Posts Tagged ‘setsuden’

J-Blip: Mini kotatsu a cozy spot for singles

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Warmth for one

The humble domestic kotatsu is enjoying something of a revival since the disaster at Fukushima made the nation painfully aware of the need to conserve energy. The device is a table with a heating element underneath and a warm blanket draped over it keep one’s legs nice and toasty; without using up excess energy, the kotatsu has been keeping families huddled together in the winter months since its charcoal forerunner first warmed feet in the 14th century.

But what about those living alone, who want to bring down their electric bill but might not have room for a large kotatsu table?

Enter the mini kotatsu heater from Yamazen. On sale from September last year, Tokyo Walker reports that 18,000 of these tiny heated tables have already been sold. A wooden cage around the heating element protects the skin from nasty burns and a large blanket means that you can stretch out on the floor while enjoying the heat it kicks out. The device is also portable and can be placed under a desk to keep feet toasty while browsing the web. If you’re interested in buying one, Rakuten has them in stock for 5,580 yen.

Today’s J-blip: Suteteko

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

In the hot and sticky Japanese summer months, staying cool can be a challenge. However, a resurgence in traditional suteteko (say stet-eh-ko) is making it a little bit easier. Fear not — these aren’t your grandpa’s long johns! Contemporary sutekeko are pants made of light-weight, breathable material and fall just below (or above) the knee. Once a boutique item (that we spotted a year ago), they are now available from major retailers like Uniqlo as well as dedicated shops. Great for lounging around the house, walking your dog or even on a first date if you dare . . . If it doesn’t go well, at least you’ll have the peace of mind knowing it wasn’t because of your sweaty legs.

We’ve pinned a sampling of some of the huge variety of patterns and colors. Follow this and Japan Pulse’s other boards on Pinterest.

Cool heat-blockers for summer 2012

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Though Japan is still experiencing rainy season, the country is bracing for a super-hot summer. Predicted power shortages and another season of setsuden are raising the demand for products that can help beat the heat without electricity. Here are a few of the more unusual ones.

Forget icy glasses, frozen foam is where it’s at

Frozen beer: Kirin has invented a machine that creates frozen suds on top of your pint. Working rather like a softserve ice cream machine, the device adds a frosty froth to a glass of draft beer. The froth is actually made from beer so that it doesn’t dilute your drink as it melts. According to Kirin, there are currently 252 establishments serving it nationwide, and 91 of those are in Tokyo.

Chilled foods: It’s unsurprising that manufacturers are casting around for unexpected foods to stick in the cool box. Chilled doughnuts have been around for a few years now and have proven to be more than a passing fad. Last year we had chilled Hiroshima okonomiyaki and cold curry. This spring snack giant Calbee brought out Potato Chips Zeitaku (Premium) Vanilla, which, the company claims, taste much better after being chilled in the fridge. There’s even a chilled instant ramen from Nissin (which, strangely enough, was launched in February).

Fans: Old-school paper fans have enjoyed a bit of a revival 0ver the last few years, but why waste all that energy flapping your hands around when you can get your hands on a Kurukuru Eco Fan? This environmentally friendly toy fan from Takara Tomy has been so popular that the company has had to double the shipments of the product. Thanko, our favorite store for wacky gadgets, put out this petite little fan that resembles bladeless household fans and comes in at a very affordable ¥980. Thanko has also got a product for cooling the insides of your shoes. The USB Shoes Cooler produces a cooling breeze when inserted into footwear, promising to prevent your feet from getting all sweaty.

Power saving puts Christmas illuminations in a new light

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The Winter Sakura lights along Meguro River are powered by used cooking oil

As is the tradition, Christmas lights are twinkling all over Tokyo. When it comes to Christmas decorations the Japanese, who tend to go wild for the glitziest, brightest possible displays, aren’t exactly famed for their self-restraint, so this year poses the problem of how to accomplish the desired amount of dazzle without being seen as an energy hog.

The most obvious answer, and the most popular one, is to swap out normal bulbs for energy-efficient LED lights. Due to LED bulbs’ power-saving qualities, ad agency Dentsu has rated them as the second most popular product in Japan for 2011.

