Japan Pulse » » News/media http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse Taking the pulse of trends, trend-watchers and trendmakers in Japan. Fri, 21 Aug 2015 08:08:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/wp-content/themes/orange/favicon.ico Japan Pulse Funassyi — Japan’s favorite shrieking pear http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/funassyi-japans-favorite-shrieking-pear/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/funassyi-japans-favorite-shrieking-pear/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 23:00:33 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20188 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.

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YouTube’s #DearMe campaign looks back to look forward http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/youtubes-dearme-campaign-looks-back-to-look-forward/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/youtubes-dearme-campaign-looks-back-to-look-forward/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 09:53:56 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=20055 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gFdQM_Hpos

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.”

Junko Suzuki — model

Subscribers: 34


“If you love yourself and be yourself, you will make friends whom you will truly love.”

Chie Hidaka — makeup artist

Subscribers: 533


“To the person who had no self-confidence, who got too caught up in the little things and couldn’t move. To the person who cried everyday because of the acne on her skin. To the person who didn’t laugh because she didn’t know how to. To the person who felt inferior for not having a mother. Thank you. I am here now because you took the time to face your struggles. Thank you so much. Dear me, thank you.”

Caroline Kennedy — U.S. Ambassador to Japan

Subscribers (To the U.S. Embassy channel): 1,562


“I wish someone had told me not to be afraid to make a mistake. I think we spend a lot of time trying to be perfect. But it’s really your mistakes that make you who you are, that lead to future success.”

Miki — video journalist, blogger

Subscribers: 2,171


“Failures, failures, failures, failures, failures and more failures has helped me get to where I am now, so keep making mistakes.”

Sayulee — singer/songwriter

Subscribers: 22,302


“There’s only one you, and you are much cooler than you think you are.”

Saori Arai — TV announcer

Subscribers: 1,114


“You are feeling insecure because of your voice. Some people think you are trying to be cute or be a goody-goody because of how you sound. But one day, somebody will tell you that you have a beautiful voice. You may not believe that person right away, but try. Try to love your voice. Right now, I’m a television announcer, using this very voice. I know now what I felt insecure about in the past is actually my strength, my charm.”

Jun Nakayama — performer, model

Subscribers: 73


“Who directs the movie of your life? Yes, you do. It’s your life. Listen to your heart and soul.”

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Tweet Beat: #七夕, #鯖アニメ, #愛国競争 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/tweet-beat-%e4%b8%83%e5%a4%95-%e9%af%96%e3%82%a2%e3%83%8b%e3%83%a1-%ef%bc%83%e6%84%9b%e5%9b%bd%e7%ab%b6%e4%ba%89/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/tweet-beat-%e4%b8%83%e5%a4%95-%e9%af%96%e3%82%a2%e3%83%8b%e3%83%a1-%ef%bc%83%e6%84%9b%e5%9b%bd%e7%ab%b6%e4%ba%89/#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 11:18:15 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=18426 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.

Summer anime take the trends by storm

Of last week’s top trending hashtags, all except three were anime-related, and while the NTV Friday Roadshow showing of Studio Ghibli’s #耳をすませば (“Whisper of the Heart”) grabbed the top spot, most of them were fans buzzing about summer season premieres.

July 1:

#inuhasa (“Dog & Scissors”), based on the light novel by Shunsuke Sarai, is the story of a bookworm who is killed during a robbery, reborn as a dog and terrorized by a novelist.

July 2:

#monogatari (“Monogatari Series Second Season”) further adapts NisiOisiN’s urban fantasy light novel series that began with “Bakemonogatari.”

#bc_anime (“Brothers Conflict”) is adapted from Atsuko Kanase and Takeshi Mizuno’s light novels where a girl ends up with 13 stepbrothers when her dad remarries.

July 4:

#symphogear (“Senki Zesshō Symphogear G”) is the second season of an original anime where idols battle aliens with music.

#love_lab_tv (“Love Lab”) is based on Ruri Miyahara’s 4-panel gag manga about students at an all-girls academy preparing for romance.

#danganronpa (“Danganronpa: Kibō no Gakuen to Zetsubō no Kōkōsei The Animation”), based on the videogame series by Spike Chunsoft, takes place at a high school where students have to kill or be killed.

