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Pulsations 4.18.14

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Here’s a new batch of 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 . . .

Gadgets before flowers – Japanese moms reveal what they really want for Mother’s Day (from RocketNews24): Survey says that the most popular present on Mother’s Day will be a bouquet of flowers, but when moms themselves were asked what they most wanted, the results were a little different.

An Indoor Floating Forest by Sou Fujimoto (from Spoon & Tamago): Are the mirrored boxes these trees sprout from beautiful or busy?

LEGO Builder Creates Life-Sized Hatsune Miku Statue (from Kotaku): Of course, the final product is charming, but Chaos Brick’s photos documenting the process are truly fascinating.

Q&A: Disney Executive Tells of ‘Frozen’ Success in Japan (from Japan Realtime): “Frozen” fans should be happy to hear the film is doing well in Japan, too.

Traditional Japanese craft informs Jo Nagasaka’s furniture for Ichiro (from designboom):  Designer and architect Jo Nagasaka came up with furniture featuring bamboo-weaving and rope-tying techniques.

Visual Pulse

A teaser trailer for upcoming Lupin III spin-off movie, “Lupin IIIrd: Jigen Daisuke no Bohyō” (“Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone”), was released this morning. Takeshi Koike, who designed the characters and served as animation director in the 2012 TV anime “Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine” continues as the character designer and director of the movie, which features manga artist Monkey Punch’s famous thief Lupin III’s partner, Jigen, as its protagonist. The film will run in a special screening June 21-27 at the cinema Shinjuku Wald 9.

 

Hanami! Sakura! Spring snacks have also sprung

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I am not one to require too much of a reason to throw a mini cream puff party in the office, but Beard Papa‘s announcement of karintō cream puffs was a good one; so, I take the liberty of starting this spring snack write-up with our impressions.

If you’re not familiar, karintō are those things in the snack aisle or local dagashi-ya (sweet shop) that look like dirty twigs. The dirt, however, is brown sugar and the twig is best explained as “fried.” Not fried “something” but just . . . fried. The main ingredient besides sugar is flour, and they’re crunchy like cookies despite being cooked like doughnuts. By the time you get that far, it’s only a couple leaps to the cream-puff idea.

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

The website copy calls it a “masterpiece confection that can be confidently recommended to karintō fans since it captures the flavor of the real thing.” Here are some comments from our tasting panel . . .

Mark: “The mega sugar hit is almost too much, but the consistency of the cream — not too light or gooey — is perfect. What makes them great is the crunch of the karintō, and I doubt they’ll get soggy and limp like the regular cream puffs.”

Rina: “It was really tasty! The outside is crunchy, but inside it’s smooth and creamy, so it’s a good combination.”

Andrew: “These are bound to be a hit with Japanese folks nostalgic for a corner-store sugar rush.”

Mizuho: “There wasn’t enough. I want to eat more! If you eat a couple karintō, you’ll want to keep eating and be unable to stop. In that way, this was very true to [the real thing].”

Alan: “This cream puff is full of yumz!”

Kate: “I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be a guinea pig! I was a little bit concerned with the aesthetics of its look, since my mind drew a parallel with a certain brown substance, but the taste was worth ‘the risk’!”

By the way, if you are wondering what the flecks are in the cream, they’re azuki (red beans)! An appropriate extra, but hardly noticeable in the overall caramel-y sweetness. For me, the overwhelming impression was the nostalgic taste of pancakes with syrup. The cream gives it that buttery finish. I wonder if eating karintō themselves dipped in whipped cream would produce a similar effect . . .

Beard Papa will pack your puffs with cooling pouches, so they are definitely transportable to your favorite blossom viewing location.

Here are some other snacks that might be fun under the cherry trees:

Two great tastes ... but do they belong together?

Two great tastes … but do they belong together?

Ghana chocolate-covered Kappa Ebisen? These limited-time-only shrimp chips are not new, but they are rather elusive in the konbini wild. It’s possible that someone in your hanami party might be impressed with your hunting and purchasing skills if you bring them, but it’s also possible that you open the bag and no one takes a bite. The shrimp flavor is mostly eclipsed by the chocolate coating at first, but there is a bit of a hazy aftertaste.

