Steiff Japan's centaur teddybears


The Teddytaur is an actual, $400 product, made from alpaca-wool, sold by high-end toymaker Steiff in its Japanese store. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest

Book and Bed: Tokyo's coffin hotel/bookstore


If you're in Ikebukuro and need a cozy, bookish bed for the night, try Book and Bed, a "designed hostel" that hides coffin-hotel-style bunks among bookshelves lined with handsome volumes and rolling ladders. The books aren't for sale, but you're welcome to read them in your bunk. Read the rest

Fully poseable, articulated Michaelangelo's David action-figure


It's been nearly a decade since a single thumbnail image of Michaelangelo's David's willie caused a censorware company founded by a registered sex-offender to block Boing Boing for all its clients as a "nudity" site. This post will probably blow their minds. Read the rest

Umbrella reveals Mickey Mouse when it rains


Got a spare 12 bucks? If you’re a fan of the Mouse and you live someplace other than California, Nevada, and Arizona, then you might have fun with this collapsible umbrella that appears to be normal — a solid color — when you open it. When the heavens open and the raindrops fall, they bring out a silhouette of Walt Disney’s best pal on the fabric. Fun, but not in the sun... and it looks like this: Read the rest

Halloween Magic at Tokyo Disneyland


My friend Yasuo Amano, who lives in the town of Shizuoka about an hour outside Tokyo, runs a Japanese blog called Hey Presto. It is mostly concerned with the unique magic tricks produced a Japanese toy company named Tenyo, about which I’ve just written an enormous set of books that will be released in early November.

The Tenyo Company has been in business since 1931, and sells its magic tricks to regular folks at its “Magic Corners” in department stores across Japan. Even though the tricks they devise are easy to do, they also appeal to magicians because of their creativity.

And then there is Tokyo Disneyland, which is turned into a most mysterious and magical place at Halloween. Amano’s latest blog video combines a recent visit to Tokyo Disneyland’s seasonal Halloween event with a performance of some of Tenyo’s newest tricks.

I know … Halloween is still weeks away, but for purposes of commerce Halloween now commences in early September at Disney parks around the world, and even at your local supermarket and drugstore where the candy and greeting cards now appear before summer has officially ended.

In the latest and most annoying development, yesterday at Rite-Aid I saw Christmas cookies already out in the Halloween aisle. Don’t make me punch you in the face, Santa. Read the rest

15 things I love about Tokyo DisneySea


Yeah, you’ve heard of Disneyland (that’s the one in California) and you were probably dragged to Walt Disney World (that’s the one in Florida) when you were a kid. And, possibly, if you give a rat’s patootie about Disney theme parks, you might have heard they have them in other countries, but you’ve probably never heard of Tokyo DisneySea.

“TDS,” as the Japanese call it, is what is known as a Disney resort’s “second gate.” If you’re a WDW person, then Epcot is the second gate; if you’re a DL person, then Disney California Adventure is the second gate.

In 2001, when The Walt Disney Company built Disney California Adventure, it spent one billion bucks for the park, the Grand Californian Hotel, and Downtown Disney. The same year, when The Oriental Land Company (who owns the Tokyo Disney Resort—The Walt Disney Company receives a royalty and percentage) built Tokyo DineySea, it spent three billion dollars just for the park. The Imagineers who conceive all this amazing stuff for Disney, most of which rarely gets built, got the chance to see their best creations realized. I could write a book about Tokyo DisneySea, but here are just 15 really cool things.

1. Drinking a Kirin Frozen Draft while standing beside the Nautilus. Yes, they serve Japanese beer with a frozen “head” right next to Captain Nemo’s killer sub. Nice when it’s 85 degrees and 90% humidity.

