Archive for the ‘New products/services’ Category

The new face of Japanese beauty products

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Face-off: Japan Times interns model the wide array of beauty masks now available in Japan.

Face-off: Japan Times interns model the wide array of beauty masks now available in Japan.

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 traditional, time-consuming facials has been gaining prominence worldwide. Coated in serums containing everything from collagen and hyaluronic acid to more adventurous ingredients such as snail extract, these face masks claim to moisturize and brighten one’s skin.

To stand out, face mask makers gradually started to experiment with different designs, such as cute pandas or classic kabuki makeup. Inspired by Japanese cosplay (“costume play”), they serve not only as a beauty essential, but also as fun way to remake yourself, if only for 15 to 20 minutes.

These face masks seemed to hit their stride this year. According to a PR representative from beauty company Pure Smile, design face masks first came to being when faced with the question of how to make regular, white face masks more attractive.

Fashion icon Kansai Yamamoto was recruited to design a line of colorful kabuki- themed face masks in March, and beauty company Pure Smile recently teamed up with special makeup artist JIRO to concoct three ghoulish designs for their “Art Mask” line. Prisoner No. 0, Test Subject No. 13 and Type A Zombie were released in early June.

Artist JIRO is already well known for his makeup skills that have transformed models from animals to aliens. In the latest installation to the Pure Smile “Art Mask,” line JIRO lives up to his name by making face masks that nobody would be afraid to answer the door with.

Even Japan’s favorite pear fairy Funassyi has made his mark on the designer face-mask trend, with a limited-edition Funassyi face mask included in one of Pure Smile’s face mask packs.

Of course, there is a built-in marketing value here. Once a private matter, the design mask begs for a selfie to be shared.

Pure Smile is even holding an Art Mask Photo Contest. Art mask enthusiasts can post their pictures to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #アートマスクコンテスト, and Pure Smile will select the winners.

A photo posted by manami horie (@mana6314) on

A photo posted by Yui Sato (@ugauga_sato) on

What is the grand prize? Nothing other than a year’s supply of Pure Smile art masks!

Load up YouTube because it’s morphin’ time!

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

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

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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.

Bra-maker’s Cinderella Taxis aim to deliver the perfect fit

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

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If you’re sick of waiting for your pumpkin to turn into a carriage, hail a Cinderella Taxi to get a little extra bibbidi-bobbidi-boo in your life.

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Find your perfect look in the Cinderella Taxi.

Coming to Tokyo in June and Osaka in July, this special taxi offers riders bra fittings and makeover services to spread the magic of lingerie-maker Wacoal and its Cinderella campaign.

Just as Cinderella’s glass slippers are perfectly fitted for her feet, Wacoal wants to offer women the chance to get a bra perfectly tailored to their bodies using a 3-D scanner. Before-and-after images are then generated to show customers the change in their silhouette.

As you make your way to your destination, your own Fairy Godmother (i.e., a professional hair and makeup artist) will help you find your new look.

The royal treatment lasts approximately two hours, but the Wacoal beauty consultants’ advice will last long after the clock strikes midnight.

Wear Japan’s past this summer with yukata and monpe

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

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Japan’s summer fashion are starting to appear on store shelves, and increasingly retailers are turning to tradition for new yet tried and true ideas.

This week clothing chain Uniqlo launched a line of colorful yukata for women and girls who don’t have the time or budget for a custom-made outfit. The yukata comes in a variety of colors and designs inspired by Japan’s past.

As Uniqlo often does, the motifs of the women’s yukata are borrowed from famous artists, in this case, the roses and polka dots of Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934) and the fields and flowers of Junichi Nakahara (1913-1988). Girls’ yukata have elements of Japanese summer with goldfish and uchiwa fans adorning the clothes.

To get the younger generation up to speed on retro clothes, Uniqlo will be releasing a series of how-to videos online to show people the proper way to wear yukata. The line goes on sale June 8 with yukata in the affordable range of ¥4,990-5,990.

