Japan has a few, shall we say, unusual commercials that have raised eyebrows around the world. While you may laugh, when you think about it, it just shows that Japan’s marketers really know how to get the audience’s attention–and isn’t that the job of a commercial, to get people’s attention? We’d say so, and we think we may have found our favorite new eyebrow-raising Japanese commercial!
An exhilarating, upbeat sound track? Check. A simple, direct message that makes almost no sense at all? Check. Half naked people? Oh, holy hell, yes, check!
Clocking in under a minute, this metalcore song features one simple repeated line screamed by (if the video is to be believed) the sumo wrestler Toyonoshima: “Move band!” This motley crew of rocking sumo wrestlers is filled out with Asahishou (on guitar), Gagamaru (on drums), and Tenkaiho (on bass), though we must admit that we’re highly skeptical that any of them were actually part of the recording process. Then again, we would pack our cash into a cannon and launch it at the nearest event promoter to get front row seats to see this Sumo Rock Band actually performing.
As you have probably figured out by now, the Sumo Rock Band isn’t the newest awesome band from Japan, but just an advertisement for “Move Band.” Part of Docomo’s Healthcare line, these wearable devices measure the user’s various biometrics, including number of footsteps, distance walked, sleep time, and, as you can see in the screenshot below, number of calories burned.
“Just now, the total number of calories they burned performing was: 5,287 kcal.”
While we’re probably not going to be slapping a Move Band around our wrists any time soon–we’re quite happy not knowing how few calories we burned today, thank you very much–we certainly are grateful to Docomo for filling our heads with dreams of a Sumo Rock Band tour. Preferably co-headlining with Andrew W.K. and Motörhead, just to get a balance between healthy and liver-punching unhealthiness.
Hopefully the Sumo Rocking Band wouldn’t try any stagediving through…
Starting on 1 January, 2015 Vision Megane will begin selling their strongest frames to date. Dubbed the Super Taflex, it boasts extreme resistance to bending and stretching and also claims to be able to heal itself from everyday dents and scratches within ten seconds.
This healing ability comes from the frame’s “cross guard coating,” which according to their diagram is like a springy chain link fence which pops back to its original shape seconds after small ebony spheres have hurled towards it. This ability is said to work against any scratch that might occur in daily life as well.
Of course, glasses-wearers are probably more concerned about damage to the lens than the frame, but this is still definitely a step in the right direction. These frames are also forged with a special material known as Ultem, which has been used in spacecraft parts because of its extreme resilience under stress while retaining a light weight.
Super Taflex frames will be available in four styles all priced at 22,800 yen (US$190). So for all you out there working in the small ebony sphere factories across the globe, your prayers will be answered in a mere mater of weeks.
New Year’s in Japan is usually celebrated with family huddled under the kotatsu while munching on mikans, and sharing a dinner of traditional food, called osechi. Each component of the meal retains an auspicious meaning, granting the eater with good fortune, health, or fertility, among other things, during the coming year.
However, in recent years, an increasingly large population of Japan’s youth have chosen to forgo eating osechi. There are many reasons osechi has been disappearing from Japanese homes during New Year’s, but these changing tastes have given rise to a smorgasbord of strange, unique, and, frankly, comparatively tastier pre-made osechi meals. From cooked isopods to a box full of meat, let’s take a closer look at six modern day osechi.
Deep-sea fish osechi
So maybe this one doesn’t fall under the “tastier” category, but the “deep-sea fish osechi” from Clion Market features all types of ocean floor critters that have gained attention in the news this past year. Most notable are the underwater isopods, water snails, and several types of deep water fish, including the big-eyed kinmedai.
All that New Year’s fishiness can be yours for 21,600 yen (US$181)
On the outside, this osechi box looks tough as nails decked out in camo with the words “Japan Ground Self Defense Force” on the cover. But a first peek reveals something surprising…
▼ A normal osechi meal.
