Archive for November, 2012

Manga inspire women to embrace ‘male’ hobbies

Friday, November 30th, 2012

From enthusiastic train spotters to history buffs, young women are getting into hobbies that have been traditionally thought of in Japan as being mostly for men. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly down to changing attitudes towards gender roles, but both of these trends were in part due to the popularity of manga that presented these hobbies in an appealing light to a female audience. With manga so popular with young adults these days, it’s more than likely that the next big hobby trend amongst women could well be fueled or even ignited by a popular manga title. Indeed, according to Nikkei Entertainment, the next male hobbies to be embraced by the fairer sex will be shogi, rakugo and mah-jongg.

”March Comes in Like a Lion” might inspire a trend among women for shogi

Manga and anime for adults has been increasingly popular since the 1990s. “Tetsuko no Tabi,” for instance, was serialized in the weekly manga magazine Big Comic from 2002-2006 and adapted into an anime in 2007. It tells the true story of female illustrator Naoe Kikuchi accompanying travel writer and train freak Hirohiko Yokomi on a tour of Japan’s railways. Soon tetsu-ko or tetsu-chan (female train-spotters) could be seen at railway stations checking out the rolling stock.

Similarly, reki-jo (female history buffs) caught the bug after being inspired by titles such as “Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story.”

So what’s next? Well, it seems like shogi, which is known as Japanese chess, is already attracting an increasing number of female spectators at professional matches and this could well lead to increasing numbers of female players.

Two popular shogi titles —  “Hachi-one Diver” and “Hirake Goma!” — have been going for a while, but the title that’s particularly drawing in the ladies is “March Comes in Like a Lion,” which combines both romance and game play in its storyline. Winning the Annual Manga Taisho in 2011 and the Kodansha Manga Award in the same year, the series has been a huge hit.

Rakugo, a stylized Japanese form of storytelling, is already enjoying a renaissance, especially among women, who now make up about 50 percent of rakugo audiences. This has only been strengthened by the serialization of “Jyoraku” in 2009, a manga about a female rakugo storyteller. Hopefully this will inspire more women to to perform themselves in this traditionally male-dominated field.

The popularity of the manga “Saki” might inspire a mah-jongg trend. First serialized in 2006, the manga tells the story of a bunch of high school girls getting into mah-jongg. Now that a third anime adaptation of the title is in production, perhaps high school girls will soon be clamoring to play the game, in just the same way that female high school students were inspired to pick up the guitar and form bands after the phenomenal success of the K-On series.

Pulsations (11.30.12)

Friday, November 30th, 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 . . .

  • They put it in their legs (from Amanda in Japan): This blogger discusses the misery some foreign women may face when shopping in this “thin is in” nation and the pervasive obsession with weight loss and beauty here. Safe to read with a snack in hand, for she ensures that you will go away with an extra dollop of self-worth.
  • What Happens After You Die in Japan? (from Tofugu): Everybody’s got to think about meeting with their maker some time. Find out how you’ll be dealt with upon death here and how the cellphone will be involved in the future of Japanese graves. What?
  • Why don’t Japanese Buddhist monks do alms rounds? (from Japan Explained): Why is Japanese toast so thick? Why do tengu have long noses? This site provides answers to questions you never even thought to ask — what are the random similarities between Japan and Turkey, anyway? We hope you’re not reading at work; once you start it’s hard to stop.
  • Driving in Japan: Does Cuteness Save Lives? (from Marshmallow Sensei): Do cartoon figures dispensing reminders about driving safety really do the job? Matt explains the main difference between Japanese safe-driving instruction and what he learned at home.

Visual Pulse

Highlights of Japanese TV commercials for weeks 46 and 47 of 2012, including this year’s Coca-Cola Santa. Check out other uploads on this YouTube channel if you’re in the mood for a Japanese TV commercial binge.

Today’s J-blip: Safecast documentary

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Tokyo-based photographer and filmmaker Adrian Storey, who blogs at Uchujin, made a documentary on Safecast that reached the semi-finals of the Focus Forward documentary competition. The brief for the competition calls for three-minute films about “exceptional people and world-changing ideas that are impacting the course of human development.”

Yep, sounds like Safecast. Safecast is a non-profit organization that collects precise radiation readings and shares them via their website and mobile app. We reported on its collaboration with Tokyo HackerSpace a year ago and recently featured its iOS app.

Brief, informative, and shot with a cinematographic eye, the short is well worth a watch. Safecast’s founders explain in a simple, direct way why they came up with the idea of collecting radiation measurements globally and how they got the ball rolling.

Cast a vote if you like what you see and check out the other documentaries that may interest you. The film is up for the Audience Choice Award, and voting closes on Dec. 2o.

Today’s J-blip: gas-neutralizing underwear

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Smell? What smell?

Find yourself cutting the cheese in the office often? With Deoest, a line of deodorizing textiles manufactured by Japanese company Seiren, you no longer have to sit red-faced at your desk.

While odor-eliminating products such as T-shirts, socks and bedding have been available since 2008, the one that’s really been raising eyebrows is underwear that absorbs stink. Originally developed for people with irritable bowel problems by Professor Hiroki Ohge of Hiroshima University Hospital, the underwear has apparently found a market among ordinary businessmen. Ceramic material, which contains metal ions, is the key player in containing the odor. Deoest underwear retails at ¥3,200 for men and ¥2,980 for women and can be purchased from Inodore.

