Some of Japan’s cutest characters come from the popular and beloved company, Sanrio, which was founded in 1960. In fact, Sanrio’s most popular face, Hello Kitty, has become one of the most successful marketing brands in the world. Walk into any Sanrio store and you can purchase nearly anything Hello Kitty-inspired. You can get Hello Kitty pencils, bags, toasters, bathroom appliances and even laundry baskets.
So it’s no secret that Sanrio has done incredible work to globally market their main character Hello Kitty, but in Japan itself, you can see even stronger efforts to market some of the other 400 characters in the Sanrio family.
One method is through pop-up cafes. In Japan, a number of restaurants and cafes utilize a theme for their food and products. These items are limited edition and fans rush into the pop-up cafes to purchase the items before time runs out.
Last year in October, a My Melody pop-up cafe appeared in Tokyo. The adorable and pink products were an instant success. Sanrio is taking over a pop-up cafe once again. This time, the cafe is based on Kiki and Lala who are more commonly referred to as the Little Twin Stars. Kiki and Lala were introduced in 1975 and the angel-like characters have had quite a large fan base.
Now their fans can enjoy pink and blue hamburgers, star-shaped pancakes and even the Little Twin Stars’ faces on top of a cup of coffee. Clearly, it’s all too cute to miss. If you happen to be in Tokyo, be sure to check it out! The Cafe will be themed Little Twin Stars until the end of May. Find out more information below:
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When Paris-born Mademoiselle Maurice spent time in Japan, she experienced earthquakes, a tsunami and the nuclear power plant explosion of Fukushima. The devastating experiences inspired the 29-year-old artist to remind others of the beauty life still has to offer. Maurice decided to do this by using an art she learned in Japan: origami.
During her stay in Japan, Maurice learned of the thousand paper crane legend. The ancient Japanese legend says that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish. This legend is most known through the story of Sadako Sasaki who developed leukemia at the age of 12 because of exposure to radiation from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. In the popular book Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes, Sadako folded a little over 600 paper cranes before succumbing to her illness. Moved by her efforts, her friends and classmates decided to fold the rest in her honor.
Maurice realized that she too could create beauty and emotions through origami. Rather than put her work up in museums, Maurice has decided to practice her craft in the streets so that the public could enjoy it.
According to her website, the goal of her work is to “break the monotony of urban living to bring a carousel of emotion to those who see her work.”
It takes her many days to complete each art piece. Mademoiselle Maurice has decided to involve local schools, organizations and volunteers to help her fold the beautiful paper creations and create art as a community.
Japan has produced a number of girl bands over the years. You have Perfume, the vocal trio who formed in 2000 out of the talent academy Actors School Hiroshima. Then there’s AKB48, the 88-member group that has sold more than 21 mil- lion CDs worldwide. But no J-pop band has ever been compared to other international vocal groups, like Britain’s Little Mix or America’s Fifth Harmony. FAKY has been likened to both, and they have only been in existence for about a year.
It was last April at Avex Academy, a Japanese school for performing artists, that the five-member girl group formed. Tina, Lil’ Fang and Anna (at 21, the oldest and so-called leader of the group) had known each other through dance classes; Mikako was a part of the same program in a different region in Japan; and Diane was the winner of Avex Audition MAX 2013. Their name is “a combination of ‘fantastic’ and ‘Tokyo,’” says Tina, the youngest at 16. “Even though it sounds like ‘fake,’ we like to think we’re the most real group here in Japan.” Since FAKY’s formation, they have already released two music videos for their iTunes chart-topping singles “Better Without You” and “Girl Digger” (they sing in English and Japanese), and are currently putting the final touches on their debut album, due out in April.
Tina says she represents the reason why they consider themselves to be so “real” — the teenager is biracial Japanese American, born in Atlanta, Ga., where she lived for four years be- fore moving to Japan. There are two other bilingual members of the group: Diane, who is also biracial Japanese American, and Anna, who is Japanese but born in New Zealand. Though Lil’ Fang and Mikako were born and raised in Japan, they’re both learning English to help establish FAKY as a global sensation.
“What sets us apart from other J-pop groups is our independence,” says Tina, acknowledging the comparisons to various international groups. “We don’t wear the same clothes like others do. Each of us has a different personality and we’re multiethnic. We’re not identical robots!” Indeed, each member boasts varying vocal inspirations: Anna is a Britney Spears fan, Tina and Lil’ Fang prefer the strong vocals of Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé, Diane leans more Lady Gaga, and Mikako is heavily influenced by J-pop bands.
Their fans are surprisingly diverse as well. FAKY takes special pride in the fact that their fanbase is largest in Turkey, and they hope to be able to visit the country one day on a world tour.
