Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Pulsations (12.21.12)

Friday, December 21st, 2012

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 . . .

  • Ugai: Japanese People Love Gargling (from AcessJ): The Japanese aren’t the least bit bothered by gargling in public restrooms. If you like avoiding colds and want to up your oral hygiene game, maybe you shouldn’t be, either.
  • Omisoka: Japanese New Year’s Eve (from Zooming Japan): 2012 wasn’t as pleasant as you had hoped? Dismiss it from the mind with a bounenkai party: a gathering to forget the year. Learn more about the customs for oshogatsu and you just may find yourself purchasing a kagami mochi or two.
  • Welcome to the World of Tsugaru Shamisen (from A Modern Girl): Know what separates a Tsugaru shamisen from a regular one? This modern girl explains the difference and talks about her experience at a recent performance. She also shares clips of the music.
  • A Requiem Service for Broken Needles-Hari Kuyou (from Iromegane): Even needles get a day of appreciation in Japan; aside from getting their own Shinto service, these pointy tools are stuck into tofu, konnyaku or mochi so that they may have somewhere soft as a final resting place. Ah.

 Visual Pulse

This independent documentary, though only 14 minutes long, offers enough insight on what the ruthless economy has done to its people. Do you think this nation really heading south with no room for recovery?

 

Pulsations (12.14.12)

Friday, December 14th, 2012

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 . . .

  • Tips & tricks for the game centre, or: the spoils of war (from Tiny Plastic Food): Hate walking away from UFO catchers empty-handed? This self-described blonde, Japanese-speaking game-center addict tells us which game centers (at what time) are most likely to give up the goods — and how to know when to just walk away.
  • A is for Advertising, Part Two (from Vivian in Japan): Blogger Vivian collects posters and scenes around town that make us do a double take. And in Japan, there is a lot of stuff that makes us look again. And again. Also check out part one.
  • Kanji, Kanji Everywhere (from J-List Side Blog): The kanji of the year is out — it is kin, Japanese for gold. Know what is currently the most popular name for a girl? Hint: at present, every other anime seems to have a character with that name.

Visual Pulse

This HDR time-lapse video of Tokyo is perfect for reflecting on city life with a beer in hand. It’s easy to become self-absorbed in this fast-paced society and to forget that things will always continue to keep going, with or without us.

 

Japan’s top 10 buzzwords for 2012

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

And the winner is . . .  wairudo darō (wild, isn’t it? ワイルドだろぉ).

Every year Jiyu Kokuminsha, which publishes an annual tome of new words, selects its top buzzwords – or more often than not, catchphrases — for the year. And today the committee picked Sugi-chan’s profound words as the year’s best.

A popular comedian, Sugi-chan (real name Eiji Sugiyama) is known for his tough-guy parodies. In September he broke his back while filming a stunt for a TV Asahi variety show, so maybe he’s also getting a sympathy vote here.

Still, it’s a far cry from last year’s winner and symbol of national pride, Nadeshiko Japan, the women’s soccer team.

Here’s the rest of the top 10 (chosen from an original pool of 50):

iPS saibō (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, iPS 細胞): The discovery – of how to turn ordinary skin cells into stem cells – that earned a Nobel Prize in medicine for Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University.

How low will they go?

LCC (short for Low Cost Carrier): This year saw the birth of several budget airlines — Peach Aviation, Air Asia Japan and Jet Star Japan – which promise to upset the reign of JAL and ANA and change the nature of domestic travel in Japan.

Ishin (restoration, 維新): A nod to controversial, ambitious Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and his political party Ishin no Kai — later broadened to the national Nippon Ishin no Kai – both of which dominated news headlines this year.

Shūkatsu (end activities, 終活) A play on the word for “job-hunting” (also pronounced shūkatsu, but spelled with different characters) that became popular with Boomers making preparations for “the end.”

Daisan kyoku (third power, 第3極): Another political entry, referring to the potential for a third party – possibly the tenuous collaboration of Hashimoto and former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara – to shake things up.

Bakudan teikiatsu (爆弾低気圧 literally “low pressure bomb”): A rapid drop in atmospheric pressure that precipitates a sudden and intense storm, like typhoon Guchol, which caused dramatic flooding, injuries, and rail line closures in June.

Chikai uchi ni (In the near future, 近いうちに): In August Prime Minister Noda promised to declare parliamentary elections “in the near future.” Elections will finally take place later this month.

Tebura de karaseru wake ni ha ikenai (We can’t let him go home empty-handed, 手ぶらで帰らせるわけにはいかない): Said by Olympic swimmer Takeshi Matsuda after Japan took silver in the medley relay about his teammate Kosuke Kitajima, who failed to win any medals in the individual events. Even though Kitajima has four golds from previous Olympics.

