Archive for the ‘News/media’ Category

Pulsations (04.13.12)

Friday, April 13th, 2012

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 . . .

  • Hashimoto Toru (from Ampotan): Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka, is locked in a battle with the central government over nuclear power. This looong read —  in six parts — tracks the background and political ambitions of  Hashimoto and his party One Osaka.
  • The Ultimate Guide to Reading Food Labels in Japan (from Surviving in Japan): Japanese supermarkets can be a confusing place for the allergy-prone, calorie counters and anyone curious about what they put in their mouths. This detailed guide takes some of the mystery out of grocery shopping.
  • Japan, Land of the Rising Meth (from Tofugu): Crystal meth makes you less hungry and more productive (for a short while, anyway) … and —surprise, surprise — it was made in Japan. Tofugu looks at the history of the drug, from its invention and wide use among Japanese soldiers in World War II to its hallowed place in yakuza culture.
  • First Impressions — Polar Bear Cafe (from Isugoi): The young panda is forced to find work, but the polar bear would rather have a human working in his cafe. Confused? Who wouldn’t be .. but John Howard Marshall tries to figure out what on earth is going on in the popular animated sitcom “Polar Bear Cafe.”
  • Don’t miss The Japan Times’ sakura stories for one last stroll under the pink trees.

Pulsastions (03.23.12)

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

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 . . .

2011 trends: Social media in Japan comes of age

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

2011 was the year that social media came into its own in Japan. When phones went down on March 11, Japan connected with Twitter, mixi and Facebook in record numbers. Social media went from being a curiosity to a lifeline. Connecting online wasn’t just for the users, either; in 2011, the social media sites started friending each other.

Mixi and Twitter announced a partnership in November, possibly to shore up against a rapidly growing Facebook. With growth spurred by the movie “The Social Network,” Facebook was named the no. 2 “hit product” of 2011 by Nikkei Trendy magazine. While earlier in the year it looked like Facebook was getting left behind by Japan’s own social media sites, a November Nielsen report showed Facebook pulling ahead in the last quarter to surpass Mixi for the first time with some 11 million users. However, Mixi quickly issued a statement saying it actually had about double the 8.4 million active users that Nielsen had reported, since many people access the site from their cellphones, which the Nielsen report didn’t track.

As before, mobile remains a major access mode for online content in Japan. Whether or not Mixi actually feels threatened by Facebook, the tie-up with Twitter suggests it’s watching its back.

In another partnership, Google+ partnered with pop idol juggernaut AKB48 and its regional versions, for a total of almost 90 individual accounts. The performers have swamped the top 100 most popular users list in Japan, leaving only a handful of spots for other idols and Japanese tech gurus.

Two of the largest social networks in Japan are mobile gaming sites. GREE and Mobage Town have over 20 million users each. Mobage Town’s parent company DeNA has been making acquisitions in international markets including China, the U.S. and Chile, again showing the importance of collaboration for social sites.

Continue reading about social media in Japan →

More than one way to keep your heating bill down

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

King Jim's Urapoka brings the kotatsu experience to your work station

In general, insulation in Japanese homes is poor, so that means during winter heating devices have to be constantly on, driving up heating bills and sapping the power grid. Though this winter is predicted to be warmer than most, many Japanese, aware of energy shortages, will be feeling more than usually chilly as they try to cut down on power consumption.

A traditional method of beating this problem is the kotatsu, a low table that has a heating element underneath and a warm blanket hanging down from all sides; by turning up the heat on legs and feet, the main heating device in the room can be turned down, thus saving energy. Modern methods of keeping nice and toasty without resorting to turning up the room heater are understandably catching on. We’ve compiled a list of the best:

King Jim’s Urapoka: This nifty heating device transforms your desk into a kotatsu. After attaching the heat-sealing flaps to the sides of your desk, simply pop the device under your feet to warm up those frozen toes. 30W, ¥7,329.

Behold the Humanoid Sleeping Bag.

