Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

100 years of Japanese beauty in one minute

Friday, January 15th, 2016

The production company Cut has made a name for itself by creating videos that look back at the history of beauty in various countries, including China, Ethiopia, Brazil and Germany. The videos show the different hairstyles, fashion and makeup that each decade was known for, with one model trying on all of the looks.

Now Cut has focused its lens on Japan by showing the dramatic changes Japanese women have gone through in the past century —  ranging from the classic white makeup and big hair from 1910 to modern day kawaii style — all in 103 seconds

To show how accurate their looks are, Cut posted their throwback inspirations on Pinterest and explained them in a behind-the-scenes video.

1910

1910.

At the end of the Meiji Period, nihongami (traditional bundled hairstyle) was still popular but was mixed with the pompadour look that many women were wearing at the time in Europe. In terms of makeup, ochoboguchi (small lip) style was preferred as women only painted inside their natural lip line.

1920

1920.

Magazines started dictating fashion in the ’20s as wavy, permed hair became the standard look. Many women chose a mimikakushi (hidden ear) haircut with a stylish clip.

1930

1930.

In the 1930s, Japanese women embraced the international “modern girl” look, including bob haircuts and fitted hats. The hair became so synonymous with the “modern girl” lifestyle that the cut is referred to as moga (a portmanteau of modan gaaru, or modern girl).

1940

1940.

During WWII, Japanese citizens were expected to rebuke Western influences and go back to traditional Japanese ways, including fashion. Many women wore conservative jugo hair tied back into a bun.

1950

1950.

In postwar Japan, people looked to Hollywood and entertainment for inspiration, including many American actresses. One of the looks of the day is named the Machiko maki, named after the main character from the radio drama “Kimi no Na Ha.” Think of it as the Rachel of the 1950s.

1960

1960.

The ’60s was all about big eyes and big accessories. Cut was inspired by Chiyo Okumura, a famous pop singer at the time whose look influenced many.

1970

1970.

Sayoko Yamaguchi was one of the biggest stars, not just in Japan, but in the world during the 1970s. The supermodel was found in many magazines where she showed off her unique style and iconic bangs.

1980

1980.

During the economic boom of the 1980s, many girls wanted to look as cute and innocent as Seiko Matsuda, a hugely popular singer and one of Japan’s ultimate idols. Seiko-chan’s feathered hair was so ingrained into mainstream culture that it even has its own Wikipedia page.

1990

1990.

Longer, curly hair became more popular as women in the 1990s were less interested in looking simple and cute.

1990.

On the other end of the ’90s spectrum, ganguro style swept through the streets of Tokyo. Ignoring all past trends and social standards, ganguro embraced tan skin, defining makeup, and outrageous nails and accessories. If you want to witness the look for yourself, you can visit the Ganguro Cafe in Shibuya.

2000

2000.

During the recession, women tamed things down and chose a more girl-next-door approach. Cut chose a look worn by popular model Yuri Ebihara. Again, her wavy hair became so popular that people went to salons asking for the Ebi-chan maki.

2000.

While some women started dressing more simply, other women decided to go with an over-the-top agejo appearance. Agejo refers to the women who dressed like the models in Koakuma Ageha magazine, which at one point was selling 300,00 copies a month. The style brings together big hair and pale makeup that borders the line between fashionable and sultry.

2010

2010.

Current women are dressing even more effortlessly than before. Iyashikei (therapeutic) style is trending with girls who want to come off as loving and motherly by wearing yurufuwa perms and more natural makeup.

2010.

While mainstream women are going back to basics, decora girls are picking up the slack — along with anything else they can find. The Harajuku subculture likes to put on as many colorful clips, rings and stickers as their face can handle to balance out the drab days at school and in the office.

You can see more videos from Cut on their YouTube page.

Tokyo plugs into Google Play Music

Friday, October 16th, 2015

If you haven’t heard the latest news from Google Play, you may have missed your opportunity to tune into a Google Play Billboard. From Oct. 8-24, music lovers can head over to Shibuya to, literally, plug into a selection of over 3,500 songs.

The Google Play Billboard is meant to give visitors a much-needed chance to try out its new music service. After LINE launched its music-streaming service in July, followed only weeks later by Apple Music, as Google Play Music seemed to be stuck in buffering mode with no plans to enter the market. However, after finally launching in September, Google has been going to all lengths to make Google Play Music stand out from its competitors.

