Sunday, 26 July 2009

Dissolution

You know how sometimes you intend to blog about shit and then by the time you get round to it everything's changed and you realise that, actually, you can't be arsed? Well watching the last two weeks of the LDP imploding has been like that. But with more alcohol. And less being arsed.

So. The LDP lost the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections two weeks ago by almost as much as I like to tell people they lost by. Which is shitloads. They no longer hold the majority, that now goes to DPJ, Tokyo Network and assorted cronies. Unfortunately hardly anyone voted for the SDP, but then that's no surprise. There are still people who don't wash their hands after they use the toilet, so I guess some people just refuse to be civilised.

Obviously Aso tried to limit the damage by telling people that the Tokyo Assembly elections weren't indicative of how the party would do in the general election because they deal with entirely different issues. Naturally, everyone knows that's horseshit. They're going to lose spectacularly in the general election. Not spectacularly because they'll lose by much, but spectacularly because they've only been out of power for nine months out of the last 54 years.


Aso needs re-inflating again.

That's not to say that they've had a solid monopoly over Japan for all of those years. Since Koizumi they've had a litany of popular failures and private disasters. The best way to imagine the LDP's situation is to picture a man falling down an up-escalator for three pathetic, bone-splitting years. Like the LDP's approval rating the man seems to be constantly falling, with all the associated pain and embarrassment, but always miraculously stays in the same place. We have to wait for him to finally hit rock-bottom to see whether he'll lie there and bleed out with the remains of his dignity or whether he'll lurch like Frankenstein's monster back to the escalator of government.

Aso has dissolved the Lower House in preparation for a general election on the 30th of August. This obviously means that there is effectively no government in Japan at the moment. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Cos I'm pretty sure this means Japan is ripe for a coup d'etat. If we can barricade ourselves in Aso's office so we've got the Prime Minister's Throne on the 30th of August then it's legal, right? Isn't that how it works?

Friday, 10 July 2009

Debt Will Eat Me Alive (Also A Woman Was Burnt)

Having recently found out how much debt I'm currently in from my student loan (£32,000, or $51,823, or 4.8 million yen), I can sympathise with people being made redundant. Although, the economy will stabilise and they'll find jobs again, and at least they've all got experience and viable qualifications. This £32,000 is going to hang around my neck til I die, because there's no way in hell I can pay it off. Surely there's someone in the world looking to employ a Comparative Literature graduate? Seriously, I can compare the shit out of things.

Anyway. Fuji TV have reported how some crazy woman set a job-agency office-worker on fire because she couldn't find her a job. The psycho doused her with gasoline and then ignited her. And as if telling us wasn't good enough, Fuji TV then show us what a plastic bottle of gasoline might look like, then show us a lighter. And for those of us that still don't get it, they then do a CGI re-enactment. They also show the spot where she was set alight over and over again, as if by looking at it often enough we'll get some kind of clairvoyant flashback of the actual incident. This is a news story in which every person featured failed at their job.


Video via Japan Probe

The job-agency worker couldn't get a client a job. The psycho-woman got fired from her job in the first place. And Fuji TV are just shit. I could do any of those jobs! Or at least not do them any worse than these people. Somebody hire me! ...Please?

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Land Of The Rising Unemployment Figures

"Yes, unemployment rates are increasing. And yes, the rate at which the unemployment rate is increasing is increasing. But! The rate at which the rate of unemployment rate increases are increasing is DEcreasing! So it's all going to be ok! Vote LDP! Vote LDP!"

The unemployment rate in May was up to 5.2%. I'm waiting for an update on June's figures, which I expect to see at Japan Economy News any day now. I'm also preparing my face to adopt the appropriate expression of concern to mask the fact I have no idea what any of this really means.

Aso's "I feel your pain. No, seriously" face

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Aso Meets His Boss

Well, hasn't Aso Taro been busy? (No.) He turned up at the Vatican yesterday for a meeting with the Pope ahead of the G8 Summit in Italy that's just started. Every time the G8 meet it seems like all their members go on press-junket style tours, meeting local luminaries and being interviewed, like weary actors promoting their latest movie but with a radiant sense of glee and self-importance. They smile for the cameras and answer questions like, "What was it like working with Silvio Berlusconi?" and "Can you confirm or deny rumours of a romance between you and Chancellor Merkel?" Then everyone forgets they exist for six months or so before they're off again.

So yesterday Aso (68 years old, Catholic) went to meet his Overlord, the Pope. But he wasn't just there to take Pope Benedict's each-way bet on Obama to use the word "reform" at least three times in a single sentence, oh no. He also wanted to present him with a Sony digital camcorder. Because if there's one thing the Pope likes more than gambling on dead-certainties it's home-videos. Oh, and God.

Awkward gifts are something of a staple in the political world. When Obama met the Queen for the first time, he gave her an iPod loaded with songs from The King And I (true fact). In turn, the Queen gave him a framed, signed photo of herself, which quite frankly is fucking hilarious. And when Gordon Brown visited America, Obama gave him a box-set of 25 DVDs (another true fact). Of course, Region 1 DVDs can't actually be played in Britain, but how was the President to know that?