Humanoid Sleeping Bag from Doppelganger Outdoor: Specially selected by Nikkei Trendy as one of the best energy-saving products for winter on the market, if you snuggle up in these caterpillar suits, you probably won’t need to bother switching on the heater at all. It’s possible to unzip hands and feet to free them up for work, though the puffy style probably falls outside the bounds of smart casual business attire. ¥11,550.

Heat Tech underwear, Uniqlo: A survey conducted in October by Nikkei BP’s AIDA showed that over 60 percent of Japanese were intending to wear some from of “underwear”(including short and long t-shirts and short and long shorts) to protect against the cold this winter. Most modern innerwear is designed to have quick drying properties and, of this type, over 50 percent of both men and women favored Uniqlo’s heat tech range. This year sales of heat tech products are up 25 percent from last year, according to Sankei Biz.

Nitom’s Transparent Window Glass Film: Since double-glazing is rare in Japan, many people simply opt to insulate by sticking plastic sheeting directly onto window glass. A newish kind of insulation that sticks onto the window frame, rather than directly onto the glass, thus creating an air pocket, is very popular this year. According to Sankei Business, sales of the stuff during November were triple that of the same period the previous year.

Japan puts out a big welcome mat for wealthy Chinese tourists

Friday, December 9th, 2011

This month sees the launch of Japan Premium, a brand new free magazine targeting wealthy Chinese visitors. A collaborative project between KNT! travel agency and Kadokawa magazines, the publication is an attempt to tap into this desirable demographic by featuring stories on shopping and travel within Japan.

Japan Premium targets wealthy Chinese tourists

Glitzy and up-market, the first issue includes a feature on Tokyo Disneyland and shopping in Ginza. Editorial content and advertising is compiled in Japan, but the magazine itself is translated, printed and distributed in China. The first magazine of its kind, it’s yet another sign that Japanese businesses are beginning to actively target China’s new super rich citizens.

Recent years have seen upscale department stores throughout Tokyo begin to broadcast announcements in Chinese as well as in English and Japanese, and other service industries are now getting wise to the power of the yuan too. Take Mazda Car Rental, for instance, which announced this month that it’d just given its website a facelift which includes multilingual support for Chinese customers. The company stated that it took this move in the recognition of the increasing numbers of Chinese tourists.

According to Bloomberg, the numbers of foreign tourists in general dropped by 63 percent after the quake, but since then the numbers of Chinese visiting Japan have bounced back and even exceeded pre quake levels. Figures recorded by Japan National Tourism Organization show that compared to October last year, visitors from Hong Kong were up by 17 percent and those from Taiwan by 2.6 percent.

Though Western tourists are still hesitant to visit Japan due to a combination of fears about radiation and the high value off the yen, Chinese visitors have proved themselves resilient to these concerns. Bloomberg’s article suggests that visitors to Japan from China will continue to increase as the Chinese economy grows ever more powerful. In the face of these developments we expect to see a lot more Japanese companies who cater to wealthy clientele take measures to attract this rapidly growing demographic.

Japan’s top 10 buzzwords of 2011

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Nadeshiko Japan, with head coach Norio Sasaki (center) and captain Homare Sawa (center right), show off their Women’s World Cup trophies. (Kyodo photo)

The news in Japan in 2011 was dominated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of the Tohoku region (and proved the worth of Tokyo’s earthquake-resistant architecture). It’s only natural that words related to the disaster and its aftermath made up a good portion of the top buzzwords of the year as chosen by Jiyu Kokuminsha, publishers of an annual book of new and newly important words. However, the mundane and the downright silly mix with the serious in this list, whittled down from an initial 60 nominees, as life did go on for most of Japan, albeit with a new sense of gravity. In descending order, here are the top 10 buzz phrases of 2011 in Japan.

