Homeless recruited to decontaminate Fukishima; paid less than minimum wage


The publicly funded, $35B cleanup of radioactive soil around Fukishima is staffed by homeless men recruited from Tokyo Sendai subway stations. They are preferentially sent to the most radioactive zones, and work for less than minimum wage. Mobbed-up subcontractors confiscate as much as two thirds of their pay in "fees." Everyone involved in sourcing the labor for the cleanup denies responsibility for the illegal practices, blaming sub-subcontractors or cowboy recruiters. The president of one contractor, Aisogo Service, defended the practice of not scrutinizing the labor force or the conditions under which it worked, saying "If you started looking at every single person, the project wouldn't move forward. You wouldn't get a tenth of the people you need."

Workers are also recruited from publicly funded homeless shelters. One man worked for a month for a total payout of $10. After this fact was verified and made public, the man disappeared. Workers are charged exorbitant rates for lodgings and food, and are docked pay for being too ill to work. As a result, some workers are in debt to their employers, a debt that deepens the longer they stay employed.

The decontamination project is two to three years behind schedule.

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Sperm Journey

An educational video for you, from Japan. [Video Link. Thanks, Heather!]

Mecha-inspired casemod is a diorama depicting a gritty, gorgeous battlescene


Hiroto Ikeuchi is a Japanese casemodder who builds spectacular dioramas into PC towers, turning them into dystopian, futuristic military battlescenes. The Raku-Taro Tumblr has some flat-out gorgeous photos of an Ikeuchi project that's on display at the Ars Electronica center in Vienna Linz.

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Whale-shaped, hand-forged, kid-friendly pencil-sharpening knives


These whale-shaped Kujira knives were created by Japanese blacksmith Toru Yamashita, who was asked to make a knife for children to sharpen pencils with. The result is a slightly blunt, kid-friendly tool that's whimsical, hand-forged and gorgeous. And as Core77's Kat Bauman points out, US residents can get this shipped in time for Christmas from Hand Eye Supply if they order by noon today (Dec 21).

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Tiki Transformer


Mike "Nemo" Mendez created "TikiTPrime Warrior" for today's Transformer Show at Toy Tokyo. This is definitely a case of two great tastes that taste great together.

Custom-Feature: TikiTPrime Warrior by Nemo (via Neatorama)

Kisai Console Wood watch: futuristic LED face and sandalwood bracelet

TokyoFlash's new Kisai Console Wood watch has a gorgeous sandalwood bracelet and a groovy LED-lit display that nestles directly in the sweet-spot between functional and ornamental. It comes with your choice of blue or green LEDs and red or dark sandalwood, and charges over USB. I'm partial (very, very partial) to the dark wood. Wow.

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Scriptura Vitae: surreal, caligraphic, Butoh dance video

Souris writes, "Scriptura Vitae is the directorial debut of New York-based artist, designer and filmmaker Aerosyn-lex Mestrovic. Having collaborated with the likes of Kanye West and KENZO, Mestrovic's latest venture is an ambitious three-part journey into the unknown that showcases Lex's haunting ritualistic calligraphy, alongside stunningly choreographed Japanese Butoh performances set to a score which features original music by the Grammy Nominated DIPLO. The film stars famed Japanese actress Miho Nikaido, best known for her role in the cult-classic and previously banned film Tokyo Decadence which was written and directed by lauded novelist Ryu Murakami. The effects in the film are visually striking, combining modern compositing with in-camera painting to devise something wholly unique."

◢ SCRIPTURA VITAE † A FILM BY AEROSYN-LEX MESTROVIC ◣ (Thanks, Souris!)

A visit to a 7th century Japanese hot spring

Danny Choo visited the Ikaho Hot Springs in Japan and took lots of photos (as he always does whenever he posts something to his entertaining website). As I scrolled through the photos, I was worried that Danny forgot to bring his dolls with him, but I was relieved to see that he didn't.

Founded in the 7th century, Ikaho Onsen [伊香保温泉] (Ikaho Hot Springs) is one of Japan's most popular hot spring resort areas located in the Gunma Prefecture [群馬県].

The hot springs are concentrated around Ishidan [石段] - a 365 flight of stone steps which are also lined with traditional inns and shops.

Wifey and I managed to spend a day at Ikaho filming for a wee bit - today we take a look at the hot spring area and the traditional inn that we stayed at.

Places to visit in Japan: Ikaho Onsen

Hot ginger ale in Japanese vending machines


Today, Coca-Cola Japan puts a new kind of hot Canada Dry ginger-ale for sale in its vending machines. The drink is meant to appeal to people who enjoy traditional Japanese hot ginger drinks, and is mixed with apple and cinnamon.

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Vegetable chowder popsicles!


Japan's beloved Garigari-kun popsicles have a delicious new flavor: vegetable chowder. It follows on from its earlier success with corn potage, whose sales outstripped the company's ability to keep up.

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Just look at End Cape's tattooed bananas.


Just look at them.

You've Never Seen Tattoos Like Banana Tattoos (Thanks, Dean!)

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1.2kg Mega Pizza Burger hits Kyoto

A significant addition to Kyoto's justly famed cuisine: the 1.2 kg mega pizza-burger:

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Japanese Toast Art

"Earlier this spring," begins Brian Ashcraft, "Hittomii began uploading toast art in earnest."

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.

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