With the power of Rakuten Ichiba’s e-commerce data at his fingertips, “Trend Hunter” Jun Shimizu provides a unique perspective on Japan’s consumer trends. Earlier this month, Shimizu released his trend predictions for summer 2018, separated into five categories: wear, eat, live, play and enjoy. Here are the highlights:
Wear: “Beautiful backs” and other see-through items
Social media has made it easier than ever for new fashion trends to spread organically — sometimes independently of the influence of mainstream designers and media. One Japanese fashion fad that has soared in popularity online is ‘back schoen,’ a combination of the English word back and the German word for beautiful. As the name suggests, ‘back schoen’ outfits showcase the appealing lines of the wearer’s back — and have been selling like hotcakes among those on Japan’s fashion frontlines. Shimizu predicts that the trend is only getting started.
Shimizu has also noticed include a significant jump in demand for nostalgic 90s fashion — logo T-shirts and Reebok sneakers — as well as ‘transparent items’ such as bags and purses. He reasons that the generation that grew up in the 90s are now in their 40s and are beginning to get creative with their disposable income.
Eat: Global fads and high-end local treats
‘Instagenic’ gourmet (i.e. gourmet that looks great on Instagram) continues to boom, as households look to foreign fads to fuel their food fancy. Ice cream roll makers have landed in Japan to a warm reception, while wine lovers have apparently discovered the joy of drinking chilled rose on a hot summer’s day.
On the domestic side, foodies are also embracing some new takes on traditional Japanese dishes: Tea-soaked rice made with high-quality ingredients was but a quirky niche product when Shimizu picked it up in 2017. Come summer 2018, however, and the fad seems to have firmly established itself.
Live: A more relaxing life at home – night and day
Relaxing at home seems to be a high priority for shoppers this summer: High-grade sleeping goods are taking off in a way not seen before on Rakuten Ichiba. Shoppers are snapping up everything from cooling bed sheets for those hot, sticky summer nights to high-tech support pillows. Given that we spend a third of our life sleeping, Rakuten Ichiba users could be on to something here.
Among other home-improving products, high-quality wireless speakers continue to enjoy strong growth this summer. In the kitchen meanwhile, sous vide low-temperature vacuum cooking machines are taking off in a serious way among ambitious home-chefs.
Play: Rain won’t stop the indoor fun
Summer can be cruel to outdoors enthusiasts in Japan: The rainy season can seem to drag on for eternity, and much of the summer is often spent gazing out the window lamenting what could have been.
This year, some Rakuten Ichiba users are taking a stand indoors against miserable summer weather. Users are looking to spice up their indoor lives through board games and even activities like nagashi-somen – a popular summer pastime that involves eating cold noodles that come flowing down a bamboo flume. The dish isn’t ordinarily something that is enjoyed at home, but a summer spike in demand for home nagashi-somen kits indicates that shoppers are willing to break tradition to be able to enjoy it regardless of the weather.
For those disappointed that their barbecue plans were rained out, compact home roasters might just be the key. Compact grills and home pizza ovens are taking off in a way not seen before – perhaps in part due to the memory of 2017’s summer of rain.
Enjoy: Unseasonal delights – Winter in summer
‘Unseasonable items’ is another trend Shimizu picked up last December — users were flocking to Rakuten Ichiba in the dead of winter to buy traditionally summer items such as swimwear and fireworks. This unseasonability isn’t going anywhere anytime soon: Shoppers are realizing that many items missing from the shelves during the summer are available year-round from Rakuten Ichiba merchants.
Summer in Japan can often mean stepping from sauna-like temperatures on the street into refrigerator-like offices and shopping malls – for which many users are buying warm goods such as arm- or leg-warmers. Knitting goods are also experiencing an unseasonable boost in popularity, along with ingredients for the popular winter dish, Japanese hot pot.
So, if flowing noodles and chilled rose don’t quite do it for you this summer, perhaps try curling up by the air-con with a special treat of a bubbling pot of oden.