Archive for the ‘News/media’ Category

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 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.

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.

Today’s J-blip: Yoshitomo Nara for No Nukes

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Last Friday, depending on whose estimates you believe, as many as 40,000 protestors gathered in Tokyo to send a message to Japanese Prime Minister Noda over the government’s decision to restart two nuclear reactors at the Oi power plant. Their rally cry? Simple and to the point. “No Nukes!” Later today, protest organizers hope to have over 100,000 protestors gather to make sure the message is reiterated, loud and clear.

And they’ve got some help. Popular contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara has been outspoken against the use of nuclear energy for many years and his painting of a young girl carrying a No Nukes sign has become a major icon in the movement. Last week he tweeted (@michinara3) that he wouldn’t mind if people borrowed his 1998 book “Slash with a Knife” from a library and photocopied his “NO NUKES girl” to use for protest, as long as they didn’t plan to profit from it. You can download a high-resolution version at A3 size here.

 

Tonight’s protest is 6-8 p.m. in front of the Prime Minister’s office in Nagatacho. More information is available in Japanese at Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes.

Pulsations (6.29.12)

Thursday, June 28th, 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 . . .

  • Why raising the consumption tax is a good idea, and good politics (from Mutant Frog): A must-read for anyone who wants to engage in the debate. Blogger Adam Richards offers a reasoned argument on why raising the consumption tax is good fiscal policy as well as a wise political move. The debate in the comments is smart, too.
  • Fujimori’s new “Trojan Pig” tea house (from Spoon & Tomago): Japanese architect extraordinaire Terunobu Fujimori is famous for designing striking and unique tea houses. His latest creation, which has been likened to a “trojan pig,” does not disappoint. But why a pig?
  • Sculpture or photography? (from Art It): We all know photographs can freeze a moment in time, but have you ever considered sculpture as a medium for doing so? Artist Rirkrit Tiravanija has. Read about how he started creating these full-size scenes, his ideas, inspiration, and latest solo exhibition at Gallery Side 2 in Tokyo.
  • Japanese photo exhibit on Korean “comfort women” sabotaged (from Global Voices): During World War II, the Japanese military forced tens of thousands of foreign women into sex slavery for soldiers overseas. Known as “comfort women” these victims were made to endure horrible atrocities. Ahn Se-Hong, a South Korean photographer who documented the now aging women, has faced numerous obstacles leading up to and during his Tokyo exhibition.
  • Green-roofs in Saitama Prefecture (from Japan for Sustainability): No, those aren’t weeds you see growing on the roof of your local konbini. Well, they might be, unless you live in Saitama Prefecture. The region has introduced a green-roof project for local convenience stores, which can help off-set carbon emissions.

A time-lapse video of Toyota engineers customizing their new, family-oriented concept car, the Camatte.

Pulsations (06.23.12)

Saturday, June 23rd, 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 . . .

  • How to Spend 3 Nights in Tokyo All Included on ¥10,000 ($US125) (from Tokyo Cheapo): While some tourists in Japan spend at least ¥10,000 a night for a hotel alone, others prefer to spend the same amount for their entire stay in Japan. Impossible? Well, these guys claim they have a plan for spending three days in Tokyo for just ¥10,000, everything included!
  • 1929 Japanese animation “Kobu tori” (from Japan Sugoi): Here is your chance to see the 1929 Japanese anime “Kobutori” by Chozo Aoji and Yasuji Murata. It is a 10-minute piece featuring two old men with large lumps, the “kobu” in the title, on their faces. They encounter similar situations, but one has a good temper while the other has an evil one.
  • Pots made from radioactive soil collected from within the Fukushima exclusion zone (from Spoon & Tamago): That’s the fascinating but radioactive idea Hilda Hellström had for her senior thesis show at the U.K.’s Royal College of Art. The project indeed is historical as the artifacts will always remind us of the most serious nuclear disaster in human history.
  • Lesbian invisibility in Japan (from Japan culture blog): Lesbianism is not as widely discussed as male homosexuality in Japan, where women are expected to be primarily good wives and wise mothers. Ramona Naicker explains how three decades ago, plenty of lesbian activist groups emerged seeking change but were forced to shut down due to lack of support.
  • Why Do Japanese People Wear Surgical Masks? (from Tofugu): I have been asked several times why so many Japanese people wear masks in public spaces. I did not know how to answer this question until I stumbled upon this post on Tofogu. Find out if you should be wearing one, too.

A former Australian rugby captain puts his unique skills to use on a rush-hour Tokyo train.

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