Archive for the ‘Lifestyles’ Category

Pulsations (11.08.12)

Thursday, November 8th, 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 . . .

  • School Lunch for October 25th, 2012 (from Lunch Break Japan): Does a lunch of nikujaga, rice and natto with miso soup appeal? But what if it’s locally made or comes in a clever package? No? OK …  then how about a KitKat?
  • おたより Exhibition (from Hello Sandwich): Does a visual feast of crafty things make you happy? If you missed the exhibition of envelopes designed by school kids and adults in Ginza, Hello Sandwich gives a big taste of what was on display.
  • Akaoni Design (from Japanese Design): Pay detailed attention to the packaging of food products? Check out some of these by Akaoni Design, a creative studio that was honored with the Yamagata Excellent Design Award twice last year.

Visual Pulse

On a diet but can’t get off chips completely? This ad is featuring Korean pop group KARA spells out the low calorie snack Soy Carat is the way to go.

Pulsations (11.02.12)

Friday, November 2nd, 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 . . .

  • Pepsi Energy Cola — How does it taste? (from Grinning Studios): Pepsi Energy Cola is back, and Darth Vader is endorsing it. Blogger Grin gives a brief review of the drink and tells you where you may find it before it vanishes off the shelves again.
  • JapanaEight: Eight things that scare us (from Japanator): Think “kigurumi” cosplayers are creepy because you don’t know who’s underneath all that extra padding, and if they are wearing anything? Terrified of introducing women to your large anime figurine collection? You just may have something in common with one of these eight contributors.
  • Renewing my driver’s license (from Dru’s Misadventures): Need to renew your driver’s license here soon but don’t know what to expect? Blogger Dru shares his own experience with the process.
  • A giant pop-up jungle gym emerges in Tokyo Midtown (from Spoon & Tamago):  For young and old Tokyoites alike, Design Tide Tokyo 2012 is offering a giant wooden playground. You should hurry if you wish to check it out, though; it will be taken down on Nov 4.
  • Halloween in Japan 2012 (from The Japan Times): We know you read The Japan Times Online daily, but just in case you missed it on the first scroll …

Visual Pulse

The Japanese performance group World Order has released a music video for their song “Permanent Revolution.” The video, a commentary on the recent disputes among the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans, delivers the message that “We are all one” in a lighthearted manner. The members act as robot-like sightseeing, feet-soaking salarymen who, at the end, sign peace treaties with their other Asian counterparts. Nothing quite eases tension a little the way humor and goodwill do, no?

Tokyo Designers Week 2012

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

It’s that Tokyo Designers Week time of year again. The main event sees the usual collage of temporary structures (shipping containers, a huge dome tent, etc.) on the lawn at Meiji-jingu Gaien. The theme – which to be honest doesn’t really sound like a theme at all – is Hello Design! Interpret that as you like.

New this year is a section on architecture, with a collection of models, both experimental and ones that are or will be real structures. There’s also an art fair run by Gallery Tagboat and a whole row of digital content exhibitions. All of which means that there is actually less of the usual stuff – like chairs and lights. Hello Design?

There is more product design action over at Design Tide, being held at Tokyo Midtown, where the nendo Bottleware collection we featured earlier this week is on display. There’s also a whole gaggle of exhibits and installations at shops and galleries around Tokyo (though mostly around Aoyama) under the banner Tide Extension. So yes, there is plenty to see!

All together, it’s mostly Japanese designers, both established and just out of school, but there are quite a few other nationalities represented, too. Taiwan, Singapore, Norway and Israel, for example, all have booths this year. Several Korean universities occupied containers along with their Japanese counterparts in the student section.

Tokyo Designers Week runs until Nov. 5 (and Design Tide until the 4th). There will also be a mega PechaKucha night at the main event on Oct. 31.

Or just stay in and check out our gallery. (Photos by Rebecca Milner. Click on the thumbnails to read more about each photo.)

Today’s J-blip: Coca-Cola Bottleware

Monday, October 29th, 2012

The iconic Coke bottle was designed in 1915 with the goal that “a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark, and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.” The bottle architecture has since undergone many variations and recently has even had a Karl Lagerfeld edition, but its newfound usage as tableware surely takes the Coke — er, cake.

Japanese design firm nendo has teamed up with the legendary beverage company to produce Coca-Cola Bottleware. This collaboration is primarily a collection of bowls and we can see its novelty factor already. These green-tinted, clean-cut dishes are completely recycled from the distinct “contour bottles” and are hand-manufactured by artisans located in Aomori, northern Japan. Since when did exquisite traditional crafts become so contemporary cool?

Prices range from ¥5250 for a dip dish to ¥14,700 for a large bowl. Each design is limited to a quantity of 500, so get your sticky-Coke-stained-hands on them fast at CIBONE Aoyama from Oct. 31. They also go on exhibition the same day they go on sale at DesignTide Tokyo 2012 till Nov. 4.

Suitably inspired to make your own bottleware? We can’t guarantee that as many people will be appreciate it, but at the very least, if one is broken, you can always just make another.

Pulsations (10.26.12)

Friday, October 26th, 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 . . .

  • Ramen Competition on the street (from Adele Wong): What looks better than a bowl of yummy ramen? A bowl of yummy ramen meant for photographing. Blogger Adele Wong shows us how one event made sure everyone got perfect  pictures of their seemingly perfectly crafted food.
  • Tanaka Hisashige (from James Calbraith): Author James Calbraith follows in the steps of Google and pays tribute to this master innovator of the late Edo Period. Oh, and you have Hisashige to thank for your trusty Toshiba laptop.

