Hot Pulse

Chocolate & honey mustard: the Valentine’s Day pair to avoid

February 12th, 2014 by

“But there’s mole sauce, right?” my boss remarked when I expressed my initial disgust at Lotteria‘s chocolate & honey mustard grilled chicken burger. There is mole sauce, it’s true. And I love mole! Spicy chocolate is great! In fact, why not just do a mole burger? That would have been fine. What was not fine was . . .

burger choco

Honey mustard grilled chicken and Ghana Chocolate sauce, the horror.

It could just be that I am not built to eat Lotteria. The chicken sandwich was offensive before I even opened the chocolate. Half of the meat was actually fat and skin, and the bun was already getting soggy from the mayo splotch and sweet mustard sauce. The lettuce was entirely too biological in its sliminess.

CONTINUE reading about Lotteria's chocolate & honey mustard grilled chicken burger

Bandai’s projection-mapping candy toy: Hako Vision

February 7th, 2014 by

Bandai’s Candy Toy division is known for those inexpensive character-driven toys packaged with just enough sugar to score shelf space where food is sold so that parents can use them to reward kids for being good at the grocery store. Their anime tie-up rosters includes Kamen Rider, Pokémon, Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, One Piece, Yokai Watch and more. With the initial round of Hako Vision releases, however, they’re doing something a little different. Did you ever imagine you’d be watching recreations of popular projection-mapping shows rigged up with your smartphone and a cardboard box? While chewing grape-flavored gum?!

You can think of it as the latest evolution of shokugan (“candy toy”) culture that supposedly has its roots in Meiji Era collectible cards that came packed in cigarettes (definitely not for kids), or a new direction in diorama construction for the 21st century. As of Jan. 27, there are two kits available for ¥500 each: Tokyo Michiterasu 2012 “Tokyo Hikari Vision” and the Tokyo National Museum’s “Karakuri” (2013). The package itself  is the stage for the miniaturized versions of these special events (“hako” means “box”), so don’t go tearing it up to get inside. Once you set up the scale model of the building to be projected on and the reflecting panel, all you need is the lighting, which you provide by pulling up a specially made video on your smartphone and laying it on top like a roof to your cardboard theater.

Projection-mapping itself seems to be all over the place lately. Even just in the past several months The Japan Times has noted Tower of the Sun Beam Painting, Art Aquarium 2013, “live” Hatsune Miku shows presented by NTT Docomo, and Yokohama Odyssey. On the horizon, Disney (pioneering projection-mapping tech for years — since building the Haunted Mansion ride in 1969 according to Projection Mapping Central) is debuting a new show mapped to Cinderella’s Castle at Tokyo Disneyland May 29th.

As for the future of Hako Vision itself, Bandai already has big plans. Instead of just continuing to reproduce shows people have already seen life size, they’re creating original videos to go with Mobile Suit Gundam figures. Giant mecha familiar to fans of the anime, Gundam and Zaku II, each get their own video helmed by creative director Ryotaro Muromatsu of Naked Inc., the same company that produced the video for “Tokyo Hikari Vision.” The new kits go on sale April 14.

Needless to say, if Hako Vision catches on, the licensing possibilities at Bandai are nearly endless. And now that the kits are out in the wild it’s not hard to imagine fans of the tech creating their own models and fantastic videos to go with them.

 

Pulsations 1.27.14

January 27th, 2014 by

Here’s a new batch of 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 . . .

職人の本気を感じるスマホスタンド「食品サンプルスタンド」4種類は観るだけでお腹がすいてくるクオリティ (from Gigazine): That’s a lot of Japanese for non-speakers, but the photos are what you’re clicking through for! How about propping up your iPhone on a super-detailed food model like the ones they use at restaurants?

Interview with graphic designer Ryo Ueda of Commune (from designboom): “Good identities might look simple on the surface, but are often the result of deep thinking. To err here and just create a simple things for the sake of it is very dangerous. because a superficial, simple design becomes immediately obsolete.”