Here's the Aso-Pope meeting, with the Sony camcorder being presented on a silver platter:


You'll notice the camcorder doesn't actually have a charger though. So the Pope will be lucky to get even one match of the All-Italia Nuns Volleyball Championship out of it. Better luck next time.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Abandoned Hotel Becomes Even More Abandoned

The Takara Hotel in Nakagusuku, Okinawa, has been a hang-out for lots of idiot teenagers living in the nearby military base. It's also been used by some Japanese "military-gamers" as a paintball arena, which is a far better use for an abandoned hotel than kids trying to scare each other. I mean, honestly. But now, because a Marine was injured there recently, the Corps has declared it off-limits to all personnel and family of military staff. The wimps.


2nd Lieutenant Lucas Burke (great name) has written that, "Injuries sustained by a service member brought the dilapidated conditions to light with Marine Corps leadership, who consider the high risk of harm at Takara Hotel to constitute a threat." The Corps elaborated on the "dilapidated conditions", specifying "decaying structure, broken glass and accumulating detritus".

I'm no expert, but aren't these guys trained for wars? You don't need to coddle them, they're soldiers. A little "decaying structure" never hurt anyone! And "detritus" is known to be character building. Significantly, the military have declined to describe the details of the Marine's injury sustained in the hotel, leaving us no choice but to speculate wildly.

The Takara Hotel was half-constructed in 1975 by an adventurous businessman. Apparently the local villagers told him not to build the hotel because the proposed site was on sacred grounds. But, like any conscientious horror-story protagonist, he did it anyway. Then the local Buddhist temple started accosting the builders, warning them that the construction site was right next to a cave housing "restless spirits", so most of the builders left. We're told that the rest of the workers "abandoned the project when several other workers died in mysterious construction accidents". It's like the plot of every shit teen-horror movie rolled into one ridiculous mess. And the businessman ended up in an asylum.


Is that blood in the hallway?! (No.)

So, bearing all that in mind, what do you think happened to the Marine that was injured? Send me your wildest ideas.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Not Long Before Flying Monkeys Now...

Monkey news time! Not fugitive monkeys tonight though, we're talking about glowing monkeys!

Marmosets have been genetically engineered in Japan's Central Institute for Experimental Animals to glow in the dark by splicing some jellyfish genes into them. Somehow. And when the glowing marmosets fathered baby marmosets, the babies glowed too, meaning the scientists can make non-monkey genes inheritable in monkeys.

This fantastic snub of Mother Nature is supposed to "herald development of monkeys that are better models of human disease than genetically modified mice". Somehow. I'm withholding judgement on that angle, given my lack of a bio-engineering PhD, but I'm all in favour of the Mother Nature snubbing and invention of anything that glows. Pictures have been very hard to come by, unfortunately, and the ones on this post seem to the only ones available.


Glowing monkey hands

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

YoYoJam Japes

I've got over my accidental, self-induced food poisoning and I'm fighting-fit again! Although I'll probably still try to avoid fights. Let's keep it real.

Right, I've got a lot of catching up to do with what's happening outside my flat, so whilst I go read some "news" here's what I'd like to fob you off with:


Via Japan Probe

This is the three-time World Champion yo-yo-er Suzuki Hiroyuki, of Team YoYoJam.

How many times do you think he's hit himself in the head with that thing? (OTN Official Guess: one million!)

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Japanese Blogging Topics

What Japan Thinks has translated an interesting survey that ranked the top blog topics in Japan.

The Top 10 for men were:

1. What I Did Today
2. Impressions of Movie/TV/Anime
3. Favourite Product/Service
4. Impressions of Today's Food
5. Product/Service I Want to Recommend
6. Political News
7. Financial News
8. Sports News
9. What I Bought Today
10. Entertainment Gossip

And for women:

1. What I Did Today
2. Impressions of Today's Food
3. Favourite Product/Service
4. Impressions of Movie/TV/Anime
5. Product/Service I Want to Recommend
6. What I Bought Today
7. Impressions of a Manga
8. Impressions of Music
9. Entertainment Gossip
10. What My Friend/Relatives Did Today

By way of comparison, here's the OTN Top 10 Topics so far:

1. Politics
2. Technowizardry
3. The Economy
4. Ueto Aya
5. Criminal Underworld
6. Visions of the Apocalypse
7. Culture
8. Baseball
9. Wildlife
10. Pokemon

Yeh, you'd never have thought that the bulk of this blog has been about politics, would you? But those are the numbers, man.

Go to What Japan Thinks for more details on the blogging survey and for shitloads of other interesting surveys.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

For Lack Of Anything Else: Gundam Stuff

There's been a spate of Gundam suits being made recently. It started with the life-size Gundam RX-78 suit made in Odaiba as part of the 30th Anniversary of Gundam celebrations, which seem to have spawned a series of copycat-crime Gundam creations all over the place.


Video of the Odaiba Life-Size Gundam, via Japan Probe

But as we all know, the Universe craves balance. And as a multi-million yen, painstakingly accurate Gundam suit had been erected in Odaiba, so the Fukuoka Science Museum had to build four Gundam suits out of cardboard. This is the tiny picture that the Asahi Shimbun provided, and I haven't been able to find anything bigger, sadly:


Quite frankly I'm more impressed by these cardboard Gundams than by the life-size one.

And in America, army mechanic Carlos Owens has designed and built his own mobile suit. It's not a Gundam, but in contrast to the Odaiba and cardboard models his actually works. It's a six-metre tall hydraulic-powered suit that can be controlled from within.