The second tier is more of the same. However, the third tier shows something different:
▼ Military provisions!
Hayashi rice, pork curry, and “delicious white rice” is lovingly packed in this military-style kit, perfect for doomsday preppers or people searching for a fun way to eat from a bag. You’ll just have to be willing to pay 16,200 yen ($136).
Who wants to eat boiled beans or herring roe when you could chow down on delicious marbled meat? Filled with nothing but the finest cuts of Japanese beef, this meatyosechi is perfect for the yakiniku lover. Four different boxes of various cuts of beef are priced from 10,000 to 20,000 yen ($84-$168).
Osechi is always served cold, often left out all day – one of the reasons its falling out of style in modern times. But this steamed osechi, which comes in a special box made of Japanese cypress wood, is perfect for those who want something warm to eat on a cold January morning. This high class meal includes fancy fare such as abalone, sea urchin, and foie gras and ham wrapped in cabbage.
As you might expect, such a luxurious meal will cost you; 37,000 yen ($311) to be exact!
Osechi x AKB48
Ah, AKB48, the idol darlings of Japan. The fresh-faced teens are teaming up to bring pop fans across the country an alternative to boring old osechi. There are two boxes to choose from, each containing the favorite osechi dishes of the most popular AKB48 members. And this wouldn’t be an AKB48 tie-in without freebies and a prize raffle! Everyone who purchases a box receives an osechi information pamphlet and a “Happy New Year video” featuring members of the group. In addition, 48 lucky winners will receive a cloth made from a costume of the member of their choice. It will also be signed!
If savory foods don’t seem festive enough to ring in the new year, you’re in luck. Just order this “sweets osechi” and treat yourself to two tiers of Western-style desserts. All the strawberry mousse and roll cakes you see below will be yours for 21,600 yen ($181).
Which non-traditional osechi looks the most appetizing? Adventurous eaters and those with peculiar tastes are sure to order the box of deep-sea fish!
UPDATE: This guy has done this before with another restaurant!
Things we’ve all experienced at a Chinese restaurant: being inexplicably yelled at by the restaurant’s servers/owners/cooks, finding new species of insects in your food and drinks, and being overcharged. When any of those things happen, you’re supposed to freak out, make a scene and then come back for more MSG later when you think they forgot you were that one bun dan who freaked out and made a scene.
Well, apparently, Harvard Business School associate professor Ben Edelman didn’t get the memo on how to act. After ordering $53.35 worth of takeout at Sichuan Garden in Boston’s Brookline Village, Edelman found that he had been accidentally overcharged a whopping $4 upon his arrival home, according to Boston.com. Edelman then put his Harvard degrees to work against the business in a series of righteous emails with Ran Duan, whose parents founded Sichuan Garden.
Read Edelman’s emails below, wherein he tries to squeeze the restaurant out of $12 for overcharging him $4, and is just a general, total and complete fuckface. Duan, meanwhile, gets an A+ for not pulling a Bac Nguyen.
There’s red on the ceiling and red on the floor, red dripping from the window sills and red globules splattered across the walls. It looks like the artist Anish Kapoor has been let loose with his wax cannon again. But this, in fact, is what the making of Christmas looks like; this is the very heart of the real Santa’s workshop – thousands of miles from the North Pole, in the Chinese city of Yiwu.
Our yuletide myth-making might like to imagine that Christmas is made by rosy-cheeked elves hammering away in a snow-bound log cabin somewhere in the Arctic Circle. But it’s not. The likelihood is that most of those baubles, tinsel and flashing LED lights you’ve draped liberally around your house came from Yiwu, 300km south of Shanghai – where there’s not a (real) pine tree nor (natural) snowflake in sight.
Christened “China’s Christmas village”, Yiwu is home to 600 factories that collectively churn out over 60% of all the world’s Christmas decorations and accessories, from glowing fibre-optic trees to felt Santa hats. The “elves” that staff these factories are mainly migrant labourers, working 12 hours a day for a maximum of £200 to £300 a month – and it turns out they’re not entirely sure what Christmas is.
