Watch this lovely tribute to Isao Takahata's groundbreaking animation career

Animation visionary Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli fame died on April 5, and Smithsonian magazine published a great written overview that complements the video essay above. Read the rest

A visit to a self-service sushi restaurant in Japan

You have probably seen sushi restaurants where plates of different kinds of sushi move past you on a conveyor belt. These kinds of places are called kaitenzushi. Here's one where you order sushi on a touch screen and the sushi arrives on a little rail system, stopping right in front of you. I want to go and see how it works. Read the rest

This is the world's smallest sushi

At Tokyo's Sushiya no Nohachi (すし屋の野八) you can order sushi made with just one grain of rice (粒寿司). Fortunately, after the novelty wears off, you can also order regular-sized sushi that's said to be excellent! A plate of tiny sushi is free, so long as you also drop around US$50 on regular sushi. The tiny sushi plate includes Toro (tuna), Tai (sea bream), Chūtoro (medium fatty tuna), Hokkigai (surf clam), Uni (sea urchin), Tako (octopus), Tamago (egg), Gari (pickled ginger). From Tofugu:

The tiny sushi idea originally came from a customer in 2002 who challenged the owner's son (Ikeno Hironori) to see how small he could make a piece of sushi. Over time, it became something they were known for.

That said, when we asked how often they need to make a plate of small sushi, we were surprised.

"Just a few times a week and at most five times in a day." Though when customers from overseas order, they tend to be extra enthusiastic about the tiny sushi.

He told us that one woman from Europe burst into tears and cried for an hour and a half after seeing the cute, little sushi.

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Gorgeous scrap-electronics wearable cyberpunk assemblages from Hiroto Ikeuchi

Tokyo designer Hiroto Ikeuchi creates amazing wearable cyberpunk assemblages out of scrap electronics and other odds and sods. Read the rest

How to get food in Japan without knowing how to speak Japanese

This is a fun video introduction to feeding yourself in Japan, even if you don't know Japanese. Really, it's pretty easy to get food in Japan if you're a foreigner, but this video shows you different options, from konbini (convenience stores, which are much better than the ones in the US), to chain restaurants (again, usually tastier than US chains), to shopping mall food courts (beautiful and mind bending), and actual non-chain eateries. Read the rest

Here's a charming giant paramecium made of felt

For a group gallery show titled, "The Kingdom of Specimens," longtime fave Hiné Mizushima created these delightful felt paramecia. Read the rest

Photo of a homeless man's homemade shelter in a Tokyo park

I've been to Yoyogi Park in Tokyo many times, but I've never seen a homeless encampment there. Redditor biwook took this photo of one of the shelters there. Whoever built it did an excellent job. There's a little sign in front. I can understand three of the four kanji characters: "stand up" "enter" "???" and "stop." What does the sign say?

A homeless guy's home in Yoyogi park. Looks nicer than my apartment. from r/Tokyo

Top image: Photogra Fer/Flickr. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Read the rest

Absolutely brutal single color jigsaw puzzles

These Japanese single color jigsaw puzzles are appropriately named "Pure Hell." They're available with 1,000 or 2,000 tiny pieces, black or white.

Pure Hell jigsaw puzzles (Amazon via Laughing Squid)

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A field guide to the incredible scissors of Japan

Yasukuni Notomi ("a writer who has covered the world of stationery for many years") provides an introduction to the creative explosion in Japanese scissor-design, beginning with the "Pencut," a scissor that fits in a normal pencil-case, with retractable elastic loops for your fingers and full-length blades so you don't sacrifice power for portability. Read the rest

Watch this guy turn wood into an extremely sharp knife

Lignum vitae is an extraordinarily dense and hard wood, so kiwami japan wanted to see if a knife made of the wood could maintain a sharp blade. An interesting and relaxing experiment. Read the rest

Japanese inn with "self-driving" robotic slippers and other autonomous amenities

Nissan, to show off its autonomous parking tech, outfitted an inn in Hakone, Japan with "self-parking slippers," autonomous floor cushions that tidy themselves, and a TV remote control that straightens itself on the coffee table. While obviously a marketing gimmick, self-knolling anything is quite appealing to me. ProPILOT Park Ryokan (Nissan)

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Nihon noir: Tom Blachford's gorgeous midnight shots of Tokyo

Tom Blachford chronicled Palm Springs at midnight (previously). Now he's back with Nihon Noir, a Blade Runner inspired look at Tokyo at night, like this imposing shot of the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Read the rest

Midori Traveler’s Notebook, an invaluable tool from Japan

I traveled to Japan to buy a notebook.

As a tech journalist and hardware reviewer, my primary function is to tell you whether or not the products you may be thinking of buying are, in a word, shit. It’s not typically a job that requires I leave my home. Hardware companies or my employers have products shipped out to me. I play with them for a few weeks, or less. Then, most of the time, I ship the stuff back to make room for more stuff. Occasionally, I’m offered the opportunity to travel for work: a cellphone company might be showing off a new version of something they released last year. Sometimes, a well known company wants to give me a peek behind the curtain to see how they build the things that I'll wind up calling shit somewhere down the road. Such an instance happened this past August. I was asked by a well-known peddler of audio equipment if I’d be willing to travel to Japan to take a look at something new they’d been cooking up. I agreed, but warned that if they didn’t show me anything compelling while I visited their manufacturing facility, I wouldn’t be writing a story. They agreed to the terms.

A few weeks and a long flight in coach later, I was in Japan. I’d been sent an itinerary a week before I was due to fly. It detailed a stacked week of factory tours, site seeing and cultural events. In the middle of all of the goings on, was a single day where I could do whatever I damn well pleased while I was in Tokyo. Read the rest

Short video about Japan's museum of rocks that have faces

Japan is home to the only museum in the world that is dedicated to rocks that look like they have faces. The owner started the museum because her father was an avid collector of rocks with faces, and when he died she wanted to carry on the tradition. She finds many of the rocks herself on a nearby beach, but now people from around the world send her rocks with faces. There are about 1000 specimens in the collection.

If you’re ever in Japan, consider a trip to Chineskikan, located two hours outside Tokyo in the city of Chichibu. The peculiar museum is the only one of its kind, dedicated entirely to rocks that look like human faces. Owned and operated by Yoshiko Hayama, Chineskikan is home to some of the most spectacular stones nature has to offer, with rocks that resemble everyone from Elvis Presley to E.T. Following in her father’s footsteps, Hayama is preserving the legacy of “jinmenseki,” continuing the search for rocks that resemble human faces.

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Japan TV show pranks unsuspecting people with elevator problem

Even by the hilariously sadistic standards of Japanese prank shows, this is outstanding. Read the rest

Waiter collects 8,000 tiny artworks made from chopstick sleeves

Artist Yuki Tatsumi created Japanese Tip, an installation of the 8,000 origami "tips" left by customers at restaurants. Read the rest

Watch: interviews with Japan's homeless

Greg is a Canadian living in Tokyo. He has a YouTube channel called Life Where I'm From, which explores what it's like to be a Westerner in Japan. For the last year or so he has been working on a serious project to understand homelessness in Japan. In the latest video, he interviews older men in Tokyo's skid row to learn their stories, and profiles Sanyūkai, a non-profit group that supports Japan's homeless population.

Introductory video:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3: Read the rest

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