Archive for the ‘News/media’ Category

Funassyi — Japan’s favorite shrieking pear

Friday, May 15th, 2015

funassyi-pic

In a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the British comedian dove into the weird and excessive world of Japan’s yuru-kyara. During his on-air explanation of the nation’s many mascots, Oliver highlighted Funassyi, the giant yellow pear who is the unofficial mascot of Funabashi in Chiba, and included one of his more explosive moments on TV.

Need to know more about Japan’s most popular pear?

At first Funnasyi was rejected as the official mascot of his hometown but unlike other successful official mascots, such as Kumamon of Kumamoto Prefecture, Funassyi has come to symbolize Funabashi despite its lack of government sponsorship and become just as popular as any yuru-kyara.

Funnasyi has appeared in national commercials for the Asahi, released a CD single, and been crowned the Grand-Prix winner at an international trade show for character and brand businesses best license in Japan in 2014 as he traveled across Japan and the world to spread his pear-y special brand of energy.

Here are just a few of highlights from 2014:

Funassyi’s popularity hit a milestone last year when, as he was being featured on CNN in June, the news reporter couldn’t help but laugh throughout the broadcast when she saw the mascot flapping his arms around.

In July, Funassyi tried to kickstart a fashion trend by donning a black cap with a “274” logo (a play on the numbers 2-7-4 with can sound like “fu-na-shi”) and appeared in a TV commercial for Shimamura, a fashion shopping center. The fast-running pear with non-stop squealing had fans wondering how he survived the summer heat in his suit.

In September, FUNAcafe, a collaboration event of Funassyi and Shibuya Parco’s The Guest Cafe & Diner, served a special Funassyi-inspired menu including the “funa” burger (with his face on the burger), nashi pear cake, nashi pear tea and even dandan noodles.

The character’s popularity went international when he visited Hong Kong in October, attending a local shopping mall event and bringing Japanese yuru-kyara culture with him. Judging by this video, Funassyi’s fans in Hong Kong are just as passionate as those in Tokyo.

In December, the toy company “Kitan Club” released a Funnasyi-style version of its famous Cup-no-Fuchiko cup-straddling toys. The brands are literally embracing each other as the tiny figurines can cling to each other in three different kinds of positions and as expected of Cup-no-Fuchiko both can sit on the edge of the cup. The announcement climbed to the top of Fuji Television’s weekly Twitter rankings, beating out the hot issue of Japan’s strict state secrets law.

Funassyi is expanding his brand aggressively by creating Funassyi stories everywhere in Japan. Funassyiland, a Funaasyi goods store, opened in Fukuoka in December. According to Asahi Digital News, Funassyi devotees from as far as Tokyo were making the trek.

Funassyi’s naturally fragile yet good-natured personality seems to be a starting point.

The pear rounded out 2014 on Nippon TV by rocking out with his hero, Ozzy Osbourne, performing a headbanging rendition of Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Funassyi got a little wet and wild when Osbourne dumped a bucket of water on him before pushing him into a swimming pool.

In the same month, whilst making a cameo during a commemorative concert for The Alfee, Funassyi took an untimely tumble but nothing went pear-shaped: the resilient character sprung back into action minutes later.

Without a doubt, Funassyi was a hit in 2014 but only time will tell if the rest of 2015 will keep rewarding the fruits of his labor.

YouTube’s #DearMe campaign looks back to look forward

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

With International Women’s Day right around the corner, YouTube launched its #DearMe campaign, encouraging women to reflect on their past and post video messages with advice to their younger selves. The project became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter within an hour after its launch.

YouTube recruited a range of women from a variety of countries, backgrounds and professions, including blogger Grace Helbig, actress Felicia Day and the band Pentatonix. The selection also included many women living in Japan. Here are a few of the #DearMe videos highlighted by YouTube.

Bilingirl — YouTuber

Subscribers:  383,324

“As I lived each day of my life, trying new things and gaining new experiences, I discovered that there was more to me than just small eyes and a flat face. I learned that confidence comes from my accomplishments and not my appearances.”

“The best make-up is a girl’s smile, so don’t forget to smile!”


Rin Rin Doll — model, blogger, TV personality

Subscribers: 5,570

“Your achievements aren’t defined by other people. Wear what you want to wear. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid of obstacles coming your way — you’re going to be OK. You’re strong, and I believe in you.”

CONTINUE READING about YouTube's #DearMe campaign →

Tweet Beat: #七夕, #鯖アニメ, #愛国競争

Friday, July 12th, 2013

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

A tweet is a wish your heart makes

May everyone’s wishes come true. Hikoboshi casually greets Orihime in English.

#七夕 (Tanabata, the Star Festival) takes place at different times depending on where you are in Japan, but July 7 is the first major date. It’s a holiday for making wishes and celebrating the once-a-year reunion of legendary separated lovers Hikoboshi and Orihime. The accompanying decorations make for great tweets, but the concise format (and this tool that allows your text to mimic the shape of a traditional paper tanzaku) is also perfect for sharing wishes.

Write your wish on a tanzaku.

Some people expressed personal aspirations or concerns:

“I want to belong to Amuse.”

“I wanna be a hottie.”

“May I become fluent in Japanese.”

