Posts tagged ‘japanese’

Robot Love

With the amount of texting, blogging and Twittering inundating our lives, you’d think we’d be socially filled to the rim. Yet, more than ever our lonely souls long for real companionship.

That’s why scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology came up with Paro, the robotic seal. He’s a 6-pound pup who nods, blinks and squeals like the real thing, or at least what you’d imagine the real thing to do. Cat and dog robots are so commonplace that there’s a high expectation of what they can do. Marine animals, on the other hand, capture the imagination.

Retirement home residents in Japan have welcomed Paro with open arms, passing him around the table to say ‘hi,’ stroke his head and occasionally sneak a kiss on the nose. Old people love him because he keeps them smiling yet won’t knock them to the ground.

And now, Japan is sending Paro to U.S. retirement homes to help stimulate the minds of those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, autism and other mental diseases. At $5,000, he’s no dime-store plush toy. But if he can compel a dementia patient to remember his name the following day then I’d say he’s worth his weight in gold. (^_^)

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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July 8, 2008 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

100 Cards in 1

Back in August 2007, I wrote about Japan’s increasingly impressive electronic-cash cards. In Japan, with a quick swipe of a Pasmo or nanaco card, you can pay for public transportation on railways and buses, as well as a startling variety of retail (ranging in quality from 7-Eleven to high-end department stores). Unlike with credit cards, there are no monthly payments, late fees or carry-over, because the cards are bought and re-upped in advance. They seem to work just about everywhere.

Since August, more advances have been made that boggle my mind. Now you can truly have your entire life — including the key to your apartment – on a single electronic card.

Tokyu Security has come up with a whole new variety of add-ons to the popular Pasmo cards, such as GPS tracking, which has the dual (and slightly creepy) ability of tracking children or employees (!). Perhaps best of all, Pasmo cards can offer a way out of the “missing keys syndrome” that affects so many of us. New apartment complexes will be outfitted with Pasmo access points, both into the building, and into individual’s homes.

But that’s not all. According to Reuters,
“Japan’s finance ministry has already given permission to an age-identifying smart card called ‘taspo’ and a system that can read the age from driving licenses.” People trying to buy cigarettes from vending machines will have to prove that they’re 20 (the legal age in Japan) before the transaction will work. I always wondered about the legality of those beer and cigarette vending machines.

So okay, if you’re a smoker, you’ll have to carry two cards around. Everyone else will make do with one.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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July 3, 2008 at 10:16 am Leave a comment

Meet Japan’s Newest Singing Sensation!

Purity is big in Japan. Take sumo for example: When wrestlers step into the sacred ring they sprinkle down salt as a symbol of purification. Women aren’t even allowed into the ring because their monthly menstrual cycle deems them impure. In 2000, a mayor was banned from an opening ceremony just for being female. She didn’t go without a fight at least.

Ethnic pride is another idealization of purity. So much so that in the ’60s when the first Hawaiian wrestlers showed up, purists were slinging mud in their face, telling them to go home. Other Japanese pastimes – martial arts, kabuki and sushi-making among them – faced similar conflicts. But these days as the old guard dies out and the reality of a shrinking talent pool seeps in, people are warming up to new ideas.

Enter Jero, Japan’s first black enka (folk) singer. He has the voice of a songbird and it’s accent-free. You’d never know the 23-year-old flew in from Pittsburgh. Most enka singers are in their silver years and croon about unrequited love, forbidden trysts and falling snow. Jero sings about the same only he prefaces it with hip-hop.

Japanese audiences seem to like him; awe-struck by his voice and amused by his urbanization of ‘old-fogey’ music. Though just how ‘urban’ is he? That’s the question. He’s ¼ Japanese and grew up listening to enka with his Japanese grandmother. His mannerisms are very Japanese and he speaks nearly like a native. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was his manager’s idea to outfit him in baggy jeans and a skull-cap just to raise sales.

It’ll be interesting to see how long Jero lasts because, in his case at least, true talent outweighs gimmick. The old school population just needs to stay open to new things. Then maybe, just like Hawaiian sumo wrestlers, he’ll push past the stares and snide remarks and take the helm as Japan’s newest grand champ.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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June 3, 2008 at 12:11 pm Leave a comment

Japanese Game Shows Kick Butt!