2. A quiet street in a small Italian town … except it’s really in a theme park near Tokyo. Read the rest

Doctor punches patient for too many ER visits

A physician at an emergency room in Aomori Prefecture, Japan was so annoyed with a man who showed up at the hospital three times in one night that he socked the patient in the gut. Apparently the fellow kept returning in an ambulance, complaining about different issues, before being examined and sent home. Read the rest

Doge proprietor of corner store in Japan greets customers with happy Shiba Inu wag


Miki Kotevski, who shot this video, says: “This Shiba Inu has brought more people together from across the world than most politicians and other figures will ever be able to. Shiva's owner is the kindest owner and a great and kind person. Shiva is the Shiba's name and he is the best dog around.” Read the rest

Collapse in filial piety, poor social net produces cohort of elderly Korean prostitutes

In this Sept. 17, 2015 photo, an elderly woman stands at a small, bustling plaza in front of the Piccadilly theater in Seoul, South Korea. It's a place where elderly prostitutes openly solicit customers for sex in nearby motels. They are dubbed "Bacchus ladies" after the popular energy drink that they have traditionally sold.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korea has a Confucionist tradition of children supporting their elderly parents in South Korea whose existence meant that the country never had to develop an advanced social safety net for caring for the aged. Read the rest

I went to Tokyo Disneyland Cosplay Day and it was spectacular


If I have to pick the single best Disney theme park in the world, it’s always going to be the one Walt built — Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It really is different, and better, than anyplace else and the people who run it and work there take special pride in that. But the best Disney Resort in the world, taking into account all its parks, hotels, special seasonal events, and transportation (don’t you hate waiting for those buses in Orlando?) has to be The Tokyo Disney Resort. It’s has the second best Magic Kingdom style park in the world, with many unique rides. They’re really big on seasonal events, too, and they go all-out for Halloween.

Plenty has been written about Cosplay (i.e., “costume” + “play”) in Tokyo, but people mostly focus on dressing up as manga and anime characters in Harajuku — on the Harajuku Jingu Bridge; coincidentally right next to the cicadas singing in Mejii-Jingu — and in Akihabara.

Less well known is that for precisely 10 days in early September and 7 days in late October, The Tokyo Disney Resort has official Cosplay days where adults are allowed to come to Tokyo Disneyland in full costume. Here, however, the only costumes allowed are Disney characters (no surprise). These are not the tired schleppers dragging their kids around you see in the U.S. In Tokyo Disneyland there is a regal quality to the care with which the cosplayers make the costumes and the pride which with they wear them. Read the rest

McDonald's Japan's straws: designed to mimic experience of nursing at your mother's breast


According to McDonald's Japan founder Den Fujita, the design brief for the company's straws specified that they pass liquid at a rate comparable to the rate at which breast milk flows to a nursing baby, "the speed that produces the most delicious feeling." Read the rest

A closer look at the indie game scene in Japan


You don't hear a lot about indie games from Japan. While a culture of low-budget, experimental video games created by small teams has flourished in the West over the last ten years, the same can't be said for the homeland of Nintendo and Sony. But that's finally starting to change, and a documentary titled Branching Paths hopes to chronicle the rise of the nascent Japanese indie game scene.

Directed by Anne Ferraro, the documentary will feature interviews with numerous Japanese developers by Yoshiro Kimura of Onion Games, and delve into the financial and cultural problems that could hold indie developers back, as well as Japan's history of "independent creators building lively communities, even within industries where large media companies rule."

Some of the steps forward have been very tangible and visible: Events like Bitsummit have sprung up to bring independent developers together, while the siren call of Kickstarter has enticed gaming legends like Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi to strike out on their own with crowdfunding. Even the prestigious Tokyo Games Show added an indie games pavilion to the event in 2013.

Still, not everyone is quite so sanguine about the current status of indie gaming in Japan, at least when it comes to providing full-time employment for developers who aren't already superstars. "I don't think the indie dream is possible just yet," says one man in the teaser trailer. "It's like, if you want money, don't quit your job."

