Archive for the ‘Tech/web/mobile’ Category

J-blip: high school girls with ‘tuba guns’

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Japanese students have sparked yet another inspired photo meme. This time they’ve put a new twist on the Makankosappo meme that went viral a few months ago. Using “tuba guns” (チューバ砲 “Chuuba Hou”), school band members appear to be blasting one another away with their instruments.

A French horn is just as explosive, and as is the drum section.

The tuba guns are just the latest in a string of memes that have swept across Japan and beyond as kids create their own versions of each photo craze. In a recent Tweet Beat, we talked about an “Attack on Titan” meme that shows some impressive staging skills, making students appear to be eating each other. We also shared this recreation of “The Death of Socrates,” which has received some 21 thousand retweets.

Hungry for more? These sideways-studying scholars show that being a Japanese student doesn’t have to mean all work and no play. They might even have time for a round of Quidditch à la Harry Potter after school.

Interest in final resting places never dies

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Can't afford prime real estate in Aoyama Cemetery? Have we go a deal for you.

Can’t afford prime real estate in Aoyama Cemetery? Have we got a deal for you.

With graveyards often located on the outskirts of cities, visiting the family grave to perform memorial services can be somewhat of a mission for busy families. But new businesses have now eased the burden for many with new “graveyards” built within office blocks conveniently located in cities. Nowadays these crypts can even be visited virtually by those who are physically unable or too busy to make the trip.

Syunkei-ji high-tech crypt offers virtual memorial services for busy relatives

Syunkei-ji high-tech crypt offers virtual memorial services for busy relatives

The high-tech graveyard business is growing, according to a recent article in the Yomiuri. Scheduled to open its doors in 2014, a six-story crypt just five minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station will offer 7,000 spaces to store the ashes of loved ones. Built on prime real estate, the project indicates that it is potentially more profitable to rent out space in a building for “burial” slots rather than for offices or apartments. A similar crypt opened in 2009 in Machiya in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward has now filled 70 per cent of its 3,400 capacity.

Two kinds of new-school cemeteries are now crowding the final resting place market. The first is the simple “coin locker” variety where remains are stored in a slender box that family members can visit. The second is more high tech. Activated with an electronic key card, a robotic arm retrieves the funereal urn of a loved one from a storage shelf and places it in a special booth. Relatives can perform memorial services in peace as photos of loved ones are displayed on the screen above them.

Burial slots in these buildings go for far less than a plot in a traditional cemetery and have the added convenience that family members can get to them easily and even fit in a spot of shopping or some lunch afterward. Those too busy to get there can take advantage of virtual memorial services offered by organizations like Syunkei-ji. When you log in to make your visit, a priest chants sutras as you pray for your relative from the comfort of your own home.

In a final resting place side-note, visiting old school graveyards has become a popular pastime for some Japanese, as has the  hobby of visiting the graves of celebrities. Enthusiasts trade info on the web , take guided tours offered by volunteers and consult books such as “Tour the Graves of Celebrities all over Japan.”

A team of volunteer guides at Zoshigaya Cemetery in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, show visitors the graves of famous people such as writers Natsume Soseki and Kafu Nagai. According to Asahi Shimbun, visitors come from as far away as Shizuoka. They’re not only interested in seeing the graves, but are also drawn to the peaceful environment of these old-fashioned graveyards.

April Fool’s in Japan — the joke’s on you

Monday, April 1st, 2013

April Fool’s Day doesn’t have very deep roots in Japanese culture, but obviously branding creatives and open-minded corporations are seeing the potential benefits of making potential customers laugh. Rather than pulling a fast one, these pranks put their silliness up-front and center.

Ika

>

Never runs out of batteries, glows in the dark and easy to handle.

Introducing the iKA Organic Ebook from publisher Kodansha. Drawing its power from the squid’s natural bioenergy, there’s no need to recharge the batteries. The iKA’s long tentacles serve as a handy neck-strap, it glows in the dark and has endless supply of ink. The iKA is provided via a subscription service, which delivers a fresh squid each week (note:  size and weight may vary). You get the added bonus of being able to cook and eat the old one (special squid dish recipe available to early buyers!). How’s that for eco-friendly technology?

Domino's can pizza

Don’t you hate how unwieldy pizzas can be? Dominos’s new canned pizza is not only compact, it’s long-lasting, so you can stock up your bomb shelter and never go without a slice!

giant squid

Need something with a bit more substance? How about Hanamaru Udon‘s giant squid, caught daily by harpoon fishing and fried up as tempura, from  That will be ¥87,000, please.

Silky

Taking aim at Line, the runaway hit app of the past year, search site Goo offers Silky, the old favorite for free and simple communication. And you can send silly stamps too!  And  yes, it’s biodegradable tech, too?