Tokyo Solamachi beats out the big Skytree

Tokyo Solamachi (東京ソラマチ Tokyo Skytown): We’re not sure why this – the shopping center under Tokyo Skytree – beat out the tower itself.

To be honest, the results were a bit disappointing – and not just because a few of the trends we’ve covered over the past year failed to make the final cut (like shio kōji, Tanita Shokudō and Sagawa danshi).

Seeing as this was a year of ongoing protests and politicians making bold statements in favor, or against, taking all nuclear plants offline, surely genpatsu zero (no nukes) should have made the top 10.

None of the web-related words – sōkatsu (social media job-hunting), netōyo (internet nationalists), or ii ne! (the Japanese version of Facebook’s “like”) –  made the final list either.

We were also rooting for bimajo, “beautiful witches” who seem to defy aging.

This year was, oddly, not without scandal. The word namapo was struck from the list at the last minute, for fear that it promoted discrimination against the poor.

Namapo is a contraction of seikatsu hogo – Japanese for “welfare” (the first character can also be read as “nama”). The word spread on Internet forums, becoming part of the web’s colloquial language. Welfare recipients have been increasing in Japan, to the tune of 5,499 a month, and a successful (read: wealthy) comedian, Junichi Komoto, was  slammed by the media earlier this year when it was revealed that his mother was living off of welfare (rather than her son).

Pulsations (11.30.12)

Friday, November 30th, 2012

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 . . .

  • They put it in their legs (from Amanda in Japan): This blogger discusses the misery some foreign women may face when shopping in this “thin is in” nation and the pervasive obsession with weight loss and beauty here. Safe to read with a snack in hand, for she ensures that you will go away with an extra dollop of self-worth.
  • What Happens After You Die in Japan? (from Tofugu): Everybody’s got to think about meeting with their maker some time. Find out how you’ll be dealt with upon death here and how the cellphone will be involved in the future of Japanese graves. What?
  • Why don’t Japanese Buddhist monks do alms rounds? (from Japan Explained): Why is Japanese toast so thick? Why do tengu have long noses? This site provides answers to questions you never even thought to ask — what are the random similarities between Japan and Turkey, anyway? We hope you’re not reading at work; once you start it’s hard to stop.
  • Driving in Japan: Does Cuteness Save Lives? (from Marshmallow Sensei): Do cartoon figures dispensing reminders about driving safety really do the job? Matt explains the main difference between Japanese safe-driving instruction and what he learned at home.

Visual Pulse

Highlights of Japanese TV commercials for weeks 46 and 47 of 2012, including this year’s Coca-Cola Santa. Check out other uploads on this YouTube channel if you’re in the mood for a Japanese TV commercial binge.

Today’s J-blip: Kasō Taishō’s YouTube channel

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Traditionally in Japan, oshogatsu is when families gather and celebrate the passage of the old year into the new one. Various customs are honored without fail, but when all is said and done and eaten, one of the biggest recent-day traditions involves the clan coming together in front of the TV.

A large chunk of this tube-watching is focused on the cult of celebrity, from the spangled jamboree of  ”Kōhaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Song Battle)” on New Year’s Eve to the dozens of shows featuring comedians and starlets answering quizes, running marathons, visiting exotic places and so on. For this reason alone, “Kinchan & Katori Shingo no Zen-nihon Kasō Taishō” stands out from the crowd as a tribute to the common man. Broadcast on Nippon Television since 1979 (at its peak, three times a year; now only around New Year’s and in spring), the contest salutes the passion of amateurs.

This week NTV launched a  new Kasou channel on YouTube. Currently, 30 videos of past contestants are on offer, organized into various playlist categories (humor, performance, technique). Whether it’s precision choreography, athletic feats, adorable kids or just damn clever visualizations, most are worth a click. The videos are missing the post-performance deconstruction of how they did it, but at least you are spared the manic vaudeville emceeing.

Continue reading about Kasō Taishō →

Pulsations (11.02.12)

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

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 . . .

  • Pepsi Energy Cola — How does it taste? (from Grinning Studios): Pepsi Energy Cola is back, and Darth Vader is endorsing it. Blogger Grin gives a brief review of the drink and tells you where you may find it before it vanishes off the shelves again.
  • JapanaEight: Eight things that scare us (from Japanator): Think “kigurumi” cosplayers are creepy because you don’t know who’s underneath all that extra padding, and if they are wearing anything? Terrified of introducing women to your large anime figurine collection? You just may have something in common with one of these eight contributors.
  • Renewing my driver’s license (from Dru’s Misadventures): Need to renew your driver’s license here soon but don’t know what to expect? Blogger Dru shares his own experience with the process.
  • A giant pop-up jungle gym emerges in Tokyo Midtown (from Spoon & Tamago):  For young and old Tokyoites alike, Design Tide Tokyo 2012 is offering a giant wooden playground. You should hurry if you wish to check it out, though; it will be taken down on Nov 4.
  • Halloween in Japan 2012 (from The Japan Times): We know you read The Japan Times Online daily, but just in case you missed it on the first scroll …

