Excitement, Exercise -- That's What Japanese Want Today

Dave McCaughan From Tokyo

By Published on .

Japan's Nikkei newspaper identified stimulation as the big trend in new products last year. Products such as "Brain Age," a brain-activation game by Nintendo, were helping to keep people at their best and even improve.

That trend isn't going away. One of the hottest products of 2007 has been "Billy's BootCamp," a series of home-exercise DVDs featuring ex-marine Billy Blank that reportedly has sold more than a million units in the first half of the year. That's one for every 30-odd homes in Japan.
Dave McCaughan
Dave McCaughan is exec VP-director of strategic planning at McCann Erickson and a Tokyo-based trendspotter.

This February saw the first Tokyo City Marathon. There are many marathons in Japan, but this was the first "people's" marathon in the spirit of the Boston, New York and London events. Close to 100,000 people applied for the 30,000 places. Unlike the recent Chicago Marathon, where runners suffered shortages of water and problems with excessive heat, the event was run on a day when the temperature barely got above freezing and it rained all morning. But did that put people off? No way. And it appears even more people have applied for next year's event.

Meanwhile, during the short summer season when climbing Mt. Fuji's famous slopes is possible, thousands tried the climb, to the point where some days saw veritable traffic jams.

But the search for sensation is not just about exercise. Cigarette brand Kool had a hit with its Boost brand, which contained crushed menthol capsules inside the filter to heighten the taste. The book market has seen a boom in intense "weepers" -- fiction and nonfiction stories guaranteed to make you cry. And sales of "experience gifts" such as horseback riding, harp lessons and golf outings have picked up. Attendance at the big annual fireworks displays is growing.

And, of course, Nintendo's Wii is the breakout, lifestyle-changing product it has become everywhere. I have even heard stories that building contractors and repairmen are saying the Wii is providing a boon for their businesses as people keep running into walls while playing Wii tennis in their small Tokyo apartments. It seems people are looking for new forms of stimulation everywhere.
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