Via Japanator

Given the numbers of novelty robots now roaming the Earth, could someone please get round to organising a Robot Battle Royale? Who's job is that? It must be someone's job. Yeh I'm looking at you, Japan.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Guitar Playing Nine-Year Old

Despite Ellen Degeneres, this video is amazing. Try to ignore her and watch the video to the end - seriously. You won't regret it.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Breaking Monkey News!

Another monkey is on the run! This is not the same creature as the elusive Shibuya Monkey or the Kisarazu Monkey, it's a brand new one that infiltrated Kasukabe in Saitama yesterday. Look at it go!


Actually they're not really chasing it, are they? It's like they hardly care.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Monkey Chase!

The people of Kisarazu in Chiba have failed where their compatriots in Shibuya also failed. Late last month, 30 people attempted to capture a monkey that was running amok in the town, chasing it through streets and over rooftops, but they were outmaneouvred and outrun.


Why were they chasing the monkey though? Was it causing damage to property or something? I know nothing about the countryside, other than that it doesn't have internet and is therefore something to be avoided, so I very rarely come into contact with animals. I can't imagine the monkey was being that much of a danger to anyone or anything, but maybe that's ignorance on my part and monkeys are an infamous threat to crops or something.

Pretty much the same thing happened in Niigata in March, but the people there caught their quarry. They initially tried to outwit it by leaving bananas laced with tranquilliser around, but when the monkey didn't fall into their trap they ended up just cornering it in a garage. And it only took 20 people there. Here's a video of the Niigata chase:


Sadly there's been no news about the Shibuya Monkey, who evaded train-station workers, the public and the police for months. I really hope it survived the winter.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Max's Vision Of The Apocalypse #3621

Robots are now capable of reading. Waseda's Information, Production and Systems Research Centre has developed a one metre tall, 25 kilo robot that can scan text and read it aloud in a soulless, Mother Nature-mocking voice. He reads kana and over 2,000 kanji, making him officially about 10 times better than I am at Japanese.

A Rebours

The robot, which some commentators are already calling a "crime against nature" (source: OTN), has been dubbed "Ninomiya", and is an abomination upon the Earth. The heathen scientists behind Ninomiya are currently working on making its voice sound more natural and human, the better to infiltrate our homes. They hope the aberration will be used in the future to read books to children and the elderly. Although the scientists didn't say what it would be reading, it's probably significant that they didn't explicitly state it wouldn't be reading anti-Human propaganda and Satanic pledges, so we must fear the worst.


Video from Pink Tentacle

Woe! Woe! Fear the unbelievers!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Evangelion Phones!

Oh if only my blog hadn't broke this week and I hadn't been so lazy last week. Then I could have linked the last blog-post and this one together and created a kind of Evangelion-themed week. Once again the forces of bad luck and laziness have colluded against me. Anyway, brace yourself for the most awesome mobile phones ever...

Evangelion phones! Yaaay, Evangelion phones! Evangelion, Evangelion, Evangelion phones!

Yes, Evangelion mobile phones costing 90,000 yen each (that's about £560) have been released. There were 20,000 of them available on Friday at 10pm, and at 3pm after five hours of taking orders there were none left. That's over £11 million earned by Nerv in five hours. Or £2.2 million every hour. Or £37,000 every minute. Or £617 per second. Just in the time you took to read this paragraph they probably earned enough to buy you and everything you own.

And I can't think of a better way to spend 90,000 yen. Look at it:

Worth more than your life

Worth more than your soul

It's designed by Anno Hideaki, who I'm guessing had to sell his soul to do shit this cool, to tie in with the release of the second of the Eva-remake films.

And look at the stuff it comes with:

Worth more than your girlfriend


They sure as shit know how to merchandise, these people.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Watching The News Gets Marginally Closer To Being Worthwhile

I've got a new addition to the list of Reasons To Shell Out Stupid Money For A PS3: Katsuragi Misato is delivering real-time news through a downloadable Nerv News 24 application. This now joins the previous one reason on the list: "the PS3 exclusive release of Yakuza 3".

They haven't got the original voice-actress doing the reading, but they're using a voice-synthesizing programme to recreate her so it's all ok. The background and Misato's clothing will be customisable, so you can have her reading in the Nerv Headquarters or in her dining room. It's as yet unknown how far Bandai are capitulating to the fans in the choice of outfits they're making available. Although the Evangelion franchise is very open to total fan-service so we could be in for a real treat.

Unfortunately the application is only available in Japan, thereby adding to the already lengthy list of Reasons To Live In Japan. It joins such reasons as "not having to live in England" and "not being able to accidentally overhear people talking in a language I can understand".

Friday, 22 May 2009

In Before The Clock Ticks Over

It's 11.57pm over here, so it's time for today's blog post!

The brilliant Crazy Ken Band have just signed with a major label. Universal are establishing a sublabel called, for absolutely no reason, Double Joy International just for them. Frankly, I didn't know they weren't already signed with a major label. Well, 'every day a little wiser', right?

For those of you who aren't already familiar with Crazy Ken Band, here are a couple of songs. They kick ass. Bask in the glory! Etc!



Thursday, 21 May 2009

Lock Stock

There's a reason I haven't written any blog posts since Monday - I forgot. I've been literally so busy over the past three days that I completely forgot to write on the internet or watch even a single minute of baseball. Apparently I missed a Mariners win last night. :o( Still, the reason I'm so busy is that the Pokemon World Video Game Championship is currently happening around the globe and the London heat is in nine days, giving me a frighteningly short amount of time to do a frighteningly large amount of preparation. So you can expect anything I write on here over the next ten days to be quite spectacularly half-assed. Even more so than last week when I only had university exams to prepare for and not a potentially life-changing Pokemon tournament.

