Saturday, January 31, 2009

Live Park in Akiba

Otaku frenzy! It appears that 'live' performances have been banned from outside Akihabara station so an alternative, albeit temporary, venue has been set up in a building on Chuo Dori. Visitors can enjoy free live shows like the one above for 100 days from 1 February to 10 May. When we went in on day one the room was filled with rotund guys in specs rawking out to the high-pitch vocal stylings of a trio of super cute girls. Check out the listings.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pedal powered rollercoaster

Okay this story is a bit old but I just spotted it via reddit. Apparently in Washuzan Highland Park, Okayama there is a roller coaster called the Skycycle. I don't know when it was built but judging by the rust on these pictures, it's not a very recent invention. Though no doubt eco-friendly this looks way too hairy for me to try, I'm a weed at the best of times on roller coasters. Check the Treehugger website for more information.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Early Showa-era children's book exhibition

During a stroll today in Ueno park, I came across the International Library of Children's literature. They were running an exhibition of children's annuals from the 1920s to the 30s. The illustrations to these books were at once weird and fabulous, some more than others. An illustration by an artist named Tanosuke was fractured and adorned with Miro-like abstract diagrams. They illustrate the feeling of the age brilliantly, little girls have bobbed haircuts that are almost identical to the boys and most children were depicted in modern dress with adults by contrast still in kimono. Modern machinery is celebrated in glorious technicolor center spreads one of which, dated 1939, shows a huge German zeppelin with cheerful Nazis waving flags in the background. It was sad to think that the generation of children who read these annuals probably suffered terribly afterwards when the war broke out. The exhibition ends November 9 2009.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Goodbye Mr Despair

My faith in anime has been restored since I started watching Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (Goodbye Mr Despair). Adapated from a manga by Koji Kumeta, it tells the story of a junior high school teacher who sees everything in a negative light and is constantly trying to top himself. The first scene is an inspired piss-take of the classic high school anime. The sappy girl skipping off to school through a storm of cherry blossoms and whiffling on about hope and love suddenly comes across her new teacher dangling from a tree. I actually met a real manga editor last night and he agreed that this show is totally awesome.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fluffy okonomiyaki

I'm really crazy for okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes) and recently discovered on a trip to Hokkaido a place that does a special kind called fuwa fuwa okonomiyaki (fluffy okonomiyaki) made by adding potato to the pancake mix. It's really yummy and the restaurant called Masaya in Furano is run by a lovely friendly guy who keeps up a stream of entertaining banter in English to guests as he cooks amazingly gorgeous food on the hotplate in front of you. Click on this link for more information (in Japanese).

Wine in Japan

My article on the history of winemaking in Japan was just published in Japan Times today and I'm really pleased that it is the first story on their webpage. The guy in the picture is Kunio Naito who manages Cave de Relax in Shimbashi, if you want to find a good bottle of domestic wine, seek him out!

Fami-mode event

Calling all retro-electro-heads get yourselves down to Star Pine's Cafe in Kichijoji on the 24th of January where alongside seeing lots of incredible 8-bit acts you'll have the opportunity to participate in an old-school gaming tournament and buy vintage Super Mario tat. I'll be down there grooving to YMCK and Sexy-Synthesizer, come along!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Electronic waiter takes your order

A recent trip to an izakaiya (Japanese inn) had me puzzling over this nifty invention. Basically instead of the waiter taking your order, you punch in what you want. The best thing about this was that it calculates the running total for your food and if you want to split the bill will calculate that too and allow you to pay separately at the end. Neat. I found this place using Hot Pepper which I highly recommend if you're looking for a bargain meal deal. The online version is easy to run through google translate. Just phone for reservations and print out your coupon. The other day I managed to get drink all you can and a huge feast for only 3,600 yen per person.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy moo Year

According to the Chinese calender, it's now the year of the ox. The Japanese interpret this as being the year of the black and white cow because they are just cuter than that plain old brown ox. Tons of kawaii cow characters have been manufactured to celebrate. Above is a New Year's greeting card that I bought to send to friends, a hand-knitted cow that was given to me as a present and a plastic disco bath cow (when placed in water he starts flashing with groovy lights). The ox is a very grounded creature and, according to Wikipedia: "is not extravagant, and the thought of living off credit cards or being in debt makes them nervous". Very little change happens in the year of the ox but it's also a time for stability which is comforting for those of us who are reeling from the financial shocks of last year.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Anthropomorphic sanitary towel dispenser

Shinto, the native religion of Japan, posits that every object animate or inanimate has a soul. Perhaps this is why there is such a craze for manufacturers to portray their products in cute character form. But I ask you, if a sanitary towel dispenser did have a soul, would it really be smiling away as it got stuffed full of jam rags (excuse the graphic image)?