If I have to pick the single best Disney theme park in the world, it’s always going to be the one Walt built — Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It really is different, and better, than anyplace else and the people who run it and work there take special pride in that. But the best Disney Resort in the world, taking into account all its parks, hotels, special seasonal events, and transportation (don’t you hate waiting for those buses in Orlando?) has to be The Tokyo Disney Resort. It’s has the second best Magic Kingdom style park in the world, with many unique rides. They’re really big on seasonal events, too, and they go all-out for Halloween.
Plenty has been written about Cosplay (i.e., “costume” + “play”) in Tokyo, but people mostly focus on dressing up as manga and anime characters in Harajuku — on the Harajuku Jingu Bridge; coincidentally right next to the cicadas singing in Mejii-Jingu — and in Akihabara.
Less well known is that for precisely 10 days in early September and 7 days in late October, The Tokyo Disney Resort has official Cosplay days where adults are allowed to come to Tokyo Disneyland in full costume. Here, however, the only costumes allowed are Disney characters (no surprise). These are not the tired schleppers dragging their kids around you see in the U.S. In Tokyo Disneyland there is a regal quality to the care with which the cosplayers make the costumes and the pride which with they wear them. Read the rest
According to McDonald's Japan founder Den Fujita, the design brief for the company's straws specified that they pass liquid at a rate comparable to the rate at which breast milk flows to a nursing baby, "the speed that produces the most delicious feeling."
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You don't hear a lot about indie games from Japan. While a culture of low-budget, experimental video games created by small teams has flourished in the West over the last ten years, the same can't be said for the homeland of Nintendo and Sony. But that's finally starting to change, and a documentary titled Branching Paths hopes to chronicle the rise of the nascent Japanese indie game scene.
Directed by Anne Ferraro, the documentary will feature interviews with numerous Japanese developers by Yoshiro Kimura of Onion Games, and delve into the financial and cultural problems that could hold indie developers back, as well as Japan's history of "independent creators building lively communities, even within industries where large media companies rule."
Some of the steps forward have been very tangible and visible: Events like Bitsummit have sprung up to bring independent developers together, while the siren call of Kickstarter has enticed gaming legends like Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi to strike out on their own with crowdfunding. Even the prestigious Tokyo Games Show added an indie games pavilion to the event in 2013.
Still, not everyone is quite so sanguine about the current status of indie gaming in Japan, at least when it comes to providing full-time employment for developers who aren't already superstars. "I don't think the indie dream is possible just yet," says one man in the teaser trailer. "It's like, if you want money, don't quit your job."
Branching Paths: A Journey in Japan's Independent Games Scene is due out January 2016. Read the rest
Tokaido is a set-building game about traveling the eastern sea road in Japan from Kyoto to Edo. You'll be playing the part of one of 10 different characters with unique powers, vying to have the most fulfilling experience. During the trip, you'll have the opportunity to meet other travelers, buy souvenirs, visit hot springs, paint scenic vistas, donate to one of the many countryside temples, and if you're strapped for cash you can work on a farm for a day to earn a little spending cash. At the end of the day you'll check into the inn to enjoy a meal with your fellow travelers.
The movement mechanic is particularly interesting in that the player that is furthest back on the track goes next. There's a careful balance to strike when moving ahead to get what you want. For example, the last player to arrive at one of the three inns on the board goes first the next round, but getting into the inn first gives you pick of the few meal cards that are being served at the inn – if money is an object, you might want to get there before the cheap food is gone. Score is kept continuously across the top of the board during play, but at the end of the game, after everyone has dined at the last inn, there are several bonus awards for doing the most of something, or being in the ranking of donators to the temples.
Tokaido looks amazing. The art is particularly well done in this game. Read the rest
Late August, and the roar of the crowd is unmistakable. It’s the season-ending song sung by the largest chorus imaginable: the Cicada.
Growing up in Queens, New York in the 1960s and ’70s, you heard pretty much nothing in the evenings except for the tinkling of the Mister Softee ice cream truck. Not even crickets.
Then one day on an August trip to the hoity-toity shopping street Omotesando Avenue in Tokyo in the late 1980s (having just left “Crayon,” my favorite children’s book store), I continued up the street through Harajuku and heard what sounded like a locomotive bearing down.
This was the entrance to Yoyogi Park, with wide and majestic tree-lined walkways that lead to the shrine Mejii-Jingu. If you find yourself there in the summer, make sure to investigate the gardens, which you enter for a slight extra fee—they are a mystical place where the koi mouth hello.
The heat and humidity was crushing, and the sound of what must have been millions of cicadas was overwhelming and surreal. A few steps off the street and under the verdant canopy, the sounds of Tokyo’s traffic had vanished, replaced by the roar of the crowd.
The cicada is a remarkable insect that grows in the earth, subsequently clawing its way through the soil, dragging itself up the bark of a tree. It resembles a prehistoric creature, something horrible resurrected from a comic book, and then it digs its crab-like front claws into the bark. Shortly its head splits open and an entirely different figure emerges, large and winged. Read the rest
The massive museum exhibition "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" will land at Seattle's EMP Museum in November. Read the rest
The stunning temples and gardens of Kyoto are something my family and I will never forget. The rude tourists tugging the kimono sleeves of beautifully dressed and made-up maiko and asking them to pose like Disney World characters for a photo is something we would like to forget. The city of Kyoto hopes that its new brochure aimed at curbing gaijin impoliteness will allow maiko to go about their business in public without being mobbed.
The infographic-style brochure also describes 17 other akimahen ("do not") for tourists to be mindful of. They range from the mildly annoying (giving a tip to a server) to the criminally egregious (riding a bike while drunk, which is punishable by up to five years in prison). With the exception of the no-tipping custom and the automatic taxi doors (I try to close the door every time I ride a taxi in Japan and the cabbies hate it because it probably stresses the mechanism), almost every akimahen on the list is just common sense.
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Would you like your skin to look youthful, even though you're pushing 100? A Captain America skincare face mask may be just the ticket. Part of Isshin Do's official Marvel-licensed beauty line. Read the rest
World of Dance just held their World Finals in Los Angeles, and the breakout team in the Youth competition brought insane levels of energy and breakdancing precision to win their division. Read the rest
Yamato Suzuki's adorable dog is yelping such a perfect imitation of the sound made by a passing ambulance. Read the rest
The business end of KOKUYO Beetle Tips highlighter looks a bit like a rhinoceros beetle's horns, hence the name. Three-way refers to the fun you'll have with the highlighter when you make three different kinds of marks with it.
Amazon sells a colorful 5-pack for $8.
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VPRO backlight looks at the current state of androids in Japan, including an interesting segment on geminoids, or robot twins made in the likeness of a human counterpart: Read the rest
New leaked documents published by Wikileaks show that the US spy agency conducted surveillance operations against Japan's top government officials, prioritizing finance and trade ministers, as well as the Japanese central bank and two private-sector energy companies.
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Staedtler makes a highlighter called the Textsurfer Gel that somehow congeals finicky, dry-out-prone highlighter ink into an everwet, enduring crayon that you'll be handing down to your grandchildren.
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Hukulou Coffee in Osaka has several owls, but Fuku the owlet and Marimo the kitten are the star attractions, as they have become very good friends.
The posts below have some very cute recent videos.
Lots of great fan art on their Twitter feed, too.
• Hukulou Coffee (Twitter) Read the rest