#c3部 (“Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3″), based on the manga created by Ikoma and Momoka Midorito, focuses on girls who play military survival games.

#rozen (“Rozen Maiden – Zurückspulen”) adapts Peach-Pit’s second “Rozen Maiden” manga about living dolls.

#kitakubu_anime (“Chronicles of the Going Home Club”), based on the manga by Kuroha, is a school life comedy that follows a group of girls who have fun going home instead of doing extra-curriculars.

#鯖アニメ (“Servant x Service”) is based on the manga by Karino Takatsu about government office workers in Hokkaido. The hashtag appears to be a pun on “servant” and “mackerel” (saabanto, saba).

We went with #鯖アニメ as the hashtag as a way to get people who don’t know about it to be like “An anime about . . . mackerel?!” . . . I’ll leave it up to you guys.” — Karino Takatsu

July 7:

#makaiouji (“Makai Ouji: Devils and Realists”), adapted from Madoka Takadono and Utako Yukihiro’s manga, follows a guy who is strapped for cash, accidentally summons a demon and ends up a candidate for substitute ruler of hell.

If you can believe it, these are only the anime that premiered last week and made it into the top twenty trends; there were other shows that weren’t as heavily tweeted, and all the shows of the season have not even premiered yet! You can check a digest of recent and upcoming titles at Anime News Network.

Political Activists Stage ‘Twi-Demo’

I might be called stupid, I might be called an otaku, I might be called net-uyo, but today I just love Japan, and hate anti-Japanese. That’s it.

“Will you betray your country? Will you quit being Japanese? The Upper House election is a #愛国競争 [patriotism competition]!” shouts the website of a rightwing movement staging demos on Twitter. “Round 1: Our nation’s people are angry about the comfort women hoax! Twi-demo” was held 9-11 p.m. on the day the campaigning officially kicked off, July 4.

There were two main issues on the table. One was (United States Congress) House Resolution 121. Introduced by Mike Honda and passed in 2007, it recommends that Japan apologize to comfort women. Demo organizer Nadesiko Action [sic] is promoting a White House petition to repeal it.

A secondary hashtag #撤廃署名 (“repeal the signature”) seems to refer more to the second main issue, the Kono Statement of 1993, which acknowledged the coercion of comfort women by Japan. The demo participants are collecting signatures to pressure for a repeal of this as well.

The enemies are here in Japan! Now is the time to stand up and fight to reclaim the nation of Japan! Look to the right! THE RIGHT!

As for the demo itself, the official round-up is here. It sounds like at least one of their tags made it to the #1 trending spot and they estimate that there were around 10,000 tweets.

Many people people posted tweets directly related to the themes of the demo, even some in English. Others mixed in their own themes:

One participant combined distrust of Koreans with an explanation of the Hinomaru (rising sun) flag.

A Tanabata tanzaku tweet made with the tool mentioned above wishes for the dissolution of NHK. Incidentally, the people who believe the national broadcasting company is somehow controlled by Koreans or Chinese, protects their interests, runs commercials that promote their products on purpose and is in-general anti-Japanese, are pretty vocal on NHK hashtags, so they are hard to miss.

Conservative girls are beautiful / Leftist girls are ugly.

A fan of erotic manga finds it baffling that the “patriot right” will recognize the necessity of comfort women and then restrict ero-comics like child pornography. One of the many hashtags is a play on the words “porn” and “brain.”

A tweet calling out specific politicians hits them with the slang 害国人 (gaikokujin) meaning “people harming the nation,” but it’s hard to ignore the homophone 外国人 (also gaikokujin) “foreigners/non-Japanese.” One could imagine, coming from a nationalist, that play on words only deepening the insult,and it seems to tie in to the “Will you quit being Japanese?” taunt.

At least one voice takes a cynical view:

We still haven’t figured out who is the biggest patriot yet?

