Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

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: Youtube Space Tokyo

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Calling all J-vloggers! YouTube Space is coming to Tokyo. YouTube Space is a facility made by YouTube to help people make better videos for their YouTube channels. The facility offers users a chance to learn video production on high-end professional equipment. YouTube Spaces opened last year in Los Angeles and London. The Tokyo studio facility will be located in the Roppongi Hills complex, where Google has its high-altitude Tokyo digs. One of the several studios has a sweeping view of the Tokyo skyline.

Did we say “all” vloggers? Not so fast. It looks like the Space will be open to YouTube partners, and only those who make it through the selection process, which begins April 1, according to TechCrunch. But make the cut and you get access to a production stage, recording studio and control room, not to mention a green-screen room for special effects. Hand-held equipment will be available for check-out, too. Good luck!

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.

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.

 

 

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 →

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