Archive for the ‘Tech/web/mobile’ Category

‘Japan Sumo Cup’ is possibly the most Japanese thing ever

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Do you like sumo? Into horse racing? Longtime fan of “Street Fighter”? Well, then do we have a game to match your specific and varied interests.

Japan Sumo Cup” is a free web-based game that — prepare yourself — lets you play as real sumo wrestlers riding actual horses from the Japan Racing Association while competing against characters from “Street Fighter.”

No, this isn’t a joke. The Japan Racing Association developed the game with the Japan Sumo Association and Capcom to help promote an upcoming race on Nov. 29, and also created the most Japanese thing in quite some time.

In this rhythm game, players can choose from different sumo wrestlers and then compete against characters from Capcom’s popular fighting series, including Blanka, Guile and M. Bison. The best part is that there are many nods to “Street Fighter” in “Japan Sumo Cup,” such as Dhalsim riding an elephant instead of a horse.

Each fighter’s stage comes with a remixed version of their background music from the original game, and they even perform their signature moves when the race gets close. Ryu shoots out his Hadouken blast and Chun-Li does her Spinning Bird Kick.

Ryu gets an extra speed boost by shooting out one of his Hadouken blasts.

Ryu gets an extra speed boost with one of his Hadouken blasts.

In order to win, players have to tap the arrow buttons on their keyboards at the right moments to rack up combos and win the race. Since the beats match the music from “Street Fighter,” old-school players who have the original soundtrack burned into their brains will have a leg up on the competition.

With this game, the JRA and Sumo Association, long the pastimes of elderly men, are clearly trying to reach out to the next generation. It kind of reminds us of when JRA put QR codes on betting tickets in 2002 or when the Sumo Association held “gokon” matchmaking events at one of its matches.

You can place your bets now on whether or not this joint venture pays off.

“Japan Sumo Cuo” can be played for free online. The site says that more characters will be unlocked later this week.

YouTubers in Japan with 100,000 fans and counting

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

As more and more people turn off the TV in favor of the Internet, YouTube Japan is recognizing some of its top celebrities who are drawing in millions of people to their videos.

The company threw a big celebration for more than 20 YouTubers living in Japan who each have over 100,000 subscribers. The channels range from expats explaining Japanese culture to girls giving out makeup advice. Here are some of the channels honored at YouTube’s event.

1. Bilingual Chika’s fun and informational videos aim to help Japanese people learn English and to help everyone else to understand Japan. Her videos range from simply explaining grammar points all the way to reproducing English fairy tales.

2. Chihiro shares her beauty tips with the world with monthly favorites and test trials of 100 yen store makeup — Chihiro reviews it all. Scattered within these reviews are also a number of vlogs about her life.

3. Daichi Beatboxers name pretty much says it all: Daichi Beatboxer is a beatboxer named Daichi. His channel consists of performances, experimental content and collaboration videos with artists such as Hikakin.

4. Einshine’s channel has one primary theme: anime. Whether it be in his videos about gaming, vlogging or animation, the topic of anime almost always seems to make an appearance.  

5. Kobasolo is a musician, producer and charismatic goofball. Showing off his talent in full blown music videos or covers, Kobasolo’s musical skills really shine through.

6. Kumamiki’s channel is a collage of different do-it-yourself and do-yourself-up videos. In addition to her beauty and makeup tutorials, Kumamiki also vlogs and tries out a variety of food.

7. Melodee Morita is a TV reporter and director who has made her way to YouTube. On top of her travel videos, her videos feature tips on how to act, eat and exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

8. Rachel & Jun are more than just a friends. This married couple shows a unique perspective on living in Japan as both a foreigner and native to the country. Whether filming together or alone, their videos tend to revolve around topics relating to Japan.

9. SekineRisa’s channel is a guide for all things glamorous. Her videos include travel, shopping hauls, makeup tutorials or a combination of the three, and Risa does it all in style.

10. Sharla in Japan is almost like an Internet tour guide for all those looking to visit or learn more about Japan. When she’s visiting theme cafes or discussing Japanese fashion, Sharla always seems to do it with a smile on her face.

11. Takutaku is a gamer with a focus on horror games. His take on games such as “Hide and Seek and “Entity helps make the games feel a little less terrifying.

12. Dekakin runs channel where, whether combining nine hair products into one or drinking cold water in a bathtub full of ice, his humorous personality is the star.

13. Haiji’s channel is a collection of food vlogs that are sure to make your mouth water. When he’s enjoying cheap sushi or ordering two large bento at once, viewers might feel a mix of hunger and jealousy.

14. Miki Pon provides makeup and hair tutorials for every season and every cost. Those who love her style can mimic it in the real world with her product collections.

15. Suzukawa Ayako is a family-oriented mother who loves her kids and cars. Her videos range all the way from visiting museums with her children to assembling models of toy trains.

So there you have some of the top vloggers in Japan. While they may not be household names just yet, their dedicated group of fans are probably refreshing their channels right now hoping for a new video.