But anyway! Today, let me introduce you to the Stocking Tug Of Team War!


Available in shops.

Behold! The heady mix of two parts entertainment, five parts extreme lack of taste!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Paper Plane World Record. Whoopee.

Toda Takuo is a 52 year old paper plane enthusiast from Fukuyama. He recently broke the world record for the longest paper plane flight by 0.3 seconds, and it now stands at a proud 27.9 seconds. He tells us that "the key to breaking the record is how high you fly it." No. Shit.

That story makes today officially the Slowest News Day Of The Year so far. It's actually slower than the days when I didn't even have any news to post. Give me strength.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Stagnation

I said a week ago that I'd do a post on the DPJ leader election when they announce who's running for office, but they already elected Hatoyama Yukio this weekend when I wasn't looking. Sorry. That's what happens in politics when you're not paying attention: nothing.

Somehow the DPJ decided that instead of giving Japan something different from the failing LDP, trying to win an election by being better than the other candidate, they'd give Japan something exactly the same and hope that people confuse the two enough to elect the DPJ. Shisaku points out that both Hatoyama and Aso are bad communicators who are recent descendants of former conservative party Prime Ministers. (We can also add the other two leaders of the LDP since Koizumi to that list - Fukuda's father was Prime Minister and so was Abe's grandfather.) So what's making the DPJ more electable now? They might have had something under Ozawa, but that's been scuppered.

Time to elect the Communist Party?

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Well I Blame The Parents

The Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, Konoike Yoshitada, resigned a few days ago due to "health issues". Not having a formal education in politics it took me a while to realise that "health issues" is actually a euphemism for "being caught using government money to pay for a golf trip as part of a poorly-concealed extramarital affair with a young lady". Don't you just hate jargon?

And you know when Aso said to reporters that he shouldn't be held responsible for the appointment of someone who later had to resign for being a cheat and a crook? That was a euphemism he cleared up in yesterday's speech. It's apparently a more poetic way of saying that he's "responsible for appointing all those who ended up resigning" and that "This time is no exception". I guess we should have known that. Silly us. Who knew we were actually supposed to trust politicians less?

So now Konoike is "entirely to blame", and Aso is also "fully responsible". Once Japanese scientists invent an engine powered by Japan's surplus guilt we're all gonna be driving hovercars.

Aso's "How-can-you-ever-forgive-me?" face

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Why I'm Not Working In R&D

Japanese scientists have developed technology for an organic electro-luminescent display that stretches. Apparently,

The team demonstrated a face-shaped display showing changing expressions, and a spherical screen to show weather information. They were produced by spraying a layer of carbon nanotubes with a fluoro-rubber compound to produce a stretchy, conductive material. The displays are thinner than plasma and LCD equivalents, and consume very little power, making them suitable for a range of different uses.

Not entirely sure that it's going to make much difference in the world. What actual good can this technology be put to? Maybe they'll be able to make bras that have a Twitter-feed on them. Or bras that show the baseball scores. Or bras that tell you what mood the wearer is in. Hmmm. Maybe someone with more imagination than me should have a look at the new technology.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Abe In Nine Hour Play

I don't want to turn this blog into a laundry list of my woes, because that list is about as long as the Thames and growing every day. But I will say that today has already been an especially shit day, because the exam I thought I was supposed to be sitting is actually scheduled for next Monday. So I've been working myself up thinking that after today I'd be finished with university til October, but now I have another week left because I can't read a bloody exam timetable properly. I must be the only literature student who can't even read a timetable.

But anyway. (That's a phrase I'm having to use more and more to distinguish actual blog posts from the opening paragraph of whinging.)

Abe Hiroshi, star of Trick and Hero, is going to be playing the lead in the first production of The Coast Of Utopia in Japan from September to October. It's actually a trilogy of plays set in nineteenth century Russia, but they're going to be performed back-to-back. Which means that Abe will be onstage for nine hours per day.

The play was written by British playwright Tom Stoppard, widely known for writing Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, but whose real genius came out when he co-wrote the Brazil screenplay. That was a fucking awesome film. Why don't they do a stage adaption of that? Abe Hiroshi as Sam Lowry would be kickass.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Le Sigh...

Something has actually happened in politics! After several particularly dry months for political news, Ozawa has announced that he's resigning.

The DPJ fund-raising scandal that had nothing to do with Ozawa himself has still affected his image, and that's what's prompted his decision. It's a shame, because his approval ratings were far higher than Aso, and if the scandal hadn't dragged its sagging, irrelevant ass onto the scene then he'd be almost guaranteed to win the election this year. Now we don't know who we're going to get.

I just can't agree with this Japanese culture of offering resignations as a form of apology. Resigning is a one-hit-deal; if someone's screwed up and they're really sorry then they should be prepared to stay on and work like a dog to make things right again. I guess it's gratifying to see someone who screwed up making a sacrifice as penance, or just suffering, so people are very keen to demand resignations. Hey, I do it all the time. But of course Ozawa hasn't actually done anything wrong.

Anyway, when they announce who's taking over or running for office I'll do a proper post on this, the most tedious and boring scandal-resignation-leadership-race in history.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Prognosis: Shit

Fresh from kicking the ass of a bad case of flu, only to have it kick back, and then completing all my university coursework in record and hysteria-inducing time, I now have some kind of stomach bug. It's entrenched in my stomach and it really hates me. This month has started as badly as last month. At least it hasn't dampened my joie de vivre, eh? OH WAIT.