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Japan by the numbers (07.11.13) http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/japan-by-the-numbers-07-11-13/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/japan-by-the-numbers-07-11-13/#comments Thu, 11 Jul 2013 10:21:56 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=18386
  • 90.8% of people in Japan do not know what a “smart TV” is, although some of that percentage had heard the term before, according to goo research.
  • 84.5% of men who answered a poll by the Communication Design Research Institute said they are more attracted to women who eat a lot (note: most men said they prefer to see women eat healthy foods such as salad).
  • 79% people in Japan agree with the idea of charging a fee to climb Mount Fuji, according to research conducted by Yamatokeikokusha Company.
  • 63% of junior high and high school female students polled by  Fumi Communications said they plan to vote when they reach the voting age of 20.
  • 56.8% of people who own digital devices such as tablets and smart phones use security software to protect their private information.
  • 45% of single women between aged 25-29 want to have a baby within the next three years. That percentage is larger than that for married women in same age range, according to research by Dentsu Souken Mamalabo.
  • ]]>
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    Pulsations (06.02.13) http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/pulsations-06-02-13/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/pulsations-06-02-13/#comments Sun, 02 Jun 2013 03:22:40 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=17600 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.


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    Fighting for their lives, local governments shell out for matchmaking services http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/fighting-for-their-lives-local-governments-shell-out-for-matchmaking-services/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/fighting-for-their-lives-local-governments-shell-out-for-matchmaking-services/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 07:04:25 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=17490 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.

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    J-blip: Taro Aso ‘gang style’ t-shirts http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/j-blip-taro-aso-gang-style-t-shirts/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/j-blip-taro-aso-gang-style-t-shirts/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 09:34:15 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=17400 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!

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    Google Street Views goes inside a Fukushima school http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/google-street-views-goes-inside-a-fukushima-school/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/google-street-views-goes-inside-a-fukushima-school/#comments Tue, 16 Apr 2013 10:17:37 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=17209 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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    “Fasting guys” not interested in women – at all http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/fasting-guys-not-interested-in-women-at-all/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/fasting-guys-not-interested-in-women-at-all/#comments Thu, 24 Jan 2013 10:27:44 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=16582 The Japanese media is lamenting the decline of red-blooded males and the rise of

    The Japanese media is lamenting the decline of red-blooded males and the rise of “fasting guys” in their place. Photo: Tambako the Jaguar

    For the last few years, the Japanese media have been dishing out label after label in an attempt to describe the modern Japanese male. The latest tag they’ve pinned on these much-analyzed specimens is the term zesshoku-kei danshi. Literally, “fasting guys,” these are guys so uninterested in women that they don’t even – gasp – have a favorite female TV talent or idol.

    The moniker is a play on sōshoku-kei danshi, a phrase coined by the media a few years ago. These so-called “herbivore guys” preferred, like the fabled brontosaurus, to graze peacefully. Which is to say, they showed little ambition in romance, or likely their careers, either. The term proved to be a big hit, resulting in a whole glossary of hilarious spin-off words (see below). But the fasting guys make the herbivores look downright ambitious. In fact, some women have taken a liking to the gentle herbivores and the term has become a lot more neutral than its original critical tone.

    Fasting guys exploded on the internet around the end of last year, following a survey of single men released by marriage match-making company O-net. The results were published on sites like Nico News and were subsequently tweeted like mad.

    According to the survey, 12.1% of those aged 25-29 and 16.1% of those aged 30-34 – or about 14% total – identified with the “fasting” group. That’s roughly the same percentage as those who self-identified as nikushoku-kei danshi, red-blooded “meat-eating” types.

    Of the fasting guys, half reported that they’d never had a girlfriend. Some 70% said it had never once occurred to them to get married.

    Tough luck for all the women pining for Sagawa-danshi – the guys who work for the delivery company Sagawa Express and who have been fashioned by the media into pin-ups of the strong, dependable type.

    However, not everyone is buying into this new development. The top-ranked commenter on the Yahoo story (to which over 7,000 readers clicked “I agree”) says, in sum: “Of course you’re going to get these results if you survey single men. The ones who haven’t got it together by 30 are going to be the inexperienced or uninterested ones.”

    The internet also abounds with warnings of fake fasting guys – ones who pretend to be uninterested in women to mask their own wounding unpopularity with the opposite sex.

    Don’t take it too hard, guys. At least you still get to be “guys,” unlike women who, in the past, have been makeinu (“loser dogs” – women who don’t marry, but are probably otherwise successful) and kurisumasu kēki (“Christmas cake” – women unmarried after 25, considered past their sell-by date).

