Virtual versions of Asagaya and Ogikubo in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward went on line last week as local information service Lococom launched beta versions of its newest project, Jimotonow. An extension of the service Lococom already provides, visitors can view tweets from local shops, get coupons for local stores and read shop blogs. Whereas in Locomo you chose the particular area and service you are searching for from drop down menu’s, Jimotonow gives the user more of a feeling of browsing the bohemian streets of these towns and is great way for people who live in the area or are planning to visit, to uncover an interesting little shop or find out about a local festival. The addition of tweets also means that the personalities of local shopkeepers come through.
Waribikiken (discount coupons) are very popular in Japan, and Jimotonow will be going up against already popular websites like Coupon Land and FooMoo. Tokyo-based FooMoo (also known as Hot Pepper) is usually the destination of choice for people looking to dine out; dedicated to restaurants, the site and sister print magazine offers a mind-boggling array of area-specific offers. Similarly, Coupon Land also has a magazine as well as a website and offers not only coupons on dining but also services aimed at women, such as beauty treatments, cosmetic surgery and evening classes.
Jimotonow definitely has the edge of FooMoo and Coupon Land in terms of the range of services on offer. We also like the fact that it has a friendly feel, offering a local flavor that its rivals lack. Many bargain hunters in Japan, however, still favor the old school system of clipping out coupons from a physical magazine and this is where FooMoo and Coupon Land stay ahead of the game by giving out free site-specific magazines at train stations.
Of course many towns already have their own physical guides to the area. In Koenji, for example, the local shopkeepers association distribute a small pamphlet that provides local news and discounts. However, it might make more sense in the future both for the environment and in terms of cost-cutting for local businesses to get on board with websites like Jimotonow.