GN Focus | Japan

Weird and wonderful

Sarah Harris discovers quirky product and lifestyle innovations in the Land of the Rising Sun

  • Sarah Harris
  • Published: 00:00 December 9, 2012
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Neurowear

Innovation and originality are synonymous with Japan’s colourful and sometimes chaotic lifestyle. At the top of the list of popular developments taking root in Japan is Line, a relatively new multiplatform communication application. Line was launched in June 2011 by NHN Japan Corporation and has now grown to 77 million users worldwide, 30 million of which are in Japan, according to the Techinasia.com website in September.

Compatible with smartphones, tablets and desktops, Line is similar to Skype and WhatsApp Messenger but is fast evolving into a social media platform in its own right, with a timeline feature and home page mirroring other well-known sharing sites. Fun and quirky, Line comes with an array of optional apps including the Line camera, comparable to Instagram, Line card that creates personalised digital greeting cards to send or share on social media platforms, and Line brush, a painter app.

Cat ears catch on

Necomimi Brainwave Cat Ears are the invention of Japanese company Neurowear, which encourage users to “see what makes your ears wiggle”, according to its website NeuroSky.com.

Available in a range of funky colours, the headset communicates the wearer’s state of mind by adjusting into four different positions signalling high relaxation, relaxation/focus, high focus and high interest, at which point the ears perk up and wiggle.

Listed as one of Time Magazine’s 50 best inventions of 2011, the ears could be useful in many social situations including parties, concerts, schools and workplaces. The company is also currently trialling an accompanying cat’s tail known as Shippo, which wags in response to user emotions. However, there are currently no plans to release this commercially.

Girls’ night out

Joshi kai, literally translated as girl’s party, started gaining momentum in Japan two years ago and is now something of a cultural phenomenon signalling deeper social restructuring. Essentially a ladies alternative to boys’ nights out, but the focus is on good food and enjoying the company of female friends in a relaxed setting. This might not sound so unusual, but the massive popularity of joshi kai is representative of a move away from traditional gender roles.

Get a bagel head

The term bagel head is used to describe the temporary physical appearance resulting from injecting saline solution into the forehead. The procedure was pioneered by Tokyo’s body modification community and practised about ten times a year among the most hard-core practitioners at underground events. La Carmina, owner of production company La Carmina and the Pirates, TV host and Japanese trend blogger describes it as “a form of play, body morphing and individual expression – hallmarks of the Japanese youth culture”.

A personal mini me

What to get for the person who has everything? A miniature figure of themselves of course. Japanese company Omote 3D Shashin Kan has struck upon the cunning idea of immortalising people in plastic using 3D scanning and 3D printing technology. Priced between $260 (about Dh995) and $520, the detailed figurines are available in three sizes and can be made for individuals or couples.

Customers presently need to visit the company’s recently opened shop in downtown Tokyo to be photographed for the process, but the idea is likely to catch on internationally, so it might not be too long before everyone can indulge their vain side and commission a personal replica, according to the RocketNews24.com website.

Japan also takes its manga otaku (obsessed) culture to a new level with cosplay (dressing up as their favourite characters) bars, especially maid cafés where waitresses dress up in French maid costumes and address customers as masters/mistresses.

Finally, for a nation of relatively slim people Japan seems to have more diet products and body shaping aids than the rest of the world combined. Pepsi is now in the limelight with its newly launched Pepsi Special, available only in Japan. Its new formula contains fat blocking fibre dextrin to help prevent absorption of fat into the body and makes drinkers feel fuller. Under Japanese government certification, the drink has been classified as a health food, so now you can have your tempura and eat it too.

— Special to GN Focus

GN Focus