Japan Pulse » » Entertainment http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse Taking the pulse of trends, trend-watchers and trendmakers in Japan. Sat, 05 Sep 2015 02:58:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/wp-content/themes/orange/favicon.ico Japan Pulse Fuji Rock bound? Make sure you survive in style http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/fuji-rock-bound-make-sure-you-survive-in-style/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/fuji-rock-bound-make-sure-you-survive-in-style/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 16:02:34 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20319 fuji-rock-poncho

Raincoats are an essential part of Fuji Rock Festival — but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun.

When Kenji Miyazawa famously wrote that people shouldn’t lose to rain, wind or the summer heat, we’re sure he was talking about outdoor events such as Fuji Rock Festival. So to survive the event’s unpredictable weather, here are a few items that will help you stay dry, cool and happy.

Because Fuji Rock Festival prohibits umbrellas, raincoats are an essential source of protection against potential downpours. Retro Arcade Poncho is an old-school way to avoid the rain by turning wearers into the enemy ghosts from Namco’s Pac-Man — with the raincoat coming in red for Blinky and blue for Inky. Feel free to chase around anyone or anything round and yellow while wearing your ghostly getup.

In a more practical category, rain boots will come in handy for guests who still want to jump and dance regardless of any mud or puddles. With Packable Boots, people can easily bring along these thin, waterproof rubber boots that can be folded to fit in a limited space.

Although not as terrifying as typhoons, heat can also be troublesome for participants who want to make the most of the outdoor festival. Cool Ruck is a small backpack that looks and feels cool. Developed by Yamamoto Custom Made Sewing Factory, this heat-fighting bag can fit up to a 500g-sized ice pack, which will last for approximately three dance-filled hours.

Participants can also beat the heat with fashionable accessories. Ice-cube earrings, necklaces, and bracelets are bound to have a visually cooling effect on rockers. Equally cool are these swimming pool rings that can keep people in a refreshing state of mind.

Regardless of the weather, summer festivals are a chance for music fans to wear the outfits that they simply can’t rock out at the office. For example, glowing apparel such as LED-installed skirts, parkas, sunglasses and glow-in-the-dark lipstick that will help you shine no matter how dark the night is.

For those about to rock in style, we salute you.

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Load up YouTube because it’s morphin’ time! http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/load-up-youtube-because-its-morphin-time/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/load-up-youtube-because-its-morphin-time/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 10:58:31 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20245 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJtcf0wDwGs

Summon your Megazord because the Power Rangers are heading to YouTube — and it’s all in Japanese.


The Rangers are back.

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” was a hit children’s show back in the ‘90s that featured campy acting, ridiculous monsters and possibly the best theme song of all time. It was actually based on the long-running “Super Sentai” TV series in Japan, with the Western version featuring American actors mixed with action sequences from Japan.

Toei is now celebrating “Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger,” the season that was adapted into “Power Rangers,” by releasing episodes of the Japanese show online every Sunday. Beginning this June, Toei will post two episodes on its YouTube channel that is dedicated to its “special effects” action shows.

Viewers who grew up with the “Power Rangers” will finally have the chance to see the Japanese counterpart of their favorite show — and there are a lot of differences. For example, in the Japanese show, the Pink and Green Rangers never dated; the Red and Green Rangers were actually brothers; and the Yellow Ranger was a dude!

Oh, and another minor plot change. The Rangers weren’t simply “teenagers with attitude” navigating high school but instead ancient tribal warriors that once co-existed with dinosaurs.

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Ultraman monsters invade your travel show http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/ultraman-monsters-invade-your-travel-show/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/ultraman-monsters-invade-your-travel-show/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 10:19:42 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20140 ultra-monster-walk

After getting beat by Ultraman, the bad guys need a vacation.

Channel Fuji TV One is letting the monsters loose in a new travel program called “Ultra Monster Walk.” It will resemble other Japanese travel shows on which hosts visit a featured city’s landmarks, sample local cuisine and soak up the area’s flavor — but this version has a kaiju twist.

In the first out of 12 total episodes, scheduled to air on May 22 at midnight, the monsters invade, er, visit Yokohama and Kamakura.

This isn’t the first time Ultraman’s enemies have taken a well-deserved rest. Last year saw the opening of Kaiju Sakaba, a Kawasaki restaurant-bar themed on the space monsters from the sci-fi TV series that invited visitors to share a pitcher with the costumed evil-doers.