Branching Paths: A Journey in Japan's Independent Games Scene is due out January 2016. Read the rest

Tokaido - a game about traveling the eastern sea road from Kyoto to Edo

Tokaido is a set-building game about traveling the eastern sea road in Japan from Kyoto to Edo. You'll be playing the part of one of 10 different characters with unique powers, vying to have the most fulfilling experience. During the trip, you'll have the opportunity to meet other travelers, buy souvenirs, visit hot springs, paint scenic vistas, donate to one of the many countryside temples, and if you're strapped for cash you can work on a farm for a day to earn a little spending cash. At the end of the day you'll check into the inn to enjoy a meal with your fellow travelers.

The movement mechanic is particularly interesting in that the player that is furthest back on the track goes next. There's a careful balance to strike when moving ahead to get what you want. For example, the last player to arrive at one of the three inns on the board goes first the next round, but getting into the inn first gives you pick of the few meal cards that are being served at the inn – if money is an object, you might want to get there before the cheap food is gone. Score is kept continuously across the top of the board during play, but at the end of the game, after everyone has dined at the last inn, there are several bonus awards for doing the most of something, or being in the ranking of donators to the temples.

Tokaido looks amazing. The art is particularly well done in this game. Read the rest

It's cicada season - hear them roar


Late August, and the roar of the crowd is unmistakable. It’s the season-ending song sung by the largest chorus imaginable: the Cicada.

Growing up in Queens, New York in the 1960s and ’70s, you heard pretty much nothing in the evenings except for the tinkling of the Mister Softee ice cream truck. Not even crickets.

Then one day on an August trip to the hoity-toity shopping street Omotesando Avenue in Tokyo in the late 1980s (having just left “Crayon,” my favorite children’s book store), I continued up the street through Harajuku and heard what sounded like a locomotive bearing down.

This was the entrance to Yoyogi Park, with wide and majestic tree-lined walkways that lead to the shrine Mejii-Jingu. If you find yourself there in the summer, make sure to investigate the gardens, which you enter for a slight extra fee—they are a mystical place where the koi mouth hello.

The heat and humidity was crushing, and the sound of what must have been millions of cicadas was overwhelming and surreal. A few steps off the street and under the verdant canopy, the sounds of Tokyo’s traffic had vanished, replaced by the roar of the crowd.

The cicada is a remarkable insect that grows in the earth, subsequently clawing its way through the soil, dragging itself up the bark of a tree. It resembles a prehistoric creature, something horrible resurrected from a comic book, and then it digs its crab-like front claws into the bark. Shortly its head splits open and an entirely different figure emerges, large and winged. Read the rest

Hello Kitty museum exhibit headed to Seattle in November

The massive museum exhibition "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" will land at Seattle's EMP Museum in November. Read the rest

Rude tourists in Kyoto receive politeness lessons


The stunning temples and gardens of Kyoto are something my family and I will never forget. The rude tourists tugging the kimono sleeves of beautifully dressed and made-up maiko and asking them to pose like Disney World characters for a photo is something we would like to forget. The city of Kyoto hopes that its new brochure aimed at curbing gaijin impoliteness will allow maiko to go about their business in public without being mobbed.

The infographic-style brochure also describes 17 other akimahen ("do not") for tourists to be mindful of. They range from the mildly annoying (giving a tip to a server) to the criminally egregious (riding a bike while drunk, which is punishable by up to five years in prison). With the exception of the no-tipping custom and the automatic taxi doors (I try to close the door every time I ride a taxi in Japan and the cabbies hate it because it probably stresses the mechanism), almost every akimahen on the list is just common sense. Read the rest

High-carbon Japanese whale-shaped chef's knives and pencil-sharpening knives

The Shiroko High Carbon Steel Kurouchi Kujira Whale Utility Chef's Knife is available in four models (the Type B has some clever handle-stuff going on -- and the charming, hand-forged kids' pencil sharpening knives are now available in the US! Read the rest

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