Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Yes!

Success! After the impassioned appeal I made yesterday (And dare I say as a direct cause of it? No, I daren't.) Tokyograph today announced Ueto Aya's first single in two years.

The song is called "Smile For..." and is part of a concept album for Smile Project 2009, which we're told intends "to bring smiles to faces across Japan". It's due for release on the 3rd of June, and is going to be used as the ending-theme in the Katekyo Hitman Reborn! anime from Saturday onwards. Well done, Aya! And well done, Japanese Press!

Monday, 30 March 2009

Making A Stand

I was reading this story about an Oricon survey and it made me very upset. The survey asked 600 men which female celebrities have the most beautiful lips, and top of the list was Inoue Waka. Can you spot the problem with that last sentence? It was a survey of female celebrities involving beauty, and the person who won was Inoue Waka. What is wrong with the world? Why wasn't Ueto Aya top of the list? She ended up in second place, transforming what we all thought was a simple celebrity news story into a horrific, scandalous violation of our sensibilities.

And yesterday Tokyograph reported on the most recent TV Tarento Image Ranking results, which measures the popularity and recognisability of celebrities. Guess what? Ninth place! Ueto Aya came ninth, and to add appalling insult to disgraceful injury, it was joint ninth place! The horror! The horror!

There's been a spate of this kind of thing recently, and I don't like it. If it's not news stories where we're affronted by Aya not being in the headlines, then it's news stories where she doesn't even feature, if you can imagine such a thing. Look at this piece of journalistic hackery: Japan Should Use Globally Standardized Ball. Nippon Professional Baseball Commissioner Kato Ryozo thinks Japan should use the same type of ball that everyone else uses. That's all well and good, Breitbart.com, but are we just supposed to intuit what Ueto Aya thinks of it? And this: Newly Homeless Flout Rules Of The Street. Oh I'm sure they do, Yomiuri. But what does this tell us about Ueto Aya?! It's just lazy journalism. Do your research, dammit!

A photo of Aso meeting Yulia Tymoshenko, the Prime Minister of Ukraine. It doesn't show Ueto Aya and is therefore USELESS.

I've done the maths, and it's clear that over 99% of the stories in national Japanese newspapers this year have featured a distinct lack of Aya. I can't say I'm not disappointed. Obviously, because I've already made it very clear that I'm outraged. I want to see some changes. This is me calling you out, Japan. Tell me what Ueto Aya is doing (pictures too please) and then I'll listen to what you have to say about the possibility of a global financial stimulus package. But not until then.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Bad Week

You are not having a bad week. You've never had a bad week. You don't know the meaning of the term "bad week".

This man knows the meaning, though.

On the 6th of August 1945, Yamaguchi Tsutomu was on a business trip to Hiroshima. That day he sustained serious burns during the atomic blast, and the next day he was evacuated back home. Evacuated back to Nagasaki. On the 9th of August 1945, Yamaguchi Tsutomu saw his home city nuked.

In some ways he's a very unlucky man, having been present at the only two times in history that atomic bombs were used against another country. But in a way he's incredibly lucky. Hundreds of thousands of people died in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, but Yamaguchi survived them both. He also survived the subsequent two decades when a large proportion of the bomb survivors died of cancer or leukaemia from the radiation, and this despite having been exposed to large amounts when he was searching for his relatives in Ground Zero.

This week Yamaguchi officially had his ID updated to show that he survived two atomic bombs. "My double radiation exposure is now an official government record. It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die." So. If you think you're having a bad week, at least you haven't been nuked twice. And if Yamaguchi can find a positive side to his experience then you can too.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Japan's National Colours On The Empire State Building! (ish)

The people who celebrated Japan's WBC victory mostly did so by drinking heavily. No doubt the Koreans also drank heavily that night, but not in celebration.

A reptile shop in Japan has decided that it's not enough to get drunk and shout at people in the streets, though. You've got to celebrate by giving back to your country in a display of appreciation. And that's why they're giving 30% off all reptile purchases!


In America, Japan's victory was celebrated by lighting the Empire State Building. They gave the top fraction of the building a kind of pinkish tint, and proudly announced they'd lit it with Japan's national colours.


