Archive for the ‘Lifestyles’ Category

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.”

Hit the road: Japan’s 2013 trend forecast

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

'Long Trail' hiking is Trendy magazine's number one trend pick for 2013

‘Long Trail’ hiking is Trendy magazine’s number one trend pick for 2013.

In 2012 we got cat-ear hair-dos, an increasing appetite for salty mold, and a tower with a silly name. What wonders will 2013 bring? We’ve gone through Trendy’s predictions and came up with a list of themes that look good to us. Basically it boils down to this: smart phones continue to up the convenience factor, and people have to work harder to get away from convenience and to make up for all the energy it saves.

People will get moving – even more

Running and hiking have been big the last few years, and Trendy predicts that this will continue, and that people will invest even more in these hobbies. The magazine anticipates that hikers will head further into the hills, taking to what it calls the “long trails” that are dozens (possibly hundreds) of kilometers long, mostly in the Alps of central Honshu.

Naturally, these overnight trips will require more gear than the yama girls have acquired thus far, including camp stoves and camp stove-operated mobile phone chargers. Hikes deep into the heart of the country also fit in nicely with other growing interests that have been driving travel trends recently, like history and power spots.

Dieting will be more palatable, and fun

One of the biggest hits of 2012 was Kirin’s Mets Cola. Billed as the world’s first health-soda, the product claims to inhibit fat uptake. It got tokuho billing, the government-issued health food label usually reserved for products like bio-yogurt. Trendy anticipates that other ordinary edibles will ramp up their ingredients to qualify as tokuho products, and that 2013 will see more typically sweet things – from donuts to umeshu (plum wine) to teriyaki sauce – getting the low-calorie treatment with sweeteners like D-Psicose. Likewise, “water enhancers” like Kraft’s Mio Energy, which look like colored eye-drops but presumably have a Crystal Lite effect, look to make good, old-fashioned water more palatable to soda addicts.

Fujitsu's "Wandant" dog pedometer automatically uploads data to a cloud. Photo courtesy of Fujitsu.

Fujitsu’s “Wandant” dog pedometer automatically uploads data to the cloud. Photo courtesy of Fujitsu.

Trendy also sees gadgets that gamify weight-loss and fitness, like Nike’s FuelBand and Panasonic’s EW-NK63 pedometer – both of which beam data to smartphones – as being likely hits in 2013.

And (sigh) it looks like Fujitsu has gone and made a pedometer for dogs, the “wandant” (“wan-chan” being the word for puppy). As the pampered puppies of years past are now overweight middle-aged pooches, we’re probably going to see more human-driven weight-loss and exercise trends trickle down to the canine population.

Smartphones work their way further into our lives

Now that we’ve confirmed that Japanese consumers are buying into smartphones, it is likely that we’ll see more crossover products on the market. Expect more digital cameras that allow you to upload photos to a smartphone over Wi-Fi – like Nikon’s new Coolpix S800C, which is also an Android device itself – to hit the market in 2013, says Trendy.

Last year Moleskin introduced its “Smart Notebook” series, which is designed to sync nicely with the popular smartphone app Evernote. According to Trendy, Japanese office and school supply manufacturer Kokuyo (they make those ubiquitous “Campus” notebooks) has now launched its own series of smartphone-ready stationary, CamiApp, along with its own app.

 

J-blip: Sweets Marathon

Friday, January 18th, 2013

So, for the past few years, running has been really, really big in Japan. How do you make something already popular even more attractive? Cake, naturally. We’re guessing that was the logic behind Sweets Marathon, a running race with baked-goods stations set up along the way next to the usual water stations. You can run – and eat – your way through the whole 10k, or do it in a relay with a group of friends. And you can eat as much as of the little bite-sized cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and pudding cups as you like. It sounds a like a recipe for disaster, but the event handlers seem to do a pretty good job of moving everyone along.

Since 2010, there have been 13 of these events held in cities around Japan organized by Tokyo-based International Sports Marketing, Inc. Last month two Sweets Marathons took place at Tokyo Summerland and in Osaka, drawing 3,000 and 4,000 participants, respectively.

Next up is the Gourmet Run, which is already on track to happen in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya early this year. It costs ¥4000 to enter, which is pretty decent for access to a huge spread of regional cuisine – though you have to work for it.

Pulsations (12.21.12)

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Here are the latest 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, they are . . .

  • Ugai: Japanese People Love Gargling (from AcessJ): The Japanese aren’t the least bit bothered by gargling in public restrooms. If you like avoiding colds and want to up your oral hygiene game, maybe you shouldn’t be, either.
  • Omisoka: Japanese New Year’s Eve (from Zooming Japan): 2012 wasn’t as pleasant as you had hoped? Dismiss it from the mind with a bounenkai party: a gathering to forget the year. Learn more about the customs for oshogatsu and you just may find yourself purchasing a kagami mochi or two.
  • Welcome to the World of Tsugaru Shamisen (from A Modern Girl): Know what separates a Tsugaru shamisen from a regular one? This modern girl explains the difference and talks about her experience at a recent performance. She also shares clips of the music.
  • A Requiem Service for Broken Needles-Hari Kuyou (from Iromegane): Even needles get a day of appreciation in Japan; aside from getting their own Shinto service, these pointy tools are stuck into tofu, konnyaku or mochi so that they may have somewhere soft as a final resting place. Ah.

 

 

Pulsations (12.14.12)

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Here are the latest 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, they are . . .