Grand prize-winner: Nadeshiko Japan (なでしこジャパン Nadeshiko Japan): This name for Japan’s women soccer team actually made it into the 2004 list of buzzword nominees, but it was the team’s amazing and inspiring victory at this year’s World Cup that brought them into the lexicon. Even the losing U.S. side was moved by the down-to-the-wire win just three months after the quake. Nadeshiko Japan was the first sports team to receive the People’s Honor Award from Prime Minister at the time, Naoto Kan, for the “fighting spirit” they showed against a better-ranked team and the joy they brought the country with their victory. It’s worth noting that the phrase “yamato nadeshiko” conjures up images of self-sacrificing wives of soldiers, and appropriately, Team Japan really did have to hold down days jobs while working to become the No. 1 team.

Continue reading about top buzzwords of 2011 →

Power saving puts Christmas illuminations in a new light

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The Winter Sakura lights along Meguro River are powered by used cooking oil

As is the tradition, Christmas lights are twinkling all over Tokyo. When it comes to Christmas decorations the Japanese, who tend to go wild for the glitziest, brightest possible displays, aren’t exactly famed for their self-restraint, so this year poses the problem of how to accomplish the desired amount of dazzle without being seen as an energy hog.

The most obvious answer, and the most popular one, is to swap out normal bulbs for energy-efficient LED lights. Due to LED bulbs’ power-saving qualities, ad agency Dentsu has rated them as the second most popular product in Japan for 2011.

According to Sankei News, Keikyu Railways and the New Otani Hotel have both switched to LED lights. But Ebisu Garden Palace has not only switched over the bulbs of its gigantic Baccarat Crystal chandelier, it’s also reduced the number of bulbs from 60,000 to 40,000. On top of that a solar power panel has been installed to supplement the power supply. The Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa’s, however, have outstripped this effort by installing an entirely solar-powered display of LED lights in its Japanese garden.

Though the hotel’s garden sounds attractive, our favorite eco-friendly display in Tokyo is the “Winter Sakura” illuminations along the Meguro River. Pink LED bulbs are strung on the branches of trees along the river so that it appears as if the cherry blossom trees are blooming out of season. Better yet, the lights are powered from bio diesel made from used cooking oil collected from homes and restaurants in the area.

Some businesses have decided that the best way to do their bit, however, is to dodge the whole issue by not putting up any decorations. SG Holdings, for instance, who run Sagawa Express Ltd. announced that in light of power-saving measures, they decided to cancel any plans for illuminations that might have been put up at their head office or branch offices. This seems a pity especially seeing as Nikken Release Kyogo Ltd has begun renting out eco-friendly LED Christmas trees to meet the demand for a setsuden (power saving) Christmas.

AKBaby invites fans to breed with their favorite pop idols

Monday, October 31st, 2011

AKB48’s Yuko Oshima has just had a baby with Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko — a virtual baby that is. Brandishing a toy baby with a mask depicting the composite infant features of the two parents stuck over its face, Model Press reported that Oshima made the happy announcement to a pack of stunned journalists at a recent press conference. “He’s adorable,” she said beaming at the bemused crowd. “He’s destined to become a high flyer.”

There to promote the launch of AKB’s official site on Nov. 1, Oshima was singing the praises of one of the services available to subscribers. Hardcore fans who cough up ¥1,480 a month will be able to use the AKBaby app that allows them to see what kind of baby they might have in the extremely unlikely event that they got to impregnate their favorite pop idol. The app merges the features of mouth-breathing otaku with those of their most beloved AKB48 member and voila — a downloadable photo of the resulting baby is born.

From Nov. 1 a commercial will be aired nationwide that appears to show Oshima suckling a real live baby (see above) accompanied by the hurl-worthy tagline, “Won’t you make a baby with me?” Oshima was keen to point out that she didn’t really get her boobs out for the campaign shoot. “The photograph was taken in a way that made it look like that,” she told reporters.

Other perks available to members are a little less creepy. Subscribers get an AKB48 email address, tickets to concerts at the AKB48 theater and access to “special content” made exclusively for AKB fans.

The reaction thus far from netizens has been less than enthusiastic: “It seems too expensive, one year costs more than ¥20,000,” commented one fan. “Who the hell dreamt up this messed-up scheme?” asked another anonymous commentator.

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