Maybe both the Americans and the reptile shop should have just got drunk instead. It's certainly cheaper and more fun. Although, I'm not sure their ideas weren't rooted in drunkenness. So maybe less drinking.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Druggings In Roppongi

Do you "maintain a high level of situational awareness"? Because if you're American and you don't, then you don't want to go down to Roppongi. (You might also not want to go down to Roppongi because it's shit)

Last week the US Embassy issued a statement urging Americans to stay away from bars in Roppongi because of the rise in drink-spiking incidents. Americans who are drugged tend to wake up outside a few hours later with their wallets missing. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Britain echoed the statement on its website. But if you're not
British or American you're probably fine.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

WBC Result!

Well, if you've been following my World Baseball Classic Live Twitter Feed (and I know you haven't because only three people did and one of them was me) you'll know that last night Japan won the second World Baseball Classic Series! Yaaay!

I watched most of the matches and was determined to watch the final too. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy the spectacular last two innings nearly as much as I should have because I was far too tired and the match started at 1am. And then went on to extra-innings. So instead of being happy to see Japan win I was relieved I could finally get to sleep. Then I had four hours rest (about a third of what I've come to expect) before I had to get up to go to an exam. Lucky me.

Anyway the final was fantastic and Ichiro kicked ass and everything was good and fun. If you're one of the unfortunate people who didn't get to see the final then here are some highlights for you.


Dai Nippon! Etc!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Manabe Daito, The Man Who Read Too Much Cyberpunk

Very tired and thus not able to write for realz, so here's a video of Manabe Daito, a man who wired up his face to his computer such that when it plays music his face muscles twitch in time. It's a bit awesome, and a lot scary.


He also did this thing with an LED in his mouth and a "myoelectric sensor program", whatever black magic that is.


Hardcore, you know the score.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Georgia Toilets

Georgia, the company that makes canned coffee almost as well as Boss Coffee, have branded toilets at a ski resort. They've covered the inside walls of the toilet cubicles with a snapshot of the view from a ski-jump ramp.

These ski toilets, or as I'm going to call them, "skitoilets", are part of the coffee makers' winter marketing campaign. The slogan on the toilet-roll holder (or "toirolder"?) reads: "Seriously kick-ass intensely sweet for the real coffee super zinging unstoppable Max! Taste-explosion!" That's not a joke, it actually says that. I think if you read it out loud whilst holding a cup of coffee it invokes the Devil or something. Below that it has the url www.georgia.jp/max/, because other than that there's no mention of Georgia whatsoever. You'd have to have assumed that the ski resort had started printing babbling nonsense on their utilities and trying to scare people who need the loo.

It's definitely the coolest coffee-marketing campaign that I've seen. To be honest, I can't remember seeing any others, but this one's definitely very very cool. Top marks, Georgia!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

DS Sales Have Passed "Loads", Now Up To "Shitloads"

Sales of the Nintendo DS have reached 100 million. It's been four years and three months since the DS first went onto the market, and now on average 1.5% of the world's population own one each. That's a frightening statistic given that you can guarantee there are almost none in either Africa or the Middle East. And it looks the DS isn't far from breaking the GameBoy record of 118 million sales.

I'd very much like to think that the people buying DS's are playing life-changing games like Ouendan 2 or Rune Factory or Phoenix Wright, but they're bound to be playing drivel like Nintendogs or Brain Training or whichever one of the literally countless games about ponies is popular at the moment. How can there be so many games about ponies? Seriously, who buys these games? What's gone so horribly wrong with the world that there are so many goddamn pony games? I know this wasn't the angle I started this blog-post with, but I'm on it now and it's infuriating me. It's probably best we move on quickly before this becomes another anti-pony-game rant. Those have lost me enough friends.

Here's a video of someone who's coded an iPod emulator for the DS! That's nice, isn't it?


And here's a thing about a man who made a tiny DS out of paper! How clever.

Right, have to go and bottle up some rage now. Don't talk to me about pony games.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

UFO In Osaka

People often say to me, "Hey Max, have you ever seen a real UFO?" Well, up to this morning I was always able to say "No".

