Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Tweet Beat: #tof2013, #ビフォーアフター, #rubykaigi

Friday, June 7th, 2013

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

Good memories for “Tales of” fans

Tales of Festival 2013 (#tof2013) was held June 1 and 2 at the Yokohama Arena. The annual event is put on by Bandai Namco for fans of the “Tales of” RPG series that has been going strong since 1995′s “Tales of Phantasia.” The biggest news was that “Tales of Symphonia” and “Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World” (originally released on GameCube and Wii respectively) are getting upgraded and ported to PS3 as “Tales of Symphonia: Chronicles.” The main draw, however, was the chance to see series voice actors perform original skits live. Each day was different, so there was a lot to take in. Comprehensive reports on both days are online on various sites, but if you regret not making it to Yokohama, watch the official page for news of the DVD release.

Did you even know pro wrestlers lived in a dorm?

On June 2, Asahi Broadcasting Corporation’s home make-over show “Daikaizou Gekiteki Before After” (hashtagged as #ビフォーアフター) aired a two-hour special about  ”a dorm whose fighting spirit is almost burned out,” the dorm of . . . the New Japan Pro Wrestling crew. According to the show recap, besides a myriad of spacial issues, the foundation was held together in some places with packing tape and poking a hole in the wall was as easy as laying a hand on it.

One of the major changes was adding a lobby to connect the dorm, dojo and bathing area, but Liger‘s new room was especially impressive, having been tailored to his taste for tatami:

People laughed at some of the staging, felt inspired by the positive attitude of the athletes and noted that Tanaka and Kobayashi got a follower bump  (yet another before and after).

Rubyists gather in Tokyo

If you know anything about Ruby, you know it was born in Japan. #rubykaigi, the conference for Rubyists (people who code in the Ruby programming language), came back in 2013 after taking last year off. For three days from May 30-June 1 at the Tokyo International Exchange Center, participants celebrated the release of Ruby 2.0 with talks focusing on a variety of projects, including a robotics framework, not to mention the past, present, and future of Ruby itself and how programmers can stay involved in the community. This time there was Ja-En interpretation available.

Beyond being a great place to learn about developments in the Ruby world, it was apparently also a great place to eat lunch (handed out by no less than the creator of Ruby himself, Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto). One participant met an old friend after 15 years. If you weren’t able to attend, talks that were filmed will be available on Vimeo soon.

Pulsations (06.02.13)

Sunday, June 2nd, 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

Japanese feline Internet sensation, Maru, has turned 5 years old. In his latest video, he can be seen trying to squeeze his frame into just about anything. We find his attempt at a paper envelope particularly entertaining.

Tweet Beat: #真4, #ソクラテスの死, #キスの日

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

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

Demons and Samurai

“Shin Megami Tensei IV,” the first numbered title in the Shin Megami Tensei role-playing game series in 10 years, was released on May 23 in Japan. Between the anticipation of the release date, the build up of PR like the 10-minute gameplay video above and the tweets of fans buying and playing the game, it’s not surprising that the hashtags #真4 (“shin”) and #メガテン4 (“Megaten” is the series’s nickname among fans) would trend.

“Shin Megami Tensei” is known for its brutal difficulty. One player finds a humorous way to say he was annihilated in the tutorial. This time around, the characters are samurai from the Mikado Kingdom, but they still become stronger via the series hallmark of negotiating with demons for help. The game is due out in North America July 16.

“The Death of Socrates” as re-created by Japanese students

Jacques-Louis David painted “The Death of Socrates” in 1787. According to Plato in “The Apology of Socrates,” the great thinker was sentenced to death by poison for “act[ing] unjustly in corrupting the youth, and in not believing in those gods in whom the city believes, but in other strange divinities.” David’s work is said to be somewhat historically inaccurate, though it is nonetheless famous.

