Book and Bed: Tokyo's coffin hotel/bookstore


If you're in Ikebukuro and need a cozy, bookish bed for the night, try Book and Bed, a "designed hostel" that hides coffin-hotel-style bunks among bookshelves lined with handsome volumes and rolling ladders. The books aren't for sale, but you're welcome to read them in your bunk. Read the rest

Umbrella reveals Mickey Mouse when it rains


Got a spare 12 bucks? If you’re a fan of the Mouse and you live someplace other than California, Nevada, and Arizona, then you might have fun with this collapsible umbrella that appears to be normal — a solid color — when you open it. When the heavens open and the raindrops fall, they bring out a silhouette of Walt Disney’s best pal on the fabric. Fun, but not in the sun... and it looks like this: Read the rest

Halloween Magic at Tokyo Disneyland


My friend Yasuo Amano, who lives in the town of Shizuoka about an hour outside Tokyo, runs a Japanese blog called Hey Presto. It is mostly concerned with the unique magic tricks produced a Japanese toy company named Tenyo, about which I’ve just written an enormous set of books that will be released in early November.

The Tenyo Company has been in business since 1931, and sells its magic tricks to regular folks at its “Magic Corners” in department stores across Japan. Even though the tricks they devise are easy to do, they also appeal to magicians because of their creativity.

And then there is Tokyo Disneyland, which is turned into a most mysterious and magical place at Halloween. Amano’s latest blog video combines a recent visit to Tokyo Disneyland’s seasonal Halloween event with a performance of some of Tenyo’s newest tricks.

I know … Halloween is still weeks away, but for purposes of commerce Halloween now commences in early September at Disney parks around the world, and even at your local supermarket and drugstore where the candy and greeting cards now appear before summer has officially ended.

In the latest and most annoying development, yesterday at Rite-Aid I saw Christmas cookies already out in the Halloween aisle. Don’t make me punch you in the face, Santa. Read the rest

15 things I love about Tokyo DisneySea


Yeah, you’ve heard of Disneyland (that’s the one in California) and you were probably dragged to Walt Disney World (that’s the one in Florida) when you were a kid. And, possibly, if you give a rat’s patootie about Disney theme parks, you might have heard they have them in other countries, but you’ve probably never heard of Tokyo DisneySea.

“TDS,” as the Japanese call it, is what is known as a Disney resort’s “second gate.” If you’re a WDW person, then Epcot is the second gate; if you’re a DL person, then Disney California Adventure is the second gate.

In 2001, when The Walt Disney Company built Disney California Adventure, it spent one billion bucks for the park, the Grand Californian Hotel, and Downtown Disney. The same year, when The Oriental Land Company (who owns the Tokyo Disney Resort—The Walt Disney Company receives a royalty and percentage) built Tokyo DineySea, it spent three billion dollars just for the park. The Imagineers who conceive all this amazing stuff for Disney, most of which rarely gets built, got the chance to see their best creations realized. I could write a book about Tokyo DisneySea, but here are just 15 really cool things.

1. Drinking a Kirin Frozen Draft while standing beside the Nautilus. Yes, they serve Japanese beer with a frozen “head” right next to Captain Nemo’s killer sub. Nice when it’s 85 degrees and 90% humidity.

2. A quiet street in a small Italian town … except it’s really in a theme park near Tokyo. Read the rest

I went to Tokyo Disneyland Cosplay Day and it was spectacular


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

Deformed mutant daisies photographed near Fukushima nuclear disaster site in Japan

Photo: @san_kaido
Just when you'd forgotten about all that leaked radiation.

