Friday, December 26, 2008

Win a potato

Yes kids, it's the prize you've all been waiting for. Forget limited edition plastic models of Lupin the 3rd or the latest Gundam robots, what you really want to snag with your UFO catcher is a raw potato.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sony's dancing speakers


Sony just released the Sony Rolly on November 21. The Rolly is a mobile speaker that dances around the floor as you play music. It's controlled by blue tooth so you can give it instructions from your mobile phone. Rollys can be synchronised to dance together in formation. Perfect for creating a robot disco on your living room floor to scare the cat with.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A white pre-Christmas ski trip


I went to Furano in Hokkaido last weekend for some pre-Christmas snowboarding. Because the season hadn't quite kicked in it was a really cheap deal: just over 30,000 yen with number one travel. That included flights and transfers from Haneda to Furano, hotel and ski lift. On top of that you can rent ski wear for only 1,000 yen a day. The only downside was that on the first day it rained. After that though, loads of lovely snow. And unlimited access to the hotel's onsen. We stayed at Furano Prince Hotel which opens straight out on the slopes.
Going to try to get out again before the end of the season. I want to make it down a slope just one without tanking it. Click on this link for more pics.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas gift guide

My guide to shopping for Christmas gifts in Tokyo has just been published in Metropolis Magazine. So if you're looking for pressie ideas click on this link. My personal favourite is the bath planetarium (see pic above). I'm hoping someone will get me one because I just spent the past few days punishing my body on the snowy slopes of Hokkaido and plan to spend the next few days soaking away my muscle pain in the tub.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Do it at home

Tis the season when public drunkenness reaches epic proportions. Many companies throw 'Bonenkai' (end of the year parties) for their employees and as a result the trains are filled with drunken revellers even more than ever. Businessmen passed out on train seats are a common sight as are piles of puke on the platforms. Yuk!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bravo boys

Reuters reports that a bra designed for male cross dressers in Japan has been selling well on Rakuten online supermarket. Lately I've noticed a bit of an increase in men dressed as women in Japan, especially as schoolgirls which can be a little disturbing as many don't shave their legs or make any attempt to walk in a 'ladylike' fashion.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jinbocho theater

Strolling about Jinbocho tonight I came across this amazing building. Of course, the pic is not mine but courtesy of Ping Mag who have done a piece about the architecture. The interior is really plush and right now they seem to be doing a film season of old Japanese movies. Check out the Japanese website.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Juana Molina comes to Tokyo

I interviewed Juana Molina for Japan Times last week prior to her live show here next week. Check it out on the Japan Times website.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Drying fish Tokyo style

In small fishing towns on the Izu peninsula, you can see fish put out to dry in the sun. In Tokyo we don't get many natural rays due to all those skyscrapers so this is one fish shop owners improvised alternative: use the dusty air coming out of the air con. Yuck! This is part of a set of pictures I took today round near Tokyo University. Check it out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Women in Japan's wine world


My article on Japanese women who succeed in the world of wine was published in Japan Times today. I spoke to a successful wine buyer, sommelier, writer and winemaker. The lady above is Miyuki Ishisbashi and she's a wine buyer, she's a pretty amazing person. She speaks French fluently in addition to English and often jets off to France and London as part of her job. Click on this link to read more.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Though a lens backwards

Back from the Tokyo Museum of Photography and saw a really funny an touching series of photos by Asakai Yoko as part of the Contemporary Japanese Photography exhibition. She basically went round taking pictures of people engrossed in watching movies. The people above are in Berlin and watching 'The Seventh Seal'. It's a such a shame this image is so small, because the guy's expression in the middle is classic, but click on this link to check out a flash show of her prints.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Japan celebrates

CNN just ran a piece on how the people of the town of Obama in Japan have gone wild for the new president.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ear drills


Wandering around Tokyo Hands today I came across a display showing the latest in ear cleaning technology. This little device, shaped like a drill, called Scratch Miming claims to clear blocked earwax that normal cotton buds just miss out on. Watch the video on the website for extra eww factor. The same company also makes tiny graters used to remove dry skin from your feet. Cheesy feet topping anyone?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Perfect ice balls



This nifty device, found on TechEBlog, uses hot water to make seamless balls of ice. I don't know if I'm awed more by the ingenuity or the huge amount of time the inventors spent on a rather useless device.

