Posts Tagged ‘b-kyu’

2012 trends: consumer ‘neta,’ relocating and regional flavors

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

On Jan. 10 Recruit, a corporation that has its fingers in a number of different pies, including tourism, recruitment, real estate and publishing, published its trend forecasts for 2012. Though Recruit has a vested in fulfilling its own prophesies, a few predictions really did seem on the mark. Here’s the best of the bunch:

  • Free word of mouth: The rise in the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter during 2011 obviously brought more young Japanese closer together, and more than ever, marketing divisions wanted to tap into the consumer posses that make recommendations. Recruit’s free magazine R25 predicts that the big thing this year will be companies finding clever ways to provide netizens with opportunities to write neta (amusing stories). The shy consumer on the social network will have something to post, sans that nasty self-promotional aftertaste, and the company gets a free, natural-tasting word-of-mouth plug. Sounds like super-stealth marketing to us, but we’ll see.
  • Relocating: When the earthquake occurred, many of those working in Tokyo were unable to get home after train services were cancelled. Being stranded in Tokyo was that bit more stressful for working couples who had children. In light of this experience, Recruit’s real estate website SUUMO predicts that double income families will be looking to either relocate to locations closer to work, or seek employment closer to home. Centrally located compact apartments for those who can’t change jobs but want to cut the commute may prove popular in April (the busiest month for real estate agents in Japan). For added peace of mind and extra childcare support, many couples will also be considering moving closer to their parents, or even moving in with them, and that might mean that large apartments that can accommodate three generations could be in demand.
  • Gotouchi-ism: According to Jalan Research Center (a subsidiary of Recruit), the quake in 2011 sparked a resurgence of pride in all things Japanese, particularly in the unique charm of different localities. Gotouchi means “your home town” and has been a buzzword used particularly in connection with the b-kyu gourmet boom: a trend for simple regional cuisine. Last year as well as gotouchi gourmet, there was a rise in interest in gotouchi idols — pop groups who promote their localities. Following on from this it’s predicted that tourists taking holidays within Japan in 2012 will be seeking a gotouchi experience: to connect with the everyday lives of the locals by paying to participate in activities that offer a taste of the local lifestyle. Though Recruit don’t specify what this might exactly entail, we think it could be making crafts, or even going out into the fields and working alongside farmers.

2011 trends: B-kyu here to stay

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Cheap, filling and locally produced, B-kyu gourmet food has been trending for awhile now in Japan, so much so that rather than being a passing fad, it’s now become an integral part of Japan’s foodie culture. Driven at a grass-roots level by local chefs and fans, simple and satisfying B-kyu dishes are now also available in convenience stores and increasingly in metropolitan restaurants.

Mikihiro Ishiga, from the Hiruzen Yakisoba Fan Association accepts the B-kyu Grand Prix top prize this year. (Kyodo photo)

Though B-kyu dishes can now be sampled at food festivals throughout Japan, the nexus event for B-kyu gourmet is the B-1 Grand Prix. Established in 2008, the event pits teams of chefs from all over Japan against each other. Interest in the event is rapidly growing. At this year’s event last month in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, ticket sales reached a record high, totaling  ¥200,006,000, while a record number of 63 groups took part.

At this very democratic event, visitors get to pick the winners for themselves, by depositing their used chopsticks in a tin at the stall offering the dish they like the best. A win can boost local economies bringing foodie tourists to that area, and it can also get consumers interested in trying out local ingredients used in a dish.

Winning dishes can often get picked up by convenience stores, who then offer a version for sale in their stores. For example, Atami B-kyu Yaki Udon (fried noodles), which came fifth place in last year’s Hokkaido Grand Prix, was on sale for a limited period in Circle K and Sunkus this year. The ingredients for the dish’s trademark sour sauce, which included apples, shitake mushrooms and onions, were locally sourced in Iwate. Another B-kyu dish on sale in convenience stores was Tsuyama Hormone Udon (noodles), which went on sale in Poplar convenience stores.