Even Ultraman has to take a break from saving the world once in a while. In May 2014, he flew to Hawaii to help promote Hawaii Tourism Authority’s travel packages. Ultraman even had enough time and money to bring the entire Ultra family to the islands as they tested the waters with surfing and whale watching.

Maybe someday Ultraman and his enemies will bury the hatchet and they can all go on a relaxing trip together. Stay tuned.

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I wanna rock ‘n’ roll all night, and be kawaii, ev-er-y day http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/i-wanna-rock-n-roll-all-night-and-be-kawaii-ev-er-y-day/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/i-wanna-rock-n-roll-all-night-and-be-kawaii-ev-er-y-day/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 05:48:11 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20012 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivJZljEostE

After the major success of Babymetal, who fused Japanese idol culture with head-banging metal and opened for the likes of Metallica, Slayer and Lady Gaga, another J-pop unit is setting their sights on overseas fame and getting a helping hand from rock giants.

The teen idol group Momoiro Clover Z just released a new song, “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saite Mina,” with the help of legendary rockers . . . Kiss.

What? The Satanic pantomimes? The subterranean lizards of Detroit Rock City? Yes, that Kiss.

On Jan. 19, the two released a music video that is high on Japanese tack and low on coherence, more or less taking every possible traditional Japan cliche, putting them in a blender and turning it up to 11. Kiss — who are old enough to be their fathers — provides backup vocals and instrumentation while Momoclo do their thing with “Power Rangers”-esque transformations and sumo dance moves. The ukiyo-e-inspired video features the bands facing off with their signature brands of kowaii (scary) and kawaii (cute). After several back and forths, the leaders of each band eventually shake hands, so the world (and concertgoers) are safe for now.

While this combo might seem a bit random (a fated industry party hook-up perhaps?), the collaboration is actually cross-promotional effort as Kiss is scheduled to tour Japan with — surprise, surprise — Momoclo opening their Tokyo show. In addition, the same day that Momoclo released its newest video on YouTube, they also released an enthralling English introduction video, which includes choice quotes such as such as: “On stage, their ‘Power’ and ‘Performance’ unite the audience regardless of their age or gender.”

Kiss also plan to release their own version of “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saite Mina,” so this video is just the beginning of their budding marketing synergy. Will the aging Kiss Army happily lap up the sugarcoated sounds of J-pop? Or does this PR campaign signal more left-field J-pop collabs to come? Kyary Pamyu Pamyu vs Journey? AKB48 vs Blink 182?

Stranger things have happened — including this video.

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Rewinding some of Japan’s top YouTubers http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/rewinding-some-of-japans-top-youtubers/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/rewinding-some-of-japans-top-youtubers/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 03:08:05 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19999 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKx2B8WCQuw

At the end of 2014, YouTube took a look back at some of the fun, freaky and unforgettable videos that went viral over the past year. Titled “YouTube Rewind,” the official retrospective (which has 50 million views) gave special recognition to dozens of online personalities, including Kid President and Jenna Marbles, who YouTube decided were the top of class in 2014.

Japan was well represented with 14 YouTubers joining the global ranks. Their talent ranges from makeup tutorials and video game walkthroughs to clever pranks and English lessons. Without much further ado, here are the top YouTubers from featured in Rewind 2014:

1. Aichi Ono (7,000+ subscribers)

  • Aichi Ono, aka Spinboy, has a pretty thick skull. He is a performer that does dances and tricks while spinning on his head. He also gives behind-the-scenes looks at breakdancing practices.

2. Bilingirl (300,000+)

3. Hajime (900,000+)

4. Hikakin (1,475,000+)

  • Human beatboxer Hikakin has drummed up more 300,000,000 views on YouTube. He usually makes beatbox covers of hit songs including Disney’s “Let It Go” and even collaborates with pop stars like Ariana Grande.

5. iTakahashi (250,000+)

  • Takahashi is an otaku master of apps and snacks. He uploads videos of him and his friends trying out the newest, weirdest and scariest games available on PC and mobile. He also reviews “konbini” food and drinks to help gamers stay energized during gaming sessions.

6. Kosuke (700,000+)

  • The only thing Kosuke cares about is “Pazu Dora” (“Puzzles & Dragons”), the enormously popular mobile game in Japan. He and his fellow co-workers at AppBank give viewers the best tips and tricks for mastering the puzzle/RPG game.

