Archive for the ‘Style/fashion’ Category

Pulsations (5.18.12)

Friday, May 18th, 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 . . .

  • Why do gaijin clash on the issue of racism in Japan? (From Loco in Yokohama): The “micro-aggressions” discussion, started by the notorious Mr. Debito, has been tearing up the expat community for the last couple of weeks, leaving some of us feeling like the child of a soon-to-be divorced couple, standing in the middle of the room screaming “STOP FIGHTING!” If that’s you, let Loco explain to you why everybody’s mad.
  • How to dress like Lady Gaga in Tokyo (from Tokyo Telephone): This week Tokyo was graced by the presence of her monster-ness Lady Gaga. No big surprise that she looooves shopping in Tokyo. Tokyo Telephone shopped in her footsteps.
  • Taboo Tattoo: The current state of ink in Japan (from Spoon & Tamago): Osaka’s rebel mayor Toru Hashimoto felt compelled to point out that Lady Gaga wouldn’t be able to get a job with the Osaka government. Of course, Ms. Gaga’s credentials as a bureaucrat are impeccable, it’s just that Mr. Hashimoto doesn’t like her tattoos.
  • Japanese web design: Why you so 2003? (from Tofugu): “Tonight we gon’ be coding like it’s nineteen ninety nine,” sang the designers while they filled their web sites with text.
  • The history of the Gyaru (from Neojaponisme): Yes, we know it’s Friday and you’re a little tired for something long and thoughtful. For now, go check out the redesign at Neojaponisme. You can save the long-read about the history of the gyaru female sub-culture for a lazy Sunday.

I’m too sexy for my sutras

Thursday, May 17th, 2012


Kansho Tagai, the rapping monk.

Cute young monks are apparently gaining in popularity among young women in Japan. Whether the draw is the sage advice or unadorned good looks, an event held by young monks at Ginza Modern Art gallery in Tokyo has been attended by eager crowds of women in their 20s and 30s. Furthermore, the popularity of “The Illustrated Picture Book of Beautiful Young Monks,” published last month, seems to indicate that some women are focusing on the physical, rather than metaphysical, attractions of the Buddhist religion.

This illustrated book features hunky monks

The Ginza event is called “Be Healed by Young Monks.” The idea of the monthly gathering is to create an easy-going atmosphere in which members of the public can chat with young Buddhist monks. To encourage an informal atmosphere, beer and snacks are consumed by both lay people and monks. Though sutras are read at the beginning, guests are not necessarily limited to consulting the monk hosts about matters of religion. According to an article in Sponichi, women also ask for advice on matters of the heart, posing questions such as, “Is it bad that I feel so jealous of my boyfriend’s platonic friendship with another woman?”

The event was created last year as a way for members of the public who have been under stress since the quake to get stuff off their chests. The rather salacious article in Sponichi, however, suggests that the women attending have other motives in mind. “The monk held my gaze as he talked to me. He was really adorable,” a 20-year-old university student tells Sponichi. “He spoke beautifully, completely different from the guys I know.”

Though this might not be exactly the kind of attention they are craving from Japan’s youth, some Buddhist monks seem to be willing to employ radical methods to get people interested in the religion.  According to the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, since 2000, hundreds of temples have closed every year.  Monks serve up both alcohol and sutras at the bar Vowz in Shinjuku. Though the bartenders here aren’t specifically chosen to be easy on the eye, the monks of the Jodo sect who run this bar do have an easy-going approach to religious instruction. Hip hop is another unlikely weapon being used to entice young worshipers. According to CNN World, Kansho Tagai has doubled attendance by rapping sutras and holding hip hop events at Kyoouji Temple.

Can we expect Buddhism to be coming back into style? Perhaps. One reviewer on Amazon of “The Illustrated Picture Book of Beautiful Young Monks”  pointed out that monks might be on the cutting edge, since the shaven head (non)hair style is “gentle on the purse and the environment.” Word.

Pulsations (04.27.12)

Friday, April 27th, 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  . . .