Who or what is The PotericanKoikeya‘s latest potato chips boast “American taste” and a wavy shape. Don’t let the hokey, red-nosed sheriff mascot stand between you and the “Sour Cream Onion” and “Cheddar Cheese” flavors, if they’re your kind of thing. Before that, though, take a moment to place your tongue firmly in cheek to applaud the website copy (an example of which can only be fully appreciated in Japanese): サワークリームの濃厚なコクと、さっぱり酸味がオニオンの香りとマッチしてSOOOO GOOOOD!!! MyワイフもFAVORITE(大好き)さ!(Translation: “The depth of the rich sour cream and acidity of the onion flavor match and are so good! My wife loves them!”) At least, they will go better with hanami booze than candy.

But speaking of candy, if there are kids to sugar up entertain, Kracie Foods has a couple new items that might keep them busy for more than a minute. One is Pazuru Choko (“Puzzle Chocolate”). Don’t expect anything so fun as a solution featuring all the jigsaw-y pieces in the bag, but “You’ll find yourself wanting to put them together.”

Secondly, the Petitte [sic] series has grown. These tiny soft candies come bunched together so little fingers can enjoy ripping them apart and sharing. With flavors mainly consisting of fruit, it makes you wonder if a bunch of actual grapes or bananas wouldn’t accomplish the rip-and-share goal just as well.

Another new snack under the “Why not just eat real food?” umbrella is Calbee‘s asparagus-bacon Jagariko. If you were really serious about hanami, you might undertake the challenge of actually wrapping some asparagus in bacon, but in a pinch, this flavor of potato stick snack might be interesting to try since it’s the result of a Jagariko fan brainstorming session.

OK, OK, enough with the random munchies. It’s cherry blossom season for crying out loud, so we know what you’re here for . . .

Sakura-themed food and drink 2014 (an in-no-way exhaustive list)

Craft beer made using cherry blossom petals from SanktGallen Brewery

•Spring Blossom sakura-flavored peach tea from Kirin

•”Melty” Sakura royal milk tea from Coca-Cola

•Sakura amazake from Morinaga

•Sakura Häagen-Dazs

•Sakura tea latte and sakura cream doughnut from Krispy Kreme

•Will the Sakuranbo (Cherry) Mocha and Sakuranbo Frappe replace the Sakura Cherry Mc -Float and -Fizz at McDonald’s? Either way, they’re pink. Don’t forget the Sakura Teritama.

•Nihonbashi Sweets sakura pudding with chunky red bean paste from Meito

If store-bought items don’t quite do it for you, take a tip from Higuccini (in Japanese) and make your own sakura-maple mixed nuts!

Finally, before you head to the park, check you local Don Quijote for the latest seasonal party wear . . .

hanami costumes

Decisions, decisions: Cho! O-hanami Afro or the Sakura Ranger?

 

Pulsations 3.25.14

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Here’s a new batch of 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 . . .

No Objections to Resident Evil’s “Deaf Composer” in Ace Attorney (from Kotaku): A fan-made satire video puts Mamoru Samuragochi on trial in a popular courtroom videogame series.

Sprint Turns to Spokes-Hamster (from Japan Realtime): Is the wireless carrier taking a cue from parent-company SoftBank’s talking dog?

252 Pocky lovers gather in Shibuya to set world record (from RocketNews24): It’s harder to sustain a relay of people feeding each other than you might think.

A ‘Heartbreak Box’ That Helps You Get Rid Of Your Ex-Lover’s Belongings (from Design Taxi): Japanese company Brandear has come up with a handy and charitable way to unload your ex’s stuff.

The Secret World of Japanese University Cafeterias (from Spoon & Tamago): Did you know a bunch of them are open to the public with the same student-geared prices?

Visual Pulse

Anime Japan was held March 22-23 at Tokyo Big Sight. MAiDiGi TV was at the convention collecting video highlights.

Bump of Chicken x Hatsune Miku, plus two other ‘must-see’ J-pop music videos

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Bump of Chicken‘s seventh album, “Ray,” came out today along with the announcement of a Hatsune Miku duet remix of the titular track. It’s available now under the artist name “Bump of Chicken Feat. Hatsune Miku” on iTunes and Recochoku and is the first time the band has done a collaboration of this type. Not only that, but Crypton Future Media is producing a video using tons of new tech, including a “14 [ichiyon] model” of their virtual idol. Hatsune Miku will not be edited in later, but perform in real time with the band. Find out more details about the development process in the documentary above.