7. Max Murai (1,150,000+)

  • Going by the name Max Murai, he is the president of AppBank, a news site about — you guessed it — mobile apps. He talks about a variety of mobile games, including “Monster Striker,” and often collaborates with Kosuke and Takahashi.

8. Manako (35,000+)

9. MasuoTV (410,000+)

10. Mika Shindate (27,000+)

11. PDS (630,000+)

  • PDS is often shirtless but never serious. He does a wide variety of silly videos and skits ranging from singing to pulling pranks on friends. He will also show subscribers some of the super weird and super cute toys available in Japan.

12. Sasaki Asahi (300,000+)

  • Sasaki gives practical makeup tips and reviews new cosmetics but also takes it a step further by painting her face for some extreme makeovers. Some of her most-viewed videos include zombie, doll and “Frozen” transformations.

13. Seikin (750,000+)

14. World Order (190,000+)

  • World Order takes its dance moves and its quirky humor around the world in their videos. Whether they’re dancing in Japan or abroad, the singing salarymen are never afraid to strut their stuff right on the streets.

While every YouTuber is different, there seems to be a secret recipe for becoming big in Japan:

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J-blip: Kokoro Scanner knows what’s in your heart of hearts http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/kokoro-scanner-knows-whats-in-your-heart-of-hearts/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/kokoro-scanner-knows-whats-in-your-heart-of-hearts/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 11:53:39 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19890 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sgk8PNvR9uA

The recently released Kokoro Scanner (“mind scanner”), from Takara Tomy, is attracting attention with its simple yet clever concept.

The head-mounted toy supposedly monitors small heart rate changes and flags fibbers with a colored light system. A green light means you’re in the clear; yellow means you’re only telling half the truth; red means guilty as charged. The fact that user can’t see what color the light is just adds to the fun.

Retailing at a mere ¥2,700, this is clearly a poor man’s lie detector. Does it work? We’ve yet to test it, but our professional advice is, IT’S A TOY, so Truth or Dare? Yes. Court of law? Uh, no.

The Kokoro Scanner goes on sale Oct. 30 and can be ordered on Takara Tomy website.

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Pulsations 9.25.14 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/pulsations-9-25-14/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/pulsations-9-25-14/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 07:58:12 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19844 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.


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We are the World Cup: anthems from pitches past http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/we-are-the-world-cup-anthems-from-pitches-past/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/we-are-the-world-cup-anthems-from-pitches-past/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 08:15:56 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19824 Brazil soccer fans pose with a replica of the World Cup trophy on June 11 inside a metro station near Arena Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. | AP PHOTO

Brazil soccer fans pose with a replica of the World Cup trophy on June 11 inside a metro station near Arena Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AP PHOTO)

Japan plays its first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, against Côte d’Ivoire this weekend. Although the tournament kicks off two days earlier in São Paulo, for many the Samurai Blue’s opening game ushers in the event, along with the activities that would normally raise eyebrows but get a pass every four years, such as waking up at 2 a.m. to watch football and drinking before noon.

It will also unleash a new batch of World Cup songs that will play practically on loop for the duration of the competition, including the television network’s special theme tracks to various commercial tie-ins. And that’s just on the domestic side. Pitbull’s voice will haunt many for months to come.

World Cup-related songs have a long and interesting history, including official anthems (from superstars like Shakira down to half of Hall & Oates) and all sorts of country-specific tunes (Weezer sining for the U.S., the Village People putting on for, uh, Germany). Having qualified for their first World Cup in 1998, Japan doesn’t have the rich soccer-music history of other nations (“World Cup Willy!”), but entering their fifth cup, the country now lays claim to a handful of Cup anthems.

Here are the most noteworthy from each edition of the World Cup:

France 1998 — “Together Now” by Jean Michel Jarre and Tetsuya Komuro


The Japanese squad’s first foray into the World Cup didn’t produce many theme songs at home, but it might have spurred the creation of the country’s finest football anthem yet. ’90s J-pop staple Tetsuya “TK” Komuro teamed up with French music producer Jean Michel Jarre for “Together Now,” half inspirational all-for-one-one-for-all session and half dystopian rush bordering on being digital hardcore. Guest vocalist Olivia Lufkin, a member of the pop outfit D&D who is known professionally simply as Olivia, shouted about “lying on the edge” over the driving music, and the whole song has a harsh edge not typically heard in a track tied to a sporting event. It spent 10 weeks on the Oricon music rankings chart.

