Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

Plenty of room for passions to grow

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Though Japan is a nation of passionate hobbyists, it’s also a country in which space is at a premium. This poses a dilemma for otaku who spend years amassing huge toy collections, gearheads who want to work on their greasy motors, or arty types who want room in which to slap around some paint without ruining the tatami. Rather than renting out a cheap apartment or storage space, a new solution has been supplied by Reise Hobby, a company that offers versatile units for hobbyists to rent.

Founded in 2006 as a subsidiary of Reise Box storage company, Reise Hobby now own 30 buildings in Kanto and Kansai that house more than 200 “loft” or “maisonette type” spaces. Each space has two floors with private access via a garage door; the lower garage area serves as a workspace, while the upper area can be used as a storage space. This style has proved extremely popular, according to Nikkei Trendy: When the company opened up their new Tama Center in December 2011, half the units were snapped up on the first day they were first offered for sale.

Though users are generally male, the kinds of hobbies they pursue are diverse, ranging from those who want to store bikes or cars to artistic types to avid collectors. Some people rent units just to have a private space of their own, sort of like a secret club house. Units do not come cheap: A 41-sq.-meter unit at their Tama Center, for instance, costs ¥84,000 a month. However, on the plus side, these spaces are well-equipped with toilet, water supply, air conditioner, 50 kw electricity supply a month, electrical outlets and free Internet access. Add to this the freedom to customize the space as you please and these units look increasingly attractive.

If the rental fee still seems steep,  there are places where you can rent time in a shared space. The increased interest in railways, for example, has resulted in a number of businesses offering track rental time on train dioramas. Models IMON, for instance, offer track time in locations across Tokyo, in Harajuku, their rental layout costs¥2,100 for just under two hours and rental of trains comes extra. Since 2010, the Akihabra Washington Hotel even has a special room for densha otaku (train geeks) who can bring along their own trains and whizz them round a diorama of Akihabara for a rather pricy ¥23,000 a night.

The rent-a-space entrepreneurs are also amateur seamstresses. As we mentioned a few years back, there’s been a surge of interest in “remake” fashion (restyling second-hand clothes) and some stores like Sewing Machine Cafe & Lounge Nico, which opened in Setagaya in September 2011, have caught on to this and are offering sewing machine time for budding clothes designers for a small fee.

For some, hiring a space in which to practice their craft becomes the step from being merely an enthusiast to becoming a full-fledged professional. In our next post, we’ll take a look at how new kinds of shared rental spaces are cutting down costs and helping budding entrepreneurs build connections.

Deck the halls with bottles of plastic . . .

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

This Christmas light show is quite literally garbage. High-class department store Takashimaya has decided to deck out the southern terrace area surrounding their Shinjuku store with Christmas illuminations constructed entirely out of discarded PET bottles and LED lights. The results, which include a PET bottle Christmas tree, UFO and giant man, are actually quite impressive, transforming the space into a clear plastic paradise.

The theme for the exhibition, which was installed by light artist Hiroyuki Morikawa, is “ancient ruins and outer space,” hence the UFO. Though we weren’t quite sure where the ruins fit in to the display, we loved the “Pet Tron” PET bottle screen, which showed passersby a pixellated otherworldly image of their faces.

Morikawa constructed part of this PET bottle world with the help of a group of children. The children assembled pet bottle stars with the artist’s guidance that were then either placed on top of lamp posts or piled up to create a splendid Christmas tree. You can see footage of this workshop towards the end of the video above.

Morikawa, a professor of Information Design at Tama Art University, is well known in Japan for his work with LED lights, such as this playful interactive installation piece constructed at MOA in April this year. The Shinjuku display will be lit up until Dec. 25.

Japan by the numbers (02.08.10)

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Trends in Japan 2009: fast fashion

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Fast fashion outlets like UniQlo are doing well in the recession

Little could stop the Uniqlo momentum in 2009

It was the year that rocked luxury brand names as Versace made the unbelievable announcement that Versace SpA stores would close nationwide and more affordable brands such as H&M, Zara, Forever21 and Uniqlo began appear in areas once reserved for swanky brand-name fashion. While the world sinking deeper into recession, “fast fashion” retailers proved that there was still a way to make a quick buck. Last month Zara opened their 50th store in Japan (a bigger space in Shibuya) and H&M opened a new branch in Shinjuku. Forever 21, which doesn’t yet have the brand cachet of H&M or Zara, threw down the gauntlet in April with its Japan debut in Harajuku  and, the last time I checked, it was still full of bargain hunters.

In 2009, cash-strapped consumers also benefited from how-low-can-you-go price wars. Uniqlo’s cheaper spinoff store g.u. started selling jeans for ¥990 earlier in the year, which was followed by Don Quijote’s Jonetsu Kagaku (passionate price) of ¥690 per pair. However, when you consider the wages of the workers making them at factories in Cambodia and China, you might question the true cost of such cheap clothing.

On a more environment-friendly note, some young Japanese girls embraced the recessionista trend of recyling old clothes into a new look. Used clothing outlet Don Don Down  opened two new stores last month, proving that at least some Japanese are willing to wear outfits that are a little rough around the edges. Many of those scouring the nation’s flea markets were fashioning old clothes into new outfits, a process dubbed remaku (remake) and those not handy with a sewing machine could buy the eco-friendly recycled look from stores in trendy areas like Shimokitazawa or Koenji.

As long as the recession continues, the lower priced end of fast fashion is bound to continue reaping a profit (and we’re bound to see more creative and crafty ways to remix and recycle the resulting mountain of thrown-away threads). Despite the trend toward fast fashion U.S. luxury casual brand Abercrombie & Fitch felt optimistic enough to try to break into the Japanese market by opening a new store in Ginza last week. The success or failure of this significantly more expensive store will prove a useful barometer for other luxury brands hoping to expand their markets in these lean times.

Fancy pants climb the walls in Ginza

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Visitors to the Sony Building in Ginza on Oct. 19 might be a bit bemused to witness an intrepid climber abseiling down the face of the building and plucking colorful pairs of pants from its wall. Sony’s innovative Recycle Project JEANS is a limited edition sale with a difference: All the jeans are made from the fabric of colorful billboard adverts and to emphasize this point they’re all displayed on the buidling’s exterior.

Out of 120 pairs produced, there are only 20 left, so you’ll have to get to the 3rd floor of the building early with your ¥15,000 if you’re keen to buy a pair. Some of the profits are going to a charity that helps with the restoration of World Heritage sites. While billboard material has been recycled into bags before, we think using it for funky-looking garments is a rather new concept.

Continue reading about Sony's makeovers →

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