Babymetal - “Gimme Choco!”

Cuteness has never been this metal. Blending hard rock and idol pop, Babymetal has been recording since 2011, but it was only with the release of their first major album last month that they went viral. “Gimme Chocolate!!” is a tale of chocoholism that cannot be cured even though “I’ve been worried about my weight lately.”  If that particular instance of will power isn’t the most hardcore, how about this for metal? Trio member Yuimetal fell 2 meters off the stage at their Budokan show earlier this month, but was back up and performing again within minutes.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - “Yume no Hajimarinrin”

Kyary’s popularity continues to grow, and not only in Japan. Her latest single is used in a commercial for the apartment listings company Chintai. The video, however, remains solidly in the Kyary universe, including plenty of references to her other videos. Toast clapping! How nostalgic.

Bonus: Omodaka, who engineers a quirky harmony between traditional Japanese folksongs and chip-tunes, released a new album today called “Bridge Songs.” Wonder when we can expect another amazing music video . . .

Pulsations 3.7.14

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Here’s a new batch of 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 . . .

Bird’s Eye View Maps of Cartographer Hatsusaburo Yoshida (from Spoon & Tamago): Google celebrated the hard-working map-maker’s birthday with a doodle homage.

Tokyo luxury hotel offering special Galaxy Express 999 anime guestroom (from RocketNews24): Spend a night surrounded by artwork featuring Maetel and other characters at Hotel Grand Pacific Le Daiba.

渡辺おさむのフェイク・クリーム・アート (from JDN Station): Osamu Watanabe invites you into his world of “fake cream art” in the exhibition “Sweet Sentiments.” Animals, tea sets and more are sculpted to look as though they’re made out of cookies and cream.

cuboid house in kitakarasuyama by mizuishi architect atelier (from designboom): Kota Mizuishi’s house is designed to balance openness and privacy.

A History of Video Game Consoles, In Japanese Commercials (from Kotaku): Do you remember the Cassette Vision Jr.? Explore the history of consumer console gaming from the beginning to present day via this YouTube collection.

Hello Kitty Teams Up With Playboy For A New Kind of Cute Sexy (from Anime News Network):  Bow meets bunny ears when Hello Kitty dons fishnet stockings to blow playboys a kiss.

Visual Pulse

Hina Matsuri (Girl’s Day) came and went (March 3) but Chika’s overview and cute hand-made hinadan is a must-see for those interested in Japanese culture. If you want to practice your Japanese listening skills, check out her bilingual lesson.

 

Chocolate & honey mustard: the Valentine’s Day pair to avoid

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

“But there’s mole sauce, right?” my boss remarked when I expressed my initial disgust at Lotteria‘s chocolate & honey mustard grilled chicken burger. There is mole sauce, it’s true. And I love mole! Spicy chocolate is great! In fact, why not just do a mole burger? That would have been fine. What was not fine was . . .

burger choco

Honey mustard grilled chicken and Ghana Chocolate sauce, the horror.

It could just be that I am not built to eat Lotteria. The chicken sandwich was offensive before I even opened the chocolate. Half of the meat was actually fat and skin, and the bun was already getting soggy from the mayo splotch and sweet mustard sauce. The lettuce was entirely too biological in its sliminess.

ugh

Do you have the will to sauce this monster?

The chocolate itself, a collaboration with Lotte brand Ghana Chocolate, is a consistency between shampoo and pudding. If that meant something silky and luxurious, maybe it would be okay, but instead it significantly upped the grossness factor of this sandwich, without really adding anything so mind-blowing.

blergh

There, there. The nightmare is almost over.

As I bit in, it was as if a blister popped. Was this thing advertised with a “juicy hot chicken oil center”?! I don’t think so!

After the initial shock I tried to focus on the interaction of the mustard and the chocolate, but quite frankly, the mayonnaise got in the way. The bit of spice might have been the beginning of something interesting flavor-wise, but if that were the object, why honey mustard? Wouldn’t the chocolate have been sweet enough?