  • Tips & tricks for the game centre, or: the spoils of war (from Tiny Plastic Food): Hate walking away from UFO catchers empty-handed? This self-described blonde, Japanese-speaking game-center addict tells us which game centers (at what time) are most likely to give up the goods — and how to know when to just walk away.
  • A is for Advertising, Part Two (from Vivian in Japan): Blogger Vivian collects posters and scenes around town that make us do a double take. And in Japan, there is a lot of stuff that makes us look again. And again. Also check out part one.
  • Kanji, Kanji Everywhere (from J-List Side Blog): The kanji of the year is out — it is kin, Japanese for gold. Know what is currently the most popular name for a girl? Hint: at present, every other anime seems to have a character with that name.

Visual Pulse

This HDR time-lapse video of Tokyo is perfect for reflecting on city life with a beer in hand. It’s easy to become self-absorbed in this fast-paced society and to forget that things will always continue to keep going, with or without us.

 

Christmas gift ideas 2012

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Gift-giving at Christmas still isn’t a big tradition in Japan, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. We’ve joined our Japan Times colleagues in doing a little pre-holiday homework for you to take the pressure off. Now all you have to do is whip that wallet out . . .

Tempo Drop

Turning to an app on your smartphone for weather updates, while convenient, can be terribly unexciting. Like a bit of a challenge? With Tempo Drop, you can now forecast the weather by observing the appearance of the liquid in the glass.

S: ¥3990, L: ¥5775, at Cibone

Flex Leather Tray

Too old for a pencil case and too cool for a pencil holder? This minimalistic, sculptable leather tray splits the difference. By the way, know what’s uncool? Not knowing where your supplies are and having to borrow them from the next desk. Tsk.

¥3,990 at 100perstore.com

Hand warmers

With the weather getting frostier by the day — and it hasn’t even started snowing yet! — what could be more useful and relevant than Christmas-y hand warmers? Even the toughest guy would appreciate one in his jacket pocket when battling the cold on the streets.

¥567; all Loft shops

A few Japan Times columnists and editors have also given us a peek at their carefully curated gift lists. You’ll find presents for all your art and design-loving friends as well as stocking stuffers for the film buffs in your life. And don’t forget the folks who love Japanese gadgets! Ho ho ho!

 

Pulsations (12.07.12)

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Here are the latest 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, they are . . .

  • Breastfeeding doublespeak in Japan (from StarryBrooke): A new mother discusses Japan’s seeming inclination towards formula milk and its take on a healthy infant’s recommended weekly weight gain.
  • Dead Sensei Society (from Little Japan): Need to let out a few sniggers at work? This web comic features a “bumbling ex-pat who loves Japan, and reluctantly and inexpertly teaches English in order to stay.” Art imitating life, it seems.
  • The frustration of fruit (Japan As I Find It): Blogger Ciara airs her frustration with the cut-throat prices of fruit in Japan. Has your intake of natural vitamins taken a dip since moving here, too?

Visual Pulse

Good news, Doraemon fans. You’ll soon be able to relive your childhood, for the tubby and resourceful blue cat will be back on the big screen this coming March. Keep your fingers tightly crossed that the world doesn’t end on the 21st of this month…

2012: The year in buildings

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

There was a lot going up in Tokyo in 2012, most notably Tokyo Skytree. It really felt like the landscape of the city shifted this year, more than it has in the nearly 10 years since Roppongi Hills opened.

Trendy magazine ranked Tokyo Skytree as the biggest new-development hit of the year, noting that some 20 million people visited the tower within the first four months after it opened to the public on May 22. In addition to the tower, a shopping center and a half dozen hotels opened up around it – more concentrated, large-scale development than the area east of the Sumida River has seen in decades, if not ever. The recreational complex is called Solamachi (“skytown”), and it was named one of Japan’s top 10 buzzwords for 2012.

Trendy also had a good roundup of other construction milestones of the past year, and some impressive statistics – proving (as if it needed to be proved) just how much Tokyoites love new things.

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu

This mega outlet mall, with 171 shops, opened on April 13 just across Tokyo Bay in Chiba — on the less-visited “uchibo” (inner) coast. As a result, use of the Aqua Line (the toll road that traverses the bay) doubled on weekends for the first half of the year.

Diver City Tokyo Plaza

Odaiba’s latest shopping center, filled with fast fashion brands, opened just a few days later, on April 19. Within the first two months, 4,000,000 people had paid a visit. Diver City did get a little help from a great big guest of honor — a 1:1 scale model of Gundam, which demonstrated the mainstream marketability of anime.

Shibuya Hikarie

This 34-story glass tower, which opened on April 26, is a big deal. It’s the first in a series of redevelopment projects that Tokyu Corp has planned for Shibuya over the next decade to bring moneyed sophisticates (read: shoppers older than Shibuya girls) back to the neighborhood. By the end of the first five months, 10,000,000 people had visited Hikarie and sales were 20% higher than projected.

Tokyo Station

On Oct. 1, Tokyo Station unveiled the results of a painstaking renovation project that saw its domes – destroyed in WWII air raids – finally restored. During the first week of October, passengers using Tokyo Station increased by 140%.

With all of this, next year is likely to feel dull in comparison. Or will it? 2013 will see the continued renaissance of the Marunouchi area, with the opening of the JP Tower in March, which incorporates the original 1933 Japan Post Office facade and promises nearly 100 shops. In April, Kabuki-za will reopen after a three-year renovation, and Mitsui has another outlet mall planned for the summer, also in Chiba.

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