In fact, it’s so famous that some Japanese students decided to re-create it as a photo the other day. Once tweeted May 25, with the hashtag #ソクラテスの死 (“The Death of Socrates”) the image promptly blew up (on a popularity trajectory that had it beating out a tweet from kawaii idol Kyary Pamyu Pamyu by some metrics) as people expressed their interest in giving it a shot, wished they had enough real-life friends to be able to pull it off or just laughed.

Taking creative photos like this has been a popular hobby lately, it seems. You may remember Makankosappo but have you seen the “Attack on Titan” meme yet?

Kiss Day

May 23 is #キスの日 (Kiss Day). No, really! It commemorates the first time a kissing scene was shown in a movie in Japan, which, by the way, was the premiere of Yasushi Sasaki’s “Hatachi no Seishun” in 1946. People tweeted a lot of kissing pictures, whether of celebritiesDisney characters, dolls or their single selves. There is also plenty of fan art, even some featuring Harry Potter characters.

Can Etsy’s crafty goodness be recycled in Japan?

Monday, May 27th, 2013

On May 16, NTT DoCoMo launched d creators, an online market service for creative people in Japan. Similar to Etsy, all the items available are handmade and the content is user generated. Unlike Etsy, though, to sell and buy via the website, you will need a Japanese bank account and purchases are made using bank transfers. This means that it’s likely that the majority of products are being designed and made in Japan, and judging from the exhibition held last weekend (May 25-26) at Daikanyama T-Site Gallery, quite a few of the goods do appear to inspired by Japanese aesthetics.

The website was created for NTT DoCoMo by the advertising agency Dentsu, who have so far curated the current sellers and their goods. Predictably, some of the chosen creators may be familiar to those who like to peruse Tokyo’s design stores. There’s Kokechi’s kokeshi dolls, for example, and Ribbonesia’s brooches. The standards are pretty high, and prices vary, but anyone is allowed to sell products via the site, so there will be more variety in the future.

Products available online include interior goods, accessories, tableware, art, fashion, textiles — even comics, novels and essays.

There’s also information on hands-on workshops led by sellers, the next one being held by Ribbonesia at the Fab cafe in Shibuya on June 9.

Tweet Beat: #NintendoDirectJP, #華麗なる公式 , #デザフェス

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

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

The latest news from Nintendo

When Nintendo has something to announce, it has been tending in recent years to do it via a Nintendo Direct presentation. These streaming events allow “direct” communication with fans of their games. On May 17 the latest #NintendoDirectJP included a special focus on Sega. The next three Sonic the Hedgehog games will be made exclusively for Nintendo platforms; “Sonic: Lost World” is slated for release on Wii U and 3DS this fall. Sega is also bringing “Yakuza 1 & 2 HD” to Wii U in Japan.

Another highlight was downloadable content for “New Super Mario Brothers U” called “New Super Luigi U” with 82 revamped Luigi-only levels. It will also be available as a stand-alone Wii U game. For the the full details of the presentation, check your local Nintendo Twitter account: @Nintendo, @NintendoAmerica, @NintendoEurope.

The “magnificent” presence of official Twitter accounts in Japan

If you follow Japanese companies on Twitter, you may have noticed some of them have boatloads more personality than you might expect. Forgoing stiff PR and capitalizing on the “social” in “social media,” accounts such as @kumamototaxi (a taxi service), @enganbus (a bus company), and @imuraya_dm (food company known for red bean sweets) became known as #病気公式アカ (“sick official accounts”) last fall (perhaps because it seemed as if they had gone off the deep end). The tweets that chronicle the history of the hashtag are archived here.

suggestion from @nhk_pr that they come up with something less insensitive to people who are actually suffering from illness led to adopting #華麗なる公式 (“magnificent official [accounts]). For a good example of how these accounts interact with each other, see this collection of tweets between @tanitaofficial and @sharp_jp. Note the liberal emoticon usage.