Loft is also warming up to summer by setting aside a special pop-up for monpe, the multipurpose farming pants made with traditional yet breathable fabrics.

The pants come in a variety of colors and patterns, and in a more flattering silhouette than regularly baggy monpe work pants are known for. Advertising them as “Japanese jeans,” Loft will sell monpe at its Shibuya location for the rest of the season.

The company behind the pants, Unagi no Nedoko, will also be holding special monpe exhibitions in Tokyo, Yame and Fukuoka this summer.

While you’re at Loft, you can also stock on traditional and stylish fans, colorful two-toed tabi socks and straw sandals.

Save your breath and let ‘Suimasen!’ make the call

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

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Getting the attention of a server can make some people feel a little anxious. Should I raise my hand? Do I wait to make eye contact? How loud should I yell?

Well rest your nerves (and your voice) because there is a new app that makes eating out a little less stressful for soft-spoken diners.

Suimasen Daikō” (“Excuse Me Agent”) is an application where users simply tap a button and their phone will let out a hearty “すいませ~~~ん!” (“Excuse me!”)

Users can choose between a female voice, a male voice and even an ikemen voice for the cool kids. In addition, there is a bell and buzzer button to grab someone’s attention.

Need to adjust the volume? The app comes with three scene settings ranging from quiet cafes to noisy izakaya.

Suimasen Daikō is now available on iTunes.

Flushed with success: Innovative new toilet accessory to offer full body wash

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

The Bathlet could send sales of the Washlet throw the roof.

The eco-friendly Bathlet modification of well-loved Washlet is bound make waves.

In February, bidet-type commodes equipped with built-in washers and pre-warmed seats made news after Japan’s media reported that they were enjoying heady demand by Chinese tourists visiting Japan during the lunar new year holiday.

The reaction to this in Beijing’s state-run media was largely negative. The Global Times, a tabloid affiliated with the Communist Party organ People’s Daily, protested tourists misplaced priorities in a commentary titled “Popularity of Japanese toilet seats overstated.”

The writer denounced such purchases as “making a mockery of China’s boycott of Japanese goods” and complained that “Chinese tourists swamping Japanese stores “at a time when the country is facing a sluggish domestic demand is certainly not something to be proud of.”

But politics aside, if one Japanese inventor has his way, Japan’s high-tech toilets may soon be able to offer users — in China as well as Japan — a revolutionary new function. Nagoya-based Arai Industries K.K., a small manufacturer that produces pipe joints, gaskets and other plumbing materials, has taken out a patent on an idea that promises to turn the industry completely on end: a kit that enables bidet-type commodes to be easily and inexpensively converted to a compact shower stall.

“One thing that struck me about the fixtures of ‘Washlet’ type toilets, was the fact that they were considerably overengineered,” Kiyoshi Arai, the company’s president and CEO told The Japan Times at an interview in his Nagoya office. “I figured it wouldn’t be all that difficult to expand on their functions.”

Through trial and error, Arai developed his prototype mostly from spare parts laying around in his factory.

“The key to modification was boost the wattage of the water heating element,” he says. “After that, it was a snap.”

Arai has taken out seven utility patents on his new invention, and registered the trademark “Bathlet.”

His original version, completed in just two months, worked without any hitches but sorely fell short in aesthetic appeal, Arai admits.

“The most serious shortcoming was that it could only supply enough warm water for a one-minute shower, and that didn’t allow enough time for the user to soap up and rinse. So I added a more powerful water heating element that gave about five minutes — maybe a little longer in the summer.”

Arai estimates that if used for one five-minute shower per day, the Bathlet will add approximately ¥280 to a household’s monthly electric bill. On the other hand, however, it’s notoriously stingy with water.

“I decided that making it ‘eco-friendly’ would be a strong selling point — hence the recycling tank and gravity pump, which redirects shower water back to the toilet tank to be reused for flushing,” he explained. “This led to problems at first, because the spout on the bidet kept blowing soap bubbles. We fixed that using microfiber filtration,” Arai smiled.

