The attack on Pearl Harbor was neither the U.S.' first armed conflict leading to WW II, nor the last Axis attack on American soil. [more inside]
Haruki Murakami talks about fiction in the 21st century. Part of the International Herald Tribune Magazine's year-end issue, 2011: Global Agenda. [more inside]
I asked Igari to help me deal with the fallout from the book. After much discussion, he and his two colleagues came up with a plan. His parting words were: “It’ll be a long battle. It’ll take money and courage, and you’ll have to come up with those on your own. But we’ll fight.” On August 28th, his body was found in his vacation home in Manila, wrists slashed. Time of death unknown. It’s been ruled a suicide. Personally, I believe he was killed. I probably will never be able to prove it. [more inside]
The Royal House I knew I had seen one of the pictures before somewhere before, and understood instantly what the surrounding pictures all had in common. A familiar symbol caught my eye, glinting gold. It was the mark of the Imperial House of Japan.
The Automata Blog is packed full of interesting images, videos and information about all kinds of amazing automata, cool machines, mechanical music, orchestrions and kinetic sculptures. This month's focus is the history of vintage Japanese tin toy robots and the toy robot paintings by Steven Skollar.
Nyanto mo Neko Darake (Cats of Many Varieties) is an exhibition in Kyoto featuring charming Edo-period (19th century) woodblock images of cats: playful cats forming themselves into the Japanese word for "blowfish," giant monster heads and skulls made of intertwining cats, ghost cats seeking vengeance. [more inside]
Yet for some reason the machines always produce a beverage almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea
Japan is home to a lot of vending machines, some estimations placing one machine for every 23 people, and they're getting "smarter." In 2008, some cigarette vending machines had a digital camera with equipment to judge the age of the cigarette buyer, though relatively small magazine pictures could fool most of these new machines. In the last few months, JR East Water Business Co, a subsidiary of train operator East Japan Railway, has started to roll out high-tech vending machines that recommend a drink based on the users age and gender, using facial recognition technology and drink-preference data. [more inside]
Various Japanese plants (and fungi) spring to life in Omni/ScienceNet's "Action Plant" series of time-lapse videos shot in Kōchi prefecture.
A middle aged man sits on a chair, nervously reveals udder-like things on his chest, and descends his scrotum through a hole in the chair. Then it gets stranger. [SLYT] [IMDB]
Nobuhiko Obayashi's House (also called Hausu) has been a cult film legend pretty much since its 1977 release in Japan. As director, Obayashi alchemizes the usual horror trappings (seven pretty young girls, each defined by one personality trait, visit a mysterious aunt who lives in a creepy house in the middle of nowhere) into a glorious, barely coherent, eminently watchable fever dream. The film has been discussed by those in the know for some time, but unless one knew who to ask, or lucked into the right festival, actually seeing the movie outside of the trailer or scenes on Youtube has been a bit of a difficult task. This particular injustice has officially been remedied, in a move for which very few people were calling out, but more might have if they'd known about it: House has been released on region 1 DVD and Blu-Ray by no less an entity than the Criterion Collection, finally taking its rightful place in cinematic history alongside such films as Rashomon, The Seventh Seal, and Olivier's Hamlet. Just in time for that Halloween party! Provided you not only want your guests to be entertained but also thoroughly bewildered and maybe slightly shellshocked.
"You think you die alone, but that's not true. Nobody is alone in this world. We have to co-exist and take care of each other." (Caution : Video contains images which some may find disturbing.) [more inside]
Cubic Mouth is a series of plush dolls and toys designed by Satoshi Fumihara, creator of MTV Japan's The World of Golden Eggs and some rather interesting ads for Nissan. (previously) If the dolls look familiar, it's not a coincidence nor is it an artistic imitation; these are legitimately licensed Disney products. (most links in Japanese but self-explanatory) Oh Disney, why do you have to be so buttoned up at home?
"It’s the vehicular equivalent of the AK-47. It’s ubiquitous to insurgent warfare. And actually, recently, also counterinsurgent warfare. It kicks the hell out of the Humvee." It may suck to drive, but the tough and agile Toyota Hilux is the insurgent's vehicle of choice in Afghanistan. U.S. Special Forces prefer the comparable American-built Toyota Tacoma.
Hatsune Miku's latest album debuted in the number one spot on the Japanese weekly Oricon album charts. She's playing live to sold out stadiums, and action figures depicting her have been shot into space... [more inside]
Tokyo drifts ... cat2525jp has a neat YouTube channel of voyages through Tokyo transit systems, set to electronica. They include timelapse (e.g. Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line), and the lovely mirror effect "Tokyo Sky Drive" series (e.g. 1 2), and povs of high-tech automated parking systems with bowing attendants.
Japanese children fight valiently to protect their home from a zombie. There's no way this isn't the cutest thing you see all day. (Don't forget to turn subtitles on). Full 7 min video, albeit without subtitles.
