Archive for the ‘New products/services’ Category

Sugar rush of sweet sushi, chocolate fossils and more as Valentine’s in Japan approaches

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Japan has an uneven track record when it comes to celebrating Western holidays. While many people have started dressing up for Halloween only recently, one holiday that the country has wholly embraced Valentine’s Day since the 1950s. Annually, women buy premium and in bulk, generating half the country’s chocolate business being spent in February.

(Yes, that’s mostly women. Men repay the confectionary favor on White Day a month later.)

While there are mountains of high-end choco tugging at the heart strings, many vendors are trying to stand out with unique packaging and offbeat designs.  Here are a few tasty examples.

Sushi chocolate

If you want to give your partner a gift with a Japanese twist, why not go fishing for some sushi-shaped candy?

Tobu's chocolate sushi.

Tobu’s chocolate sushi.

Instead of heading to Tsukiji’s fish market, go west to Ikebukuro’s Tobu Department Store where you can buy chocolate that looks like egg, shrimp and sea urchin sushi. The set, which costs ¥2,592, includes a dollop of mousse that represent the ginger gari.

Chocolate is girl’s best friend

Takashimaya Osaka Store has morphed two favorite options: chocolate and diamonds.

Takashimaya's jeweled cake.

Takashimaya’s jeweled cake.

The department store’s new cake glitters as it’s decorated with diamonds in addition to frosting. You better be in love because the cake, encrusted with 125 diamonds, will set you back more than ¥14 million.

‘Poisoned’ apples

Kuromajutsu has a series of “poisoned” apples — but not any old  “Snow White” types of fruits. The company claims it has injected “magic” into these apples using a Buddhist prayer that will, supposedly, make your victim, um, that is future spouse, fall in love with you instantly.

Kuromajutsu's magically

A screenshot of Kuromajutsu’s magically “poisoned” apple.

Kuromajutsu packages the ominous apple in a black box complete with the company’s black cat logo. True love can be yours for just a bite — and ¥10,000.

Canned meat

Does your man lack a sweet tooth? Meiji has a savory solution by offering up the perfect canned meat for this Valentine’s Day.

Meiji's canned meat.

Meiji’s canned meat.

The company’s web page recommends which canned meat would go well with the men in your life. For example, your hard-working co-worker who likes sake may prefer corn beef, while your red wine-drinking boss might like grilled chicken. We can’t guarantee your Valentine will enjoy this gift, but it is sure to be memorable.

Monster cookies

At the event, people can ice monster-shaped cookies designed by textile artist Takehiro Natsuyama to create adorable and delicious treats.

Cookieboy's creatively designed treats.

Cookieboy’s creatively designed treats.

Natsuyama wants guests to use his beastly cookies as a canvas and show them how to turn treats into works of art using only frosting and other toppings. Instead of keeping it a secret, you can make your Valentine’s gift with your boyfriend this year at the Cookieboy workshop

Jurassic Fossil Chocolat

Instead of searching for the perfect gift, you can make your boyfriend dig it up himself with an archaeological treat. Welcome to Jurassic chocolate.

chocolatepulse6

Jurassic Fossil Chocolat by Maquis.

Jurassic Fossil Chocolat by Maquis is a tasty set where people have to unearth the chocolate fossil hidden behind a layer of . . . more chocolate. The set even comes with a tiny hammer and brush to complete the prehistoric experience. Some of the buried dinosaurs include a T-rex, stegosaurus and brachiosaurus.

Yahoo! Japan’s Valentine’s Boy Field Guide

If none of these options sound appetizing and you’re still unsure as to what kind of sweets to give your sweetie, Yahoo! Japan has a new site where you can (virtually) ask 25 different boys what their dream date and chocolate is.

Yahoo! Japan’s Valentine’s Boy Field Guide.

Yahoo! Japan’s Valentine’s Boy Field Guide.

After you input your lover’s face type (dog, monkey, horse) and personality (herbivore, geeky, manly man), you can ask all of your burning Valentine’s questions. It’s a little unnerving watching this uncanny valley version of your boyfriend reveal his private thoughts, but his reaction is actually based on a scientific survey.

As you can see, Valentine’s Day in Japan isn’t just about chocolates and flowers. It’s a big business, and companies will continue to reinterpret the day in new and sometimes terrifying ways.

Don’t eat and drive with sake-flavored Kit Kats

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Nestlé Japan shows off its sake-flavored Kit Kat at Craft Sake Week.

Nestlé Japan shows off its sake-flavored Kit Kat at Craft Sake Week. | MONICA IRELAND

Nestlé Japan released a new Kit Kat flavor this week that has people buzzing. Containing an actual amount of alcohol — 0.8 percent — the new sake flavor is a perfect way to spike your mid-day snack. The packaging even warns that the treat it not for kids.

When I bit into the Kit Kat, it tasted very smooth. It has a very light and subtle taste from the sake, accompanied by the sweetness of white chocolate. It is well worth a try even if you’re not crazy about sake.

The new Kit Kat has expectedly made a splash online with many people posting their reactions on social media.

Sake is a rice wine made by fermented rice that has been polished to remove the bran. With many different types and flavors, it is one of Japan’s most famous products, and now joins the long list of flavored Kit Kats.

