Posts Tagged ‘running’

Hit the road: Japan’s 2013 trend forecast

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

'Long Trail' hiking is Trendy magazine's number one trend pick for 2013

‘Long Trail’ hiking is Trendy magazine’s number one trend pick for 2013.

In 2012 we got cat-ear hair-dos, an increasing appetite for salty mold, and a tower with a silly name. What wonders will 2013 bring? We’ve gone through Trendy’s predictions and came up with a list of themes that look good to us. Basically it boils down to this: smart phones continue to up the convenience factor, and people have to work harder to get away from convenience and to make up for all the energy it saves.

People will get moving – even more

Running and hiking have been big the last few years, and Trendy predicts that this will continue, and that people will invest even more in these hobbies. The magazine anticipates that hikers will head further into the hills, taking to what it calls the “long trails” that are dozens (possibly hundreds) of kilometers long, mostly in the Alps of central Honshu.

Naturally, these overnight trips will require more gear than the yama girls have acquired thus far, including camp stoves and camp stove-operated mobile phone chargers. Hikes deep into the heart of the country also fit in nicely with other growing interests that have been driving travel trends recently, like history and power spots.

Dieting will be more palatable, and fun

One of the biggest hits of 2012 was Kirin’s Mets Cola. Billed as the world’s first health-soda, the product claims to inhibit fat uptake. It got tokuho billing, the government-issued health food label usually reserved for products like bio-yogurt. Trendy anticipates that other ordinary edibles will ramp up their ingredients to qualify as tokuho products, and that 2013 will see more typically sweet things – from donuts to umeshu (plum wine) to teriyaki sauce – getting the low-calorie treatment with sweeteners like D-Psicose. Likewise, “water enhancers” like Kraft’s Mio Energy, which look like colored eye-drops but presumably have a Crystal Lite effect, look to make good, old-fashioned water more palatable to soda addicts.

Fujitsu's "Wandant" dog pedometer automatically uploads data to a cloud. Photo courtesy of Fujitsu.

Fujitsu’s “Wandant” dog pedometer automatically uploads data to the cloud. Photo courtesy of Fujitsu.

Trendy also sees gadgets that gamify weight-loss and fitness, like Nike’s FuelBand and Panasonic’s EW-NK63 pedometer – both of which beam data to smartphones – as being likely hits in 2013.

And (sigh) it looks like Fujitsu has gone and made a pedometer for dogs, the “wandant” (“wan-chan” being the word for puppy). As the pampered puppies of years past are now overweight middle-aged pooches, we’re probably going to see more human-driven weight-loss and exercise trends trickle down to the canine population.

Smartphones work their way further into our lives

Now that we’ve confirmed that Japanese consumers are buying into smartphones, it is likely that we’ll see more crossover products on the market. Expect more digital cameras that allow you to upload photos to a smartphone over Wi-Fi – like Nikon’s new Coolpix S800C, which is also an Android device itself – to hit the market in 2013, says Trendy.

Last year Moleskin introduced its “Smart Notebook” series, which is designed to sync nicely with the popular smartphone app Evernote. According to Trendy, Japanese office and school supply manufacturer Kokuyo (they make those ubiquitous “Campus” notebooks) has now launched its own series of smartphone-ready stationary, CamiApp, along with its own app.

 

J-blip: Sweets Marathon

Friday, January 18th, 2013

So, for the past few years, running has been really, really big in Japan. How do you make something already popular even more attractive? Cake, naturally. We’re guessing that was the logic behind Sweets Marathon, a running race with baked-goods stations set up along the way next to the usual water stations. You can run – and eat – your way through the whole 10k, or do it in a relay with a group of friends. And you can eat as much as of the little bite-sized cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and pudding cups as you like. It sounds a like a recipe for disaster, but the event handlers seem to do a pretty good job of moving everyone along.

Since 2010, there have been 13 of these events held in cities around Japan organized by Tokyo-based International Sports Marketing, Inc. Last month two Sweets Marathons took place at Tokyo Summerland and in Osaka, drawing 3,000 and 4,000 participants, respectively.

Next up is the Gourmet Run, which is already on track to happen in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya early this year. It costs ¥4000 to enter, which is pretty decent for access to a huge spread of regional cuisine – though you have to work for it.

