Taiyo Matsumoto's original five volume manga Ping Pong was one of the most surprising and gripping experiences I've had this year. But a huge reason for that is the artwork: he packs more kinetic energy into a single drawing of a shoe skidding across a floor than any real shoe has ever had. So it was with some trepidation that I saw posters for this adaptation going up in stores around Japan. Fumihiko Masuri is a first time director (not that you'd know it), with a background in computer effects. He seems to have directed this mainly because he's a really big fan of the manga too. On the film's website, they've placed images from the manga next to photographs of the actors in the film, so you can see how obsessive compulsive they were in matching faces. Not only faces, but movements, playing styles, and shot composition is all straight from the book, as if they'd used the manga in lieu of storyboards. Even the occasional surreal touch; a boy growing butterfly wings, a dragonfly landing on the net, is right out of the page onto the screen. -- Midnight Eye review; subtitled movie in 12 parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Hard Gay was a Japanese pro wrestler turned TV personality popular in the mid 2000s. Like Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno, he is a cartoonish gay foreigner portrayed by a straight person, but has come under considerably greater scrutiny for his more minstrelsy than satyrical approach. The BBC has profiled Hard Gay as part of their series, Japanorama. [more inside]
Pascal Ken, after taking several trips to Japan between 2007 and 2011, took some beautiful, dreamlike infrared photos of Tokyo.
Derek Sivers explains the fascinating Japanese addressing system.
Ikuo Yokoyama lost his home and three family members in the Japanese tsunami last year. Among the losses was a Harley-Davidson motorcycle he had bought five years ago and keeping in the back of a cube van... which floated across the Pacific Ocean and was found by Peter Mark, a resident of British Columbia, on an beach on Graham Island (it's the big one up the B.C. coast, near Alaska). Aside from some rust, the motorcycle seems to be in decent condition, and Harley-Davidson plans to restore it and ship it back to Yokoyama.
We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment - George Takei on the the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and Allegiance, his new musical. Previously.
Atlas Obscura (seen 'round here before) has organized its third annual Obscura Day for April 28. It's "an international celebration of unusual places," from the Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Particle Accelerator at John E. Edwards Accelerator Laboratory in Athens, Ohio, to a tour of the Secrets & Oddities of the National Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland and an Expedition to the 1,553 Stone-Carved Monks of Nihon-ji in the city of Kyonan, Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
I prepared for my first-ever trip to Japan, this summer, almost entirely by immersing myself in the work of Haruki Murakami. This turned out to be a horrible idea. For his cover article on the novelist Haruki Murakami, Sam Anderson visited some key places from Murakami’s life and work. Murakami's Tokyo. The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami. [more inside]
A month ago, the Japanese TV show "Morning Bird" discussed the current state of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and specifically Unit 4, which is in terrible condition. During an interview with Dr. Hiroaki Koide, Research Associate at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University, who explains the immense difficulty in moving the radioactive fuel rods - a process that will not even start until 2013 - the presenter asks what would happen if even a moderate earthquake struck near the plant before the fuel rods can be moved. Koide replies:
That will be the end.
Little parakeet just won't leave kitty alone. I mean, really. Doesn't matter if kitty is drinking, or trying to sleep. He just won't leave kitty alone. I mean, really. Kitty's cool with it, though, and they enjoy the same food. And neither of them are especially interested in the beetle.
In 1982 the manga, Akira (previously) , began its run. It would ultimately spawn a film that would lead the way for the growth of the anime medium outside of Japan. An attempted Americanized remake (previouslyer) was in production before being ultimately canceled. The manga’s creator, Katsuhiro Otomo, in the meantime, had taken a 20 year break from long-form manga. It was recently announced that this break was coming to an end and that Otomo would be working on a new long-form shonen series.
The Nakagin Capsule Tower (slyt) is a prime example of the uniquely Japanese architecture known as "Metabolism", as well as the main inspiration for Tokyo's famous Capsule Hotels. The most unique feature of this building style is the interchangeability of the individual units, supposedly to allow it to adapt to changes in density and lifestyle (although that plan hasn't exactly panned out). Local residents are calling for the tower to be demolished, although a group of architects are trying to preserve it as an architectural landmark [more inside]
Wrecking Crew Orchestra (original Japanese site) are a young dance crew from Japan. Last week, they put on a light-synchronized performance in electroluminescent suits that has to be seen to be believed.