Japan/South Korea 2002 — “Mugen” by Porno Graffitti


Despite the 2002 World Cup being the first to take place in Asia, Greek composer Vangelis (behind the “Chariots of Fire” and “Blade Runner” soundtracks) created the official song. Still, this year saw a notable increase in Japanese tracks coinciding with the tourney, most notably the TV broadcasters commissioning their own themes to use during game coverage. The best of the lot came courtesy of NHK, who tapped rock outfit Porno Graffitti to write the peppy, horn-filled “Mugen,” which sounded like it could actually play in a stadium.

Germany 2006 — “Get Your Dream” by Tokio


“Get Your Dream,” a straightforward rock number featuring some soulless horns and dramatic violin flair, was created for Samurai Blue’s 2006 World Cup campaign. It’s mostly forgettable but still sold better than the competition, peaking at No. 2 on Oricon. It’s also notable for being the first World Cup song done by a Johnny’s & Associates outfit. The number of boy bands (and Tokio are for all purposes a boy band who just happen to hold instruments) doing these sort of songs would increase in the coming years, highlighted this year by a dreadful number courtesy of NEWS.

South Africa 2010 — “Victory” By Exile


The first World Cup in Africa also saw the first year where Japan was absolutely inundated with theme songs. Besides the television networks continuing to commissioning their own tracks, more and more advertisers were introducing tunes. In top of that, YouTube and Nico Nico Douga allowed people to share their own Japan-support songs, or at least their covers of already existing numbers. Still, despite more options than ever before, this Japanese-Football-Association-backed song, with vaguely “African” percussion and cosmic Lion King-ish promo video, stood out in 2010.

Brazil 2014 — “Nippon” By Shiina Ringo


This year there aren’t many new variations on the usual World Cup song. The JAF backs a song made by a guy from Mr. Children, while Coca-Cola will be flooding the TV with their own Japanese-language anthem to sell sugar water. Only NHK has anything resembling a twist: They enlisted art-rocker Shiina Ringo to create their theme, the driving “Nippon.” It’s not like she went and re-created the sound of any of her excellent, forward-thinking early 2000 albums here — this is, at best, a smarter-than-average jock jam — but of all the songs to hear constantly in the coming month, they could have done a whole lot worse.

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Ultra Hawai’i: Even superheroes need a vacation http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/ultra-hawaii-even-superheroes-need-a-vacation/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/ultra-hawaii-even-superheroes-need-a-vacation/#comments Sun, 25 May 2014 04:27:15 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19767 oahu_1280_800

The Ultra tourists get a quick lesson before hitting the waves

In a stroke of genius, travel-deal website TravelZoo, in collaboration with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and tokustasu pioneers Tsuburaya Productions, has enlisted serious star power to promote its current Hawaii travel packages.

Targeting a wide range of would-be travelers, the “Ultra Hawai’i ” campaign follows the well-loved characters from the generation-spanning Ultra series as they engage in classic tourist activities on the main Hawaiian islands of Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i and Hawai’i.

For a look at how the Ultra family spends its time off,  click over to the campaign site and travel along with Ultra Dad, Ultra Mom (yes, they really do exist in the series), Ultraman Taro and even their alien cohorts — the friendly, spindly-fingered creature Pigmon and the pincer-handed Alien Baltan.

Best of all, their special moments have been chronicled on their YouTube channel and set to the Ultraman theme song, played on ukelele no less.  In true Japanese fashion, they pack a lot into their vacation, which includes surfing lessons, hula dancing, poolside yoga, a friendly game of golf and a side trip to the volcanic terrain of Kīlauea, which surely must feel like a home away from their extraterrestrial home.

The campaign is both hilarious and touching in the way it humanizes the superheroes as they shoot selfies in a gelato shop and are moved by an afternoon of whale watching. In  rare moments away from the universe-saving day jobs, the family take in romantic sunsets and even Baltan Seijin, one of Ultraman’s archenemies, can put aside their differences to attend an intimate Ultra wedding on O’ahu. The beauty of Hawaii clearly brings people together.

The Ultra Hawai’i campaign runs until July 18. Oh, and there’s an island-hopping stamp rally. Collect ’em all and get a special campaign souvenir.