So what’s the talk around the water cooler this week? At my office it’s about a Japanese iron-man competition that sends athletes running and jumping through obstacle courses so backbreaking I get bruises just thinking about it.

“Ninja Warrior” airs locally on G4 TV and like “American Gladiators” it comes with a cash prize at the end of the sweat-drenched tunnel. But in lieu of WrestleMania dramatics, “Ninja Warrior” (titled “Sasuke” in Japan) sets a more organic stage between man and nature — that is, nature carved into uncertain ramps, dangling ropes and a murky moat for the defeated. To me, the obstacles are far more interesting than any joust battle. My favorite is when the competitor clings onto a giant rolling pin as it goes spinning down a steep rail. A slip in concentration and the home-viewing audience collectively screams, “Ouch!”

The top prize for “American Gladiators” is a cool $100-grand. For “Ninja Warrior,” a mere $34K. So rather than for fortune and glory, Japanese competitors do it for a pat on the back.

Remember the movie “The Running Man”? Well, Japan has its own game show version called “Tosochu” but instead of ex-cons it’s B-list celebs running and hiding from men in black – marathon runners and professional athletes, in real life – for cash prizes. Within an hour’s limit, the longer they go without getting caught the more they win. They’re equipped with cell phones for group tasks, but other than that it’s each man for himself. There’s no blood-spillage like in the movie, but it still keeps you on the edge of your seat. Imagine a chubby Japanese girl screaming her head off when she spots a black suit in dark glasses only half a block away. Then imagine 100 caged suits suddenly let loose onto the course. I’d peeing in my pants if I saw them coming my way.

There’s no limit to the imagination when it comes to Japanese shows, so it’s nice to see them slowly trickling into the U.S. The American version of “Tosochu” will be airing on the Sci-Fi channel sometime soon. I can’t wait. (^D^)/

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 20, 2008 at 9:50 am 4 comments

All the News That’s Fit to Print

Since the late ’90s, Americans have looked to the Internet for news that may have been ignored by traditional media. After online portal The Drudge Report published a rumor about President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (a rumor that Newsweek initially declined to write about) in 1998, Matt Drudge became famous. Independent journalism has been around a lot longer than the web, of course, but the sheer number of blogs, aggregate news sites and online-only journals (like Salon and Slate) have changed the way we perceive and process our news.

In South Korea in 2000, a site called OhMyNews was created by Oh Yeon Ho. Established as an alternative to mainstream newspapers, it was a huge hit among the would-be citizen journalist set and even helped change the course of an election. But when the company tried to open a similar site in Japan, they were met with resistance.

In Japan, everyday citizens aren’t as motivated to take the news into their own hands. According to the Japan Times, many Japanese don’t have the time or inclination to do research, conduct interviews or volunteer for writing positions that pay little if anything (citizen journalism isn’t known for big bucks). Also, they “are shy of using their real names.” In contrast, anonymous forums and message boards are hugely popular in Japan.
Lastly, “in Japan people basically believe what they read in the papers and see on the news,” so the impetus to strike out on one’s own to learn “the truth” isn’t really there.

Still, there are a few Japanese websites that encourage amateur journalists to bring smaller or little-known stories to light, such as JanJan and PJ News (“public journalists deliver daily news”), which works in conjunction with livedoor, a Japanese ISP. Who knows? Maybe a writer at one of those sites will break the biggest news story of the year…

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 9, 2008 at 9:50 am Leave a comment

Jewelry Designer Yoshi Beautifully Combines Japanese and U.S. Style

Last week I was excited to sit down with jewelry designer Yoshi, a warm, creative and stylish Japanese woman who has made a name for herself in Japan and recently decided to introduce her work to an American audience. Though pearls might be considered her signature stone, she also uses diamonds, rubies, sapphires and gold (pink, yellow and white), sometimes combined with amber, onyx or jade, to invoke color and light.

