Posts Tagged ‘games’

Cat girls and more: Japan’s fashion trends of 2012

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

What was cool – or perhaps more importantly, cute – in 2012? Here are our top picks.

Neko girls

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

Tattoo stockings

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.

Naturally, it’s possible to combine the above two trends and get cat tattoo stockings.

Nameko goods

Mushroom character goods inspired by the smart phone game Nameko Saibai Kit. Photo by tsukacyi from Flickr

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?

Pulsations (8.17.2012)

Friday, August 17th, 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 . . .

Visual pulse:

Spoon & Tamago highlighted an exhibition at The Open Space 2012 of Rhythmushi, a nifty little hand-drawn music app that has quietly been building a big fan base over the last two years. If you can’t make it to Shinjuku for the hands-on experience, enjoy the video demo here.

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Today’s J-blip: Line’s Birzzle

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

When the fastest-growing social-networking service in the world puts out a game that looks like a mash-up of Angry Birds, Bejeweled and Tetris, you might guess the game would do pretty well. Throw in a free sticker with your download, and you’ve got an instant hit. The acquisition of Korean game Birzzle looks like the first step in Line’s strategy to expand its properties beyond internet calling and messaging. Line has been downloaded over 42 million times in the last year, mostly in Asia.

Website Tech in Asia reports that Line Birzzle has blasted to No. 1 on app store charts in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Macau. It is available for download on Android and iOS operating systems.

Can mah-jongg and pachinko parlors clean up their acts?

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Healthy Mah-jongg is getting more popular with young players who've discovered the game online

When we think of mah-jongg we generally conjure up images of middle-aged guys playing in dingy rooms, filled with thick blue smoke. So we definitely took note when we heard of  Kien Mah-Jongg Story, a new parlor that is offering a refreshingly smoke-free environment to its customers.

“Fewer people smoke and there’s a lot of people who hate smoking,” said company president Akira Aiba in a recent interview with Shibuya Keizai Shimbun. The atmosphere at Kien (no-smoking) Mah-jongg Story is “low key and chic” and designed to attract a younger, more fashionable, crowd in their 20s and 30s. Though the mahjong world of the past was predominantly male, Internet mahjong sites have turned on a new generation of younger female players.

The trend isn’t limited to the younger generation. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, Japan’s elderly generation are also opting to play the game in a healthier environment. Kenkou (healthy) Mah-jongg parlors (many of which are owned by Galapagos), where drinking, gambling and smoking are forbidden, have opened all over the country and are attracting a mainly female, elderly clientele.

Pachinko, another gaming industry that’s traditionally associated with chain smokers, appears to be taking steps — baby steps — toward cleaning up its act. You can be forgiven for thinking that pachinko parlors require their patrons to smoke, but there are actually a few places of refuge for non-smokers and their numbers are growing. Furthermore, there’s been talk in the Diet of extending the public smoking ban to places such as pachinko parlors, though you can bet that the owners and the tobacco industry will put up a fight.

What do you think? Should the smokers be kicked off the premises?

Virtual karaoke dates, courtesy of Konami

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

loveplus karaoke

Need a karaoke partner? Rinko Kobayakawa, Manaka Takan and Nene Anegasaki are at your service.

For me karaoke is a really bad date. I mean who wants to hear the excruciatingly awful vocal stylings of your new beau, or indeed subject them to your own caterwauling. That’s why Konami’s version of the karaoke date ticks all the right boxes: your virtual reality partner sounds great, has a bunch of cute dance moves and won’t complain if you join in enthusiastically, even if you’re totally off key.

Karoke Date With Your Girl!” is the latest Love Plus spin-off project to capitalize on the runaway success of the virtual dating DS game. A collaboration between Konami and karaoke machine manufacturers Joysound, the Love Plus songs were launched on the Crosso karaoke machine on Nov. 19.  There are three songs to chose from, each featuring a different Love Plus character who is shown singing and dancing along to the music in front of a background that looks like the typical interior of a karaoke room. Manaka Takane sings “Lum no Love Song,” Rinko Kobayakawa does a rendition of “Sobakasu” and the popular Nene Anegasaki performs “MUGO·N . . .  Iroppoi.” If you’d like to check out the results have a gander at this YouTube video.

