Boing Boing 

New Hiroshima bombing photo shows split mushroom cloud

A photograph that shows the Hiroshima atomic bomb cloud split into two sections, one over the other, has been released by the curator of a peace museum in Japan. It was discovered on Monday among a collection of some 1,000 archival items related to the bombing, all of which are now in the possession of Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima city.

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What you can learn from the million-dollar tuna

On Saturday, a bluefin tuna was sold at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market tuna auction for $1.76 million. Which is a little crazy. (Also crazy, the size of the fish in question.) But the amount paid for this specimen of a chronically overfished species doesn't really represent simple supply and demand, explains marine biologist Andrew David Thaler. It shouldn't be read as a measurement of tuna scarcity, he says, but rather as an artifact of culture (and marketing).

Voltronoid Mickey Mouse & friends transforming robot toy


Bandai has released the Chogokin King Robo Mickey & Friends, a voltronoid multi-robot toy made from classic Disney characters. It's about $132 plus shipping from Japan:

7 little robots combine to make one big one! The 7 little bots are:

* Mickey Mouse (Jet Mickey)
* Minnie Mouse (Sky Minnie)
* Donald Duck (Diver Donald)
* Daisy Duck (Aqua Daisy)
* Goofy (Land Goofy)
* Pluto and Doghouse (Dash Pluto and Doghouse)
* Steamboat Willie (Ace Willie)

Stands 22cm tall in combined King Robo Mickey form! Made of diecast metal, ABS plastic, and PVC vinyl.

Inspired.

Chogokin King Robo Mickey & Friends by Bandai (Thanks, Erik Krogh!)

Caturday: dig this 2013 Japanese cat meme calendar

I enjoy following Sakurako Shimizu, or "sakuracos," on instagram for daily cute-cat-photos from Japan. I was delighted to see that she has produced this attractively-designed "cat meme calendar," available on Etsy for $15.50 USD, with adorbzable photos of Fuku, Goma, and their furry friends.

Sony ceases production on cassette player/recorders


Sony will no longer make its cassette player/recorders. In other news, Sony was still making cassette player/recorders.

Sony to discontinue the production early 2013 of Cassette Player/ Recorder

Gold Christmas Tree

Reuters:

The tree-like ornament is made of 88 pounds of pure gold, standing about 7.9 ft high ... It is decorated with pure gold plate silhouette cutouts of 50 popular Disney characters and draped with ribbons made of gold leaf. The price tag? A mere $4.2 million.

Apple's Siri vs. Japanese-accented English

In this video, an increasingly frustrated native Japanese speaker discovers that Siri is unable to parse the spoken English word "work" when voiced with a typical Japanese accent. (kenjikinukawa via Joi Ito)

Mail-Order Ninja's Kickstarter revival


Josh from Reading With Pictures sez, "A Kickstarter campaign (now in its final days!) to revive the award-winning graphic novel series and nationally syndicated comic 'Mail Order Ninja!' Originally published by TOKYOPOP and distributed as a strip by Universal Press Syndicate, the series fell into publishing limbo when TOKYOPOP closed its doors. That is... until now! 'Mail Order Ninja' is the certified awesome tale of an ordinary little boy named Timothy J. McAllister living an ordinary little life in the ordinary little town of Cherry Creek, IN. But when Timmy orders his very own ninja from a mail order catalog (Arch-nemesis sold separately.), life in Cherry Creek will never be ordinary again!"

MAIL ORDER NINJA Returns! (Thanks, Josh!)

Manga plates turn your food into comics


Francesco sez, "In my blog on Wired.it I posted a new series of wonderful 'manga inspired' plates created by the Japanese designer Mika Tsutai. Positioning the food in the right way Geek Chefs can tell a story or almost make the food more fun! Each plate costs 2980 Yen and for now is available only in Japanese design stores."

La cucina invasa dai manga!! (Thanks, Francesco!)

