Hot Pulse

Gokon matchmakers fan the passion with sporting dates

March 17th, 2015 by

This year, the Japan Sumo Association and matchmaking website Konpa de Koi Plan are giving eligible singles a chance to mingle and possibly fall in love at the ongoing March sumo tournament.

sumokon_press

The sumokon price of admission gets you a reserved spectator box, a meal, a photo session with a former wrestler and perhaps the chance to pin down a partner for life.

The special event, called sumokon, is a portmanteau of sumo and konpa, which means “company.” It is derived from another abbreviated term — gōkon, which translates as a group blind date.

A typical gōkon usually takes place at an izakaya (pub), consisting of even-numbered male and female members. Games are sometimes played to break the ice. This scenario is popular in Japan as it takes away the pressure of meeting a date one on one. More large-scale gōkon have emerged over the years and proven to be profitable for the organizers. One example is machikon, a mixer event that involves bar hopping.

Recently, the increase in younger sumo wrestlers has attracted more female spectators — and, in turn, the matchmaking business.

On March 18, a spectator booth at the Osaka BodyMaker Colosseum will be reserved for five men and women between the ages of 20 and 45.

“We wanted to expand the field of dating,” explained Chie Goda, marketing manager at Goodwill Planning, which is helping promote Konpa de Koi Plan.

Taking note of the increase in young sumo fans, the company thought it would be interesting to see if sparks fly as heavyweights do battle on the dohyo (sumo ring)

According to Goda, Konpa de Koi have recently been focusing on supōtsu-kon, where members can view their favorite sport with their blind date.

“Last year, we did a baseball-kon and horse racing-kon,” Goda said.

Umakon participants take part in a group date at horse races.

Umakon participants take part in a group date at horse races.

To some, watching large, half-naked men tackle each other may not be the ideal romantic setting, but this unique blend of traditional culture and modern dating may be the perfect combination for single sumo fans, or, perhaps, a good icebreaker. But the men may find themselves competing for the ladies’ attention as new young wrestlers like Bana Asayama, a former bodybuilder, make their debuts this season.

The sumokon begin with lunch, followed by a photo session with a former rikishi (sumo wrestler). Members will then receive free sumo souvenirs before watching the tournament. The charge is ¥9,800 for men and ¥6,800 for women.

“Many of the sumokon members have never seen a sumo tournament before, so I’m sure they are feeling very excited,” Goda said. “I hope that the passion for sports will turn into love for someone special.”

Shochiku Kabuki x Uniqlo

March 16th, 2015 by

Iconic Japanese clothing store Uniqlo has a tradition of teaming up with other companies to create unique clothing lines drawing from both pop culture icons and traditional designs, especially when it comes to their UT collections.

In 2011 they created more than 30 products with Manga Entertainment based on the popular manga/anime series Naruto.

On the UT floor, customers will find designs paying homage to Keith Haring and Andy Warhol rubbing shoulders with time-honored motifs from Eirakuya, Japan’s oldest cotton textiles trading company.

This month Uniqlo is collaborating with kabuki powerhouse Shochiku Co. to produce a new clothing line inspired by the traditional motifs of Japan’s most famous cultural export.

The line, comprising more than 60 items, will be launched in Paris on March 20 before hitting shelves in Japan on the 26th.

Ennosuke Ichikawa IV, one of kabuki’s most prominent stars, will play a new role as the project’s ambassador. Given the insular tendencies of the the kabuki world, this is quite a milestone.

The T-shirts serve as the collection’s focal point with designs invoking patterns seen in kabuki costumes and the bold colors of kumadori, kabuki stage makeup.

The project was created to merge traditional Japanese art form with modern clothing, featuring pieces with traditional colors and patterns formatted to contemporary designs.

The collection includes both men and women’s clothing as well as accessories and totebags.

Building on the success of its special Nippon Omiyage tees, Uniqlo clearly sees the value of more Made in Japan designs targeted at tourists who want to wear their love of Japan on their short sleeves.

Will Line put the brakes on Uber with its taxi app?

March 9th, 2015 by

line-taxi-app

In the not-so-distant future, it might be considered quaint to hail a taxi with your hand instead of using a smartphone app.

Line Corporation, after expanding its mobile business with game apps and online purchases, is expanding its smartphone messaging platform with a new service called Line Taxi for users to book cabs in Tokyo via its app.

Launched in January, users simply type their address into the app and, with GPS, the taxi’s dispatch time appears on the map. The taxi ride is automatically paid for using a pre-registered credit card, so there is no need to worry about having cash on hand. Line hopes the app will be useful for people who don’t want to fight over cabs during rush hour.

Competitor Uber, a taxi booking app that’s already available in 55 countries, already expanded its service to Tokyo last spring and has many similar features to Line Taxi.

However, along with Uber’s global expansion has come a series of huge bumps in the road, including an Uber driver being accused of raping a passenger in India in December 2014, and in the same month in Australia, Uber was harshly criticized for jacking up prices during the hostage situation in downtown Sydney. (They quickly apologized for the snafu.)

Uber has also come under fire after testing out its services in Fukuoka. The government told the company to suspend its pilot project as the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry believes that the smartphone application service likely violates the Road Transportation Law prohibiting unlicensed taxi services.