Anyway. Let's see what's happening in Japan.

The papers say something about a Pacific Islands Summit and the leaders of Fiji not being invited, and how that's making some people unhappy. But hey, people are always unhappy. At least they haven't got stomach bugs. Three cases of swine flu have been confirmed. They were from America and had been travelling in Canada, so expect all Americans and Canadians to be put under house arrest for the next ten years.

In politics, Aso Taro wants to host a nuclear disarmament conference in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, to get world leaders talking about possibly planning to do something which might marginally reduce the pace of Armageddon. And Aso is also going to "face-off" against Ozawa in the Diet on Wednesday. Unfortunately the "face-off" is a public debate and not a "Face/Off", with Aso playing the part of John Travolta and Ozawa playing Nicholas Cage. Aso has also inadvertently said something that insults most of the population, again, but this time had the sense to retract it afterwards. Who gives a shit? I certainly can't because all my food is coming out the other way.

In business news, all car companies are going down the drain. Fuck them. It's not like they have stomach bugs or something.

That's the news. Take two pills and pass the bottle to the left.

Aso's "John Travolta circa-'97" face

Friday, 8 May 2009

OMFuckinG! Nintendo Announcement! Pokemon Gold and Silver Remakes! OMFuckinG!!

As I type this I am happier than I could ever admit to people not on the internet. This is one of the best days of my life! Nintendo have announced that they are remaking Pokemon Gold and Silver for the DS. The remakes will be called Pokemon HeartGold and Pokemon SoulSilver. It's all confirmed, it's on the official website. It's actually happening! The dream has become real!

Look at the title graphics:


Isn't it beautiful? I'm so happy I'm genuinely on the verge of tears! This is one of the best things that has ever happened! I CAN'T STOP USING EXCLAMATION MARKS!!

Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are due for release in November this year in Japan. The US version will likely be released in mid 2010, with the European version coming whenever they remember the European market still exists. But we'll all be importing the Japanese versions and then importing the US versions and then completing them both and then framing the boxes before we even start thinking about the European release, right? I mean, we all will. Won't we?

I'm inviting all my friends out tonight to drink like there's no tomorrow. This is the Best Day Ever.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

"We Won't Diagnose You With Swine Flu If You Might Have It"

As my slow return to lucidity continues, it looks like everyone else is going the opposite way. My WTF-Moment of the Day happened when I read this article in the Mainichi. You remember how Japan was getting ready to fight the swine-flu virus by setting up hundreds of emergency clinics and heat-scanning people and encouraging everyone to wear thin, permeable bits of cotton over their faces? Of course you do, that was in the news yesterday - your brain only needs 24 hours of storage space to remember that.


Mr. Porky's foil-sealed Bag of DEATH

Well today it's being reported that people with any kind of fever are being turned away by doctors and hospitals. They've also refused medical-examinations to people who mention that they have a foreign friend. The potential infected are being sent to public health centres (which are not actually equipped to test for the H1N1 virus), or just having doors slammed in their faces amidst shrieks of "Unclean! Unclean!".

So on the one hand they've set up more facilities for treating the virus than anywhere else in the world, but on the other hand they're refusing to send the possibly-infected to places that might be equipped to deal with them. There's a paradox here somewhere, I know there is. I can smell it.


Bird Flu and Swine Flu collide... with hilarious results

Monday, 4 May 2009

Swine Flu Over The Cuckoo's Nest

I haven't been writing much in the way of Japanese news lately, but that's only because I haven't been reading any. But I've started again out of an illness-induced lack of things to do.

I guess the most important news over the past week has been swine flu, right? So far I've managed to avoid caring about it, as I have with everything the Central British Media Brain has churned out as a scandal or triumph in the past five years. But then I got ill, and suddenly it became very interesting indeed. Obviously I don't have swine-flu, just the unfashionable and unglamorous regular flu, but it seems like whenever anyone sneezes these days everyone dives for cover "just in case". The Japanese have a great tradition of wearing a face-mask if they're ill (so they don't spread it to others) or if there's a bug going round, a purely speculative and useless precaution that's more a gesture of social-consciousness or panic than a viable preventative measure. Of course, there's always a bug going round, that's just how the world works. Somewhere, someone you know is ill, and that'll never change. Unfortunately, this time it's me.

But anyway. I'm rambling now. That'll probably be the flu. Japan is currently on "high-alert" for this swine-flu thing, and have created 684 emergency clinics to deal with it. 684 clinics, all with absolutely nothing to do, because there hasn't actually been an outbreak of swine-flu in Japan yet. 684 clinics, all with nothing to do but work themselves into a frothing panic.

They've also started running heat-scans over arrivals at Japan's airports to see if anyone has a fever. And absurdly, people are worried that they're not prepared enough. The world really has gone stone-cold crazy.

This is why I hardly read the news any more. I'll be back tomorrow with some jokes. If I'm still alive.


"Death! Death and Pestilence upon ye!"