Right now, the girls are concentrating on voice and dance lessons, flying out to Los Angeles last October for training and to establish themselves overseas in the U.S. FAKY’s biggest goal as a girl group is to become role models for young girls, the demographic they most appeal to. “We want to encourage girls to be independent and not feel pressured by society,” says Tina. “As multiethnic girls, sometimes it’s hard for Diane and me to live in Japan. There are moments we feel like outsiders there, and even when we come to America, where I was born, we still feel like we don’t belong. We’ve grown to have strong cores, and we want to help others do the same.”
A 21-year-old Japanese art student has been attracting quite a bit of attention for her art. In particular, the work of Hikaru Chu seems to be gaining popularity because of her talented ability to trick our eyes.
Using acrylic paints, Chu has taken a number of items and has disguised them to look like something entirely different. She has titled the series “It’s not what it seems” and has given audiences a kick out of trying to guess what the object is without the disguise.
Chu’s attention to detail, color and texture proves that her talent is beyond her years. Check out the photo series below.
And trust us when we say her other art pieces are just as impressive and convincing. She has been able to make it look like a woman’s head completely detaches and a man’s back is made entirely of books. Don’t believe us? Take a look at her artwork for yourself.
What appears to be a cucumber…
… is actually a banana.
What appears to be a tangerine…
… is actually a tomato.
What appears to be an eggplant…
… is actually an egg.
What appears to be a daifuku rice cake…
...is actually an orange.
For some, high-end fashion is far too intricate to understand. To those who are not accustomed to runway fashion and do not have an eye for it, the models may often appear to walk the runway in clown costumes. However, to the trained eye, the outfits of these runway models are magnificent.
Similarly, to New York-based photographer Thomas C. Card, the bold fashion of Tokyo is nothing but spectacular. Japan is quite known for their bizarre fashion styles and attention-grabbing trends.
We’ve seen what happens when a Japanese school has no dresscode for graduation and so students decide to make the event a giant cosplay party. We’ve even seen some of the most bizarre of photo trends become accepted without question. So we can expect no less from Japan when it comes to fashion trends.
While many people find popular Japanese fashion styles such as Harajuku and Lolita confusing, Card was intrigued by the street fashion that he spent months in Japan to document the various styles.
The 75- subject project is called “Tokyo Adorned” and focuses on the exploration of the culture behind this fashion.
“The thing I found absolutely amazing once I was on the ground in Tokyo was that the fashions were very much centered around the individual and less around the tribe,” Card explained. “In the early part of our production process, we were thinking of this as different tribes and groups that were very close and defined. I was thrilled when I got there to find that nearly all the girls really view this as an expression of themselves.”
If there’s one thing that joins people together, that would be food. In fact, people often travel the world with the goal to try new types of food. This happens so often that the World Food Travel association has coined the term Food Tourism which is “the pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and near.”
And why shouldn’t travelers be interested in new foods? Afterall, food can tell you much about culture, traditions and taste.
Now the old saying is that breakfast in the most important meal of the day. In honor of that, Buzzfeed recently decided to create the video “What Does The World Eat For Breakfast.”
In the video, we get a glimpse of a typical breakfast in various parts of the world. The video doesn’t seem to contain entire breakfast meals, but it certainly shows the most common breakfast foods of each country including the following Asian countries:
L.A.’s own Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo opened its newest exhibition last week titled Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World, which explores the history of traditional Japanese tattoo art and its relevance in mainstream culture today.
Curated by Takahiro Kitamura and photographed and designed by Kip Fulbeck, Perseverance dives into the rich history of Japanese artistry by focusing on its roots in ukiyo-e prints. The exhibit also features the work of seven internationally acclaimed tattoo artists Horitaka, Horitomo, Chris Horishiki Brand, Miyazo, Shige, Junii and Yokohama Horiken, along with tattoo works by selected others.
Perseverance opened on March 8 and will run until September 14.
Cosplay has been turning quite some heads lately. Just this week we showed you Japanese students who preferred intense cosplay outfits over graduation gowns. And don’t forget cosplay making it in mainstream media in Singapore with IKEA’s new online campaign.
As impressive as all that is, it doesn’t get the title of our all-time favorite cosplay. No, that title may actually go to these adorable puppies in hand-made cosplay outfits.
An instagram user named mayama_ya has an entire account dedicated to cute things that she makes. Lucky for us, her current interest has been these squeal-worthy cosplay outfits for her puppies.
The instagram account was only created early this month, but she has already gathered over 800 followers. So what’s so special about these outfits?
They are none other than Sailor Moon costumes.
Popular manga and animated series Sailor Moon is one of Japan’s most successful franchises. The English adaptations of both the manga and anime series became the first successful shōjo title in the United States. The franchise has not only stolen the hearts of Japan and the US, Sailor Moon has gained popularity worldwide.
It’s no wonder that these puppies are stealing hearts. Check them out below.
After decades of the singles scene in America, columnist Paul Nakayama discovers the good, bad and fetishism of modern-day dating in his ancestral home of Japan.