Old anatomical illustrations that provide a unique perspective on the evolution of medical knowledge in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868) [more inside]
"This is your state! A big country like India is a slave to a small country like Britain. The Indian soldiers should be fighting for their freedom which can only be achieved if England is destroyed. You are only fighting to remain enslaved." A comprehensive account of WWII propaganda campaigns on all sides of the complicated relationship between Axis, Allies, and India. [more inside]
A robotic teacher, Ms. Saya, conducts her first class at an elementry school in Tokyo. [more inside]
Hey Mick, why don't you start singing Gimme Shelter at the mixing desk in the middle of the a huge crowd and then leisurely stroll to the stage. Nothing bad will happen. (SLYT) [more inside]
Res Obscura is a blog by Ben Breen, a graduate student of early modern history, which styles itself "a compendium of obscure things." Indeed, even the asides are full of wonder, such as the one about Boy, the famous Royalist war poodle of the English Civil War, which is but a short addendum to a post about witches' familiars. Here are some of my favorite posts, Pirate Surgeon in Panama (and a related post about 18th Century Jamaica), vanished civilizations, asemic pseudo-Arabic and -Hebrew writing in Renaissance art, and a series of posts about the way the Chinese and Japanese understood the world outside Asia in the early modern period (Europeans as 'Other', Europeans as 'Other,' Redux and Early Chinese World Maps).
Insiders Tour of Akihabara. The guys over at toykohackerspace provide us with a guide to the ultimate in geek shopping; whether it's custom CNC'ed radio enclosures, every tweezer imaginable, or you just want to buy a robot, Akihabara is the place to be. [via /.] [more inside]
Europe according to... is a project to map stereotypes of European countries according to other countries and groups of people. [more inside]
On August 23rd, the great Japanese stop-motion animator and president of the Japan Animation Association Kihachirō Kawamoto passed away at the age of 85. Here is a selection of his beautiful short films (available on DVD) __ Farce Anthropo - Cynique (1970) - The Demon (1972) [more inside]
September 13, 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of the original Japanese release of Super Mario Bros, featuring the return of everyone's favorite sailor, Popeye. That's not right, he's the Italian carpenter, Mario. Wait, now he's a plumber with a brother (named Luigi Mario), and they're not normal, they're super! And they're fighting to save Princess Peach Toadstool from an angry ox king, who became the stubborn but cute turtle Bowser. [more inside]
Mr. Takai doesn’t care much for ordinary crickets. He’s a connoisseur. For the last 20 years, he’s been raising “suzumushi,” bell crickets, so that in September his knife, scissors and hardware store will ring and sing with cricket song. The song of suzumushi. A primer on Meloimorpha japonica, the 'bell cricket.'
Less than a year after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States detonated the fourth and fifth nuclear weapons under the name Operation Crossroads in July 1946. Beyond testing the capabilities of nuclear bombs, the Navy said it wanted the Bikini tests treated like "the story of the year, maybe of the decade, and possibly of a lifetime." Only two of the three bombs were detonated, and the project was shut down over the next months. To celebrate the efforts of Operation Crossroads, a cake in the shape of a mushroom cloud was featured at a publicized event on November 5, 1946. In response to this display, Reverend Arthur Powell Davies, the minister of the Unitarian All Souls Church in Washington, D.C., gave a sermon on the "utterly loathsome picture" and the message it sent to other nations. That sermon set off a flurry of replies and reactions, that extended around the world, including a connection formed between Reverend Davies' All Souls Unitarian Church and school children in Hiroshima. [more inside]
A fascinating look at some interesting, and at times mind-boggling, arrays of dials and switches.
Only in Japan, Real Men Go to a Hotel With Virtual Girlfriends: Dating-Simulation Game a Last Resort For Honeymoon Town and Its Lonely Guests. "Some devoted fans will go so far as to pay twice the rate—most hotels in Japan charge per guest not per room—to indulge the fantasy that they are not there alone. A night's stay, at most, can cost $500 though many rooms are cheaper. In Atami, the Love Plus+ fans—mostly men in their twenties and thirties—stand out. Unlike the deeply tanned beach crowd wearing very little, they are often pasty and overdressed for the heat in heavy jeans and button-down shirts." [more inside]
Badass Japanese Precision Walking Competition. Craziness starts at 1:45, and just gets better from there on.
"In Japan, animation is not seen as the exclusive realm of children's and family films, but is often used for adult, science fiction and action stories, where it allows a kind of freedom impossible in real life. Some Hollywood films strain so desperately against the constraints of the possible that you wish they'd just caved in and gone with animation." -- Roger Ebert on anime, with this excerpt being related to Tokyo Godfathers. Ebert has been a fan of anime for a while, especially the works of Hayao Miyazaki. Ebert has reviewed 6 of the 18 Studio Ghibli films released to date, and even interviewed Miyazaki with a bit of fanboy glee. More reviews and videos inside. [more inside]
"The Japanese Tradition" was a series of nine short, parody "How To" videos that gently mocked the formality of Japanese culture, from comedy duo Rahmens (ラーメンズ) and Japan Culture Lab. They're available on DVD, but nearly all of them can be seen on YouTube, including Sushi and Ocha (tea). [more inside]
Journeyman Pictures has uploaded nearly 4000 videos to YouTube. Many of these are trailers for the documentaries they sell, but they have also posted hundreds of full-length videos. Most are for short documentarie, but there are a lot of features too. It's somewhat daunting to explore, but the playlists are a good place to start, and so are the shows: Features, Shorts, News and Savouring Europe, a European travelogue series. Here's a few interesting ones: Gastronauts, about French culinary students working to make astronaut food more palatable, Demon Drummers, about student Kodo drummers, India's Free Lunch, about the effects of free school lunches on Indian society, The Twitter Revolution, about YouTube and Twitter's role in the 2009 Iranian uprising, Europe's Black Hole, about Transnistria, the breakaway region of Moldova, Small Town Boy, about a gay male carnival queen in a small town in England, The Vertigo of Lists, Umberto Eco talks about the ubiquity of lists in modern culture and Monsters from the Id, about scientists in the science fiction films of the Fifties.