“The current design is as close to being idiot-proof as possible,” Arai said, chuckling with pride. “Any competent plumber can have it up and running in about half an hour.”

Because tampering with the original commode’s design risks invalidating the warranty, Arai is keen on lining up Japanese manufacturers to market the “Bathlet” as an optional accessory. He has yet to announce a domestic price for his product, but is aiming for under ¥12,000.

With many overseas markets faced with chronic water shortages, Arai believes prospects for exports are “extremely encouraging.”

“We received hundreds of inquiries when we introduced a prototype at the Home Fixtures ’15 trade show in Shanghai two weeks ago,” Arai said.

Arai Industries’ “Bathlet” is just one of a slew of new inventions from Japan designed to appeal to growing numbers of affluent Chinese visitors. Prototypes introduced at a recent trade fair in Makuhari included an electric rice cooker that can be used to steam rou baozi (pork buns) and shaomai (dumplings); for fastidious gamblers, Sani-Pai, an ultrasonic cleaner for sanitizing mahjong tiles after use; and an electric kettle that whistles the first six notes of “The East is Red” to signal the user when the water has boiled.

More information about the Bathlet can be found here.

R2-D2 toy keeps fans company and food fresh

Monday, March 30th, 2015

R2-D2, the eccentric cylindrical droid from “Star Wars,” has helped save the galaxy time and time again, but now he will help you save electricity.

Mobile gadget company Hamee will be releasing a 10 x 7 cm version of the robot to keep in your refrigerator. He will greet you when you open the door, and panic, if you leave it open.

“Living alone can get a little bleak. We wanted to create something that could welcome you back home at the end of the day,” explains Atsushi Yamashita of the product management team in the promo video.

Although this mini R2-D2 may not be able to project holograms, hack computers or extinguish fires like we’ve seen on the big screen, the company has made sure he looks and sounds exactly like the original by receiving direction from Lucasfilm. It responds to light, but pressing the button on his head works too.

It has 15 types of beeps, including some rare outbursts that you may catch if you are lucky enough. A fan may recognize R2-D2 “lines” from specific scenes in the movies.

Pre-sale orders for the R2-D2 Talking Fridge Gadget are already available, but its official release will be April 30, 2015, at ¥4,320 — just in time for the Star Wars Exhibition, scheduled to take place at Roppongi from April 29 to June 28, 2015.

Shochiku Kabuki x Uniqlo

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Iconic Japanese clothing store Uniqlo has a tradition of teaming up with other companies to create unique clothing lines drawing from both pop culture icons and traditional designs, especially when it comes to their UT collections.

In 2011 they created more than 30 products with Manga Entertainment based on the popular manga/anime series Naruto.

On the UT floor, customers will find designs paying homage to Keith Haring and Andy Warhol rubbing shoulders with time-honored motifs from Eirakuya, Japan’s oldest cotton textiles trading company.

This month Uniqlo is collaborating with kabuki powerhouse Shochiku Co. to produce a new clothing line inspired by the traditional motifs of Japan’s most famous cultural export.

The line, comprising more than 60 items, will be launched in Paris on March 20 before hitting shelves in Japan on the 26th.

Ennosuke Ichikawa IV, one of kabuki’s most prominent stars, will play a new role as the project’s ambassador. Given the insular tendencies of the the kabuki world, this is quite a milestone.

The T-shirts serve as the collection’s focal point with designs invoking patterns seen in kabuki costumes and the bold colors of kumadori, kabuki stage makeup.

The project was created to merge traditional Japanese art form with modern clothing, featuring pieces with traditional colors and patterns formatted to contemporary designs.

The collection includes both men and women’s clothing as well as accessories and totebags.

Building on the success of its special Nippon Omiyage tees, Uniqlo clearly sees the value of more Made in Japan designs targeted at tourists who want to wear their love of Japan on their short sleeves.

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