Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

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.

J-blip: Take splat — teenage girls delight in cream puff war

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

High school girls are taking a cream puff to the face in celebration of their birthdays

High school girls are taking a cream puff to the face in celebration of their birthdays

Cream puffs, or choux cream as they are commonly called in Japan, are flying through the air and exploding messily in the faces of unsuspecting schoolgirls. According to Livedoor News, the phenomenon of “ganmen shyu kuri-mu” (in-your-face choux cream), is trending right now on Twitter amongst high school girls. The idea is to lob a cream puff into the face of your friend to celebrate their birthday, or indeed any other happy occasion. It seems that rather than being upset at being assaulted in this way, those attacked are happy to post photos of their faces smothered in cream along with comments like: “I just got choux creamed in the face ( ̄▽ ̄)♡.” or “Thanks for my ‘in-your-face choux cream’ and thanks for the towel. This has been the best birthday.” Tweets of choux cream attacks are still coming thick and fast.

Photo courtesy of Wikicommons.

Boys who like girls’ manga for girls who like boys who like boys

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

boyz

Playing with a loaded gun

If you go down to the Boys’ Love section of Animate in Otome Road in Ikebukuro today, you’ll most likely see, alongside the crowds of fujoshi (“rotten girls”) browsing the stacks for a fix of sugar sweet boy-on-boy romance, the occasional guy checking out the mildly titillating depictions of young gay love. Yes, Fudanshi are boys who like manga written by girls for a female audience about boys who like boys, and, according to J-Cast, they’re on the rise.

Though Boys’ Love — yaoi — is a niche genre that’s been going strong for some time, with a fervid if furtive following of female fans, up until recently it was thought that men had little or no interest in the scene. Indeed, with their own, far more explicit “bara” (or Mens’ Love) titles, gay men have generally scorned the rather treacly voyeuristic erotic fantasies of female Boys’ Love authors.

Now, however, more and more fudanshi are coming out of the woodwork. J-Cast reports a lot of fudanshi activity on Twitter. Tweets tend to be imagined romances between pop idols or favorite anime characters, as well as discussions between those who share the same interests. A 2chan fudanshi thread has also attracted a lot of traffic. One 2chan user explained how he got into the genre: “My eyes were opened thanks to the influence of my sister.”

The influence of older sisters, a fondness for shōjo manga (young girls’ manga) or mistakenly buying a boy’s love dōjinshi (amateur manga title) featuring a well loved character from a favorite manga or anime, were all reasons cited for stirring up a passion for boy’s love in male hearts.

Taimatsu Yoshimoto,  a self-described fudanshi who does research into the history of the otaku, agrees that fudanshi appear to have increased lately. He’s quoted by J-cast as saying, “It’s a hidden hobby, but around ’05 to ’06 society began to be a lot less censorious of fujoshi, that is, those who’d previously hidden it would introduce themselves as fujoshi. On Mixi and Twitter men calling themselves fudanshi started to appear.”

Fudanshi can, of course, be gay, but they are also bisexual or even straight. “Fudanshi Nante Yomu no?” is a blog by Tamaki, a self-confessed Boys’ Love manga fan. In his profile he describes his sexuality this way: “If you had to sum it up in one word, I’m gay. I’m not interested in any other guys apart from my boyfriend, but because I like women I guess you could say I’m bi.”

It’s hard to say just how many fudanshi there are out there as Boys’ Love continues to be a secret passion even among female fans. However, we were interested to note that the Japanese Wikipedia page on Otome Road states that fudanshi have been spotted shopping for Boys’ Love in the area.

Photo courtesy of Jamiecat.

The bird is the latest word in animal cafes

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eurasian_Eagle-Owl_Maurice_van_Bruggen.JPG

Whooo would like a cup of coffee?

 

For feline fanciers who aren’t allowed to keep pets at home, Japan has no end of cat cafes. But now bird lovers of a feather can also flock together at Tokyo’s new wave of cafes that host birds of prey. According to Daily Portal, this burgeoning trend started with Café Little Zoo in Chiba. A cafe that houses not only a number of owls and hawks outside its doors, but also reptiles within. Visitors to the cafe get to hold and pet the animals under the supervision of staff. The cafe is now so busy that groups of four or more are advised to make reservations.