Blood type determinism in Japan

On the BBC, Ruth Evans describes a widespread Japanese superstition about the relationship between blood-types and personality. Apparently, the modern junk-science belief originates with a crank called Masahiko Nomi who published a "a book in the 1970s" about it, and his son Toshitaka has continued the family tradition with more woo books and an "Institute of Blood Type Humanics." However, Evans implies that the origin of this belief is the eugenics-grounded ideology of the Imperial militarist Japanese government of the 1930s, who "formed battle groups according to blood type."

It's apparently a very widespread belief. Employers ask prospective employees for their blood-types. Dating sites use blood-type to make matches. Blood-types form part of the plot in manga, anime and games. And big companies, sports teams, politicians and teachers are all known to discriminate based on typing:

The women's softball team that won gold for Japan at the Beijing Olympics is reported to have used blood type theories to customise training for each player. Some kindergartens have even adopted methods of teaching along blood group lines, and even major companies reportedly make decisions about assignments based on employees' blood types.

In 1990 the Asahi Daily newspaper reported that Mitsubishi Electronics had announced the creation of a team composed entirely of AB workers, thanks to "their ability to make plans".

These beliefs even affect politics. One former prime minister considered it important enough to reveal in his official profile that he's a type A, whilst his opposition rival was type B. Last year a minister, Ryu Matsumoto, was forced to resign after only a week in office, when a bad-tempered encounter with local officials was televised. In his resignation speech he blamed his failings on the fact that he was blood type B.

Not everyone sees the blood type craze as simply harmless fun.

It sometimes manifests itself as prejudice and discrimination, and it seems this is so common, the Japanese now have a term for it - bura-hara, meaning blood-type harassment. There are reports of discrimination against type B and AB groups leading to children being bullied, the ending of happy relationships, and loss of job opportunities.

Japan and blood types: Does it determine personality?

DIY Strandbeest kit in a Japanese hobby magazine

Francesco Fondi writes, "Last saturday Gakken celebrated the 10th anniversary of the series 'Otona no Kagaku': an hybrid of magazine and book with an educational toy attached to each release. Beside showing the complete collection of the cult toys released in a decade, Toshiyuki Nishimura chef editor of the pubblication, presented the Animaris Imperio: a new kit based on Theo Jansen mechanical animals. In the past Gakken already released two Strandbeeste kits but this time the model is not a scale replica of a real Theo Jansen self-propelling animal but a custom biped design created only for Japan."

Gakken Otona no Kagaku Animaris Imperio: gli animali meccanici di Theo Jansen - Arte e modellismo

Thoughts from a Japanese Media Pirate

The following was submitted for publication by a reader who asked to remain anonymous — Rob

I just finished Pirate Cinema and felt the need to write something about it, because it concerns a cause that's near to my heart. I saw myself in protagonist Trent McCauley, who makes new movies by chopping up footage from popular films, despite the consequences of getting his Internet taken away or being fined or imprisoned in the book's near-future scenario.

This is because I do the same thing. I'm one of those people who remixes different media and posts the finished pieces online. I combine Japanese television dramas, films, PVs, and clips from variety shows with mostly American songs, however, because I like the contrast of Japanese visual media with American music.

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Japan competes with Panama to pass the world's worst copyright law


Japan has extended its shockingly bad copyright law, passed in June, which provides for 10-year prison sentences for people who upload copyrighted works without permission; under the new law, downloading a copyrighted work without permission also carries up to two years in prison.

The Japanese copyright lobby has also renewed its demand for mandatory network surveillance, through which black boxes with secret lists of copyrighted works will monitor all network traffic and silently kill any file-transfer believed to infringe copyright.

The ISPs would have to pay a monthly licensing fee for the privilege of having these black boxes on their networks.

More from TorrentFreak:

Tracking uploaders of infringing material is a fairly simple affair, with rightsholders connecting to file-sharers making available illicit content and logging evidence. However, proving that someone has downloaded content illegally presents a whole new set of issues.

On BitTorrent, for example, rightsholders would have to be the ones actually sending the infringing material to a file-sharer in order to know that he or she is downloading it. This scenario could cause complications, since rightholders already have permission to upload their own content, making the source a legal one.

