Archive for the ‘New products/services’ Category

Japan by the numbers (06.25.13)

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Euglena — the little single-celled organism that could save the world

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Euglena, a simple, single-celled organism that grows in fresh water, trumpeted as a solution to food shortages, a potential replacement for fossil fuels and a way to reduce CO2 emissions, has been making headlines lately in Japan. Stock in Euglena Co., a company founded at Tokyo University in 2005, has soared 10-fold this year and the announcement made last month by Osaka University in collaboration with Euglena Co. that a film made from a carbohydrate found in euglena called paramylon is effective in healing wounds, is bound to further boost the huge buzz around this rapidly expanding bio-tech company.

A euglena smoothie available at Juice Zone in Shibuya

A euglena smoothie available at Juice Zone in Shibuya

Euglena, which are also known in Japanese as midorimushi, are 1mm long thin organisms that give water a greenish hue when they multiply in ponds. Though often classified as algae, they are in fact a curious mix of plant and animal, able to both photosynthesize like a plant and consume food like an animal. Incredibly, these slightly fishy-tasting oddities are teaming with almost all the nutrients humans need to stay alive, including vitamins C and B2, calcium and iron. It’s not hard to see why Mitsuru Izumo, co-founder of Euglena Co., saw its potential as an ingredient capable of solving the world’s hunger problems.

Euglena Co. has been mass cultivating the stuff since 2005 and euglena is now not only available to buy as a vitamin supplement, but has also been successfully marketed as an ingredient in confectionery.

Fancy a euglena cookie? There’s even green-tinted euglena ramen sold at a restaurant adjacent to the University of Tokyo campus. Just last month, euglena lattes and euglena smoothies were introduced to the market.

But wait . . . there’s more! Because the organism grows by photosynthesis, it’s capable of reducing CO2 emissions. Euglena Co. carried out a successful experiment in 2009 at a coal-powered thermal power plant in Okinawa. Passing waste emissions through a euglena culture tank, it was observed that the organism thrived, thus demonstrating “an effective and potential solution to the global warming,” according to the company’s website.

If that wasn’t enough, the company is now developing jet fuel, yes, jet fuel, made from euglena and plans to produce a steady supply by 2018, a promise that has boosted speculative trade in Euglena Co. on the stock market. Furthermore it was just announced that the company won the Japan-U.S. Innovation Awards’ Emerging Leader Award, pushing the profile of this high flying bio-tech company even higher.

Pulsations (06.14.13)

Friday, June 14th, 2013

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 . . .

Visual Pulse

Kazuki Yamamoto takes latte art to the next frontier (from Spoon & Tamago): You may have seen latte art before, but probably not like this. If you’re a big enough fan, follow his Twitter page, where he posts daily photos for you to enjoy alongside your cup of joe. Recent caffeinated creations include a version of Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”.

Tokyo Toy Show . . . for little people and grown-up kids

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Bandai's new line of water guns enables players to shoot around corners.

The 52nd annual International Tokyo Toy Show, which kicked off today at Tokyo Big Sight, is featuring 35,000 products from almost 150 companies from around the globe. Organizers estimate the four-day event will attract at least 160,000 visitors.

At a press preview on June 13, one notable trend was smartphone- and tablet-compatible games and interfaces. Some allowed players to interact with their environment and other gamers.

Another was the emergence of figurines and merchandise spinoffs from popular phone apps.

But the show clearly wasn’t just for kids. Many companies showcased toys aimed at the child inside. And who knows? Maybe Ultraman, Sailor Moon and Mazinger Z can one day appeal to a new generation.

The Tokyo Toy Show is open to the public June 15-16. Admission is free.

[Photos by Mai Hasebe and Eric Ruble]

Tweet Beat: #真4, #ソクラテスの死, #キスの日

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

The Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags for each week. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag. 

Demons and Samurai

“Shin Megami Tensei IV,” the first numbered title in the Shin Megami Tensei role-playing game series in 10 years, was released on May 23 in Japan. Between the anticipation of the release date, the build up of PR like the 10-minute gameplay video above and the tweets of fans buying and playing the game, it’s not surprising that the hashtags #真4 (“shin”) and #メガテン4 (“Megaten” is the series’s nickname among fans) would trend.

