Posts Tagged ‘Tokyo’

Today’s J-blip: Safecast documentary

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Tokyo-based photographer and filmmaker Adrian Storey, who blogs at Uchujin, made a documentary on Safecast that reached the semi-finals of the Focus Forward documentary competition. The brief for the competition calls for three-minute films about “exceptional people and world-changing ideas that are impacting the course of human development.”

Yep, sounds like Safecast. Safecast is a non-profit organization that collects precise radiation readings and shares them via their website and mobile app. We reported on its collaboration with Tokyo HackerSpace a year ago and recently featured its iOS app.

Brief, informative, and shot with a cinematographic eye, the short is well worth a watch. Safecast’s founders explain in a simple, direct way why they came up with the idea of collecting radiation measurements globally and how they got the ball rolling.

Cast a vote if you like what you see and check out the other documentaries that may interest you. The film is up for the Audience Choice Award, and voting closes on Dec. 2o.

Rediscovering Japan’s ‘lost generation’ and Tokyo Beatles

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Life magazine has dug into its vault and recently released a treasure trove of photos that photojournalist Michael Rougier took for a Life special issue on Japan, published in September 1964. Many of them have never been published before. Rougier contrasted the outer appearance of “youth who seem as wholesome and happy as a hot fudge sundae” with the subcultures he found hanging out in jazz clubs and taking drugs at all-night beach parties. In text that accompanied the photos, correspondent Robert Morse wrote:

Having sliced the ties that bind them to the home, in desperation they form their own miniature societies with rules of their own. The young people in these groups are are bound to one another not out of mutual affection — in many cases the “lost ones” are incapable of affection — but from the need to belong, to be part of something.

Morse and Rougier documented the kids who rebelled against their parents through pill popping, motorcycle riding, swigging booze — and gyrating to the sounds of the Tokyo Beatles. The band was a relatively short-lived phenomenon, with only one album to show for its three years in existence. The music is covers of Beatles’ songs rendered in a mix of Japanese and English. It sounds at once like a straight copy and like something completely new. Judging from the photographs, it hit the right chords with the teens of Tokyo. We strongly recommend that you see the full gallery of photos and read more at It won’t be time wasted.

DesignTide Tokyo 2011

Friday, November 4th, 2011

As it does annually DesignTide Tokyo gave us a peek at prototypes, celebrated innovation and showed us how elegant ideas are worth their weight in gold.

Click on the thumbnails below to see what turned our heads.

Photos by Mio Yamada

A cocktail of AR and social marketing

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Chivas Regal scotch is making a stir with a promotion campaign that harnesses the power of augmented reality. The campaign, which claims to be the first of its of its kind in Japan, is rather unfortunately named Aroma of Tokyo — not really the association you want to make in these sweaty days of extreme heat and power-saving measures.

Nevertheless, the concept is simple and clever: Users, while out and about in Tokyo, collect points via their cell phone that can then be exchanged for a free cocktail or gift. To take part, participants must first download AR app Layar to their cell phones. The app, which is compatible with GPS-equipped cell phones, then directs a user to one of several locations where points can be obtained. Once at a location you need to check in using Foursquare or Livedoor’s social networking service Rocket Touch to obtain points. After you’ve collected 18 points, you receive a coupon for a free cocktail at one of 18 bars around the city. The Chivas Regal cocktails, which are said to be worth ¥2,000 each, have been specially created by top Tokyo bartenders.

If you manage to collect 85 points, you’ll receive free Chivas Regal branded gifts: either a moleskin wallet or a USB stick. Those who check in with Rocket Touch get entered into a weekly lottery for which the prize is a 700 ml bottle of Chivas Regal.

Though the AR element is not particularly elegant, merely consisting of a blue dot superimposed on your cell phone screen that guides the user through Tokyo’s streets, we think it’s nevertheless a clever marketing gimmick. Utilizing new technology is bound to attract a younger crowd, making them aware of the brand. The number 18 (18 points for a cocktail, 18 participating bars) also underlines the message that this is to promote Chivas 18. It’s also a win-win for Chivas because it drives customers to  bar/clients that stock the alcohol.

In many ways the campaign resembles Facebook’s new “Check-In Coupon” service, with which users can obtain coupons depending on their physical location, with the added, yet rather basic, AR element.

Pulsations (08.20.10)

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

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 . . .

