Posts Tagged ‘yama girls’

Cashing in on Fuji fever

Friday, July 12th, 2013

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lake_Kawaguchiko_Sakura_Mount_Fuji_3.JPG

Commemorative merchandise celebrating this majestic mountain has been flying off the shelves

Since the announcement that Mount Fuji, Japan’s most iconic landmark, had finally won World Heritage status on June 23, Fuji fever has swept the nation. As souvenirs commemorating the event hit the shelves, sales of Fuji-themed merchandise were brisk. Stores selling climbing gear to those who have been inspired to make the pilgrimage up Fuji have also been doing well.

Loft in Shibuya reported that sales of Fuji merchandise, which had been growing steadily prior to the announcement, suddenly shot up by 150% — the bestselling item being a Fuji-san folding fan that retails for ¥2,100. They’re not anticipating a downturn in trade either: When the shop gets a refit in September there’s going to be a special area in the new “Japan Souvenir” floor dedicated to Fuji souvenirs.

New products also went on sale to commemorate the occasion. Among these is a Mount Fuji wooden cup and ball game that costs a rather eye-watering ¥6,090, and a rubber stamp that incorporates elements of the famous 36 views of Mount Fuji, which would set you back ¥3,360. In addition, blue traffic cones with a snow capped peaks have suddenly popped up in car parks around the country. Formally sold mainly to businesses in the area around Mount Fuji, 300 of these cones were sold in the last month, three times the amount of typical annual sales.

The climbing season for Mount Fuji began this month and shops selling climbing equipment have been cashing in. Sales have also been boosted by the inspiring news back in May that 80-year-old Yuichiro Miura managed to scale the summit of Everest. Mizuno outdoor sports told Sankei Biz that sales of hiking gear for women are almost double that of last year, an indication that the yama girl trend is continuing to climb.

Mizuno outdoor sports store also runs hiking schools and a trip to Mount Fuji for July sold out almost as soon as it went on sale. But hordes of hikers heading for the mountain are putting a strain on local infrastructure. The authorities of Fujinomiya, one of the gateways to the mountain,  have announced that the toilet facilities available will not be sufficient to deal with the increased volume of hikers and are asking climbers to take their own portable toilets with them.

While toilets will be in short supply, Wi-Fi access in the area ought to be excellent. As of June, Yamanashi, one of the prefectures Fuji is located in, has 933 free Wi-Fi spots. Visitors surfing the web might want to download a free new app from Fuji-san Beno, which tells you what events are going on in the area during the day of your visit. More info can be found at Fujiyama Navi. The site launched July 8, and offers tours, hotels, and, of course, Fuji-themed merchandise.

More Fuji goods on our Pinterest board: Mount Fuji mania

Read more about the economics of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site at our sister blog, Yen for Living.

Photo by Midori via Wikicommons

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.

 

Tracking QR codes in the wild

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Checking in?

Checking in?

People might climb mountains to get away from the distractions of  ubiquitous technology, but it could be the thing that saves them if things go awry. Yamanashi Prefecture is the most recent hiking spot to set up a system of QR codes at points along the way on popular climbing and hiking routes. Accessing these points from a keitai or smart phone with a QR-reader app can deliver static information like maps, elevation and amenities along the way as well as information that other hikers have updated recently, such as any problems with the trail and weather conditions up ahead. In the mountains, where storms can come in fast, this could be a lifesaver, for both the old folks who have always climbed in large numbers and the hip yama-girls who have recently started heading for the hills in droves.

The codes serve another function, too: By reading the codes, a hiker leaves a trail of where he or she has been. If hikers need to be rescued and have lost contact, search and rescue teams can follow their digital footprints and narrow down the location where they were last active. The service can be set to automatically send out emails to the folks back home telling them where you are along the hike.

The new system in Yamanashi is called “M-navi,” for Minami [southern] Alps. It was built in cooperation with a system that has been running in Kyushu since 2009 called “yama-aruki nabi,” or “mountain-walking navigation.” It started with the purpose of “making hiking safer and more comfortable, for even one person.” No surprise, they’ve got a Twitter account, with a curated list of people and organizations tweeting about hiking.

Camping packages fit for a city slicker

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Your tent is ready, madam

Camping out under the stars on a summer night can be a magical experience: the fresh air, the scent of wood smoke, a collapsing tent . . .

OK, so that last one is a bit of a problem, but what if you didn’t have to pitch your own tent, or even light your own campfire? Recently many campsites have begun offering amateur campers hassle-free camping holidays, which include a pre-pitched tent as part of the package.