Located on Supeinzaka near the Shibuya Parco department stores, the Google Play Billboard may appear, from a distance, to be any other advertisement. Within the billboard itself is 1,300 individual headphone jacks, however, continuously streaming music from noon-8 p.m. everyday. Each jack features a different song, and the song selection changes over time so that you’ll never know exactly what you’re plugging into.

Just watching all the careful efforts that went into the construction of the billboard is like watching a symphony.

The 3,500 songs that make up the Google Play Billboard playlist are hand-picked from submissions from the public that people voted for on the official Google Play Music website. The public were given six different categories to vote on — “a song you’d like to play when your significant other comes over”; “a song for when you feel that your heart is going to break”; “a song you’d personally want to leave for the next generation”; and so on.

These categories, which play into people’s emotional connection with music, resulted in hundreds of songs featuring both a wide variety of both Japanese and Western music. Visitors to the Shibuya billboard can anticipate everything from Mary J. Blige to AKB48, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to The Rolling Stones.

Additionally, anyone who signs up for Google’s streaming service by Oct. 18 will be able to listen to the Google Play Billboard’s 3,500 songs unlimitedly for free, as well as pay a lifetime reduced rate of ¥780 per month.

After only a week, the Google Play Billboard has made quite a splash on social media, thanks to the hashtags #GooglePlayMusic and #渋谷3500万曲ビルボード (Shibuya 35,000 song billboard).

Regardless of whether Google’s PR campaign hits the right note or falls flat, the Google Play Billboard has certainly proven that music can bring us all together.

Shochiku Kabuki x Uniqlo

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Iconic Japanese clothing store Uniqlo has a tradition of teaming up with other companies to create unique clothing lines drawing from both pop culture icons and traditional designs, especially when it comes to their UT collections.

In 2011 they created more than 30 products with Manga Entertainment based on the popular manga/anime series Naruto.

On the UT floor, customers will find designs paying homage to Keith Haring and Andy Warhol rubbing shoulders with time-honored motifs from Eirakuya, Japan’s oldest cotton textiles trading company.

This month Uniqlo is collaborating with kabuki powerhouse Shochiku Co. to produce a new clothing line inspired by the traditional motifs of Japan’s most famous cultural export.

The line, comprising more than 60 items, will be launched in Paris on March 20 before hitting shelves in Japan on the 26th.

Ennosuke Ichikawa IV, one of kabuki’s most prominent stars, will play a new role as the project’s ambassador. Given the insular tendencies of the the kabuki world, this is quite a milestone.

The T-shirts serve as the collection’s focal point with designs invoking patterns seen in kabuki costumes and the bold colors of kumadori, kabuki stage makeup.

The project was created to merge traditional Japanese art form with modern clothing, featuring pieces with traditional colors and patterns formatted to contemporary designs.

The collection includes both men and women’s clothing as well as accessories and totebags.

Building on the success of its special Nippon Omiyage tees, Uniqlo clearly sees the value of more Made in Japan designs targeted at tourists who want to wear their love of Japan on their short sleeves.

Pulsations 9.25.14

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Here’s a new batch of Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order . . .

Japanese Rice Cakes Shaped Like Cute Japanese Rice Cakes Shaped Like Olaf, Pokémon, Iconic Cartoon Characters(from ufunk): Do you really have the heart to eat these cuties?

The Cicada’s Song: Japan’s Summer Soundtrack (from Tofugu): Whether you hate them or love them, it’s not summer in Japan without the symphony of semi.

Top 10 tricks for cheap traveling in Japan(from kirai): There’s no need to spend all your savings during a trip to Japan (or what’s left of them after you’ve paid for the flight).

rooms 29 – September 2014 (from Japanese Streets): Care to be impressed by home-grown do-it-yourself creativity? Then scroll these photo highlights from the recent “rooms” event in Harajuku.

Saying goodbye to the buddha of the Yakuza (from Japan Subculture Research Center): Investigative journalist Jake Adelstein says, “even amongst the yakuza, there are some good people – in their own way.”

Visual Pulse

In his recent masterpiece, “Cooking ramen with yarn,” YouTuber and super-knitter betibettin shows us how to knit yourself a tasty-looking bowl of ramen.

In previous videos showcasing his craftsmanship, you can see how he creates objects such as teddy bears, umbrella handle covers and, um, fake boobs.

Hanami! Sakura! Spring snacks have also sprung

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I am not one to require too much of a reason to throw a mini cream puff party in the office, but Beard Papa‘s announcement of karintō cream puffs was a good one; so, I take the liberty of starting this spring snack write-up with our impressions.