Tomopinion: Land of the Setting Sun (from Tomopop): Chris Seto gives a state of the Japanese figure industry address and blames the lack of innovation on the fans.

In Japan, Being Mickey Mouse Is a Part-Time Job (from Kotaku): The guy who does the Japanese voice of Mickey Mouse has a full-time job as a university professor.

Why deciding whether or not to help a crying girl is complicated in Japan (from RocketNews24): Can getting involved get you in more trouble than minding your own business?

Japanese Company Turns Font types into Glasses (from japanese streets): Now you can rest Helvetica or Garamond on your nose.

Video Pulse

Adam Magyar‘s high speed footage from a train sliding into Shinjuku Station has been making the rounds, but if you haven’t seen it yet, prepare to get sucked in.

Marketers capitalize on university entrance exam time

January 15th, 2014 by

This week there is something weighing heavy on the minds of many students who’d like to advance to college: the National Center Test for University Admissions. It’s being held Jan. 18-19. Those with their heart set on a particular school who don’t get a good enough score may choose to spend a year, or in some cases two or three, studying as a rōnin. With this immense pressure, a little luck is traditionally gotten via charms from shrines or temples, but the trend has built up for companies to release seasonal products in support of test-takers. Well, maybe some are more support than others. . .

First, a quick primer on recurring key concepts and vocabulary:

Cherry blossoms: The school year starts in spring in Japan, just when cherry trees are exploding with pink. Of course, they also represents the kids fulfilling their potential.

Daruma: Symbolizes perseverance and bring good luck. The dolls come with blank eyes; you draw one pupil when you set a goal and the other when you accomplish it. I’m sure there are lots of one-eyed daruma hanging out with high schoolers right now!

Koala: They don’t fall out of trees and in Japanese that same word for “fall” is also used to describe “failing” a test.

Kohaku: The colors red and white are good luck!

Non-slip: The verb “to slip” in Japanese can be used to mean slip up and “fail” a test, so friction is desirable.

There is no better way to kick off this list than with a product said to be a pioneer of the test-taker support boom: KitKat. In Northern Kyushu dialect, the name of the candy bar with the “have a break” slogan appropriate for kids chained to their desks, sounds just like the words, “You’ll win for sure!” People realizing this pun apparently boosted sales of the candy on their own in the early 2000s to the point where it was noticed in-house at Nestle. Nationwide campaigns started in 2003.

Fast forward to this year, where the company is collaborating with 15 universities to present inspirational messages on “Kohaku pack” KitKats (which come in milk and white chocolate). “(-ω-1) If you see a face in an equation, that’s a break,” says mascot Chibunny of the Chiba Institute of Technology. Bouhsear from the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences says, “-ing, let’s go one step at a time in progressive tense!”

But that’s not all Nestle is up to this season. Singer-songwriter Miwa has been recruited as the campaign girl, and the catch phrase — “The cherry blossoms will surely bloom!” — is apparent in her music video of the test-taker support song (above) as well as the roll cake she came up with for “Saku Saku Cafe” (“Blooming Cafe”) inside Nescafe Harajuku.

Vanilla ice cream and heart-shaped chocolate accent a pink cake rolled around cream and a cherry blossom-shaped dollop of red bean paste. The cafe also serves meals re-creating favorites at five university’s cafeterias including taco rice and a chicken nanban bowl. It’s open through Jan. 19.

From left: Koala March cookies; Tenoritama's Piyo-chan packages; and

Student supporters (from left): Koala’s March cookies; Oinori-tama Piyo-chan packages; and Triumph’s lucky underwear

For those still feeling peckish, here are some other snack/food related promotions:

Crunky teamed up with private cram school Meiko to use their mascot Professor Daruma to impart inspirational messages in their “test-taking share pack.”