Today’s J-blip: Running man, powered by Facebook

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

As part of Nike Japan’s “Run Like Me” marketing campaign, British expat Joseph Tame will jog 100 meters for every “like” that he receives via the campaign’s special Facebook page/app. You might remember Joseph as that earnest mobile-tech evangelist who rose to Internet fame by using GPS to turn his runs into massive urban scribbles, as well as broadcasting his start-to-finish performances in past Tokyo Marathons. A true original, he would appear to be the right poster boy for Nike’s highly customizable LunarGlide+ 4. How far will he have to run? That’s up to you. It should be noted that while the campaign might inspire consumers to buy a pair of cool shoes and run like Joseph, as a large-scale social media campaign that taps into collective sadism, this might be a first.

Tech for keeping pace with the marathon trendsetters

Friday, February 24th, 2012

A participant in last year's Tokyo Marathon takes the rat race literally. (Mark Thompson photo)

It’s been two years since the Japanese press got all out of breath announcing an “unprecedented running boom,” and yet the spandex-clad pack of joggers shows no sign of slowing down. Though the numbers are down from last year, this Sunday’s Tokyo Marathon still had almost 10 times as many applicants as the 35,500 spots in the race. The increase in women running put the phrase “beautiful jogger” onto the shortlist of top buzz words for 2011. As the marathoners get in their final practice runs and the spectators stake out their spots, we bring you a few of the tech trends that are going the distance for runners in Japan.

Sites like Run Net and Sports Entry make it easy to apply online for the growing number of races held all over the country. Popular races can fill up the same day they’re announced, leaving many would-be entrants hovering over their computer screens like they’re waiting for a starting gun. In addition to dedicated sites like these, runners in Japan are using Twitter to find running partners and groups with hashtags like #run_jp and #running (in both English and katakana).

Running rings around the Imperial Palace

The American fitness app RunKeeper has a loyal following among runners in Japan, even though the interface is only in English. A similar Japanese app called Tweet Runners also maps and shares completed runs on social media and is sponsored by pharmaceutical and supplement company Otsuka. Maybe not surprising for an app from a company better known for products like CalorieMate bars and the sports drink Pocari Sweat than its software, runners find its functions less robust than RunKeeper’s.

While not a role model for every runner, Tokyo Marathon veteran Joseph Tame is showing exactly what is possible when mobile tech is applied to the marathon course. Over the past few years, Tame has made an international name for himself by broadcasting his Tokyo Marathon runs via a wearable Ustream studio cobbled together from various mobile-tech devices. He keeps in shape between races and sharpens his tech capabilities at the same time with his “Art of Running” project: His meticulously plotted routes draw pictures or Japanese characters on the Tokyo map when he’s done. This year, he’ll be broadcasting a live interview with a fellow runner every kilometer of the race.

Continue reading about tech at the Tokyo Marathon →

Will girls take the bait of fishing fashion?

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Will fishing girls follow in the footstep of mountain girls?

Fueled by a desire to get fit and out of the city, not to mention the prospect of a funky new wardrobe, Japanese women have been exploring the great outdoors in ever-increasing numbers. The running trend, followed by the yama (mountain) girl trend, have been a boon for vendors of outdoor/sports wear. But what about more sedentary girls who like the clothes but don’t fancy breaking a sweat? If the hype keeps up they might soon be a new less-active outdoor tribe to join.

Recently, Nikkei Trendy tipped fishing as the next big thing for women in 2011. In keeping with the pattern, the women of this nascent trend have been dubbed “tsuri jo” (fishing woman) or “tsuri garu” (fishing girl), though we’ve yet to hear about these phrases enter common parlance so marketers have their work cut out for them this year.

Cool gear, though, might hook them. The ransuka (running skirt) and yamasuka (mountain skirt) did wonders for popularizing running and mountain climbing. Will the tsurisuka be next? As far was we know, manufacturers aren’t exactly targeting fisherwomen yet, fishing gear maker Daiwa Globe Ride has at least gone out of its way to make fishing cool. Last month, the brand teamed up with uber-hop fashion label A Bathing Ape to create a line of cutting-edge fishing gear under the label of  A Fishing Ape, comprising camouflage-patterned fishing jackets and lures.

