Posts Tagged ‘photography’

New hobbies for swinging into spring

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

The beginning of April marks a new start for most Japanese, not only is it the new start of the financial year but it’s also the beginning of the academic year. It’s also the time when many people decide to try their hand at a new hobby, so with this in mind we decided to investigate what activities are popular this year and try to look at the reasons why these hobbies are trending.

Yoga still ranking high (gbSk photo; link below)

Yoga still ranking high according to shyumisagashi.com (gbSk photo; link below)

One portal that consistently came top when searching the web for hobby ideas was Shyumisagashi.com (Findahobby.com). Not only is the site a compendium of hobby ideas, but it also gives rankings for the popularity of various hobbies, searchable under different catagories of age and gender.

The No. 1 ranking hobby on the site for all ages and genders was yoga. Though yoga was introduced to the Japanese in 806, the recent boom for the activity dates back only to 2004 when increased media exposure sparked on increase in its availability at sports clubs. The reasons people take up yoga are twofold: to lose weight and to combat stress. Enrolling for regular yoga classes can be difficult for some overworked and underpaid office workers, so with this in mind, as part of their Smart Sports Fitness line, AU launched their Ouchi (your home) Yoga Salon in December of last year: Customers follow a yoga workout that is demonstrated on their phone and then receive a mail from their yoga “trainer” encouraging them to keep up the good work.

While yoga is still No. 1 in the women’s ranking, the No. 1 hobby for men, according to Syumisagashi was, perhaps unsurprisingly, photography. What was less expected was the No. 2 ranking across the board of both sexes for “travelling alone in order to find yourself.” The appeal of this was cited as “to enjoy your travel at your own pace.”

Other top ranking hobbies that intrigued were paper crafts at the No. 5 spot and squash at No. 8. Bad news for the struggling eikaiwa (English conversation business), still reeling from the Nova shock, was that the previously popular activity didn’t even hit the top ten for either gender.

Though they also didn’t hit the top spots, we’d like to give a nod to the hobbies that lend themselves to the burgeoning konkatsu (marriage hunting) trend. According to this survey from Goo Ranking (Dec. 2008) taking up a hobby, ranked No. 8, for men as an effective method of finding a partner, while for women, it scored high at No. 3.

This thread on 2chan concerning “hobbies to take up in order to meet members of the opposite sex” contains a rather cynical list (presumably concocted by a male reader) of top ranking hobbies to find women based on considerations of “percentage of women, quality of babes and cost incurred.” Coming in first place is flower arrangement, next is cookery and third is tea ceremony. Women who are serious about searching for a mate might take the same approach and take up golf which, last year became a popular sport for marriage-hungry ladies.

Whatever their motivations, whether it be for fitness, fun, stress release or hooking up with a potential life partner, this season is sure to see people signing up in droves to make a fresh start to the new financial year.

Photo by gbSk

Japanese camera makers reassess size and simplicity

Friday, November 13th, 2009

camera_pulse

Depending on your perspective, the digital camera market is either mind-bogglingly fascinating or mind-numbingly boring. Every day, legions of dedicated shutterbugs pore over spec sheets and review sites, blogging breathlessly about the latest features and innovations, while almost everyone else yawns at camera makers’ constant leapfrogging and just wants to aim and fire.

Nikon, Canon and other major Japanese players have long been locked in a struggle for supremacy in both the D-SLR and point-and-shoot realm, but as the holiday shopping season draws closer the imaging market is changing in significant ways. One of the most interesting trends is the growing middle ground between these two main categories.

Olympus and Panasonic have both released hybrid models using their Micro Four-Thirds system to bridge the gap between the versatility and image quality of D-SLRs with the convenient size of a pocket camera. Both utilize a larger sensor than their point-and-shoot brethren while also offering the option to switch lenses.

This week Ricoh entered the ring with a small unit that offers detachable lens-and-sensor units that load like game cartridges. None of these cameras can boast a D-SLR’s image quality or ability to shoot action or low-light, but they’re close enough that, for some users, the ability to shove it in your jacket outweighs the extra depth, sharpness and action-stopping abilities of their larger cousins.

Continue reading about four-thirds cameras →

Japanese R&D brings 3D technology closer to home

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

3D_blue_1503D_red_150While most people look to Hollywood films and childrens’ features for the latest in 3D technology (selections from James Cameron’s “Avatar” will be premiered at TIFF this month), much of the coming onslaught of multidimensional entertainment is emerging here in Japan, and far the multiplex.

For starters, there is Fujifilm’s pricey new 3D compact camera and viewing system. Early reviews of the Finepix REAL 3D W1 have not been kind (or fair), but it would still behoove gadget hounds to read up before plonking down the estimated ¥100,000 for the gear required. Sony’s new HFR Comfort-3D is for pros capturing live-action events, and at 240 frames-per-second, that’s a lot of action. We’ll watch, too, because if Engadget is right, 3D tech may really be the killer app for sports.

If Sir Howard Stringer is correct, we’ll all be watching these sporting events on 3D TVs by next year. Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and every other major electronics producer either has or will have product ready by then, but a good place to look for the latest news will be at the CEATEC convention in Makuhari Messe next week, where many of the latest gear will be announced.

For gamers, the Playstation 3 will soon offer 3D capability to all of its existing games. The Xbox is likely to do the same. While not 3D in its conventional sense, I like how these games use voxel data and the now-ubiquitous tilt-shift photography method to give a sense of depth.

Perhaps the most significant application of 3D technology to affect our lives won’t come from entertainment but from the incorporation of haptic technology. Japanese scientists are now working on holograms that you can touch (or feel like you’re touching anyway), and everyone is talking about when our keyboards will be replaced with sci-fi e-Gloves that search and organize the Web more intuitively than our wireless mouse and track pad ever could. Yes, the future is here – you can almost reach out and give it a squeeze.

Haikyo: exploring abandoned Japan

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Urban exploring has grown quite popular in Japan. Image from Gunkanjima courtesy of Juergen Specht

Urban exploring is growing in Japan. Image from Hashima Island (Gunkanjima) courtesy of Juergen Specht

For a growing number of people in Japan, a rewarding weekend involves ducking under rusty pipes, inching up crumbling stairs and soaking in the ambiance of rotting hotels, desolate amusement parks and empty hospitals where decaying surgical tools still lie on the operating table.

Sound fun? Well you’re not alone. Urban exploration has grown in popularity across Japan over the last few years. What started as a fringe activity for goths, hardcore photographers and teens looking for a thrill is now attracting tour groups and dedicated Web sites.

Advocates of haikyo (廃虚, or “ruins” in Japanese) have also developed their own code of conduct, which is quite similar to the environmental mantra of “take only photographs, leave only footprints,” but with an added prohibition of forcing one’s way inside (ie. cutting wires, breaking glass).

Continue reading about haikyo →

Has Tokyo’s art-fair scene got the goods?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

A performance artist at 101TOKYO this past April

A performance artist uses his back as a canvas at 101TOKYO this past April

The current recession hasn’t made life easy for Tokyo’s art galleries. Spending habits of collectors are now even more difficult to predict, but the fertile art scene here continues its growth spurt, and with it comes an increasing number of art fairs, including a new photography-only fair opening this weekend. Whether Tokyo can support so many fairs is an open (and frequently asked) question, but quality work will always draw buyers. Tokyo can and should be the hub for the Asian market, and as the region bounces back economically, our fair city has been providing plenty of opportunities to peruse and purchase art.

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