Archive for June, 2013

Pulsations (07.01.13)

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

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 . . .

Visual Pulse

Follow the Yurikamome line at hyper speed as it wraps through Shiodome’s steel canyon’s and coils around Rainbow Bridge in one of the better Tokyo time-lapses we’ve seen.

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Tweet Beat: #6k_live, #都議選, #進撃の育児

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Each week, the Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag.

Deep sea voyage live-streamed for the first time

On board mother ship Yokosuka, the research team and Shinkai 6500 pilots continue their strategy meeting, laying out data regarding the underwater expedition zone.

The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (#JAMSTEC),  the same people who discovered Atlantis’s cousin in May, paired with Nico Live (#nicohou) to stream a deep sea voyage of the same sub, the Shinkai 6500. The Nico Nico page was very honest in expressing their concern about whether the stream would succeed or not: “Will the live broadcasting go well? . . . Not sure. If not, . . .sorry,” but #6k_live appears to have gone off as planned; over 300,000 people are said to have tuned in. The highlight was the discovery of a bunch of shrimp.

Upon seeing the shrimp at 5,000 meters, super Japanese comments started flying, like “Can you eat’em?” “Seems like they’d be good with mayo, right?”

Getting the Tokyo assembly election vote out, or not

Politically minded Twitter users encouraged their fellow citizens to vote in Sunday’s Tokyo assembly election, but turn-out was only 43.05%.

I went to go vote and was surprised by the extent to which it was entirely old people. If that’s the case, there’s no way society will turn out as one young people will like. What good does it do to lament the future after waiving your right to vote? Use this to research and get going!  

One of the main themes once the results came in was the perceived Communist Party “surge” (from eight to 17 seats).

That the party that held power until recently would lose at assembly seats to the Communist Party is just lol.

Some had the feeling that the results of this election will serve as a lesson of what happens when voter turn-out is low, while others couldn’t stop smiling.

Of course there were also those were more concerned with how election coverage disrupted the normal TV schedule.

Pretty much all of today’s late-night anime are at 1? I’m only watching “Kingdom” and “Attack on Titan” so I can cover by recording, but for people watching all of them it’s gonna be chaos. “Kingdom,” “Attack,” “Nyaruko” and “Flowers of Evil” — all four start at 1!

“Titan” children terrorize their parents

In addition to being a successful manga and anime series, “Attack on Titan” is proving to be a veritable meme machine. This time, parents have taken up #進撃の育児 (following the formula straight would yield something like “Attack on Childcare” but that makes about as much sense as “Attack on Titan”) to chronicle the battles waged raising their children by comparing them to the struggles of humans living in a walled-city trying to protect themselves from people-eating giants. Sounds strange, but the results are pretty amusing.

Wall Diaper has been breached by Infant (extra large female type), heavy damaged confirmed in the Bouncer district.

Our 60cm grade is attempting to breach Wall Playpen by standing tip-toed. You can already stand on tip-toe? Amazing!

Some participated by cleverly rewriting well-known dialogue  while others just pointed out how funny the tag is for people familiar with the anime/manga. For more, check out a round-up here or here.

Japan by the numbers (06.25.13)

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Euglena — the little single-celled organism that could save the world

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Euglena, a simple, single-celled organism that grows in fresh water, trumpeted as a solution to food shortages, a potential replacement for fossil fuels and a way to reduce CO2 emissions, has been making headlines lately in Japan. Stock in Euglena Co., a company founded at Tokyo University in 2005, has soared 10-fold this year and the announcement made last month by Osaka University in collaboration with Euglena Co. that a film made from a carbohydrate found in euglena called paramylon is effective in healing wounds, is bound to further boost the huge buzz around this rapidly expanding bio-tech company.

A euglena smoothie available at Juice Zone in Shibuya

A euglena smoothie available at Juice Zone in Shibuya

Euglena, which are also known in Japanese as midorimushi, are 1mm long thin organisms that give water a greenish hue when they multiply in ponds. Though often classified as algae, they are in fact a curious mix of plant and animal, able to both photosynthesize like a plant and consume food like an animal. Incredibly, these slightly fishy-tasting oddities are teaming with almost all the nutrients humans need to stay alive, including vitamins C and B2, calcium and iron. It’s not hard to see why Mitsuru Izumo, co-founder of Euglena Co., saw its potential as an ingredient capable of solving the world’s hunger problems.

Euglena Co. has been mass cultivating the stuff since 2005 and euglena is now not only available to buy as a vitamin supplement, but has also been successfully marketed as an ingredient in confectionery.

