TOYOTA PRESENTS: Baseball Party!
Votive mask of the god of stoves (Kamadomen), Japan, Tohoku region, wood, 60 x 39 x 19 cm, Edo period, 18th to early 19th century, Japan
The Yomiuri Shimbun reports: Godzilla is playing a leading role again — this time as a tourist attraction in the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, where the monster is working to resurrect the area’s reputation as a film hub.
“The 12-meter-high Godzilla head is a centerpiece of the building. The sculpture is installed 52 meters above ground level — matching the height of the original monster that appeared in the first film in 1954.”
The 30-story Shinjuku Toho building opened Friday in Kabukicho on the site of the former Shinjuku Koma Stadium theater. Thanks to the installation of a colossal sculpture of Godzilla’s head, the monster himself appears to be hovering over a terrace on the eighth floor. The new building houses a fancy movie theater and a hotel with rooms from which Godzilla can be observed close-up.
Kabukicho shopkeepers, restaurant owners and other business operators expect the new building to help reinvigorate the district as a center for cinema lovers. “We’ll do our best to make Kabukicho a safe, secure place,” said Mototsugu Katagiri, the 66-year-old head of the district’s commerce association, at a dedication ceremony Thursday.
Kabukicho was formerly home to more than a dozen movie theaters, but that number has dwindled as fewer people have been going to the cinema. Shinjuku Milano Theater was shuttered at the end of last year, leaving the district without a single movie house.
The Shinjuku Toho building was constructed on the site of the former Shinjuku Koma Stadium theater, which closed in 2008. The new facility features a hotel and a movie complex.
With 12 screens and 2,347 seats, Toho Cinemas Shinjuku occupies the third to sixth floors. The theater features deluxe seats equipped with marble tray tables and power recliners. Read the rest of this entry »
Japan’s Creative, Ephemeral Homes
Lucy Alexander writes: Would you buy a house that you knew would lose its value as years passed? That you would never be able to sell? That you might have to pay to demolish?
In Japan, this is the willing choice of many houseowners. In Western countries, a home is typically an investment that most people expect to one day sell at a profit. In Japan, a house is a consumer good that rapidly depreciates in value, like a car. Because Japanese house hunters prize new construction, they will pay a premium for land, but build their own home on it.
“People have greater creative license to express their own taste because they don’t need to consider resale value. There is a deep-set ephemeral attitude to housing here.”
— Alastair Townsend, co-founder of Bakoko, a Tokyo architectural practice
This model has one happy side-effect: a flourishing of some of the world’s most wonderfully bizarre architecture. You can live in a nest of tangled staircases designed to represent the Internet (named S-House), or inside plastic walls shaped like a Gothic arch (called Lucky Drops)—and only be concerned that it pleases you.
“People have greater creative license to express their own taste because they don’t need to consider resale value,” said Alastair Townsend, co-founder of Bakoko, a Tokyo architectural practice. “There is a deep-set ephemeral attitude to housing here.”
Japan’s Ministry of Finance defines the “service life” of a wooden house (92% of all detached homes) as being 22 years, though many homeowners stretch their stay.
Architecture in Japan is big business, with 24 architects for every 10,000 people, compared with 3.4 in the U.S., says the International Union of Architects. And Japanese often show extreme deference to experts such as architects. “Sometimes the clients don’t feel empowered to question an architect’s design,” said Mr. Townsend.
One of Mr. Townsend’s clients, Chiyomi Okamoto, 53, worked closely with the firm on her home’s details. She wanted a house that felt comfortable to her and to her Australia-born husband, Joe Gayton, 58, an exports manager for the Victorian Government Business Office in Tokyo. Read the rest of this entry »
Japan’s purchases will help soothe lingering concerns that U.S. bond prices could decline as China slows its buying.
“China is currently the 800-pound gorilla in the U.S. Treasury market. However, it is not the only gorilla in the jungle.”
In reclaiming its status as the largest foreign creditor to America in U.S. official data, Japan is reasserting itself as Beijing holds its Treasury portfolio steady amid a weakening Chinese economy.
“U.S. debt bears higher yields than government bonds offered in other rich nations, thanks to the perception of stronger U.S. growth prospects and to central-bank bond purchases that have driven yields near zero across Europe and in Japan.”
