On May 16, NTT DoCoMo launched d creators, an online market service for creative people in Japan. Similar to Etsy, all the items available are handmade and the content is user generated. Unlike Etsy, though, to sell and buy via the website, you will need a Japanese bank account and purchases are made using bank transfers. This means that it’s likely that the majority of products are being designed and made in Japan, and judging from the exhibition held last weekend (May 25-26) at Daikanyama T-Site Gallery, quite a few of the goods do appear to inspired by Japanese aesthetics.
The website was created for NTT DoCoMo by the advertising agency Dentsu, who have so far curated the current sellers and their goods. Predictably, some of the chosen creators may be familiar to those who like to peruse Tokyo’s design stores. There’s Kokechi’s kokeshi dolls, for example, and Ribbonesia’s brooches. The standards are pretty high, and prices vary, but anyone is allowed to sell products via the site, so there will be more variety in the future.
Products available online include interior goods, accessories, tableware, art, fashion, textiles — even comics, novels and essays.
Leon is the leading magazine for the more mature man in Japan
An unexpected surge in sales of fashion magazines aimed at men in their 30s and 40s has taken the magazine industry by surprise. Bucking the general downward trend in sales for print magazines, titles like Leon have been getting snapped up by style-conscious guys over the past two years.
According to the National Publication Association’s Publishing Research Institute, sales of men’s magazines for the 30-40 age bracket began to rise around 2010. Sales of these magazines were up a whopping 38.3% from Jan. to Nov. in 2012 compared to the same period the previous year, climbing from 2.66 million copies sold in 2011 to 3.68 in 2012. Just five magazines fit into this niche market, with Leon taking the largest slice of the market share, accounting for a third of sales. The other magazines are Oceans, Uomo, Men’s Ex, and 2nd.
Though Leon was responsible for creating the concept of the “choi waru oyaji” — which roughly translates as “bad-ass middle-aged dude” — personified by fashionable middle-aged guys like Italian heartthrob Panzetta Girolamo, this does not appear to have been the trigger for the trend. It’s more likely that the recent women’s magazine concept of the “ikedan,” or cool husband, has inspired women to buy men’s magazines for their husbands in an effort to get them to improve their appearance.
For single men in their 30s and 40s, it may have been the explosion in en masse dating activities, such as machi kon events, that drove them to the magazine racks for tips on sharpening up their looks, making them better equipped to duel it out with younger, more fashionable rivals. According to J-Cast, these guys aren’t a bunch of aging rams dressed up as lamb, they’re simply men who would like to take care of their looks, whether to score a date or simply to score brownie points with the wife.
The trend has, of course, had a positive impact on the clothing industry. Yano Research Institute reports that in 2011, sales for menswear (including suits, western clothing, and accessories) were up 2% on the previous year. Meanwhile, the Japan Department Stores Association reported a 1.7% rise in the sale of men’s suits in 2011 compared to the previous year. Furthermore, the men’s department of Isetan in Shinjuku reported that sales of suits and western clothes were up 2% for the period between April and September in 2012.
The growing market has inspired Hankyu department store, which previously concentrated on women’s clothing, to open up Hankyu Men’s Tokyo in Yurakucho in Oct 2011. Since then, they’ve clocked in impressive sales of over 12 billion yen. We expect to see other department stores follow their lead.
‘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.
What was cool – or perhaps more importantly, cute – in 2012? Here are our top picks.
What would a year in Japan be without a newly coined look? This one isn’t exactly head to toe, like say the yama girls of years past. Its pièce de résistance is a hairstyle: the neko-mimi (cat ears), which basically involves twisting and rolling two chunks of hair to resemble cat ears. Then you can wear whatever you like with it, so long as it’s cute. Because cats are cute.
R25 cites model/fashion blogger/pop singer and official Kawaii Harajuku Ambassador (an honor bestowed by the mayor of Shibuya Ward) Kyary Pamyu Pamyu as the inspiration. Ms. Pamyu is known for her wacky looks and has also appeared with her hair twisted to resemble devil horns and bat wings. But it was the cat ears that caught on, perhaps because it’s the only style that can realistically be done at home. A neko girl website is packed with do-it-yourself tips and cute pose suggestions.
It’s not just the hair though. Samuel Thomas, Japan Times fashion columnist and Tokyo Telephone editor, told us that anything with cat ears – like hats, headbands and hoodies – were big sellers this year.