Best Japanese study tools on the internet

To any of you struggling to learn Japanese, I came across the most awesome site the other day. iKnow is designed for both English and Japanese speakers and teaches you loads of new vocab in batches of ten words, so you never feel snowed under. For someone who's struggled with horrible books like Japanese for Busy People, this site is a godsend. I also should mention Jpod 101 while I'm at it, which offers free podcasts which are hugely entertaining and relevant to everyday life in Japan.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stick on designer stubble

I always thought the designer stubble fashion hadn't caught on in Japan because most people considered facial hair a sign of slovenliness. Browsing in 0101 today though, I found some stick on facial hair in the posh men's grooming section. I'm assuming this product made by Propia is aimed at the follically challenged, not the amateur spy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sumo pillow fight


Japan Probe reported recently that the Sumo Association is trying to prevent people throwing cushions into the ring when a yokozuna (highest ranking sumo wrestler) gets defeated. People watching the Kyushu tournament instead be given extra heavy cushions that are more difficult to throw. The reason given was "health and safety issues" although Mainichi noted that there has never been a case of injury involving the cushions. Interestingly though, a friend recently told me that spectators who have seats around the ring have to get special insurance because wrestlers have often been known to take a tumble on top of them. So it's okay for wrestlers to squish the audience but not okay for them to take a few bops with a cushion!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fontastic!

Neojaponisme is running a series of 'visual excerpts' from an old out-of-print font book that has been used by many Japanese businesses over the years. This reminded me about Maniackers Design Fonts which are brand new Japanese and Roman letter fonts that can be downloaded for free. The designs are pretty splendid.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Molest your very own miniture maid



Ever dreamed of owning your very own miniature maid and subjecting her to some heavy sexual harassment, without any pesky police officers hammering down your door? Well it's your lucky day, AR figures brings you a 2 inch-high submissive anime character whom you can undress while she squeals helplessly. If you don't understand Japanese, here's a short translation of what she's saying "(Cute noises). Nice to meet you master. I am Alice your cyber figure. Wow is this master's room? Wha, What the f***. What are you doing all of a sudden. Yah, that's not right. Yaaaaaaa. (crying) You are so mean. Is this a present? Wow, it's soooo cute."
Ah, if only real women's affections were so easily bought. The technology works by aiming a webcam at the cube so the character appears on your computer screen. The lolly stick is for undressing and caressing her. In semi virtual reality. Ewww.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Framboise fags


These raspberry menthol cigarettes have just been launched, with huge a advertising campaign, in Japan. Obviously aimed at the female market 'Fram' is meant to be short for 'Framboise': the French word for raspberry. Oh la la, the sophistication!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Retro matchbox covers

Check out this sexy-looking Japanese matchbox. I found it on Pink Tentacle who has compiled a set of 1920s and 1940s matchboxes from online museum Match World.

Dancing doodad

Check out this cute little yellow doll that dances in time to the beat.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Before bikinis

There's a lovely album posted on Flicker right now of Geishas posing in Meiji and Taisho-era swimming cosies. Check it out. They are so much cuter than the ubiquitous bikinis that are seen everywhere on the beaches of modern Japan. BTW just got back from Izu where we ate lobster like this fried in tempura. Yum!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hally


Seen at Shibuya Seco lounge 28 August
Going to a Hally gig is like spending time in the bedroom of a nerdy kid at school. He gets out his synthesiser and you are given a terrifying look into the heart of his twisted obsession. Looking puny yet majestic in a tight red shiny jacket and sunglasses: Hally throws samples of 80s tracks like 'Tainted Love' into what sounds like an industrial cement mixer. Notes that doodle all over the place like the line in an etch-a-sketch picture and dirty computer game bleeps lend a jumbled Weird Science genius to this 8-bit audio assault.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Monkey on the loose in Tokyo


Yesterday morning commuters in Shibuya station were amazed to see a monkey perched atop a departure board. Many people gathered to take a snap of the little tyke before the police turned up with nets. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to snare it and the monkey ran off in the direction of Yoyogi. To date the monkey is still at large! BTW it is extremely unusual to see monkeys in town but this may be a result of a recent rise in the native monkey population.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Liquid metal magnetic sculpture

Sachiko Kodama is a physicist turned artist who makes these incredible moving sculptures. Check out the video that I just found on Japan Probe.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Win a free trip to Japan

Marui is offering a prize of a trip for two to Japan to foreigners who have an interest in the country. To win you just need to design an outfit with a Japanese twist and send three pics of it in. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Food


I really want to learn to cook Japanese food as my repertoire of recipes is sadly lacking and just found this great blog called Just Hungry written by a Japanese woman living abroad. But it looks perfect for this English woman living in Japan. Going food shopping tomorrow. Yum!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Robot phone


Softbank customers are now able to get their mits on their very own robot phone, courtesy of Toshiba. With their movable arms and legs, they're just sooo cute.

