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.
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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
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
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.
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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
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."
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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
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
The massive museum exhibition "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" will land at Seattle's EMP Museum in November. Read the rest
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.
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Would you like your skin to look youthful, even though you're pushing 100? A Captain America skincare face mask may be just the ticket. Part of Isshin Do's official Marvel-licensed beauty line. Read the rest
World of Dance just held their World Finals in Los Angeles, and the breakout team in the Youth competition brought insane levels of energy and breakdancing precision to win their division. Read the rest
Yamato Suzuki's adorable dog is yelping such a perfect imitation of the sound made by a passing ambulance. Read the rest
The business end of KOKUYO Beetle Tips highlighter looks a bit like a rhinoceros beetle's horns, hence the name. Three-way refers to the fun you'll have with the highlighter when you make three different kinds of marks with it.
Amazon sells a colorful 5-pack for $8.
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