But for the implications for ‘downloaders’ could be even more widespread. The generally tech-savvy BitTorrent user understands the potential for being targeted for sharing, but by making mere downloading a criminal offense it is now feared that those who simply view an infringing YouTube video could also be subjected to sanctions.

Just when you thought Panama had perfected the crappy copyright law.

Anti-Downloading Law Hits Japan, Up To 2 Years in Prison From Today

Kawaii Catastrophe: Japanese insurance brochure depicts adorable disasters that can befall your home

Author Matt Alt, who lives in Tokyo, writes:

Kawaii. The aesthetic of Japanese cute. You love it or hate it, but you can't escape it, as Hiroko and I learned when renewing the insurance on our house. Japan being Japan, the pamphlet that explains the different levels of coverage features helpful super deformed illustrations of the catastrophes that can befall homeowners. We aren't insuring our house through Playskool. One of Japan's biggest banks gave this to us.

Check out the rest of the illustrations.

House with a skate-ramp


The Skate Park house was custom built for a Shibuya, Tokyo couple, integrating a skate-ramp, a piano studio, and many lovely design flourishes. I think the stair-rail looks like it'd be awesome for grinding, too -- or at least soaping.

The owners of this house, a young married couple, made a special request in regards to the design of their house, located in a quiet residential neighborhood in Shibuya ward. They wanted both a skateboard park and a piano rehearsal room to reflect their own individual interests.

There was no need for a car park on the site, so to take advantage of space a private entrance courtyard was designed. The sliding glass panels of the first floor open up onto this enclosed area and allows for the workshop and studio to expand outwards. The studio has a skateboard bowl imbedded into the floor with multiple angles for plenty of different interaction.

The piano room, located at the back of the studio, is raised about 2 feet from the ground to help with the sound-proofing of the room as well as creating an inherent stage performance space. When the doors open up onto the studio, the expanded space with the bowl transform into guest seating and completely changes the atmosphere from a mere practice room to a public concert hall.

Skate Park House (via Core77)

Robotic Lego ball contraption to beat them all

Akiyuky on YouTube has uploaded a 7 minuted video overview of her or his astounding Lego Ball Contraption, a robotic rube goldberg device in 17 modules, each more fiendishly clever than the last. The accompanying blog (in Japanese) has lots more detail. But honestly, you can just sit agog for seven glorious minutes and soak it all up without having to try and parse out Google Translate's rendition of Akiyuky's explanation.

LEGO TECHNICからくり部屋 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Artist Ai Weiwei captures footage of protesters attacking US ambassador's car in Beijing

Robert Mackey at the NYT reports that Chinese art-provocateur Ai Weiwei was in the right place, at the right time, and captured video of "a small group of protesters [who] briefly surrounded the American ambassador’s car" outside the US Embassy in Beijing, pelting it with objects." Ai Weiwei uploaded the footage to YouTube, showing "that the protesters arrived at the embassy’s gate, with remarkable timing, at precisely the same moment as the ambassador’s car. A line of police officers appeared, running in formation, seconds before the protesters blocked the car." The incident took place amid widespread protests and acts of violence in China over the status of disputed islands also claimed by Japan.

Amid nationalist rage in China, Japanese tech firms suspend operations

Panasonic, Canon, and other Japanese technology firms have suspended operations at their plants in China, as massive anti-Japan protests continue over disputed islands in the East China Sea. (AFP)

World's tallest mohawk

A Tokyo fashion designer did a public appearance in New York's Washington Square Park in order to show off his 3' 8.6" mohawk, which has held the Guinness World Record for world's tallest mohawk since 2011. More from the Houston Chronicle

Forty-year-old Kazuhiro Watanabe (kah-zoo-HEE'-roh wah-tah-NAH'-bee) says he's been growing the hair for 15 years. He says to make it stand upright it takes stylists two hours, one can of gel and three cans of hairspray. He says he wanted to grow the mohawk to rebel against the conformity of Japanese society.

