Archive for the ‘News/media’ Category

Google Street Views goes inside a Fukushima school

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

As everyone knows, Google Street Views lets you wander around 3D visualations of remote locations, giving you that You Are There sort of experience. Last year, the Street Views team traveled to Fukushima’s Namie-machi, making it possible for everyone to experience Japan’s no-go zone.

Straying from the usual Street View approach, the Google team actually went inside a building for this expedition. One of them is Ukedo Elementary School, and the images of its abandoned school rooms are heartbreaking.

“We love Ukedo elemantary School and we will be back”

Namie-machi was evacuated right after the explosion of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The location, which suffered heavy damage from the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, is now a ghost town.

Fortunately, all 77 students Ukedo Elementary school, located 500 meters from the coastline of Fukushima, were evacuated safely.

“You guys can accomplish anything,” reads the whiteboard.

Messages, probably written by students or teachers before leaving the area, can be seen written on the school’s whiteboard.

On the stage it says

“Congratulations to the new graduates.”

This last photo shows the school gym with a banner hung to to celebrate graduation day.

If you want to explore the no-go zone yourself, head over to Google Street Views.

“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

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

Hit the road: Japan’s 2013 trend forecast

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

'Long Trail' hiking is Trendy magazine's number one trend pick for 2013

‘Long Trail’ hiking is Trendy magazine’s number one trend pick for 2013.

In 2012 we got cat-ear hair-dos, an increasing appetite for salty mold, and a tower with a silly name. What wonders will 2013 bring? We’ve gone through Trendy’s predictions and came up with a list of themes that look good to us. Basically it boils down to this: smart phones continue to up the convenience factor, and people have to work harder to get away from convenience and to make up for all the energy it saves.

People will get moving – even more

Running and hiking have been big the last few years, and Trendy predicts that this will continue, and that people will invest even more in these hobbies. The magazine anticipates that hikers will head further into the hills, taking to what it calls the “long trails” that are dozens (possibly hundreds) of kilometers long, mostly in the Alps of central Honshu.

Naturally, these overnight trips will require more gear than the yama girls have acquired thus far, including camp stoves and camp stove-operated mobile phone chargers. Hikes deep into the heart of the country also fit in nicely with other growing interests that have been driving travel trends recently, like history and power spots.

Dieting will be more palatable, and fun

One of the biggest hits of 2012 was Kirin’s Mets Cola. Billed as the world’s first health-soda, the product claims to inhibit fat uptake. It got tokuho billing, the government-issued health food label usually reserved for products like bio-yogurt. Trendy anticipates that other ordinary edibles will ramp up their ingredients to qualify as tokuho products, and that 2013 will see more typically sweet things – from donuts to umeshu (plum wine) to teriyaki sauce – getting the low-calorie treatment with sweeteners like D-Psicose. Likewise, “water enhancers” like Kraft’s Mio Energy, which look like colored eye-drops but presumably have a Crystal Lite effect, look to make good, old-fashioned water more palatable to soda addicts.


Fujitsu’s “Wandant” dog pedometer automatically uploads data to the cloud. Photo courtesy of Fujitsu.

Trendy also sees gadgets that gamify weight-loss and fitness, like Nike’s FuelBand and Panasonic’s EW-NK63 pedometer – both of which beam data to smartphones – as being likely hits in 2013.

And (sigh) it looks like Fujitsu has gone and made a pedometer for dogs, the “wandant” (“wan-chan” being the word for puppy). As the pampered puppies of years past are now overweight middle-aged pooches, we’re probably going to see more human-driven weight-loss and exercise trends trickle down to the canine population.

Smartphones work their way further into our lives

Now that we’ve confirmed that Japanese consumers are buying into smartphones, it is likely that we’ll see more crossover products on the market. Expect more digital cameras that allow you to upload photos to a smartphone over Wi-Fi – like Nikon’s new Coolpix S800C, which is also an Android device itself – to hit the market in 2013, says Trendy.

Last year Moleskin introduced its “Smart Notebook” series, which is designed to sync nicely with the popular smartphone app Evernote. According to Trendy, Japanese office and school supply manufacturer Kokuyo (they make those ubiquitous “Campus” notebooks) has now launched its own series of smartphone-ready stationary, CamiApp, along with its own app.

Pulsations (12.07.12)

Friday, December 7th, 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 . . .