“Maybe it’s like [Chinese] New Year for foreigners,” says 19-year-old Wei, a worker who came to Yiwu from rural Guizhou province this year, speaking to Chinese news agency Sina. Together with his father, he works long days in the red-splattered lair, taking polystyrene snowflakes, dipping them in a bath of glue, then putting them in a powder-coating machine until they turn red – and making 5,000 of the things every day.
In the process, the two of them end up dusted from head to toe in fine crimson powder. His dad wears a Santa hat (not for the festive spirit, he says, but to stop his hair from turning red) and they both get through at least 10 face masks a day, trying not to breathe in the dust. It’s a tiring job and they probably won’t do it again next year: once they’ve earned enough money for Wei to get married, they plan on returning home to Guizhou and hopefully never seeing a vat of red powder again.
Packaged up in plastic bags, their gleaming red snowflakes hang alongside a wealth of other festive paraphernalia across town in the Yiwu International Trade Market, aka China Commodity City, a 4m sq m wonder-world of plastic tat. It is a pound shop paradise, a sprawling trade show of everything in the world that you don’t need and yet may, at some irrational moment, feel compelled to buy. There are whole streets in the labyrinthine complex devoted to artificial flowers and inflatable toys, then come umbrellas and anoraks, plastic buckets and clocks. It is a heaving multistorey monument to global consumption, as if the contents of all the world’s landfill sites had been dug-up, re-formed and meticulously catalogued back into 62,000 booths.
The complex was declared by the UN to be the “largest small commodity wholesale market in the world” and the scale of the operation necessitates a kind of urban plan, with this festival of commerce organised into five different districts. District Two is where Christmas can be found.
There are corridors lined with nothing but tinsel, streets throbbing with competing LED light shows, stockings of every size, plastic Christmas trees in blue and yellow and fluorescent pink, plastic pine cones in gold and silver. Some of it seems lost in translation: there are sheep in Santa hats and tartan-embroidered reindeer, and of course lots of that inexplicable Chinese staple, Father Christmas playing the saxophone.
It might look like a wondrous bounty, but the market’s glory days seem to have passed: it’s now losing out to internet giants like Alibaba and Made In China. On Alibaba alone, you can order 1.4m different Christmas decorations to be delivered to your door at the touch of a button. Yiwu market, by comparison, stocks a mere 400,000 products.
Aiming at the lower end of the market, Yiwu’s sales thrived during the recession, as the world shopped for cut-price festive fun, but international sales are down this year. Still, according to Cai Qingliang, vice chairman of the Yiwu Christmas Products Industry Association, domestic appetite is on the rise, as China embraces the annual festival of Mammon. Santa Claus, says the Economist, is now better known to most Chinese people than Jesus.
The beaming sales reps of Yiwu market couldn’t sound happier with their life sentence of eternal Christmastime. According to Cheng Yaping, co-founder of the Boyang Craft Factory, who runs a stall decked out like a miniature winter wonderland: “Sitting here every day, being able to look at all these beautiful decorations, is really great for your mood.”
It’s somehow unlikely that those on the other end of the production line, consigned to dipping snowflakes in red-swamped workshops for us to pick up at the checkout for 99p, feel quite the same way.
Growing up in San Jose, Calif., Kathy Uyen worked as an actress in Los Angeles for several years before she got the opportunity in 2008 to work on her first Vietnamese film, Passport to Love. Though she was quickly accepted in Vietnam’s show business world — she received a Best Supporting Actress award at the 2009 Golden Kite Awards (the Vietnamese version of the Oscars) — she still felt like a fish out of water.
“When I first moved to Vietnam, I’d go to [industry] events, and everyone would be dressed up in really beautiful gowns,” Uyen remembers. “And I’m coming from L.A.; we don’t wear gowns. But I had to get all these long gowns made in order to be respectful. I felt like this klutzy girl on the inside. Everyone was all properly posed on the red carpet, and I would just smile and pretend, even though I didn’t know what I was doing.”