If Daiwa casts its lines right, it could make a pretty profit off of tsuri girls. According to Insight Now!, other manufacturers of cheaper fishing gear from Taiwan, China and South Korea could also get into the game. Will they be successful in luring the young female market? A sign of things to come can be seen at  Japan Fishing Festival, March 25-27. A seminar for female fishers has been scheduled, as well as a meet-n-greet vent for the anglers’ idol, Aica. Will she become a role model for budding tsuri jo?

Photo by Kintaiyo [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Music makes bananas fit for the long run

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Blasting an early ’90s J-pop song on repeat for a week straight might sound like a dubious military tactic. But Dole is just doing it to give its bananas a little extra pep for the Tokyo Marathon.

Banana power

Banana power

A variety of banana called Lakatan will arrive green from the Philippines and then be ripened for eight days in a storage facility after arrival in the Tokyo area. Various companies in Japan have experimented with giving their foods and beverages a bit of culture by letting them mature to Mozart, with “Mozart bananas” getting the most attention. While the Mozart pieces were chosen for frequency profiles that are reported to increase taste quality, the music for the marathon bananas was chosen a bit less scientifically: Dole asked former marathon runners via Twitter what songs they’d most like to hear at different points in the race. The inspirational song “Makenaide! (Don’t Give Up!)” by Zard was the hands-down winner, so that’s what the bananas are being serenaded with, 24 hours a day, for the eight days leading up to the marathon.

Some 78,000 bananas will be given out throughout the race to the 32,000 marathon runners at four spots along the 42.2-km route. The soundness of the science behind the singing seems to be a minor point. The company alludes to it only by having a slightly skeptical “Chief Quality Officer Alberto” of the plantation say in the promotional video clip that he “heard somewhere that playing music for the fruit  increases the sugar content . . . They’re nutritious either way, so why not give it a shot.”

With or without music, the Lakatan bananas have about twice the citric acid as the more commonly eaten Cavendish variety. Citric acid is popular as a diet and sports nutrition ingredient in Japan, and these little guys will continue to be sold as “sports bananas” once the race is over. They’re quite a bit smaller than the bananas usually sold in Japan, with a slightly tarter taste and denser, slightly orangey flesh. They’ll be available in grocery stores for about ¥300 a bunch, and sports shops will also be selling them experimentally for the month after the marathon.

Dentsu, Young & Rubicam is the PR company behind the marathon campaign, as well as those memorable spots with Shingo Katori sprouting bananas from his face. Just us, but we find the music thing a lot less disturbing.

Up and running in Japan

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

"Jogging" by Masahiro Hayata

“Jogging” by Masahiro Hayata

A few weeks ago, a neighbor asked me and a dozen other friends and acquaintances to help him get a spot at the Tokyo Marathon. Participants are selected by lottery, he explained, and by drawing numbers for him we could ostensibly increase his chances of pounding the pavement next March.

He needs all the help he can get: With Japan’s “running boom” arguably at its peak, races around the country are filling up faster than ever. The 2009 Tokyo Marathon saw 226,378 applicants competing for 30,000 spots: a 68% increase from the year before, and this year’s Peace Marathon in Hiroshima had around 2,000 more participants than 2008. What may be most significant about these numbers is that a majority of these new applicants are first-timers and women. Japanese running clubs are also seeing their numbers swell with new runners, especially those clubs with membership fees that offer professional coaching.

The market has been following closely. Now Nike and Asics have flagship stores in the trendy Harajuku district, and one of Asics’ star designers has broken off to start his own line. According to Brett Larner of Japan Running News, all the major running shoe makers are opening specialty shops and starting their own running clubs. “Upper management-level people from two major brands told me that Japan is the only place in the world where the running market has continued to grow during the recession,” he says, adding that Runners Magazine just moved into new offices last month, due in part to the spike in interest. What’s more,  he explains: “Non-running lifestyle and fashion magazines now regularly feature articles on running geared towards young, fashionable, independent women, the largest demographic within the current Japanese running boom.”

Continue reading about running in Japan →

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