Archive for the ‘Lifestyles’ Category

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.

Pulsations (11.30.12)

Friday, November 30th, 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 . . .

  • They put it in their legs (from Amanda in Japan): This blogger discusses the misery some foreign women may face when shopping in this “thin is in” nation and the pervasive obsession with weight loss and beauty here. Safe to read with a snack in hand, for she ensures that you will go away with an extra dollop of self-worth.
  • What Happens After You Die in Japan? (from Tofugu): Everybody’s got to think about meeting with their maker some time. Find out how you’ll be dealt with upon death here and how the cellphone will be involved in the future of Japanese graves. What?
  • Why don’t Japanese Buddhist monks do alms rounds? (from Japan Explained): Why is Japanese toast so thick? Why do tengu have long noses? This site provides answers to questions you never even thought to ask — what are the random similarities between Japan and Turkey, anyway? We hope you’re not reading at work; once you start it’s hard to stop.
  • Driving in Japan: Does Cuteness Save Lives? (from Marshmallow Sensei): Do cartoon figures dispensing reminders about driving safety really do the job? Matt explains the main difference between Japanese safe-driving instruction and what he learned at home.

Visual Pulse

Highlights of Japanese TV commercials for weeks 46 and 47 of 2012, including this year’s Coca-Cola Santa. Check out other uploads on this YouTube channel if you’re in the mood for a Japanese TV commercial binge.

Today’s J-blip: gas-neutralizing underwear

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Smell? What smell?

Find yourself cutting the cheese in the office often? With Deoest, a line of deodorizing textiles manufactured by Japanese company Seiren, you no longer have to sit red-faced at your desk.

While odor-eliminating products such as T-shirts, socks and bedding have been available since 2008, the one that’s really been raising eyebrows is underwear that absorbs stink. Originally developed for people with irritable bowel problems by Professor Hiroki Ohge of Hiroshima University Hospital, the underwear has apparently found a market among ordinary businessmen. Ceramic material, which contains metal ions, is the key player in containing the odor. Deoest underwear retails at ¥3,200 for men and ¥2,980 for women and can be purchased from Inodore.

News of this product mushroomed on the web this week, thanks to RocketNews24‘s translation of Mainichi Online and a subsequent post on The Huffington Post, but is it truly BIG in JAPAN? Mainichi reported that sales of the whole 22-item deodorizing series has reached 30,000, but we’re skeptical whether its reached boom proportions. Still, as potential stocking stuffer for that special-smelling someone, this one could be a winner.

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.


Recent Posts

  • J-blip: Ipsa’s Face Melody

    Every face has a name, a story and . . . a song? That’s the idea behind cosmetic company Ipsa’s newest creation. We should, uh, take it at face value, but the company claims that its Face Melody program can measure the user’s appearance and write a unique tune based on their attributes. The application […]

  • Japan celebrates the GIFs that keep on giving

    GIFs — which stands for graphics interchange format, don’t you know — have made the Internet an even more enjoyable place than before, and we have the receipts to prove it. These digital designs were technological wonders back in the days of AOL and Netscape (Google it, kids). But they eventually went from high-tech animation […]

  • Smart absolutions: Send off your sins with just one click

    The two-step method to purification.

  • Attack of the plant hunters, green carnivores and fleshy girls

    Never promised you a rose garden, but how about a fleshy plant or a stag-horn fern?

  • Make 12th-century art using 21st-century tech

    The Choju-Giga, the famed animal caricature ink paintings displayed Kyoto’s Kozan-ji Temple have been captivating people for centuries. The four scrolls, which date to the 12th and 13th centuries and depict rabbits and monkeys getting into mischief, are often cited as the first manga comics in Japan’s history. Now art lovers can create their own […]

  • Fuji Rock bound? Make sure you survive in style

    A few items that will help you stay dry and happy during Fuji Rock Festival’s unpredictable weather.

  • Pokemon ages ungracefully with middle-aged ‘Ojisan Monsters’

    “Ojimon” is a new mobile game where players can catch middle-aged pocket monsters and make them do their bidding.

  • The new face of Japanese beauty products

    A wise woman once said that beauty is pain, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. With designer face masks, even the simple act of skin moisturizing can become fun. Face masks rose to popularity after the 2011 Korean BB Cream craze. Over the past four years, the “lazy girl” alternative to […]

  • Dominique Ansel caters to Tokyo’s (semi)sweet tooth with cronuts and s’more

    Long queues will mark the spot where Dominique Ansel wil be serving a vast array of creative desserts and, of course, his famed Cronut.

  • Load up YouTube because it’s morphin’ time!

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