Posts filed under ‘Japanese Entertainment’

Mixi to the Rescue?

How many logins and passwords for websites do you have to keep track of? Just off the top of my head I can think of ten…It’s enough to drive me insane trying to remember them, or even to remember to use them (MySpace, I’m talking to you). Sometimes less is more. Ditto with the platform and style; Craigslist is famously bare-bones but effective. Leaving out the bells and whistles on a website can be a wise move if it means delivering what people truly want all in one place.

Mixi, Japan’s most popular social networking site, combines aspects of MySpace, Craigslist, Facebook, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Amazon and iTunes. According to the Washington Post, Mixi grabs 15 million users and 14 billion page hits per month. 1 in 5 Japanese people with Internet access are members.

Bulletin boards,job opportunities and blogging are the three main draws, but there are also music plug-ins and DVD / book reviews that link to places where you can purchase the products immediately. Unlike MySpace, where you are expected to constantly update the look and style of your personal page, on Mixi there is no way to alter the design or coding, and anonymity is preferred (forget about plastering your personal info out there for all the world to see). Membership is restricted to invitation from current users only — much like Gmail used to be — and users must be 18, as well provide a Japanese cell phone contact number. For these reasons, Mixi will probably remain insular and never catch on outside Japan.

If could pare down my logins and passwords to one each, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Then again, the grass is always greener: “Mixi Fatigue” is already on the rise…

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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August 8, 2008 at 12:19 pm 1 comment

For Your Bookshelf: Japanamerica by Roland Kelts

Journalist and novelist Roland Kelts’ book, Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S., is a well-presented and easy-to-read guide, perfect for anyone who’s ever wondered: “What is Pikachu, anyway?” It helps if you’re familiar with popular Japanese artists like Haruki Murakami and Takashi Murakami (both of whom are interviewed) and anime, but it’s by no means a requirement to enjoy the book.


Born to a Japanese mother and an American father, Kelts was raised in the U.S. but spent several of his adult years living in Tokyo and Osaka and still has close friends and relatives there. He’s in the perfect position to interpret the cultural cross-pollination taking place between the two countries.

His book focuses on Japan’s influence on America in the modern era (from World War II onward), as seen in virtually every aspect of life, including films, books, food, TV, toys, games, cars, and of course animation. It’s not that Japan has changed its style; rather, Americans have come to appreciate what was there all along. Kelts believes that after 9/11, Americans became hungry for the sincerity and lack of irony presented in Japanese cartoons.

Surprisingly, Kelts reports, the global popularity of Japanese animation hasn’t made very many people in Japan wealthy. This is because the concepts of copyright and intellectual property were not widely understood there until recently. When animated films or TV shows come to America, the Japanese creators don’t always realize they need to hold onto the rights in order to see a profit from all the off-shoot products. As a result, the distributors wind up with the lion’s share of revenue.

Another interesting tidbit: according to Japanamerica, Americans are more than partly to blame for Japan’s otaku culture. Several interviewees immersed in otaku lifestyle said the concept for cosplay (costumed interaction) originated with American Star Trek fans. Ahh, Trekkies: the ultimate nerds.

One complaint about the book: the section on “mature comics” doesn’t dig deep enough. I wanted Kelts to provide more analysis on the topic of contradictions, because western people have a hard time reconciling what can appear to be a dichotomy within Japanese culture: the existence of violent and explicit manga in a society with an extremely low crime rate. The context is important, and I wanted to learn more about how and why Japan has integrated seemingly opposite attributes and allowed them both to thrive.

If Kelts writes an update to Japanamerica in the next decade, that would be a great topic to explore further.

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 18, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Beating the Heat

Japan gets nasty-hot in the summer. It’s the kind of heat that wakes you up at night, soaking your shirt in a most embarrassing way. It’s the kind of heat that makes you wanna live in an igloo. During the summer I’d remove any piece of furniture that bumped up the thermometer even one degree. So out went the fridge, computer and feather blanket. They stayed in the kitchen until winter.

At night, I set aside fear of robbers and kept ajar the sliding balcony door. Then over the course of eight hours I slowly edged my way outside where by morning I was in the company of curious birds coming to poop on me.

These days it’s much easier to stay cool. How bout an icy gel mattress? Or doggie-shaped feet coolers? Take a look for yourself:




I found these items on the Tokyu Hands website. It’s one of my favorite department stores in Japan because they sell useful household goods both creative and cute. For the ice mattress (~$150) all you have to do is place it under your fitted sheet. The pillow costs an extra $50. The feet coolers are only $12. Wrap the elastic band around the arch of your foot and watch as it cools down your body. For a quick fix, try the ‘cool skin bar’ for just under 10 bucks. Glide it onto your skin for a nice cooling sensation.

Unlike on the U.S. west coast, Japan’s heat is humid and sticky. So you can emerge from the shower and five minutes later need another one. It’s the most uncomfortable thing for those with overactive glands. On the other hand, the heat is a godsend if you suffer from chapped lips. Nothing stays dry in Japan.



By far, my favorite product for beating the heat is Biore’s ‘sara-sara‘ (soft and smooth) powder sheet pack. The moist sheet is coated with scented antiperspirant powder. Wipe it over troublesome parts of your body and you’ll magically stop sweating. Though the one drawback is that if someone tries kissing you on the cheek, they’ll be utterly grossed out because you’ll taste bitter. No one said antiperspirant tasted good.