These two fans of boy-band Arashi got creative and made their own tattoo stockings with the band members’ names. Photo courtesy of Tokyo Fashion
Cat mania aside, the hit item for 2012 was without a doubt tattoo stockings. Interesting, considering that real tattoos will still get you banned from most public bathhouses (meaning they are still largely associated with the yakuza). However, these stockings, usually nude, are decorated with images that more resemble Western-style tattoos (also called “fashion tattoos” in Japan) – hearts and butterflies and Ed Hardy-like biker designs, for example. Too bad, because some full on irezumi-style tattoo stockings would be pretty cool.
Samuel also tipped us off to the origin of this one, citing Avantgarde, a small boutique in Harajuku, as the locus of the tattoo stocking trend. According to Trendy magazine, Avantgarde has sold almost half a million pairs since September 2011. Their sales on shopping site Rakuten for June through August 2012 were 200 times greater than sales during the same period of the previous year. During summer, really? As it gets colder, we’re seeing the same concept with white or gold patterns on black tights. Not quite the same double-take effect, but a clear evolution of the idea.
Mushroom character goods inspired by the smart phone game Nameko Saibai Kit. Photo by tsukacyi from Flickr
The most popular smart phone game in Japan is called Nameko Saibai Kit (literally “mushroom cultivation kit”). Yes, a simulated mushroom farm. But the mushrooms are, apparently, cute, and have launched a “star” character – the first to come out of a smart phone game.
The game, a free download from Beeworks Games, debuted in June 2011 as a spin-off of another popular game, Touch Detective (the main character in that has a pet mushroom who helps solve puzzles); to keep things interesting, new seasonal versions are added regularly.
According to Trendy – which ranks nameko goods as the #7 hit product of 2012 – there are now some 50 companies licensed to make mushroom mobile phone accessories, stationery, stuffed animals, etc. In total there are about 800 different goods on the market. Events this past spring to promote new items, at shops like KiddyLand in Harajuku, drew lines with waits of over an hour. Perhaps watching mushrooms grow is good training for patiently waiting in line?
Gift-giving at Christmas still isn’t a big tradition in Japan, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. We’ve joined our Japan Times colleagues in doing a little pre-holiday homework for you to take the pressure off. Now all you have to do is whip that wallet out . . .
Turning to an app on your smartphone for weather updates, while convenient, can be terribly unexciting. Like a bit of a challenge? With Tempo Drop, you can now forecast the weather by observing the appearance of the liquid in the glass.
Too old for a pencil case and too cool for a pencil holder? This minimalistic, sculptable leather tray splits the difference. By the way, know what’s uncool? Not knowing where your supplies are and having to borrow them from the next desk. Tsk.
With the weather getting frostier by the day — and it hasn’t even started snowing yet! — what could be more useful and relevant than Christmas-y hand warmers? Even the toughest guy would appreciate one in his jacket pocket when battling the cold on the streets.
Last month in Nagano, despite sweltering temperatures, a number of high school students were spotted attending school wearing surgical masks. This wasn’t hayfever season, nor were there any colds going around, so why were these teenagers covering their mouths and noses up? They were simply following a national trend for date masuku, surgical masks that are just for show. (That’s read “dah-te,” nothing to do with dating.)
A journalist for Shinano Mainichi Shimbun asked students why they were wearing masks and got some surprising answers. One girl commented, “I’m shy about being seen without my makeup on.” Worryingly, another boy said, “I feel safe with it on.” Another 16-year-old female high school student explained that, “The mask hides the acne around my mouth.”
While this looks — on the face of it — like a problem created by low self-esteem, one that teenagers might grow out of, Japanese Wikipedia states that research done by Asahi Shimbun back in 2011 showed that adults are reaching for the date mask, too. Many began by using surgical masks for health reasons and then continued because they found that they enjoyed wearing a mask.
A writer under the name of Tama Tsupi, a self-confessed former date mask addict, wrote about the issue for Gadget News earlier this year. “Tsupi” began using a surgical mask to protect herself against hay fever and infection, but gradually came to find that she got a pleasant feeling from wearing a mask. Stressed at work, she found it useful for those times when she couldn’t be bothered to do her make up properly, or when she had trouble relating to others.