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My little pork industry can’t be this cute: ‘Pig Farm’ and ‘Slaughterhouse’ smartphone games http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/my-little-pork-industry-cant-be-this-cute-pig-farm-and-slaughterhouse-smartphone-games/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/my-little-pork-industry-cant-be-this-cute-pig-farm-and-slaughterhouse-smartphone-games/#comments Fri, 25 Apr 2014 11:03:13 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19705 Is making a game butchering cute little pigs kimo-kawaii or just real talk? JOE Inc.’s “Yōtonjō” (“Pig Farm”) is a pig-raising simulation game with a predictable outcome. After all the vaccinating, poop scooping and keeping track of each porker’s picky eating habits, you send ’em off, and not not on vacation.

“That’s how it works — they’re pigs after all!” The game’s copy reminds us.

 Left: Isn't it only right that each one would have its own preferences? They're pigs, after all. Devote yourself to their care. Then give thanks for the pork! Right: A chance a day! Get rare pigs in the piglet hunt! The better the pig, the higher the price it will fetch! Compete with pig farmers from around the country!

Left: Isn’t it only right that each one would have its own preferences? They’re pigs, after all. Devote yourself to their care. Then give thanks for the pork! Right: A chance a day! Get rare pigs in the piglet hunt! The better the pig, the higher the price it will fetch! Compete with pig farmers from around the country!

Here’s a look inside my pig pen:


I like how that one is sleeping with his face planted in his food. Pigtastic!

The color of the pig-pen floor is different on the right because I applied a sawdust coating to help the pigs grow faster. Where do you think I got that sawdust? I bought it, of course. Did I have enough points right off the bat for that? Of course not! “Pig Farm” is perfect for short bursts (those moments of time between checking your Twitter and Facebook at the bus stop, for example) but if you’re busy and you just want to see what kind of goofy pigs you can raise as fast as possible, or expand your pen faster, the in-game store is more than happy to take your money. Farmers who want to invest can buy points in increments ranging from 2,000 for ¥100 to 200,000 for ¥5,800.

Here are some of the fine specimens I managed to raise so far:


Left (name and description): “Large Yorkshire (American). The so-called White Pig. Has movie star relatives. If you’re going to cook it, meatballs are recommended.” Right: This pig is interesting in that he appears enlightened once he is mature enough to ship out . His name is a pun on buta (pig) and budda (Buddha).

Shooting piglets with a stun gun (or bathing them, for some reason) on daily hunting excursions is a surreal diversion that provides a chance to acquire pigs aside from just buying them. I say surreal because, well, I just can’t imagine pig farmers hunting wild pigs. Also less than realistic is the “Funba” (pun on Roomba with fun that means “poop”) that will clean up the pen for you, but these casual elements keep it cute and fun, vibes that need to be maintained in preparation for that awkward day when . . .


Right: “Large Yorkshire (American) (Okay, see you tomorrow!)”

Yes, the pigs speak their final words as they are carted away. From the oblivious, “I’m hungry . . . ” to the bitter, “I knew it,” various pigs have various levels of understanding regarding their predicament. The best way for you to get a better idea of their predicament is to download the sequel to “Pig Farm,” “Slaughterhouse.”


Left: “Slaughterhouse” Take orders and butcher, butcher, butcher the pigs! A new play sensation! A pork action game! Right: How to play: Swipe as directed! If you remove the wrong part or exceed the time limit, it’s game over!

There are no micro-transaction hooks; this game is purely skill based. Less like the classic board game “Operation” than it first appears, swiping the meat (and once, you level up, organs) out of the pig carcass (graphic, but true) is more a matter of knowing what part is being requesting and getting it out within the time limit. At first, the parts are labeled, but as you deconstruct more and more animals, they slowly fade away, leaving you to rely on your growing pig expertise or risk a fierce scolding.


Beginner difficult only tasks you with handling meat, while intermediate has you working with guts. Advanced keeps you on your toes since you won’t know if you’re removing meat or guts until the pig appears.

Not only can you kill time (and pigs), but you can learn the various pork parts and how they are commonly prepared:


Left: “Fillet: Low in fat, smooth and tender, this is the best part. Used for tonkatsu or sauté.” Right: “Heart: The fine muscle fibers make for a unique crunch. Low in fat and refreshing. Made into kushiyaki.”