After a few years, though Uyen had achieved a certain amount of fame and celebrity in Vietnam, she realized that roles for Vietnamese American women were still few and far between. Though her Vietnamese language skills had become more fluent, she still spoke with an American accent and found herself losing roles to Vietnamese locals. That’s when she decided to take matters into her own hands, come up with a story idea for a film she could star in, and pitch it to producers.
“I’m not a professional writer, but they say you should write from your own experiences, and that’s what makes it honest and genuine,” says Uyen. “So I’m surrounded by all these women, and, as modern-day women, we gotta have it all. We gotta make money, have a great husband, be a great wife, be social, look good, wear the latest trends. … The expectations are overwhelming, and I wanted to write a character who was trying to juggle all of that.”
The resulting film, How to Fight in Six Inch Heels, which was eventually fleshed out into its full form by scriptwriter Tim Tori and directed by Ham Tran, stars Uyen as Anne, a fashion designer from New York who has a very rigid three-step plan for career, marriage and babies. She’s got the career, and she’s got the fiancé, Kiet, but her life takes a detour when Kiet is sent off to Vietnam for work overseas, just months before their wedding day. After a late-night video chat with Kiet where he seems to be hiding something, Anne becomes suspicious that he is cheating with one of the models he works with. She secretly flies to Vietnam to infiltrate the entertainment industry and poses as a model in order to get to the bottom of her fiancé’s philandering.
Much of the comedy comes from Anne’s transformation into a believable model, which is kick-started by a boot camp led by her stylist friend Danny (Don Nguyen), a character based on two of Uyen’s closest gay friends, her real-life stylist and makeup artist.
“It sounds silly, but a lot of these moments really happened,” says Uyen, referring to how she needed to be taught (and to practice) how to pose on the red carpet and in photo shoots. “When I first walked the red carpets, the photographers would always catch me in [an awkward] half-smile. I didn’t want to be fake, so I’d do a real smile, then I’d stop, and then give another real smile. And my makeup artist was like, ‘No! You have to hold your smile the entire time you’re standing there!’ So I had to practice thinking of positive things the whole time while posing and hitting the marks.”
There’s a scene in How to Fight where Anne is on the catwalk for the first time, and she gets hit with an unfortunate bout of indigestion. But she somehow turns her violent stomach cramp into a comic catwalk pose. “That came from a joke between me and my makeup artist,” says Uyen. “At photo shoots, we’re always joking about the poses. ‘Oh, my cheek hurts,’” she demonstrates, brushing the back of her hand lightly on her face. “‘Oh, my shoulder aches,’” as she moves her hand oh-so-delicately across her chest to grasp her opposite arm. “We’re always making fun of ourselves when we’re taking pictures.”
Anne’s journey in the modeling world went through multiple transformations before the How to Fight creative team eventually arrived at the film ending that they were most satisfied with. “It was important to show that the more Anne tries to be someone else, because she’s wearing this mask of makeup, the uglier she gets [in her behavior],” says Uyen. “Whereas when she’s not wearing so much makeup and able to show her fears and insecurities, she’s able to be herself, open up and make new friends.”
When How to Fight in Six Inch Heels premiered in Vietnam, it was the number one film at the box office for weeks and eventually earned Uyen a Best Leading Actress prize at the 2014 Golden Kite Awards. But more than that, Uyen is proud to have created and starred in a female-driven film where the male characters were there to move the women’s friendships forward and not the other way around.
Next up, Uyen will star in a martial arts comedy directed by Charlie Nguyen that starts shooting at the end of the year — another script about empowering women that Uyen calls a cross between Kung Fu Hustle and Nine to Five. She’s also looking to develop and produce more films, including a fantasy musical for teens and another women-centric drama.