• Daruma-themed Koala’s March cookies mean you can give your friends a double boost of luck with a special message written in the spot provided on the back of the package. (Speaking of Koalas, though, if you want to be really hardcore, you would have gotten your hands on one of these bookmarks made from koala poop at Higashiyama Zoo in Nagoya. If that doesn’t guarantee. . . something, then I dunno what will.)

Chicken Ramen came up with two flavors that work in punny inspirational messages. Yuzu koshō (“Don’t give up on the school you want to get into!”) and garlic chicken (“Go get your chicken and success!”) went on sale Jan. 6.

• Tenoritama rice seasoning’s chick character Piyo-chan prays intently with a different expression depending on which one of three packages you pick up. The renamed “Oinori-tama” (a pun on “praying”) will be on sale until Feb. 28.

Natto Queen 2013 Karen Miyazaki recently appeared at an “pep rally” encouraging students at prep school Waseda Yobiko  to “Stick to [their studies] like natto!”

• From Aqua has water bottles with caps that click into a position that allows you to drink instead of coming completely off, but for some reason around this time of year the sound of that click, “Kachi!” is a pun on “victory” and the cap not “falling” off is imbued with the same significance as a koala staying in a tree.

• HKT48 and Lotte tied up to produce gum and throat drops “for you, who are doing your best.” The just barely test taker-oriented drops contain Honey and Karin (which is an herb, I guess) for your Throat. Are there 48 per package?

If that seems like a lot, it’s probably only the tip of the test-taker marketing ice berg. Perhaps the biggest indication of that is that it’s not only food companies cashing in.

• Triumph International is selling “Kanapan,” a short way to say “My Wish Will Come True?! Underwear.” Apparently the brand was perceived as lucky by some shoppers, which is how the campaign was born. These undies’ high waist is meant to prevent chilly tummies (and thereby the common cold) and they come in red, pink, or black for ¥1,995.

• While we’re on the topic of underwear, Seirogan (an herbal treatment for diarrhea) hopes that students will be free of gastric distress as they challenge the exam. To that end they are giving away 555 (a somewhat involved pun) pairs of “certain victory” lucky test-taking underwear in a unisex style.

• Seirogan may be intent on keeping students out of the bathroom, but Bathclin wants them in it, and more specifically in the bath soaking with their test-taker support salts that are the fruit of analyzing and recreating the scent of the type of cherry tree in Japan (from Okinawa) that blooms the earliest.

• “All you test takers out there, let’s get through this exam with Febreze!” Former pro tennis player Shuzo Matsuoka lends his presence to Febreze’s campaign, which encourages students to blast all the flu and other viruses out of their room after practicing with this interactive website.

• Coolens released lightweight “non-slip” glasses made with “slipless rubber” at the temple and a special nose rest designed especially for Japanese noses, twice as soft as other nose rests, that will also, of course, keep the glasses from slipping as students bow their heads to pore over their textbooks. ¥5,900.

JR Nakatsu Station in Oita Prefecture uses sand on the rails to keep the trains from slipping, but as they do every year, they set some aside as “slip prevention sand” for students during the test-taking season. A total of 1,180 charms containing the sand were blessed at a local shrine and passed out last month.

Tokyo Disney Land and Sea are offering cookies and stationary supplies with messages like “Gōkaku deki-mouse yō ni” instead of the usual “dekimasu.” (“May you pass [the test.]“)

Masahiro Kuwano developed his own unique good luck item, the levitating “Ukari-Masu” (which involves a few puns, but the main thing is that the square cup floats and and one of the meanings of the verb “ukaru” is “to pass [a test]“). Sales have been picking up over the past couple years; he sold 300 in 2013 for ¥945 apiece.

If the test taker nearest you actually just needs to get out of the house, an aquarium in Yamaguchi Prefecture has formed a “test-taking cheer squad” featuring Holacanthus passerOctopus cyanea, Rhinogobius sp. and Patiria pectinifera. Why those particular creatures? Well, the reasons are pretty elaborate in some cases, but mainly, because their names or shapes have some kind of connection to “passing.”