And I'm still able to say "No", because this is clearly not a UFO:


The people at the Real UFOs website posted this video a few weeks ago from the History Channel, suggesting that they probably think it shows a Real UFO. But it doesn't. It shows something that is either a Fake UFO, fabricated for people who believe any old light in the sky is a Real UFO, or more likely something that is entirely unrelated to UFOs, Real or Otherwise. It's probably something as mundane as a camera glitch, despite what the History Channel narrator and tense soundtrack would have you believe.

And how could aliens fly across space in a tiny ball of light anyway? Pffft, how absurd.

The Curse Of The Colonel Has Been Broken!

Oh my fucking god. Just one week after I wrote on here about the Curse Of The Colonel in Hanshin Tigers history, they've gone and found the statue. 24 years it's been in the Dotonbori River. And now it's back. The Curse is over!

The statue was found by construction workers during their preparation for laying a pavement along the river. This year the Hanshin Tigers won't be able to lose the Central League, and won't have any excuses for not winning the Japan Series. It's got to happen. Everyone expects it now. I'd put money on them winning this year but the bookmakers are probably going to give stupid odds in their favour so it might not be worth it.


Although, technically they only found half of him because his hands and legs are missing. Does this mean the Tigers are only going to win half their games? I'm not sure how these curses work. Can someone give me a ruling on this? And given how excitable the Tigers fans are, it's not entirely implausible that they'll celebrate the end of the curse by throwing another effigy into a body of water. Or maybe they'll try to get their own back on Colonel Sanders by throwing into the River the closest lookalike they have of him - Randy Bass.

We might not be out of the woods yet.


UPDATE: They have found the lower half of Colonel Sanders! The miracles just won't stop coming!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Hot Girl Clock!

Oh. Yes. Yet another thing I didn't know I needed until someone on the internet invented it. Bijin Tokei is an internet widget that you can install on Windows Vista or iGoogle that tells you the time by displaying a picture of a hot girl holding up a blackboard. Like this:


Not all the girls are amazing, but enough of them are to make it worth clock-watching for a few hours. And if you don't want to download the widget then you can still bookmark the page and go to it when you want to see the time but can't be bothered to look at the bottom-right of your screen, or when you just, you know, want to. Hey, these girls aren't gonna objectify themselves! (Actually they probably are)

Monday, 9 March 2009

Iwate Prefecture: "We Simply Can't Afford To Spend Money We Have On Things We Need"

This would never have happened if The Great Sasuke was Governor.

The Governor of Iwate, the prefecture that failed to re-elect former wrestler and deranged showman The Great Sasuke to their Assembly in 2006, had to literally get on his knees and beg that same Assembly to reverse their revisions to his budget last week.

Governor Tasso Takuya planned for Iwate to purchase buses that could transport patients to prefectures that don't have doctor shortages, but the Assembly cut the buses from the budget. Now, I'm not saying that Iwate prefecture definitely hate sick people, but they haven't released any statements saying they don't hate sick people, have they? Just something to think about.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

That's Progress

We all know the problem with J-Pop, don't we? It's so easy to become a fan of certain young singers, and so difficult when you have to let them go. You know what it's like: you see a new pop-singer - she has a beautiful voice, a cute smile, and a fantastic... um... well let's say she's good-looking. So you buy her overpriced album and watch her simpering on a plethora of variety shows where she has to talk endlessly about her favourite desserts or something equally inane - but that's fine cos she's got a beautiful voice and a cute smile and a firm... um, she's very pretty. But then, before you know it, she's turned 17! Disgusting! You wanted to watch an artist dancing in a four-inch long skirt (it improves her mobility, ok?) with all the charms and assets of blessed youth, not some washed-up hag dragging her sorry, sagging ass around a stage trying to relive her glory days! The horror! The horror!

I mean... we've all been there, haven't we? I mean... haven't we?

