Posts Tagged ‘ikemen’

Inside Nazo Tomo Cafe

Friday, August 16th, 2013

The other day we brought up the nazo toki (puzzle solving) trend that appears to be building even further with the appearance of Nazo Tomo Cafe in Daikanyama, Shibuya-ku’s Theatre Cybird. Though I’ve played “Professor Layton” and used to get a kick out of logic exercises as a kid, I can’t say I am “good” at puzzle solving, so it took some guts for me to walk into the quirky pop-up cafe.

I thought I would warm up with a “cup dessert,” a perilously sweet parfait-like affair with heart-shaped cake, generous amounts of whipped cream, marshmallows, cornflakes, etc., but my true warm-up was the puzzle that came with it.

nazo

Strawberry sauce cup dessert ¥500

The event is put on in collaboration with a romance sim mobile game for girls by Cybird (under the same company group that runs the theatre space) called “Ikemen Oukyū Mayonaka no Shinderera” (something like “Hottie Royal Palace: Midnight Cinderella” in English). In the cafe puzzle, you’re a princess 30 minutes before a ball and you’ve received a letter announcing a crime will occur. However, the message is in code, so you need to get hints from the game’s handsome young men to discover what the criminal is after.

coaster

Coaster prize featuring Leo from “Hottie Royal Palace: Midnight Cinderella”

Now is perhaps a good time to note that you can’t expect to do any of this without good working knowledge of Japanese. The code itself is written in katakana, but you need to be able to read and understand the instructions, too. And don’t waste precious puzzling time looking for furigana. Of course, even though my Japanese was cutting it, the other parts of my mind were embarrassingly dull. Luckily the staff are friendly and will give you further hints until you feel almost as if you solved it yourself — definitely the reason for the 100 percent pass rate compared to the actual missions, of which when I went most did not reach 20 percent.

After picking up my prize coaster, I decided to pass on the rest of the side mission in order to get down to the real business at hand. I wanted to get inside one of those “mission cubes”!

The main draw of Nazo Tomo Cafe is not the cafe at all, but the puzzles awaiting inside each of the six mission cubes. Participation costs ¥1,000. Having never played a Real Escape Game or solved any similar real-life puzzles, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but more in the mood for science fiction than murder or romance, I picked mission six, “Taimu Mashin 765~Mirai wo Sukue~” (“Time Machine 765: Save the future!”).

[Mild spoilers ahead]

Led up some stairs to a short hallway-like room, I was told not to touch anything until after the countdown started. All the puzzles are designed to be solved within 765 seconds (a number too close to na-mu-ko in Japanese, i.e. producer Namco, to be a coincidence), but I knew at first glance it would be impossible for me alone. After a short video explaining (in Japanese with Japanese captions) how the world would end as the culmination of a series of unfortunate events beginning with some guy stubbing his toe, I was faced with a seven-step brain teaser with no hints in sight. How would I push the button to save the planet from certain doom? One of the steps involved playing the Japanese word game “Shiritori,” an example of how cultural fluency can matter as much as the linguistic kind.

[End mild spoilers]

Of course, once I had failed magnificently I thought of various ways I could have tried to proceed in a swifter, more orderly fashion, but so it goes. If nothing else, know that this is not a pencil-pushing game; you’ll be pacing your cube, manipulating objects and hopefully talking things through with your friends along the way.

That’s why it’s called “Puzzle Friend Cafe.” Even just two heads are better than one, so don’t be like me showing up alone. The staff will welcome you gladly (one of them confessed player numbers had decreased a bit since they opened on July 31), but you’ll have more fun, and more of a chance for success, with a pal or five (it seems up to six can play together). I paid once and received a free ticket to try another day, so maybe I’ll see if I can round up a posse for sometime next month; although the cafe closes briefly starting Aug. 25, round two runs Sept. 6-23.

