Posts Tagged ‘Shibuya’

J-blip: Face Chocolates

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers, using a 3D scanner and printer, at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Does it look like me? Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Valentine’s Day is big business in Japan. We’ve seen a lot of confectionery one-upmanship, but nothing quite like FabCafe’s jibunsei chocolates (self-styled chocolates).

A chocolate replica of your own face might look more kimoi (creepy) than oishii (delicious), but for the 15 people who participated in a two-day workshop the week before Valentine’s Day, the draw was the experience: getting to test out the 3D scanner and printer used to make the silicon molds. The workshop cost ¥6000, or about twice as much as an overpriced box of Godiva. To see more pictures of the process click on the gallery below.

FabCafe, a café-cum-workspace (with a laser cutter you can rent by the hour—or use to burn your own Valentine’s designs into macarons), is run by Loftwork, an “innovation consultancy;” it is also downstairs from 3D printer showroom Cube. “We were brainstorming together about how the 3D-printing technology could appeal to consumers, when we hit on the idea of Valentine’s Day chocolates,” explained Loftwork PR rep Kazue Nakata.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is for women to give chocolate to men; men return the favor on White Day, March 14. FabCafe is planning similar workshops for men in March. They haven’t officially announced it yet, but keep your calendar open if you’ve always wondered what you or your man would look like as a Gummi Bear.

Check out FabCafe’s own report of the event (in Japanese) and more great photos here.

2012: The year in buildings

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

There was a lot going up in Tokyo in 2012, most notably Tokyo Skytree. It really felt like the landscape of the city shifted this year, more than it has in the nearly 10 years since Roppongi Hills opened.

Trendy magazine ranked Tokyo Skytree as the biggest new-development hit of the year, noting that some 20 million people visited the tower within the first four months after it opened to the public on May 22. In addition to the tower, a shopping center and a half dozen hotels opened up around it – more concentrated, large-scale development than the area east of the Sumida River has seen in decades, if not ever. The recreational complex is called Solamachi (“skytown”), and it was named one of Japan’s top 10 buzzwords for 2012.

Trendy also had a good roundup of other construction milestones of the past year, and some impressive statistics – proving (as if it needed to be proved) just how much Tokyoites love new things.

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu

This mega outlet mall, with 171 shops, opened on April 13 just across Tokyo Bay in Chiba — on the less-visited “uchibo” (inner) coast. As a result, use of the Aqua Line (the toll road that traverses the bay) doubled on weekends for the first half of the year.

Diver City Tokyo Plaza

Odaiba’s latest shopping center, filled with fast fashion brands, opened just a few days later, on April 19. Within the first two months, 4,000,000 people had paid a visit. Diver City did get a little help from a great big guest of honor — a 1:1 scale model of Gundam, which demonstrated the mainstream marketability of anime.

Shibuya Hikarie

This 34-story glass tower, which opened on April 26, is a big deal. It’s the first in a series of redevelopment projects that Tokyu Corp has planned for Shibuya over the next decade to bring moneyed sophisticates (read: shoppers older than Shibuya girls) back to the neighborhood. By the end of the first five months, 10,000,000 people had visited Hikarie and sales were 20% higher than projected.

Tokyo Station

On Oct. 1, Tokyo Station unveiled the results of a painstaking renovation project that saw its domes – destroyed in WWII air raids – finally restored. During the first week of October, passengers using Tokyo Station increased by 140%.

With all of this, next year is likely to feel dull in comparison. Or will it? 2013 will see the continued renaissance of the Marunouchi area, with the opening of the JP Tower in March, which incorporates the original 1933 Japan Post Office facade and promises nearly 100 shops. In April, Kabuki-za will reopen after a three-year renovation, and Mitsui has another outlet mall planned for the summer, also in Chiba.

Charismatic shop assistants are back in style

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Shop assistant Ainyan updates her cell phone blog every day with exhaustive details about her diet, hair style, makeup and clothes. To the uninitiated, Ainyan’s blog, illustrated with blurry shots of her hugging friends in purikura photo booth or looking up cutely into the camera, looks amateurish, almost as if it were made for a limited audience of friends only. But Ainyan is somewhat of a celebrity in the world of keitai (cell-phone) blogging. Last week her blog was the No. 1 cell-phone blog on Crooz, a mobile blog portal aimed at young women, and next month her makeup secrets will be disclosed in a cosmetics magazine.