If you’re not familiar, karintō are those things in the snack aisle or local dagashi-ya (sweet shop) that look like dirty twigs. The dirt, however, is brown sugar and the twig is best explained as “fried.” Not fried “something” but just . . . fried. The main ingredient besides sugar is flour, and they’re crunchy like cookies despite being cooked like doughnuts. By the time you get that far, it’s only a couple leaps to the cream-puff idea.

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

The website copy calls it a “masterpiece confection that can be confidently recommended to karintō fans since it captures the flavor of the real thing.” Here are some comments from our tasting panel . . .

CONTINUE READING about spring snacks →

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.

10 charming things believed by little kids in Japan

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

bug photo

Great great grandma?

Certainly everyone has some embarrassing things they thought were true as a kid. Me, I thought that chipmunks were baby squirrels. A recent 2ch forum thread (later rounded up and commented on at Itashin!) took up this at times awkward topic and we selected 10 particularly cute ones. Note that our highlights are mostly skewed toward things that seemed unique or particularly Japanese (e.g. not Santa, although he came up). Please remember that since it was just a forum conversation, these are not necessarily widespread beliefs.

When I was little I thought (paraphrased from Japanese) 

. . . that there was a city in the United States called Downtown.

. . . that when you got married kids would just show up from somewhere.

. . . that all TV was live and how amazing it was that the actors in the commercials could do exactly the same thing every time.

. . . that there was only one ambulance in the world (and how amazing that was).

. . . that during Obon our ancestors came back as bugs.

. . . that if I told a lie I would be forced to eat 1,000 needles.

. . . that the bamboo shoots in ramen were pull-apart chopsticks soaked in soy sauce.

. . . that you went from: kindergarten —> elementary school —> middle school —> high school —> college —> Tokyo University (I thought Tokyo University was where you went after college).

How about you? What sorts of things did you believe when you were a kid?

Cinderella stories inspire women to find their prince on social networking sites

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Omiai has a strict privacy policy to alay women's fears about online dating

Omiai has a strict privacy policy to alay women’s fears about online dating

According to a recent study by Trend Soken, the phenomenon of the “Social Cinderella” is one of the driving forces behind changing attitudes towards internet dating among young women. “Social Cinderellas” are women who snag “high spec guys” (i.e. well-educated, good-looking men with high salaries) via social networking sites. As stories about these fairy-tale romances spread, more and more women have begun to warm to the idea of internet dating.

Out of the 500 single women in their 20s and 30s interviewed for the study, 81% said that they felt had few chances for romantic meetings in their daily lives and 58% believed that social media was an effective tool for finding their dream man. Columnist Ai Azawa states in the report that modern Japanese women are throwing themselves into their work and are also really into self-improvement, as a result, they’ve got higher standards and are not particularly interested in settling for the men in their immediate social circle.

Azawa says that she often hears Social Cinderella stories. But how common are they in practice? Out of the 61.4% of respondents who claimed to regularly use social media, 16% said that they’d encountered a dreamy guy in this way and 9.4% said they’d even managed to strike up a friendship with the guy in question.

The study uses the term social-networking services to loosely refer to a whole slew of sites, from professional matchmaking websites to social networking sites like Facebook and Mixi, so it’s important to bear in mind that women are not necessarily signing up for dating services. One 26-year-old women questioned for the study mentions attending “meetings of social networking communities.” This could mean joining a group of people who meet over shared interests. Not necessarily aimed at encouraging people to hook up, social clubs tied to a hobby may be one of the ways that women are using the web to widen their social network as they fish around for potential partners.

There are also matchmaking sites linked into Facebook. — sites like Omiai, which currently has 270,000 registered members. Omiai caters to the Cinderella element by boasting that 2,313 of the members are guys who have annual earnings of over ¥10 million. As many are cautious about the perils of online dating, the company highlights its safety policy which allows users to remain anonymous while chatting with a potential partner.

Safety and privacy is a huge concern for Japanese women, so other social networking dating clubs take the risk out of going to meet with a stranger by bulking up the numbers. Pairs of friends who sign up for the rather unfortunately named Nikukai (meat club) service can go on double dates together at yakiniku (Korean barbeque restaurants). Nomitomi (drinking buddies) is a service that holds group mixers for singles, meaning singles don’t have to risk it alone with an unknown person.

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