If one were to judge the Japanese people based on gadgets alone, one would think that there is a general obsession with examining one’s own skin. We’ve already seen the iPhone microscope, marketed as a way to check out the condition of your skin and scalp. And now from the lovely JR catalogue we have the ear-cleaning scope.
The scope has a + more
Dominating the lighter side of the Japanese news/blogosphere this week – the arrival of two pandas in Tokyo. They definitely make the cut into this week’s reading list, along with a cat, Harajuku girls, bananas and more…
When I came back to Tokyo in July, there was but one question on my mind -- what was AKB48 and why were they everywhere? On billboards, on tissue boxes on TV… And why were they named after an assault rifle?
I’m still not well able to answer all these questions, but I think this video sums up the AKB48 phenomenon. Basically, what you have is a 100-member pop group that doubles as a yen printing press for their management.
So, do you get AKB48?
Sitting on the floor in Japan works like this – first, you gingerly lower yourself into seiza position, sitting on your heels. Then, your host invites you to “make yourself comfortable.” So ladies, you shift off your heels and keep your legs neatly to one side. Men assume a cross-legged position. Great… until your legs start falling asleep about 90 seconds later and you’re forced to attempt a graceful (ha!) switch to another position. Repeat for the next few hours until it’s time to revive the now semi-necrotic stumps that were once your legs so you can get up and go home.
And yet, sitting on the floor is preferable to taking a seat on this hamburger “chair”. It’s another stunning example of the crazyfest that is the JR catalogue. And what crazyfest would be complete with just a hamburger? Certainly we need some side dishes…
And some cake and corn on the cob.
And some… bourbon?
These chairs can support up to 90kg (198lb) and will set you back 7560 yen ($90). Each. Never change, JR catalogue, never change.
Visitors to our fair shores quickly discover that gadgets in Japan are not like gadgets elsewhere. A toilet is not a ceramic seat, but a heated, water-spraying, de-odorizing, self-cleaning wonder. Humidifiers aren’t just clunky water-vapor makers, but ultrasonic, aroma-diffusing, LED light extravaganzas. In our occasional Gadget Files series, we look at some of our favorite over-the-top electronics. Today’s subject – piggy banks.
The Naughty Kitten coin box is the sister to cat-and-mouse chase bank we featured a week or two ago. This time, instead of chasing your money down, the kitten has adopted an ambush strategy. Should you happen to leave a coin on her, a furtive paw will reach out of the box and take the money away. Well played, naughty kitten!
The Panda Bank is essentially an over-sized Tamagotchi. But instead of thriving off the attention of button-pressing schoolgirls, it lives off of your money. Popping in coins lets you feed your panda and advance the story. With enough coinage, you’ll eventually meet the panda’s family, friends and yes, enemies. Let the drama begin.
Japanese manufacturers have wisely realized that there are few things cuter than a dancing penguin. Hence Coin Penguin. He eats your coins, does a quick dance and you feel awesome for saving money. What could be better than that?
Eating money is a common thread in Japanese piggy banks. Now, if penguins aren’t your thing, perhaps you’d prefer a Lego-style monkey face as your money repository. The Texture Series Face Banks also come in a brick or vinyl siding pattern. Because, why not?
And rounding out the “eating coins” category, we have the Dog Bank Mayu. When a coin lands in his dish he downs it with a relish you rarely see outside the canine community. A good motivator and a faithful companion in your money-saving journey…
If you’ve ever wanted to visit the village of Shirakawa-go to see the “praying hands” houses, this video will fan the flames…
This post has been reworked as our entry for the July J-Festa blog carnival. Thank you to Ree-san for organizing this inaugural event.
One thing you learn quickly as you travel around Japan – every place, no matter how small or unpromising looking, has some specialty to sample. Sometimes it’s a product, like traditional local pottery or sandals made of cedar from the surrounding forest. On occasion it’s a special hot spring that purports to offer unique health benefits. But more often than not, it’s a particular food.
Traveling around Japan is a delight for gastronomes, thanks to this abundance of regional specialties. Just moving up the Tokaido bullet train line, you go from pork broth ramen in Fukuoka to oyster hot pot in Hiroshima to Kyoto-style vegetables to red miso dishes in Nagoya, etc etc. I defy you to read the relevant Wikipedia entry without drooling a little bit on your keyboard. So when a train mix-up left me with 45 minutes to kill at Utsunomiya Station, I didn’t despair. Utsunomiya may have few charms on its own, but it’s famous for gyoza (potstickers) and it was lunchtime.
A few different bullet trains pass through Utsunomiya, and before the bubble burst, the area around the station was being developed as + more
Today is Cat Day in Japan. Apparently it’s because the noise a cat makes in Japanese (“nyan nyan”) bears a passing resemblance to the way “2″ is pronounced (“ni”). So 2/22 is Cat Day. Well, why not?
In honor of this special occasion, I scoured YouTube for the best Japanese kitty video I could find (this may have been the high point of my blogging career thus far). So now, for your Cat Day viewing pleasure, I present the introductory video for one of YouTube’s most famous Japanese cat idols, Maru-chan.
If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, I recommend you skip to 4:19 and watch the sequence of Maru-chan diving headfirst into empty beer cartons.