Starving pensioners in Japan responsible for shoplifting crime-wave

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Japan's recently expanded prisons are already at 70% occupancy, an incarceration epidemic blamed on hungry pensioners who account for 35% of the nation's shoplifting, with a high rate of re-offending. Read the rest

Learn what it takes to be a sushi chef

Oona Tempest is an apprentice sushi chef at New York City's Tanoshi Sushi. I do love my sushi, but I definitely wouldn't have the fortitude or filleting-skills to be trained as a chef. (Eater)

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All aboard the railroad at Tokyo Disneyland!

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While the railroad at Disneyland in Anaheim, California is out of service for a year and a half while the route is being changed and “The Star Wars Experience” is being built, I thought it might be fun to take you for a ride on The Western River Railroad at Tokyo Disneyland, which remains exactly the same as it was on park opening in 1983.

While the railroads at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris run around the perimeter of the parks and are a both a method of transportation as well as an attraction (the latter at some parks more than others), the railroad at Tokyo Disneyland is something else entirely.

Because of burdensome government regulations regarding railroad operation which would have prevented a typical Disney-style railroad that circled the park with multiple stations, the executives at The Oriental Land Company (a consortium of well-known Japanese corporations formed specifically to build and operate the Tokyo Disney park) and Walt Disney Imagineering cleverly decided to do something different.

Called “The Western River Railroad,” the attraction has four steam powered trains: The Colorado, The Mississippi, The Missouri, and The Rio Grande. There is only one station, which sits atop the entrance to The Jungle Cruise in Adventureland. It functions solely as an attraction, and so there’s a lot more to see (particularly after the subsequent construction of some major attractions after the park opened).

From the station, the train runs around the perimeter of the Jungle Cruise and then past a small scenic station called Stillwater Junction. Read the rest

Timothy Leary on youth culture and Japan (c. 1990)

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In the early 1990s, BB pal Joi Ito (now director of the MIT Media Lab) hosted bOING bOING patron saint Timothy Leary on a trip to Japan. At the time, Tim was energized by the intersection of youth culture and digital technology to empower the individual. Above, video that Joi and friends shot of Tim in fine form. Man, I miss him, and those cyberdelic days. Bonus shout-out at 8:25 to Anarchic Adjustment, Nick Philip's surreal and inspiring clothing line that evolved into today's Imaginary Foundation!

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A hand-carved wooden clock that scribes the time on a magnetic board

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Suzuki Kango carved over 400 wooden parts for his senior thesis exhibition project: it uses "four magnetic stylus pens on a magnetic drawing board to mechanically write the full time every minute in 24-hour format." Read the rest

The Origami bookmark you can make for free

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I can’t tell you how many times over the past five decades I needed a bookmark when none were around. Bookmarks are designed to reside most comfortably between the pages of a book, which makes them awkward to keep in your pocket, wallet, or purse, which is really where you want them when you suddenly need one.

This results in lots of corners being torn off magazines and newspapers to use in a pinch. But the bookmark you get from tearing off a corner is small and often slides either out of the book or down between the pages. And don’t mention folding the corner of the page over – don’t go there. Book publishers (that’s me) don’t like to hear that.

Of course, origami will solve your problem. Before you give up and think, “I can never get those damn paper folds right,” let me soothe your anxiety by explaining that making one of these cute and clever origami bookmarks is easy as pie and takes about a minute.

The Origami Resource Center online teaches oodles of methods for simple square origami bookmarks, or more decorative versions including pandas, penguins, peacocks, and Santas. From that website is a simple square fold that you can make even if you’ve never folded a piece of paper before. I’ve simplified it a bit more, making it (hopefully) even easier.

First, you need a piece of paper, exactly square – anywhere from 4 to 8 inches will do. And I’ll use a piece of origami paper in the photos so it’s easier for you to keep track of which side is which (commonly found origami paper is colored on one side and white on the other). Read the rest

Perserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

I saw the sour plums on the cover of Preserving the Japanese Way calling out to me from the highest bookshelf at teeny-tiny Moon Palace Bookstore, Minneapolis. As the Master Food Preserver for my county, I’m a sucker for beautiful books on food preservation. Angela, the owner, clapped and oohed as I plunked it down. “I love this book. I can’t cook, but this book makes me want to eat!”

I’m authorized by the State of Wisconsin to teach the safest scientifically proven methods of food preservation. In my teaching, I’ve heard lovely stories of immigrant grandmothers and their favorite recipes and the joy keeping these traditions alive brings to people. This connectivity to our shared and adopted cultures is one of the most compelling aspects to Preserving the Japanese Way. Nancy Singleton Hachisu is a wonderfully opinionated ex-pat who embraced rural Japanese culture with her marriage to a Hokkaido farmer nearly thirty years ago. Her notes and recommendations are informed by her American “keep trying” attitude, coupled with the Japanese concept of perfecting a singular thing.