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Time-Lapse Tokyo

Some time-lapse footage of Shinjuku was recently posted on TokyoMango, so I got to tracking down other time-lapse footage of Tokyo. The most interesting ones are obviously the ones which retrack a number of years into a number of seconds. This video shows the construction of a few skyscrapers over the course of two years in Roppongi:


Pretty cool, right? But this next video is a little more ambitious - it retracks 35 years into 10 seconds. Every year from July 1969 to July 2004 a picture was taken of the skyline over Shinjuku and then strung together by a tv show:


This next clip shows time-lapse footage of roads:


And finally this is the awesome video that made me spend a half hour looking at sped-up home-movies:

Saturday, 2 May 2009

OMFuckinG New Pokemon Game Announcement Is Imminent!

Aaaaaaahh! Aaaaaaaah! A new Pokemon game! A new Pokemon game! AAAaaaaaaaahh!!

According to Bulbapedia:

Several media outlets have revealed that the announcement of a major, popularly-discussed Pokémon game will be made later this month. Pokémon Sunday is set to reveal the title May 10.

Issues of CoroCoro and Nintendo Dream will be published the day after the announcement with screaming headlines and about the "much-talked-about big title".

Bulbapedia reasons that since Nintendo have said that the new game has been the centre of speculation, this means they're probably referring to the Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver remakes that the whole fanbase is collectively trying to will into existence. The reasons for expecting a remake of those two games are numerous. They are so numerous, in fact, that it would take a Pokemon fan with psychotic-level obsession and a flagrant disregard of his readership to list them all on his blog. So here they are:

1. Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue were remade in Generation III, setting a precedent for remaking games two generations before after the new generation games have been released.
2. The Generation IV games are set in the same time span as Gold and Silver, just as Gen III was in the same time span as Red and Blue.
3. The red Gyarados from the Lake of Rage is mentioned on the news in Sinnoh.
4. The Olivine Gym Leader, Jasmine, has a cameo in Sunnyshore City.
5. Professor Elm's Pokemon egg studies are mentioned.
6. Cynthia gives the player a Secret Potion in Gen IV, just like the Secret Potion needed to cure the Ampharos in the Olivine lighthouse. The in-bag description also mentions Cianwood City.
7. Bebe talks about a "friend from Johto", who gave her an Eevee, and sounds a lot like Bill.
8. The guy in the Hotel Grand Lake talks about locations in Johto, namely the Tin Tower and Whirl Islands.
9. The Veilstone City Department Store has Ragecandybars, but they're always listed as "sold out".
10. In the game data, possible locations for non-Sinnoh Pokemon are Kanto, Hoenn, and Johto.
11. In the Diamond/Pearl series of the anime, every major character has obtained at least one Gen II Pokemon.
12. One of the promotion Pokemon for the new movie is a unique Pichu, who was also used as a promotion for Gold and Silver.
13. The new movie also features all three Johto starter-Pokemon.
14. Trademarked names include Pokemon DuskGold and Pokemon DawnSilver (which might correspond to the Dawn and Dusk Stones in the Gen IV games), and also Pokemon WhiteGold and Pokemon MoonStone (and Nintendo also own the rights to www.pokemonwhitegold.com).

But anyway. We'll see come the 10th, right? I'm very excited. Pokemon Gold being my third favourite video game ever, if remakes are announced on the 10th I may very well cry with joy.

Please please please, Nintendo. Please.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Oricon Survey Aggregate List

Disengage Laziness Protocol! OTN is back! I've not been blogging for a week due to a nexus of life setbacks including multiple deadlines, a broken internet service, illness, and a predisposition towards sleeping a lot. But now that's all over so we can get back on track. What was I almost definitely talking about? Oh yes, Ueto Aya.

So I've been doing some research on recent Oricon surveys, through the brilliant Tokyograph. And I've come to the conclusion that Aya isn't quite as popular as she used to be. In the "Ideal Younger Sister" survey she came fourth (Becky came first), in the "Ideal New Co-worker" category she came second (Becky came first), and in the "Ideal Type Of Daughter" survey she came fourth again (Becky came first). Seriously, what the hell? I'm a fan of Becky, obv - who isn't? But she's no Ueto Aya.

The surveys kind of puzzle me. It would be interesting to see what kind of criteria the public are using which makes them think Aya would be twice as good as a new co-worker as she is a daughter or younger sister.

I also looked at the "Who Do You Want To Marry?" survey, in which Aya came second, and the "Who Do You Want As Your Lover?" survey, in which she came first (YES!). Funny how those two surveys aren't the same, eh? It seems the average man wants to marry Ayase Haruka, whilst sleeping with Ueto Aya. Anyway, I then aggregated the positions of the celebrities in each survey using a rudimentary point system (a technique carried over from too much time spent on Fantasy Baseball games), and got the following Top 5 Most Popular Female Celebrities:

1. Ueto Aya (37 points)
2. Becky (30 points)
3. Aragaki Yui (25 points)
4. Nagasawa Masami (22 points)
5= Ayase Haruka (18 points)
5= Horikita Maki (18 points)

So there you go. Rudimentary statistics crunched from laughably small sample data don't lie. Ueto Aya is officially the most popular female celebrity in Japan.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Japan, You MUST Stop Doing This

I like cats - who doesn't like cats? Even witches like cats. Some of my favourite pictures on the internet are of cats wearing things or hiding in sleeves. I like cats.

What I do not like, however, is when a cat is given undue authority. Authority should be bestowed based on merit. That's why stories like this piss me off.