    A Glossary of Modern Japanese Males

    nikushoku-kei danshi (肉食系男子; carnivore guys): Classic macho guys who go after what – and who – they want.

    sōshoku-kei danshi (草食系男子; herbivore guys): Shy guys who don’t make a move; prey for the growing number of nikushoku-kei josei (carnivore girls).

    roru kyabetsu danshi (ロールキャベツ男子; roll cabbage guys): Guys who appear to be herbivores but are actually carnivore to the core; named for the classic yōshoku (Japanese-style western food) dish of cooked cabbage stuffed with meat.

    asupara bēkon-maki danshi (アスパラベーコン巻き男子; bacon-wrapped asparagus guys): Guys who come across as carnivores but later reveal themselves to be herbivores; named for the yakitori dish.

    zasshoku-kei danshi (雑食系男子; omnivorous guys): Guys who will go with whatever works.

    zesshoku-kei danshi (絶食系男子; fasting guys): Guys with zero interest in women.

    Photo: Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr

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    Hit the road: Japan’s 2013 trend forecast http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/hit-the-road-japans-2013-trend-forecast/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/hit-the-road-japans-2013-trend-forecast/#comments Sun, 20 Jan 2013 10:15:56 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=16559 'Long Trail' hiking is Trendy magazine's number one trend pick for 2013

    ‘Long Trail’ hiking is Trendy magazine’s number one trend pick for 2013.

    In 2012 we got cat-ear hair-dos, an increasing appetite for salty mold, and a tower with a silly name. What wonders will 2013 bring? We’ve gone through Trendy’s predictions and came up with a list of themes that look good to us. Basically it boils down to this: smart phones continue to up the convenience factor, and people have to work harder to get away from convenience and to make up for all the energy it saves.

    People will get moving – even more

    Running and hiking have been big the last few years, and Trendy predicts that this will continue, and that people will invest even more in these hobbies. The magazine anticipates that hikers will head further into the hills, taking to what it calls the “long trails” that are dozens (possibly hundreds) of kilometers long, mostly in the Alps of central Honshu.

    Naturally, these overnight trips will require more gear than the yama girls have acquired thus far, including camp stoves and camp stove-operated mobile phone chargers. Hikes deep into the heart of the country also fit in nicely with other growing interests that have been driving travel trends recently, like history and power spots.

    Dieting will be more palatable, and fun

    One of the biggest hits of 2012 was Kirin’s Mets Cola. Billed as the world’s first health-soda, the product claims to inhibit fat uptake. It got tokuho billing, the government-issued health food label usually reserved for products like bio-yogurt. Trendy anticipates that other ordinary edibles will ramp up their ingredients to qualify as tokuho products, and that 2013 will see more typically sweet things – from donuts to umeshu (plum wine) to teriyaki sauce – getting the low-calorie treatment with sweeteners like D-Psicose. Likewise, “water enhancers” like Kraft’s Mio Energy, which look like colored eye-drops but presumably have a Crystal Lite effect, look to make good, old-fashioned water more palatable to soda addicts.


    Fujitsu’s “Wandant” dog pedometer automatically uploads data to the cloud. Photo courtesy of Fujitsu.

    Trendy also sees gadgets that gamify weight-loss and fitness, like Nike’s FuelBand and Panasonic’s EW-NK63 pedometer – both of which beam data to smartphones – as being likely hits in 2013.

    And (sigh) it looks like Fujitsu has gone and made a pedometer for dogs, the “wandant” (“wan-chan” being the word for puppy). As the pampered puppies of years past are now overweight middle-aged pooches, we’re probably going to see more human-driven weight-loss and exercise trends trickle down to the canine population.

    Smartphones work their way further into our lives

    Now that we’ve confirmed that Japanese consumers are buying into smartphones, it is likely that we’ll see more crossover products on the market. Expect more digital cameras that allow you to upload photos to a smartphone over Wi-Fi – like Nikon’s new Coolpix S800C, which is also an Android device itself – to hit the market in 2013, says Trendy.

    Last year Moleskin introduced its “Smart Notebook” series, which is designed to sync nicely with the popular smartphone app Evernote. According to Trendy, Japanese office and school supply manufacturer Kokuyo (they make those ubiquitous “Campus” notebooks) has now launched its own series of smartphone-ready stationary, CamiApp, along with its own app.

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    Pulsations (12.07.12) http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/pulsations-12-07-12/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/pulsations-12-07-12/#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2012 10:47:03 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=16245 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 . . .