“Shin Megami Tensei” is known for its brutal difficulty. One player finds a humorous way to say he was annihilated in the tutorial. This time around, the characters are samurai from the Mikado Kingdom, but they still become stronger via the series hallmark of negotiating with demons for help. The game is due out in North America July 16.

“The Death of Socrates” as re-created by Japanese students

Jacques-Louis David painted “The Death of Socrates” in 1787. According to Plato in “The Apology of Socrates,” the great thinker was sentenced to death by poison for “act[ing] unjustly in corrupting the youth, and in not believing in those gods in whom the city believes, but in other strange divinities.” David’s work is said to be somewhat historically inaccurate, though it is nonetheless famous.

In fact, it’s so famous that some Japanese students decided to re-create it as a photo the other day. Once tweeted May 25, with the hashtag #ソクラテスの死 (“The Death of Socrates”) the image promptly blew up (on a popularity trajectory that had it beating out a tweet from kawaii idol Kyary Pamyu Pamyu by some metrics) as people expressed their interest in giving it a shot, wished they had enough real-life friends to be able to pull it off or just laughed.

Taking creative photos like this has been a popular hobby lately, it seems. You may remember Makankosappo but have you seen the “Attack on Titan” meme yet?

Kiss Day

May 23 is #キスの日 (Kiss Day). No, really! It commemorates the first time a kissing scene was shown in a movie in Japan, which, by the way, was the premiere of Yasushi Sasaki’s “Hatachi no Seishun” in 1946. People tweeted a lot of kissing pictures, whether of celebritiesDisney characters, dolls or their single selves. There is also plenty of fan art, even some featuring Harry Potter characters.

Tweet Beat: #이노래를듣고돌 #wizard #finalburning

Friday, May 17th, 2013

The Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags for each week. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag. 

Fresh tunes from 2PM and B1A4

Aside from #ozzfest (aka #オズフェス) Japan 2013, which took place over the weekend at Makuhari Messe in Chiba featuring artists from Black Sabbath to Momoiro Clover Z, the other big music trends this week were all written in Hangul as K-pop fandom continues to flourish.

Korean boy band 2PM‘s music video for # 이노래를듣고돌 (“Come Back When You Hear This Song”), released on May 5, was followed by one for #하니뿐 (“A.D.T.O.Y.”) on the 11th. Both track are off their third album, “Grown,” which came out on the 13th.

2PM wasn’t the only Korean boy band trending last week. B1A4 (a name which distractingly resembles paper sizing lingo, but means “Be the one, all for one”) held a live streaming event on May 8 that got people talking about their just-released 4th mini album #이게무슨일이야 (“What’s Happening?”).

Sunday Morning on TV Asahi

Sunday morning TV trended as usual as fans of tokusatsu (“Kamen Rider”) #wizard and (“Juden Sentai”) #kyoruger  tweeted up a storm during #sht (“Super Hero Time”). Even though these shows are aimed at kids you can always expect a flurry of activity from adult fans when they are on. By the way, do you know the other two that bookend “Super Hero Time” to make up #nitiasa (short for “Sunday Morning Kids Time,”  the unofficial nickname of a two-hour programming block)? The current schedule includes (“Doki Doki”) #precure and #battlespirits (“Sword Eyes”).

Pro wrestler Kenta Kobashi retires

After a career spanning 26 years that included overcoming both injury and kidney cancer, pro wrestler Kenta Kobashi has retired. A commemorative fight#finalburning, took place at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on May 11, but you can bet it will trend again when the six-hour “complete” version with documentary footage added airs on May 26.

Interest in final resting places never dies

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Can't afford prime real estate in Aoyama Cemetery? Have we go a deal for you.

Can’t afford prime real estate in Aoyama Cemetery? Have we got a deal for you.

With graveyards often located on the outskirts of cities, visiting the family grave to perform memorial services can be somewhat of a mission for busy families. But new businesses have now eased the burden for many with new “graveyards” built within office blocks conveniently located in cities. Nowadays these crypts can even be visited virtually by those who are physically unable or too busy to make the trip.