On the one year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, the Economist magazine now considers Nuclear energy to be "the dream that failed", in an issue with articles covering the history, safety issues, handling of nuclear waste, and costs (with emphasis on China) of nuclear power. [more inside]
Following the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, commercials largely disappeared from television. To fill space between the news reports and lists of missing people, the Ad Council of Japan put together a number of PSAs. Since there were only five or ten of them, the PSAs played thousands of times over the course of a few months, searing themselves into the memory of the Japanese public. Most were typical messages about common courtesy, perseverance, listening to your kids, conservation, and international support. But one PSA in particular quickly took on a life of its own, instantly being mashed up with a classic Japanese TV trope: Robot Transformation Sequences! [more inside]
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. Japan, still feeling the aftershocks of the earthquake, the tsunami, the Fukushima exclusion zone... An opportunity for everyone to reflect on the disaster, share stories, and contemplate the impact of a year ago and what it means today.
What does a magnitude 9.0 earthquake sound like? Researchers sped up low-frequency ground waves recorded during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, bringing them within range of human hearing. Hear the mainshock from just off the coast of Japan. And how it "sounded" in California. [more inside]
"You know what I think?" she says. "That people's memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive."
In Search of Haruki Murakami, Japan’s Great Postmodernist Novelist, a 50 minute documentary exploring Murakami's Japan and culture. via.
Japan Tsunami Pictures - Before and After See how Japan has rebuilt in the 11 months since the earthquake and tsunami
Not for the first time, a paper-mache rhino terrorizes Ueno Zoo. Previously: ape, polar bear, tiger, zebra.
It's the weekend according to UNIQLO CALENDAR, portraying the four seasons and forty-seven prefectures of Tiltshift Timelapse Japan. Music by Fantastic Plastic Machine who did internet classic UNIQLOCK. [Previous]
In 2000, the anime industry was on the brink of what looked like a global takeover, and was pushing live action movies to the side. However, trouble began to take hold just a few years later, when labour issues involving long hours and low pay, along with a sharp drop in anime DVD sales, began to cause serious trouble for the industry. Although some government officials pinned their hopes in beefing up exports in order to breathe life into the economy, to industry insiders the situation looked bleak and possibly unresolvable using traditional models. However, other avenues - such as the internet, and even internet piracy - were studied for their economic effects. The results? [more inside]
78 78s - In Search Of Lost Time - is a streaming mix of beautiful 78s from around the world, collected and curated by Ian Nagoski. "I started sifting through boxes of junky old 78s that no one else wanted about 15 years ago, and almost right away, I made a rule: Anything that wasn't in English, buy it." [more inside]
Mapping out whiskey. Start here, swimming in Drunkards Channel: Map On Temperance, 1846. [more inside]
Here are fan-translated Game Center CX (previously) Episodes on YouTube: #1: Atlantis No Nazo, #2: Challenger, #3: Ghosts 'N Goblins, #4: Konami Wai Wai World, #5: Metroid, #6: Solomon's Key, #7 & #8: Prince of Persia: Part 1 - Part 2, #9: Mega Man II, #10: Super Mario 3. Much more after the break.... [more inside]
Having confronted the problem of how to walk past someone without running into them, it's time MetaFilter dealt with another pressing social issue: How to deal with slow walkers (SLYT).
China became the world's top patent filer in 2011, issuing 58% of global intellectual property filings. [more inside]
Yu Muroga was doing his job making deliveries when the 11 March 2011 earthquake hit in Japan. Unaware, like many people in the area, of how far inland the Tsunami would travel, he continued to drive and do his job. The HD camera mounted on his dashboard captured not only the earthquake, but also the moment he and several other drivers were suddenly engulfed in the Tsunami. He escaped from the vehicle seconds before it was crushed by other debris and sunk underwater.