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 15, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Robotech: The Movie — Brought To You By… A Bunch Of Oscar Contenders?

An intriguing (or bizarre) confluence of respected Hollywood bigwigs have joined forces to create a new, live-action film version of “Robotech.”


Tobey Maguire (Spiderman) and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind; everything Will Smith does) are set to produce, with Lawrence Kasdan attached to write the movie for Warner Brothers. Kasdan is best known for The Empire Strikes Back (arguably the only well-written episode of the Star Wars trilogy) and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but his resume doesn’t end there. He also wrote the yuppie masterpiece The Big Chill and Kevin Costner’s version of Wyatt Earp.

Based on three separate, unrelated Japanese anime series (with awesome names like The Super Dimension Fortress Macross), “Robotech” was a sci-fi cartoon in the 1980s that ran for 85 episodes and spawned countless sequels, novelizations, role-playing games and DC comic adaptations, some of which fanboys and fangirls would like to strike from the record as non-canon. The American TV show used re-edited footage from the Japanese original and dubbed in English-speaking voices. I wonder if there were any translation debacles a la “All your base are belong to us”.

In previous Japanese-to-American adaptations, such as “Speed Racer,” the subject matter was occasionally censored or toned down to better appeal to children, but Robotech tried to incorporate mature themes and action. According to Wikipedia, its popularity led to an increased interest in anime that can be felt to this day.

Here’s what you need to know about the plot: It’s the future, and giant robots have been constructed from alien technology that crashed in the South Pacific. When earth is invaded, mankind must use the robots to protect and defend themselves. Ultimately, two young pilots (gee, do you think one of them will be Tobey Maguire?) are tasked with saving humanity. Look for “Robotech” in theaters in 2010.

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 11, 2008 at 1:11 pm

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

The Doctor is in the House!

Recently I’ve been watching a Japanese drama about a girl who receives an android boyfriend in the mail. He’s the ideal man, programmed to cook dinner and shower her with presents. She eventually develops a soft spot for him, despite knowing he could never be her real boyfriend.

So what happens if you find yourself falling for a robot? What’s to bring you back to reality and the fact that you could never bear his children? Well, the simplest thing to do is listen to his heart. Literally.


I recently bought a stethoscope set at a Japanese bookstore. (I broke my previous one.) This new edition by Nippon Jitsugyo Publishing not only comes with a book but a CD, guiding you through ways to use your new toy. Put it on and you’ll hear all kinds of strange noises in your body, especially after downing a Big Mac and Coke.

There’s a growing market for educational toys in Japan, especially now that the government can legally penalize companies who let their employees’ waistline stretch beyond limits — past 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women. It’s an effort to combat the rising cost of public health care, so companies are not only required to keep track of their employees’ health but prescribe a diet regimen if things should get out of hand. Imagine attempting that in the U.S.; let’s say, charging a $1 fine for every extra pound. People would be up in arms. Flabby arms.

Using a stethoscope might seem like child’s play but there’s a lot of important things to listen to in that body cavity of yours. The other day my doctor was listening to my heart and thought he heard a murmur. Luckily, it wasn’t. And if you should ever find yourself with an amazingly sweet boyfriend, be sure to use your stethoscope on him, too. If his heart sounds more like a ticking clock, you’ll know it was too good to be true. (@_@)

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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July 1, 2008 at 10:18 am

Tricks Aren’t Just for Kids

emember that thumb-separating trick you did when you were a kid? If you tried it today, your friends would probably kick you in the crotch (Am I the only one with violent friends?). But do it in Japan and you might actually get people OOH-ing and AHH-ing in amazement.

Quick, visual gags go a long way in Japan. And now they’ve gone high-tech. Imagine yourself coaxed into going to the beer garden with the boss after work. You’re a 21-year-old new recruit and he’s a grumbling 65-year-old with whom you have nothing in common. You have no idea what to talk to him about. So what do you do? Take out your iPhone and entertain him this:

It’s called iBeer and it’s one of many silly applications created for Apple’s iPod/iPhone line. When my brother in Japan told me how happy he was to finally get his iTouch last October (iPhone is set for release on July 11), I knew it was the start of a new trend. He quickly downloaded iBeer and started showing his friends how many he could chug without getting drunk. And then came others: iBug (a potato beetle runs around your screen), iWash (a bikini girl squeegees your screen), iWater (you get the idea), iPopcorn, iX-ray…

Then recently a Japanese guy created iPong:

I’m assuming it’s not just a visual trick and that it’s using the Touch’s built-in Wi-Fi to bounce around all three screens. The application’s creator, Kondo-san, only programmed for one ball to be used, but in the future he’ll offer more balls to create havoc on the screen. It looks like fun and opens the mind to other possibilities with this kind of technology.

Americans might underestimate the demand for utterly inane forms of entertainment like this in Japan. But believe me, whether you’re out with coworkers or new friends, mindless distractions are a necessary form of social lubrication. Very seldom are Japanese (that I know at least) keen on getting into impassioned talks about personal views. Unless you really know the person you keep the conversation light. Very light. So after exhausting all discussion points on today’s weather, what do you do? Take out your iPod of course, and have a beer! (^_^)/

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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June 24, 2008 at 10:50 am

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