Rickshaws roll back into style

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Handsome “onisan” are part of the attraction of a jinrikisha ride for the ladies

Slightly cheesy and very pricey, a ride in a jinrikisha (hand-pulled rickshaw) around Asakusa is Tokyo’s equivalent of a spin around New York’s Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage. And thanks to the opening nearby of Skytree Tower, this anachronism is still fighting fit in the 21st century as jinrikisha companies cash in on the hordes of tourists who flock to Asakusa to check out Tokyo’s newest landmark.

Skytree Tower tours don’t come cheap. A 70-minute Skytree Tower Course with Kurumaya Asakusa, which takes you from Kaminarimon in Asakusa through the streets of downtown Tokyo, costs ¥12,690 for two. That price rises to ¥18,000 if you opt to travel in a rickshaw that has been custom-made to resemble the tower itself. The newly unveiled Tokyo Skytree Model lights up at night and comes complete with a tiny Skytree Tower at the back.

The surrounding scenery is not the only attraction of a jinrikisha ride. Many women also enjoy checking out the hunks whose job it is to cart customers around town. On April 4, a show on Nippon Television Network introduced the ikemen  jinrikisha oniisan (good-looking jinrikisha guys) who are admired by female visitors to Asakusa for their fit bodies. These companies obviously know that their stables of young men are all part of the attraction; the websites of Ebisuya Asakusa and Jidaiya jinrikisha companies both have profiles of these charismatic rikshaw pullers, called shafu, for potential customers to check out.

Back in the Showa Era, the jinrikisha was not the only form of transport available for sightseeing around Asakusa. Elegant pedicabs, called rintaku, as a short form for “wheel taxi,” were also pedaled along the streets. Those interested in the history of transport in Tokyo can check out a collection of latter-day carriages in the lobby of the Asakusa Central Hotel. The vehicles are kept in working order and are available for hire for special occasions. The site says that in 1947 a ride was ¥100 per hour. A wedding rental now can cost 100 times that, at ¥30,000 for three hours.

Just can’t get enough? We suspect Kurumaya’s sales target is jinrikisha companies, but we don’t know if there’s anything stopping them from selling their two-wheelers to the general public. The Skytree model three-seater is a trifle at ¥2 million. And no, that does not include a handsome driver.

Photo: Jon Rawlinson, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Hot-looking guys for free

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Take me, I'm free! BACS magazine is filled with gorgeous young ikemen

 

Picking up up hot-looking guys at your local convenience store just got a whole lot easier. BACS is a free magazine aimed at ikemen (cool, good-looking guys) in their teens and twenties. Launched last month, the magazine advises aspiring ikemen on how to do their hair and makeup (and, yes, we know some of you will think this deeply wrong).

The cosmetics market for men in Japan is expanding and magazines like BACS are really going to help drive that growth. According to Yahoo News, the first month’s issue includes an interview with a makeup artist, a feature on how to create ikemen hairstyles and a women’s discussion on the topic of ikemen.

Part of BACS’ agenda is to recruit and foster new ikemen talent and its website features a section for aspiring ikemen idols to apply to become models. The chief editor emphasizes in Yahoo News that they’ll be supporting and scouting Japanese ikemen talent, so that Japanese talent doesn’t lose out to Korean stars.

The cover star of the first issue of BACS is Hamao Kyousuke, an actor who’s appeared in the stage version of “The Prince of Tennis” and the movie “Takumi Kun Series.” As “Takumi Kun Series” is based on a Boys Love novel that features passionate relationships between a number of sexy young boys at a high school, we’re thinking that BACS might just also be aimed at women too.

The fact that BACS is also behind the Mune Kyon Tokei (chest-tightnening clock) site gives further credence to this theory. A spin on the hugely popular Bijin Tokei, in which hot women pose with a chalkboard that tells the time, Mune Kyon Tokei is, well, the same thing, only with hot guys. Visitors to Mune Kyon Tokei can vote on whether they find particular guys hot or not and then view the top-rated guys.

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.

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