Finding laughs in translations that have lost the plot

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Move over Google Translate; Orikaeshi Honyaku is here with questionable translations that are tickling the funny bone of the Twittersphere.

Orikaeshi Honyaku (折り返し翻訳) can roughly be translated to “folded up translation.” The Orikaeshi Honyaku Dictionary site boasts the catchphrase “from Japanese to Japanese.” After inputting any Japanese phrase and hitting the search button, the dictionary proceeds to translate the phrase first into English, then into Dutch, then Italian, and finally back into Japanese.

The news of the website has spread rapidly through social media, prompting users to input lines from their favorite TV shows, old Japanese sayings and even their innermost desires.

The website encourages visitors to share the “before” and “after” directly with their Twitter followers. Users are eager to share their creation with the hashtag #折り返し翻訳.

There is no science to the madness of Orikaeshi Honyaku, but the results, while rarely accurate, are often hilarious.

“I can’t finish my report” → “There is no report”

“Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!” → “Windows 7! Windows 7! Windows 7! Windows 7! Windows 7!”

“I’ll eat it even if it’s gone bad” → “This food was brought up spoiled”

“I don’t want to work for the rest of my life” → “I want to work forever”

“It’s my turn!” → “That is up to me!”

Plugging in Japanese phrases that are hard to translate to begin with produced similar results. よろしくお願いします, which roughly means “Please take care of me,” becomes ありがとう (thank you), and 頑張ります, which is something like “I’ll do my best,” is simplified to 良い (good). My personal favorite is お世話になります, a phrase that means something along the lines of “Thank you you for your kindness” or “I’m happy to be working with you,” which becomes — very roughly — ”I tried differently” when put through the system.

Additionally there are a couple other interesting bugs: a search for the translation of any emoji will return a poop emoji, and typing in a famous anime title like “Angel Beats” will usually translate it into the title of a rival show.

No doubt Orikaeshi Honyaku serves to highlight the weaknesses of machine translation, but for sheer entertainment value, some things are better lost in translation.

Sharp dials up the fan service to celebrate 20 years of ‘Evangelion’

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

For those who have always dreamed of owning an Evangelion robot, this might be the closest you get.

Just in time for the 20th anniversary of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”  a mecha lover's wet dream (Kyodo photo)

Just in time for the 20th anniversary of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” a mecha lover’s wet dream (Kyodo photo)

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the popular “Neon Genesis Evangelion” animated series, Sharp is releasing a special smartphone that pays homage to the show both in the device’s hardware and software.

The phone itself is detailed in purple and green with a backside decorated with an Evangelion mech. Naturally the phone’s custom interface echoes the show’s iconic purple and green coloring. For the extra devout, there’s a special themed phone cover.

Perhaps the biggest fanboy perk is 365 different wallpapers that feature illustrations and concept art from the show. Its calendar app will reveal a new wallpaper each day of the year. In addition, the phone will have original character voices and sound effects from the anime.

“Evangelion” fans can apply for the phone, which costs a hefty ¥84,240, at 7-Elevens nationwide on Nov. 2 (or register online). Make sure to suit up and grab yours because the company only plans to make 30,000 units, to be divvied out in December (5,000) and April (25,000).

Tokyo plugs into Google Play Music

Friday, October 16th, 2015

If you haven’t heard the latest news from Google Play, you may have missed your opportunity to tune into a Google Play Billboard. From Oct. 8-24, music lovers can head over to Shibuya to, literally, plug into a selection of over 3,500 songs.

The Google Play Billboard is meant to give visitors a much-needed chance to try out its new music service. After LINE launched its music-streaming service in July, followed only weeks later by Apple Music, as Google Play Music seemed to be stuck in buffering mode with no plans to enter the market. However, after finally launching in September, Google has been going to all lengths to make Google Play Music stand out from its competitors.

Located on Supeinzaka near the Shibuya Parco department stores, the Google Play Billboard may appear, from a distance, to be any other advertisement. Within the billboard itself is 1,300 individual headphone jacks, however, continuously streaming music from noon-8 p.m. everyday. Each jack features a different song, and the song selection changes over time so that you’ll never know exactly what you’re plugging into.

Just watching all the careful efforts that went into the construction of the billboard is like watching a symphony.

The 3,500 songs that make up the Google Play Billboard playlist are hand-picked from submissions from the public that people voted for on the official Google Play Music website. The public were given six different categories to vote on — “a song you’d like to play when your significant other comes over”; “a song for when you feel that your heart is going to break”; “a song you’d personally want to leave for the next generation”; and so on.

These categories, which play into people’s emotional connection with music, resulted in hundreds of songs featuring both a wide variety of both Japanese and Western music. Visitors to the Shibuya billboard can anticipate everything from Mary J. Blige to AKB48, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to The Rolling Stones.