Though she’s now kicked the habit, she has stuck up for mask wearers by stating that covering up part of the face can have the effect of highlighting a person’s beauty. In the piece, she evangelizes about the unexpected cosmetic effect she experienced when wearing a mask. She points out that it’s common practice in Japan for people to upload shots of themselves to social networking sites that hide part of their face. These shots are both flattering to one’s vanity and protect one’s private image in the public domain. She writes: “Don’t you think this technique could be put to good use not only in a photograph, but in reality?”
The origin of the term date masuku （伊達マスク）is apparently connected to the Sendai’s famous daimyo Date Masamune. Problem is we’ve yet to figure out how the family name of this fierce, one-eyed warrior has come to mean “vainglorious,” as seen in the similar terms date megane (prescription-less glasses) or date otoko, which essentially means dandy. This YouTube video even suggests a connection with the true surname of the masked hero of Tiger Mask. So there you go. Think of it as being somewhere between vanity and anonymity.
JR Shinjuku Station on opening day for Bicqlo. (Rebecca Milner photos)
Bicqlo—the much-hyped Bic Camera and Uniqlo mash-up store—opened in Shinjuku today. And for those who weren’t aware yet of its impending existence, the floors of the JR station in Shinjuku were papered with announcements. Plenty did seem to know, as there were plenty of people inside (and plenty of press leading up to the opening). It wasn’t H&M-opening crowded (no lines to get in after the initial early birds got inside), but there was still a healthy line for the dressing room and enough pushing and shoving to make one question Japan’s prevailing image as a polite and orderly place.
So what exactly is Bicqlo? Sadly, not much more than an ordinary Bic Camera with a Uniqlo sandwiched in the middle. Fans of both brands might be tickled to hear the familiar Bic Camera theme song give a nod to Uniqlo, or see Uniqlo staff wearing Bic Camera-style happi coats. The merchandise, however, save for a few in-store-only Uniqlo items, is essentially the same.
It is all also the same color. As Uniqlo mannequins wearing the brand’s new fall line-up and accessorized with Bic Camera goods (cameras and electric kettles, for example) demonstrate, everyone seems to be working from the same color forecasting charts. Good news for those who want to match their jeggings with their appliances.
However, we’re wondering what Uniqlo is doing matching its clothes with suggestions of housework. The brand has worked so hard over the last few years to give itself a more fashionable image, first with the now-closed UT store in Harajuku and then through its designer capsule collections (with designers like Jun Takahashi no less) and, most recently, by sharing real estate with the decidedly upmarket Dover Street Market in Ginza. Paired with a vacuum, even if it is a sexy Dyson, that down vest just doesn’t look anything but functional — but perhaps that’s back where we’re at, economy-wise.
Indeed the bargain-basement prices that both stores are offering throughout the opening weekend (Sept. 27-30) seem to be the real attraction here. Those who spend ¥7,000 or more can also try their luck at winning limited edition collaboration goods from a gashapon-style capsule game. And, for the time being, you can exchange ¥1,500 worth of Bic Camera points for a ¥1,000 “Bicqlo Coupon,” which can be used at the Uniqlo here. (Unfortunately, it’s a one-way trade: Uniqlo purchases do not earn you points at Bic Camera.)
We’ve been seeing heaps of name-brand collaborations in Japan recently, like the Mos Burger meets Mister Donut shop Mosdo (which also plays on the Japanese fondness for squashing two words together to make a catchy new one). We also like the crossover advertising campaign that pairs Softbank’s popular and endearing “Shirato family” with the iconic Suntory Boss character, played by Tommy Lee Jones; like the individual campaigns, this mash-up is just plain clever.
Bicqlo wins on convenience: It really is useful to be able to pick up socks and printer cartridges in the same place. But as far as innovation, or even novelty, is concerned, isn’t the concept — cheap clothes and electronics in one store — essentially that of any big-box store, the likes of which are littered all over the (gasp!) suburbs?
Men’s hair product Gatsby’s Moving Rubber promises change for all kinds of hair. Their new ad campaign near Shinjuku Station’s West Exit now brings the message to life. Passers-by in one of the world’s busiest train stations can stand under wigs hung at head-height on a big mirror to try out a new ‘do or two. Considering weaving in some dreadlocks or perming up an afro? Forget Photoshop; nothing can give you a clearer picture than this.
With seven different types of hair wax, some of which include Wild Shake, Loose Shuffle and Grunge Mat, the options are widely varied. Gatsby’s colorful pucks are differentiated by texture, holding strength and hair length. The range has been around for years and is hugely popular both in and out of Japan.
And if you need tips on how to use a particular Moving Rubber, here you go.