According to Sankei News, Keikyu Railways and the New Otani Hotel have both switched to LED lights. But Ebisu Garden Palace has not only switched over the bulbs of its gigantic Baccarat Crystal chandelier, it’s also reduced the number of bulbs from 60,000 to 40,000. On top of that a solar power panel has been installed to supplement the power supply. The Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa’s, however, have outstripped this effort by installing an entirely solar-powered display of LED lights in its Japanese garden.

Though the hotel’s garden sounds attractive, our favorite eco-friendly display in Tokyo is the “Winter Sakura” illuminations along the Meguro River. Pink LED bulbs are strung on the branches of trees along the river so that it appears as if the cherry blossom trees are blooming out of season. Better yet, the lights are powered from bio diesel made from used cooking oil collected from homes and restaurants in the area.

Some businesses have decided that the best way to do their bit, however, is to dodge the whole issue by not putting up any decorations. SG Holdings, for instance, who run Sagawa Express Ltd. announced that in light of power-saving measures, they decided to cancel any plans for illuminations that might have been put up at their head office or branch offices. This seems a pity especially seeing as Nikken Release Kyogo Ltd has begun renting out eco-friendly LED Christmas trees to meet the demand for a setsuden (power saving) Christmas.

Sniffling and shivering into a setsuden winter

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

As we inch toward December, a chill is most definitely in the air, as are the inevitable cold viruses that accompany the onset of winter. At Shinjuku Station, it feels like you can hardly walk a minute without getting sneezed or coughed on by a passing comuter. According to a recent survey by cold medicine makers Contac, those living in areas powered by Tepco are particularly worried about catching a cold as a winter of setsuden (power conservation) looms.

Kaze Miru Plus tracks the cold virus in your area

The survey of office workers living alone in the Tokyo area showed that 89.1 percent were proactively taking steps to prevent getting a setsuden cold. Some felt that these might not be enough: 34.1 percent were worried that if they practiced power-saving with their heating appliances it would be harder to keep in peak physical condition. It appears that women had more of a tendency to worry about this issue: 41.1 percent of females compared to 27.2 percent of males.

As well as wrapping up warmly like the government advises, alternative sources of heating are popular. Yomiuri Online reports that a store selling kerosene heaters in Iwate had sold 200 heaters in a week and had 30 reservations from customers. These heaters are being actively marketed as being good for setsuden winter. If you’re not too keen on getting gassed in the night by one of these, a new electric heater called the “Beam Heater” claims to kick out 800 watts of heat while only running on 400 watts of electricity.

Another way to prevent getting a cold — at least in Japan — is to use a cold mask. Cold masks have become increasingly funky in recent years and we noted a nice product just out for kids that includes masks and cool packs adorned with decorations of Tomi cars and trucks. You might even manage to snag a mask for free. According to Eiga News, individually wrapped masks were available at five Tokyo stations, including Ikebukuro and Omotesando, as part of a clever advertisement for the movie “Contagion.” Once removed, the faces of the stars of the movie are revealed.

If the doomsday scenario of a super bug spreading throughout the world has you reaching nervously for the hand sanitizer, then you might want to sign up for Esu Esu Pharmaceutical’s Kaze Miru Plus, a Twitter-based application that tracks and forecasts cold and flu symptoms throughout Japan. By bringing together data from tweets and weather forecasts, Kaze Miru makes a cold forecast for your area. Today in Tokyo, 1,447 tweeted headaches, 970 a cough and 639 a runny nose. As the mercury drops those numbers are bound to rise drastically over the next few months. Be careful out there, folks.

Doing your bit for setsuden? Here’s your discount

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Save energy, save money

Online restaurant guide Guru Nabi (short for “gourmet navigator”) has introduced a series of mobile coupons linked to power-saving efforts this summer. The coupons are in effect from June 30 to Sept. 30, the period during which businesses have been asked to reduce power consumption by 15%. In a first for Guru Nabi, the discounts are available for smartphones as well as Japanese keitai. (The coupons are only available from the mobile version.)