    • Breastfeeding doublespeak in Japan (from StarryBrooke): A new mother discusses Japan’s seeming inclination towards formula milk and its take on a healthy infant’s recommended weekly weight gain.
    • Dead Sensei Society (from Little Japan): Need to let out a few sniggers at work? This web comic features a “bumbling ex-pat who loves Japan, and reluctantly and inexpertly teaches English in order to stay.” Art imitating life, it seems.
    • The frustration of fruit (Japan As I Find It): Blogger Ciara airs her frustration with the cut-throat prices of fruit in Japan. Has your intake of natural vitamins taken a dip since moving here, too?

    Visual Pulse

    Good news, Doraemon fans. You’ll soon be able to relive your childhood, for the tubby and resourceful blue cat will be back on the big screen this coming March. Keep your fingers tightly crossed that the world doesn’t end on the 21st of this month…


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    Japan’s top 10 buzzwords for 2012 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/japans-top-10-buzzwords-for-2012/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/japans-top-10-buzzwords-for-2012/#comments Mon, 03 Dec 2012 11:45:58 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=16177 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlhrW1PGx-8

    And the winner is . . .  wairudo darō (wild, isn’t it? ワイルドだろぉ).

    Every year Jiyu Kokuminsha, which publishes an annual tome of new words, selects its top buzzwords – or more often than not, catchphrases — for the year. And today the committee picked Sugi-chan’s profound words as the year’s best.

    A popular comedian, Sugi-chan (real name Eiji Sugiyama) is known for his tough-guy parodies. In September he broke his back while filming a stunt for a TV Asahi variety show, so maybe he’s also getting a sympathy vote here.

    Still, it’s a far cry from last year’s winner and symbol of national pride, Nadeshiko Japan, the women’s soccer team.

    Here’s the rest of the top 10 (chosen from an original pool of 50):

    iPS saibō (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, iPS 細胞): The discovery – of how to turn ordinary skin cells into stem cells – that earned a Nobel Prize in medicine for Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University.

    How low will they go?

    LCC (short for Low Cost Carrier): This year saw the birth of several budget airlines — Peach Aviation, Air Asia Japan and Jet Star Japan – which promise to upset the reign of JAL and ANA and change the nature of domestic travel in Japan.

    Ishin (restoration, 維新): A nod to controversial, ambitious Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and his political party Ishin no Kai — later broadened to the national Nippon Ishin no Kai – both of which dominated news headlines this year.

    Shūkatsu (end activities, 終活) A play on the word for “job-hunting” (also pronounced shūkatsu, but spelled with different characters) that became popular with Boomers making preparations for “the end.”

    Daisan kyoku (third power, 第3極): Another political entry, referring to the potential for a third party – possibly the tenuous collaboration of Hashimoto and former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara – to shake things up.


    Bakudan teikiatsu (爆弾低気圧 literally “low pressure bomb”): A rapid drop in atmospheric pressure that precipitates a sudden and intense storm, like typhoon Guchol, which caused dramatic flooding, injuries, and rail line closures in June.

    Chikai uchi ni (In the near future, 近いうちに): In August Prime Minister Noda promised to declare parliamentary elections “in the near future.” Elections will finally take place later this month.

    Tebura de karaseru wake ni ha ikenai (We can’t let him go home empty-handed, 手ぶらで帰らせるわけにはいかない): Said by Olympic swimmer Takeshi Matsuda after Japan took silver in the medley relay about his teammate Kosuke Kitajima, who failed to win any medals in the individual events. Even though Kitajima has four golds from previous Olympics.

    Tokyo Solamachi beats out the big Skytree

    Tokyo Solamachi (東京ソラマチ Tokyo Skytown): We’re not sure why this – the shopping center under Tokyo Skytree – beat out the tower itself.

    To be honest, the results were a bit disappointing – and not just because a few of the trends we’ve covered over the past year failed to make the final cut (like shio kōji, Tanita Shokudō and Sagawa danshi).

    Seeing as this was a year of ongoing protests and politicians making bold statements in favor, or against, taking all nuclear plants offline, surely genpatsu zero (no nukes) should have made the top 10.

    None of the web-related words – sōkatsu (social media job-hunting), netōyo (internet nationalists), or ii ne! (the Japanese version of Facebook’s “like”) –  made the final list either.

