Archive for June, 2012

Today’s J-blip: Yoshitomo Nara for No Nukes

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Last Friday, depending on whose estimates you believe, as many as 40,000 protestors gathered in Tokyo to send a message to Japanese Prime Minister Noda over the government’s decision to restart two nuclear reactors at the Oi power plant. Their rally cry? Simple and to the point. “No Nukes!” Later today, protest organizers hope to have over 100,000 protestors gather to make sure the message is reiterated, loud and clear.

And they’ve got some help. Popular contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara has been outspoken against the use of nuclear energy for many years and his painting of a young girl carrying a No Nukes sign has become a major icon in the movement. Last week he tweeted (@michinara3) that he wouldn’t mind if people borrowed his 1998 book “Slash with a Knife” from a library and photocopied his “NO NUKES girl” to use for protest, as long as they didn’t plan to profit from it. You can download a high-resolution version at A3 size here.

 

Tonight’s protest is 6-8 p.m. in front of the Prime Minister’s office in Nagatacho. More information is available in Japanese at Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes.

Pulsations (6.29.12)

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Why raising the consumption tax is a good idea, and good politics (from Mutant Frog): A must-read for anyone who wants to engage in the debate. Blogger Adam Richards offers a reasoned argument on why raising the consumption tax is good fiscal policy as well as a wise political move. The debate in the comments is smart, too.
  • Fujimori’s new “Trojan Pig” tea house (from Spoon & Tomago): Japanese architect extraordinaire Terunobu Fujimori is famous for designing striking and unique tea houses. His latest creation, which has been likened to a “trojan pig,” does not disappoint. But why a pig?
  • Sculpture or photography? (from Art It): We all know photographs can freeze a moment in time, but have you ever considered sculpture as a medium for doing so? Artist Rirkrit Tiravanija has. Read about how he started creating these full-size scenes, his ideas, inspiration, and latest solo exhibition at Gallery Side 2 in Tokyo.
  • Japanese photo exhibit on Korean “comfort women” sabotaged (from Global Voices): During World War II, the Japanese military forced tens of thousands of foreign women into sex slavery for soldiers overseas. Known as “comfort women” these victims were made to endure horrible atrocities. Ahn Se-Hong, a South Korean photographer who documented the now aging women, has faced numerous obstacles leading up to and during his Tokyo exhibition.
  • Green-roofs in Saitama Prefecture (from Japan for Sustainability): No, those aren’t weeds you see growing on the roof of your local konbini. Well, they might be, unless you live in Saitama Prefecture. The region has introduced a green-roof project for local convenience stores, which can help off-set carbon emissions.

A time-lapse video of Toyota engineers customizing their new, family-oriented concept car, the Camatte.

Today’s J-blip: Bang a paper drum

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Yumiko Matsui’s “Portable Shrine (Omikoshi).”

The booming of the taiko drums and the shouts from touts at carnival games and food stalls — you can almost hear the sounds of a Japanese summer festival when you look at Japanese artist Yumiko Matsui’s delightful paper sculptures. She is known for intricately crafting scenes with a whimsical take on familiar sights, from the stands at the festivals to the billboards in Shibuya.  While you’re in a matsuri mood, don’t forget to bookmark the JT’s monthly festival listings.

Today’s J-blip: Perfume daifuku

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Back in January, Edo Usagi, a wagashiya (traditional sweet shop) in Nippori, Tokyo, struck gold with a simple yet wildly popular confection: the Ichigo Yōkai Daifuku (strawberry monster sweet). Word of the cute, chewy monsters spread quickly on the web and the shop hit a record of 300 sold in one day. As strawberries eventually went out of season, they unveiled an apricot-stuffed creaton called the Perfume daifuku over Golden Week.  Made from pounded rice and coming in sets of three,  the treat was surely a hit among fans of the popular J-pop girl group, from whence it took its name. This month Edo Usagi dropped the monster mash and come from behind with  the “beautiful geisha butt daifuku.” And yes, it contains collagen.