Fancy a euglena cookie? There’s even green-tinted euglena ramen sold at a restaurant adjacent to the University of Tokyo campus. Just last month, euglena lattes and euglena smoothies were introduced to the market.

But wait . . . there’s more! Because the organism grows by photosynthesis, it’s capable of reducing CO2 emissions. Euglena Co. carried out a successful experiment in 2009 at a coal-powered thermal power plant in Okinawa. Passing waste emissions through a euglena culture tank, it was observed that the organism thrived, thus demonstrating “an effective and potential solution to the global warming,” according to the company’s website.

If that wasn’t enough, the company is now developing jet fuel, yes, jet fuel, made from euglena and plans to produce a steady supply by 2018, a promise that has boosted speculative trade in Euglena Co. on the stock market. Furthermore it was just announced that the company won the Japan-U.S. Innovation Awards’ Emerging Leader Award, pushing the profile of this high flying bio-tech company even higher.

Fundoshi: the innerwear sanctum of Cool Biz

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Despite the energy-conserving Cool Biz campaign — inaugurated in 2005 by former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi — becoming a household word, according to a recent poll by The Suit Company 28.8% of women thought Cool Biz casual dress was still inappropriate at work.

The new trad fundoshi

The new trad fundoshi

What’s a well-intentioned man to do? Well, how about taking the Cool Biz under your suit?

This past March innerwear maker Wacoal launched a new underwear line for men called Fundoshi NEXT (ふんどしNEXT). Fundoshi is as traditional as you can get with underwear in Japan. Before Western briefs arrived, they were the undergarment of choice. In public, they are a common sight at traditional festivals, and sumo wrestlers wear a more elaborate version. While there are several types of fundoshi, they all involve a strap and piece of cloth material. Looking a bit like a fat thong, the fundoshi exposes a large part of the buttocks.

Wacoal’s spin on this tradition, which echoes the recent rage for suteteko, adopts the original fundoshi’s breathability and sense of openness, while utilizing a modern design and quick-drying material. Combining the best of old and new, Wacoal is offering a revealing remedy to the summer heat.

This fundoshi revival is also spreading to woman’s underwear.  FFsee recently launched an online fundoshi shop playfully called Aifun (love + fundoshi) aimed at women. With the motto of “sayonara sutoresu” (goodbye stress), they hope to give customers a more comfortable fit than typical panties. FFsee says that the less constricting fundoshi will decrease swelling and improve skin quality.

A Japanese saying says, “to know the new, look to the old” (古きを尋ね新しきを知る). Call it old school, but these risque retro looks could leave you smiling cheek-to-cheek.

Tweet Beat: #e3, #ふなっしー, #ジブリファン

Friday, June 21st, 2013

The Twitter Japan blog releases a list of top hashtags for each week. Tweet Beat investigates the buzz behind the hashtag.

Was this generation’s console war fought and won at E3?

Last week gamers turned their attention to the action happening at this year’s #e3 in Los Angeles June 11-13. That includes Japanese gamers, who reacted much the same way as gamers elsewhere when it came to comparing Sony and Microsoft‘s press conferences on the 10th.

One person noted they were glad they weren’t interested in the (Xbox exclusive) Halo series, while another was surprised that the price of the #PS4 was lower than they expected (it undercuts the Xbox One by $100).

Nintendo showed off their new lineup via streaming video (#nintendodirectjp) and #pokemonxy got #pokemon fans around the world fired up. One observer of the “Super Mario 3D World” (for Wii U) trailer compared Mario’s cat form attacks to the way another game character, Kirby, sucks up his enemies and steals their powers.

“News flash! Final Fantasy Versus XIII will be sold as Final Fantasy XV on PS4! Yesssssssss”

Of course, a three-day conference had too many game announcements to include in this post, but there is an organized run-down of them all over here.

What the heck is a Funassyi?!

Maybe you’re not familiar with the unofficial yuru-kyara of Funabashi: #ふなっしー (pronounced “Funasshii,” but officially romanized “Funassyi”). Well he’s a pear from Funabashi, Chiba . . . and don’t be thrown off by the unofficial nature of “the fairy of the Funabashi pear.” He appears in Asahi Soft Drink’s Juroku-cha commericals alongside the likes of Sky Tree-neighboring Azumabashi’s Azu-chan and Yoshida-no-udon-buri-chan, who promotes Yoshida City’s noodles with her bowl-shaped head.

But let’s not get distracted. Funassyi leads a bustling life, so bustling it’s sometimes hard to tell whether it’s the real Funyassi or someone ripping him off. The above makankosappo meme pic is pretty great, even if it was posted by a “bot” that collects Funassyi memes such as this mash-up with the manga “Attack on Titan” and not the official account (which boasts over 150,000 followers).

