Tag Archives: japan


Samurai with sword


Hatsuhana doing penance under the Tonosawa waterfall


Amazing woodblock by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. As the story goes, Hatsuhana was a very virtuous woman. Here she is doing penance under the Tonozawa waterfall for the cure of her son’s knee – but the hardship of the penance proved too much for her and she died. However, her son was miraculously cured. He sought revenge, and kills his arch-enemy near the waterfall.

Which is to say, pretty much how I’m feeling today

Tenniscoats (テニスコーツ) playing “Baibaba Bimba” in Ebisu, Tokyo, Japan.

A film by Colin Solal Cardo
Sound & mix by François Clos
Produced by Chryde for La Blogotheque

“Saya sang the melody as if it came from deep within the song, a base strong enough to frame and repeat. Coming down the stairs, walking along the railroad tracks, over the noise of passing trains, she played with the surroundings to give rhythm to the song, taking advantage of everything she passed — some steps, a sewer cover, a fence, to cover her ‘Bimba.’ We just had to let her take us, which we happily did.”

Read the whole article here.

He-gassen – antique Japanese farting competition scroll

You’ve got your thick-rimmed glasses, your manga books, your expensive jeans and a couple of t-shirts made of really really nice cotton, but do you have a farting scroll?

The database for Japanese and Chinese classics at Waseda University Library has digitised a rare scroll showing a he-gassen (屁合戦), or ‘farting competition’ (see it here in full).

Apparently, similar drawings were used to ridicule westerners towards the end of the Edo period, with images depicting the westerners blown away by Japanese farts.

Personally, I happen to know first hand that English ones are bad enough, so I’m not sure the Japanese guffs would have worked. My friend Max’s divine wind would have made short work of them.

I also once read a book about a dude who travelled the world learning weird local martial arts (pressure points, wrestling, iron jacket, all that stuff), and the weirdest of all was a guy who had deliberately developed halitosis so bad he could knock you out by burping in your face.

“Silly Runnings” – slow-motion running in Cambodia, music and land mines

Japanese director Sou Otsuki has released a new version of his video for the song “Luv(sic) pt.2” by Nujabes with Shing02, featuring a variety of people running ludicrously in slow motion.

The new version was shot in Cambodia and stars a few courageous amputees and exploding land mines.

If you click here you’ll get the lyrics. Here’s the original video, by the way:

(Via Pink Tentacle)

Robot arm picks up (unwrapped) ketchup

Now THIS is what I like to see. Quite simply a staggering piece of engineering. Stop reading this and JUST PRESS PLAY already.

Came via the excellent WIRED.co.uk site, on which Duncan Geere writes:

A small Japanese company called Furukawa Kikou has built arobot arm that can pick ketchup up and put it down again without losing its shape.

You can see the remarkable process in action in the video above, with added mayonnaise too. The sheet, which is made of Teflon, is wrapped around a sliding plate, which is fixed on one end. As the plate moves out underneath, it picks up whatever substance it’s being used on.

It was originally built in 2007 to help bakeries get structurally-infirm pastries out of an oven, but has also found a job in the box packing industry — as Syoji Tsubaki, the company’s sales manager, explains:

“Until now, it generally wasn’t possible to transport materials in a sol-gel state,” he told Diginfo. “When a liquid pouch is picked or suctioned up, the liquid collects at the bottom. This makes the bottom bulge and the pouch loses its shape, so sometimes you can’t fit the specified number of pouches in a box. By placing the pouches in the box horizontally, it’s possible to arrange them automatically.”

We want one for the Wired kitchen.

What happens if you cross a fork with a theramin?

Fascinating and slightly bonkers piece by Alice Vincent in Wired UK:

Researchers from Ochanomizu University have invented cutlery that makes bizarre “music” when used during meal times, just in case eating wasn’t fun enough already.

The eating utensils, known as EaTheremin, create a complete electrical circuit when they come into contact with human body moisture. That in turn creates sound, duly celebrating the food party in your mouth.

As the video above demonstrates, the noises produced vary depending on the resistance generated by the food that’s being eaten. The sound is also affected by conductivity, so the wetter your mouth, the noisier the result. Indeed, as the human body is between 55 and 60 percent water, you can put the EaTheremin pretty much anywhere to make a sound.

Munching grub that blends textures (like the fried chicken in the video) will create the most interesting results, and the stretchy chicken skin can create a vibrato effect. Unlike the video, however, all your food doesn’t have to be compressed into cylinders.