Qkamura (holiday village), for example, has a teburade kyampu (hassle-free camp) plan, which includes a tent and all the items necessary for an awesome barbecue (ingredients, seasoning, fuel, charcoal and BBQ pit). A one-night stay, which includes breakfast and dinner, is a reasonable ¥5,000 per adult.

Qkamura’s campsites are located near sightseeing spots and onsens but amusement parks are also getting in on the game. Resort Pleasure Forest amusement park, for instance, do a camping package that includes norihodai (a full day’s pass on all rides). Prices for breakfast, dinner and a pre-pitched tent start from ¥7,500 for adults and ¥6,800 children.

Our favorite plan though is the hime kyampu (princess camp) at Kitakaruizawa Sweet Grass campsite. Taking the hassle-free camping concept to another level, this is a butler service version of outdoor life for pampered city princesses: Throughout guests’ stay, “butlers” are available to cater to their every whim. Naturally, such service doesn’t come cheap: For a party of  three, prices range from ¥11,000 to ¥15,000. Sweet Grass also offers some native Indian-style tents to stay in, as well as cabins with a “Totoro” theme.

The trend is logical spinoff of an overall increase in interest in the great outdoors, which has been particularly strong among young women (see the yama girls trend). Packages are pitched at beginners who don’t want to be bothered with lugging around a tent and barbecue gear. Money Zine says these plans are increasing and the summer will see the trend heat up.

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

Lucky bags give away secrets before purchase

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Wild scenes were witnessed in Shibuya’s 109 on Jan. 2 as the scramble for fukubukuro (lucky draw bags”) got underway. The store opened its doors at 6:45 a.m., to let in long lines of teen shoppers, some of whom had been queuing since midnight to get their hands on a bag of unknown goodies from their favorite brand. Once inside, according to Shibuya Keizai Shimbun, staff struggled to maintain order as the teen hordes waged war to snap up bargain bags.

Taking a gamble on a fukubukuko (Janne Moren photo)

Uptown in Ginza, things were, of course, a little more refined, but competition for some of the choicest department store fukubukuro was fierce. According to Yomiuri Online, hot items like Printemp’s Jyoshi Kai (women’s meet up) bag, sold out in the first day they went on sale.

Swift sales of fukubukuro, coupled with healthy sales figures for the first day’s trading for Tokyo’s department stores, have been taken as good indications that the Japanese economy is recovering. The newly refurbished Mitsukoshi Ginza, which was reopened in September, last year reported an increase in sales of 40 percent for the same day last year. Part of the draw for customers was the lucky bags that stores claim contain items exceeding the bag’s retail price.

These days, fukubukuro buying is a more transparent process. There’s a tendency now to advertise what the bags will contain. What’s now left to chance is whether you happen to land a bag that contains a special extra item. The standard Jyoshi Kai bag, for instance, contained a fondue set and an apro,n among other pre-advertised contents. Three out of 20 bags, however, also contained a bottle of rose champagne. The bags cost ¥15,000 each.

The bags also reflected recent cultural trends. Jyoshi kai is a word to describe the growing trend among women to indulge in female-only activities, especially dinner dates. Mountain climbing was also a hit with young women this year and, appropriately, Seibu brought out the Yama Gaaru (Mountain Girl) fukubukuro. Aimed at beginner female mountain climbers, the bag, which cost ¥10,000, contains climbing gear from famous alpine brands. Out of  10 available in the store three contained tickets for a prize draw giving the holder a chance to win a domestic holiday.

Another trend in fukubukuro is the “experience lucky bag.” Those who pre-order a bag before the New Year are buying into a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Mitsukoshi department store came up with this concept in 2008 and the idea has really caught on. This year one of the most sought-after experience fukubukuro was Tobu department store’s Sky Tree Tower Trip. The lucky few would get to visit the construction site, take photos and get their mitts on some special souvenirs, all for just ¥2,010.

Perhaps one of the weirder experience bags was the mother/daughter department store experience. Those who bought this bag for ¥2,100 will be able to dress up in a shocking pink Seibu department store uniform and then enjoy the experience of manning the store’s reception desk, working in the elevator and making in store announcements. That’s right, Mom. You can set the bar high for your little girl’s future career prospects!

Fukubukuro photo by Janne Moren

Trends in Japan 2010: yama boom

Monday, December 20th, 2010

The phrases “yama girl” and “power spot” both appeared in Jiyu Kokuminsha’s list of the year’s popular Japanese expressions, reflecting the fact that during 2010 Japan’s hills were alive with hordes of young female hikers. These women, attracted by the promise of powering up on spiritual energy, while sporting fashionable threads, were dubbed yama gaaru (mountain girls) by the media and have fueled what’s been called the yama boom.