Well this problem that we've all faced has now been solved thanks to the "Hatsune Miku" software! This computer program synthesizes the voice of a virtual pop-singer, and lots of song-writers have already started using it to showcase their own talents without having to find someone who can sing to learn the song and record it. But much more importantly, it also means that with the advancement of computer graphics it's now possible to create a fully virtual pop-idol! Now your fodder- I mean, favourite singer will never wear ou- er, grow old! You can wan- um, appreciate her br- talents for decades! Ah, sweet, sweet technology.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Huge Ackman

Fantastic video found by Japan Probe a few days ago shows Hugh Jackman, star of stage and screen, on a Japanese variety show. I'm not a particularly big fan of his work, but he seems like a genuinely cool guy in real life. And by "real life" I mean "the chaotic vortex of a Japanese variety show".

Thursday, 5 March 2009

World Baseball Classic 2009

There's only a few hours left til the start of the second World Baseball Classic Series. The inaugural series three years ago was won by Japan, and they'll start their defence of the title by playing China in the opening game (today, 9.30am GMT).

If you can't watch your favourite out of the 16 competing nations on TV, you can pay a $20 subscription fee and watch the whole tournament live on the official website. For informed and analytical coverage, go to NPB Tracker - they're a fantastic baseball blog and I'm sure they'll be writing a lot about the tournament. For fevered whooping and exuberant trash-talk, I'll be live-blogging as much of the tournament as I can on this Twitter account.

Suzuki & Matsuzaka FTW!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Cups

The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that the silver sake cup given by the government to people in Japan on their 100th birthday is to be reduced in size. The current cup has a diameter of a muscular 10.5cm, and this is going to be reduced to an insulting, withered 9cm starting this year. Because old people obviously need all the silver they can get.

The article quotes a person as saying that it was a shame "aged people will become victims of the government's financial problems". But the source was anonymous and merely described as a "staffer" at a "municipality". So he's an anonymous guy, employed in some capacity, at a place. Nice work, Yomiuri.

Of course, the centenarians aren't really victims at all. They may get a slightly smaller silver cup then the people last year, but I doubt they're all going to protest and refuse to grow older because of it - I'm pretty sure an extra year of life is as precious a gift as you can get.

So here's to the 20,000 people in Japan turning 100 this year. Don't get too drunk with your silver cups, now.

Immortal Hands & Eyes

H-h-h-h-hanshin Tiiiiiigeeeeeers! Ah, I like the Hanshin Tigers. Here's a little history of the Tigers for you. Because I know you can't wait to learn about the greatest baseball team on the planet.

The Hanshin Tigers are based in Nishinomiya in the Hyogo prefecture, and are owned by the Hanshin Electric Railway Co. who operate lines between Osaka and Kobe. The team was founded in December 1935 and the first players were signed in 1936. Their name was changed from the "Osaka Tigers" to the "Hanshin Tigers" in 1940, then back again in '47, then back yet again in '61. They've won the Central League five times: '62, '64, '85, '03 and '05; and they've only won the Japan Series once in 1985, but when they did the sky practically fell on Osaka. That mini-apocalypse had a profound effect on the team, but you'll find out about that a little further down this post. In 2004 the Tigers played an exhibition match against the New York Yankees, the most successful team in American baseball. The Tigers won 11-7. (Ha!) The home stadium of the Hanshin Tigers is Hanshin Koshien Stadium. It's the oldest baseball stadium in Japan, being built in 1924, and also hosts the High School Baseball Championships.

It's the fans though. The fans totally make the team. Hanshin Tigers fans are known as the most obsessive and over-enthusiastic in Japanese baseball, which is probably what attracted me to them in the first place. I also remember reading that they "have a reputation for rough behavior and a willingness to brawl with other fans or with each other, although long fights are rare". Not sure why you'd brawl with people on your own side. I guess they really are very excitable.