JOE Inc. released these apps last year, with “Pig Farm” peaking at number one in the App Store’s free ranking on Jan. 11 this year, according to the developer’s official website. Up until these pig games the company had been releasing a mountain of “test” and “diagnosis” style apps that purport to tell how unpopular a girl will be at a gōkon, how hopeless a guy’s marriage prospects are or how much of an otaku someone is. Their latest, however, released Jan. 4, is another casual game called “Picket and Door.” Pickets are fairies that give you keys and the whole experience is just about poking these creatures, collecting keys and opening doors — a friendly change of pace from the abattoir.

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Bump of Chicken x Hatsune Miku, plus two other ‘must-see’ J-pop music videos http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/bump-of-chicken-x-hatsune-miku-plus-two-other-must-see-j-pop-music-videos/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/bump-of-chicken-x-hatsune-miku-plus-two-other-must-see-j-pop-music-videos/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 12:04:15 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19621 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0N9szI19BA

Bump of Chicken‘s seventh album, “Ray,” came out today along with the announcement of a Hatsune Miku duet remix of the titular track. It’s available now under the artist name “Bump of Chicken Feat. Hatsune Miku” on iTunes and Recochoku and is the first time the band has done a collaboration of this type. Not only that, but Crypton Future Media is producing a video using tons of new tech, including a “14 [ichiyon] model” of their virtual idol. Hatsune Miku will not be edited in later, but perform in real time with the band. Find out more details about the development process in the documentary above.

Babymetal – “Gimme Choco!”


Cuteness has never been this metal. Blending hard rock and idol pop, Babymetal has been recording since 2011, but it was only with the release of their first major album last month that they went viral. “Gimme Chocolate!!” is a tale of chocoholism that cannot be cured even though “I’ve been worried about my weight lately.”  If that particular instance of will power isn’t the most hardcore, how about this for metal? Trio member Yuimetal fell 2 meters off the stage at their Budokan show earlier this month, but was back up and performing again within minutes.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – “Yume no Hajimarinrin”


Kyary’s popularity continues to grow, and not only in Japan. Her latest single is used in a commercial for the apartment listings company Chintai. The video, however, remains solidly in the Kyary universe, including plenty of references to her other videos. Toast clapping! How nostalgic.

Bonus: Omodaka, who engineers a quirky harmony between traditional Japanese folksongs and chip-tunes, released a new album today called “Bridge Songs.” Wonder when we can expect another amazing music video . . .

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Joysound’s top 10 karaoke songs of 2013 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/joysounds-top-10-karaoke-songs-of-2013/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/joysounds-top-10-karaoke-songs-of-2013/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 12:58:53 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19403 Karaoke titan Joysound announced the most popular songs in their catalog over the course of 2013. Let’s sing along while checking out the top 10!

10. “Tentai Kansoku” — BUMP OF CHICKEN


Approximate English title: “Astronomical Observation”
Album: “Jupiter” (2002)

9. “Hebiirotēshon” — AKB48


Approximate English title: “Heavy Rotation”
Album: “Koko ni Ita Koto” (2011)

8. “Kiseki” — GReeeeN


Approximate English title: “Miracle”
Album: “A’, domo. Ohisashiburi desu.” (2008)

7. “Eikō no Kakehashi” — Yuzu

Approximate English title: “The Bridge to Glory”

*No official video available.

Album: “1 ~ONE~” (2004)
Factoid: Was the theme song to NHK’s coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

6. “Guren no Yumiya” — Linked Horizon

*No official video available.

Approximate English title: “Crimson Bow and Arrow”
Album: (The maxi-single “Jiyū e no Shingeki” just came out in July.)
Factoid: Was used as the opening theme to the first season of one of this year’s hit anime,  “Attack on Titan.”

5. “Hanamizuki” — Yo Hitoto

*No official video available.

Approximate English title: “Flowering Dogwood”
Album: “Hito Omoi” (2004)
Factoid: Was used for commercials and themes including “Kayō Sasupensu Gekijō” on NHK.

4. “Chiisa na Koi no Uta” — MONGOL800

*The only official video is a special tie-up with Pocky and Space Shower TV.

Approximate English title: “A Little Love Song”
Album: “MESSAGE” (2001)

3. “Senbonzakura” — Whiteflame feat. Hatsune Miku


English title: “A Thousand Cherry Blossoms”
Album: “5th Best Anniversary” (2013)
Factoid: The member of Whiteflame who created this song (using Hatsune Miku Vocaloid software) is Kurousa-P.