Tori no Iru Cafe

Tori no Iru Cafe — where the birds are

Also taking reservations due to a flurry of recent media coverage is Tori no Iru cafe near Kiba station on the Tozai line. The shop is home to a Harris Hawk, a Eurasian Eagle Owl, parakeets, parrots and other birds.  Here too, customers are allowed to pet and hold the birds — while a staff member watches like a hawk, of course.

The manager, Ms. Toriyama,  opened the establishment after keeping birds as pets herself. Although she gushes in her  Daily Portal interview that owls are quiet and easy to take care of, a British charity called the Suffolk Owl sanctuary begs to differ. The sanctuary emphasizes that birds of prey are unpredictable creatures with sharp claws that do not take well to confined spaces. Indeed, according to the BBC, high numbers of owls were abandoned in the UK last year for just this reason, after the popularity of the Harry Potter films triggered a trend for keeping the birds as pets. All the more reason, perhaps, that owl-lovers might want to visit the birds instead of trying to keep them at home.

Fukuro no Mise (“owl shop”) near Tsukishima station has sweaters, cards and other goods shaped like or decorated with owls, as well as items to help you raise your very own owl at home. (However, the sanctuary recommends building an aviary to keep owls — we can’t help but wonder where a Tokyoite might find the space for one.) At Fukuro no Mise, just like at the other bird cafes, owls that have been raised in captivity to be docile can be held and petted for the price of a cup of coffee. Their talons are trimmed and their beaks are filed to reduce scratching.

At the Falconer’s Café in Mitaka, falconry enthusiasts bring their own birds to compare and contrast. The concept of this cafe is rather similar to dog cafes where dogs are not held captive within the cafe but brought along by their owners. Though Japan isn’t the most litigious of societies, bringing together small children and birds of prey doesn’t strike us as the brightest of ideas for a business. Smoothed claws aside, it might take just one nasty scratch or peck to ground this trend before it really takes flight — or at least to ruffle a few feathers.

Photo courtesy of WikiCommons.

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.

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.

 

 

“Fasting guys” not interested in women – at all

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

The Japanese media is lamenting the decline of red-blooded males and the rise of "fasting guys" in their place. Photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr

The Japanese media is lamenting the decline of red-blooded males and the rise of “fasting guys” in their place. Photo: Tambako the Jaguar

For the last few years, the Japanese media have been dishing out label after label in an attempt to describe the modern Japanese male. The latest tag they’ve pinned on these much-analyzed specimens is the term zesshoku-kei danshi. Literally, “fasting guys,” these are guys so uninterested in women that they don’t even – gasp – have a favorite female TV talent or idol.

The moniker is a play on sōshoku-kei danshi, a phrase coined by the media a few years ago. These so-called “herbivore guys” preferred, like the fabled brontosaurus, to graze peacefully. Which is to say, they showed little ambition in romance, or likely their careers, either. The term proved to be a big hit, resulting in a whole glossary of hilarious spin-off words (see below). But the fasting guys make the herbivores look downright ambitious. In fact, some women have taken a liking to the gentle herbivores and the term has become a lot more neutral than its original critical tone.

Fasting guys exploded on the internet around the end of last year, following a survey of single men released by marriage match-making company O-net. The results were published on sites like Nico News and were subsequently tweeted like mad.

According to the survey, 12.1% of those aged 25-29 and 16.1% of those aged 30-34 – or about 14% total – identified with the “fasting” group. That’s roughly the same percentage as those who self-identified as nikushoku-kei danshi, red-blooded “meat-eating” types.

Of the fasting guys, half reported that they’d never had a girlfriend. Some 70% said it had never once occurred to them to get married.

Tough luck for all the women pining for Sagawa-danshi – the guys who work for the delivery company Sagawa Express and who have been fashioned by the media into pin-ups of the strong, dependable type.

However, not everyone is buying into this new development. The top-ranked commenter on the Yahoo story (to which over 7,000 readers clicked “I agree”) says, in sum: “Of course you’re going to get these results if you survey single men. The ones who haven’t got it together by 30 are going to be the inexperienced or uninterested ones.”