Syunkei-ji high-tech crypt offers virtual memorial services for busy relatives

Syunkei-ji high-tech crypt offers virtual memorial services for busy relatives

The high-tech graveyard business is growing, according to a recent article in the Yomiuri. Scheduled to open its doors in 2014, a six-story crypt just five minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station will offer 7,000 spaces to store the ashes of loved ones. Built on prime real estate, the project indicates that it is potentially more profitable to rent out space in a building for “burial” slots rather than for offices or apartments. A similar crypt opened in 2009 in Machiya in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward has now filled 70 per cent of its 3,400 capacity.

Two kinds of new-school cemeteries are now crowding the final resting place market. The first is the simple “coin locker” variety where remains are stored in a slender box that family members can visit. The second is more high tech. Activated with an electronic key card, a robotic arm retrieves the funereal urn of a loved one from a storage shelf and places it in a special booth. Relatives can perform memorial services in peace as photos of loved ones are displayed on the screen above them.

Burial slots in these buildings go for far less than a plot in a traditional cemetery and have the added convenience that family members can get to them easily and even fit in a spot of shopping or some lunch afterward. Those too busy to get there can take advantage of virtual memorial services offered by organizations like Syunkei-ji. When you log in to make your visit, a priest chants sutras as you pray for your relative from the comfort of your own home.

In a final resting place side-note, visiting old school graveyards has become a popular pastime for some Japanese, as has the  hobby of visiting the graves of celebrities. Enthusiasts trade info on the web , take guided tours offered by volunteers and consult books such as “Tour the Graves of Celebrities all over Japan.”

A team of volunteer guides at Zoshigaya Cemetery in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, show visitors the graves of famous people such as writers Natsume Soseki and Kafu Nagai. According to Asahi Shimbun, visitors come from as far away as Shizuoka. They’re not only interested in seeing the graves, but are also drawn to the peaceful environment of these old-fashioned graveyards.

April Fool’s in Japan — the joke’s on you

Monday, April 1st, 2013

April Fool’s Day doesn’t have very deep roots in Japanese culture, but obviously branding creatives and open-minded corporations are seeing the potential benefits of making potential customers laugh. Rather than pulling a fast one, these pranks put their silliness up-front and center.

Ika

>

Never runs out of batteries, glows in the dark and easy to handle.

Introducing the iKA Organic Ebook from publisher Kodansha. Drawing its power from the squid’s natural bioenergy, there’s no need to recharge the batteries. The iKA’s long tentacles serve as a handy neck-strap, it glows in the dark and has endless supply of ink. The iKA is provided via a subscription service, which delivers a fresh squid each week (note:  size and weight may vary). You get the added bonus of being able to cook and eat the old one (special squid dish recipe available to early buyers!). How’s that for eco-friendly technology?

Domino's can pizza

Don’t you hate how unwieldy pizzas can be? Dominos’s new canned pizza is not only compact, it’s long-lasting, so you can stock up your bomb shelter and never go without a slice!

giant squid

Need something with a bit more substance? How about Hanamaru Udon‘s giant squid, caught daily by harpoon fishing and fried up as tempura, from  That will be ¥87,000, please.

Silky

Taking aim at Line, the runaway hit app of the past year, search site Goo offers Silky, the old favorite for free and simple communication. And you can send silly stamps too!  And  yes, it’s biodegradable tech, too?

Forcebook

We have to give full props to Eiga.com, a movie info site, for its execution of Yoda’s account on Forcebook. They got every detail right … from George Lucas friending J.J. Abrams to  Anakin Skywalker changing his account name to Darth Vader to R2D2 denial of Jar Jar Bink’s friend request. One ad shows has Imperial Storm Troopers raising funds to rebuild Death Star. May the forceful guffaw go with you.

By the way, did you spot this one in The Japan Times. I mean we highly admire professor Mogura Tataki’s mission to eliminate society’s bias against lefties but  something tells us we’re being pawned.

 (Research by Shinjin Ono and Kazuhiro Kobayashi)

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