Posts Tagged ‘sports’

New hobbies for swinging into spring

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

The beginning of April marks a new start for most Japanese, not only is it the new start of the financial year but it’s also the beginning of the academic year. It’s also the time when many people decide to try their hand at a new hobby, so with this in mind we decided to investigate what activities are popular this year and try to look at the reasons why these hobbies are trending.

Yoga still ranking high (gbSk photo; link below)

Yoga still ranking high according to shyumisagashi.com (gbSk photo; link below)

One portal that consistently came top when searching the web for hobby ideas was Shyumisagashi.com (Findahobby.com). Not only is the site a compendium of hobby ideas, but it also gives rankings for the popularity of various hobbies, searchable under different catagories of age and gender.

The No. 1 ranking hobby on the site for all ages and genders was yoga. Though yoga was introduced to the Japanese in 806, the recent boom for the activity dates back only to 2004 when increased media exposure sparked on increase in its availability at sports clubs. The reasons people take up yoga are twofold: to lose weight and to combat stress. Enrolling for regular yoga classes can be difficult for some overworked and underpaid office workers, so with this in mind, as part of their Smart Sports Fitness line, AU launched their Ouchi (your home) Yoga Salon in December of last year: Customers follow a yoga workout that is demonstrated on their phone and then receive a mail from their yoga “trainer” encouraging them to keep up the good work.

While yoga is still No. 1 in the women’s ranking, the No. 1 hobby for men, according to Syumisagashi was, perhaps unsurprisingly, photography. What was less expected was the No. 2 ranking across the board of both sexes for “travelling alone in order to find yourself.” The appeal of this was cited as “to enjoy your travel at your own pace.”

Other top ranking hobbies that intrigued were paper crafts at the No. 5 spot and squash at No. 8. Bad news for the struggling eikaiwa (English conversation business), still reeling from the Nova shock, was that the previously popular activity didn’t even hit the top ten for either gender.

Though they also didn’t hit the top spots, we’d like to give a nod to the hobbies that lend themselves to the burgeoning konkatsu (marriage hunting) trend. According to this survey from Goo Ranking (Dec. 2008) taking up a hobby, ranked No. 8, for men as an effective method of finding a partner, while for women, it scored high at No. 3.

This thread on 2chan concerning “hobbies to take up in order to meet members of the opposite sex” contains a rather cynical list (presumably concocted by a male reader) of top ranking hobbies to find women based on considerations of “percentage of women, quality of babes and cost incurred.” Coming in first place is flower arrangement, next is cookery and third is tea ceremony. Women who are serious about searching for a mate might take the same approach and take up golf which, last year became a popular sport for marriage-hungry ladies.

Whatever their motivations, whether it be for fitness, fun, stress release or hooking up with a potential life partner, this season is sure to see people signing up in droves to make a fresh start to the new financial year.

Photo by gbSk

Big (only) in Japan? Beer salesgirls

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

beergirl

A beer uriko hard at work at the Waseda-Keio baseball game.

This marks the debut of a series where we ask “Big (only) in Japan?” We have a hunch but we want to hear from you. Have you seen this outside of Japan? Let us know in the comment section below.

In Japan, the end of March brings warmer weather, cherry blossoms and the start of the baseball season. Opening Day for the Pacific League was on March 20, and the Central League opens March 26. Lead by self-organized cheerleading teams, the crowds will chant elaborate cheers and songs (often a different cheer for each player), wave flags, jump up and down, and in the process work up a serious thirst for an ice cold beverage.

Enter the beer salesgirl – in Japanese, biiru no uriko (ビールの売り子). In Japan, “Hey, beer man!” will not only earn you strange looks because you are yelling in English – additionally, no men serve beer at baseball games here. The task is instead performed by young women who wear special backpacks that contain a miniature keg of beer. Dressed in short shorts and team uniforms, they move throughout the stadium seats, serving fresh beer right off the tap to reenergize the hordes.

Continue reading about biiru no uriko →

Japan by the numbers (2.23.10)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Japan by the numbers (02.08.10)

Monday, February 8th, 2010

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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