Pulsations (06.23.12)

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • How to Spend 3 Nights in Tokyo All Included on ¥10,000 ($US125) (from Tokyo Cheapo): While some tourists in Japan spend at least ¥10,000 a night for a hotel alone, others prefer to spend the same amount for their entire stay in Japan. Impossible? Well, these guys claim they have a plan for spending three days in Tokyo for just ¥10,000, everything included!
  • 1929 Japanese animation “Kobu tori” (from Japan Sugoi): Here is your chance to see the 1929 Japanese anime “Kobutori” by Chozo Aoji and Yasuji Murata. It is a 10-minute piece featuring two old men with large lumps, the “kobu” in the title, on their faces. They encounter similar situations, but one has a good temper while the other has an evil one.
  • Pots made from radioactive soil collected from within the Fukushima exclusion zone (from Spoon & Tamago): That’s the fascinating but radioactive idea Hilda Hellström had for her senior thesis show at the U.K.’s Royal College of Art. The project indeed is historical as the artifacts will always remind us of the most serious nuclear disaster in human history.
  • Lesbian invisibility in Japan (from Japan culture blog): Lesbianism is not as widely discussed as male homosexuality in Japan, where women are expected to be primarily good wives and wise mothers. Ramona Naicker explains how three decades ago, plenty of lesbian activist groups emerged seeking change but were forced to shut down due to lack of support.
  • Why Do Japanese People Wear Surgical Masks? (from Tofugu): I have been asked several times why so many Japanese people wear masks in public spaces. I did not know how to answer this question until I stumbled upon this post on Tofogu. Find out if you should be wearing one, too.

A former Australian rugby captain puts his unique skills to use on a rush-hour Tokyo train.

Yakuzen cuisine makes Chinese medicine easier to swallow

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Chinese medicine is so commonly considered an effective way of treating ailments in Japan that pharmacies here often stock traditional Chinese remedies alongside Western drugs. Believing in it is one thing, but getting it down is another: many Japanese have an aversion to actually consuming the stuff, because the taste and smell can be totally icky. Enter yakuzen (薬膳), the Japanese term for a form of Chinese cuisine that blends Chinese medicinal ingredients (kanpō, 漢方) into meals, turning hard-to-swallow powders and teas into delicious meals. Though yakuzen has been around for awhile, there are indications that it might be ripe for a revival.

New on the yakuzen scene is Oriental Recipe Cafe, an establishment that opened in Harajuku this April. They serve up dishes that vary with the season and the physical condition of the customer. Under the management of Yukari Arai, a master of oriental medicine, dishes are made with ingredients that can help with particular health issues. Eye strain, for example, can be eased with a tea made with a blend of kuko (a shrub that is purported to act as a tonic) and chrysanthemum. A key element of dishes served in Oriental Recipe Cafe is that they are made specifically to please the Japanese palate, so a curry that is made to improve the condition of the kidneys, for example, contains the traditional Japanese fish stock dashi.

They’re not the only ones giving a Japanese twist to yakuzen food. Reset Cafe in Toranomon offers a hormone broth, while in Osaka, Goshiki is making some noise about the organic ingredients and homemade sauces in its yakuzen cuisine. 10Zen (read “juuzen”) in Tokyo’s Shinagawa offers up hotpots for detoxing, improving your skin, or slimming down. In the same space, they offer both consultations, prescriptions and products, as well as regular classes on kanpō.

Since the food is tailored to treat specific ailments, it’s not uncommon for yakuzen eateries to have an expert on hand to consult about which foods best suit your health needs. At Reset Cafe, customers fill out a medical questionnaire as they’re ordering their food. Much of the menu is based around soups, and there are six available to suit ailments such as inflammation, dry skin or bad circulation.

News Searchina is going so far as to proclaim a “yakuzen boom.” Indeed, products containing ginger, a common kanpō ingredient, were trending last winter, indicating that people are open to incorporating traditional remedies into their diets. The interest in yakuzen complements the recent attention on organic vegetables and overall healthy eating that we’re seeing.  The only downside is that a lot of yakuzen food seems to come in the form of soup or steamed dishes, which is not necessarily appealing during Japan’s excessively hot and humid summer months!

Today’s J-blip: Geek-approved cutting board

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Mario cutting board

Instead of bopping mushrooms with his head, this Mario helps you slice and dice them. Iowa artist Jim Van Winkle takes Mario and other 8-bit favorites off the screen and into the kitchen. No coins required for use!

From Prairie Oak Studios on Etsy

Today’s J-blip: It’s a bike, it’s a car, it’s … illegally parked at Lawson

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

As the original poster said on Reddit, “It’s not every day you see one of these parked outside Lawson.” We’re having trouble picturing who would drive one of these, and wondering where they’d drive it to. And what was he (or she) in such a hurry to buy at the convenience store that the machine was left stashed in the crosswalk?

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