The internet also abounds with warnings of fake fasting guys – ones who pretend to be uninterested in women to mask their own wounding unpopularity with the opposite sex.

Don’t take it too hard, guys. At least you still get to be “guys,” unlike women who, in the past, have been makeinu (“loser dogs” – women who don’t marry, but are probably otherwise successful) and kurisumasu kēki (“Christmas cake” – women unmarried after 25, considered past their sell-by date).

A Glossary of Modern Japanese Males

nikushoku-kei danshi (肉食系男子; carnivore guys): Classic macho guys who go after what – and who – they want.

sōshoku-kei danshi (草食系男子; herbivore guys): Shy guys who don’t make a move; prey for the growing number of nikushoku-kei josei (carnivore girls).

roru kyabetsu danshi (ロールキャベツ男子; roll cabbage guys): Guys who appear to be herbivores but are actually carnivore to the core; named for the classic yōshoku (Japanese-style western food) dish of cooked cabbage stuffed with meat.

asupara bēkon-maki danshi (アスパラベーコン巻き男子; bacon-wrapped asparagus guys): Guys who come across as carnivores but later reveal themselves to be herbivores; named for the yakitori dish.

zasshoku-kei danshi (雑食系男子; omnivorous guys): Guys who will go with whatever works.

zesshoku-kei danshi (絶食系男子; fasting guys): Guys with zero interest in women.

Photo: Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr

Sisters are DIYing it for themselves

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

With the economic outlook for Japan continuing to look gloomy, the cost of “getting a man in” to do those odd jobs around the house is getting way too high for the average single girl. Increasingly, over the past couple of years, however, young women are picking up a hammer and taking matters into their own hands by enthusiastically having a bash at do-it-yourself projects. The trend is a natural progression from the surge in interest in handicrafts, and, with big name hardware store Tokyu Hands putting out special DIY Jyoshi (DIY girl) displays this past autumn, it looks like this new breed of power-tool empowered women is here to stay.

DIY Jyoshi Bu, a website set up in March 2011, is at the forefront of the trend. A network of female DIY enthusiasts, local groups hold workshops to pass on skills like building shelves or hanging wallpaper. Since an article appeared about the burgeoning trend in the Yomiuri in March last year, membership has rapidly risen from 170 to 653. The focus is on helping beginners get started by teaching the basics of woodwork, gardening, decorative painting and home decoration.

In a recent interview for Sankei News, Maki Kaneuchi the leader of the Kinki branch of DIY Jyoshi, told readers why she thought DIY was booming amongst young women: “About five years ago there was a boom in handicrafts. I feel that the DIY boom among women is an extension of that. It seems like among women there’s a sense that they aren’t content with just buying things, they want to make something for the family.”

Girly web store Felissimo has also gotten in on the act by launching their own Jyoshi DIY web store that sells a range of DIY goods aimed at women, such as cute pots of “rose garden” wood stain. Not only that, but a team of female Felissimo staff members write a blog about their own DIY projects, giving readers tips on how to undertake projects like reupholstering chairs or repainting tables.

Tool manufacturers have also taken note of the trend. Kakuri, based in Sanjo, Nigata produces a range of lightweight tools that are easy for women to use. The range includes a small saw for detailed work and a half-size drill. Perhaps inevitably, there are companies who believe that if it’s for “girls” it’s got to be pink. Hence Cainz hardware stores are now flogging hot pink electric drills and screwdrivers. Cainz also stocks a small pink tool kit that can be easily stored on a bookshelf or, perhaps, popped in an over-sized handbag.

There are quite a few books on the market now showing women how to get busy with a hammer and nails. The most recent title was published in June last year and was written by actress Joshiko Nakada, who has been a keen DIY enthusiast for more than 30 years: “When I was in my 20s I went to work in Germany. During that time I was stunned to see young couples renovating their own homes with materials they’d bought themselves. Because of that experience, when I returned home I had a go at hanging my own wallpaper and liked the feeling that I was able to do it myself.”

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