Boing Boing 

Why does Japan love giant robots so much?


Transforming pop culture: Giant robots, such as those in Guillermo del Toro's blockbuster 'Pacific Rim' (above), have been big in Japan for decades.

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.

Tokyo's "unmanned stores" - honor-system sheds where farmers sell their surplus produce


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.

Read the rest

Giant panorama of Tokyo from the Tokyo Tower

Jeffrey from 360 Cities sez, "I have spent the last few months working on the Tokyo Tower Gigapixel. This is the second-largest panorama I have ever made, but it is my #1 favorite overall. (Here is the biggest one - and previously: 1, 2, 3, 4."

Read the rest

TEPCO admits Fukushima is leaking into the ocean

Experts have long suspected that the Fukushima nuclear power plant site is leaking contaminated water into the nearby ocean. Today, TEPCO, the Japanese energy company that owns the site, admitted this is, in fact, the case.

A neat seventies mashup gadget from Japan: The Sharp Abacus-Calculator

[Click for large view.] Author and blogger Matt Alt writes from Japan:

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.

Tokyo Disneyland's Jungle Cruise

At long last, Tokyo Disneyland is getting its own Jungle Boat Cruise, a first for a non-US Disney park. It will run night and day, and will sport a soundtrack and special effects. No word on whether the skippers will spiel and improv their way through the ride, or whether they'll just drive the boats.

Source of increasing contamination at Fukushima Nuclear Plant unknown


Via VOA: "A leakage detective unit (C) and its detection punch unit on an underground water storage tank are seen at TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Fukushima, in this undated photograph released by TEPCO on April 6, 2013."

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 tattoo tights


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.

TATTOO STOCKINGS ARE STILL BOOMING IN JAPAN. HERE ARE SOME OF THE COOLEST (AND WEIRDEST?) FOR THIS SUMMER (translation)

(via Crazy Abalone)

What it’s like to order a pizza online in Japan

[Video Link] Sharla is a Canadian college student living in Japan. Here's a video she took that goes through the process of ordering a pizza to be delivered. It turns out you get a free gift when you order a pizza! (Via Dooby Brain)

Hyperlapse video from the PoV of a Tokyo automated train

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!)

Safecast, crowdsourced radiation monitoring project, logs 10 million data points

The crowdsourced radiation monitoring project Safecast, which was launched in the weeks after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, has reached a big milestone: they have collected and published over 10,000,000 individual data points.

Tokyo's underground bike-storage robots

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.

Underground Bicycle Parking Systems in Japan (via Kadrey)

Prosthetics maker does a roaring trade in replacement pinkies for ex-yakuza


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]

Eyeball face makeup


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.

ARTE DO MEDO #5 (via Super Punch)

Monster money!


Google Translate says that the caption on this image is Japanese for "Bill of surprised frontispiece monster world." I can't really hazard any guesses beyond that, but hey, monster money!

『びっくり口絵 怪物世界のお札』 (via Crazy Abalone)

3D latte foam art


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.

3D Coffee Art Reaches New, Dizzying Heights [Brian Ashcraft/Kotaku] (via Geekologie)

Sheet-metal Millennium Falcon model


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.

Star Wars Metallic Nano Puzzle (Millennium Falcon) (via Geekologie)

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!)

(Image: Wikimedia Commons/aska27)

Cake-topped parfait


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)

Portable watermelon fridge


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.

ポータブル温冷庫/The Portable Watermelon Fridge — Could It Be The Perfect Gift For The Person Who Has It All?

(via Digg)

Japanese folk music glitch hop

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.

Nagasaki

Filter can separate water from Coke

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?

I tried drinking by clear and colorless cola [filtration] 's great! Taste to be worried about? (via Kottke)

Sushi tuna model that decomposes into individual delicacies


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.

Maguro Figure: il modellino perfetto per gli amanti del Sushi! (Thanks, Francesco!)

Nuclear contaminated water leaking from storage tanks at Fukushima site

Over the last couple of days, Japanese electrical company TEPCO has announced that they found leaks in three of the seven underground tanks used to store contaminated water at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. They've also admitted that the tanks aren't reliable. And here's where we get to the fun part: Despite that fact, there aren't many other options. The water is stuff that's been used to cool down fuel rods that melted during the April 2011 disaster. You have to put water on the fuel rods, or they could overheat again. But once you're done with that water, it's not particularly safe, either, so you have to contain it somehow. And until other options can be built these tanks are the only place to put it. The third, most recent, leak was found when TEPCO tried to move water from the known-to-be-leaky tanks to another they thought was in good shape. This is just a mess.

Japanese teen trend: "Dragon Ball attack" selfies

"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 from the Studio Ghibli museum are made from snips of film


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.

I went to (Miyazaki) Studio Ghibli Museum near Tokyo, Japan. The tickets are made up of cut up film cells. My ticket is from Princess Mononoke.

See also: A visit to Spirited Away creator's museum in Japan

Have yourself 3D-scanned and turned into a human gummi


FabCafe, a 3D printed confectioner in Shibuya, Tokyo, is offering nine lucky blokes the chance to have their bodies 3D scanned and rendered in gummi, the most wondrously magical of all the edible substances. It's in honor of White Day, the Japanese give-your-female-lover-a-present holiday on March 14 (they also did custom chocolate-lollies of one's 3D scanned head for V-Day). These are so amazingly amazing and they point the way to a future where cheap scanners will render entire rooms as voxels to be output in gummi, wherein you can pay to be encased while you slowly, deliciously eat your way out. Coming soon to a Shibuya Love Hotel near you (maybe).

Chew on this: FabCafe lets you create a gummy replica of yourself for White Day (via OhGizmo)

Another look at Fukushima's legacy

Recently, I linked you to a report on the World Health Organization's estimates of the long-term risk of cancer and cancer-related deaths among people who lived nearest to the Fukushima nuclear plant when it went into meltdown and the people who worked to get the plant under control and into a cold shutdown. The good news was that those risks seem to be lower than the general public might have guessed, partly because the Japanese government did a good job of quickly getting people away from the area and not allowing potentially contaminated milk and meat to be consumed. The bad news: That one aspect isn't the whole story on Fukushima's legacy or the government's competency. Although the plant is in cold shutdown today, it still needs to be fully decommissioned and the site and surrounding countryside are in desperate need of cleanup and decontamination. That task, unfortunately, is likely to be far more difficult than anybody thought, with initial estimates of a 40-year cleanup now described as "a pipe dream". One key problem: The government cut funding to research that could have produced the kind of robots needed for this work, because it assumed that nobody would ever need them.

Takeru Kobeyashi eats a 12" pizza in 60 secs

As I watched competitive eater Takeru Kobeyashi consume a 12" Domino's pizza in one minute, I realized that I could probably do this, and that if it wasn't Domino's, I could probably do it twice. Not that I'm supposed to. Carbs don't agree with me. But if you need to dispose of evidence in pizza form, and Takeru Kobeyashi is busy, I might be your guy.

Takeru Kobeyashi Eats a whole Pizza In One Minute

Friendly, trusting Japanese system for lining up for sports tickets

Murdo sends us a video showing "an Englishman in Japan showing how the Japanese queue for local football games. They stick sellotape to the ground with their information on it, marking their places in the queue so that they can return to that point in the future. They even do it the night before the actual queue forms!"

Japan Culture Shock! Unbelievable lining up queue system at Japan sports events! MUST SEE!