Forcebook

We have to give full props to Eiga.com, a movie info site, for its execution of Yoda’s account on Forcebook. They got every detail right … from George Lucas friending J.J. Abrams to  Anakin Skywalker changing his account name to Darth Vader to R2D2 denial of Jar Jar Bink’s friend request. One ad shows has Imperial Storm Troopers raising funds to rebuild Death Star. May the forceful guffaw go with you.

By the way, did you spot this one in The Japan Times. I mean we highly admire professor Mogura Tataki’s mission to eliminate society’s bias against lefties but  something tells us we’re being pawned.

 (Research by Shinjin Ono and Kazuhiro Kobayashi)

J-blip: Google Street View Cherry Blossom Edition

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Google Street View

People come from all over the world to get a short glimpse of Japan’s blooming cherry blossoms. Google is taking advantage of this worldwide sakura passion to show off their virtual-tour map feature with Street View Sakura Edition, which shows cherry blossom scenes not only in normal pictures but also as 360-degree panoramas. It’s actually more like Path View, as in most of the scenes you can navigate off the main roads.

While you don’t get to see petals actually scattering to the ground, it’s always warm and sunny on Street View, even as clouds and rain are subduing some of the peak viewing days in the real world this spring. The Blossom Edition features sites from Kyushu all the way up to Aomori, including about 50 different spots, and gives information such as the number of cherry blossom trees, the area they cover and, in some cases, the history of the locations. Even someone in Japan wouldn’t be likely to have the luxury of seeing all these locations without this technology.

If you are in Japan and looking for spots to look at the blossoms, check out our post on hanami technology. But hurry! The blossoms came out ahead of schedule this year and won’t last long. For more virtual cherry blossom viewing, check out our page of reader  cherry blossom photos and hanami experiences from last year.

Koe moe apps find their voice on smartphones

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Melting the coldest of hearts and turning the most rigid of spines to jelly, certain voices can have an almost magical effect on us.  This effect has been dubbed “koe moe” (vocal charm) in Japan and, according to a recent study carried out by Trend Soken, Japanese apps with that “moe” voice are seducing smartphone users in droves. The report, published at the end of February, included a survey of 500 young male and female smartphone users. A whopping 82 percent of respondents said they had downloaded apps that have an enjoyable vocal element.

To satisfy the predilections of this growing market, some developers have been recruiting the talents of seiyu (voice actors) who have established a name for themselves in the anime industry. Seiyu have proved to be big draws for the game industry, so it’s no surprise that there is a big buzz around “Girlfriend,” a smartphone dating game in beta testing that employs the talents of more than 60 seiyu, including Yui Horie, Hitomi Harada and Haruka Tomatsu.

Moe koe apps are not limited to games. “Rodoku Shojo” (Young Girl Reading Aloud) has, according to Japan Internet, been a massive hit, with downloads hitting the one million mark this month. The concept is simple: a young animated girl in a school uniform reads a book of your choice in a sugary voice. Check out the video above to get an idea. The app “Dentaku Girl” (Calculator Girl)  a friendly face and voice on your calculator. It’s possible to get Dentaku Girl to change her outfits as she reads out calculations to you from your screen background. In this way koe moe adds a personal touch to smartphone apps, increasing their user appeal.

About 66 per cent of respondents said that they preferred a certain kind of voice in a member of the opposite sex. Preferences were revealed to be highly personal: While a high-pitched girly tone can grate on one person’s nerves like a fork down a blackboard, it could just as easily make a grown-up businessman weak at the knees. One 29-year-old guy described his preference as “a little nasal and cute.” Another 36-year-old guy admitted a weakness for a “low and calm, charming voice.” A 19-year-old woman said she was into “a deep calm voice that makes you feel tenderly protected.” While a 25-year-old woman stated a liking for “a husky voice that sounds a little decayed.”

J-blip: flu report app

Friday, January 11th, 2013

The U.S. is in the midst of a particularly severe flu season and Google’s trend map for Japan shows a near-vertical spike in flu searches in the last weeks. Apart from washing your hands regularly, eating healthily and staying fit, there’s not much you can do to prevent getting infected. Or is there?

A new Android app from Docomo called “Your Area’s Influenza Report” allows users to keep an eye on the spread of influenza in their own locality and, if they’re thinking of taking a trip, check ahead of time to see if that area is an influenza hotspot or not.

The app draws data from the Infectious Disease Early Detection System designed by The Infectious Disease Information Center at the National Institute of Infectious Disease. Daily influenza forecasts are extrapolated from prescription information gathered from pharmacies and absentee records for schools. Info includes a report on the dryness level of the air, as drier air is associated with easier spread of flu.

Armed with this app, the modern-day Howard Hughes can decide whether it’s worth risking an outing to a different area or not, or indeed whether it’s safe to leave the house at all!