News of this product mushroomed on the web this week, thanks to RocketNews24‘s translation of Mainichi Online and a subsequent post on The Huffington Post, but is it truly BIG in JAPAN? Mainichi reported that sales of the whole 22-item deodorizing series has reached 30,000, but we’re skeptical whether its reached boom proportions. Still, as potential stocking stuffer for that special-smelling someone, this one could be a winner.

Today’s J-blip: Kasō Taishō’s YouTube channel

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Traditionally in Japan, oshogatsu is when families gather and celebrate the passage of the old year into the new one. Various customs are honored without fail, but when all is said and done and eaten, one of the biggest recent-day traditions involves the clan coming together in front of the TV.

A large chunk of this tube-watching is focused on the cult of celebrity, from the spangled jamboree of  “Kōhaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Song Battle)” on New Year’s Eve to the dozens of shows featuring comedians and starlets answering quizes, running marathons, visiting exotic places and so on. For this reason alone, “Kinchan & Katori Shingo no Zen-nihon Kasō Taishō” stands out from the crowd as a tribute to the common man. Broadcast on Nippon Television since 1979 (at its peak, three times a year; now only around New Year’s and in spring), the contest salutes the passion of amateurs.

This week NTV launched a  new Kasou channel on YouTube. Currently, 30 videos of past contestants are on offer, organized into various playlist categories (humor, performance, technique). Whether it’s precision choreography, athletic feats, adorable kids or just damn clever visualizations, most are worth a click. The videos are missing the post-performance deconstruction of how they did it, but at least you are spared the manic vaudeville emceeing.

Continue reading about Kasō Taishō →

Today’s J-Blip: Safecast iOS app

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Screenshots of Safecast’s new iPhone application, showing the area around Fukushima Dai-ichi with different filters

In Japan, cute bouncy mascots are often relied on to raise awareness about campaigns or officious entities. We have our doubts, however, about whether the new mission of Kibitan — to steer kids clear of potential hotspots in Fukushima — will have much of an effect. Call us cold-hearted, but when it comes to radiation, we prefer data — reliable, independently gathered data.

For bringing peace of mind to residents of post-3.11 Japan, or travelers thinking about coming here, nothing has come closer than Safecast. We reported on Safecast Japan shortly after last year’s disaster, when the team of volunteers with Geiger counters was building up their operations at Tokyo HackerSpace.

Comprised of radiation experts, industrious hackers and citizen data-collectors, Safecast is still tirelessly cataloging radiation readings and transforming the raw data into user-friendly maps. They’ve come a long way: From an initial Kickstarter campaign, the group is now funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation.

Safecast recently launched an iOS application. Its most attractive feature is the “virtual Geiger counter,” which shows you their collected radiation readings, plus readings from the U.S. Department of Energy, for your current location. It’s strangely addictive. There is also a bunch of filters to play around with, which allow you to look specifically for, say, Cesium 137. Best of all, it’s free.

Apparently you can also hook up your own Geiger counter to the app and send readings back into the Safecast system.

Kibitan, we suggest that you download this one now.

Safecast and U.S. Department of Energy readings for the greater Tokyo area as seen on the Safecast iPhone app.

Fans irked by a nuclear-free Doraemon

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

A reference to Doraemon’s internal nuclear power plant has been erased for the Big Doraemon Dictionary

Japan’s antinuclear movement is still going strong, but when the news came out  that Doraemon, everyone’s favorite robot cat, had lost his nuclear power source, fans were not impressed.

@FUKUBLOG, a sharp-eyed Twitter user, posted a photograph of the Big Doraemon Dictionary, in which the reference to a power source for Doraemon has been erased from the page. The original version shows that Doraemon is powered by his own nuclear reactor which, rather than plutonium or uranium, runs on anything he eats. Indeed, built with future technologies, Doraemon has so far been able to run around and fly in the sky without triggering an internal meltdown.

The reason for this omission is more than likely related to the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Doraemon fans, however, are not reacting well to this PC makeover. “So how on earth is Doraemon powered then?” tweeted one.  “A non-nuclear Doraemon isn’t Doraemon,” wrote another.

When the story was reported in Byokan Sunday, 2chan users reactions included: “So what should we do after this change? He moves by solar-powered battery or something?” and “This kind of deletion is not necessary.”

Many others were worried about the future fate of Atom Boy and his rather unfortunately named younger sister Uran-chan (Uranium girl). Will they be switched to alternative energy sources?

Today’s J-blip: Otoshidama Kit Kat

Friday, November 9th, 2012

The snake and the Kat.

There are many perks to being a kid in Japan, and receiving money just because it’s New Year is one of them. As if that isn’t enough fun, Kit Kat will soon be releasing the otoshidama version for the fourth year in a row. Being an ’80s kid doesn’t seem all that cool now, does it?

Otoshidama is the money children get from adult relatives during the New Year. It usually comes sealed in a prettily patterned envelope. On this year’s otoshidama box, Kit Kat, in collaboration with Japan Post Holdings, features a cute snake on the package to represent the Chinese zodiac sign of the upcoming year and a message can be written on the back of the package to wish your addressee luck.

Kit Kat product collectors, take note: If you’re fortunate to get your hands on the special edition you’ll get Kit Kat gift envelope. Oooh.

And while we’re on the topic. Have you noticed that Kit Kat has been more saku saku (crispy) in recent years? This Japanese snack blogger lets you know what she thought of the otoshidama Kit Kat for the Rabbit year.

Crunchiness aside, you should purchase your own New Year money pack, which will be on sale at local post offices Nov. 1-Jan. 13.

RSS

Recent Posts