Yoshi grew up in Tokyo, but came to the U.S. to develop her new career and receive a degree in gemology from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America. She also studied English and history at UCLA. Now she lives in Santa Monica, California, but frequently travels back to Japan, where people are delighted by her shock of blonde hair and beautiful accessories. In fact, people constantly approach her to ask where she got her jewelry.

On the day I met Yoshi, she was wearing a dark silver pearl necklace over a crisp white blouse, a black jacket with black velvet flower prints on the collar, red-framed glasses and to-die-for rings (one diamond, one black jade and cat’s eye). I wanted to steal every item!
Yoshi loves combining U.S. and Japanese cultures in one outfit. When she worked in Beverly Hills as a beauty consultant, she would wear the top half of a kimono and discard the bottom half.

Each of her designs is exclusive and personal. If you bring her an heirloom, she can even arrange it into a fresh piece. She meets with clients one-on-one to determine what type and style of jewelry works best for them individually.

“In Japan,” she laughs, “they tell me to decide for them! So I usually bring them three choices and let them choose. In the U.S., they usually have some idea of what they’re looking for.” She has a quick, keen ability to match people with jewelry that complements their looks and personalities.

Bringing Maki-e Back

Yoshi has updated maki-e jewelry while keeping what defines it — the exquisitely detailed and delicate style — in tact. Maki-e is unique to Japan and has been around since the Nara Period (710 –794).On top of lacquer, artists paint with gold, silver or platinum dust to create colorful, eye-catching images. Traditionally seen on bowls, Buddhist altars, etc., the use and ownership of these luxury items were limited to Court Nobles and Samurai. Today you can find maki-e on watches, fountain pens, beautiful plates and more, and with Yoshi’s innovations you can wear the style as a necklace.

Yoshi, who loves to challenge herself, sought out maki-e makers in Japan and added her own personal touch: small, diamond-encrusted frames and simple but beautiful chains.
She is dedicated to using only the highest quality materials and will travel the world to find them. Some of her stones are cut in Idar-Oberstein, the gem capital of Germany.

With Yoshi’s designs, you get the best of traditional Japanese artwork merged with modern elegance. Two cultures and styles join together to create jewelry that is special and one-of-a-kind — just like Yoshi herself.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 1, 2008 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

Do’s and Don’ts of Going Green

I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t read it with my own eyes. Starting this month, the Japanese pro baseball league will cut playing time by 12 minutes in an effort to save the world.

Now, I’m an earth-friendly gal – I recycle grocery bags and never brush with the tap running – but cutting a baseball game by a few minutes to save energy?! On the extreme, it’s like opting to stay in bed all day just to spend less. Cutting the Japanese work day by 12 minutes seems a little more conciliatory, if only to spare new hires from their dreaded boss. “Uh sorry, can’t create that Power Point presentation now. Gotta go home and turn off the lights.” Revealing enough, at the end of the article, the writer casually mentions that Japanese baseball has long been looking for ways to speed up the game pace.

Here’s a far more ingenious way of going green: Atop skyscrapers in Tokyo’s Roppongi district owners have grown their own eco-oasis: rice paddies, lush vegetable gardens, and fish ponds. It’s hard to imagine but, yes, they’ve laid grass over concrete rooftops in hopes of offsetting costs to cool the buildings in the summertime. Of course, vegetation also produces oxygen, and for that matter, food.

Roppongi garden

Like Los Angeles, Tokyo is an asphalt-dense city. There are too many shades of grey to feel like you’re one with nature. That’s why I got really excited when I spotted these rooftop gardens from my hotel balcony in Roppongi a couple years ago. There really are ways to meld industry and the environment into something amazing. (^_^)/

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 1, 2008 at 5:46 pm Leave a comment

Better Than a Shoebox Greeting

I remember a few years back when witty greeting cards came into circulation, breathing new life into the age-old exchange. There was a Hallmark shop down the street and I loved to plop myself in the aisle browsing through each card for a good belly laugh or two. Heck, it was cheaper than an Archie comic.

But now in the Internet era, it must be hard to sell a tangible token of sympathy or even a belated birthday wish. These days, few are willing to spend $3.50 on a Christmas card when they can just mass-email their holiday greeting.

So leave it up to the Japanese to find ways to keep the card industry going. The pop-up cards I get from friends throughout the year never fail to entertain me:

 

card1.jpg

As you open and close the card these little Santas sway side-to-side, and the guys on the sleigh fly over the roof. It’s as if they’re really moving! (Though maybe the spiked eggnog made me see things. =P)

card2.jpg

 

This card shows a scene at a Japanese summer festival. In the foreground is a pool of goldfish. It’s a game kids play where they’re given a scooper made of a thin sheet of tissue. The object is to scoop out a fish before the tissue breaks. To the left are masks, usually of popular anime characters. And to the right is a recreation of colorful water balloons tied to rubber bands. It’s Japan’s version of a yo-yo. The detail on this card back a lot of good memories.

 

card3.jpg

And then there’s this card from my last “over the hill” birthday. You know, when I turned 18. (tee-hee) It might not be apparent what it is but basically there’s a plastic Cupie doll attached. Open the card and you’ll find he’s got on a parachute. So after you’re done with the card you can pull him out and play with him.

It’s the most random thing ever. But that’s why I love Japanese cards. (^D^)/

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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March 24, 2008 at 8:50 am Leave a comment

A Town Named Obama

The presidential race heated up last week between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But as the days go by, Obama is building momentum as the younger, more charming senator who promises to lead the country toward “real change”.

Thousands of miles away, a Japanese fishing town is hoping he’ll come through. With a meager population of 32,000, the city of Obama (meaning “small seashore”) is rooting for their namesake, not because they enjoy universal healthcare, but because publicity for the Illinois senator lends attention their way.

More than most U.S. citizens themselves, Obama dwellers have been active participants in this year’s campaigning, following state primaries, wearing Obama tees, and covering wall-space with “I *heart* Obama” posters. And then there’s the red bean cakes printed with an anime-style mug of the senator. It sure beats bumper stickers.

Though Mayor Toshio Murakami admits that it wasn’t until Senator Obama started picking up pace when the city became an active supporter. He figures 8-10 odds in his favor.

Last year, the mayor expressed his support, searching for Obama’s address online and mailing over a pair of lacquer chopsticks, one of the city’s regional products. Next, he’s sending a good luck charm (“omamori”) from the local shrine. No doubt, if Senator Obama were to actually respond with a “thank you,” the mayor will extend a grand tour of the fishing town. And if that should come about all eyes will be on Obama, both person and place.

Now if only there was a town in China named Clinton.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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March 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm 1 comment

Violets are Blue, and Roses are…Too? Franken-rose in 2009

Known more for its whisky than its flower development, the Japanese company Suntory Ltd. nevertheless scored a major coup in the floral world in 2004 by creating genetically modified blue roses. Since then, the Australian scientists who work for Suntory have perfected the hitherto elusive flowers and feel the time has come to unleash these freaks of nature — er, beautiful creations — on the romantics of the world. The roses are slated to go on sale in Japan in 2009, reports Inventor Spot. Other countries are sure to follow.

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According to Chinese folklore, a blue rose signifies hope against unattainable love, and Wikipedia says that blue roses signify “mystery or attaining the impossible” (probably because blue roses, are, well, impossible in nature).

So how the heck did scientists accomplish this feat?

Apparently, they found a way to “turn off” certain rose genes and replace them with genes from pansies. These allow the rose’s blue pigments to become synthesized. (I don’t get it, either.)

To be honest, this sort of genetic tampering creeps me out. Nature already provides us with such an amazing variety of flowers that it seems strange to spend time and money creating something that, to me, looks fake. (Even the name of the company, Florigene, is a bit too sci-fi for my taste.)

Commenters on Inventor Spot’s story are remarking that the flowers look lilac, not blue, which is a good point. But all the nitpickers who want a darker shade or truer blue can still go with white roses dyed blue at places like Blue Rose Florist or they can wait until the Australian scientists unveil variations on the color, as they’re expected to do in years to come.

Regardless, next Valentine’s Day you’ll have the option to think blue, not red!

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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March 6, 2008 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

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