Continue reading about Love Plus karaoke →

Taking social games to the next level

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Tonchidot's World Hero game allows you to hunt monsters in the real world with the aid of your cell phone

Tonchidot’s Sekai Yuusha (Global Hero)  allows you to hunt monsters in the real world with the aid of your cell phone

Social gaming is about to become very big in Japan: On July 29 Softbank announced that it was teaming up with American game maker Zynga in a bid to promote the format in Asia. Zynga Japan will be developing games similar to Farmville to appeal to the Asian market. They’ll be competing with locally made products that have already been coming out on the Japanese cell-phone market. These include games such as Naishoku, which re-creates the “fun” of manual labor with production-line tasks such as putting heads onto countless plastic frogs. If this trend takes off commuter trains could soon be filled with people relaxing after a hard day’s work by completing mindless tasks on their cell phones and posting the results to their network of friends.

But it’s not all drudgery on the social gaming front. Tonchidot, makers of augmented reality application Sekai Camera, have announced the upcoming release of a social augmented reality game that will have players not only communicating via the Web but also meeting up for drinks to discuss the game. Sekai Yuusha (World Hero) has been dubbed an ARPG, combining elements of Augmented Reality and Role Playing Games. Once players chose from a range of three possible character types – warrior, magician or monk – they can begin their quest by roaming the real world in search of monsters to battle and riddles to solve, collecting treasure and medals along the way.

The Sekai Camera app, which was released on the Japanese market last year with much excitement, allows users to interact with floating tags that have been placed virtually in real locations. The tags appear on the screen of your cell phone when you point your camera at them, presenting you with an augmented reality vision of the real world. Players of Sekai Camera games are not just exploring virtual space but are moving about in the real world. Monsters in Sekai Yuusha will have to be sought out in physical locations.

The social element to Sekai Yuusha will be directed through a dedicated Twitter communication tool with which players can exchange information about the game and decide to form alliances in order to do battle with monsters. There will also be 505 real locations around Japan where players can meet up and discuss their quests over a tankard of ale.

By taking the action out of the virtual into the actual world, the social element involved in AR games will far surpass anything other social game formats might offer. In my book this beats assembling plastic frogs or planting eggplants in virtual spaces any day.

Women enjoy romances with their cell phones

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Which guy would you chose to date?

Women get to choose from a stable of eight handsome otomen

Yesterday saw the launch of a new dating simulation game for cell phones called “Kimi to Wonder Kiss.”  TV Tokyo Broadband, who developed the game in conjunction with Rejet, is hoping to cash in on the current boom for cell-phone dating games aimed at the female market.

While console dating sims for men eclipse those aimed at women in sales, it seems like the opposite is true for the relatively new market of cell-phone ren’ai (dating) games. CNET reports that last year ren’ai games made up one in seven of the games available on the iMode menu and out of those 80 percent were aimed at women.

The trend started in December 2006 when “Koibito wa No 1 Host” (My Boyfriend Is the No. 1 Host) was launched on the market. The story allowed girls to chose their favorite young man from a host club (a bar where women pay to spend time with handsome young men) and groom him to become the No. 1 host in the joint. The key to the success of this title was that it closely resembled a romantic novel in structure and also dispensed with complicated game playing rules, a style which appealed to its female audience.

As the market showed steady growth, ren’ai cell-phone games introduced new features. In February 2008 “The Hills Lovers” was released, introducing a system where you could get extra play time and get a sneak peek at game endings in exchange for purchasing more points. In March 2008 “Boku wa Kimi to Koi ni Ochiru” (I’m Falling in Love With You) attracted manga fans by using voice actors and illustrations from popular manga artists.

As the number of games on the market has proliferated, the games themselves have begun to fall into different genres, which include historical dramas, high school love stories or office romances.

“Kimi to Wonder Kiss” seems to be pretty standard. Set in a theme park called Dreams Come True, the player chooses her mate from a stable of eight high school ikemen (cool guys) and then pursues the love story to its happy ending. At ¥315 for a month’s play on NTT Docomo, the game is the ultimate cheap date.

Japan by the numbers (03.25.2010)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

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