Archive for June, 2012

Pulsations (06.15.12)

Saturday, June 16th, 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 . . .

  • You had me at “sumimasen…” (from Loco in Yokohama): Some foreigners enjoy the extra space they get on trains, when Japanese commuters are hesistant to sit by them. Others are offended, feel judged, and call it racism. In this personal anecdote, the author dives into the complexity of seat dynamics.
  • Former Yamaguchi-gumi member arrested for attempted extortion of Yoshimoto Kogyo celebrity (from The Tokyo Reporter): While news of a gangster’s high bail made headlines this week, Tokyo Reporter found a more interesting story in the pages of Shukan Asahi Geino. It would appear that Kozo Hattori, a former member of the Yamaguchi-gumi, was arrested for blackmailing Hazama Kanpei, an entertainer who claimed he never knew of Hattori’s gang affiliation. Taking a closer look at both parties, Asahi Geino reports that there’s more than meets the eye.
  • Deaf Net News (From Touching Sounds of Hands): Many deaf people were left out of the loop during the 3.11 disaster, as most news bulletins lacked sign language or subtitles. Enter Deaf Net News, an emergency channel specifically for the hearing impaired.
  • Tokyo police give shoeshines the boot (from Japan Subculture Research Center): With the new anti-organized crime laws, Tokyo police have been harassing and removing street side shoeshiners based on “public complaints.”  Often thought to be protected by organized crime, shoeshiners have been struggling in recent years as the old generation is replaced with the new. As such, street-side shoeshiners, whose high prices cannot compete with more established services, may soon become a rare breed.
  • Microaggresions or Icebreakers? (From Gakuranman): If you’ve been keeping up with the firestorm sparked by Debito Arudo’s column on microaggresions, you may have had enough of it all. But if you’ve still keen for more, here’s an analytical work that dives very deeply into the details. So pull up a zabuton and prove your Zen-like focus by reading every word. You might just be able to use chopsticks when you’re finished.

Beauty treatments get busy with the fizzy

Friday, June 15th, 2012

From carbonated face washes to machines that blow bubbles, quite a few fizzy products are making a splash in the Japanese cosmetics market this summer. Far from dismissing these as gimmicks, 54 percent of women interviewed said that they had tried a carbonated beauty product. Trend Souken published a report that indicated Japanese women are ready to embrace beauty products injected with carbonic acid in a big way, with 87 percent of the 501 women questioned responding that they were interested in becoming bubblier beauties.

By far and away the most popular sparkling product so far, according to News Searchina, is Chocola BB Sparkling, a sparkling nutrition drink that contains niacin, iron and vitamins B1, B6 and C. In the eight  months since it was launched last May, it has sold 10 million bottles in Japan. That’s an impressive figure, especially considering that absolutely no claims are made as to the efficaciousness of its carbonated bubbles for increasing a lady’s beauty.

But spurious claims aplenty have been made about the effectiveness of bubbles when applied to the exterior of the skin. The marketing blurb for Dr. AI Acnes Labo Gel Pack, for example, claims that carbonic acid is the active ingredient in a compound that helps reduce redness and repair damaged skin for acne sufferers. The tiny bubbles in Kanebo’s Blanchir Superior: White Foam Totalizer skin lightening wash are supposed to promote good circulation for smooth, fresh skin.

The real money spinner might be gadgets that produce bubbles. Mitsubishi Rayon Cleansui Company’s Sparkling Bath is a bath that produces carbonated water. Options include the Sodabath, Carbonated Bath, and, alas, the Sparkring Bath. The website stops short of making any pseudo-scientific claims by simply stating that in Germany, sparkling spa baths have long been thought to be good for the body. If you can’t stretch to buying a bath, then how about the Plosion from MTG, a dinky little bottle that sprays out a mist of beauty lotion fizzing with bubbles, a snip, ahem, at ¥47,500. If you’re really short on cash you could even try bunging some face cream into an old Soda Stream to enjoy a cut-price bubbly beauty treatment.

Today’s J-blip: Japanese soldiers march through Tokyo

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

You’ve no doubt read the story and seen the pictures, but did you see the news footage of  armed Japanese Ground Self-Defense rangers marching through Tokyo for the first time in 42 years? Some by-standers could be seen snapping pictures and waving, while others lodged protests. So what was the occasion? A drill for the Big One? Potential attack from North Korea? A manhunt for the final Aum fugitive? Or simply a case of Godzilla coming into town to check out Tokyo Skytree? One thing is for sure:  The GSDF camo palette didn’t exactly mesh with environment of the gray urban jungle. (More videos at Japan Probe.)

Today’s J-blip: robot-made inari-zushi

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

While the nation’s robots might not have been up to the task of nuclear-diaster reconnaissance, Japan’s androids are making strides in the kitchen. Suzumo Machinery Co., Ltd. has unveiled a robot capable of creating 2,500 inari-zushi rolls an hour. All the user (read: human) has to do is fill the rice hopper and place fried tofu rolls on a turntable. While we doubt anyone will be consuming that much inari-zushi any time soon, that type of efficiency is indeed impressive. Of course, this isn’t the first robot capable of dishing up Japanese food; in fact, robotics engineers seem to have a fair amount of pride in the national cuisine and program their creations to prepare all sorts of dishes,  from ramen and sushi to the potentially messy okonomiyaki. Yes, half the fun of this savory pancake is preparing it yourself, but watching a robot make it, and sing at the same time, is pretty cool, too.