Although the ultra-mysterious and rumour-cloaked Les Rallizes Dénudés/Hadaka no Rallizes existed in various forms from November 1967 to their last gig in October 1996 they are practically unknown in - let alone out of - Japan. Their recorded output is incredibly rare and highly priced and interviews or articles in the music press virtually non-existent. Tie that in with links to radical left-wing politics, extreme sensory assault at live shows and a general revolutionary aura and you have what must be the ultimate cult group. [more inside]
Kokeshi Dolls originated in North-East Japan as wooden toys for children. They began being produced towards the end of the Edo period (1603~1868) by woodwork artisans, called Kiji-shi, who normally made bowls, trays and other tableware by using a lathe. They began to make small dolls in the winter to sell to visitors who came to bathe in the many hot springs near their villages, which was believed to be a cure for the demands of a strenuous agricultural lifestyle. [more inside]
"This site is a catalogue raisonné of the art of Utagawa Kuniyoshi. It contains over 5,000 images, counting multi-sheet compositions as single images. An undertaking such as this can never be considered complete..." An archive of the work of Utagawa Kuniyoshi, a 19th century print maker from Japan. Some highlights include sumo wrestlers, triptychs from Genji, the Zodiac, and Tanuki having fun (slightly NSFW). [Via Pink Tentacle.] [more inside]
Chris Covell translated a Japanese social studies book about the making of Super Mario Bros. 3.
Mobile Suit Gundam premiered on April 7th, 1979 in Nagoya, Japan, and with it came the now three-decade-old franchise that launched a thousand plastic model kits. WARNING: MAY CONTAIN spoilers for a thirty-year-old beloved cultural touchstone that you've likely never seen or possibly even heard of. WARNING: DEFINITELY CONTAINS many, many links to TV Tropes. 28.8k USERS: Upgrade to 56K already. You're going to need it. [more inside]
On Monday, Google released Memories for the Future, a website that allows you to "... walk the scarred coastline [after the Japanese tsunami] virtually". "... it is possible to see the full extent of the damage by finding an image in Street View and then clicking the “Before” and “After” links at the top to see how the earthquake and tsunami impacted that area." The Japan Real Time blog has a good introduction and writeup.
What is Pink Lady? In Japan they are remembered for a string of pop hits in the 70s, but Americans might remember them either from their disco single "Kiss In The Dark" or from an attempt to sell them to the US market in 1980 via a short-lived NBC variety show Pink Lady & Jeff (TVParty summary) with comedian Jeff Altman. (Opening). The show featured their Japanese hits, UFO, MONSTER (a bit more rock and roll), and SOS along with US hits like Boogie Wonderland, McArthur Park and the occasional guest star. (with encore) Also, Roy Orbison. Sadly, the show failed to break out and the two returned to Japan for a series of farewell concerts and retrospectives. Much, much more available at this charmingly retro, utterly exhaustive fan site devoted to them. Or just read the recaps. [more inside]
Normally I manage a sandwich, pieces of fruit and veg, a yoghurt and a carton of drink for my kids' lunchboxes. In some parts of the world, it seems, only mini sculptures of cartoon characters, piano keyboards and pictures of Obama made from seaweed will suffice. Want to join in? Turns out Youtube is a goldmine: next week, give your child Octopus sausages!. Or buy a book!
"What a strange position I find myself in," [Yamamoto] wrote a friend, "having been assigned the mission diametrically opposed to my own personal opinion, with no choice but to push full speed in pursuance of that mission. Alas, is that fate?"
A brief account of how one of the biggest critics of Japan's war policy became the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attacks. (SLNYT)
A brief account of how one of the biggest critics of Japan's war policy became the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attacks. (SLNYT)
「こくせん ― 黒板戦争」(Blackboard War) is a homemade stop motion video created by some students (out of more than 2500 still photos) for their school's culture festival. There is also a sequel (made from more than 3000 photos this time).
"I can’t even tell you how excited I was to finally see the cards that “killed my grandfather” and drove my family into extreme poverty. I actually think Haruo did a pretty good job interpreting my grandfather’s original sketch, considering the severely confusing nature of his drawing. It’s anybody’s guess as what my grandfather expected to get back, but needless to say it wasn’t this beautiful card." Bradwick J. McGinty III tells the story of the Japanese cut-away Santa cards from 1955, similar in style to the yōkai and kaiju illustrations seen previously. (via)
Jeremy Thorn is an abusive, hard-drinking gaijin who will teach you Japanese while verbally berating you. He and his friends will also get drunk and teach you how to cook Japanese food in a similarly abusive fashion. Then he'll take you on a tour of weird Japanese signage, sights, and stuff. (note: MLYT; a lot of swearing is involved) [more inside]