Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mobile SUICA

From January 28, the combined train ticket/cash card SUICA will be integrated in the latest handsets from NTT DoCoMo and KDDI (au) under the Mobile SUICA brand.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Sony seems to have scored a hit with the PSP game Talkman, which tops the sales charts for games for portable consoles this week.

It is, however, not a game but rather an electronic phrasebook that enables Japanese users to communicate in English, Korean or Chinese (or vice versa). Users can either select a phrase from the menu or connect the enclosed microphone to their PSP and say a phrase in their native language. Talkman will then translate this phrase, and accompany it with funky animations by the strange bird (below) which seems to be the main character.

Further details can be found here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tea and chocolate

The company Kabaya has released two chocolate snacks under the brand name of two tea drinks by Kirin, the green tea Namacha and Gogo no Kocha. So, will Suntory pick up the idea and license a green tea flavored chocolate that ties in with the Iemon brand?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

New beers for discerning adults....

Two interesting new product launches in the beer market - Kirin has released Golden Hop, an addition to its premium bottled beers sold under the Chilled Beer brand. As the name suggests, key ingredient is high-quality hops.

Suntory has come up with Bonne Biere, which uses barley from France.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

...and children

Interesting and unique branding and package design - the beer for children Kodomo Beer by Tomasu.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The new hit makers

The vitamin-boosting fridge by Mitsubishi, the Eco-convenience store Natural Lawson, the NTT DoCoMo mascot Docomodake, the beer-drink Nodogoshi Nama by Kirin and House’s instant stew Cup Stew were among the hit products in 2005 – and all of them were developed or are successfully managed by women.

While this is still something of a rarity in male-dominated corporate Japan, illustrates an interesting trend: with the increasing fragmentation of the Japanese consumer goods market, it is no longer possible to create hit products by targeting each and every consumer equally and indiscriminately.

The new generation of hit products are basically niche products which appeal only to a certain group, for example housewives in their 30s, and therefore a thorough understanding of the needs of such groups has become the key to increase revenue and market share. Japanese companies have recognized that women are better at this - partly because they are closer or identical to the group in question for example in sex and age - and therefore seem to increasingly place female staff in leading roles in product and brand development.

Friday, December 02, 2005

DoCoMo mascot family

NTT DoCoMo has added grandma and grandpa to its family of mascot characters, the extremely popular Docomo Mushrooms. Will this be the start of a dedicated campaign to woo subscribers among the elderly, something a certain small carrier has been very successful with?

Update: The DoCoMo family discount has been extended to cover people over 65 with a dedicated discount - that's why!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Yuzu and new conservatism

Dydo has just released Yuzu Lemon, a drink containing Yuzu (Japanese citrus) and lemon honey. Introduced in 2004, it was especially popular with middle-aged and elderly consumers, and so Dydo decided to release it again this year. The lineup has been expanded to include a version to be sold hot.

Yuzu has a unique aroma, which Dydo says evokes the feeling of "wa", a distinctive Japanese concept that can be best translated as harmony. Also the package design – which is intended to resemble earthenware – aims to convey this. Furthermore, the package design contains no Roman letters or English slogans, and Dydo uses only Yuzu grown in Japan, which it claims has a superior flavor.

This makes Yuzu Lemon an interesting example of what could be called the “new conservatism” in consumer goods. New conservatism manifests itself in a preference for products that remind consumers of traditional Japan and a feeling that Japanese products and ingredients are superior. It is reflected not only in the products themselves but also - and sometimes this is even more important - in the package design. And although these preferences seem to be increasing in all age groups, they certainly also reflect the increasing influence of older consumers.

Memoirs of a Geisha

The movie adaption of the book "Memoirs of a Geisha" (or Sayuri as the movie is titled in Japan) will be released in two weeks. As this movie fits well into the current revival of traditional Japan, it could be expected to do rather well in Japan. However, with only one exception Chinese actors are used to portrait Japanese characters, and the controversy about this seems to have started already.

This lecture which I happened to attend and dealing with the way China is represented in Japanese film claims that China is either seen as a threat or a source of salvation. While I do not think that this analysis is sufficient, it is certainly an interesting phenomenon to see Japan presented not only from an American perspective (there was some controversy on this problem when Pearl Harbor was released in Japan in 2001), but using Chinese actors in the process, which is bound to make both Chinese and Japanese uncomfortable.