  • Comiket 78: Day 3 (from Tokyo Scum Brigade): Chronicling the third day of Comiket 78 and featuring elaborate costumes that require true devotion in the intense summer heat.
  • Matsuri da! (114): Angels with Dirty Faces (from Ampontan): Something only the most impish of kids would enjoy.
  • The Line (from Another addition to Tokyo’s endless collection of lines.
  • Abandoned Ginza (from Mike’s Blender): Ever wondered what a post-apocalyptic Ginza might look like? Here’s a slightly spooky first look . . .
  • Comparing bento box materials (from Just Bento): For those who want lunchtime perfection.

GPS navigation for cyclists gathers speed

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Tokyo Zoo Project allows you to take an animal shaped bike tour of the city

Tokyo Zoo Project allows you to take an animal shaped bike tour of the city

One of the best ways to get around Tokyo is by bike: the city’s cyclists are able to whizz down alleys too narrow for most traffic, sail the opposite way down a one-way street and bypass traffic jams by hopping up onto the sidewalk when necessary. Cycling around the city this way you won’t get much hassle from local policemen, who tend to turn a blind eye to such minor traffic infractions, but you might find yourself stymied by the maze-like nature of Tokyo’s streets.

These days there are a number of GPS devices available for the adventurous cyclist who wants to explore the city streets, but with so many phones possessing GPS capability is it worth investing in such a device? Surprisingly, while car-compatible GPS apps for cell phones proliferate, there’s not much available for cyclists yet. As mentioned earlier, bicycles have more access to the narrower byways of Tokyo’s streets, so using a pedestrian app like AU’s Easy Navi Walk is preferable to a system designed for motorist that might have you cycling down polluted traffic clogged streets.

In April this year DoCoMo updated their car navigation system, iMapFan, to include a mode aimed at cyclists to allow users to identify bike friendly routes. At ¥315 a month, DoCoMo’s system has the edge over devices such as Sony’s NV-U35, which costs nearly ¥30,000. The problem though is that, unlike custom-made devices, no accompanying handlebar mount for cell phones has come out on the market, meaning that cyclists still have to keep stopping to consult their maps. Also, the NV-U35 is waterproof, so unless you’re buying a brand new waterproof phone you might find a cell phone impossible to use in wet weather.

To promote NV-U35 (which was released on the market earlier this year), Sony has come up with a fun summer campaign that allows cyclists to discover the backstreets of Tokyo. Pedal pushers can follow a series of themed routes that describe the shape of an animal through the city streets by using the gadget. Each route has a cute name to suit its species, for example, “The Giraffe Who Came To Compare His Height With Sky Tree Tower.” That route takes you past the site of the tower (which is currently under construction but still a pretty impressive height of nearly 400 meters) and includes recommended coffee shops and scenic spots to stop off at along the way.

Currently there are three routes available on the Tokyo Zoo Project website, but by August that will have grown to 10 to create a zoo of animal routes that spread out across the city. The general public are also invited to submit their own ideas for routes via Twitter (@tokyozoopj) making the campaign interactive.

If bicycle navigation systems take off, local policemen are going to spend less time giving out directions and more time making sure people are observing the rules of the road, making the advent of GPS both a good and bad thing for cyclists.

Roppongi Hills back on top

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

A bird's eye view from the Roppongi Hills' Sky Deck

A bird’s eye view from the Roppongi Hills’ Sky Deck (Satoko Kawasaki photo/The Japan Times)

Real-estate tycoon Minoru Mori has got something to celebrate this weekend. Not only is his Roppongi Hills complex hosting Roppongi Art Night, but J-Cast reports that occupancy of its office space is now up to 95 percent, recovering from a slump two years ago which saw occupancy at 85 percent. The icing on the cake for Mori is that, if early reports are to be believed, Mori Tower will soon gain a prestigious new tenant in the summer of this year: Google Japan. When Roppongi Hills opened their doors in 2003, the complex had no problems attracting high-profile clients, especially in the dot com industry, with Livedoor, Yahoo! Japan and internet shopping giant Rakuten all in residency. Not only that, but many company presidents decided to live the dream of the high rise inner-urban community by also living in the building, namely Takafumi Horie of Livedoor, Rakuten’s Hiroshi Mikitani and CyberAgent Susumu Fujita. And so the phrase “Hills zoku” (the Hills clan) was born.

Continue reading about Roppongi Hills bouncing back →


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