Satoshi Kon, the director of such celebrated anime movies as Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Paprika, has died (reportedly of cancer) at the age of 47. Kon's movies dealt with the slipperiness of the boundaries between performance and reality, truth and illusion. His death leaves the status of his next movie, The Dream Machine (Yume miru kikai), in doubt. As outsourcing and a long recession have taken their toll on Japan's increasingly insular anime industry, David Cabrera notes, I cannot think of a single person alive in the Japanese animation industry who would have been a greater loss than Mr. Kon.
Beware the Electronic Automatic Sound-Spectrograph Computing Digit Translator Playback Recognizer Machine
Telephoneme: Even if your Alphabet Conspiracy succeeds and you destroy the books, machines have no minds of their own. They are easily confused by different voices and different accents. It is the brain of man that tells them what to do. [more inside]
Japanese navy recruitment vs. American navy recruitment. American military advert vs. a Swedish one. Just for fun, a Ukrainian military ad. All links from this Reddit thread.
Japanese Ice Cream Robot (Warning: opera music in videos done circus style.)
X-Japan, arguably Japan's most famous rock band ever, is touring America for the very first time. The founders of the musical movement known as Visual Kai, X-Japan are virtually unknown outside of the kotaku and metalheads with a penchant for the dramatic. But their distinctly Japanese fashion and dramatic, theatrical speed metal music proved to make them enormously popular in Japan during their hayday. Former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi even is an admitted fan of the band. Over the course of 6 studio albums the band presented everything from raw speed metal to 30 plus minute epics. And now, for the first time ever, be touring North America after a featured spot on Lollapalooza's main stage this summer.
“Living until 150 years old is impossible in the natural world,” said Akira Nemoto, director of the elderly services section of the Adachi ward office. “But it is not impossible in the world of Japanese public administration.” Up until the end of July, no one knew how many people over the age of 100 were missing in Japan. Now, officials are scrambling to check on the elderly. [more inside]
Mid-week pick-me-up, straight outta Japan: Soil & "Pimp" Sessions, live in 2009 at the annual North Sea Jazz Festival. If those live clips are a bit noisy, check out Pop Korn, My Foolish Heart~Crazy on Earth~, and My Foolish Heart ~Foolish in Mind~. And for a cool-down, try Welsh producer Doc Daneeka's bassy slowed down house version of Pop Korn (image source: Fotos+Mono, from the Chilean artist Relleno De Mono). [more inside]
Dommune is a fairly new nightclub in Tokyo. It's only open Sunday through Thursday night and they close at midnight. The room only holds 50 people. Nevertheless, the place attracts top-flight talent; Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Claude Young, Prosumer, and Shed have all performed. What's the gimmick? Every party is streamed live. (from mnml ssgs) [more inside]
The three annoying train monsters shown in the poster are Nesshii (the sleeping monster), Asshii (the leg-crossing monster), and Shinbunshii (the newspaper-reading monster). Tokyo Subway Manner Posters, '76-'82
Though the Boredoms have long been renowned for non-traditional, envelope pushing, and occasionally confrontational performances, frontman eYe's earlier group, Hanatarash, were reputed to have been even more extreme, trading in ultra-violent displays with no regard for performer or audience safety. In particular, there was a story of eYe driving a full-sized backhoe through the back wall of the venue. It's the kind thing you hear about and assume that some level of exaggeration is going on...until you see the pictures. [more inside]
For the first time since the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb [NSFW photos?] on Hiroshima 65 years ago, the U.S. ambassador will attend commemoration ceremonies at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. But is this an apology? Some say it better not be. The U.S. says - it isn't.
Video of horrific, Japanese maggot-man robot allegedly designed to act as a physical presence during phone calls. More info and photos here.
"Wagashi are traditional Japanese confections that evolved into an art form in the ancient Imperial capital, Kyoto." Wagashi fall into the following categories: namagashi, yokan, monaka, manju, and higashi. Playful and inventive examples of confectionery art abound within those categories. [more inside]
Weirdly wonderful illustrations from 70s Japanese children's books by Gōjin Ishihara, including much nightmare fuel from the Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters
Karakuri ningyō (からくり人形?) are mechanized puppets or automata from Japan from the 17th century to 19th century. There are many beautiful examples: Arrow shooting, serving tea, the geisha, acrobatics, making magic. [more inside]