2. “Zankoku no Tenshi no Tēze” — Yoko Takahashi

*The only official video is a live cover by MAX.

English title: “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis”
Album: “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (1995)
Factoid: The theme song to the hugely popular anime “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” which originally aired in 1995-1996 and has spawned an ongoing feature film reboot.

1. “Memeshikute” — Golden Bomber


Approximate English title: “Effeminate”
Album: “Gōruden Besuto ~Pressure~” (2010)

Does it surprise anyone that the Evangelion theme is up there so high? A more pertinent question might be, were there any karaoke parties where that song was not sung? I don’t think I’ve heard anyone do “Memeshikute,” but I can see how it would get the room pumped up.

As a bonus here are the top 10 Western songs of 2013:

10. “We Are the World” — USA for Africa

9. “I Want It That Way” — The Backstreet Boys

8. “A Whole New World” — Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle

7. “Top of the World” — The Carpenters

6. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” — Aerosmith

5. “My Heart Will Go On” — Celine Dion

4. “What Makes You Beautiful” — One Direction

3. “Live While We’re Young” — One Direction

2. “We Are Never Getting Back Together” — Taylor Swift

1. “Call Me Maybe” — Carly Rae Jepsen

So Japan didn’t escape the “Call Me Maybe” wave, but they leave Bieber in the dust and favor One Direction? Hmm, hmm…

Which song did you sing the most in 2013?

All approximate translations approximated by the writer! See the rest of Joysound’s variously categorized “top” lists here and thanks to My Game News Flash for the tip.

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The cutest little whitehead, Kakusen-kun http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/the-cutest-little-whitehead-kakusen-kun/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/the-cutest-little-whitehead-kakusen-kun/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 06:08:32 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=19036


Yeah, you’ve heard it a hundred times: Japan’s weird. “They had that bagel head thing,” you may say (which was never a “thing,” actually). Well, Japan has once again come up with something that will get under your skin, only this time it’s actually a “thing” broadcasted on national television.

It’s an animated series called “Nyuru Nyuru!! Kakusen-kun” (nyuru nyuru being the sound of something squeezing out of somewhere), which follows a newly formed whitehead (kakusen in Japanese) during his adventures living on the surface of a human nose. The two-minute show is supposed to be an obscure comedy that occasionally drops some skin care tips. The characters try their best to survive attacks by pore strips and face mites, which is more kimoi than kawaii. Popular idol group Dempagumi.inc sings the theme song, adding to the buzz factor.

While we certainly appreciate the cuteness and fidelity of having an 8-year-old boy play the young protagonist, rather than an older girl (as is the practice in many anime shows), it is pretty strange to hear him saying stuff like, “I wonder how much money I’d have to spend to get that lady-whitehead to go out with me,” about a beauty queen contest-winning zit, or learning to appreciate the lashes of her whip later on.

If curiosity has gotten the best of you, check out more videos here.

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Inside Nazo Tomo Cafe http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/inside-nazo-tomo-cafe/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/inside-nazo-tomo-cafe/#comments Fri, 16 Aug 2013 05:11:16 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=18983 The other day we brought up the nazo toki (puzzle solving) trend that appears to be building even further with the appearance of Nazo Tomo Cafe in Daikanyama, Shibuya-ku’s Theatre Cybird. Though I’ve played “Professor Layton” and used to get a kick out of logic exercises as a kid, I can’t say I am “good” at puzzle solving, so it took some guts for me to walk into the quirky pop-up cafe.

I thought I would warm up with a “cup dessert,” a perilously sweet parfait-like affair with heart-shaped cake, generous amounts of whipped cream, marshmallows, cornflakes, etc., but my true warm-up was the puzzle that came with it.


Strawberry sauce cup dessert ¥500

The event is put on in collaboration with a romance sim mobile game for girls by Cybird (under the same company group that runs the theatre space) called “Ikemen Oukyū Mayonaka no Shinderera” (something like “Hottie Royal Palace: Midnight Cinderella” in English). In the cafe puzzle, you’re a princess 30 minutes before a ball and you’ve received a letter announcing a crime will occur. However, the message is in code, so you need to get hints from the game’s handsome young men to discover what the criminal is after.