Additionally, anyone who signs up for Google’s streaming service by Oct. 18 will be able to listen to the Google Play Billboard’s 3,500 songs unlimitedly for free, as well as pay a lifetime reduced rate of ¥780 per month.

After only a week, the Google Play Billboard has made quite a splash on social media, thanks to the hashtags #GooglePlayMusic and #渋谷3500万曲ビルボード (Shibuya 35,000 song billboard).

Regardless of whether Google’s PR campaign hits the right note or falls flat, the Google Play Billboard has certainly proven that music can bring us all together.

J-blip: Ipsa’s Face Melody

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

Every face has a name, a story and . . . a song? That’s the idea behind cosmetic company Ipsa’s newest creation.

We should, uh, take it at face value, but the company claims that its Face Melody program can measure the user’s appearance and write a unique tune based on their attributes. The application will even create a personalized song title for your fantastic face.

Users can go to Ipsa’s website, upload a picture of their face and watch as the program measures their smile level, face balance, face color and lightness. Then Face Melody will generate a song based on a special algorithm and produce a trippy music video complete with 3-D effects and psychedelic visuals.

Go to the Face Melody website to hear your song.

Japan celebrates the GIFs that keep on giving

Friday, August 21st, 2015

GIFs — which stands for graphics interchange format, don’t you know — have made the Internet an even more enjoyable place than before, and we have the receipts to prove it.

These digital designs were technological wonders back in the days of AOL and Netscape (Google it, kids). But they eventually went from high-tech animation to cliched novelties.

In recent years, the retro aesthetic of GIFs has been making big comeback. Nowadays, instead of flashing text, they often reference classic signifiers in pop culture and have become a sort of emotional shorthand, a form of emoji.

They’re now a hip way to express a gamut of feelings — excitement, annoyance, surprise . . . Name an emotion and there’s bound to be the perfect GIF for it. That’s why sites and apps such as Giphy and Nutmeg are becoming the must-have tools for when a smiley is just not enough.

They are not only being used just to express LOLs and winks, but recently GIFs have entered the realm of boda fide art. This year Japanese artist Toyoi Yuuta set Tumblr ablaze by posting a beautiful series of 8-bit GIF creations depicting sometimes melancholic, sometimes surreal scenes of life in Japan.


Thousands of users reblogged the pieces as the designs invoked memories of the Nintendo Entertainment System and took the seemingly trite medium of GIFs to a new level.


The artist Segawa 37 took the genre a step higher for Adobe’s GIF contest by giving a modern twist to classic works of “the floating world.” Segawa 37 humorously tweaks the time-honored woodblock prints by including things such as a spaceship swooping in and beaming up Mount Fuji or a group of kimono-clad travelers watching a shinkansen train zoom by.


Segawa 37’s GIF set also includes pieces that rely more on aesthetics than humor, including paintings of the warm glow of lanterns in Edo’s Yoshiwara district and people watching the Sumida River fireworks.


It seems that GIFs are beginning to get the artistic credit they deserve, and some are even making the jump from computer screens to galleries. The GIF Exhibition will be held Sept. 5-13 at Tokyo’s Tetoka and will feature a variety of works from around 10 artists. Although the pieces may be over in a flash, visitors are encouraged to slow down and take in every frame.

GIFs have gone from Internet meme to art, but where will they go next? It’s anyone’s guess.

Smart absolutions: Send off your sins with just one click

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Advances in technology have enabled us to converse with anyone, anywhere, and globally distribute information — and unlimited cat pictures! — in the blink of an eye.

Sumaho ooharae: Just rub and send.

Sumaho ooharae: Just rub and send.

Now, thanks to an online service from National Depart’s Kitokami, we can be rid of our sins with a click of a button.

Kitokami users have two options. Smartphone Ooharae is free smartphone service that enables users to absolve themselves of sins by merely rubbing and breathing on a human-shaped figure displaying on their smartphone screen and clicking the “send sins” button. The figures, imprinted with the name, age and gender of the user, will later be printed out and purified with a sacred fire at Bizen no Kuni Soushagu, a shrine in Okayama.

Web Ooharae is a slightly more tangible version of the service. Customers can purchase wood or paper cards online to be delivered to their homes. After doing the required rub-and-breathe routine on the card, customers will mail them to the shrine to be purified. The cards come in shapes of cats, dogs, bicycles and more, and are priced at ¥1,000 to ¥2,500.

Although Kitokami’s approach is novel, mention of the ooharae custom can be found in the Kojiki, Japan’s oldest record of history, which dates back to the 700s. Ooharae is a Shintoist ritual that takes place every year on June 30 and Dec. 31 and other days when necessary. In this ritual, participants transfer their sins and impurities onto nademono, human-shaped paper cutouts. They then blow three breaths on the paper, and Shinto priests recite prayers as they burn the sin-carrying papers in a sacred fire.

Bizen no Kuni Soushagu will light the fire on Aug. 1, 8, and 15 at 9 p.m., so customers should make sure their sins get there on time.


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