 

Pulsations (06.08.12)

Friday, June 8th, 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 . . .

  • Kikuchi Naoko’s sarin (from Mutant Frog): In honor of Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Kikuchi Naoko’s arrest, blogger Roy Berman shares gripping excerpts from “Aum and I,” a book by former cult doctor Ikuo Hayashi. Berman was part of a collaboration that translated the text into English. The quotes are chilling.
  • Japanese artist Takeshi Miyakawa on his time in jail (From Spoon & Tamago): Takeshi Miyakawa, a Japanese-born artist who now lives in New York, talks about an installation mix-up that got him thrown in jail and his surprising approach to locked-up life.
  • Iseya, an old Tokyo establishment, set to close this month (From Tokyo Times): Amidst the multitude of chain restaurants and bars, Iseya stands out as being laid back and lacking requirements or expectations of its guests. The restaurant is slated to be closed this month in the name of progress, but some wouldn’t call it that.
  • Thoughts on the life and alcoholism of Prince Tomohito (from Shisaku): Japan politics blogger Michael Cucek offers a critical reflection on Prince Tomohito and his struggle with alcoholism. He also highlights some of the Prince’s positive contributions to Japan during his life.
  • The future of disaster relief (from Asiajin): A new technology to aid in disaster relief may soon be available to anyone with a smartphone. Augmented reality shows  real-time data on a user’s mobile device about potential dangers and how to avert them.

Video blogger ‘BusanKevin‘ talks about the tsunami protection in Kobe.

Today’s J-blip: Very orderly UFOs hover over Japan

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Seven dots hover in the air over Japan’s coastline. They move around, passing one another in what looks like some kind of synchronized flying routine. Shot by user “stanley2258,” the video is definitely intriguing but suspiciously short. If the objects were as clear as they are in the video, why not keep recording? And why are there no other videos of the phenomenon, seen in broad daylight? While some Japanese commenters have been trying to connect the UFO sightings and last March’s earthquake, others say it just looks like a reflection of car lights. Are they trying to tell us something? Or is someone with a video camera having a laugh?

Moldy Mos Burger confirms kōji boom

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

The launch of Mos Burger’s new limited edition Salt Kōji Burger on May 24 officially confirms that salty mold is now the flavor du jour in Japanese kitchens. Kōji, or to give it its long-winded name, Aspergillus oryzae,  is a domesticized fungus that has been used in the production of miso, sake and soy sauce for centuries. Salt kōji, made by mixing salt and kōji with water, then leaving it to ferment, is also a traditional seasoning, but one that had rather fallen out of use until it enjoyed a revival in the latter half of 2011.

Who says mold can’t be cute?

According to Yomiuri Online, the craze for salt kōji started off when Komego, a miso store in Fukui Prefecture, started selling it for use as a simple seasoning back in January 2011. Word spread with restaurants around the area using the ingredient, causing it to eventually catch on with the mass media.

It was traditionally used as a seasoning for vegetable and fish dishes, but now cooks are enthusiastically using the ingredient more creatively with meat as well as in soups and sauces. Marinating meat or fish in salt kōji converts the starches and proteins into sugars and amino acids increasing the umami, or savory flavors, of the meat. Though salt kōji can be bought, it’s quite simple to make at home, and plenty of cooking websites have featured instructions (see video) on how to whip up a homemade batch.

Fukui Prefecture, which has been a driving force behind the boom, has now introduced a kōji mascot to highlight the benefits of this versatile ingredient. Kōji-kun is drawn in the image of a grain of rice with some weird stuff growing out of its head, to illustrate the fact that kōji starts out life growing on grains of rice. Kōji is also depicted in cute cartoon form in the manga and subsequent anime of “Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture” a story about an agricultural student who can see and communicate with bacteria.

If you’d like to try out this taste sensation for yourself at Mos Burger, then you’ll have to hurry as there will only be 1 million Salt Kōji Burgers available. Rather than being used as a marinade for the meat, the salt kōji is mixed into a special mayo sauce for a salad topping of crispy nagaimo and edamame.

Today’s blip: PS3 ‘Ni no Kuni’ trailer in English

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Are you one of the Ghibli fans waiting anxiously for “Ni No kuni: Wrath of the White Witch?” It’s a PS3 exclusive video game released in Japan last November and scheduled for a Western release in January 2013. A collaboration between anime film makers Studio Ghibli and the creators of “Dragon Quest  V,” the game has Ghibli’s fingerprints all over the charming animation.  The Western version will be published by Namco Bandai Games and will include both English and Japanese voice tracks. The best news? A Namco representative told Digital Trends, “The Western release of ‘Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch’ will include all the content found in the newly announced ‘Ni no Kuni: All-in-One Edition for Japan.’ ”

The story follows a boy named Oliver who, saddened by the death of his mother, is visited by a fairy named Drippy who tells him how to bring her back to life. The creature speaks of another world existing within our own, and says that every being on earth has a soul twin in the other dimension. Are the Japanese and English versions each other’s soul twins, then? Check out the trailer and decide for yourself.

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