Coaster prize featuring Leo from “Hottie Royal Palace: Midnight Cinderella”

Now is perhaps a good time to note that you can’t expect to do any of this without good working knowledge of Japanese. The code itself is written in katakana, but you need to be able to read and understand the instructions, too. And don’t waste precious puzzling time looking for furigana. Of course, even though my Japanese was cutting it, the other parts of my mind were embarrassingly dull. Luckily the staff are friendly and will give you further hints until you feel almost as if you solved it yourself — definitely the reason for the 100 percent pass rate compared to the actual missions, of which when I went most did not reach 20 percent.

After picking up my prize coaster, I decided to pass on the rest of the side mission in order to get down to the real business at hand. I wanted to get inside one of those “mission cubes”!

The main draw of Nazo Tomo Cafe is not the cafe at all, but the puzzles awaiting inside each of the six mission cubes. Participation costs ¥1,000. Having never played a Real Escape Game or solved any similar real-life puzzles, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but more in the mood for science fiction than murder or romance, I picked mission six, “Taimu Mashin 765~Mirai wo Sukue~” (“Time Machine 765: Save the future!”).

[Mild spoilers ahead]

Led up some stairs to a short hallway-like room, I was told not to touch anything until after the countdown started. All the puzzles are designed to be solved within 765 seconds (a number too close to na-mu-ko in Japanese, i.e. producer Namco, to be a coincidence), but I knew at first glance it would be impossible for me alone. After a short video explaining (in Japanese with Japanese captions) how the world would end as the culmination of a series of unfortunate events beginning with some guy stubbing his toe, I was faced with a seven-step brain teaser with no hints in sight. How would I push the button to save the planet from certain doom? One of the steps involved playing the Japanese word game “Shiritori,” an example of how cultural fluency can matter as much as the linguistic kind.

[End mild spoilers]

Of course, once I had failed magnificently I thought of various ways I could have tried to proceed in a swifter, more orderly fashion, but so it goes. If nothing else, know that this is not a pencil-pushing game; you’ll be pacing your cube, manipulating objects and hopefully talking things through with your friends along the way.

That’s why it’s called “Puzzle Friend Cafe.” Even just two heads are better than one, so don’t be like me showing up alone. The staff will welcome you gladly (one of them confessed player numbers had decreased a bit since they opened on July 31), but you’ll have more fun, and more of a chance for success, with a pal or five (it seems up to six can play together). I paid once and received a free ticket to try another day, so maybe I’ll see if I can round up a posse for sometime next month; although the cafe closes briefly starting Aug. 25, round two runs Sept. 6-23.

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Nazo toki trend goes mainstream http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/nazo-toki-trend-goes-mainstream/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/nazo-toki-trend-goes-mainstream/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 08:51:53 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=18953 The Nazo Tomo Cafe in Daikanyama

The Nazo Tomo Cafe in Daikanyama

A pop-up shop with a difference appeared on the fashionable streets of Shibuya last month. Open until Aug. 25, and again between Sept. 6 and Sept 23, the Nazo Tomo Cafe is a mystery waiting to be solved. Inside, for ¥1,000, customers can team up with strangers or friends to solve a puzzle of their choice. For us the appearance of this cafe is an indication that the trend for real-life puzzle games is really booming.

It all started back in 2008 when SCRAP introduced The Real Escape Game. A real-life version of popular escape games for the PC, players are trapped in a room and have to figure out clues in order to free themselves within a time limit. The idea of making these virtual rooms a physical reality was hugely popular and really took off in Japan. Indeed, SCRAP has even exported the game overseas, holding their first event in San Francisco last December.

Part of the success of the game could be due to the social aspect — players have to collaborate to escape in time. Indeed, as with paint balling, companies sign up employees to play as a team-building exercise. The idea of solving puzzles in a real-life, real-time setting has clearly taken off. Escape games are now held all over the country by a number of different companies. Different kinds of puzzle games have also begun to become popular (for example, games in which teams hunt for treasure) and amusement parks have become popular venues for these larger-scale events.

Sites like Nazo Toki provide information on upcoming events around the country. Indeed, the word nazo toki (puzzle solving) now appears to refer to the wider range of puzzle games that includes escape games. Nazo Tomo Cafe reflects this diversification and the games on offer vary to suit all tastes. Choices include diffusing a bomb or a murder mystery, as well as the classic room escape game.

Produced by Namco and managed by the Nazo Tomo website, Nazo Tomo Cafe has some impressive backing behind it — perhaps an indication that big name companies want to get in on the nazo toki trend. Check back soon for our hands-on report!

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