    We were also rooting for bimajo, “beautiful witches” who seem to defy aging.

    This year was, oddly, not without scandal. The word namapo was struck from the list at the last minute, for fear that it promoted discrimination against the poor.

    Namapo is a contraction of seikatsu hogo – Japanese for “welfare” (the first character can also be read as “nama”). The word spread on Internet forums, becoming part of the web’s colloquial language. Welfare recipients have been increasing in Japan, to the tune of 5,499 a month, and a successful (read: wealthy) comedian, Junichi Komoto, was  slammed by the media earlier this year when it was revealed that his mother was living off of welfare (rather than her son).

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    Bunpei Yorifuji’s ‘Wonderful Life with the Elements’ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/bunpei-yorifujis-wonderful-life-with-elements/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/bunpei-yorifujis-wonderful-life-with-elements/#comments Wed, 17 Oct 2012 00:00:40 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=15073 Remember that kid who doodled all through your chemistry class instead of taking notes? Now imagine if that kid had an encyclopedic knowledge of the elements as well as a knack for drawings that made everyone giggle behind the teacher’s back.

    Bunpei Yorifuji’s Wonderful Life with the Elements

    That’s the feeling we get flipping through Bunpei Yorifuji‘s “Wonderful Life With the Elements.” Yorifuji is well known for his series of Tokyo Metro manners posters that urged riders to, among other things, “do it at home.”

    Though the pull-out periodic table poster looks at first like a random collection of whimsical yellow guys, every part of each endearing little dude is carefully designed. From their ages, hair styles, and clothing (or lack thereof) to their weight and facial hair, every, well, element of each element matters and tells you something about each substance. (It might remind kanji nerds of the way kanji radicals add up.)

    Most of the elements get their own pages. Illustrations show key properties (toxic thallium is soft like butter) as well as where they turn up in daily life (“Sodium compounds are great for housework!”) and beyond (boron is key in both fake movie snow and roach poison). There’s a section on eating the elements that compares the elements contained in a Japanese vs. a Western breakfast.

    We learn which elements like to stick together for good, like the “digital semiconductor trio.” Troublemakers are grouped together, too, like the elements that were used to attack subways in Tokyo as sarin gas and to poison a pot of curry in Wakayama. They appear as benign-looking acrobatic combinations, perhaps suggesting that the elements themselves aren’t evil.

    We wonder if future editions might address elements that have gained new prominence. Things have changed since the original Japanese version (元素生活, genso seikatsu) came out in 2009. Japanese scientists created Ununtrium for the first time just last month. Cesium, the subject of thousands of post-Fukushima articles, gets no more than a nod as a natural timekeeper, and there’s no mention of the problems that iodine can cause when its radioactive version is ingested.

    The English version, published by geeky U.S. imprint No Starch Press, is available in Japan through Amazon.com or Amazon.jp. The original is at bookstores all over Japan and online. There is a bit of Japanese scattered throughout the book, including each element’s Japanese name and Chinese character, but not their readings. The book may be too late to help many of us pass our chemistry tests, but it’s a great second chance to get to know the elements as the individuals they are.

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    Bagel head trend is a big distortion http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/bagel-head-trend-is-a-big-distortion/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/bagel-head-trend-is-a-big-distortion/#comments Sat, 29 Sep 2012 00:44:36 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=15178

    La Carmina with two hosts from Fuel TV, who featured – and received – bagel heads on camera. (photo courtesy of La Carmina)

    It would appear that the Western media have, yet again, conjured up a “Big in Japan” trend.

    If  “bagel head” means nothing to you, here’s a recap: “Taboo,” a show on National Geographic, ran a segment earlier this week on a kind of extreme body modification that has been happening in Japan’s underground for years. It involves injecting saline into the forehead and then sometimes putting a depression into the bulge in a way that comes out looking like a bagel or a doughnut.

    Predictably, U.S. media outlets such as the Huffington Post, CNN and Mashable, and the U.K.’s The Sun and Daily Mail quickly turned out attention-grabbing stories that insinuated that this was the latest Japanese trend. “Japan’s hot new beauty trend?” asks the HuffPo headline, for example.

    People outside of Japan seem to be taking the “news” at face value. A tweet from @OMGFact about the “Japanese trend” has been retweeted hundreds of times.

