For months, Japan's much-vaunted manufacturing sector has been wracked by scandal after scandal, as the country's biggest corporations admit to decades of systematic fraud that started in the boardroom and went to the factory floor, with scandals hitting "Nissan Motor, Subaru, Toray Industries, Kobe Steel and Mitsubishi Materials" among others. Read the rest
Visitors to the Minoo reserve in Japan's Osaka prefecture have long observed female adolescent macaques mounting and humping adult male deer; in a fascinating paper (Sci-Hub open access link) in Archives of Sexual Behavior, three psychology researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, conduct a careful study of these behaviors ("the first quantitative study of heterospecific sexual behavior between a non-human primate and a non-primate species"), and, through a set of naturally occurring experiments, formed an evidence-supported picture of what's going on here. Read the rest
To hear America's fearmongering private health-care shills describe it, socialized medicine is a kind of Soviet death march, where rationed care and long waits are imposed on all and sundry; but if that state of affairs sounds familiar, it's because of how neatly it describes America's dysfunctional private care system, where you need to change doctors every time you change employers, where your care is denied and your prescriptions are deemed unnecessary by faceless insurance-company bureaucrats, and where three quarters of your family doctor's overheads are dedicated to filling in insurance forms in triplicate and chasing payment in a kind of LARP of Terry Gilliam's Brazil or a Stalinist hospital in deepest Siberia. Read the rest
Muji -- the Japanese minimalist design house that's something of a local equivalent to Ikea, but with clothes, stationery, toiletries and groceries -- has finally shipped its long-awaited Mujirushi micro-home, a ¥3,000,000 (USD27,000) "hut" with a slanting roof that can be ordered for delivery and assembly in many Japanese suburbs. Read the rest
Just one of those odd internetal coincidences: the meeting of The Godfather of Soul, Cup Noodles, and a big-bucks doodad for wealthy folks in Japan. Let’s start with the show, with Mr. James Brown shilling for Cup Noodle in a Japanese TV commercial to the tune of his hit “Get Up.” Though he is often hard to understand, here there is a reason: he’s shouting in Japanese, and it’s not about being a sex machine.
Of course you all know what Cup Noodles are. Large cups of salt with a few noodles and bits of dried veggies and some sort of meat. But they are delicious, reliable, and convenient as hell. I once took a trip to a country which shall remain unidentified, whose food I was warned in advance was “speculative,” and traveled with an entire suitcase of Cup Noodle. Ate it lunch and dinner for two weeks using the little tea maker in my hotel room to boil water. Compared to the offal, slugs, dog, and horse my friends were stuck eating I felt quite pleased with myself.
The Japanese company Nissin has been making numerous varieties of instant noodles for many decades. Instant ramen (the noodly stuff) was invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando. His secret was to flash fry the noodles. The idea of putting them in a cup came later, in 1971. In Japan, the different types of instant noodle dishes sold in cups and bowls, ready for hot water, takes up an entire aisle in the supermarket—you can’t imagine the huge number of varieties and different dishes. Read the rest
Over the last 30 years, I've been to Japan six times. The first time I went I saw a few people wearing medical masks that cover their face and nose. I was told they had a cold and didn't want to spread germs. On my subsequent visits to Japan, more and more people were wearing masks. The last time I went I saw masks everywhere I went. Every time I walked on the street, went into a shop, took a subway, or walked in the hills a mask-wearer was in view. In this video, people are asked why they wear masks. Reasons include: pollen allergies (one guy with pollen allergies was wearing a mask over his mouth but not his nose because he didn't want to fog his glasses. "I know it doesn't work, but I wear it anyway."), polyp in the throat, slight cold, to warm the face in winter, runny nose, "without make-up, my face looks ugly" (said by a man). Read the rest
Since 2010, photographer Noritaka Minami has documented life in Tokyo's Nakagin Tower, a "metabolist" building constructed in 1972 in just one month. Each prefabricated cube attached to the core tower is a 107-square-foot apartment complete with a tiny lavatory. Since designer Kisho Kurokawa's death in 2007, its fate has been uncertain. From National Geographic:
Some capsule owners have moved out or converted their rooms into offices, while others have chosen to renovate and remain in the one-of-a-kind dwelling.
Minami avoided photographing the tenants directly, preferring to have their presence communicated through their objects. “[The room] functions as a container of people's identity, personal interest, hobbies and taste.”