So how did #華麗なる公式 end up so trendy this particular week? It’s hard to say for sure, since it’s continuously active, but I’d like to think because of this play on words by the Japan Self Defense Force Miyagi Provincial Cooperation Office:

They were having trouble cooking their Friday curry, but the best part is the hashtag duo: #華麗なる公式 (karei naru koushiki, “magnificent official [accounts]“) is joined by #カレーなる金曜日 (karē naru kinyoubi, “curry Friday”).

Design Festa Vol. 37

The “international art event” #デザフェス (“dezafesu,” short for “Design Festa”) vol. 37 was held May 18 and 19 at Tokyo Big Sight. Just browsing the tweets gives a great taste of what was on offer as exhibitors posted photos to promote their booth and attendees were documenting on the fly. If you’re distraught over discovering this gathering after the fact, don’t despair! Vol. 38 is already on the calendar for Nov. 2 and 3.

Fighting for their lives, local governments shell out for matchmaking services

Friday, May 24th, 2013

If you’re single, looking for love and live in Itoigawa city, Niigata Prefecture, the local government will be happy to pick up the hefty tab for registering with an online dating agency. According to a recent article in J-Cast, the municipality of Itoigawa has taken the unusual step of partnering up with professional matchmakers Zwei in the hopes that young local singletons will find love through the web.

Itoigawa municipality is offering to pay sign up fees for marriage hunting website Zwei

Itoigawa municipality is offering to pay sign up fees for marriage hunting website Zwei

Declining birth rates threaten the future productivity of Japan, so it’s in the best interests of local government to help romance bloom between residents via konkatsu (marriage hunting) activities. By lending financial support to machikon (large-scale singles mixers),  konkatsu seminars, day trips and group dates, the local government obviously wants its citizens to make babies.

Unfortunately there’s little hard data available to show whether spending public money on konkatsu activities actually leads to  marriages. In March 2011 the Cabinet Office published a survey on marriage and family structures. Out the 1698 municipalities that took part, 552 had actively supported konkatsu activites. However, 283 of these had stopped these activities because of a perceived limit to their effectiveness, lack of funds and a decline in demand. Some simply held one event and that was it.

Itoigawa, however, don’t seem to have done too badly. Since it began supporting konkatsu activities in 2007, 18 local couples have tied the knot. Feeling it could do better and hearing about a similar scheme in Inami, Wakayama Prefecture, where the municipality helped citizens out with Zwei’s fees, Itoigawa decided to call in the professionals.

Single people aged 20 or above who’ve been living in Itoigawa for more than a year and are up to date with their residency taxes can get the initial fees of ¥63,840 (roughly $621) paid by local government; however, they will have to foot the monthly membership fees themselves. Zwei offers quite a comprehensive service, not only organizing omiai (interviews to gauge marriage potential between parties), but also mixers where people might find someone special.

It’s too early to say if this scheme will be a success. In Wakayama, four people applied for financial support with fees for Zwei in 2011, though it’s not known if any of these led to marriage. Nobody applied in 2012, despite inquiries from parents with unmarried children.

One of the key stumbling blocks might be the stigma attached to online dating in Japan. The launch of Xlace, another konkatsu website, back in April this year, however, does seem to indicate that the market is slowly growing; whether other local governments will also enlist help from online dating agencies to stimulate couple generation remains to be seen.

Interest in final resting places never dies

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Can't afford prime real estate in Aoyama Cemetery? Have we go a deal for you.

Can’t afford prime real estate in Aoyama Cemetery? Have we got a deal for you.

With graveyards often located on the outskirts of cities, visiting the family grave to perform memorial services can be somewhat of a mission for busy families. But new businesses have now eased the burden for many with new “graveyards” built within office blocks conveniently located in cities. Nowadays these crypts can even be visited virtually by those who are physically unable or too busy to make the trip.