Some bars have half-price drink specials when the temperature (outside, we hope) goes above 35 degrees.  Restaurants have been encouraged to come with topical and fun discounts. A sushi place gives a free piece of sashimi to customers who say “I don’t need any air conditioning!” Another will take 10% off the bill for a rallying cry at the cash register of “Gambare, setsuden [Let's do our best to save power]!” Others reward customers for coming in in super cool biz attire, like Hawaiian shirts or open dress shirts with no necktie. That freebie paper fan you got handed on the street could actually be worth something, too — some places will take ¥1,000  yen the price of the meal for patrons carrying them.

Some seem playfully unconcerned about applying to a wide audience. For one, people with the syllables or kanji for “setsu” “den” “natsu [summer]” or “toku [value]” in their names get a discount. That’s great for the Setsuko’s and Natsumi’s out there, but people with non-Japanese names might be at a slight disadvantage. There’s still a chance  — anyone named Denis out there? Try your luck and let us know how it goes.

The latest and greatest gear for keeping it cool

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Despite early predictions of a mild summer, almost 7,000 people called ambulances for heatstroke this June across Japan — three times more than the same time last year. Some spots in the country hit record high temperatures they hadn’t seen in 50 years, Kyodo News reported. Official advice is to drink plenty of fluids and to be sensible about setsuden. But there’s only so much water you can drink. Manufacturers are to the rescue with products for every inch of the body and home.

This year sees an expansion of the sprays, gels and lotions that we saw last year, as well as a burst of subtle variations on the cool wraps that were spotted wrapped damply around necks last year. The use of high-tech fibers means the wraps can stay cooler with less dripping. At the same time, there is a return to basics that pre-date air-conditioning: Wooden screens, wicker pillows and bamboo sheets remind us that there were plenty of cool ideas in Japan long before microfibers and rechillable elasto-polymers. Start waving your paper uchiwa and check out our finds.

Found any yourself? Tweet your photos to @japan_pulse.

Sassor’s ELP shines a light on energy consumption

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Sassor's ELP module and receiver

Though we’re all doing our best right now to cut down on power consumption, by turning off unnecessary lighting and keeping the air conditioner temperature down low (if it’s on at all), when it comes to finding out just how much energy we’re actually saving, most of us are in the dark. But a new device and app called the Energy Literacy Platform (ELP), developed by startup company Sassor, can shed some light on our personal energy consumption.

Info on domestic power usage can be tracked via iPhone

The ELP, which is on limited release to homes in and around Tokyo this summer, was found to assist in cutting domestic energy consumption by as much as 25 percent in a recent trial run on the NHK morning show “Asaichi.” The ELP package consists of modules that are plugged in between your electric sockets and appliances, a main ELP receiver and software for your computer and iPhone. The modules collect information on power consumption and then send them via wireless signal to the receiver, which then forwards the info to the company’s server. Users can then check their power consumption on their PC or iPhone.

Though devices like Google’s “Powermeter” already allow users to monitor domestic power consumption, Sassor’s system allows users to identify devices, such as hairdryers or kettles, that are causing a huge drain on the power grid. If you’re checking on devices from your iPhone, you can even turn them off remotely via the ELP website. The information is displayed in graph and pie chart form, so you can easily get a handle on your power consumption habits. The app will calculate how much you’re spending on electricity and it’s also possible to compare and contrast your power usage online with friends.

While this sounds great, the device is yet to be mass-produced (only 100 sets are going out), so unfortunately, it won’t realistically be till winter that most people can get their hands on them. The pilot scheme version is called ELP Lite and you won’t be able to monitor more than five appliances with this slimmed-down package, which costs ¥41,500 for the year (or ¥19,500, if you only get one module). The current modules are also rather bulky, a big problem if you’ve got a lot of devices to monitor. However, Sassor are developing a prototype module that fits snugly over a plug socket.

Sassor is the brainchild of CEO Shuichi Ishibashi and COO Takayuki Miyauchi, who submitted their first prototype to the British Council E-idea competition. Now big business is understandably interested, according to Nikkei Trendy, and the company have received capital to get things rolling from Samurai Incubate.

 

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