This fellow has zero fucks to give as THREE oshiya (pushers) try their hardest to get those doors to close.
Presentation is usually the last thing on my mind when I’m making dinner, but if I had more patience, this rice bear would make for an adorable dinner companion. Read the rest
Shinzō Abe, the xenophobic, autocratic prime minister of Japan, has been dismantling Article 9 of the constitution, which forbids acts of war by Japan. Read the rest
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The reasons for tsujigiri varied, but usually the swordsman slashed at an unsuspecting victim to try out his new katana, to practice a new move, to test his strength, or just for the sheer thrill of it. There was even a superstition floating around that said performing tsujigiri on 1,000 people would heal illness. The victims were usually merchants or peasants.
My wife Carla is executive editor of Tofugu, a very cool website about Japan. She just wrote an article about how USans and Canadians living in Japan celebrate Thanksgiving. She interviewed five people (a few are Boing Boing readers who responded to a request to be interviewed) and they told her how they managed to have a nice dinner in a country where turkeys are relatively rare.
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WHAT DO JAPANESE PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THANKSGIVING?
Joel: Not very much. Unlike Christmas and Halloween, school kids tend not to learn much about it other than, "Americans eat turkey." There also seems to be a lot of confusion with young kids regarding turkey versus chicken. Explaining that they are not the same animal results in a lot of baffled looks.
Annamarie: I have found very few people are familiar with American Thanksgiving. Apart from the knowledge that it exists and that we usually eat turkey, most people I’ve spoken to about it are at a loss. This isn’t a bad thing. I appreciate the opportunity to explain both the storybook and historical origins of the holiday.
Katie: I'm still discovering what Japanese folks know about Thanksgiving. Since I work for an American company (Nike) I find most of my coworkers are pretty savvy about things like Fourth of July and other very American holidays, but I can't tell what my neighbors think, or even if it registers on their radar at all. The most interesting insight for me this year was when a colleague said they were going home to visit family for the Obon festival, “you know, kind of like your Thanksgiving holiday.” I thought it was a good sign that he equated Thanksgiving with “homecoming” and not overeating and football games.
The N’Djili district of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo is home to an enormous market of scrap auto-parts, carefully salvaged from Japan's waste-stream and meticulously arrayed on blankets by merchants eking out a marginal existence. Read the rest
The entire trilogy takes place over the course of one year, as we follow the main character, Dan Wells, an awkward 25-year-old English teacher who has just moved to the remote town of Tonoharu, Japan. Being the only American in a rural area an hour away from the nearest small city is a culture shock that Dan hasn’t anticipated. Over the course of the series we are right there with Dan as he struggles with issues that most new assistant language teachers will likely deal with to some degree: loneliness, making friends, fitting in, improving Japanese language ability, overcoming cultural barriers, and figuring out what’s next.
In 2009, illustrator Florent Chavouet decided to shrug off city life and get lost somewhere off the beaten path. Way off the beaten path. Stating, “The country [Japan] claims more than four thousand islands. But I only know two," as reason enough and taking pencils in hand, Chavouet traveled to the smallest, most isolated island he could find: the small fishing island of Manabeshima.
A good travel diary is built on unfamiliar, sometimes incomprehensible scenes brought to life by the ability of its author to paint pictures in the readers' minds. He or she must make both the physical and cultural descriptions of a place and its people understandable, and relatable. In lovely, delicate colors, Chavouet does exactly that. Whether it is by detailing the furnishings and artifacts layered in a photographer’s home or in the odd and surprising detritus cluttering up the local post office, the author shows us all the minutia of daily life on this tiny island.
Chavouet has a knack for finding the little details that define people and places in our minds. We meet Hironobu, whose “round belly fills him with joy.” We meet a nameless vagabond who seems to take delight in inserting himself into Chavouet’s personal space. We meet Reizo-san, an old man who taught English in Hiroshima after the war. And on and on until it seems that the entirety of the town must have come straight from central casting just to populate this charming locale.
In between and alongside the descriptions and sketches of people and places are all the tiny things that make up daily life. Read the rest
Shinri Tezuka, 27, sculpts candy into beautiful, creepy, and very sweet creatures like goldfish and octopuses. The centuries-old practice is called amezaiku, but according to Great Big Story, "today there are only two artists left in Tokyo. Tezuka hopes his elaborate goldfish, frog and octopus designs will inspire the next generation of candy crafters to keep the tradition alive."
Japanese culture website Tofugu has a rundown of the best Japanese horror movies of all time. Number 6 on the list is Hausu, a cartoonishly gory flick from 1977.
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This is what makes Hausu great. It's an absolutely childish horror movie. So much so that the characters are one-dimensional (their names even indicate their behavior). But it all plays into the experience. Watching Hausu as an adult means you're forced to think like a child and find scary the things children find scary. This makes for gory fun when the piano starts dismembering people, blood gushing out its sides.
Sometimes Hausu's blend of silliness and gore is perfect. Other times not so much. But despite the film's imperfection, it works because it's authentic. Though people in 2010 praised Hausu for its "wackiness," I think affection for the film comes from its authenticity. Hausu knows exactly what it wants to be and goes for it full force. Combine that with a childlike perspective and you've got a film worth falling in love with.
This video depicts craftsman Tanegi Zukuri making extraordinarily beautiful and precise examples of Japanese marquetry. Read the rest
Projection mapping is one of the most profound visual effects that computers can generate; themepark fans will have seen it in effect on the revamped opening scene to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland and in the night-time shows that involve painting the whole castle with light (projection mapping is also used to generate the rear-projected faces of the animatronic figures in the new Snow White ride). Read the rest
My skin doesn’t have a single tattoo, but I am touched by the art in tattoos, particularly traditional ones. The Japanese have a long and deep affinity for skin paintings, and have devised a complex iconography for them. The Japanese were early to pioneer color in tattoos, and gave high regard for the full body tattoo, treating the whole torso as a canvas. They even went recursive, sometimes inking a large character that sported a full-body tattoo within the tattoo. This book is chock full of classic themes, characters, and designs, with plenty of notes on the historical significance of tattoo culture. Of course it’s great inspiration for modern tattoos, but also for any other visual art.
Japanese Tattoos: History, Culture, Design by Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny Tuttle Publishing 2016, 160 pages, 7.5 x 10 x 0.7 inches (softcover) $11 Buy a copy on Amazon