Visual Pulse

The Japanese performance group World Order has released a music video for their song “Permanent Revolution.” The video, a commentary on the recent disputes among the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans, delivers the message that “We are all one” in a lighthearted manner. The members act as robot-like sightseeing, feet-soaking salarymen who, at the end, sign peace treaties with their other Asian counterparts. Nothing quite eases tension a little the way humor and goodwill do, no?

Today’s J-blip: ‘Yurei Attack!’

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Who you gonna call?

Want to get rid of that strange woman who’s been watching you sleep at night, the one whose feet aren’t touching the ground? Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt may have just the help you need in their recently published little encyclopedia, “Yurei Attack! The Japanese Ghost Survival Guide.

The authors offer deep insight into yurei, figures in Japanese folklore who died under savage circumstances and who are now doomed to seek revenge until someone gives them proper funeral rites. The book also tells you why there is (probably) no need to be afraid. In addition to a biographical fact sheet and background story for each yurei, the book details how every one executes its attack and, more importantly, how to survive an encounter should you have the misfortune — or fortune, depending on your tastes in adventure — of meeting with an impassioned Japanese spirit. Already being haunted? This book may just be your saving grace.

Embellished with dozens of colorful illustrations, the guide not only embodies information on 39 unfriendly and vicious Japanese specters but discusses haunted places in Japan and the occult games one may play if trying to invoke a demon. For what, we don’t know, and we’re not going to ask — though if you do attempt these games we won’t be expecting to hear from you anytime soon.

Oiwa, of the famed kabuki play Yotsuya Kaidan, is one of the featured ghosts, and it is recommended that one visits the Tamiya Shrine at Yotsuya if bedeviled by her. We’ve been there, and the shrine, albeit small and set right in the middle of a residential area, does have something creepy about it. But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Not that we were being haunted. Unless nightmares count . . .

Whether out of plain interest or out of the desperate need to combat your own yurei attack, you can purchase the guide through Amazon Japan. Also check out its predecessors “Ninja Attack!” and “Yokai Attack!” That should cover your bases against just about any made-in-Japan misfortune that may befall you.

 

Bunpei Yorifuji’s ‘Wonderful Life with the Elements’

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Remember that kid who doodled all through your chemistry class instead of taking notes? Now imagine if that kid had an encyclopedic knowledge of the elements as well as a knack for drawings that made everyone giggle behind the teacher’s back.

Bunpei Yorifuji’s Wonderful Life with the Elements

That’s the feeling we get flipping through Bunpei Yorifuji‘s “Wonderful Life With the Elements.” Yorifuji is well known for his series of Tokyo Metro manners posters that urged riders to, among other things, “do it at home.”

Though the pull-out periodic table poster looks at first like a random collection of whimsical yellow guys, every part of each endearing little dude is carefully designed. From their ages, hair styles, and clothing (or lack thereof) to their weight and facial hair, every, well, element of each element matters and tells you something about each substance. (It might remind kanji nerds of the way kanji radicals add up.)

Most of the elements get their own pages. Illustrations show key properties (toxic thallium is soft like butter) as well as where they turn up in daily life (“Sodium compounds are great for housework!”) and beyond (boron is key in both fake movie snow and roach poison). There’s a section on eating the elements that compares the elements contained in a Japanese vs. a Western breakfast.

We learn which elements like to stick together for good, like the “digital semiconductor trio.” Troublemakers are grouped together, too, like the elements that were used to attack subways in Tokyo as sarin gas and to poison a pot of curry in Wakayama. They appear as benign-looking acrobatic combinations, perhaps suggesting that the elements themselves aren’t evil.

We wonder if future editions might address elements that have gained new prominence. Things have changed since the original Japanese version (元素生活, genso seikatsu) came out in 2009. Japanese scientists created Ununtrium for the first time just last month. Cesium, the subject of thousands of post-Fukushima articles, gets no more than a nod as a natural timekeeper, and there’s no mention of the problems that iodine can cause when its radioactive version is ingested.

The English version, published by geeky U.S. imprint No Starch Press, is available in Japan through Amazon.com or Amazon.jp. The original is at bookstores all over Japan and online. There is a bit of Japanese scattered throughout the book, including each element’s Japanese name and Chinese character, but not their readings. The book may be too late to help many of us pass our chemistry tests, but it’s a great second chance to get to know the elements as the individuals they are.

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