  • On Making Ice Cream Out of Plastic in Japan (from This Japanese Life): Japan is world-famous for its varied cuisine, and pictures just aren’t enough.  This Japanese Life goes through the history and production method of Japan’s fake plastic foods.
  • The end of the line (from The Adventures of a Foreign Salaryman in Tokyo): In an unexpected break, Mr. Salaryman finds himself in a park alongside a homeless guy and another salaryman, who is looking sad. From this, the author draws an extreme conclusion.
  • Turntable Rider lets bike riders be DJs (from Spoon & Tamago): You know the feeling — you’re riding through Yoyogi Park, doing kick flips on your BMX, but it’s just not enough street cred for you. Why not DJ at the same time? Leave it to the Japanese to make “being cool” more time efficient.
  • Japanese astrology and warrior robot condoms (from Japan Sugoi): Some people choose their partner based on his or her zodiac sign. Of course, if you go this far, you might as well go all the way and choose your birth control by zodiac sign, too.

Plenty of room for passions to grow

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Though Japan is a nation of passionate hobbyists, it’s also a country in which space is at a premium. This poses a dilemma for otaku who spend years amassing huge toy collections, gearheads who want to work on their greasy motors, or arty types who want room in which to slap around some paint without ruining the tatami. Rather than renting out a cheap apartment or storage space, a new solution has been supplied by Reise Hobby, a company that offers versatile units for hobbyists to rent.

Founded in 2006 as a subsidiary of Reise Box storage company, Reise Hobby now own 30 buildings in Kanto and Kansai that house more than 200 “loft” or “maisonette type” spaces. Each space has two floors with private access via a garage door; the lower garage area serves as a workspace, while the upper area can be used as a storage space. This style has proved extremely popular, according to Nikkei Trendy: When the company opened up their new Tama Center in December 2011, half the units were snapped up on the first day they were first offered for sale.

Though users are generally male, the kinds of hobbies they pursue are diverse, ranging from those who want to store bikes or cars to artistic types to avid collectors. Some people rent units just to have a private space of their own, sort of like a secret club house. Units do not come cheap: A 41-sq.-meter unit at their Tama Center, for instance, costs ¥84,000 a month. However, on the plus side, these spaces are well-equipped with toilet, water supply, air conditioner, 50 kw electricity supply a month, electrical outlets and free Internet access. Add to this the freedom to customize the space as you please and these units look increasingly attractive.

If the rental fee still seems steep,  there are places where you can rent time in a shared space. The increased interest in railways, for example, has resulted in a number of businesses offering track rental time on train dioramas. Models IMON, for instance, offer track time in locations across Tokyo, in Harajuku, their rental layout costs¥2,100 for just under two hours and rental of trains comes extra. Since 2010, the Akihabra Washington Hotel even has a special room for densha otaku (train geeks) who can bring along their own trains and whizz them round a diorama of Akihabara for a rather pricy ¥23,000 a night.

The rent-a-space entrepreneurs are also amateur seamstresses. As we mentioned a few years back, there’s been a surge of interest in “remake” fashion (restyling second-hand clothes) and some stores like Sewing Machine Cafe & Lounge Nico, which opened in Setagaya in September 2011, have caught on to this and are offering sewing machine time for budding clothes designers for a small fee.

For some, hiring a space in which to practice their craft becomes the step from being merely an enthusiast to becoming a full-fledged professional. In our next post, we’ll take a look at how new kinds of shared rental spaces are cutting down costs and helping budding entrepreneurs build connections.

The bags that came from another dimension

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Maybe it was inevitable that the country that made manga world-famous would fall for a bag that looks like it was peeled out of the pages of a comic book. JumpFromPaper‘s whimsical bags (above), with their eye-fooling primary color blocks and heavy outlines, jumped up the ranks of trending topics on Twitter in Japan last week under the keyword “2-D bag.” The burst of attention coincided with TV personality Terry Itoh introducing the line on the mid-day variety show “Sukkiri!!” The bags’ designers are based in Taiwan, and though there are many retail outlets carrying the bags there, in Japan they are only available online for now.