Hachisu follows her insatiable curiosity in discovering the old ways. Her vignettes of meetings with artisanal makers are entertaining and informative. Her explanations and definitions of very specific Japanese ingredients are profoundly useful; for the first time ever I understood the nuances of soy sauces. She also acknowledges that artisanally made food is expensive. She recognizes that not everyone has the monetary luxury of purchasing small-batch regional soy sauces and offers accessible and easily available substitutes. Read the rest

Printed circuit board masking tape

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A must-have for the with-it cyberpunk, and it's appropriately hard to get ahold of, being sold only through a Japanese website that uses translation-software-resistant graphics of Japanese text set against an animated background that made mincemeat of all the Japanese-English OCR software I tried it on (I think this is the orders page, but couldn't get more than one word in four out of Google Translate's photo-text converter). Read the rest

Handmade Japanese leather goldfish bags

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Atelier Iwakiri handmakes its nubuck goldfish purses to order, with a two-week to three-month lead time between orders and delivery. Read the rest

Entertaining animated history of Japan

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Bill Wurtz made this fun and informative 9-minute history of Japan. Read the rest

'Low Pixel,' a ceramic art series by Toshiya Masuda

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For his Low Pixel ceramic sculpture series, Japanese artist Toshiya Masuda “pixelates” common objects. Soda cans, flowers, liquor bottles, all are reduced to low rez video game style facsimiles.

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Highball tumblers with tiny Mt Fujis in their base

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They're handmade and the tiny mountains change color based on the color of the drink you serve in them, come in a gorgeous gift box, but they're also a whopping $88 each. Read the rest

Independent economists: TPP will kill 450,000 US jobs; 75,000 Japanese jobs, 58,000 Canadian jobs

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Proponents of the secretly negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership -- which lets companies force governments to get rid of their labor, environmental and safety rules in confidential tribunals -- say it's all worth it because it will deliver growth and jobs to the stagnant economies of the rich world. Read the rest

Impossibly cute paper clips shaped like cats, dogs, and wild animals

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I like to buy these adorable little critter-shaped paperclips from stationary accessories maker Midori of Japan on Amazon. They work just the same as regular paperclips, but they add a lot of sweetness and personality when the design matters, not just the function.

More than 24 designs are available in Midori's super-kawaii D-Clips series, with lots of little animals and birds to choose from: elephant, turtle, squirrels, whales, penguin, and more, on sale for $7-8 per pack of 30 clips at the time of this blog post.

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That ain’t baloney, it’s magic!

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Yasuo Amano, a Tenyo collector, author of the Japanese blog Hey Presto, and all around creative guy recently bought a package of what is known in Japan as “Fan Shaped Sausage.” It appears to be a cross between salami, baloney, or perhaps a luncheon meat as yet undefined.

He took out a few slices, put them on a plate, and saw something that no one else in Japan noticed, which is pretty impressive considering its population of almost 200 million people. Said slabs of meat can be used to do a well-known magic trick (or, more rightly, the optical illusion shown above). But it all looks so innocent on the plate.

Discovered by Joseph Jastrow in 1889, magicians have been performing this for years and calling them “Magic Boomerangs.” Two pieces of identical size and shape, when placed one below the other, produce the uncanny illusion that one is larger and the other smaller. Take another look up at the lead photo: that ain’t no baloney! Both pieces are exactly the same size.

The question of why it looks so amazing can be answered by the first magic set produced in Germany after World War II, in which I discovered said boomerang trick with props that were short and very squat. This produces a much stronger illusion that what magicians have been futzing around with for years.

If you want to do magic tricks with your canapés, then you may attempt to order the “Fan-Shaped Sausage” from its manufacturer.

As an added bonus, since we’re still on Yamano’s fascination with making magic tricks out of edibles, take a look at this video, in which he manages something miraculous with a French fry and the Tenyo trick “Zig Zag Cig” invented by Hiroshi Kondo decades ago. Read the rest

Blue's is a magazine about Japanese construction worker culture

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“There’s no media anywhere about these guys, but they’re so cool!” That's the thought Tomonobu Yanagi had when he decided to make a magazine about "construction culture." Yanagi was a punk musician in the 1970s, and now manages a waterworks construction firm. He teamed up with Japanese “new journalism” writer Gensho Ishimaru (known for writing about his recreational drug trips) to launch Blue's Magazine. With lavish photos, it covers subjects such as the kind of food construction workers favor (salty, greasy food), what it is like to be on a crew rebuilding the Fukushima area, and the influx of construction workers from Africa and America.

From Ignition:

Before BLUE’S, no “culture magazine” had ever written profiles of the men who work at construction sites. Because of that, though, there are really no fixed rules or formulas for how to make such a magazine. Every issue’s layout, Ishimaru says, presents a fresh challenge, and forces the pair to reinvent the rules from zero. The best example of this may be the magazine’s cover design, which features photos of construction artist Hironari Kubota in a loincloth

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Giant inflatable duck hates drinking water in Japan

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In this Japanese TV commercial we learn that anyone who tries to prevent college students from enjoying any beverage other than water will face the wrath of a giant inflatable duck.

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