The real source of the current trendiness, though? New crane game-prizes released on June 14:

https://twitter.com/prize_adores/status/345485537668395008

“[Prize Info] Pear fairy “Funassyi Mascot” has boldly appeared! Dazzled by the pear juice, huh. The list of participating stores apPEARs on our official website!”

Studio Ghibli fans unite in hashtag . . . or?

Trend #9, #ジブリファン (“Ghibli fan”), seemed like a no-brainer: Who doesn’t love animated classics such as “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Porco Rosso”?

But why now? In little more than a week, the account @fanghibli amassed thousands of followers on the back of this tag. The account’s bio roughly translates as “A bot for Ghibli fans. I’ll be sharing misc. info, urban legends, funny or heartwarming jokes — anything.” Here’s an example of how the account engaged fans:

“Black hair! (RT @Fanghibli: Which Howl do you like?)”

Strangely, though, by June 19 , every single tweet had been deleted.

What’s even more mysterious is that another account, @ghiblitalk, has appeared, tweeting some of the exact same memes and jokes, racking up followers at the same breakneck speed — over 10,000 in four days.

The account’s bio reads, “I’ll be tweeting interesting or moving Ghibli stories. And maybe some scary stories?!”

Obviously this is only speculation, and the owner may have a perfectly good-yet-unfathomable reason to abandon such a “valuable” account, but one could guess that someone is taking advantage of Ghibli fans to fatten up follower counts just like Chihiro’s parents in “Spirited Away.” For what purpose? Probably not anything allowed by Twitter’s rules.

Pulsations (06.14.13)

Friday, June 14th, 2013

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 . . .

Visual Pulse

Kazuki Yamamoto takes latte art to the next frontier (from Spoon & Tamago): You may have seen latte art before, but probably not like this. If you’re a big enough fan, follow his Twitter page, where he posts daily photos for you to enjoy alongside your cup of joe. Recent caffeinated creations include a version of Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”.

J-blip: Pepsi-flavored Cheetos

Friday, June 14th, 2013

A new snack about to hit convenience store shelves in Japan might possibly make waves, it could start a buzz, but it will definitely generate . . . fizz. FritoLay’s Shuwa Shuwa is, according to the promotional copy, “a snack that allows you to enjoy the fizziness of a carbonated drink via the pairing of long-seller Cheetos and Pepsi Cola seasoning.”

That’s right: Pepsi. Flavored. Cheetos. The PR claim is that the “refreshing tartness” combined with the bubbly sensation is the perfect taste for summer, but what did the office taste-testers think?

shuwa shuwa

Crunchy bubbles: Shuwa Shuwa

Reformed sugar-holic Mark: “The first crunch packed plenty of  joy and wonder, taking me back to the first time I had Pop Rocks, but by the third or fourth bite, the sugar rush was too much and they just ending up tasted like sickly sweet Cheetos. It was a bit like this.”

Mio, who has been known to hoard imported sweets:  ”It smells like cola, tastes like cola and even fizzes like flat cola, but when it comes to texture it’s wrong in absolutely every single way. Oh and there’s this weird corn aftertaste. My verdict: It’s awesome . . . but then you could put fizzy powder on a dog biscuit and I’d probably have said the same thing.”

Shaun, an expert on flavor mechanics: “It tasted like corn chips with — you know cola gummies? They might be coated in kind of cola sugar? It tastes like corn chips coated in cola sugar. The cola flavor wasn’t inside the chips, but it was more like a dressing. It was really sweet, but that didn’t stop me.”

Mayumi, who probably is the only person in the office with fully functioning taste buds: “It was like I had chips and Pepsi at the same time. They were really fizzy though. They smelled sweet and didn’t taste like any chips I’ve had before.”

New kid on the block Eric: “My first taste was surprisingly Pepsi-like. It had that cola flavor and, even more noticeably, the bubbly fizz of a soft drink. After a bit of munching, however, the flavor turned much more corn-like. If I’m looking for refreshment on a hot summer day, I’d prefer an ice-cold soda pop to the chips. Besides, I’m a Coke fan.”

Note that these are not to be confused with China’s Pepsi chicken-flavored chips. No chicken in evidence here, just sweet, sparkling cola corn snacks.

Unfortunately, I was no longer in the office by the time these surfaced, so I’ll have to wait like the rest of Japan until July 1. After conquering convenience stores, Shuwa Shuwa will appear more widely starting July 15. Exchange a cool ¥125 for 414 calories of fizzy sugar high, and then you, too, can say, “Yes, they really do taste like Pepsi.”

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