The news story says that a cat (irritatingly referred to in the headline as a "moggy" - seriously, what's wrong with these people?) has been made a Special Director of the Issa Memorial Museum in Nagano. The museum displays artefacts pertaining to the life and works of the poet Issa Kobayashi. And the cat has been Special Director because it often walks around the museum. Clearly the whole point behind this shameful PR stunt is to send a message to the public. And that message says, "This museum is run by people who just don't care".

I cannot be the only person infuriated by this. And Special Director Sora isn't even the first cat to have a better and more undeserved job than most of the world. Last year a cat called Tama was made a stationmaster at a train station in Wakayama. Because it hung around there a lot. Wakayama Electric Railway then gave it a fucking office after a few months on the job. Then, they commissioned a custom-made train for it. Then - and the italic font would have to make the next words fucking horizontal to do justice to them - they knighted the stupid cat. Yes. They knighted the cat.

...

I've hung around at loads of train stations!! Where's my fucking knighthood?! I've also - and get this - done loads more impressive things than just hang around at a cocking train station! Look at its smug face:


Look at it. It's laughing at us. Laughing at all of us who have to work to get anywhere in life. I hate that stupid cat so much. If you want to see Tama in action, Japan Probe has quite a few videos of the offending animal. You can also watch a video of the completed Custom Tama Train here:


Where is this going to end? Although I can see a lot of positives in replacing Aso and Ozawa with cats (satire!), I honestly think it'll hurt Japan in the long-term. And it's a slap in the face for everyone who hasn't been knighted. Actually, it's slap for everyone who has been knighted, too. The madness must end. Now.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Finally! Some Robots That Don't Herald Armageddon!

Yokohama has become the giant robot spider capital of the world! Because it now has one giant robot spider! Also, I'm aware that a significant fraction of blogs have written about this before me, but then that's proportionately how much lazier I am than other bloggers.


A four-storey high robot spider built by the crazy French scientists La Machine called, for some reason, La Princesse, is now living next to Yokohama Bay. Apparently this is to start five months of celebrations marking Yokohama's 150th birthday. The spider is supposed to represent "networking" and "reaching out to contact distant places", because spiders build webs and, um, walk. But of course this spider doesn't build webs, slightly weakening the already flimsy analogy.

It certainly walks though! You can watch it walking here, amidst music, lights, and exclamations of "Sugoi!".


Sugoi indeed. It would be even sugoier if they could orchestrate some kind of battle between La Princesse and the huge fuck-off robot beetle built by a 60 year old man from Ibaraki over a period of eleven years that was recently shown on tv. The beetle, called Kabutomu RX3 (kabuto-mushi being the word for a rhinoceros beetle), can be piloted from a cockpit or remote controlled, and has space for six passengers. Here's a video, ripped by Japan Probe, of the beetle, amidst music, lights, and exclamations of "Sugoi!" of course.


If you need more pictures - and frankly who doesn't? - you can find spider pictures in the wonderful Pink Tentacle coverage and beetle pictures in Technotaku.

Monday, 20 April 2009

How To Make Money Fast

Not all Japanese companies are doing badly in this recession. It turns out that convenience stores have stolen the fire from industrial manufacturers' sails and are now leading the pack, in a horribly mixed metaphor of an economic merry-go-round.

Sales are up in convenience stores by 5%, but average customer spending is down 0.7%. So are they making 4.3% more money, or is it a function of 0.05 multiplied by 0.007, or what? Well anyway the average money spent by each customer is now 585 yen, or about two 20-packs of cigarettes. Interestingly profits started rising at exactly the same time as Taspo cards were been introduced, meaning that minors couldn't buy cigarettes from vending machines any more.

So, this week's financial-advice-from-someone-who-knows-nothing-about-finance is: Sell stocks in vending machines! Buy stocks in 7-11! You'll thank me when you're rich.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Yellow Sand

A research team from the National Institute for Environment Studies has published a report that 5 million tonnes of yellow sand blow over Japan from China every year, and about half of that settles on the islands. Throughout the report and the newspaper articles everyone keeps referring to it specifically as "yellow sand", as if the fact that it's yellow is important. As if sand were like Kryptonite, with different effects for each colour.

The scientists say that the sand originally comes from the Gobi Desert, and that they can now "spot a source in a 40-kilometer radius". Whatever the hell that means.

What's clear, though, is that these 2.5 million tonnes of sand a year could be put to good use in reviving Japan's beaches. All they'd need is a series of huge funnels or something to catch the sand, then they could put it down over the tetrapods. Why don't they just do that? Come on, Japan, just do that.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Impending Putin Visit

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is visiting Japan on the 11th of May. A lot of people are excited because he's going to discuss the sovereignty of the islands off Hokkaido, that's Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and Habomai, which Japan and Russia have been fighting over for decades. The Japanese call them the "Northern Territories" and the Russians call them the "Southern Kurils".

Personally, I'm excited because this visit will bring us one step closer to the Legend Of Koizumi. All we need to get now are the two Bushes and Kim Jong-Il. And how hard can that be?

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Tetrapod Nation

Along 50% of Japan's 35,000 km coastline tetrapods have been placed to hold back erosion, like concrete-assed, break-dancing King Canutes. The tetrapods are piled high to take the force of the sea and save the coast. But what are they saving it for? There are virtually no beaches left in Japan because of all the tetrapods. And the island did just fine before the invention of concrete, so what's changed that makes it necessary to put these things everywhere?