Although Line Taxi doesn’t have the premium service of luxury cars like Uber, the face that Line’s partner is Nihon Kotsu, Japan’s largest taxi company, means there might not be a big gap between the two. More than 3,000 taxis will be connected to Line, and the company plans to include more than 23,000 taxis for its service nationwide.

Currently Line Taxi is only available in Japanese and the fare has to be paid with a Japanese credit card, but the app is expected to become more foreigner-friendly in the future and expand coverage throughout Japan. The company first said that they wanted to take their taxi service global since previewing it last October.

So what’s it going to be? Will you get in Line?

YouTube’s #DearMe campaign looks back to look forward

March 5th, 2015 by

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.”

CONTINUE READING about YouTube's #DearMe campaign →

Seeking pollen protection in Japan with sprays, apps and nose plugs

March 4th, 2015 by

While spring in Japan might seem like a time for cherry blossoms and warm weather, for allergy sufferers it means hay fever and everything that comes with it.

This year in particular, Japan seem to be unfairly hit by a harsh combination of high pollen counts along with the particle-laden smog (PM2.5).

Experts say Japan’s high pollen count is most likely due to the country planting countless cedar trees after WWII. And the PM2.5 smog comes from the Gobi Desert, where yellow dust picks up dirt and pollen from China and carries it over to South Korea and Japan. Put these two phenomena together, and this equals weeks of itchy eyes and running noses.

Here are a few examples of how people in Japan combat, or endure, the allergy season:

Read the rest of this entry

Mister Donut went berry picking for its newest line of treats

February 25th, 2015 by

mister donut strawberry

Spring is the sweetest time of the year, and Mister Donut is celebrating with its Strawberry Donut Fes.

From now until May, the dessert chain will have a special selection of five sugary sweets for customers, including a custard-filled strawberry croissant donut and a strawberry and whip pie.

mister donut strawberry donut

The standout of the collection though is its strawberry donut, created in the shape of a real strawberry. The treat is topped with green-colored chocolate to resemble a strawberry stem.

The move comes at a time when Seven-Eleven is rolling out its own line of donuts, including a strawberry flavor.

With all treats under ¥200, there’s no excuse not to indulge your sweet tooth. Plus, some of them are covered in real freeze-dried strawberries, meaning there are a few vitamins hidden among all of those calories.

I wanna rock ‘n’ roll all night, and be kawaii, ev-er-y day

January 26th, 2015 by

After the major success of Babymetal, who fused Japanese idol culture with head-banging metal and opened for the likes of Metallica, Slayer and Lady Gaga, another J-pop unit is setting their sights on overseas fame and getting a helping hand from rock giants.

The teen idol group Momoiro Clover Z just released a new song, “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saite Mina,” with the help of legendary rockers . . . Kiss.

What? The Satanic pantomimes? The subterranean lizards of Detroit Rock City? Yes, that Kiss.

On Jan. 19, the two released a music video that is high on Japanese tack and low on coherence, more or less taking every possible traditional Japan cliche, putting them in a blender and turning it up to 11. Kiss — who are old enough to be their fathers — provides backup vocals and instrumentation while Momoclo do their thing with “Power Rangers”-esque transformations and sumo dance moves. The ukiyo-e-inspired video features the bands facing off with their signature brands of kowaii (scary) and kawaii (cute). After several back and forths, the leaders of each band eventually shake hands, so the world (and concertgoers) are safe for now.

While this combo might seem a bit random (a fated industry party hook-up perhaps?), the collaboration is actually cross-promotional effort as Kiss is scheduled to tour Japan with — surprise, surprise — Momoclo opening their Tokyo show. In addition, the same day that Momoclo released its newest video on YouTube, they also released an enthralling English introduction video, which includes choice quotes such as such as: “On stage, their ‘Power’ and ‘Performance’ unite the audience regardless of their age or gender.”

Kiss also plan to release their own version of “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saite Mina,” so this video is just the beginning of their budding marketing synergy. Will the aging Kiss Army happily lap up the sugarcoated sounds of J-pop? Or does this PR campaign signal more left-field J-pop collabs to come? Kyary Pamyu Pamyu vs Journey? AKB48 vs Blink 182?

Stranger things have happened — including this video.

Rewinding some of Japan’s top YouTubers

December 22nd, 2014 by

At the end of 2014, YouTube took a look back at some of the fun, freaky and unforgettable videos that went viral over the past year. Titled “YouTube Rewind,” the official retrospective (which has 50 million views) gave special recognition to dozens of online personalities, including Kid President and Jenna Marbles, who YouTube decided were the top of class in 2014.

Japan was well represented with 14 YouTubers joining the global ranks. Their talent ranges from makeup tutorials and video game walkthroughs to clever pranks and English lessons. Without much further ado, here are the top YouTubers from featured in Rewind 2014:

1. Aichi Ono (7,000+ subscribers)

  • Aichi Ono, aka Spinboy, has a pretty thick skull. He is a performer that does dances and tricks while spinning on his head. He also gives behind-the-scenes looks at breakdancing practices.

2. Bilingirl (300,000+)

3. Hajime (900,000+)

4. Hikakin (1,475,000+)

  • Human beatboxer Hikakin has drummed up more 300,000,000 views on YouTube. He usually makes beatbox covers of hit songs including Disney’s “Let It Go” and even collaborates with pop stars like Ariana Grande.

CONTINUE READING about popular YouTubers in Japan

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