Man shows off Guinness' tallest mohawk in NYC park (via Neatorama)

(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail from a picture by Guinness World Records)

Explore Japanese Space Science with Google Maps

From the Google Maps blog:

September 12th is 'Space Day' in Japan, and we are celebrating by releasing new, comprehensive Street View imagery for two of Japan’s top scientific institutions: the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan). With panoramic imagery in and around these locations now available via the Street View feature of Google Maps, space enthusiasts around the world have a more complete and accurate sense of what it’d be like to virtually swap places with an astronaut.

More here. (Thanks, Nate Tyler!)

Japan: record high radiation levels found in Fukushima fish, more than a year after nuclear accident

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in Japan said Tuesday its monitoring efforts have recorded record high radiation levels in local seafood: 25,800 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in fish sampled within a 20-kilometer range of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The photo shows fish caught Aug. 1, 2012 within 20 kilometers of the crippled nuclear power plant. The findings indicate that radioactive contamination remains at unsafe levels in the area's food supply more than a year after the nuclear crisis.

From Kyodo News:

The level of cesium found in greenling is 258 times that deemed safe for consumption by the Japanese government, suggesting that radioactive contamination remains serious more than a year after the nuclear crisis.

Fishing in the sea off Fukushima Prefecture is voluntarily restricted except for trial fishing of certain octopuses.

CNN has more.

Kid-crack: Japanese "paper doll" fashion stickers

Last month, I took my daughter into town for lunch, and we ended up at a communal table with a couple of slightly older girls (and their mom) who were geeking out, pasting intricate Japanese "fashion doll" stickers into elaborate albums. Each sticker-sheet came with one or two blank bodies -- mostly girls, though boys and babies also featured -- and several fashion items that could be stuck and layered on top of the characters to play dress-up. Think puffy sticker versions of paper dress-up dolls.

We ended up dropping by the shop in Covent Garden where the kids had scored their booty, and buying a few sets and an album for Poesy. These have since become her most favorite toy. It's a good combination of free-play (since you can get funny effects like putting socks on their ears, etc) and collecting, with all the many different varieties of garments and bodies. There's also a less gendered version of these -- food toys like hamburgers and pizzas that you build up in layers.

These have been sheer kid-crack in our house. On our month-long family trip, they were a sure-fire cure for squirming boredom during the lulls and car-rides. They're cheap enough that we didn't mind the inevitable loss as we dribbled away a hanselgretl trail of puffy, minuscule shoes and socks and tu-tus in hotels across America.

Here's a video with the stickers' creator at a Japanese trade-show, explaining their origin. I'm not sure where to buy them -- ours came from Artbox -- but your local Japantown is a good bet.

Two summers ago we decided to create interchangeable apparel stickers for two-dimensional dolls. These stickers can be layered on top of each other to create a fashionable look. The 90 female dolls all have the same body shape, with only the face and hairstyles being different. Because the body shapes are all the same, their clothes are interchangeable, so if you collect a lot of different apparel, there are an infinite number of coordinating combinations. Initially there were 15 dolls, but due to their popularity we increased the number to 90 in two years.

The number of apparel stickers is limited to what can fit on a single sheet, so approximately six different coordinated combinations can be created from a single sheet. We first imagined the personality of each doll and what type of hairstyle and clothes she would probably wear, and from this we also matched her with a suitable name.  We adjusted the cosmetics, eye shadow color, and eye positioning according to what we imagined as the personality of each doll to bring out more individuality.

Japan launches criminal probe into Fukushima nuclear crisis

Finally: Prosecutors in Japan have launched a criminal investigation into the 2011 nuclear plant accident, after more than 1,300 residents filed a complaint against TEPCO executives. Bloomberg reports that the prosecutor for Fukushima City yesterday accepted the complaint, and will start a probe to determine whether professional negligence played a role in the country's worst-ever nuclear plant accident.

