Archive for the ‘Tech/web/mobile’ Category

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.

New Japanese tourists: have social network, will travel

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Users post original ideas for adventurous holidays on Trippeace to find new traveling companions

Fancy learning how to ride an elephant in Laos? How about shouting your New Year’s dreams from the top of Ayer’s Rock in Australia? Trippeace, a “social travel service,” is helping a new generation of Japanese travelers make their wildest vacation dreams a reality. Since its launch in August last year, the site has picked up over 20,000 members, over a thousand of whom have taken part in group vacations.

The project is the brainchild of Ian Ishida, a 22-year-old university student, and the idea is to enable young Japanese to experience a different kind of vacation. Members post ideas for a holiday and via Facebook, Twitter or Google+, they can discuss the details with other interested parties. Once a concrete travel plan has been made, Trippeace acts as a travel agent, making all the travel arrangements for participants. With a 10 percent commission on these arrangements, according to an article in Nikkei Trendy, Trippeace had made ¥200,000,000 by June this year.

It’s a remarkable achievement, seeing as this generation of young Japanese is much less adventurous when it comes to traveling abroad than the previous generation. Immigration statistics compiled by the Ministry of Justice show that overseas travel by young Japanese has fallen significantly from a peak in the mid-’90s.

Ishida isn’t the only one to come up with this concept. A similar service called Grvel was launched in December 2011. The name is pronounced “guruvelu,” a mash-up of “group travel.” But although Grvel made a selling point of offering group discounts to users who got together for a proposed trip, the lack of recent activity on the site seems to suggest that the scheme isn’t taking off in the same way as Trippeace. For those who want to cut out the middleman and book trips themselves, Taviko, a service that has been running since 2011, focuses on helping users find fellow travelers for whatever destination they have in mind via Facebook and Twitter. But again, it hasn’t seen anything like the level of traffic as Trippeace.

Canny marketing seems to have contributed a great deal to Trippeace’s success and the website is currently offering to pay the travel expenses of the first group to recruit 100 participants for a trip idea. Ishida is hoping this helps get 100,000 people registered for the service by October this year, with a view to possibly taking the service global in the future.

Pulsations (07.06.12)

Friday, July 6th, 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 . . .

  • Free at last! Starbucks brings easy to use free wifi to Japan (from La Vie En Tech): At long last, the wonders of easily-accessible free wifi may have finally reached Japan. Steve Nagata gives readers a run down on how to set up your devices to tap into this great power. Don’t worry, this service is much easier to understand than other “free” wifi services found in Japan. It’ll only take a few minutes and then the next time you’re asked to fork over too much cash for a caffeine fix, at least you’ll have wifi.
  • Make eco-friendly iced tea (from Being a Broad):  Of course, if you aren’t persuaded to venture out to your local Starbucks by their new Wifi, you can always stay home and enjoy a glass of home-brewed tea. Kirstin has some great tips on how to use the power of the sun (and your fridge) to brew the perfect summer teas. Eco-friendly, refreshing, and delicious? Count me in.
  • The Japanese Seasons: July (from Japan Navigator): With the rainy season (hopefully) behind us, it is time to enjoy summer in Japan. And just what does Japan have to offer in July? Festivals, mountain climbing, cloud watching, seasonal dishes, and that’s just the start. Pop quiz: do you know what the flower of July is?
  • Are Japanese Houses worthless? (from Tofugu): Japanese houses may have some flaws, but they are certainly balanced by clever architectural design and unmatched efficiency right? Apparently not. After 15 years most Japanese houses lose the majority of their value.

No video this week, but rather a comic from Lars Martinson‘s Kameoka Diaries. Click on the first one and scroll through, then head to his site to see them as they’re meant to be read.

Check out the rest!

Today’s J-blip: Running man, powered by Facebook

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

As part of Nike Japan’s “Run Like Me” marketing campaign, British expat Joseph Tame will jog 100 meters for every “like” that he receives via the campaign’s special Facebook page/app. You might remember Joseph as that earnest mobile-tech evangelist who rose to Internet fame by using GPS to turn his runs into massive urban scribbles, as well as broadcasting his start-to-finish performances in past Tokyo Marathons. A true original, he would appear to be the right poster boy for Nike’s highly customizable LunarGlide+ 4. How far will he have to run? That’s up to you. It should be noted that while the campaign might inspire consumers to buy a pair of cool shoes and run like Joseph, as a large-scale social media campaign that taps into collective sadism, this might be a first.