Visual Pulse:

Neurowear’s wearable cat ears is now complete with the latest addition of a wearable cat tail that is controlled by brain waves. Want to express your excitement at seeing a friend but too lazy to say so? Let this nifty thing do the talking.

The secret allure of the surgical mask

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Who is that masked woman? (Satoko Kawasaki photo)

Last month in Nagano, despite sweltering temperatures, a number of high school students were spotted attending school wearing surgical masks. This wasn’t hayfever season, nor were there any colds going around, so why were these teenagers covering their mouths and noses up? They were simply following a national trend for date masuku,  surgical masks that are just for show. (That’s read “dah-te,” nothing to do with dating.)

A journalist for Shinano Mainichi Shimbun asked students why they were wearing masks and got some surprising answers. One girl commented, “I’m shy about being seen without my makeup on.” Worryingly, another boy said, “I feel safe with it on.” Another 16-year-old female high school student explained that, “The mask hides the acne around my mouth.”

While this looks — on the face of it — like a problem created by low self-esteem, one that teenagers might grow out of, Japanese Wikipedia states that research done by Asahi Shimbun back in 2011 showed that adults are reaching for the date mask, too. Many began by using surgical masks for health reasons and then continued because they found that they enjoyed wearing a mask.

A writer under the name of Tama Tsupi, a self-confessed former date mask addict, wrote about the issue for Gadget News earlier this year. “Tsupi” began using a surgical mask to protect herself against hay fever and infection, but gradually came to find that she got a pleasant feeling from wearing a mask. Stressed at work, she found it useful for those times when she couldn’t be bothered to do her make up properly, or when she had trouble relating to others.

Though she’s now kicked the habit, she has stuck up for mask wearers by stating that covering up part of the face can have the effect of highlighting a person’s beauty. In the piece, she evangelizes about the unexpected cosmetic effect she experienced when wearing a mask. She points out that it’s common practice in Japan for people to upload shots of themselves to social networking sites that hide part of their face. These shots are both flattering to one’s vanity and protect one’s private image in the public domain. She writes: “Don’t you think this technique could be put to good use not only in a photograph, but in reality?”

The origin of the term date masuku (伊達マスク)is apparently connected to the Sendai’s famous daimyo Date Masamune. Problem is we’ve yet to figure out how the family name of this fierce, one-eyed warrior has come  to mean “vainglorious,” as seen in the similar terms date megane (prescription-less glasses) or date otoko, which essentially means dandy.  This YouTube video even suggests a connection with the true surname of the masked hero of Tiger Mask. So there you go. Think of it as being somewhere between vanity and anonymity.

Today’s J-blip: Mister Softee in Tokyo

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Mister Softee in the house

Are you a fan of “soft cream,” in all its lower-in-milk-fat-than-ice-cream glory? Mister Softee, a ubiquitous soft-serve ice cream brand in the United States, has finally made its way to Japan. In a departure from the trucks and simple stands where it’s sold in the U.S., its first concession in Japan is located inside branches of Café Siry, a luxury Tokyo sweets shop.

The grinning cone-head is commonly associated with casual comfort food back in the States, because it’s doled out from trucks and franchises dotted across the country, particularly in the northeast. However, Mister Softee’s surroundings in Japan are sleek and posh: bottles of Veuve Cliquot are being sold alongside the creamy treats. The shop is inside Gyre, the high-end shopping complex in Omotesando. (A second shop, also partnered with Café Siry, is scheduled to open within the month in Sangenjaya.)

While its U.S. counterpart comes in only two flavors — good old chocolate and vanilla — the Tokyo version has over 30 original ones, with six on rotation per week. For the opening, these include avocado and caramel, sea salt and olive oil, and cactus. Ask for the secret menu and you might get a concoction whipped up from whatever the server has on hand to experiment with. (Careful what you ask for — the other day, it was wasabi!)

Professional flautist Andrea Fisher brought the brand to Japan after a five-year stint driving a Mister Softee truck in Brooklyn, New York.  “I thought the kawaii Mister Softee character, along with the fun and yummy menu, would appeal to the Japanese,” she told us. And all those funky flavors? “Vanilla and chocolate just aren’t enough for Japan!” she said.

Fisher says it wasn’t a viable option to go the truck route in Japan, so they decided to start with storefronts. That means there’s no need to gather neighborhood kids with a song from a loudspeaker, so we aren’t sure exactly what they’ll do with her J-pop inflected remix of the familiar jingle. But it’s just as likely to get stuck in your head as the one that blared from trucks when you were a kid.

Today’s J-blip: Virtual Japanese trainspotting

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Obsessed with watching Japanese trains go by? Now you can indulge your hobby regardless of bad weather or friends who just don’t get your hobby — whether you’re in Japan or not.

The website Tetsudonow (“railroads now”) has elevated trainspotting to a new level by allowing viewers to watch virtual trains zip around the major cities of Japan on a Google map mash-up.  Twitter users in Japan were bubbling with excitement yesterday, with some tweeting that the illustrated trains move in real-time. If only. The site’s explanation says that the trains actually move in accordance with their weekday timetables, so the map doesn’t reflect delays, stoppages or weekend schedules.

The navigation tools do, however, let you see the routes of most major railways in Japan at any time of day. To hobbyists’ delight, the trains are all labeled with their actual line colors and approximate shapes, so you can tell a green Yamanote train from a snub-nosed shinkansen at a glance. Click on any moving train to see where it’s coming from and where it’s headed.

Now you can trainspot with a bag of popcorn in one hand and a Coke in the other from the comfort of your swivel chair with no one jostling or judging you. Us? We wouldn’t judge you.

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