Automated baked-goods identification computer vision system

A Japanese point-of-sale system has the native cunning to recognize baked goods of its own accord, a surprisingly tricky computer vision problem:

Brain Corporation has developed a system that can individually identify all kinds of baked goods on a tray, in just one second. A trial has started at a Tokyo bakery store.

This technology was co-developed with the University of Hyogo. This is the world's first trial of such a system in actual work at a cash register.

Bakery goods POS visual recognition system on trial in Tokyo bakery (via DVICE)

RPG for water rockets


Japan's Marudai has brought forth upon this world a new form of water gun: a water rocket-propelled grenade launcher, which fires water balloons bottle rockets a great distance. As the machine-translated text says, "This toy is a toy and enjoy the recoil when firing injection. Please observe the rules and manners play within the terms stipulated." Can't argue with that.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Vision of the future, from 1969 Japan

Matt Alt in Tokyo, following up on a recent BB post about a 1979 American view of the future, shares this wonderful scan. He says:

This is 1969's view of 1989! It's from Shonen Sunday Magazine, a weekly comic compilation. Beautiful, groovy art. Hey, at least they got the "Roomba" right (even if they were off by a few decades!)

First of Japan's 50 reactors restarts since nuclear crisis; Japan's energy policy still in turmoil

Photo: Oi Nuclear Power Plant, via Wikipedia.

The No. 3 reactor at the Ohi (or Ōi) nuclear plant in Japan went back on the grid Thursday morning, according to a statement from its operator, the Kansai Electric Power Company. The nuclear reactor in western Japan became the first in the country to restart since last year's tsunami and earthquake caused a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant, and led to intense debate over the future of energy in Japan.

Also today in Japan, a parliamentary inquiry concluded that the nuclear accident at Fukushima "was a preventable disaster rooted in government-industry collusion and the worst conformist conventions of Japanese culture." Hiroko Tabuchi at the New York Times has more.

Entertainment industry to Japanese ISPs: we'll hand you a secret list of copyrighted works, and you have to block them


As part of Japan's batshit new 10-years-in-jail-for-uploading copyright law, the Recording Industry Ass. of Japan is demanding that ISPs install network filters that spy on all user activity and attempt to detect copyright infringements by comparing every user upload to a massive, secret database of "fingerprints" of copyrighted music, created by Gracenote. Those uploads would be shut off, without review, trial, or notice. One proposal would even require ISPs to send three-strikes-style notices to customers whose connections had been censored, warning them of impending disconnection from the Internet if they continue to trigger positives on the secret, proprietary system. They want ISPs to pay for a monthly software licensing fee for the privilege of running this surveillance/censorship technology.

Torrentfreak reports:

Several music rights groups including the Recording Industry Association of Japan say they have developed a system capable of automatically detecting unauthorized music uploads before they even hit the Internet. In order to do that though, Internet service providers are being asked to integrate the system into their networks.

The system works by spying on the connections of users and comparing data being uploaded to the Internet with digital fingerprints held in an external database. As can be seen from the diagram, the fingerprinting technology employed is from GraceNote, with intermediate systems provided by Copyright Data Clearinghouse (CDC).

Jail For File-Sharing Not Enough, Labels Want ISP-Level Spying Regime

The Beatings Will Continue Until Copyright is Respected

Japan prepares to imprison children for listening to music the wrong way. "illegal downloaders could be hit by penalties of up to two years in prison, or files that extended up to 2 million yen (£16,000). Unauthorised uploaders on the other hand, can expect to be hit with five times the punishment: up to ten years imprisonment."

Vacuum-nozzle "suction mat" cleans your shoes as you wipe them

In this trade-show-floor video, a Japanese inventor shows off his ~$6,000 "suction mat," uses a sensor-triggered grid of vacuum nozzles to suck the grime off your shoes before you come through the door. It reminds me of the air-showers in the airlocks leading into chip-fab cleanrooms, and appeals to my inner compulsive neat-freak. Combine this with a couple autonomous vacuum bots to follow you around and suck up any skin-cells you shed while you're hanging around, and it'll be like you were never there.

Suction Mat will keep the floor amazingly tidy