Monday, July 21, 2008

iPhone scuppers the pantyshot

Gizmodo reports that iPhone have given their inbuilt camera a really noisy shutter sound in order to thwart male users who enjoy taking illicit 'upskirt' shots of girls on packed subway trains. Apparently this is standard procedure in Japan which still has a big chikan (pervert) problem on the subways. The post was, of course, followed up by lots of comments on how to disable the noise from enterprising otaku.
As an interesting side note, my favourite Japanese photographer, Nobuyoshi Araki, made a great candid camera book about Tokyo's subways called Subway Love. Between 1963 and 1972, he took pictures of people on his journey to and from work. He's got a real talent for snapping people in their most unguarded moments and, of course, being Japan's number one perv, for taking pics of loads of pretty girls (though no upskirt shots here). While doing the book he got into loads of scrapes with Tokyo's transport police and loved every minute of it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Japanese graphic style in the West

I've just got back from a holiday in the UK, which explains my long break from posting (gomen ne). When I was over there I noticed how there has been a burgeoning of vinyl dolls and designs that look at first glance to be Japanese but turned out to be made in the West. For example Julie West, whose graphic design and toys really reflect a Japanese aesthetic.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Photogenic mask


When you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and your hair's a mess, it's understandable to plonk on a big hat to hide the hideousness. Or if you've been growing a huge pulsating spot overnight on your conk, it's okay to slap on a bit of concealer. But for those who've woken up to the fact that they're just butt ugly, other than shoving a paper bag over your face, there really aren't any other sane options... until now. This beeeyewtifuel photogenic mask is now available to cover up a multitude of sins, so you can walk down the street sporting your slightly oversized and expressionless face with pride. Created by Japanese doll maker Natori Satio "for anyone who wants to become a girl", the mask fuses doll and real person to make something even creepier than Chukie. Check out the website and the very disturbing video on it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kaiba



This is the most innovative anime I've come across in, well, ever. Currently airing on WoWow, the illustrations are so different in style to typical anime that the closest comparison might be Junko Mizuno's manga. The story is as bizarre as the illustrations: in the future bodies and memories can be traded. As you might imagine lots of body swap wackiness ensues.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ha ha ha happy tune!

You'll either love or hate me for introducing you to this tune. The aural equivalent of devouring a stick of cotton candy in 5 minutes, it's a veritable sugar-rush of sound. Made by Swedish group Caramell in 2001, the song got internet fame in the latter part of 2006 when it was released as a short animation with characters from the novel Popton doing the trademark rabbit ear dance. I really love the Speedycake remix (see below) which can be heard practically everywhere in Akihabara right now. Uwa Uwa Uwa Uwa!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Deerhoof to play Japan

Back in the UK I had a monthly night in Brighton called Nihongogo (geddit) where I used to DJ Japanese music. As well as Plus Tech Squeezebox, Pizicatto Five, Puffi Ami Yumi et al, I'd occasionally slip in a Deerhoof track - they just about qualify because their singer, Satomi, is Japanese. Anyway, the great news is that they are coming to Japan to play a few dates. And they've got new material and a new member. If you want to find out details please read my interview with the band's guitarist, John Dieterich for Japan Times. I loved writing this article because I'm such a huge fan.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Here's my pic of what was on offer at last weekend's desgin festa:

Yukikoi does the most fantabulous 60s-inspired design:


Kim Kangdoo makes postcards...
... that can be transformed into little box creatures with some scissors, glue and a good sharp knife:For some really annoying reason, I can't seem to load up their website but on their meishi it appears as: kangdooman@paran.com

Funppy were selling the cutest t-shirts that come in their very own box for only 500 yen. What an, er, life affirming motto:

And Dali's Art Work made this groovy construction from wooden bricks. Excuse the sideways video!