Today’s J-blip: robot-made inari-zushi

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

While the nation’s robots might not have been up to the task of nuclear-diaster reconnaissance, Japan’s androids are making strides in the kitchen. Suzumo Machinery Co., Ltd. has unveiled a robot capable of creating 2,500 inari-zushi rolls an hour. All the user (read: human) has to do is fill the rice hopper and place fried tofu rolls on a turntable. While we doubt anyone will be consuming that much inari-zushi any time soon, that type of efficiency is indeed impressive. Of course, this isn’t the first robot capable of dishing up Japanese food; in fact, robotics engineers seem to have a fair amount of pride in the national cuisine and program their creations to prepare all sorts of dishes,  from ramen and sushi to the potentially messy okonomiyaki. Yes, half the fun of this savory pancake is preparing it yourself, but watching a robot make it, and sing at the same time, is pretty cool, too.

 

Pulsations (06.08.12)

Friday, June 8th, 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 . . .

  • Kikuchi Naoko’s sarin (from Mutant Frog): In honor of Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Kikuchi Naoko’s arrest, blogger Roy Berman shares gripping excerpts from “Aum and I,” a book by former cult doctor Ikuo Hayashi. Berman was part of a collaboration that translated the text into English. The quotes are chilling.
  • Japanese artist Takeshi Miyakawa on his time in jail (From Spoon & Tamago): Takeshi Miyakawa, a Japanese-born artist who now lives in New York, talks about an installation mix-up that got him thrown in jail and his surprising approach to locked-up life.
  • Iseya, an old Tokyo establishment, set to close this month (From Tokyo Times): Amidst the multitude of chain restaurants and bars, Iseya stands out as being laid back and lacking requirements or expectations of its guests. The restaurant is slated to be closed this month in the name of progress, but some wouldn’t call it that.
  • Thoughts on the life and alcoholism of Prince Tomohito (from Shisaku): Japan politics blogger Michael Cucek offers a critical reflection on Prince Tomohito and his struggle with alcoholism. He also highlights some of the Prince’s positive contributions to Japan during his life.
  • The future of disaster relief (from Asiajin): A new technology to aid in disaster relief may soon be available to anyone with a smartphone. Augmented reality shows  real-time data on a user’s mobile device about potential dangers and how to avert them.

Video blogger ‘BusanKevin‘ talks about the tsunami protection in Kobe.

Pulsations (06.01.12)

Friday, June 1st, 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 . . .

  • City of Kitakyushu Starts Test of Tidal Power Generation (from JapanFS): Solar power is so last decade. Check out how the city of Kitakyushu is looking to harvest the power of the moon by generating electricity from the tides.
  • Political kabuki in Japan (From Ampontan): Observers who toss around the term “political kabuki” are usually way off base, Ampontan says. However, he explains why the Osaka political maneuvering around the restart of the Oi reactors is indeed a drama worthy of the name.
  • Making sense of dollers (From Tokyo Scum Brigade): Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about dressing up like a giant, silent, perpetually grinning anime doll. Did we say “afraid?” Maybe “terrified” is the word.
  • Are Japanese Moe Otaku Right-Wing? (from Neojapanisme):  Passionate about anime? Check. Teen idols? Check. Right-wing politics? Ch . . . wait, what?  It may be surprising, but those are some of the most common topics on Alfalfa Mosaic, a popular blog and 2ch aggregator. Is this is the start of an otaku political movement?
  • Simplifying Chopstick Etiquette (from Spoon & Tamago): You know that awkward moment when you’re using chopsticks and aren’t quite sure where to place them after a bite? Fear no more, because designers Takeshi Hamana and Yuya Iwagaki plan to teach proper dinner etiquette with their new chopstick packaging. (Disclaimer: Basic origami skills required!)

Pulsations (05.10.12)

Friday, May 11th, 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 guide to Japanese kaomoji (emoticons) (from Japan Sugoi): One of the sad things about coming to Japan is discovering that your phone is able to express more shades of human emotion than you. The only logical step is to start copying the emoticons — Japan Sugoi shows you how.
  • A Poppin’ Cookin’ Good Time (from Sake Puppets): “Where’s my flying car,” you might ask. “Where is that love-making robot I was promised?” If you feel a little sad about this future we’re living in, maybe this DIY ice-cream cone candy set will cheer you up.

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