Ainyan' cell phone blog

Ainyan' cell phone blog

According to J-Cast, Ainyan’s popularity is an indication that the trend of kyarizuma teiin (charismatic shop assistant) is back. The trend first surfaced over a decade ago when attractive shop assistants in exclusive stores began to gain celebrity status. These new celebrities were often featured in fashion magazines, dishing out beauty and fashion advice. The trend resulted in customers visiting stores to get a glimpse of these retail idols and often sales of whatever outfit their icon was wearing at the time. It was great business for the stores and some clerks made names for themselves. According to Tokyo Kawaii, the success of charisma teiin Yoko Morimoto lead to a book and the launch of her own fashion brand.

This time, however, the trend is driven by cell-phone blogs, which are commute-friendly. The reason why girls are so interested in Ainyan’s blog, rather than those of her contemporaries, is that she works at the Wakatsuki Chinatsu concession in the teen paradise of Shibuya 109, which puts her at the pinnacle of gyaru style. She’s not the only one enjoying celebrity status, another 109 shop assistant called Morimayu, who again works in 109 (for TutuHA), is also highly regarded as a teen style icon and has appeared in fashion magazines such as Popteen.

The charm of the blogs for young girls is that they can relate on a personal level to both Morimayu and Ainyan. Morimayu has a rant about periods in one post while Ainyan discusses her body image issues with disarming frankness: “I think I’ve lost weight around my stomach and a little around my calves but my butt is still a problem!!!”

Both girls are working their newly found fame for all it’s worth, and it’s pretty obvious from reading the blogs that there’s some none-too-subtle product placement going on. Considering the fact that these girls work long hours for not a lot of pay, it’s hard to begrudge them for milking their new celebrity status to the fullest.

Tokyo cafe entrepreneurs bring more to the table

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Sunday Issue

It’s a book corner, a lounge, a gallery: It’s the recently opened Sunday Issue

Would you like cinnamon, cocoa or a dusting of nail jewelry with your cappuccino? From innovative fitness classes to crossover art spaces, new Tokyo cafes are expanding the idea of what goes well with a cup of coffee.

Coffee shops with character have long been an institution in Japan, but  true cafe culture only started to take off about 10 years ago. While coffee chains are now as common as convenience stores and the  designer cafe boom  is still going strong, it appears that some café entrepreneurs are looking beyond java, jazz and scones and serving up some personality with a hobby or two on the side. And we’re not talking maid cafes and cat cafes.

Blurring the line between cafe and fitness center and between outdoors and in, “Wired Cafe <> FIT” opened this summer near Yoyogi Park. The gym part is an indoor/outdoor fitness center. Classes include jogging or Nordic walking in the park alone or in combination with stationary pursuits like yoga or tai-chi inside the studio. Online, their Twitter account and blog post updates (e.g. “Today’s running session is canceled due to bad weather” – bummer). They also have a streaming feed of the park to show the weather. Too hot? Too cold? Too… tired? Stop into the cafe in the same space instead and, you know, think about running. The cafe there offers dishes targeting those who try to stay healthy (dessert is zucchini bread) and, like all Wired Cafes, has wireless Internet access (despite the name).

For those who prefer to get their pulse rates up with more intellectual pursuits, Sunday Issue is a cafe/lounge/bar split into three spaces that merge into one another: a gallery, a book corner and a lounge bar. Gallery director Meg Ohta explains that the name and overall concept were inspired by the way a Sunday paper encourages readers to take the time to relax and spend time soaking in culture and the arts. The back room is a an eclectically curated collection of vintage books for sale or for browsing at the warmly lit table. The gallery space has rotating exhibits, both group and solo shows. The bar and cafe space at the front of the gallery is meant to encourage discussion through events like art talks and film screenings. And artists and authors who come in for events don’t just give talks, they take turns as guest bartenders. “People can talk to them directly over drinks,” Ohta explains. At an upcoming “Film Study Meeting,” the filmmaker-bartenders will hand out personalized movie recommendation cards free with a beverage. Sunday Issue is perched above fellow newcomer On The Corner, which draws the hungry Shibuya crowd with dishes like jambalaya and falafel and coffee by Bear Pond, a favorite among coffee connoisseurs.

Lavish, near Harajuku Station, is a colorful “self-nail” shop that “takes pride in being girly.” Patrons can decorate their own gel nails (under the watch of a supportive professional) at glass-covered shadow box tables while enjoying coffee and other drinks. Go easy on the joe, though – caffeine jitters do not a happy manicure make.

(Research assistance by Leena Salmela)

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