video

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Erokawa mobile phone strap


Erokawa - the fusion of erotic and kawaii (cute) style - is the current craze sweeping the Japanese female population, according to the Strapya, makers of cell phone straps. Embodying this style with their new sexy lingere range of straps, they explain that the whole concept is dead classy: "To attracted him today, don't show off your bra and shorts as a show girl. Real underwear miniature cell phone straps can support you taking his attention to you..." And here I thought, opening up my barely-covered legs on a crowded commuter train and giving the man of my dreams a pantyshot was the way to his heart, when all along there was a more subtle way to give him an idea of what saucy undies I was wearing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Free Polysics gig


The latest Polysics album, 'We ate the machine', just came out on 23 April. I'm a huge fan of their hyper new-wave sound and am bouncing up and down with glee about the fact that they'll be playing a free live date at Tower Records in Shibuya this month on Friday 23, B1F stage 1 starting at 7pm.

Ladies stop titivating yourselves on the train!


As my grandmother used to say when she caught anyone spending too long in front of a mirror: 'will you stop titivating yourself'. In Japan people have absolutely no shame about doing their make up on the train and gazing at themselves for the entire journey in their sparkly Disney mirror. Hence the above ad campaign which also discourages people from the heinous crimes of sitting on the seat with their legs spread and listening to their iPods with the volume loud.

BTW If anyone has wondered why I've been incredibly lax of late with my blogs, in my defense I've not been on top form due to having contracted sinusitus. Gomen!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tokusatsu coffee advert

The above advert for Nescafe appeared on the subway recently in Tokyo. The guy is so amazed by his can of coffee that he doesn't realise there's a fight going on between a big clawed monster and a shiny-footed giant hero. Also there seems to be some kind of alien invasion going on overhead too. I thought the whole point of coffee was to make you more alert.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tasty poo on a stick


It's delicious, it's most definitely not nutritious: it's unchikun candy. Shaped like a lovely brightly-coloured curly one, it's a gentle reminder to children that sugared treats are really just crap. These ones were bought in Jusco.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Chopstick etiquette

Sometimes I get so blaze and think I know everything there is to know about the cultural mores of this country. The very wonderful, What Japan Thinks, has put me in my place, which I now acknowledge is akin to a very dark cave. I particularly loved the figures on bad chopstick manners. I already knew it was a total no no to stand your sticks up in the bowl but wasn't aware that 'spearing food then eating it' or 'pointing your sticks at other people' is the height of rudeness. Guess I better shape up. One of my finest moments years ago in my days of teaching kids was to get them to play a game where they had to eat as many sweets as possible using chopsticks and wearing huge woolen gloves. Needless to say that the little blighters showed no regard for the social niceties as they overdosed on e-numbers.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Obligatory cherry blossom picture

Waaaaa kirei da ne! I love this time of year, people get so smiley. Took this one at Kudanshita yesterday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Walk like a pigeon

To me the sight of a Japanese woman waddling along bowlegged in high heels is pretty comical and for years I was under the impression that there was something wrong with their legs, not so. This style of walking has a name 'uchimata' (according to Culture Shock by P Sean Bramble) and is adopted deliberately by women who consider it cute. It apparently originated because of the suffling-style of walking women in kimono were forced to adopt.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where to get pussy in Tokyo


The woman with the mobile phone is not in a steady relationship with this feline but a client of one of Tokyo's new cat cafes, where you can pay for some no-strings-or-vet-bills-attached furry fun. Please read my article about it for Japan Times.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I met Noriko Tujiko!

A few weeks ago I interviewed Noriko Tujiko for Japan Times. Please read about it here.

Bring your own bottle

Some shameless self-promotion here. I've just become the new wine columnist for Japan Times. Please read my article about matching food and wine here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Horseradish fire alarm

News Now reports that Japanese scientists have developed a fire alarm for deaf people which emits the scent of horseradish into the air when activated. In tests 13 out of 14 people were woken up by the scent, which I imagine was a pretty eye-wateringly unpleasant experience but I guess beats being burned to death.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Katsumi Watanabe exhibition