Tokyo Roar: 3:47 compressed summary that tells its tale

Some cities are just high-resolution in ways that defy rational description: possessed of a level of detail and complexity that defines them as that city and that city only, not one of those unroofed shopping-mall no-places that seem to be a metastasized airport terminal. Read the rest

Photos of colorful Tokyo

Kevin Kelly searches for maximum vibrancy in Tokyo

Used liquor store

Liquor Off is a Tokyo store that buys and sells used booze. Read the rest

LED watch with a wooden face and bracelet

Tokyoflash's Kisai Night Vision Wood LED Watch builds on their earlier work with beautiful, carved-wood bracelets, adding a wooden face backed with powerful LEDs whose glow can be seen through the smooth vegetable matter. It's a very futuristic look indeed. The watch charges with USB, and comes in sandal or maple, and it has a preprogrammed LED dance it does twice a day as a little show-offy gesture. They're $150 each.

Kisai Night Vision Wood LED Watch Read the rest

Interview with photographer of extreme street fashion in Tokyo

[soundcloud url="" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /] Ten years ago, photographer Thomas C. Card read a newspaper article about the extreme makeup and outfits being worn by Japanese club kids. He never forgot about it and in 2012 he returned to Tokyo to photograph people from various fashion subgenres. He published the photos in a very large and beautiful book called Tokyo Adorned, which came out this week. Here’s my interview with Thomas.

See more photos from Tokyo Adorned, at Wink, a new website about remarkable books that belong on paper (My wife Carla is the editor and Kevin Kelly and I are contributors) 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

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:

Read the rest

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) Read the rest

Just look at this banana vending machine in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Just look at it.

Shibuya Banana Vending Machine (Thanks, Brent!) Read the rest

Must-listen radio: "Nuclear Power After Fukushima," documentary from BURN: An Energy Journal

Veteran radio journalist and master storyteller Alex Chadwick (who's also a personal friend—he's taught me so much about journalism over the years) hosts a must-listen radio documentary premiering this weekend on public radio stations throughout the US.

BURN: An Energy Journal is a four-hour, four-part broadcast and digital documentary series exploring "the most pressing energy issues of our times."

Part One of the series, titled "Particles: Nuclear Power After Fukushima," coincides with March 11, the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. I've listened in entirety, and followed along as the BURN team researched and produced over the past few months, and I can tell you this is truly powerful work. The show also includes PBS Newshour reporter Miles O'Brien, reporting from inside the Fukushima exclusion zone on his recent trip there.

Carve out some time and listen to it on-air, or listen online at this link.

Snip from description:

Included in the riveting premiere episode is an exclusive, first-time-ever interview with an American who was on-site at the Daiichi nuclear plant when the earthquake and tsunami struck. Carl Pillitteri, a maintenance supervisor and one of 40 Americans in Fukushima on that fateful day, describes his terrifying ordeal as he desperately attempted to lead his men to safety through the enormous, shuddering turbine buildings in total darkness.

Below, a video excerpt from Alex's interview with Pillitteri.

More about the radio series follows.

Read the rest

Foreign journalist claims corruption, brutality, death threats from Japanese airport officials

Christopher Johnson, a Canadian journalist residing (until recently) in Japan published a ghastly account of his return to Tokyo after a short pre-Christmas trip. He was flagged at the border (he implies that this is related to his coverage of Fukushima), held, threatened, and shaken down for bribes before being detained without counsel or a phone call. He says he was eventually deported, though not before being ordered to sign a falsified confession and being threatened by an official at gunpoint, who demanded that he purchase a hyper-inflated plane ticket, which, Johnson believes, included a kickback for the official.

This time, he came back with a young, stocky guy. He was wearing a blue uniform. “Do you see this gun?” he said in Japanese, turning around to show me a weapon in its holster. “I have the legal authority to use this if you refuse to get on that flight. Now are you going to buy that ticket?”

I was angry now. They are forcing me at gunpoint to buy an overpriced ticket.

The [guards] ushered me out of the room and through the airport. They still had my bag, my passport, my wallet, credit cards, everything. I had no choice. They whisked me through the airport like a criminal. I didn’t have to line-up for x-ray machines or immigration. [They] pushed me through VIP lines, ahead of pilots and flight attendants.

Japan's outsourced airport detentions operation is the subject of its own Amnesty International report.

Gulag for gaijin (Thanks, arbitraryaardvark! Read the rest

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