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J-blip: The secret behind Disney + Gogo no Koucha

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Kirin is currently collaborating with Disney to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Disneyland. Not only are they giving away a grand prize of a 30-night stay for four at the DisneySea Hotel Miracosta, year-long passes to both parks and a resort giftcard worth a million yen, but each flavor of their popular Gogo no Koucha (“Afternoon Tea”) features a different character on the package:  the straight tea has Mickey Mouse; lemon has Winnie the Pooh; and milk has Donald Duck.

Recently, an observant fan noticed there are different numbers on each bottle and decided to investigate. To his delight he found  60 numbers on the the straight tea version and 18 on the lemon tea and milk tea. His interest piqued, he bought all of them and took photos of each in sequence.

Although it is hinted at on Gogo no Koucha’s site, only a clever and dedicated tea drinker would go to all this trouble. By lining up each “frame” in video form, he revealed short animations of each character.

While we’d like to praise this creative campaign, it’s a bit ironic considering Disney just laid off nine veteran hand-animators.

Pulsations (04.30.13)

Tuesday, April 30th, 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 . . .

Google Street Views goes inside a Fukushima school

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

As everyone knows, Google Street Views lets you wander around 3D visualations of remote locations, giving you that You Are There sort of experience. Last year, the Street Views team traveled to Fukushima’s Namie-machi, making it possible for everyone to experience Japan’s no-go zone.

Straying from the usual Street View approach, the Google team actually went inside a building for this expedition. One of them is Ukedo Elementary School, and the images of its abandoned school rooms are heartbreaking.

"We love Ukedo elemantary School and we will be back"

“We love Ukedo elemantary School and we will be back”

Namie-machi was evacuated right after the explosion of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The location, which suffered heavy damage from the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, is now a ghost town.

Fortunately, all 77 students Ukedo Elementary school, located 500 meters from the coastline of Fukushima, were evacuated safely.

"You guy can accomplish anything"

“You guys can accomplish anything,” reads the whiteboard.

Messages, probably written by students or teachers before leaving the area, can be seen written on the school’s whiteboard.

On the stage it says"Congratulations to the New Graduates "

“Congratulations to the new graduates.”

This last photo shows the school gym with a banner hung to to celebrate graduation day.

If you want to explore the no-go zone yourself, head over to Google Street Views.

J-blip: Shitamachi gets flash-mobbed

Friday, April 12th, 2013

One day in March, in a shopping arcade in Tokyo’s Asakusa, two tap dancers, along with a human beatbox, broke into a song and dance routine. A few minutes later they were joined by more dancers, including a moonwalking and miming salaryman. Just as they were hitting their groove, a housewife swooped in and tried to break it up. “Let me show you how its really done!” she scolded, and proceeded to lead the dancers. Before the innocent bystanders knew what hit them, more than 200 dancers had joined in on the act.

The large-scale flash mob event, titled TRF EZ DO Dancercise, was the work of Exabody, a company that offers dance courses aimed at people who want to lose weight. Exabody hired 11 pro dancers and the rest of the participants were volunteers. With the blessings of the Asakusa City Hall, the event organizers used nine cameras to document it and speakers were installed to amplify the music.

Whether it goes viral or not, remains to be seen. Judging by the appearances of pedestrians and unsuspecting shop-owners, though, the event was success in at least putting a smile on people’s faces.

Makankosappo: high school girls conjure up a special force

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Joshiko Dragon Ball Z redux

Trending-setting high school girls are at it again. The latest extracurricular craze is call Makankosappo, which is the name of the move that killed the main character Goku in the popular anime.  In homage to Dragon Ball Z, these clever high school girls, through the magic of photography and careful timing, are staging scenes in which they blast away their classmates with powerful ki (気), or “special beam cannons.”

The creative variations on the Makankosappo theme keep coming, and so far the the love shown on Twitter has resulted in more than 20,000 retweets. Can’t say we’re surprised. They’ve got special power that forces you to smile.

First spotted on Livedoor News 

J-blip: Google Street View Cherry Blossom Edition

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Google Street View

People come from all over the world to get a short glimpse of Japan’s blooming cherry blossoms. Google is taking advantage of this worldwide sakura passion to show off their virtual-tour map feature with Street View Sakura Edition, which shows cherry blossom scenes not only in normal pictures but also as 360-degree panoramas. It’s actually more like Path View, as in most of the scenes you can navigate off the main roads.

While you don’t get to see petals actually scattering to the ground, it’s always warm and sunny on Street View, even as clouds and rain are subduing some of the peak viewing days in the real world this spring. The Blossom Edition features sites from Kyushu all the way up to Aomori, including about 50 different spots, and gives information such as the number of cherry blossom trees, the area they cover and, in some cases, the history of the locations. Even someone in Japan wouldn’t be likely to have the luxury of seeing all these locations without this technology.

If you are in Japan and looking for spots to look at the blossoms, check out our post on hanami technology. But hurry! The blossoms came out ahead of schedule this year and won’t last long. For more virtual cherry blossom viewing, check out our page of reader  cherry blossom photos and hanami experiences from last year.

Photo report: FOODEX Japan 2013

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

FoodEx is the largest trade exhibition for food and drinks in Asia, with about 70,000 visitors checking out the products presented by hundreds of participating companies. I was lucky to enter as press; otherwise, visitors must be affiliated with the food industry — and pay ¥5,000 — to enter.

The FoodEx menu is global, including everything from  cherry beer from Germany and premium Mexican tequila to top-class French and Chinese dumplings. The event was a rare chance to try out both well-known and exotic foods and even see professionals making them.

In addition to booths offering traditional Japanese favorites such as udon and maguro sashimi, there were plenty of innovative twists, such as dorayaki, a sweet snack made of two pancakes and a red-bean filling, that came in coffee and tomato flavors.

While I was there I was lucky to catch the World Sushi Cup Japan 2013, where top chefs from around the world were competing … and presenting a wide range of styles that you would not normally see in Japan, like the flower makizushi above.

J-blip: Ramen cake

Friday, March 1st, 2013

At Machi no Kumasan (“The Town Bear”) bakery in Takasaki, they’ve recently added ramen, soba and pork katsu to their menu. That’s right, a bakery. A closer look shows the dishes are actually sweets made of pudding, chocolate and creamy Mont Blanc chestnut paste cunningly shaped to look like savory dishes. Not surprisingly, they’ve gone viral on the web.

We called Ken Ichikawa, the bakery’s head chef, to get the sweet low-down. “I wondered if we could make a cake that looked exactly like the ramen on instant noodle packages,” he said. Obviously, it was a success since many customers are fooled by the lovingly crafted details … from the ramen noodles in the glassy soup to the slices of pork (chashu) sitting on top.

Even Ichikawa himself says he is amused when a customer comes in and orders a ramen. “It’s a funny thing to hear that in a bakery, no?” he says with a laugh. The ramen cake is the same size as a regular bowl of ramen, about 18 cm across. Ichikawa says that on busy days, they make about 40 of them a day.

Ichikawa says he’s thinking of ending the ramen cakes at the end of the month. As for the next surprise, Ichikwawa said, “That’s a secret.”

Machi no Kumasan is at 1436-2 Minami Oorui Takasaki-shi, Gunma-ken

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