Mihara Hideaki’s bags have a slightly more serious lineage. The designer’s bio says he studied leathercraft in Florence, but it’s not his leather work that’s getting second glances for some of his latest bags. The (variously spelled) Trompe L’oeil bags have belts and buckles, leather tassels and decorative chains printed onto canvas bodies. The great big buckles may not be fooling anyone, but the thinner faux straps look convincing, and the silk scarves printed on the sides of some look like they could flutter right off.

Acrylic designer Masako Ban takes that feeling of slightly retro whimsy and goes in the opposite direction. While JumpFomPaper makes 3-D bags that look flat, Ban uses holographic lenticular material on some of her messenger bags and handbags that gives their flat surfaces a disorientingly three-dimensional and rather futuristic look.

You don’t need to spend a lot to get in on the eye-fooling action, though — just get into the check-out line at Isetan. Brain magazine reports that the venerable department store, which has long had distinctive plaid paper shopping bags,  has also added a paper bag with a photo-realistic print covering it that makes it look like a wicker basket. The bag is for purchases from their food shops.

Why all the trickery? Maybe it’s a way to play with luxe designs at a budget price. Or maybe people just want to make you look twice.

Companies connect with free mobile apps

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Enticing smartphone users with high-tech functions and original content, Japanese businesses have begun engaging customers by releasing custom mobile apps for free download. In the process, they’re managing to slip in a strong marketing messages into the pockets of loyal fans and potential customers.

Wego's app offers style tips from the store's staff

On Jan. 24, Doutor, a national chain of coffee shops. launched their Doutor AR app. Made to be used in conjunction with the free magazine It’s My Times, the app displays animation and text on the user’s smartphone via augmented-reality technology. Users simply hover their phone’s camera over special points on the magazine to view these extra features. The magazine, available only in Doutor shops, is designed to be read while customers relax with a cup of coffee. This app, available only until the end of February, is a clever way to attract more readers while also boosting brand profile. One of the attractions of downloading the app for readers of the magazine is the opportunity to watch and listen to a song performed by cover star Lisa Ono.

Another brand that is creatively engaging with smartphone app technology, is Wego. On Jan. 10 the second-hand clothes chain launched its own branded app, which offers free wallpaper, a GPS-aware store locator, staff blogs and photos of staff with information on how they coordinated their look. The app also seems to be yet another mutation of the charismatic shop assistant cult (shop assistants gaining near celebrity status).

Of course not everyone desires style tips from super trendy shop assistants. Dechau Pachinko parlor is targeting a slightly different user (predominantly male perhaps?) with its Dechau Girls Calendar 2012, a free Android app that utilizes the ever-popular beach babe. In case you didn’t know, the Dechau Girls, who have been touring pachinko parlors since 2007, cheer on players and hand out candies and hot towels. While they’re usually dressed in bright skintight outfits, this free calendar app gives fans a chance to see the girls relaxing at the beach in itsy bitsy bikinis.

The final app on our list also has a straightforward, unsophisticated appeal. Chiyoda, a company that owns over 1,100 shoe stores nationwide, has launched an app that provides users with discount coupons. Once users enter their personal info (date of birth, sex, location of the store they’re visiting), they can then receive coupons tailored to their needs. Nothing fancy — you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours — but for a country that’s obsessed with customer point cards and coupons, this is an app that’s bound to stick.

Tokyo Designers Week 2011

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Here’s a selection of what blipped on our radar at Tokyo Designers Week 2001, a multi-ring circus of design innovation. This year the organizers put an emphasis on Tohoku reconstruction, the environment, food and loooove.  And as in past years, the student work was just as eye-catching as that from professionals.

From amateur endeavors to corporate PR, from high art to crass commercialism, from sleek motocycle prototypes to dried squid light shades, the annual event literally offered something for everyone.

Photos by Mio Yamada

DesignTide Tokyo 2011

Friday, November 4th, 2011

As it does annually DesignTide Tokyo gave us a peek at prototypes, celebrated innovation and showed us how elegant ideas are worth their weight in gold.

Click on the thumbnails below to see what turned our heads.

Photos by Mio Yamada

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