Private investors and official institutions in Japan owned $1.2244 trillion of U.S. government securities at the end of February, compared with $1.2386 trillion at the end of January, according to the latest monthly data released by the Treasury on Wednesday.
China held $1.2237 trillion of Treasury debt at the end of February, compared with $1.2391 trillion a month earlier.
Over the past year, Japan has boosted its holdings by a net $13.6 billion, while China’s holdings dropped by $49.2 billion.
“The single largest holder of U.S. long-term debt is the Federal Reserve, with more than $2 trillion. The amount has surged from $755 billion at the end of 2007, fueled by Fed purchases of long-term securities in response to the financial crisis”.
The Treasury data, released with a two-month lag, don’t capture all of the Treasury-bond holdings China may have parked at middlemen in places such as the U.K. and Belgium. Many analysts and investors believe China has considerable holdings bought through such intermediaries. The Treasury notes on its website that “it is difficult to draw precise conclusions about changes in the foreign holdings of U.S. financial assets by individual countries” from the capital-flow data.
“The shift also reflects changes sweeping China. The world’s most-populous nation has in recent months largely held its Treasury portfolio in place, reflecting a slowdown in the growth of its $3.73 trillion foreign-exchange reserve, the world’s largest, and an effort to shift those reserves toward higher-yielding assets.”
The Japanese purchases have helped drive long-term U.S. bond yields near record lows despite an economic expansion that averaged 2.7% annually over 2013-14. Those low yields have, in turn, helped keep down interest rates for Americans on everything from home loans to credit cards. Read the rest of this entry »
Three Foreign Tourists Arrested for Sexual Molestation in Japan Claim Novel Defense: ‘But We Thought it was Normal Behavior!’Posted: April 9, 2015
A suspect was caught trying to capture upskirt photos while riding an escalator. In another case a Chinese tourist was reportedly caught grabbing a woman’s ass inside an adult store.
From RocketNews24, Master Blaster reports: Given the size and longevity of the adult entertainment industry, it’s safe to say that such products serve a purpose in societies everywhere. However, one purpose for which adult videos should never be used is as travel guides for visiting other countries.
“Watching Japanese adult videos, I thought the people here were open about sex. I thought molesters were everywhere.”
— Foreign suspect’s confession to police
You might think that would be common sense but apparently we can’t stress the point enough after there has been a recent spate of molestation committed by foreign tourists who claim to have thought it was normal behavior in Japan after watching Japanese adult videos.
“And then we have the case of a man arrested for lifting the skirt of a woman while riding the train. This last incident appears influenced by a scene from the classic 1993 AV Nurse Monogatari staring Miki Mayuzumi.”
According to Focus Asia there have been three separate incidents of foreign visitors overstepping their bounds.
In one instance a suspect was caught trying to capture images up women’s skirts while riding an escalator. Then in another case a Chinese tourist was reportedly caught grabbing a woman’s buttocks inside an adult goods shop.
“You might think that would be common sense but apparently we can’t stress the point enough after there has been a recent spate of molestation committed by foreign tourists who claim to have thought it was normal behavior in Japan after watching Japanese adult videos.”
And then we have the case of a man arrested for lifting the skirt of a woman while riding the train. This last incident appears influenced by a scene from the classic 1993 AV Nurse Monogatari staring Miki Mayuzumi…or maybe something else. I don’t know because I don’t watch the stuff.
Reports claim that one foreign suspect confessed to police, saying, “Watching Japanese adult videos, I thought the people here were open about sex. I thought molesters were everywhere.”
All three men are currently in custody and deliberations with the victims’ lawyers are being held to determine if criminal charges will be pressed, or if they can find some other settlement. Read the rest of this entry »
Evie lund at RocketNews24 discovered this gem: Meet Joyous String, a four-kid string quartet with musical aptitude way beyond their years. Joyous String belong to the Joyous Music School of New York. They’ve been playing together since they were just four years old, and have progressed to the point where they can produce a flawless rendition of the Michael Jackson classic “Smooth Criminal” without even breaking a sweat….Here’s their version of “Smooth Criminal”!