Lotteria has been doing fries with the Ghana Chocolate sauce for a couple weeks now, but we didn’t go there. Neither did the Ghana Chocolate pie seem terribly appetizing after this wreck of a sandwich. So, my advice to you this Valentine’s Day week is to go stand in line for a box of real cacao lovin’, because the chocolate honey mustard grilled chicken burger is only fit for batsu game punishment.

Bandai’s projection-mapping candy toy: Hako Vision

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Bandai’s Candy Toy division is known for those inexpensive character-driven toys packaged with just enough sugar to score shelf space where food is sold so that parents can use them to reward kids for being good at the grocery store. Their anime tie-up rosters includes Kamen Rider, Pokémon, Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, One Piece, Yokai Watch and more. With the initial round of Hako Vision releases, however, they’re doing something a little different. Did you ever imagine you’d be watching recreations of popular projection-mapping shows rigged up with your smartphone and a cardboard box? While chewing grape-flavored gum?!

You can think of it as the latest evolution of shokugan (“candy toy”) culture that supposedly has its roots in Meiji Era collectible cards that came packed in cigarettes (definitely not for kids), or a new direction in diorama construction for the 21st century. As of Jan. 27, there are two kits available for ¥500 each: Tokyo Michiterasu 2012 “Tokyo Hikari Vision” and the Tokyo National Museum’s ”Karakuri” (2013). The package itself  is the stage for the miniaturized versions of these special events (“hako” means “box”), so don’t go tearing it up to get inside. Once you set up the scale model of the building to be projected on and the reflecting panel, all you need is the lighting, which you provide by pulling up a specially made video on your smartphone and laying it on top like a roof to your cardboard theater.

Projection-mapping itself seems to be all over the place lately. Even just in the past several months The Japan Times has noted Tower of the Sun Beam Painting, Art Aquarium 2013, “live” Hatsune Miku shows presented by NTT Docomo, and Yokohama Odyssey. On the horizon, Disney (pioneering projection-mapping tech for years — since building the Haunted Mansion ride in 1969 according to Projection Mapping Central) is debuting a new show mapped to Cinderella’s Castle at Tokyo Disneyland May 29th.

As for the future of Hako Vision itself, Bandai already has big plans. Instead of just continuing to reproduce shows people have already seen life size, they’re creating original videos to go with Mobile Suit Gundam figures. Giant mecha familiar to fans of the anime, Gundam and Zaku II, each get their own video helmed by creative director Ryotaro Muromatsu of Naked Inc., the same company that produced the video for “Tokyo Hikari Vision.” The new kits go on sale April 14.

Needless to say, if Hako Vision catches on, the licensing possibilities at Bandai are nearly endless. And now that the kits are out in the wild it’s not hard to imagine fans of the tech creating their own models and fantastic videos to go with them.

 

Pulsations 1.27.14

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Here’s a new batch of 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 . . .

職人の本気を感じるスマホスタンド「食品サンプルスタンド」4種類は観るだけでお腹がすいてくるクオリティ (from Gigazine): That’s a lot of Japanese for non-speakers, but the photos are what you’re clicking through for! How about propping up your iPhone on a super-detailed food model like the ones they use at restaurants?

Interview with graphic designer Ryo Ueda of Commune (from designboom): “Good identities might look simple on the surface, but are often the result of deep thinking. To err here and just create a simple things for the sake of it is very dangerous. because a superficial, simple design becomes immediately obsolete.”

Tomopinion: Land of the Setting Sun (from Tomopop): Chris Seto gives a state of the Japanese figure industry address and blames the lack of innovation on the fans.

In Japan, Being Mickey Mouse Is a Part-Time Job (from Kotaku): The guy who does the Japanese voice of Mickey Mouse has a full-time job as a university professor.

Why deciding whether or not to help a crying girl is complicated in Japan (from RocketNews24): Can getting involved get you in more trouble than minding your own business?

Japanese Company Turns Font types into Glasses (from japanese streets): Now you can rest Helvetica or Garamond on your nose.

Video Pulse

Adam Magyar‘s high speed footage from a train sliding into Shinjuku Station has been making the rounds, but if you haven’t seen it yet, prepare to get sucked in.

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