Anyway, we here at Japan Pulse really, really hope everyone meets their academic goals this testing season, and we won’t even make you buy anything.

BONUS: Pokohiro rounds up some types of encouragement boys want from their girlfriends as they are about to face the Center Test.

1) “Let’s pass together.” (He calls this “So cliché” but then admits that it really does feel nice to hear.)

2) “If you fail, I’ll break up with you.” (Ah yes, tough love. Very motivating.)

3) “If we end up at different universities we might cheat on each other.” (Pokohiro reinforces this dire prediction by stating that he personally never saw a couple who attended different universities last.)

4) “It’s OK if you fail.” (Of course, not everyone’s personality is suited to threats. Some guys just need to be reassured. Aww.)

 

Pulsations 1.13.14

January 13th, 2014 by

Here’s a new batch of 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 . . .

Kabe-don: How tough guys show their love! (from RocketNews24): Do you know what that pose is called when guys lean over someone with one hand against a wall? Here are some wacky examples from around the web.

less is more: Nendo Reinvents the Chopstick by turning two into one (from Spoon & Tamago): Rassen chopsticks fit together after you’re done eating due to their helix shape.

What it was like to run a popular sushi restaurant in New York City, with memories (from Just Hungry): Makiko Itoh remembers her mother’s sushi restaurant, Tsukiji Sushisay, which closed in 2002.

A Japanese Traditional Tea Room built in the Condo.! (from talk-hokkaido): This blog from Hokkaido has a new post almost everyday. This time, Kazu introduces the tea room his friend arranged for his wife.

In Japan the cycle of dependency has gone viral (from Kotaku): An anti-drug post spawns a pile of parodies ranging from addictive nature of Pokémon to olive-oil dependency.

Video Pulse

The Tower of the Sun in Osaka’s Expo Commemoration Park got was illuminated with a super fancy projection mapping show over Christmas. This multi-angle video from Osaka at Night shows the entire thing, in case you missed it.

Feelin’ lucky? The highs and lows of ‘fukubukuro’

January 8th, 2014 by

Whether you count fukubukuro “lucky bags” as a thank-you to shoppers, a scheme to unload less popular merchandise at the end of the year or just a way to kick off the New Year’s sales, buying a mystery pile of stuff worth [hopefully far] more than the price tag is a tempting offer to many. Plus, who knows, you might just be one of the really lucky ones:

https://twitter.com/pqwpqwpqw/status/418576520794218496

Translation: My Apple Store lucky bag! Thanks to being the fourth person in line about 24 hours ahead of time, I got a MacBook Air! It was a blizzard in Sapporo, so it was really rough to wait outside all that time, but I had fun! Anyhow, now I’m gonna rest! lol

Let’s see what other Twitter users’ lucky bag experiences were like…

My best friend said she bought a certain brand’s lucky bag and a mop was inside. I had her bring it over today and omg I laughed so hard lololol [...]

I bought a natural gems lucky bag thinking a phone strap or something would be inside and it was an uncut amethyst lol

Pulsations (12.6.13)

December 6th, 2013 by

Here’s a new batch of 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 . . .

Restaurant combines delicious sushi with live performances by J-pop idols (from RocketNews24): “On average, each of [the members of the idol group] works in the restaurant three days a week, and on Mondays and Wednesdays, they’re always here to take care of our guests. One of the girls hates sushi, though.”

IT knit sweaters by Shogo Kishino (from designboom): You know that time you met that guy what’s-his-name and he had some hair and like . . . a face? There’s also what’s-her-face and their hazily remembered animal friends, all in pixel art on sweaters.

Noramoji | Fonts made out of retro Japanese storefronts (from Spoon & Tamago): Buying these unique fonts supports the small business owners whose signs they are adapted from.