Here’s their rendition of Katy Perry’s mega-hit “Firework”
Ah, the Japanese fan dance. In popular culture, its staid connections to Noh and Kabuki theater are put aside in favor of something more risque. Usually it’s a coy geisha slowly using her fans to seductively cover and reveal her face and body. But just as more business are capitalizing on male sex appeal these days, the modern Japanese fan dance has a hot, sweaty man version too.
This may have started with the Japanese musician and provocateur DJ Ozma, who famously earned a lifetime ban from national broadcaster NHK after his first appearance featured dancers in skin-colored leotards painted to look like naked bodies. His 2008 song DRINKIN’BOYS featured a group of naked male dancers using strategically placed fans….(read more)
[VIDEO] Meet キロボ Kirobo: The First Companion Robot to Go to Space Returns to Earth After 18-Month JourneyPosted: April 2, 2015
After a 18-month mission aboard the International Space Station, the tiny Japanese robot Kirobo returned to Earth on February 2015. During a press conference, organizers celebrated the successful project.
Japan is one of the hardest working countries in the world. So, at the end of the week, Japanese salary men and women let their hair down with very surprising consequences: Drunk Sleeping.
It happens to pretty much everyone at least once in their lifetime. You’re out drinking with friends and feeling pleasantly buzzed when you get roped into doing a couple of Sambuca shots. Then it suddenly hits you: you’ve drunk too much….
For Japanese people, however, the effects of alcohol are often so much worse. Many Asian people simply cannot tolerate alcohol well, so when they drink more than they should – even if that’s just a few beers – their bodies simply shut down and they fall asleep, dead to the world around them.
We’ve all seen photos of the guy passed out on the floor of a Tokyo subway train, and many have no doubt wondered why, particularly in as conservative a society as Japan’s, this behaviour could ever be considered acceptable. But the truth is, while Japan values hard work over pretty much anything else, its people are also extremely willing to forgive drunken mishaps precisely for that reason. If a salaryman overdoes it and passes out on the train, he was probably just kicking back after a tough week at the office, fellow passengers think as they step over his legs or gently nudge him off their shoulder on the train. Those college kids who can barely stand? They probably just passed some big exam or were offered a job after they graduate.
Getting drunk is something that people do to let off steam, and goodness knows the Japanese have a lot of that pent up inside them.
But besides the trauma they put their body through when drinking to excess (there’s a reason they call it alcohol poisoning, after all), sleeping drunks also risk physical injury, being robbed, and become a hazard to others, so it does seem strange that people should tolerate the behaviour when they can’t the stuff that causes it.
In order to address the situation, Japan’s Yaocho Bar Group decided to turn a few of Tokyo’s snoozing boozers into living billboards. Read the rest of this entry »
Old literary references prove flower synonymous with Japan originated on Chinese soil, argues association, after South Korea has also laid claim to the species
Alice Yan reports: A group in China has weighed into the debate about the origins of a flower synonymous with Japan, the cherry blossom, saying it was first found on Chinese soil.
“We don’t want to start a war of words with Japan or Korea, but we would like to state the fact that many historical literary references prove that cherry blossom originated in China. As Chinese, we are obliged to let more people know about this part of history.”
He Zongru, executive chairman of the China Cherry Blossom Association, told a press conference that historical references proved that the flower originally came from China.
He’s comments came after media reports in South Korea earlier this month suggested that cherry blossom was first found in the country’s southern province of Jeju.
”To put it simply, cherry blossoms originated in China and prospered in Japan. None of this is Korea’s business.”
“We don’t want to start a war of words with Japan or Korea, but we would like to state the fact that many historical literary references prove that cherry blossom originated in China. As Chinese, we are obliged to let more people know about this part of history.” he was quoted a saying by the Southern Metropolis News.
He said the species spread to Japan from the Himalayan region during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Zhang Zuoshuang, an official at the Botanical Society of China, was quoted as saying that among the 150 types of wildly-grown cherry blossoms around the world, more than 50 could be found in China. Read the rest of this entry »
Government opens another front in public relations battle with China, South Korea
TOKYO— Peter Landers writes: Japan’s government is paying to have Japanese-language nonfiction books translated into English, with the first works to be produced under the program arriving in American libraries this month.
“Japan is among the top nations in the world in terms of books published, but unfortunately, they’re just published in Japanese. If they were known around the world, there are a lot of books that people would find really interesting.”