Made men, made-up men, drunken men and fallen men (and women) are among the characters Watanabe took photographs of in a career that spanned 40 years. This retrospective at the Watari-Um Museum of Contemporary Art in Jingumae is on from now till April 20. The photographer was interested in taking pictures of the cast of dubious characters who populated the streets of the entertainment districts in some of the dodgier areas of Tokyo, capturing the melting make-up, frayed carpets and piss-stained streets in all their gaudy glory. I loved the gawkishness with which some of the subjects posed, slightly awkward, caught out by the camera's flash. There is a touching mix of humour and tragedy in these pictures, which are hugely sympathetic towards its subjects.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

No sex please we're Japanese

In a survey conducted by Durex, the numbers of sexually active Japanese couples is woefully low. The average number of times people actually get down to it are 46 a year which looks pretty measley when compared with the global average of 103 times. This result is said to reflect the high numbers of couples who are just too busy for sex. Businessmen work long hours, usually followed up with drinking sessions with their colleagues and finally a long commute home. This leaves the exhausted salaryman with no time for any hankie or indeed panky. The wives who get to stay at home all day, inevitably feel the slow burn of sexual tension but have no outlet. Men's sexual needs end up being serviced at dingy massage parlours while often the women either grin and bear it or have affairs. One can't help but wonder whether the taboo on displays of public affection further adds to problems.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Schoolgirl disguise case gets ickier

See the previous post. Japan Today further reports that the man was wearing a pink bra, make up but no underwear having been 'showing himself' to the students from a car outside the school. As they say over here. Kimochi warui!!!!! Translated roughly as eeeeeewwwwww!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Schoolgirl disguise caper

Reuters reports that a 37 year old man's 'cunning' schoolgirl disguise was foiled by actual Saitama schoolgirls as he was taking an oh-so-casual walk in a park by the school gates. When the girls screamed, he tried to run into the crowd of teens for camouflage, causing even more hysteria. The man was forced to flee the scene, losing his wig in the process before being caught by a school clerk. He'd bought the outfit on the internet, and as everyone knows, those flimsy polyester things, made to satisfy the jaded appetites of impotent businessmen, look so fake. However, it was probably more the sight of his puffy skin and hairy calves that gave the game away. Okay guys unless you magically manage to henshin into the body of an actual teenage girl, you can forget about cuddling up with a bunch of classmates. Forget the disguise route, you'll be found out in about ten seconds. Please keep trying though, your amateur efforts at drag are pretty hilarious for us all.

I'm a punka too!

Even the cats in Harajuku have got attitude.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

AOU Arcade Game Expo



This Saturday I covered the AOU Entertainment Expo for Japan Times. The biggest news was the preview of Street Fighter IV. However, not being a boy n' all what I was most excited about was Jubeat, Konami's new music game. I'm a huge Pop n' Music and Dance Dance Revolution fan but such a spaz when it comes to coordinating my hands to push the buttons when they appear on the screens. With Jubeat the buttons are the screen, hooray! Read about it here. Problem was, I was so busy covering the event I didn't get to play anything on account of the hour and a half queues for most games. PS I just love the chicks in the Konami outfits, though with the game being so simple, to use they were rather redundant.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Squishy boobies!

Now your favourite plastic figurine can not only look like a real surgically-enhanced woman, she can also feel like one. New silicone technology, previewed at the AOU Entertainment Expo last weekend, means that her plastic boobies are now nice and squishy. In the interests of product research, I had a good prod and can attest that these tiny mammories are lovely and soft. One shudders to think what horny otaku will do once they get their hands on these babies. As long as it's behind closed doors!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Beer bottle beatings in sumo land

Sumo training is more that just being made to eat a vast quantity of pies daily. Back in June last year a young sumo wrestler died from beatings he received which were supposed to be part of his training. Most disturbingly, the instrument used to beat him the day before his death was, bizarrely, a beer bottle. On the day he died, according to the Japan Times, he was denied breakfast. The distressed trainee then ran away from the sumo stable only to be brought back by "kindly" local officers who found him in a local convenience shop. He received further beatings and was forced to engage senior wrestlers in bouts, all without having eaten the entire day.
This story reveals a really frightening side to sumo. The sumo stables are a closed world, so for all we know, this kind of nastiness might be common. The fact that the police brought this poor boy back to be beaten to death leaves a very unpleasant aftertaste. Bring back the pies.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Heartbroken employees get time to tend their wounds

Reuters reports that a small Japanese firm, Tokyo based Hime & Company, is offering paid time off to female employees recovering from break-ups. Those 24 years or younger get one day off a year, those between 25-29 get two days and those over 30 get a whole three days to wallow in self-pity - the reasoning being, the older you are, the harder you fall.
It's already possible for Japanese women to take paid time off when they have their periods, so I guess this is going one step further. But doesn't this kind of move panders to the male view that women are emotionally and physically fragile, incapable of ploughing through? Luckily though Hime & Co are a strictly female outfit so they don't have to keep up a tough front at work, but many Japanese women don't take time off for periods because they are afraid of appearing weaker and losing out for promotion.
My view is that this is a splendid idea, it's really tough going to work with a broken heart, whether you're a man or a woman.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Strike a light!