The fans also have an awesome tradition of releasing hundreds of balloons after the 7th innings and then singing the Tigers' fight-song, The Wind Of Mount Rokko. These lyrics come straight off Wikipedia by the way, so you know they're unquestionably accurate:

Hanshin Tigers no Uta (Rokko Oroshi)

Rokkō oroshi ni sassō to
Sōten kakeru nichirin no
Seishun no haki uruwashiku
Kagayaku wagana zo Hanshin Tigers
Ō-ō-ō-ō Hanshin Tigers
Fure-fure-fure-fure

Tōshi hatsuratsu tatsu ya ima
Nekketsu sude ni teki o tsuku
Jūō no iki takaraka ni
Muteki no warera zo Hanshin Tigers
Ō-ō-ō-ō Hanshin Tigers
Fure-fure-fure-fure

Tetsuwan kyōda ikuchitabi
Kitaete koko ni Kōshien
Shōri ni moyuru eikan wa
Kagayaku warera zo Hanshin Tigers
Ō-ō-ō-ō Hanshin Tigers
Fure-fure-fure-fure

And this is the official English version of the song:

The Song of the Hanshin Tigers (The Wind of Mount Rokko)

Dashing swiftly through the wind blowin' from Rokko
Like the big sun soaring in the clear blue sky
Mighty spirit of the youth shows the victor's grace
The name that shines in glory "Hanshin Tigers"
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Hanshin Tigers
Hooray, Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!

Powerful hits and skillful pitch achieved a thousand times
Trained with every discipline here at Koshien
Crowned with constant victory glorious, matchless feat
Always proud, invincible "Hanshin Tigers"
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Hanshin Tigers
Hooray, Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!

I know what you're all thinking: "It's all very well giving us the lyrics, Max, but how can we sing along if we don't have the tune?" Well have I got a little surprise for you. Click here. And apparently you can find this song on karaoke machines in Kansai.

One of the more kickass parts of Hanshin Tigers lore is the Curse Of The Colonel.

Dotonbori River

After the Tigers' 1985 Japan Series win (which you'll remember I mentioned earlier - told you it would come back), the fans went kind of insane and there were some riots in Osaka. One of the things that the fans did was to gather on the Ebisu bridge in Dotonbori (you'll be familiar with this area if you've played Ryu ga Gotoku 2... or been there). They then went through the roster of Tigers players, and after each player that they shouted the name of, a member of the crowd who looked a bit like him would jump off the bridge into the river. But then they got to Randy Bass, the Most Valued Player of the Series and an American. They didn't have anyone that looked like an American. So, reasoning that any bearded white-guy would do, they stole one of the metal and plastic Colonel Sanders statues that stand outside all KFCs in Japan and launched it from the bridge into the river, no doubt to ecstatic cheers.

Then followed an 18-year losing streak, in which the Tigers almost always finished in the bottom half of the Central League. But who should the fans blame for the Tigers' losing streak? They were doing so well until they won the Japan Series and threw Colonel Sanders into a river! Wait, that's it! Colonel Sanders!

So the legend now is that the Hanshin Tigers won't win another Japan Series title until they find the statue at the bottom of the Dotonbori River. The Osakan local officials have spent a lot of time and money trying to get it back. They've sent divers down there numerous times. They even dredged the river, but still no luck.

The Tigers came quite close to winning the JS in 2003, and fans were giddily speculating that the curse might be over. They won the Central League that year and instead of player-lookalikes jumping into the river, 5,300 Tigers fans jumped in. When the time came for the Tigers to play the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (now the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks), all the KFCs in Osaka and Kobe either moved their Colonel Sanders statues inside or bolted them to the pavement. Unfortunately the Tigers lost the Series four games to three.


"Please don't jump into the river"

Since then the Hanshin Tigers have won the Central League again in 2005, and generally look a lot better. And the Osaka City Council have constructed a new Ebisu bridge to stop people jumping into the river.

Well, I hope that's been interesting. It was a little longer than I'd planned, but hey. These things need space.

A typical Hanshin Tigers fan

Monday, 2 March 2009

Not A Baseball Post

I've been writing about baseball a lot recently, mostly due to my excitement about the World Classic Baseball Series starting this week. But I know that a lot of you aren't really interested in baseball, and are a bit perplexed by the sudden change of emphasis in this blog. So, to reassure you that I haven't lost sight of what's important in the world and that I'm still doing my bit for the edification of the public, here's a video for you. It's simply called "Schoolgirls snowboarding".



Check back tomorrow for more BASEBALL!