“May my smartphone not break until I can buy a new one.”

“I want friends.”

Some looked outward:

“World peace.”

“May black kigyo go under.”

“May I be able to repay many favors.”

One person wrote a wish for the manga character Detective Conan, and one, instead of wishing, realized that he hadn’t done anything Tanabata-ish at all.

May all my follower’s wishes come true.

Continue reading about last week's top hashtags →

Japan by the numbers (07.11.13)

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Pulsations (06.02.13)

Sunday, June 2nd, 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

Japanese feline Internet sensation, Maru, has turned 5 years old. In his latest video, he can be seen trying to squeeze his frame into just about anything. We find his attempt at a paper envelope particularly entertaining.

Fighting for their lives, local governments shell out for matchmaking services

Friday, May 24th, 2013

If you’re single, looking for love and live in Itoigawa city, Niigata Prefecture, the local government will be happy to pick up the hefty tab for registering with an online dating agency. According to a recent article in J-Cast, the municipality of Itoigawa has taken the unusual step of partnering up with professional matchmakers Zwei in the hopes that young local singletons will find love through the web.

Itoigawa municipality is offering to pay sign up fees for marriage hunting website Zwei

Itoigawa municipality is offering to pay sign up fees for marriage hunting website Zwei

Declining birth rates threaten the future productivity of Japan, so it’s in the best interests of local government to help romance bloom between residents via konkatsu (marriage hunting) activities. By lending financial support to machikon (large-scale singles mixers),  konkatsu seminars, day trips and group dates, the local government obviously wants its citizens to make babies.

Unfortunately there’s little hard data available to show whether spending public money on konkatsu activities actually leads to  marriages. In March 2011 the Cabinet Office published a survey on marriage and family structures. Out the 1698 municipalities that took part, 552 had actively supported konkatsu activites. However, 283 of these had stopped these activities because of a perceived limit to their effectiveness, lack of funds and a decline in demand. Some simply held one event and that was it.

Itoigawa, however, don’t seem to have done too badly. Since it began supporting konkatsu activities in 2007, 18 local couples have tied the knot. Feeling it could do better and hearing about a similar scheme in Inami, Wakayama Prefecture, where the municipality helped citizens out with Zwei’s fees, Itoigawa decided to call in the professionals.

Single people aged 20 or above who’ve been living in Itoigawa for more than a year and are up to date with their residency taxes can get the initial fees of ¥63,840 (roughly $621) paid by local government; however, they will have to foot the monthly membership fees themselves. Zwei offers quite a comprehensive service, not only organizing omiai (interviews to gauge marriage potential between parties), but also mixers where people might find someone special.

It’s too early to say if this scheme will be a success. In Wakayama, four people applied for financial support with fees for Zwei in 2011, though it’s not known if any of these led to marriage. Nobody applied in 2012, despite inquiries from parents with unmarried children.

One of the key stumbling blocks might be the stigma attached to online dating in Japan. The launch of Xlace, another konkatsu website, back in April this year, however, does seem to indicate that the market is slowly growing; whether other local governments will also enlist help from online dating agencies to stimulate couple generation remains to be seen.

J-blip: Taro Aso ‘gang style’ t-shirts

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Serious stylin'

Serious stylin’

When Finance Minister Taro Aso set off for a G20 meeting earlier this year, he did it in style, sporting a natty felt hat, pulled rakishly down over one eye. No sooner had he stepped out in public in this getup than Twitter was abuzz with comments celebrating the finance minister’s “gangster style.”

Now the outfit has even been immortalized on “Gang Style” t-shirts, sold by Osaka-based brand t-shirts Trinity. The t-shirts have been a big hit, inspiring the company to bring out Taro Aso “gang style” sweatshirts and tote bags.

The t-shirts are only ¥2,980, but if you’d like to get your hands on a hat similar to the one Aso wore, you’re going to have to shell out quite a bit more. Business Media reported that sources close to Aso have said that the hat is probably made by Italian brand Borsalino. The company itself says that a hat in a similar style to Aso’s retails for around ¥90,000. It seems that gangster style comes at a hefty price!

Google Street Views goes inside a Fukushima school

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

As everyone knows, Google Street Views lets you wander around 3D visualations of remote locations, giving you that You Are There sort of experience. Last year, the Street Views team traveled to Fukushima’s Namie-machi, making it possible for everyone to experience Japan’s no-go zone.

Straying from the usual Street View approach, the Google team actually went inside a building for this expedition. One of them is Ukedo Elementary School, and the images of its abandoned school rooms are heartbreaking.

“We love Ukedo elemantary School and we will be back”

Namie-machi was evacuated right after the explosion of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The location, which suffered heavy damage from the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, is now a ghost town.

Fortunately, all 77 students Ukedo Elementary school, located 500 meters from the coastline of Fukushima, were evacuated safely.

“You guys can accomplish anything,” reads the whiteboard.

Messages, probably written by students or teachers before leaving the area, can be seen written on the school’s whiteboard.

On the stage it says

“Congratulations to the new graduates.”

This last photo shows the school gym with a banner hung to to celebrate graduation day.

If you want to explore the no-go zone yourself, head over to Google Street Views.

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