The much-anticipated Part Three of the Tonoharu trilogy is hot off the press

My wife, Carla, is the executive editor of Tofugu, a Japanese language and culture blog. Today she ran her review of the third and final installment of Lars Martinson's Tonoharu trilogy.

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.


Video trailer for Tonoharu graphic novel

Tonoharu: Excellent graphic novel about an English teacher in Japan

Tonoharu Part Two: Excellent graphic novel about an English teacher in Japan Read the rest

A travel diary about getting lost on the most isolated island in Japan

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

The incredible and dying art of Japanese candy sculpture

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."

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The 13 best Japanese horror movies

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.

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.

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Transfixing videos of industrial machinery accompanied by electronic music

The YouTube channel INDUSTRIAL JP is a wonderland of machinery and music operated by a label in Japan. [h/t Joel] Read the rest

Japanese Hakone marquetry

This video depicts craftsman Tanegi Zukuri making extraordinarily beautiful and precise examples of Japanese marquetry. Read the rest

Projection mapping on a moving surface with a high-speed projector

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

Japanese Tattoos – Full of traditional and modern designs, characters and history in this photo-heavy book

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

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Mesmerizing animations of Japanese joinery

Japanese joinery is a kind of practical discipline of puzzle-boxes, in which precise, clever wooden interlocks are used to made secure joints without glue or nails. Read the rest

Portland made a fantastic video to woo Japanese tourists

"Odnarotoop" is Portland spelled backwards with Japanese pronunciation. It's also the name of this Terry Gilliam-esque video with a catchy song.

Here's the English translation of the lyrics:

These are the mountains that rise in the distance And this is the river that runs right beside us And these are the bridges that always connect us in Odnaraotoop

These are the streets where we meet up for breakfast and maybe some ice cream or a few dozen donuts and these are the places we drink when we’re finished in Odnarotoop

Odnarotoop, Odnarotoop everyone’s open, so do what you want to in Odnarotoop

And this is the music we play in our basements and our in the street where the city can hear us so sing right along if you’re planning to join us in Odnarotoop

Odnarotoop, Odnarotoop everyone’s open, so do what you want to in Odnarotoop

This is the coffee we drink in the morning and this is the treehouse my neighbor is building everyone’s open and ready to greet you in Odnarotoop

And these are the bikes that we like to ride naked and this is the art that we’re all busy making everyone’s open so do what you want to in Odnarotoop

[via Tofugu] Read the rest

Priceless 170-year-old Japanese fart scroll digitized

About 170 years ago, during Japan's Edo period, a 34-foot scroll called Fart Battle (He-gassen) was created by unknown artisan(s). The work lives on in glorious hi-res digitized collection at Waseda University. Read the rest

Watch George Lucas and Star Wars characters in 1987 Japanese Panasonic TV commercials

Every Sith Lord has his price.

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Flesh sucking phone charger is one of a kind

I’ve traveled to Japan many times over the decades and seen some really strange shit. Read the rest

Skull Walker: a scuttling skull-creature

Y Nakajima's "Skull Walker 2.0" used the skull off an older sculpture and a HEXBUG Strand Beast Toy Figure (inspired by Theo Jansen's Strandbeest walkers) to create this brilliant piece of nightmare fuel. (via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

Watch this killer Sammy Davis Jr. TV commercial for Suntory Whisky (1974)

Long before Suntory boosted its brand awareness thanks to Bill Murray in Lost in Translation (2003), the inimitable Sammy Davis Jr. really did pitch the Japanese whiskey in 1974. Amazing. (Thanks, UPSO!)

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The coolest portable record players in the world

Fumihito Taguchi's fantastic collection of vintage portable record players, including the wonderful specimens seen here, will be on display at Tokyo's Lifestyle Design Center from July 30 to August 28. See more at this Fashion Press post and in Taguchi's book "Japanese Portable Record Player Catalog," available in the US from my favorite vinyl soulslingers Dusty Groove. (via #vinyloftheday)

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Watch 32 out-of-sync metronomes magically synchronize

The magic of physics.

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