,” Google Japan seems to be suggesting that the corporate monolith can bring us closer to the future and Doraemon’s time-saving capabilities. Real-life versions of Doraemon’s “bamboo helicopter” and cloak of invisibility — or at least people’s best attempts at them — are only a Google search away.  Via Streetview, Google itself virtually whisks us around the world much like Doraemon’s “anywhere door.” These experiences are no longer just the stuff of cartoons, and the company has cleverly tapped into the popularity of the cat to show the parallels.

And with just the click of a magical hyperlink, you too can find out how the city of Kawasaki is celebrating the minus birthday of its most famous time traveler.

Japan’s tomato boom not yet bust

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Back in February, a seemingly unstoppable river of tomato juice was flowing out of supermarket doors up and down the country as Japanese shoppers jumped on the latest food fad to hit the nation. The frenzy had been sparked by a report written by researchers at Kyoto University that seemed to indicate that consuming large amounts of tomatoes was effective in alleviating “metabolic syndrome” (read: getting rid of your gut). Nearly six months later, although the tide of red pulp has slowed somewhat, sales of tomato juice are still significantly up, indicating that the trend is still in season.

Tomatoes are still on the menu in Japan

Kagome, who own a whopping half share in the domestic tomato juice market, report that they shipped double the amount of tomato juice in June this year compared to the same period in previous years. A Nikkei Shimbun article reports that sales of fresh tomatoes are also up, with Summit supermarket recording a 21 percent year-on-year rise in tomato sales this June.

It would be easy to call the jump in fresh tomato sales a statistical anomaly, since radiation anxiety made last year an exceptionally poor one for fresh veggie sales. But there is other evidence that home-makers are flocking back to the humble tomato. Recipe website Cookpad now has about 105,000 tomatotastic recipes submitted by users. Before the tomato boom, there were about 1,000 contributions per month for new tomato recipes. After the fad hit, that figure rose to 2,500.

Meiji Dairies Corporation, along with the Japan Vegetable Sommeliers Association, has been trying to generate public interest in the idea of vegetable chocolate fondue since last summer. Tying in nicely with the trend for gourmet vegetables, the idea is that you can savor the tangy acidity of your tomatoes alongside the sweet taste of chocolate. (You can simulate the experience somewhat by grabbing a pack of Meiji’s Chocolat de Tomato.)

The trend of appreciating gourmet vegetables has run alongside the home vegetable gardening boom, and in this sphere too, tomatoes are prominent. Home improvement store Cainz reported a 50 percent increase in sales of tomato seeds in March this year. No doubt fears over food safety and temporary food shortages after the 3.11 Fukushima meltdown has had an effect on this sudden burst of interest.

Tomato growers have been quick to cash in on the increased interest. Sasaichi sake brewers in Yamanashi, for instance, has developed a tomato liquor made from fresh tomatoes grown in the area, while in Takasaki, Gunma, a tomato ice cream has been on sale since July 27. So it seems the juice has not quite yet run out of the tomato boom.

Photo by tooony [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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