Flow #2 by Saksak

The cynical and suspicious answer to those questions lies in government building contracts and the fact that there's virtually nowhere left to build on, so work is being created in order to keep the construction industry alive. And it's been alleged that tetrapods actually increase coast erosion, although the people doing the alleging conveniently forget to back up their claim with actual facts.


River by Kodama

Even though the logic behind the tetrapod invasion is flawed, I still think the tetrapods are kind of awesome. Although they clearly shouldn't be used to concrete over the beaches there's something really quite beautiful about them.


Tetrapods in the Mist by Montgomery

If you're a really big tetrapod fan and you've somehow managed to acquire money to spend on tetrapod paraphernalia, there are these kickass tetrapod cushions available (from somewhere I haven't done nearly enough research to find).




Photos from Ken Ohyama

And there are also tetrapod rubbers (or "erasers" for the American-English inclined) made by Sun-Star Stationery Co. You can buy them for 120 yen each, in nine different erosion-prohibiting/advancing colours! (Or "colors". Seriously, you people.)


And to keep this blog's loading time down, like I care, here are links to tetrapods as captured by five more talented photographers.

Montkd
Toru Aihara
Seotaro
F l u x
Joshua Richley

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Ichiro Art

This is a video of artist Phil Hansen drawing a picture of Suzuki Ichiro, easily the most famous Japanese baseball star in the world, on a street pavement.


This was part of Hansen's Goodbye Art series, which also included gems like this and this. Check out the rest of Hansen's website too - he's quite, quite brilliant.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

A "Modern Samurai"

Samurai still exist! You all thought they were dead, but they're not dead yet! Check out this absolutely AMAZING video of a guy who can cut stuff with his katana with a frightening precision and strength. It's hands-down AWESOME.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Gundam's 30th Anniversary

Today is the 30th anniversary of Gundam, the famous Japanese franchise. Obviously you know what Gundam is - even people with nothing but the basest knowledge of Japanese popular culture are familiar with Gundam - so I won't bother explaining it. Also I don't actually like Gundam, so explaining it would be a hell of a chore.

What I am going to do, however, is show you some adverts for Gundam toys. Adverts which feature Ueto Aya. Yes, we're back there again.

As with all running-adverts there's a kind of narrative involved, and Aya takes on a variety of roles. These adverts have been uploaded to YouTube by Panda2000fun, a true Hero Of The People. I'm going to embed the first five, but seriously you need to go to Panda2000fun's profile and watch all of them.










Happy 30th, Gundam franchise! Please try to make the next 30 years at least slightly entertaining!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Schemata Architects Want You To Live Like A Hamster

My dad is an architect and he did a concept-design for an apartment building about a decade and a half ago or something. It was brilliant - you only had one room, but at the end of it there was a revolving utility hub. So if you wanted to use the kitchen you'd revolve it so the kitchen segment, and when you wanted to sleep you revolve it to the fold-out bed, etc. Obviously it was designed for single tenants: if one person was asleep and the other needed the loo it would all get either very inconvenient or very messy. The point is, it puts this guy to shame.


Nagasaka Jo from Schemata Architecture has designed a home that "rethinks just how much space one person needs". His 3-metre cube has all modern conveniences in it, and apparently he thinks that's enough. But obviously it's not.

My dad's design was smaller than this. And it didn't look like the inside of a fucking mental institute. And it wasn't a single block that can't actually be put anywhere. Look at this:


What the fuck? Where are they planning to put this cube? Where is it supposed to go? Is the electricity and water going to be piped in? Cos that would seriously undermine the sleek white design they've got here. And also, the shower and the toilet and the desk and everything else are all stored in the walls and floor. So when they say that they've condensed the living space, all they've actually got is multi-function space. You still need at least two more metres in every dimension to store all this crap. They haven't thought at all about reducing the space needed to live. What a load of bollocks. And it also looks like a fucking prison.


Final Score

My Dad: 1
Nagasaka Jo: 0

Monday, 6 April 2009

Aya Ads #1

Well I've had a busy day and I'm very, very tired but I have to get my blog quota in, so I think I'm just going to throw some videos at your face and then run away before you notice. Let's see if that works out.

If you're an Ueto Aya fan then you'll already have seen all her Dr. Panda commercials. And if you haven't seen them then by god you're going to see them now. I won't have my readers ignorant of the best damned adverts ever made.


The panda character that Aya plays was originally used to sell health insurance, like in the advert above. See? Doesn't it make you want to buy health insurance?




Look what happens when you buy health insurance! Why wouldn't you? The panda character was also used to advertise car insurance.




Cars! I used to think they were rubbish, now I know they're awesome! And then it was used to advertise a language course called "One Step". I love languages!


There's an awesome "making of" video somewhere about that commercial, but either I've misplaced it or it's been removed from YouTube for being just too mind-warpingly cute.

That's it for today. Remind me to talk about some of the other Aya commercials at some point - if you've never wanted to buy Softbank contracts before then you certainly will after you see the adverts.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Pokemon On Twitter

This is genuinely some of the funniest shit I have ever seen. Sometimes the Pokemon community just fucking rocks.

Here are some very brief highlights, but if you're on Twitter then I strongly urge you to follow these guys.



Blastoise

Nidoking


Magikarp


Tentacruel


Venomoth


Dugtrio


Moltres


Youngster Joey


Officer Jenny


Lt. Surge


Gengar


Porygon2


Cleffa


Jolteon


Missingno.


Aerodactyl


Gyarados


Squirtle


The world just doesn't get much better than that.