Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2018

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Docomo – Who is my Boss?

Docomo - Who is my Boss?

UPDATE: Insiders at NTT Communications (in the same groupd of companies as Docomo) tell me the viral could be a build-up to Docomo’s launch of Micro SIMs sold without handsets, or even the release of its first unlocked handset (legislation in Japan has ruled that carriers must now sell phones unlocked so the customer can switch carrier and keep their existing handset).

There’s a new campaign taking place right now for Japanese mobile phone carrier Docomo, and it has a really crappy URL: However, despite Docomo’s inability to choose a good web address for their viral, they have certainly poured a lot of money into this campaign, with posters literally all over the city and even taking over the huge screens at Shibuya crossing. If you check the website, you’ll see that it’s counting down to something which is going to happen on the 11th May 2010. What could it be? And why is Darth Vader involved? And why is it called ‘Who is my Boss’? Tune in for an update on the 11th (Tuesday).


3Waves Japan Market Research

3Waves Japan Market Research

3Waves Japan Market Research is a full-service qualitative research agency based in Tokyo that serves the overseas market exclusively with a team of bilingual and bicultural consultants, and they chose me to build their website. The project was a joy to work on because they’re great people, but I also got to build a Flash weather widget for Tokyo, as well as scrolling interfaces, dynamic XML-driven slideshows, and a component in Flash that interfaces with the WordPress blogging platform. All-in-all it was a bit of a tour de force and we’re all over the moon with how it turned out. Have a look for yourselves, or even better, contact them about your market research requirements in Japan. Unfortunately they’re so good at what they do they’re in very high demand already so get them while you can (the launch was January 1st 2010).


+J and Uniqlo Tunes

+J and Uniqlo Tunes

Some Uniqlo news now. I was in the newly expanded Ginza branch yesterday and had the good fortune to see the new +J line of clothing at the back of the new mens’ section. I tried on some of the outerwear, and I liked it very much. Although I didn’t buy anything (yet), I was taken by the fine tailoring and the details. This lead me inevitably back to the Japanese Uniqlo website where I saw the new Flash toy launched this Autumn – Uniqlo Tunes. It plays video in time with MP3’s, and you can even upload your own. As usual you have the option of integrating it into your blog. This new music toy joins a small collection of other Uniqlo Flash virals and microsites.


Hobnox Audiotool

Hobnox Audio Tool

Hold onto your hats, this is quite unbelievable. Some guys, who I think are German, have been able to put together an audio production environment that runs in your browser, called Audiotool. It obviously uses Flash, but I don’t know how this is possible! There doesn’t seem to be a sequencer, so it can’t really claim to give Reason a run for its money, but the visuals and the interaction design are pretty stunning. A nice tool to use to play with sounds, but not for finished tracks. Have fun, but remember to do some work!


Shinjuku Marui’s All New 6


Marui department store has a poetic and beautiful new promotion in the form of ‘All New 6 (senses)’. I didn’t have the perseverance or the time to decipher the Japanese text juxtaposed over the sepia toned stop frame animations of small model characters living out their lives in various locations in Tokyo, but that didn’t matter. The music and the atmosphere of this piece will draw you in, and then demonstrate to you a side of the marketing sensibility in Japan not often seen in other countries, certainly not in the west. One of haunting, wistful moodiness. A bit strange and sinister. It reminds me of watching those strange eastern European animations on TV when I was a kid.


Uniqlo Calendar

Uniqlo Calendar

Uniqlo’s continuing viral campaign perpetrated through lots of great Flash mini-sites never ceases to be awesome. The latest one to launch, called Uniqlo Calendar, features time-lapse photography of various locations in Japan given the tilt-shift photography treatment also known as miniature-faking, where a very shallow depth of field often found in macro photography is simulated thus giving pictures of life-size subject matter the appearance of a tiny model. Flawlessly executed as usual with characteristically quirky and hip background music, I’m left eagerly anticipating the screensaver (the link on the site says ‘coming soon’, unfortunately).

This newest viral joins a raft of others: Uniqlock, Uniqlo Paper, Uniqlo Grid, Uniqlo Mixplay and Uniqlo Try. I may have missed some, there’s that many.