Restaurants are also getting in on the act. Nakano B-kyu Izakaya has a menu based around the B-1 Grand Prix, allowing citizens in Japan’s capital city to get a taste of local dishes without having to travel. Filling, reasonably priced, and unpretentious, B-kyu dishes are perfectly suited to be served in izakaya (Japanese inns); other similar establishments, such as B-kyu Gourmet Village in Shibuya, also seem to be thriving.

Last month “Tokyo B-kyu Gourmet Chronicles,” Tokyo’s B-kyu version of the insanely popular Michelin Guide, was published. A guide to well-established local neighborhood eateries, which might have been passed over by the more elitist diner, the book’s emphasis is on eating well for under ¥1,000. With the economic downturn set to continue, it’s no wonder that this trend for homely cooking has taken root in Japan’s food culture.

Can anything stop the AKB48 mutations?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Hot on the heels of the b-kyu gurume (local cuisine) and yuru kyara (local mascot) crazes, gotouchi idols looks like the next big thing to come out of provinces. By copying the massively successful formula used to create AKB48, these all-singing, all-dancing, locally based pop groups are aimed at revitalizing tourism in their respective hometowns.

AKB48, the many-limbed J-pop monster, officially resides in Akihabara at their very own theater on the 7th floor of Don Quijote, where the group gives performances daily. Then there are the regional clones, such as NMB48, from Namba, Osaka, SKE48 in Nagoya, and HKT48 in Fukuoka.

Along those lines, Fukuoka’s Himekyun Fruits Can established its own theater at Matsuyama Kitty Hall where the goup also performs daily. Like most gotouchi idols, Himekyun Fruits Can strongly resembles AKB in numbers, age range and gender: all eight members are young women in their teens and early 20s.

Continue reading about the spread of AKB48 →

B-kyu boom: The magnificence of the mediocre

Friday, August 5th, 2011

“Not exceptional, not bad, just middling” is one definition of the phrase b-kyu (b class), but this term has lately come to mean so much more. From B-kyu gourmet to B-kyu sightseeing, B-kyu fans are appropriating the phrase to mean something more positive, which ranges from “no frills” to “fabulously kitsch.” With the recent release of a new book, the latest B-kyu mindset is being applied to toys.

"Super B-kyu Transformating Robot Great Battle Dagangu"

Wikipedia Japan states that the phrase B-kyu has its origins in the English term “B movie” — a subpar, cheaply made film. Just as in the West, B-movies also have ardent fans in Japan who embrace the term. B-kyu moviegoers relish the celluloid output of directors such as Yoshihiro Nishimuru, who delights them with lashings of blood and guts in titles such as “Tokyo Gore Police,” “Suicide Club” and “Machine Girl.” If you also have a fondness for bad dialogue and blood splatter, check the B-Class Movie Blog.

The biggest B-kyu craze since B-kyu movies has been the B-kyu gourmet trend. While you might think this is all about retro food such as cheese and pineapple chunks on cocktail sticks, you’d be mistaken. B-kyu gourmet simply means no-frills home cooking that utilize local ingredients. The trend even has a B-kyu gourmet cooking competition called the B-1 Grand Prix. Convenience stores have got in on the act too, with Circle K and Lawson both bringing out special B-kyu meals for limited periods.

But B-kyu hasn’t totally lost its kitschy connotations. Being a B-kyu fan entails seeking out stuff that doesn’t register on most people’s radars. We really love the B-kyu sightseeing website, which features great suggestions on weird and wonderful places to visit. A quick browse through entries for Tokyo brought up a fabulous shop in Akihabara that is heaven for fans of instant ramen, as well as the Toto Toilet museum.

The latest B-kyu movement is focused on the B-kyu toy, or the Fukkutoi, as it’s also been dubbed by the author of a book on cheap plastic toys. “Super B-kyu Transformating Robot Great Battle Dagangu” was published on June 18 and features full color illustrations and commentaries on a variety of cheap plastic playthings. These products, which faithlessly copy the merchandise of bigger toy companies, can be bought in gas stations, souvenir shops and near the cash registers of family restaurants across the country. Until recently, they hadn’t really caught the attention of hardcore adult toy fans, but perhaps it’s time for this cheaply produced tat to emerge from its place in the back of the toy cupboard and enjoy its moment in the spotlight.

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