Archive for the ‘Otaku culture’ Category

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).

Manga inspire women to embrace ‘male’ hobbies

Friday, November 30th, 2012

From enthusiastic train spotters to history buffs, young women are getting into hobbies that have been traditionally thought of in Japan as being mostly for men. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly down to changing attitudes towards gender roles, but both of these trends were in part due to the popularity of manga that presented these hobbies in an appealing light to a female audience. With manga so popular with young adults these days, it’s more than likely that the next big hobby trend amongst women could well be fueled or even ignited by a popular manga title. Indeed, according to Nikkei Entertainment, the next male hobbies to be embraced by the fairer sex will be shogi, rakugo and mah-jongg.

”March Comes in Like a Lion” might inspire a trend among women for shogi

Manga and anime for adults has been increasingly popular since the 1990s. “Tetsuko no Tabi,” for instance, was serialized in the weekly manga magazine Big Comic from 2002-2006 and adapted into an anime in 2007. It tells the true story of female illustrator Naoe Kikuchi accompanying travel writer and train freak Hirohiko Yokomi on a tour of Japan’s railways. Soon tetsu-ko or tetsu-chan (female train-spotters) could be seen at railway stations checking out the rolling stock.

Similarly, reki-jo (female history buffs) caught the bug after being inspired by titles such as “Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story.”

So what’s next? Well, it seems like shogi, which is known as Japanese chess, is already attracting an increasing number of female spectators at professional matches and this could well lead to increasing numbers of female players.

Two popular shogi titles —  “Hachi-one Diver” and “Hirake Goma!” — have been going for a while, but the title that’s particularly drawing in the ladies is “March Comes in Like a Lion,” which combines both romance and game play in its storyline. Winning the Annual Manga Taisho in 2011 and the Kodansha Manga Award in the same year, the series has been a huge hit.

Rakugo, a stylized Japanese form of storytelling, is already enjoying a renaissance, especially among women, who now make up about 50 percent of rakugo audiences. This has only been strengthened by the serialization of “Jyoraku” in 2009, a manga about a female rakugo storyteller. Hopefully this will inspire more women to to perform themselves in this traditionally male-dominated field.

The popularity of the manga “Saki” might inspire a mah-jongg trend. First serialized in 2006, the manga tells the story of a bunch of high school girls getting into mah-jongg. Now that a third anime adaptation of the title is in production, perhaps high school girls will soon be clamoring to play the game, in just the same way that female high school students were inspired to pick up the guitar and form bands after the phenomenal success of the K-On series.

Fans irked by a nuclear-free Doraemon

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

A reference to Doraemon’s internal nuclear power plant has been erased for the Big Doraemon Dictionary

Japan’s antinuclear movement is still going strong, but when the news came out  that Doraemon, everyone’s favorite robot cat, had lost his nuclear power source, fans were not impressed.

@FUKUBLOG, a sharp-eyed Twitter user, posted a photograph of the Big Doraemon Dictionary, in which the reference to a power source for Doraemon has been erased from the page. The original version shows that Doraemon is powered by his own nuclear reactor which, rather than plutonium or uranium, runs on anything he eats. Indeed, built with future technologies, Doraemon has so far been able to run around and fly in the sky without triggering an internal meltdown.

The reason for this omission is more than likely related to the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Doraemon fans, however, are not reacting well to this PC makeover. “So how on earth is Doraemon powered then?” tweeted one.  “A non-nuclear Doraemon isn’t Doraemon,” wrote another.

When the story was reported in Byokan Sunday, 2chan users reactions included: “So what should we do after this change? He moves by solar-powered battery or something?” and “This kind of deletion is not necessary.”

Many others were worried about the future fate of Atom Boy and his rather unfortunately named younger sister Uran-chan (Uranium girl). Will they be switched to alternative energy sources?

Today’s J-blip: kabe-don

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Picture the scene: A blushing girl is dashing off somewhere when all of a sudden a tall handsome guy slams his hand against the wall in front of her, she’s flustered, there’s nowhere to hide, their eyes meet and . . .  If you’re a fan of shōjo manga (manga aimed at teenage girls), you’ve no doubt seen this scene countless times and maybe even groaned a bit as the hackneyed plot device is once again wheeled out. The situation has been nicknamed “kabe-don” by manga fans, as “don” is an onomatopoeic word for thunderous sound, in this case created by a hand slamming into a kabe (wall).

This month a spate of parodies that turn the situation on its head have been produced by playful Twitter users, giving rise to the “semi-don,” and the “ten-don,” among others.

A whole new vocabulary has been born: There’s the “standard” don where a boy blocks a girl’s escape with one arm and the “slightly wild” don in which her escape is blocked by a leg. But the most popular parody by far has been the semi-don (cicada don) that, according to J-Cast, was first posted by a Twitter user on Oct. 13 as a panel of four drawings riffing on the kabe-don idea. The final panel shows a girl being completely cornered by a boy who is blocking her exit not just with both hands, but both legs too, like an insect clinging to a wall. The tweet was retweeted more than 20,000 times and lead to a number of people posting tribute photographs of themselves performing this difficult feat.

Following on from the cicada don we’ve now had the “ten-don,” in which a girl is cornered by a giant bowl of tempura and rice, the Pteranano-don, in which the flying dinosaur traps its prey in a corner and most successful of all with more than 10,000 retweets the “neko-don” featuring a pile of cats in a corner, presumably on top of their victim. Because “don” could also refer to a drum beat, it’s also common to see kabe-don parodies featuring WadaDon from Namko’s “Taiko: Drum Master” game taking the role of the “ore sama” (guy who’s a bit full of himself) lead.

Twitter is the perfect medium to disseminate this kind wordplay coupled with a one-shot visual gag, and it seems like manga fans both young and not so young are having a ball creating and re-tweeting kabe-don parodies. When it all dies down, we’re wondering which manga cliché will next receive an online dressing down. We vote for the one where a guy trips over a girl and lands on top of her, inadvertently touches a boob and receives a slap.

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.

Today’s J-blip: Virtual Japanese trainspotting

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Obsessed with watching Japanese trains go by? Now you can indulge your hobby regardless of bad weather or friends who just don’t get your hobby — whether you’re in Japan or not.

The website Tetsudonow (“railroads now”) has elevated trainspotting to a new level by allowing viewers to watch virtual trains zip around the major cities of Japan on a Google map mash-up.  Twitter users in Japan were bubbling with excitement yesterday, with some tweeting that the illustrated trains move in real-time. If only. The site’s explanation says that the trains actually move in accordance with their weekday timetables, so the map doesn’t reflect delays, stoppages or weekend schedules.

The navigation tools do, however, let you see the routes of most major railways in Japan at any time of day. To hobbyists’ delight, the trains are all labeled with their actual line colors and approximate shapes, so you can tell a green Yamanote train from a snub-nosed shinkansen at a glance. Click on any moving train to see where it’s coming from and where it’s headed.

Now you can trainspot with a bag of popcorn in one hand and a Coke in the other from the comfort of your swivel chair with no one jostling or judging you. Us? We wouldn’t judge you.

Pulsations (9.28.12)

Friday, September 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 . . .

Visual Pulse:

Need something to perk you up at work besides coffee? Try Morning Rescue, a Japanese energy drink popularized by the anime “Puella Magi Madoka Magica.” What would you do if a group of men dressed in orange overalls smashed through your ceiling and popped up right next to you so early in the morning?

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