The move is one of several nontraditional public-relations steps by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, which is trying to enhance Japan’s profile among U.S. opinion leaders and the general public as it engages in a public relations battle with China and South Korea.
“Some efforts have been overtly political. South Korea has created a website in seven languages to make its case that two islets claimed by both Tokyo and Seoul rightly belong to South Korea, and last year sponsored an exhibit in France on forced prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II.”
Japan’s foreign ministry has boosted its public diplomacy budget. Measures include spending $5 million to fund a professorship in Japanese politics and foreign policy at Columbia University. Another program, begun last year, sends Japanese people from various walks of life to places like Lawrence, Kan., and Lexington, Ky., to talk about life in Japan.
The books translated into English with Japanese government funds will carry the imprint “Japan Library” and be published by the government itself—a different approach from that of some other nations that subsidize private translations. Read the rest of this entry »
Kanazawa: New bullet-train service from Tokyo makes this city—a place of castles, gardens and geishas—a tempting side trip
Chaney Kwak writes:
…Kanazawa, for the moment, anyway, is a refreshingly low-key affair. This 16th-century castle town of some 460,000 on Japan’s west coast has remained blissfully off the radar of most overseas travelers but has long been a favorite getaway for the Japanese, explaining why tickets for this month’s inaugural Shinkansen high-speed train service—which has cut travel time from Tokyo down to just two and a half hours from almost four—sold out in seconds.
Designated a Unesco City of Crafts and Folk Art, Kanazawa has serious artistic credibility and is a center for artisans who produce lacquer ware, textiles and other crafts using traditional techniques. None of these is more identified with Kanazawa than gold leaf. True to the city’s name, which means golden marsh, Kanazawa produces virtually all the gold leaf made in Japan, where they like to cover everything from monuments to food with the stuff…(read more)
The cost for ‘Rental Vehicles for Flotus in Kyoto’ is $78,741, according to a contract signed last week
Elizabeth Harrington reports: First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to a Buddhist Temple in Kyoto is costing taxpayers nearly $80,000 for rental cars, according to a government contract.
Mrs. Obama, who is travelling to Japan and Cambodia for a girls’ education initiative, will arrive in Kyoto, Japan, on Friday.
According to the White House press office, “The First Lady will travel to Kyoto on March 20 and visit the Kiyomizu-Dera Buddhist Temple and the Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine. She will also greet staff from the U.S. Consulate in Osaka.”
Fushimi Inari Shinto is a shrine dedicated to a god of rice. Visitors of the temple can pay to go into a pitch-black basement that symbolizes the womb of Buddah’s mother…. Read the rest of this entry »
Teijin Tetron テイジンテトロン pleated skirt advertising – Japan – 1961
[VIDEO] ‘Dirty Thunderstorm': Rare Footage of Volcanic Lightning Storm Captured During Eruption of a Volcano on Kyushu IslandPosted: March 18, 2015
German videographer Marc Szeglat managed to capture video of an extremely rare volcanic lightning storm in the plume of Sakurajima, a highly active volcano location on the Japanese island of Kyushu. The phenomenon, also known as a dirty thunderstorm, occurs when particles from the eruption collide to produce static charges….(read more)
The making of mochi, traditional Japanese rice cakes, is a traditional activity for many Japanese families around the time of the New Year’s holiday. The term for this important ritual in Japanese is mochitsuki (餅つき), which quite simply means “mochi pounding.”
While there are dozens of mochi specialty shops scattered throughout Japan, one particular shop specializing in yomogimochi (mochi mixed with mugwort, giving it a distinctive green color) in Nara Prefecture boasts much more than delicious sweets–its second claim to fame is that it employs the fastest mochitsuki champions in all of the country!
The mochitsuki professionals at Nara’s Nakatanidou (中谷堂) shop make a great team. They’ve got the art of mochitsuki down to a tee, and it’s obvious that in the process they’ve also cultivated a mutual trust over the years. I mean, why else would they be so willing to stick their hands in the direct path of a mallet crashing down at full force?
The following video of the mochi masters at work is so impressive that it’s even garnered thousands of views outside of Japan. Remember, what you’re about to see is not sped-up or altered in any way–it’s the actual speed that the video was recorded at: