Ten Quirky Objects

Here are 10 objects that pretty much any Japanese person would recognize, but which may not be so familiar to foreigners. How many do you know? (Bonus points for knowing the Japanese name as well.)

There hints above the pictures will become visible if you highlight them. Click here for the answers.

#1 Hint: Kind of the opposite of a lawnmower.

#2 Hint: Usually at least two meters long.

#3 Hint: Not a nunchaka!

#4 Hint: For women who want to look more Western.

#5 Hint: It might help you sleep better.

#6 Hint: Used for cleaning.

#7 Hint: Standard equipment in a soapland.

#8 Hint: Used with something green.

#9 Hint: Associated with death.

#10 Hint: They’re protecting something.

Click here for the answers.

Industrial Wasteland 3

Kawasaki’s industrial zone has a strange, dystopian beauty.

The air stinks, it’s noisy, and the area’s not very pedestrian friendly, but it’s quite an interesting place to take photos in.

These photos were taken on the man-made island south of Kojima Shinden Station. See a satellite image here.

G-Cans Water Tunnel

For years, people living by the Tonegawa, Arekawa, and Edogawa Rivers faced the threat of terrible floods during the typhoon season. Every few years, anywhere between a few dozen and tens of thousands of houses would be inundated with water, and as the Tokyo metropolitan area expanded, the problem was only growing worse.

In the early 1990s, someone came up with the idea of huge underground discharge tunnels for the rivers to prevent flooding. Construction started in 1993, and 13 years later, the G-Cans Water Discharge Tunnel was completed. It’s a really impressive structure, and and the facility is open to tourists. I visited this December and found it to be really impressive.

There are a bunch of videos here. The website and videos are in Japanese, but just click on “broadband” or “narrowband” to watch them.

Official Site (mainly in Japanese): http://www.ktr.mlit.go.jp/edogawa/project/g-cans/frame_index.html

Sign Trucks

One of the latest trends in Japanese advertising is the sign truck. They started appearing a few years ago, but these days if you go somewhere like Shinjuku or Shibuya, they’re everywhere. The trucks drive around and around in a short route through an area with a lot of people, and often play music as well.

According to the website of an ad agency that specializes in sign trucks, they’ll get seen by 400 people per kilometer, 48,000 people per day, and 1,056,000 people per month. They’re not cheap though, and a small 1-ton truck costs about a million yen ($10,000)  per week. The big 40-ton trucks cost more than 2.5 million a week.

This one is advertising the popular new game Monster Hunter 3.

This one looks innocent and says “A must see for women who are worried about finding a job.” When you visit the website, though, it turns out its recruiting female sex workers.

Ikukuru is an Internet dating/marriage site.


This one is a singing duo called Nezumi&.Seiko

This truck advertises satellite TV.

If they’re out of your budget, you could try one of these ad-cycles (adokuru).
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Odd Japanese Blogs – The QR Code Blog

Today’s blog is the third of five himajin blogs that I’m writing about this week. It’s called the QR Code Blog. In case you don’t know, QR codes are those black and white data squares that you often see on advertisements in Japan. You scan them with your cell phone and they will take you to a homepage with more information.
Anyway, this blogger is a real QR code zealot, so much so, in fact, that he’s decided to turn all of the text in his posts into QR codes that can only be read with a cell-phone.

A typical post:

I scanned it with this online QR Code reader and translated it into English:
“I found this QR Code on an exit guide in the Tokyo subway. It helps to get rid of worries about the great numbers of exits in subway stations in the Tokyo area. Each exit has a different QR Code, and if you access it with your mobile phone, you can get a map of the local area of information about shops.”

So far, we’ve seen the Tokyo Stairs Database and the Vending Machine Report. Tomorrow is the Pedestrian Overpass Blog and Friday is the Telekinesis Blog.

Odd Japanese Blogs – The Vending Machine Report

Yesterday, I posted about the Tokyo Kaidan DB (Tokyo Stairs Database), a meticulous cataloging of stairs in Tokyo. Today’s blog is the second of five himajin (someone with too much time on his hands) blogs that I’m writing about this week. It’s called:  “I take photos of a vending machine (almost) every day. Sorry.” The blog has been going since May, 2005, and has over a thousand posts.
An average day is just: “No change” like this:

Every couple of weeks, though, there’s a big excitement in the blog when there is a product change:

The blogger details all the product changes as follows:

If you’re wondering what in the world inspired something like this, it’s explained in the blogger’s profile:

Most-hated phrase: “Keizoku wa chikara nari (Keeping at something makes you stronger.)”
Favorite vending machine: It would be scary if I had one
Short note: I update this blog with a photo of the same vending machine every day (it was replaced on Aug. 8, 2009). I was planning to write every day, but sometimes I take a break. I’m not interested in vending machines and canned drinks.

I don’t like things that take a lot of work, so I tried to think of some kind of content that wouldn’t require any willpower and that I could finish in five minutes a day. That’s how I started doing this. When there are changes, it takes a lot of work, which makes me angry.

It’s like techno where a groove is created when similar things repeat while changing slightly. Sorry, for getting off topic.

I don’t like the saying, “Keeping at something makes you stronger.” I don’t think there are many phrases that are more insulting. Please use it for people who are so stupid you can’t think of anything else to compliment them on.

The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The Kagaku Miraikan in Tokyo’s Odaiba district really is a museum that everyone should see. I went there a month or so ago, and it put me in a good mood for a week thinking about all the ways that technology is going to improve our lives in the next few years. Quantum computing, robots, and incredible medical advances are going to radically change our society, and this amazing museum gives you a tantalizing look at what’s coming.
The displays on robots, the Internet, new medical techniques, and much more are mostly all hands on and informative, and there are dozens of talks and demonstrations (unfortunately all in Japanese) that are just fascinating.
For example, I heard a mini-lecture on why Japan needs the supercomputer that the government tried to slash funding for last year. They explained that one very good reason is that it would take about 30 minutes for a tsunami off the Ogasawara Islands to reach Tokyo. With current computers, they can predict whether the tsunami would hit Tokyo in about two hours. With the controversial new supercomputer, it could be predicted in just two minutes.

Most of the exhibits are bilingual, and they have a website in English with details about how to get there and opening times at: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nb20091217a3.html

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