Archive for the ‘J-blip’ Category

J-blip: Face Chocolates

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers, using a 3D scanner and printer, at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Does it look like me? Workshop to make chocolate doppelgangers at FabCafe. Photo courtesy of FabCafe

Valentine’s Day is big business in Japan. We’ve seen a lot of confectionery one-upmanship, but nothing quite like FabCafe’s jibunsei chocolates (self-styled chocolates).

A chocolate replica of your own face might look more kimoi (creepy) than oishii (delicious), but for the 15 people who participated in a two-day workshop the week before Valentine’s Day, the draw was the experience: getting to test out the 3D scanner and printer used to make the silicon molds. The workshop cost ¥6000, or about twice as much as an overpriced box of Godiva. To see more pictures of the process click on the gallery below.

FabCafe, a café-cum-workspace (with a laser cutter you can rent by the hour—or use to burn your own Valentine’s designs into macarons), is run by Loftwork, an “innovation consultancy;” it is also downstairs from 3D printer showroom Cube. “We were brainstorming together about how the 3D-printing technology could appeal to consumers, when we hit on the idea of Valentine’s Day chocolates,” explained Loftwork PR rep Kazue Nakata.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is for women to give chocolate to men; men return the favor on White Day, March 14. FabCafe is planning similar workshops for men in March. They haven’t officially announced it yet, but keep your calendar open if you’ve always wondered what you or your man would look like as a Gummi Bear.

Check out FabCafe’s own report of the event (in Japanese) and more great photos here.

J-Blip: Mini kotatsu a cozy spot for singles

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Warmth for one

The humble domestic kotatsu is enjoying something of a revival since the disaster at Fukushima made the nation painfully aware of the need to conserve energy. The device is a table with a heating element underneath and a warm blanket draped over it keep one’s legs nice and toasty; without using up excess energy, the kotatsu has been keeping families huddled together in the winter months since its charcoal forerunner first warmed feet in the 14th century.

But what about those living alone, who want to bring down their electric bill but might not have room for a large kotatsu table?

Enter the mini kotatsu heater from Yamazen. On sale from September last year, Tokyo Walker reports that 18,000 of these tiny heated tables have already been sold. A wooden cage around the heating element protects the skin from nasty burns and a large blanket means that you can stretch out on the floor while enjoying the heat it kicks out. The device is also portable and can be placed under a desk to keep feet toasty while browsing the web. If you’re interested in buying one, Rakuten has them in stock for 5,580 yen.

Today’s J-blip: Anti-Loneliness Ramen Bowl

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Had enough fun playing with your food? For the times you find yourself having a meal alone and wishing for some virtual company, your solitude can now be relieved with the Anti-Loneliness Ramen Bowl.

Conceptualized by MisoSoupDesign, the dish comes with an in-built iPhone dock that gives you a hands-free way to do the things you’ve already been awkwardly trying to do with your phone as you slurp away. This could be the ideal resting spot for your virtual dinner date. The bowl was created after one of its designers, Minnie Jan, witnessed a man eating with one hand while browsing through his phone with the other, she told the New York Daily News. “We did it for fun — it’s kind of sarcastic,” the paper quoted her as saying. But we think there might be a market for it in Japan. As Japan Pulse has noted, plenty of Japanese diners eat alone, and there is no shortage of restaurants catering to them. These solo-friendly place settings would make a lot of sense in hitorisama establishments.

The bowls will come in black, white and red and the company is now accepting a limited number of orders via email (info@misosoupdesign.com) and Facebook. The price has yet to be announced, but they are expected to arrive around April or May. Whatever happened to simply savoring the experience of feeding the body, though? How about some tips on mindful eating? Yes, you can read them on your phone.

 

 

J-blip: flu report app

Friday, January 11th, 2013

The U.S. is in the midst of a particularly severe flu season and Google’s trend map for Japan shows a near-vertical spike in flu searches in the last weeks. Apart from washing your hands regularly, eating healthily and staying fit, there’s not much you can do to prevent getting infected. Or is there?

A new Android app from Docomo called “Your Area’s Influenza Report” allows users to keep an eye on the spread of influenza in their own locality and, if they’re thinking of taking a trip, check ahead of time to see if that area is an influenza hotspot or not.

The app draws data from the Infectious Disease Early Detection System designed by The Infectious Disease Information Center at the National Institute of Infectious Disease. Daily influenza forecasts are extrapolated from prescription information gathered from pharmacies and absentee records for schools. Info includes a report on the dryness level of the air, as drier air is associated with easier spread of flu.

Armed with this app, the modern-day Howard Hughes can decide whether it’s worth risking an outing to a different area or not, or indeed whether it’s safe to leave the house at all!

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: 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.

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.

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