    Most observers in Japan, however, know better. @SublightMonster tweeted “Bagel heads: hot new trend, or yet another lazy journalist turning in yet another ‘wacky Japan’ piece?” @Mulboyne, a British Twitter user based in Tokyo, wrote that he was surprised to run into some bulging foreheads at an underground party in 2009. He told us the hardcore body-modification fans there simply called it “seerin durippu” — saline drip. “One reaction was ‘Kimochi warui!‘ (gross!). It looked a bit unsafe,” he said. “There was a lot of amusement, too, of course.”

    To set the record straight, we spoke with La Carmina, a well-known subculture blogger and TV host. Her team, La Carmina and the Pirates, actually did the legwork for National Geographic. They hooked the producers up with Kerropy Maeda, the man who brought this type of saline injection to Japan in 2007 after seeing it in Canada. La Carmina and her crew even supplied the show with its models. (To learn more about Maeda and the Tokyo scene, read this excellent interview in Vice  published last year.)

    Nevertheless, La Carmina takes issue with how it ended up being exaggerated, not on National Geographic, but on the coverage that followed. “It is not a trend even among the most hardcore body modification types,” she said. “It’s expensive. It takes specialized equipment. Most Japanese people don’t even know about it.”

    Indeed, some Japanese media are hearing about it for the first time.

    A reporter for Excite News wrote: “Having never heard of ‘bagel head’ I was as surprised as anyone to see these pictures of young people. A perfectly cute forehead transformed by a grotesque swelling. It looks quite like a space alien. I shudder to think, but according to news sites all over, this is Japan’s latest trend?”

    La Carmina said she had been blogging about bagel heads  (and other, arguably more extreme, forms of body modification) for years. “There’s a strong, supportive subculture in Japan who are into trying new things. It’s just another method of expression, like piercings or tattoos, but it is certainly not a trend,” she said, adding for clarification: “It is absolutely not permanent. It lasts for a night and then you pee it out.”

    Her friend John, who got his bagel done for the National Geographic show, thought it would be great if all this attention led to a greater understanding of underground cultures. Sadly, though, as he points out, “if you say something on the Internet about Japan, people tend to believe it.”

    Naturally this isn’t the first time. Remember the last wacky “new Japanese fashion,” the LED mouthpieces reported on by the New York Times Bits Blog? That story was amended when it turned out to be born out of an ad campaign.

    Think we’ll see corrections for this wave of stories, too?

    [Postscript: We’re now a footnote in the meme.]

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    Pulsations (07.13.12) http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/pulsations-07-13-12/ http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/pulsations-07-13-12/#comments Fri, 13 Jul 2012 13:06:58 +0000 http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/?p=14360 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 . . .

    • Paying for it  (from This Japanese Life): Part 3 of the series, “On Pretending to Know about Education in Japan,” this post outlines the costs of different forms of schooling and the burdens that education places on families living below the recently acknowledged poverty line. The author argues that the current Japanese system is outdated and causing societal stagnation. Along with parts 1 and 2, it’s an interesting read for anyone who’s curious about Japanese education.
    • Nakae Architects: Tracing True South (from Design Boom): We’ve all seen pictures and plans of fascinating eco-friendly buildings. In many cases, though, especially when they’re seen surrounded by conventional structures, the design sticks out like a green thumb. “Facing True South,” a project by Nakae Architects of Tokyo, addresses this issue. Located in Kamaishi, Iwate Pref., the house utilizes passive solar design while maintaining respect for the town’s traditional look.
    • Painting Fujiyama (from One Hundred Mountains ):  Did you know there was once a U.S. military proposal to desecrate Mount Fuji by having B-52 bombers cover it in gallons of red paint? Perhaps you’ve made the trek to the summit, but did you know there is a less-travelled Maruyama Trail, which dates back to the 16th century. Learn about these factoids and more in this writeup of Harry Byron Earhart’s book “Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan” … or just buy the book.

    Visual pulse: Jed Henry’s recent playful reimagining of videogame characters as they might have been portrayed in the Edo Period is given another spin, this time by veteran woodblock printmaker David Bull, who is actually rendering Henry’s illustrations in ukiyo-e. In this video, Bull gives a detailed explanation of “proofing” — the test image done before an entire edition.

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