Why would I forsake the moderate temperatures of Los Angeles and spend six weeks in the freezing, ball-numbing winters of Japan? The same reason I’ve always tortured myself— a girl. Well, and ramen. Really, really good ramen. But mostly, it’s for a girl. And while I was there, I made a few observations about the dating scene in Japan. They aren’t about my personal experiences per se, because this is my column and not my diary — I mean, journal. Men don’t keep diaries … not that I keep a journal. Wow, jet lag is nature’s crystal meth.
I should start by explaining that I was in Fukuoka, which is in southwestern Japan. If Tokyo, where I usually party in Japan, is like New York, then Fukuoka is like Chicago. In Fukuoka, like Chicago, people tend to get married while they’re still in their 20s or early 30s. So many of my girlfriend’s friends were already married. Otherwise, the first words from the single ones to me were, “Do you know any single men?”
Despite the marital aspirations of most of the people I met in Fukuoka, there was a contradictory and disappointing social trend, one that I’ve seen often in Asia. Cheating is a common occurrence. I don’t know the official numbers, but I met a lot of married men with mistresses and a lot of girls that were dating married men. It’s no surprise that in 2013 AshleyMadison.com (the affair-friendly website) made Japan its first Asian market. You can’t see my face, but I’m frowning, like I’m tempted to drive around Japan in a pickup with a TV in the back streaming Before Midnight.
But to get back on a positive note and to get back to the single people that are in search of true love, how do they find one another in Japan? While online dating is on the rise, the predominant method is undeniably the goukon, or group blind date. Basically, it’s a system where a single man and woman who know each other invite approximately four friends to meet at a restaurant or gastropub. It’s safer and less stressful. And genius. Oh, how I wish this could’ve been a possibility in my earlier years. The money saved from failed first dates aside, I — I mean, my friends — would’ve been spared all the emotional scars of humiliation. You know, like those horrible moments of dance-walking up to a girl at a club where she vehemently shakes her head “no,” and then having to shuffle back to the bar in shame. At goukon events, it becomes pretty clear who’s interested in whom, and it’s already established that everyone there is looking for something serious, meaning attendees can’t use the “I’m not ready for a relationship” line.
As great as goukons are, they aren’t infallible. Everyone is a friend of a friend, so at least there’s a level of trust. But honestly, how many of you know the sexual proclivities of your friends? Whenever my friends start dropping details, I cover my ears and sing Katy Perry songs. I heard this great/awful story of one goukon match gone awry. Apparently, they dated for a few weeks, but the guy always came up with some excuse not to let her go to his apartment. She finally found out why: he was an underwear fetishist with huge stashes of ladies’ used underwear. He’d buy them from vending machines. (They actually exist! I was as shocked as you to learn that it’s not an urban legend.) He’d even wear them to work. I may be embellishing at this point, but he might have peed on her, too. You know, I take it back. Goukons are perfect. Someone please go out there, host a goukon event and send your favorite stories to the Audrey office.
Now, once you’re dating, Japan has a whole slew of interesting and unique cultural options. For example, many people still live with their parents (or their spouses) and lack privacy, so many couples go to “love hotels,” which is essentially an upscale, usually gimmicky, pay-by-the-hour motel. They usually come equipped with karaoke, which is what I like to combine with sex (I didn’t watch porn growing up; I watched music videos). Another interesting difference is in the holidays. Christmas is Japan’s Valentine’s Day. It’s the busiest night of the year for restaurants. Interestingly, on Valentine’s Day in Japan, girls give chocolates to boys. Then a month later, on White Day, boys reciprocate. I don’t quite understand it, but it is kind of sweet.
It was a fascinating experience to hear everyone’s dating stories during my time in Fukuoka. In my case, I’m a Japanese American dating a Japanese girl, so I suppose we can pick and choose the best of both dating cultures. I like the idea of having two major romantic holidays, so we agreed to that. It was also comforting to both of us that I have no interest in wearing her underwear nor does she in mine. There are no love hotels in the U.S., at least not of the same hygienic and entertaining quality as found in Japan, so any music we make in the bedroom will have to be of our own making. Katy Perry, anyone?
There is a saying about Asian women that I’m sure we’ve all heard before: Asian women look so young. Many of us walk into an R-rated movie in our mid-20′s and are prepared to get our IDs checked and we can’t even think about going to a bar without the bartender giving an us an “are you sure you’re old enough?” look. There was even a hilarious comic created to show the average Asian aging process.
Despite all this, there are still some Asian woman who can impress us with their unbelievable youth. One example is this Japanese woman shown with her two daughters AND grandchildren. The 42-year-old grandmother is circled in the following picture because many people are unable to identify which woman is the oldest.
Kazuko Inoue, who was crowned winner of the Kansai Bimajo beauty pageant last year, was married at 19 and had her first daughter the same year. Additionally, both of her daughters also married young which accounted for Inoue’s young age. Despite this, there is no denying that Inoue has maintained her youth magnificently.
Audrey Magazine is an award-winning national publication that covers the Asian experience from the perspective of Asian American women. Audrey covers the latest talent and trends in entertainment, fashion, beauty and lifestyle.