"Earlier this spring," begins Brian Ashcraft, "Hittomii began uploading toast art in earnest."
About this Japan Times article he wrote, Matt Alt in Tokyo tells Boing Boing, "I interviewed several anime industry legends and combined it with some of my own research. The upshot: it's all about the toys. Sort of. The illustration is by my pal Hideo Okamoto, whose designs grace everything from the Gundam series to Pokemon. Unfortunately the digital version has none of the glory of the paper!" But you can click here to see a scan of the print version.
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In Japan, farmers sell their blemished, surplus and otherwise unmarketable vegetables in unstaffed, honor-system roadside stalls called "Unmanned stores" ("mujin hanbai"). Produce is set out in trays with an anchored cashbox and a note inviting passers-by to take what they please and leave payment in the box. Farmers sometimes add recipes and other serving suggestions. Here's a map of 120+ mujin hanbais, in Nerima ward -- part of greater Tokyo (a city whose sprawl encompasses a surprising amount of farmland). A fascinating, lavishly illustrated article on PingMag explores the use and practice of these stores, including the growing trend to coin-operated lockers.
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Ah, Seventies Japan! A Sharp Abacus-Calculator. Owned by Frederik Schodt, Japanese manga expert and all around great guy. (His book "Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics" is THE must-read on the topic). Abacuses were widely used throughout Japan up until fairly recently (the 1990s or so) and there are still a handful of schools out there who teach the techniques. "These aba-calcs were really used by people who wanted the best of both worlds," he told me.
Snip from a report by Voice of America's Steve Herman in Tokyo:
"Fresh revelations about radiation contamination from the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant and a government regulator are prompting new concerns in Japan. What is expected to be a decades-long battle to halt radiation leaks and to clean up contaminated soil and water at the Fukushima-1 nuclear plant is back in the public eye following the release of new information this week."
TEPCO, the plant's operator, says there's a steady increase in the levels of radioactive cesium in the groundwater, and in levels of strontium and tritium offshore.
Tokyo Fashion Diaries reports on "tattoo stockings" that are apparently hot items this summer. They make their wearers appear to have elaborate tattoos up and down their legs -- a lower-limb twist on the tattoo sleeve shirts.
(via Crazy Abalone)
Here's time-lapse footage from the front of a Tokyo Yurikamome automated train, shot and post-processed by DarwinFish105. It's a properly Gibsonian bit of video:
Darwinfish105's video is shot from the front of the train, and is a time-lapse taken from a moving viewpoint - hence the term "hyperlapse". He's modified the footage somewhat, mirroring the video horizontally to give a surreal, kaleidoscopic effect.>
Hyperlapse video shows off Tokyo's Turikamome railway (Thanks, Rob!)
Culture Japan Network TV shows us the underground bicycle-parking robots of Shinagawa, Tokyo. These machines ingest RFID-tagged bicycles and whisk them into their bowels and set them lovingly into huge subterranean crypts, from which they are robotically disinterred when their owners are ready to ride. Each machine holds 200 bikes. The manufacturer's representative explains that storing bikes underground protects them from "pranks" and frees up surface area for better applications, but inexplicably the area around the robo-ingesters is a blank field of paving bricks of approximately the same area that the bikes would occupy on the surface.
Shintaro Hayashi, a Tokyo prosthetics maker, spent most of this life making medical prostheses for people who'd lost breasts, limbs, etc, but now does a booming trade in fake pinkie fingers for ex-yakuza gangsters who don't want to broadcast their criminal past (yakuza members who screw up have their pinkies lopped off in retaliation).
The doctor molds silicone prosthetic pinkies, made to seamlessly mask the amputation, making for a smoother transition to the outside world. Priced at nearly $3,000 each, the fingers are carefully painted, to match the exact skin color of the client. Former yakuza members, who make up 5 percent of Hayashi's business, often keep several sets of fingers for different seasons – the light skinned version for winter, and a tanned look for summer.
Hayashi sums up his clientele in three categories: Those who are dragged into his office by girlfriends worried about their reputations, ex-members who are eager to move up the corporate ladder but worried about the repercussions of their past being exposed, longtime yakuza who have no intention of getting out, but need to cover up for a child's wedding or grandchild's sporting event.
"Many people keep a fist, to prevent detection," he said. "But there comes a point where you can't hide your fingers any longer. Some people have one joint severed, others have worse," he said.
Prosthetic Fingers Help Reform Japan's Feared Yakuza Gangsters [Akiko Fujita/ABC]
The Brazilian website "Arte do Medo" identifies this amazing eyeball face horror makeup as originating in Japan, though no other details are forthcoming.
