David Blecken
Nov 27, 2015

Tourist shopping sprees and sporting achievement define Japan's year: Dentsu

TOKYO - What do binge shopping, futon cleaners, tennis player Kei Nishikori, gaucho pants and obese cross-dressing celebrity Matsuko Deluxe have in common? Answer: They all feature at the top of Dentsu’s list of ‘hit products’ in Japan for 2015.

Sporting heroes such as Kei Nishikori contributed to national pride
Sporting heroes such as Kei Nishikori contributed to national pride

The ranking is derived from an online survey by Video Research on Dentsu’s behalf between October and November. Conducted every year since 1985, the research is designed to offer insight into the Japanese public’s current mindset. The findings are based on 2,000 responses from participants aged between 15 and 69.

The full lists points to newfound national and sporting pride and a certain degree of self-indulgence and frivolity. This year's top 20 ‘products’, which include top-of-mind events, popular content and social phenomena, are as follows:

1. Binge shopping/inbound tourism
2. Kei Nishikori
3. Japan’s performance at the Rugby World Cup 2015
4. Matsuko Deluxe
5. Hibana (an Akutagawa Prize-winning book by comedian Naoki Matayoshi)
6. Universal Studios Japan
7. Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train)
8. Premium product vouchers issued by local municipalities
9. Hometown contribution tax system
10. Instagram
11. Drones
12. Japanese Nobel Prize laureates
13= Selfie sticks
13= Food festivals
15. Halloween
16. Futon cleaners
17. Shuzo Matsuoka (a TV sports commentator and former tennis pro)
18. The iPhone 6
19. Gaucho pants
20. Monster Strike (a mobile action role-playing game)

Last year's top five included Disney's Frozen, talking mascots, the Tokyo Sky Tree, free voice call apps such as Line, and Yo-kai Watch role-playing games. 

It is important to note that binge shopping was prevalent among foreign tourists rather than Japanese consumers. In its analysis, Dentsu stated that while an emergence from deflation and rising stock prices got the year off to a good start, cost-of-living increases and concerns about the future resulted in a “less than favourable consumption environment”.

The weak yen has of course made Japan much more accessible to foreign tourists, and their enthusiasm for buying Japanese products was well documented by the media throughout the year. This in turn reminded Japanese people of the charm of their own country and craftsmanship. Dentsu said the high ranking of the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) and the hometown contribution tax system (which enables donations to local governments of choice in exchange for gifts of regional products) reflected this. Strong sporting performances by Nishikori and the national rugby team surprised but also made people prouder of their country.

A study on Japanese sentiment by the Nomura Research Institute released this month supports the findings, suggesting higher levels of contentedness combined with caution.

The inclusion of Universal Studios, food festivals and Halloween in Dentsu’s survey indicates a desire to periodically let go of the pressures of daily life and indulge in pleasure-seeking in a safe, controlled environment. A link can be drawn between these activities and the rise of selfie sticks and platforms such as Instagram. As we noted earlier in the year, social sharing is increasingly fueling participation in live events, particularly in the case of Halloween, which only became widely celebrated in Japan very recently.

Dentsu expects the following to become ‘hits’ in 2016, based on forward-looking responses compiled as part of the survey. 

1. Hydrogen-powered cars
2. 3D printers
3. SIM-free mobile phones
4. Communication robots
5. Missed TV programme website services
6. 4D theatres
7. Genetic testing kits
8. Sharing services, such as home and car sharing
9. The ‘My Number’ social security and tax number system
10. Star Wars

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