Yama girls united

Yama girls unit

Companies have been quick to cash in on the trend. Alpine-wear makers have  rolled out new lines with the stylin’ hiker in mind. Hotel Nikko in Nara is unveiled a yama girl plan, offering a discount for female hiking groups. Yama girls also have their very own magazine called Randonnée, which features articles on mountain fashion as well as the more practical aspects of hiking.

When they hit the countryside trails mountain girls wear sensible footwear and bright leggings coupled with cute short skirts. Some like this look so much that they wear it out in Tokyo’s concrete jungle.

Some  alpinists have said, however, that the city streets is where novice hikers should stay. The veterans’ warnings about the volatile weather conditions of Japan’s rugged mountains were proven right a couple of months ago when a group of young hikers got stuck on Mount Sawaguchi  in Kawanehoncho, Shizuoka Prefecture. According to Sankei News, the group of two women and three men were on a yamakon (mountain climbing group blind date), when a sudden change in the weather made them lose their way. Having no map nor compass, they were unable to find their way back to the relatively easy hiking course. Fortuntately, they were rescued two days after they went missing.

If only they had had Mapion’s new cell-phone 3D maps, which went on the market on Oct. 27, just a couple of days before they set off on their hike. The CG-illustrated maps, made to appeal to a younger generation of climbers, are reported to be visually stunning and give the user an easy-to-navigate view of the terrain.

Beautiful scenery is not the only pull of mountain climbing. Another attraction is the power spot, places that are purported to posses large amounts of spiritual energy. Earlier this year we wrote about the increasing growth of this trend and the publishing boom in books about power spots.

According to an article published yesterday in the Yomiuri Online, the power-spot trend shows no sign of abating and large numbers of young visitors continue to visit famous sites in search of enlightenment. While it’s now getting a bit too cold to hike up Japan’s mountains to gather spiritual energy, other urban power spots, such as Meiji Shrine, are still enjoying healthy numbers of visitors.

The new/old face of fashion: oji-girls

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Old-man cute

Old-man cute

The dapper old gents of Tokyo may may want to lock up their closets till the latest fashion wave passes. Their time-worn basics are new again for young women getting into one of this fall’s fashion looks: “old-man cute.” Boxy beige jackets, baggy trousers with suspenders, tweedy vests and wingtip shoes are all key items. The trend is being called ojikawa, a combination of “uncle” or “old man” and “cute.” The women who wear it have predictably been dubbed “ojigaaru (old-man girls),” adding to the growing list of “~girl” tribes.

As you would expect, the Oji Girl focus is on muted colors and comfortable, often oversized pieces. Oji-pan (oji pants) are rolled up at the ankles and often made to be worn with wide waists gathered with a drawstring, while blazers are roomy to the point of looking droopy. Suspenders (or braces, for you there in the back snickering) come with long pants or shorts or are sold separately. The ensemble can all be topped off with a necktie and some fatherly marumegane.

PS, a magazine aimed at women in their late teens and early twenties, is calling the trend “the next big thing” after Mori Girls, though it’s yet to be seen if the look will resonate with the masses. The magazine advises adding a  “slightly girly touch” to complete the look. They show actress Airi Taira wearing a tweedy outfit that any uncle would be pleased to take his Sunday drive in – except for the long lace shawl layered under the jacket.

Japan’s Women’s Wear Daily also highlighted the outdoor-to-indoor shift in fashion inspiration with a style showdown in its pages. They pit the free-spirited Forest Girls (Mori Gaaru, 森ガール) and spiritual Witch Girls (Majo Gaaru, 魔女ガール) against the granddad-chic Oji Girls.

Shoe store Magical, selling online through Rakuten, has a collection of desert boots with soft rubber soles “recommended for oji-girls.” They come in gray, green, and camel. The popular  women’s brand Snidel has several pieces in the fall/winter lineup that fit the trend, like this button-up vest and these pants with suspenders. How will you know if the clothes you’re eyeing are old-man worthy? Elementary. (Sherlock Holmes would surely be an oji-icon.)  Just keep an eye out for the “oji” prefix. It’s getting stuck in front of anything that can be shoehorned into the trend: Oji shoes, Oji pants, and overall “Oji- style.”

Whether or not people will love the look, it is a trend with budget-friendly potential. The aspiring Annie Halls of Japan could skip the online retailers, boutiques and department stores, and assemble an ensemble from thrift store finds. And of course, there’s always Grampa’s closet.

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