2012: The year in gear

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Every year the Nikkei Marketing Journal (NMJ) ranks the year’s best new products and services like a sumo tournament, naming a “yokozuna” (champion) for eastern and western Japan. We combed through that, as well as magazines like Trendy (also from Nikkei) and Dime, for the game-changing gear of 2012 in Japan. Some trends we’re noticing are compact, cheaper goods that offer a comparative experience to the full size ones they’re designed to replace and “smart” appliances that work in tandem with smart phones, which had a big year too.

Honda N Box

The kei car from Honda doesn’t look like a kei car. Kei, or “light,” cars are ubiquitous in Japan; unless you’re planning to log long hours on the highway (for which you could just use the train), a small, light car with no power is perfect for traffic-clogged, narrow streets. Also, they cost a lot less to register and insure. But the innovation of the N Box – some 200,000 were sold this year – is that it is much roomier than your average kei. Not American-style minivan roomy, but maybe mini-minivan roomy. Ranked #3 for eastern Japan by NMJ and #12 by Trendy.

Panasonic “smart appliances”

Panasonic launched a new series of appliances that can be controlled remotely by an Android smartphone – meaning you can use your phone to turn on the rice cooker or the air conditioner before you get home (or check that you’ve turned them off). There’s also a scale that sends data to your phone, so you can track your weight-loss progress. We’re not sure what you’d want to communicate to the fridge that’s also part of the lineup, though. Featured in Dime’s “My Valuable Products 2012.”

Mirrorless cameras

2012 saw the market for mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras explode. Mirrorless cameras offered an affordable, compact alternative to a comparatively bulky DSLRs. Pretty much every major manufacturer now has a model out, and this year the prices fell under that crucial ¥50,000 mark. Gear magazine Dime name checks Nikon’s 1 V1, Olympus’ PEN Lite E-PL3, Panasonic’s Lumix GF5X, and Sony’s NEX-C3D in its best buys of 2012 roundup. Featured in Dime’s “My Valuable Products 2012.”

7-inch tablets

Smaller, cheaper tablets won over consumers who had been reluctant to buy into the first generation of full-size tablets. The market was just full of them this year, including imports like Apple’s iPad mini, Samsung’s Galaxy, and Google’s Nexus 7 along with domestic offerings like Toshiba’s Regza AT570 and Sharp’s Aquos Pad SHT 21. Ranked #1 for western Japan by NMJ.

Toyota Aqua

This compact hybrid edged out Toyota’s pricier Prius this year to become Japan’s top-selling car, with 24,192 units sold in October alone. Ranked #16 by Trendy.

Sharp Cocorobo

Not only can this “next generation” cleaning robot be controlled remotely by your smart phone, but it also has a built in camera and wifi so you can actually watch it work through your phone (if you have absolutely nothing better to do), seeing what it sees. You could even get it to send you before and after photos of its handiwork. Ranked #29 by Trendy.

Sony 3D Headset

Sony’s futuristic 3D personal viewing headset, the HMZ-T1, which actually came out late last year, proved more popular than Sony anticipated and the company announced in February that production couldn’t keep up with demand. The company has since launched the lighter HMZ-T2. Ranked #24 by Trendy.

Nintendo WII U

This one came out too late to make the yearly round-ups, but Nintendo’s new high definition system that includes a tablet-like controller that also works on the TV looks to be another game changer.

2012: The year in social media in Japan

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

LINE graph. Courtesy of NHN Corp.

In terms of Japan’s social media scene, 2012 was without a doubt the year of Line. The free application launched by NHN Japan in mid-2011 was initially created to allow free VoIP calls between Line users. This year it quickly snowballed into something much bigger: It now has an Instagram analogue in Pick, a social dashboard like Facebook, and is starting to pick up where the faltering Facebook Check-in Coupon fell off with its own location-based Coupon app. But one of Line’s most popular features is the ever-changing selection of cute stickers that you can add to text messages.

Line’s growth has been astounding: It reached the 50 million user mark at 399 days – more than twice as fast as both Twitter and Facebook. The most recent numbers, for November 2012, claim 80 million users, 36.5 million of whom live in Japan. The number of users shot past Facebook, which has only a little more than half as many users in Japan, with the number apparently plateauing in the last quarter of the year.

This year did, however, see Facebook edge out domestic rival Mixi, which has been faltering. Last June, Nikkei reported that Mixi’s active users for the month of March were 15 million (out of 27 million registered users). Not too bad, except that page views had dropped by 10 million in the past year – a loss of one-third. Mixi recently partnered with social gaming powerhouse DeNA to create a shared social gaming platform that will be live next year. We’ll see if that is enough to save Mixi – it certainly needs something.

And Twitter? While Japan is a distant third behind the U.S. and Brazil in number of accounts, Tokyo is the No. 2 city in the world for sheer number of tweets, according to a report by Semiocast. However, the same report also showed that Japan had the second slowest rate of new user registration after a flurry of growth last year.

Continue reading about social media in 2012 →

RSS

Recent Posts