  • Breastfeeding doublespeak in Japan (from StarryBrooke): A new mother discusses Japan’s seeming inclination towards formula milk and its take on a healthy infant’s recommended weekly weight gain.
  • Dead Sensei Society (from Little Japan): Need to let out a few sniggers at work? This web comic features a “bumbling ex-pat who loves Japan, and reluctantly and inexpertly teaches English in order to stay.” Art imitating life, it seems.
  • The frustration of fruit (Japan As I Find It): Blogger Ciara airs her frustration with the cut-throat prices of fruit in Japan. Has your intake of natural vitamins taken a dip since moving here, too?

Visual Pulse

Good news, Doraemon fans. You’ll soon be able to relive your childhood, for the tubby and resourceful blue cat will be back on the big screen this coming March. Keep your fingers tightly crossed that the world doesn’t end on the 21st of this month…

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).

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 or 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.

Bagel head trend is a big distortion

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

La Carmina with two hosts from Fuel TV, who featured – and received – bagel heads on camera. (photo courtesy of La Carmina)

It would appear that the Western media have, yet again, conjured up a “Big in Japan” trend.

If  “bagel head” means nothing to you, here’s a recap: “Taboo,” a show on National Geographic, ran a segment earlier this week on a kind of extreme body modification that has been happening in Japan’s underground for years. It involves injecting saline into the forehead and then sometimes putting a depression into the bulge in a way that comes out looking like a bagel or a doughnut.

Predictably, U.S. media outlets such as the Huffington Post, CNN and Mashable, and the U.K.’s The Sun and Daily Mail quickly turned out attention-grabbing stories that insinuated that this was the latest Japanese trend. “Japan’s hot new beauty trend?” asks the HuffPo headline, for example.

People outside of Japan seem to be taking the “news” at face value. A tweet from @OMGFact about the “Japanese trend” has been retweeted hundreds of times.

Most observers in Japan, however, know better. @SublightMonster tweeted “Bagel heads: hot new trend, or yet another lazy journalist turning in yet another ‘wacky Japan’ piece?” @Mulboyne, a British Twitter user based in Tokyo, wrote that he was surprised to run into some bulging foreheads at an underground party in 2009. He told us the hardcore body-modification fans there simply called it “seerin durippu” — saline drip. “One reaction was ‘Kimochi warui!‘ (gross!). It looked a bit unsafe,” he said. “There was a lot of amusement, too, of course.”

To set the record straight, we spoke with La Carmina, a well-known subculture blogger and TV host. Her team, La Carmina and the Pirates, actually did the legwork for National Geographic. They hooked the producers up with Kerropy Maeda, the man who brought this type of saline injection to Japan in 2007 after seeing it in Canada. La Carmina and her crew even supplied the show with its models. (To learn more about Maeda and the Tokyo scene, read this excellent interview in Vice  published last year.)

Continue reading about bagel heads →

Pulsations (07.13.12)

Friday, July 13th, 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 . . .

  • Paying for it  (from This Japanese Life): Part 3 of the series, “On Pretending to Know about Education in Japan,” this post outlines the costs of different forms of schooling and the burdens that education places on families living below the recently acknowledged poverty line. The author argues that the current Japanese system is outdated and causing societal stagnation. Along with parts 1 and 2, it’s an interesting read for anyone who’s curious about Japanese education.
  • Nakae Architects: Tracing True South (from Design Boom): We’ve all seen pictures and plans of fascinating eco-friendly buildings. In many cases, though, especially when they’re seen surrounded by conventional structures, the design sticks out like a green thumb. “Facing True South,” a project by Nakae Architects of Tokyo, addresses this issue. Located in Kamaishi, Iwate Pref., the house utilizes passive solar design while maintaining respect for the town’s traditional look.
  • Painting Fujiyama (from One Hundred Mountains ):  Did you know there was once a U.S. military proposal to desecrate Mount Fuji by having B-52 bombers cover it in gallons of red paint? Perhaps you’ve made the trek to the summit, but did you know there is a less-travelled Maruyama Trail, which dates back to the 16th century. Learn about these factoids and more in this writeup of Harry Byron Earhart’s book “Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan” … or just buy the book.

Visual pulse: Jed Henry’s recent playful reimagining of videogame characters as they might have been portrayed in the Edo Period is given another spin, this time by veteran woodblock printmaker David Bull, who is actually rendering Henry’s illustrations in ukiyo-e. In this video, Bull gives a detailed explanation of “proofing” — the test image done before an entire edition.


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