Syunkei-ji high-tech crypt offers virtual memorial services for busy relatives

Syunkei-ji high-tech crypt offers virtual memorial services for busy relatives

The high-tech graveyard business is growing, according to a recent article in the Yomiuri. Scheduled to open its doors in 2014, a six-story crypt just five minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station will offer 7,000 spaces to store the ashes of loved ones. Built on prime real estate, the project indicates that it is potentially more profitable to rent out space in a building for “burial” slots rather than for offices or apartments. A similar crypt opened in 2009 in Machiya in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward has now filled 70 per cent of its 3,400 capacity.

Two kinds of new-school cemeteries are now crowding the final resting place market. The first is the simple “coin locker” variety where remains are stored in a slender box that family members can visit. The second is more high tech. Activated with an electronic key card, a robotic arm retrieves the funereal urn of a loved one from a storage shelf and places it in a special booth. Relatives can perform memorial services in peace as photos of loved ones are displayed on the screen above them.

Burial slots in these buildings go for far less than a plot in a traditional cemetery and have the added convenience that family members can get to them easily and even fit in a spot of shopping or some lunch afterward. Those too busy to get there can take advantage of virtual memorial services offered by organizations like Syunkei-ji. When you log in to make your visit, a priest chants sutras as you pray for your relative from the comfort of your own home.

In a final resting place side-note, visiting old school graveyards has become a popular pastime for some Japanese, as has the  hobby of visiting the graves of celebrities. Enthusiasts trade info on the web , take guided tours offered by volunteers and consult books such as “Tour the Graves of Celebrities all over Japan.”

A team of volunteer guides at Zoshigaya Cemetery in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, show visitors the graves of famous people such as writers Natsume Soseki and Kafu Nagai. According to Asahi Shimbun, visitors come from as far away as Shizuoka. They’re not only interested in seeing the graves, but are also drawn to the peaceful environment of these old-fashioned graveyards.

April Fool’s in Japan — the joke’s on you

Monday, April 1st, 2013

April Fool’s Day doesn’t have very deep roots in Japanese culture, but obviously branding creatives and open-minded corporations are seeing the potential benefits of making potential customers laugh. Rather than pulling a fast one, these pranks put their silliness up-front and center.

Ika

>

Never runs out of batteries, glows in the dark and easy to handle.

Introducing the iKA Organic Ebook from publisher Kodansha. Drawing its power from the squid’s natural bioenergy, there’s no need to recharge the batteries. The iKA’s long tentacles serve as a handy neck-strap, it glows in the dark and has endless supply of ink. The iKA is provided via a subscription service, which delivers a fresh squid each week (note:  size and weight may vary). You get the added bonus of being able to cook and eat the old one (special squid dish recipe available to early buyers!). How’s that for eco-friendly technology?

Domino's can pizza

Don’t you hate how unwieldy pizzas can be? Dominos’s new canned pizza is not only compact, it’s long-lasting, so you can stock up your bomb shelter and never go without a slice!

giant squid

Need something with a bit more substance? How about Hanamaru Udon‘s giant squid, caught daily by harpoon fishing and fried up as tempura, from  That will be ¥87,000, please.

Silky

Taking aim at Line, the runaway hit app of the past year, search site Goo offers Silky, the old favorite for free and simple communication. And you can send silly stamps too!  And  yes, it’s biodegradable tech, too?

Forcebook

We have to give full props to Eiga.com, a movie info site, for its execution of Yoda’s account on Forcebook. They got every detail right … from George Lucas friending J.J. Abrams to  Anakin Skywalker changing his account name to Darth Vader to R2D2 denial of Jar Jar Bink’s friend request. One ad shows has Imperial Storm Troopers raising funds to rebuild Death Star. May the forceful guffaw go with you.

By the way, did you spot this one in The Japan Times. I mean we highly admire professor Mogura Tataki’s mission to eliminate society’s bias against lefties but  something tells us we’re being pawned.

 (Research by Shinjin Ono and Kazuhiro Kobayashi)

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