Tokyo Disney Sea with a bottle of vodka (from Ikimasho!): Justin goes further than journaling his visit to the theme park by rating all the rides he and his friends went on.

Stop-Motion Animator Spent Four Years Making His Dream Come True (from Kotaku): “I’m putting out [Junk Head 1] and if people are interested in the sequel and are willing to donate the funds necessary to make it, I’ll make it.”

Video Pulse

‘Tis the season to be packing Santa character bento. e-obento’s tutorial shows you how, step-by-step.

Joysound’s top 10 karaoke songs of 2013

December 3rd, 2013 by

Karaoke titan Joysound announced the most popular songs in their catalog over the course of 2013. Let’s sing along while checking out the top 10!

10. “Tentai Kansoku” — BUMP OF CHICKEN

Approximate English title: “Astronomical Observation”
Album: “Jupiter” (2002)

9. “Hebiirotēshon” — AKB48

Approximate English title: “Heavy Rotation”
Album: “Koko ni Ita Koto” (2011)

8. “Kiseki” — GReeeeN

Approximate English title: “Miracle”
Album: “A’, domo. Ohisashiburi desu.” (2008)

7. “Eikō no Kakehashi” — Yuzu

Approximate English title: “The Bridge to Glory”

*No official video available.

Album: “1 ~ONE~” (2004)
Factoid: Was the theme song to NHK’s coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

6. “Guren no Yumiya” — Linked Horizon

*No official video available.

Approximate English title: “Crimson Bow and Arrow”
Album: (The maxi-single “Jiyū e no Shingeki” just came out in July.)
Factoid: Was used as the opening theme to the first season of one of this year’s hit anime,  “Attack on Titan.”

5. “Hanamizuki” — Yo Hitoto

*No official video available.

Approximate English title: “Flowering Dogwood”
Album: “Hito Omoi” (2004)
Factoid: Was used for commercials and themes including “Kayō Sasupensu Gekijō” on NHK.

4. “Chiisa na Koi no Uta” — MONGOL800

*The only official video is a special tie-up with Pocky and Space Shower TV.

Approximate English title: “A Little Love Song”
Album: “MESSAGE” (2001)

3. “Senbonzakura” — Whiteflame feat. Hatsune Miku

English title: “A Thousand Cherry Blossoms”
Album: “5th Best Anniversary” (2013)
Factoid: The member of Whiteflame who created this song (using Hatsune Miku Vocaloid software) is Kurousa-P.

2. “Zankoku no Tenshi no Tēze” — Yoko Takahashi

*The only official video is a live cover by MAX.

English title: “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis”
Album: “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (1995)
Factoid: The theme song to the hugely popular anime “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” which originally aired in 1995-1996 and has spawned an ongoing feature film reboot.

1. “Memeshikute” — Golden Bomber

Approximate English title: “Effeminate”
Album: “Gōruden Besuto ~Pressure~” (2010)

Does it surprise anyone that the Evangelion theme is up there so high? A more pertinent question might be, were there any karaoke parties where that song was not sung? I don’t think I’ve heard anyone do “Memeshikute,” but I can see how it would get the room pumped up.

As a bonus here are the top 10 Western songs of 2013:

10. “We Are the World” — USA for Africa

9. “I Want It That Way” — The Backstreet Boys

8. “A Whole New World” — Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle

7. “Top of the World” — The Carpenters

6. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” — Aerosmith

5. “My Heart Will Go On” — Celine Dion

4. “What Makes You Beautiful” — One Direction

3. “Live While We’re Young” — One Direction

2. “We Are Never Getting Back Together” — Taylor Swift

1. “Call Me Maybe” — Carly Rae Jepsen

So Japan didn’t escape the “Call Me Maybe” wave, but they leave Bieber in the dust and favor One Direction? Hmm, hmm…

Which song did you sing the most in 2013?

All approximate translations approximated by the writer! See the rest of Joysound’s variously categorized “top” lists here and thanks to My Game News Flash for the tip.

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