Update: Thanks to BB commenters FakeNina and Daemonworks, this fellow has been identified as Hikaru Cho, whose Tumblr is here, and whose personal site is here.
Brian Ashcraft updates us on the astounding foam-art of Osaka barista Kazuki Yamamoto. Yamamoto has now mastered 3D foam, and is blowing my mind. Ashcraft has a series of posts documenting the journey of Yamamoto to undisputed novelty foam king of the Pacific Rim.
The Millennium Falcon Metallic Nano Puzzle looks like a delight. It's one of those puzzle/models that you punch out of thin, laser-cut pieces of sheet metal and assemble with tweezers and pliers, and the finished model is quite a beauty. It's $15.30 plus shipping from Japan. It looks more complex than the models I've done to date (most took less than an hour to complete), so be prepared to spend some time on it.
Osaka's fascist mayor defends WWII policy of sexual enslavement: "a comfort women system is necessary. Anyone can understand that."
Toru Hashimoto is mayor of Osaka and co-founder of the Japanese Restoration Party. He's previously called for Japan to be run as a dictatorship; now he's made public comments defending the WWII Japanese military policy of enslaving women and giving them to soldiers to rape. He says that it was a necessary expedient to support hard-working soldiers.
He said last year that Japan needed "a dictatorship".
In his latest controversial comments, quoted by Japanese media, he said: "In the circumstances in which bullets are flying like rain and wind, the soldiers are running around at the risk of losing their lives,"
"If you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a comfort women system is necessary. Anyone can understand that."
He also claimed that Japan was not the only country to use the system, though it was responsible for its actions.
Japan WWII 'comfort women' were 'necessary' - Hashimoto (Thanks, Jack!)
A chain of Osaka cafes sells a crazy parfait, topped with a ginormous piece of cake:
On a recent day out in Osaka, our reporter stopped by a café and ordered a truly hard-core parfait. It wasn’t that the parfait was so big, and no, it didn’t contain any shocking ingredients. What blew our minds about this parfait was its topping.
It was a slice of cake, and it was so big it wasn’t even trying to fit into the glass. Our reporter had this sweet-tasting tag-team at the Semba branch of Osaka-based café MIOR.
Who Needs a Cherry on Top? Osaka Café Crowns its Parfaits with Cake [Casey Baseel/RocketNews24]
(via Super Punch)
Tama-chan is a portable watermelon refrigerator on wheels. The Japanese device retails for 19,950 yen (about $200) and can handle watermelons or similarly shaped comestibles, such as poultry, roasts, or severed heads. The device itself weighs 6.3kg, and charges from a car lighter socket.
Daniel Ryan describes his music as "a mix of Japanese folk music and glitch hop." This isn't normally my sort of thing -- I pretty much only listen to music with words -- but I played this one three times in a row this morning. There's a lot of clever stuff going on here that I lack the vocabulary to describe but possess the aesthetic apparatus to appreciate. According to one redditor, the folk song is this track off the Samurai Champloo soundtrack.
The sheer awesome filtration power of the OKO filter is on display here as a fellow from Japan's RocketNews24 uses it to separate the clear, relatively benign H2O out of the Black Waters of American Imperialism. If it can turn Coke into water, the entertainment industry should consider using it -- after all, they've spent the past 20 years trying to get the food coloring out of the swimming pool. In any event, I wonder how you dispose of the sludge that remains in the bottle?
Francesco sez, "A Japanese company has released a plastic figure of a tuna fish. The figure is 33cm long and features a working table and the traditional 'Maguro bōchō' knife to cut the tuna. This figure costs ¥29,000 (USD292) in Japanese hobby stores."
I love that it's themed for the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, which may be the most memorable place I've ever visited.
"Numerous Japanese teens, it seems, are uploading photos of themselves doing the Kamehameha attack from popular manga and anime series Dragon Ball," writes Kotaku's Japan-based correspondent Brian Ashcraft. There's a photo gallery and it's awesome. Brian had an earlier post at Kotaku about the broader trend in Japan of young women staging photos with manga-style martial arts. Below, one such image found on 2ch, Japan's largest bulletin board, with the heading, "Schoolgirls Nowadays lol".
(Thanks, Brian Lam!)
Tickets at the Studio Ghibli museum near Tokyo are made from snips of actual film from Miyazaki movies. This ticket shows Satsuki from the masterpiece My Neighbor Totoro.