And Now For Something Completely Different…


There’s a new creative agency in the UK called Displayground, an exceptionally talented group of designers, producers and creatives. I produced the Flash component of their new site, which involved incorporating some of the company’s ambitious ideas. You’ve got a mix of traditional stop-time animation, clay models, motion graphics, and vector shapes coming together to create a really original site. Design and photography credits go to the boys in the studio under creative director Mat Glover. The free-roaming orbs took a while to program and no mistake.




iKnow Screenshot

Big thanks to the team at Cerego for offering the services of their amazing social learning platform, iKnow. Everything is totally free, and the site blew me away! I’ve only tried one lesson, so I haven’t properly explored all the features of the site, but I have an account set up, and it’s monitoring my learning progress! The lesson I tried was delivered in the form of an interactive Flash movie. You can tell that a huge amount of work has gone into this project, especially the approach to teaching, which is designed by some boffins in-house.

Basically, if you’re learning Japanese, or some other foreign language I recommend it. It’s far-and-away the best thing available of its kind. Disclaimer: I don’t know what other languages are available at present. It does seem to be aimed mostly at people learning Japanese right now…

UPDATE: If you check my account, you will notice I took a lesson for dummies. For anyone thinking I should be a lot more accomplished at Japanese considering the amount of time I’ve been over here, I am. I was just testing it out. I’m super busy with an interactive project of my own right now, but will be doing a proper lesson on iKnow pretty soon. If you join, look me up!


Face Your Manga

Face Your Manga

This site isn’t exactly great, as the avatars you create here don’t look particularly manga at all. Still, it’s a good laugh making one of yourself and your friends. I found I couldn’t easily make myself, but I could do my friends no problem!


Nike Dunks: The Website

Nike Dunks: The Website

I’m a fan of Nike basketball boots. Well, just trainers in general. So I’m interested to hear about a relatively new section of the Nike website dedicated to the classic Dunk series. There’s a load of colourways (that look identical to the last lot) coming out soon. These get previewed, plus you can make your own dunks. But you have to register first.


Uniqlo Are At It Again

Uniqlo Try

There’s yet another Flash microsite for Uniqlo up on the .com site (where I believe all the Japanese content has now moved following their global expansion), and it’s amazing as always (from a production point-of-view). It’s called ‘Uniqlo Try’ and deals with their line of bra tops! I’m not entirely sure if I’m exploiting all of the sites features at the moment, as I just navigate through the different women trying to find any that are remotely attractive. They’re talking about how they feel about bra tops, how often they would wear one, etc. Interesting.


How I Get My News

Spectra Visual Newsreader

I have to admit, I don’t understand everything (anything) on the Japanese Television News. I also don’t find many of the stories very relevant. When it comes to keeping abreast of developments in science, technology and the media I always get it on my desktop. Due to the existence of the internet, I find buying newspapers a bit wasteful, both in terms of money and trees. So, when I want to read up on Apple, or recent developments on the web, I open up’s Spectra Visual Newsreader. I’m no fan of the msnbc network, but I can’t help liking the Spectra Newsreader. It looks beautiful, feels futuristic, and is fun to interact with, and you learn stuff to boot. It’s now the first thing I do in the morning when I switch on my laptop.


SoftBank’s Hello World

SoftBank’s Hello World

I have a SoftBank phone. If you have ever owned a mobile phone in Japan, you will know from the time you shopped around between DoCoMo, AU by KDDI, and SoftBank that aquiring one, the right one, is very complicated and difficult. I found SoftBank to be the better of the bigger companies. I liked the brand and the shop interiors, and the options and tariffs weren’t too hard to fathom. Also, they do a pre-paid option, something that many other brands are making it impossible to do. Well, now SoftBank are trying to grow their brand and attract more customers, and if this new site is anything to go by, I think they’re going to do it. The site is by THA, and the production values here are absolutely amazing, it’s so polished. Thanks THA! Some more Flash greatness from Japan to play with.


Yugo Nakamura: Grandmaster Flash

Yugo Nakamura

If you like interactive stuff, especially stuff that looks amazing, you can check out any of the Flash work by Yugo Nakamura. My favourite is his stuff for Uniqlo. Namely Uniqlock, Uniqlo Paper and Uniqlo Grid (he also did their other websites for UK, Japan and the US – I think). There are various other interactive ‘pieces’ on his website – a la John Maeda, but before this he also created the jaw dropping ECOTONOHA. There are other people in Japan creating amazing Flash content too; look at Desio, a site for the Japanese 3 storey house brand Sekisuiheim. The production team behind this one is very mysterious. It was won by Mitsue, but I think they outsourced it. You have to try and tolerate the music on that last one. It’s like you just walked into a Japanese branch of Muji or something.