Furthermore, the researchers are keen to expand beyond musical forks to spoons and cups. Utensils used to deal with liquid would make different sounds, and if the electrodes were divided between two objects at once then you could have your own mini food orchestra during lunch.

EaTheremin already has the potential for duets and even more. Reina Nakamori says, “Several people can use this if they eat together. With the current system, I think it would be fun if a special sound could be created when two people make the same sound as one person.”


Nature raw in tooth and claw

I imagine it’s instinctive, when you hear about natural disasters, to ask yourself what you would do or how you would cope. It taps into the same gene that makes men want to know about fighting and war, to find out once and for all whether, when the chips are down, you are a man or a mouse.

But then you see footage of things like the Japan tsunami, and the conversation takes a different turn. Early in the video above, as the wave starts out as a trickle, you see a car speeding away from it and think – yeah I could do that, I could drive away like a Hollywood car chase. If the water came faster I’d be sure to open the window enough that I didn’t get trapped but stay in the car for protection, or I’d drive into a shop window and get on to the roof, or I’d jump on a scooter and just make it, or any number of scenarios.

Thirty seconds later, you realise that the person in that car, unless they are incredibly lucky, is not going to make it. Never mind the water; cars, lorries, boats and even houses are sweeping down the road faster than you can drive or run.

You can have as many daydreams as you want about movie-style dramatic escapes, but the bottom line is that they are just daydreams.

However brave you are, however swift and courageous, no matter what you do — with some things you just don’t stand a chance.

We spend thousands of years building societies and beliefs and buildings and more, but they can be swept away in minutes. So today, while it’s still light, or tonight under the moon, just pop outside for a minute and look around you, and have a little think about all the tiny things you have that you don’t even notice now because you take them for granted, and appreciate them. You might not always feel it, but on the whole you are incredibly, incredibly lucky.


Click here for an absolutely chilling series of “before and after” images of Sendai.

Click here to visit Google’s disaster response page where you can make a donation.


This Taoist saying seems apt:

When you discover nature’s power
to break through all obstacles,
You will discover that this same power
is inside of you.


Saw this on You Might Find Yourself, it’s taken by a guy called wangyuanzheng. It’s pretty simple – there’s not much to it, but I love it.


Japanese subway posters – mind your manners

Boris is clearly missing a trick with his public information. We need better tube posters. Here are a few etiquette posters that appeared in the Tokyo subways between 1976 and 1982 (more at the original post, via Pink Tentacle).

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
The Seat Monopolizer (July 1976)

Inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” this poster tells  passengers not to sit like idiots.

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Don’t forget your umbrella (June 1977)

This poster of the high-class courtesan Agemaki (from the kabuki play “Sukeroku”), whose captivating beauty was said to make men forgetful, is meant to remind passengers to take their umbrellas when they leave the train.

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Space Invader (March 1979)

This 1979 poster has a fairly simply play on words. If you can’t work it out, I can’t help you.

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Don’t forget your umbrella (October 1981)

The text at the top of this poster  reads “Kasane-gasane no kami-danomi” (lit. “Wishing to God again and again”). The poster makes a play on the words “kasa” (umbrella) and “kasane-gasane” (again and again). Doubting Thomas looks pretty freaky.

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Coughing on the platform (January 1979)

Modeled after the paintings of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, this poster — titled “Hōmu de Concon” (coughing on the platform) — urges people not to smoke on the train platforms during the designated non-smoking hours (7:00-9:30 AM and 5:00-7:00 PM). The poster makes a play on the words “concon” (coughing sound) and “cancan” (French chorus line dance).

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Clearly show your train pass (September 1978)

Napoleon’s partially concealed train pass is meant to remind passengers to clearly show their train passes to the station attendant when passing through the gates. The dictionary page in the background is a reference to Napoleon’s famous quote: “The word ‘impossible’ is not in my dictionary.”

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Vintage Japanese train manner poster --
Marcel Marceau (October 1978)

Marcel Marceau gestures toward a priority seat reserved for elderly and handicapped passengers, expecting mothers, and passengers accompanying small children. He makes me afraid of clowns.

Japanese: Tejime and Shazai

Tejime (choreographed group celebrations for when something exciting happens):

Shazai (different types of apology):

Finally, as a special bonus, dogeza (abject apology)

And that, my friends, is how etiquette videos should be done.

Japanese Steamship Travel Posters

One of my favourite websites, Pink Tentacle has THIS fantastic collection of early 20th century posters for Japanese travel companies. Knocks the socks off Lastminute.com!

Osaka Mercantile Steamship Co., Ltd., 1916