While most countries only get the regular chocolate, Japan has seen an array of colorful Kit Kats, including green tea, pineapple and strawberry cheesecake. We will have to wait and see what flavor Nestlé Japan comes up with next.

Studio Ghibli on a roll with licenses for new toys

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

If you’re still wound up about Studio Ghibli more-or-less leaving the animation industry, there are some new toys that may help ease the pain.

Toy company Nibariki has a new “pullback collection” of figurines that will race forward when wound up. Certain items are downright adorable while others are just creepy crawlers.

On the cute side, Nibariki has three “My Neighbor Totoro” vehicles, including the blue vehicle that Mei and Satsuki cling to during moving day, and the city bus their father takes to work. (Sorry, no Catbus though.) There is also a wooden buggy made from a tree that’s driven by a Totoro.

The new toys based on Studio Ghibli's movies are both darling and disgusting.

The new toys based on Studio Ghibli’s movies are both darling and disgusting.

On the gross side, there are the huge worm monsters from “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” that roll with such realistic movements that it may bug you out. And just like in the movie, the red-eyed beasts will dart forward while blue-eyed ones go at a much slower speed.

All items are available on Ensky Shop’s website and cost ¥2,300, making the perfect stocking stuffer this season for your anime-loving friends.

Ginza Cozy Corner takes dessert into hyperdrive with ‘Star Wars’ cakes

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

One Japanese confectionary vendor is about to find the Force deep within a sweet tie-up.

cozy-corner-20151021

The (caloric) force is strong with this one.

Ahead of the December release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Ginza Cozy Corner, which has outlets nationwide, has made a line of “Star Wars” sweets that are truly out of this world. The treats themselves are all based on people from the the films, and regardless if the characters were good or evil, the desserts will end up being sweet.

The cake set includes Darth Vader, Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, an Ewok, a Stormtrooper, C-3PO and R2-D2, each having its own unique taste. The yellow C-3PO cake is lemon-flavored; the white R2-D2 one is cheese mousse; and so on.

If that wasn’t enough to satisfy sci-fi fans, Ginza Cozy Corner is also releasing a “Star Wars” tin and pouch filled with the store’s original creations. They will also be selling an R2-D2 sponge cake that is covered in white frosting and colored biscuits.

The “Star Wars” collection will be sold at select stores beginning Nov. 1, and the nine-piece cake set will sell for ¥2,000.

For more information, visit the Ginza Cozy Corner website.

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.

Smart absolutions: Send off your sins with just one click

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Advances in technology have enabled us to converse with anyone, anywhere, and globally distribute information — and unlimited cat pictures! — in the blink of an eye.

Sumaho ooharae: Just rub and send.

Sumaho ooharae: Just rub and send.

Now, thanks to an online service from National Depart’s Kitokami, we can be rid of our sins with a click of a button.

Kitokami users have two options. Smartphone Ooharae is free smartphone service that enables users to absolve themselves of sins by merely rubbing and breathing on a human-shaped figure displaying on their smartphone screen and clicking the “send sins” button. The figures, imprinted with the name, age and gender of the user, will later be printed out and purified with a sacred fire at Bizen no Kuni Soushagu, a shrine in Okayama.

Web Ooharae is a slightly more tangible version of the service. Customers can purchase wood or paper cards online to be delivered to their homes. After doing the required rub-and-breathe routine on the card, customers will mail them to the shrine to be purified. The cards come in shapes of cats, dogs, bicycles and more, and are priced at ¥1,000 to ¥2,500.

Although Kitokami’s approach is novel, mention of the ooharae custom can be found in the Kojiki, Japan’s oldest record of history, which dates back to the 700s. Ooharae is a Shintoist ritual that takes place every year on June 30 and Dec. 31 and other days when necessary. In this ritual, participants transfer their sins and impurities onto nademono, human-shaped paper cutouts. They then blow three breaths on the paper, and Shinto priests recite prayers as they burn the sin-carrying papers in a sacred fire.

Bizen no Kuni Soushagu will light the fire on Aug. 1, 8, and 15 at 9 p.m., so customers should make sure their sins get there on time.

Fuji Rock bound? Make sure you survive in style

Friday, July 24th, 2015

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.

Pokemon ages ungracefully with middle-aged ‘Ojisan Monsters’

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

ojimon1

Someday Pikachu and friends will have to stop following Ash Ketchum around the world, retire from battling and get a real job.

That’s part of idea behind “Ojimon,” a new mobile game that is a portmanteau of ojisan (middle-aged man) and Pokemon. Using “ojiballs,” players can catch aging pocket monsters, who have disturbing Kobito Dukan-like faces, and make them do their bidding.

Players can put their new Ojimon to work in gold mines and construction sites, but they’ll need pay attention: These Poke-oldies have a tendency to doze off on the job but can be woken with a quick jab on the touch screen. If enough gold is harvested, players can build roads to the next town and find new Ojimon to catch.

ojimon2

The game includes the original 150 Pokemon, with graying versions of Charizard, Haunter and Gyarados. Even though it’s not as exciting as battling wild monsters, your Ojimon can still gain experience points through their menial labor and evolve into more powerful forms, albeit with the same sad, unshaven faces.

For an extra laugh (or to avoid copyright infringement), all of the monsters have been given punny names. For example, Fushigidane (Bulbasaur) has been renamed Oyajidane.

“Ojimon” is available for free on Android and iOS.

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