Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Interesting things come out of obsessive behavior (well, sometimes at least). Here's a couple that I came across recently:
Documenting the life of a vending machine: Ryuichi Terada of Sapporo, Hokkaido, takes (almost) daily pictures of the Coke vending machine near his home, making detailed observations and complex diagrams about the changes in types of drinks, brands, posters, etc. It's interesting that he's apologetic about what he does, even naming his blog, "I take a picture of a vending machine every day (or so). I'm sorry". (via CScout Japan)
Skull-a-day. Designer Noah Scalin's project of making one skull image every day for one year. Don't forget to download the free skull font, which will certainly please heavy-metal fans everywhere (via How blog).These things put a smile on my face.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

a ring for a fresh start

Up until the '60s, the Japanese followed the shinto-style wedding ceremony, with the groom and bride wearing traditional kimonos.
Then starting in the late '60s, De Beers introduced the idea of the diamond ring as an engagement gift, a romantic ritual practiced in the west. The campaign was so successful that within a generation most Japanese adopted this costume and Japan soon became the second-largest diamond market in the world, only after the US. In the present days many couples, while still preserving the shinto ceremony, have adopted the western ceremony as well, white wedding dresses and all.
The Japanese baby-boom generation however is starting to retire this year, and in a society that is getting increasingly old, marketers have to redirect the focus of their activities. It's therefore time for another ritual to be promoted.
There's currently a campaign called "Thanks Days", starring musician and actor Akira Terao (most people outside Japan will recognize him from his role in Kurosawa's Ran), depicting a salaryman who is retiring from work. The commercial starts when he gets the flower bouquet from colleagues (a tradition for retiring people here). He then goes home, in a reflective mood, and all the while we listen to his thoughts (roughly translated):
For only thinking about work, forgive me...
For the days I got home drunk, forgive me...
For that time I lied, forgive me...
For everything...forgive me...
When he gets home his wife is preparing dinner and waiting for him. He gives her the flowers. Then, to her surprise, he produces a small box from his pocket, places it in her hands, and sheepishly looking away, says a short "thank you".
See the sequence below. You can watch the entire commercial here (click on the second link from the right).

Romantic movies usually have two types of ending. They either end in tragedy (one of the lovebirds die, sometimes both of them) or in happiness, when the couple finally meets at the end. In the latter case, the end marks their reunion but it is also the promise of a new beginning, in which they'll live happily ever after.
Well, the "Thanks Days" commercial catches this particular couple after they've been through their "happily ever after" years, revealing to us that perhaps they were not so happy after all.
This shouldn't be a surprise at all (as any couple would attest), but the problems are magnified especially considering the well-documented burden Japanese workers have to endure (presenteeism, long working hours, late-night drinking binges with co-workers).
But nothing is lost, people shouldn't despair. There's a renewed hope now.
The commercial shows that the husband, after more than 30 years of devotion to work (evidenced by the inscription "12075 days" in the internal part of the ring), is willing to start a new life.
As they celebrate over dinner, the voice-over says "propose again".
And finally, the wife toasts to a new start, a new hope, "korekara mo yoroshiku" (a bit hard to translate, but in a romantic way, it could be "from now on, let's take care of each other").
What remains to be seen, as millions of Japanese wives prepare to have their husbands at home again, is whether they'll really get their platinum rings or not.
And more importantly perhaps, will the couple live happily ever after this time around?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"creative bushido" viral campaign

This is one of the top viral campaigns in Japan, according to The Viral Chart.
It's a campaign for Yomiko Advertising. It's a bit of kabuki-style narrative, a Kurosawa epic, and guerrilla marketing all in one.
I liked that they've even put a Planner Samurai among the generals, ha!Pretty funny, and the art direction is great. Watch it here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

the garbage collector teaches a lesson

Garbage collection is serious business in Tokyo. There are many measures that encourage people to produce less garbage, including charging absurdly high fees to collect large disposed items such as old furniture and electronic equipments (up to US$ 200.00 depending on the size).
There's a very strict garbage collection schedule, a specific day in the week for burnable items, another day for non-burnable items, another for cartons, and so on.
Recently I left my garbage bag out according to the instructions I read in the city leaflet. Later, I saw the garbage collector pick up the bag but, to my surprise, instead of immediately throwing it in the truck, he inspected it, patting it all over. Then he put it back in the same place and quickly went away!
Puzzled (not to say another word), I went out to retrieve my abandoned bag and saw that the collector had stuck the note below in it. Roughly translated, it says something like: This garbage is not properly sorted out. Please sort out your garbage properly!

Monday, September 03, 2007

wii party ideas

Interesting piece in AdAge about the growing Wii-themed party phenomenon. That is part of a trend where "video gaming is beginning to transcend the solitary boy-in-the-basement stereotype with a new generation of gamers including women, older people and younger children who want to play in a more social atmosphere."
Take a look below at evite's wii party ideas (an online party invite company):

osaka 2007 - side notes

Couple of notes from the World Athletics Championship that finished yesterday in Osaka:
1. I noticed some people in the stadium watching their mobiles (with the screen twisted in the horizontal position) while the events were taking place in the track. They were probably watching TBS' broadcast in their mobile TVs. It's pretty cool to be there and feel the excitement of watching the live events, and at the same time being able to check the details and interviews on your 1seg TV.
2. Carl Lewis and Mike Powell were interviewed on TBS. Of course, Lewis is one of track's greatest stars to this day, but the local reporter (sorry, don't know his name) seemed to refer the questions only to him, ignoring the fact that it was Powell who won their event in Tokyo back in 1991, arguably the greatest long jump competition ever, when Powell broke Bob Beamon's long-standing record of 8.90m and established the current world record of 8.95m. Lewis couldn't be more generous towards Powell though, always acknowledging Powell's presence and praising his performance on that evening 16 years ago. He said: "I think this (Powell's record) will last longer than Beamon's record".3. TBS's anchors Oda Yuji and Nakai Miho should be praised for doing a great job. It's not easy to anchor an event like track & field for 9 straight days. What they may lack in technical expertise they more than compensated with an infectious enthusiasm for the sport. I've watched lots of technically correct broadcasts that utterly lacked passion. No wonder many people think track is boring. With their enthusiastic comments, peppered with word such as "sugoi" (amazing), and "subarashii" (spectacular), Oda-san and Nakai-san have won the sports many fans.4. No world records, but some great performances. Couple of athletes to watch in the next couple of years:
- Jeremy Wariner is getting closer and closer to Michael Johnson's record.
- Allyson Felix. Watch her out not only in the 200m but also in the 400m (she ran a superb 2nd-leg in the 4x4 relay)
5. It's great to see athletes from Panama, Sri Lanka, and Ecuador winning medals.
6. One of the greatest upsets in the championship was Bahamian Donald Thomas' victory. He took up high jump a year ago (!) and his unorthodox style (to say the least) is easily noticeable as his legs move frantically in mid-air as if trying to climb an invisible ladder. It seems to help him as he jumped 2.35m to beat the best high jumpers in the world. It was priceless to see Olympic champion, Swedish Stefan Holm's face of disbelief when Thomas cleared 2.33m.
7. As a preview of next year's Olympics in Beijing, it seems there won't be too many surprises: the US, Russia, Kenya and Ethiopia seem poised to dominate the events. I had thought that China would've come up with a stronger performance but apart from Liu Xiang no other star appeared.
That's it. Can't wait for Beijing 2008.