Ping magazine reports on an art exhibition in Omotesando that features matchboxes designed by different artists. The above is my favourite, but then I've got a big sweet tooth for cute, why else would I be in Japan? The exhibition at the Opa gallery finishes 28 January, so hurry to catch it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Go large!

Took this shot of a jubilant sumo wrestler outside Ryogoku stadium. I was spending the day with members of the wonderful Tokyo Camera Club. Next time we're going to Akihabara to snap some geek culture, if you'd like to join, click here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Gaijin butler cafe

Phwoor! Meet the sexy male butlers of Shibuya. Yet another mutation of the maid cafe - a butler cafe that employs cute Western guys to wait on "princesses". Read all about it in my article for the Japan Times today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Homeless woman left to die in street

Mainichi reports that a starving homeless woman who was taken to city hall to get food, died in the street before she was able to eat what was given to her - a packet of dried rice that needed hot water added to it. This is the kind of story that really disgusts me in relation to attitudes to the homeless here. Firstly, didn't the ambulance men have the decency to buy her a sandwich? Secondly, you don't give a starving person a meal they have to prepare, especially if they are too weak to prepare it. Thirdly someone should have invited her inside to eat it, not left her lying outside with not even a blanket for cover.
Homeless people get little or no support from the government or charities and are expected to fend for themselves collecting old comic books to sell or cardboard to recycle. However even these paltry sources of income are under threat. Stations have taken to putting locks on recycle bins and local councils have now started fining people who take away cardboard boxes, see Daily Yomiuri
The tragedy is that councils manage to make a loss on their paper recycling enterprises but the private companies who pay the homeless for their efforts make a profit. Soon this kind of sight may be a thing of the past:


Gropers get a strap on

Pink Tentacle reports that a Japanese mail order catalogue has sold out of fake subway straps. The product is meant to show women on packed commuter trains that the men (above pictured) do not have their hands free to wander. The product is marketed to men who worry about being falsely accused of groping. Wandering hands on the subway is a big problem in Japan. But lordy surely there is a saner way of proving your innocence.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

8-bit festival



Atari attack! An all-night celebration of primitive electronic music, the line-up including my favourites YMCK. Saturday 26 Jan, Star Pine's Cafe Kichijoji. Go to the Famicon site for details.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Statues and windflowers

Wandering around a Buddhist cemetery in Ryogoku, I came across these statues decorated with plastic windflowers. I'm guessing that these are children's graves as there were offerings of juice boxes nearby instead of the usual sake or beer.

Monday, January 7, 2008

World's most expensive stress toy


Who can resist this cuddly cyber seal? Paro responds to human touch by cooing and wiggling about in a very cute and 'realistic' way (pretty sure normal baby seals would put up with this much manhandling). Used to help the elderly who are unable to look after pets of their own, the robot has proved a big hit, many claiming that, like an ordinary pet, he is useful in combating depression and stress. Costing upwards of 350,000 yen (around 1,500 pounds), those who fall for Paro's charms are looking at a hefty price tag. I tried Paro out at the great robot exhibition in the National Science Museum and, while, the movements seemed natural, beneath the fur you can sense the metallic limbs beneath, totally rigid and inflexible. Unlike normal pets, but more in keeping with standard cyber pet behaviour, Paro throws a tantrum if ignored. At the exhibition there was always someone on hand to stroke Paro so I didn't get to witness his cyber rage. If it's anything like a Furbee fit or a Tamagochi tantrum, I was probably spared an ugly sight. A big fuss is being made about this robot - Danish film director, Phie Ambo, is currently making a film about Paro's therapeutic effects - but I can't really see how different he is from these previous incarnations of computer cuteness and more importantly why he is so expensive.
Spot the difference.