Archives: September 2008

Sento-kun’s creator auctions bronze sculpture

29 Sep 2008

Bronze Sento-kun statue by Yabuuchi Satoshi --

Sculptor Satoshi Yabuuchi is auctioning a limited-edition bronze statue of Sento-kun, the popular but controversial official mascot he designed for the Commemorative Events of the 1,300th Anniversary of the Nara-Heijokyo Capital (the upcoming festival marking 1,300 years since Nara's establishment as Japan's capital in 710 AD). The current bid on this 30.5-cm tall sculpture -- one of only 130 created -- is 185,000 yen ($1,750).

[Via: Yahoo! Auctions]

For rent: Reversible Destiny Lofts (w/ video)

26 Sep 2008

Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, In Memory of Helen Keller --

To NY-based architect-poets and "reversible destiny" philosophers Arakawa & Gins, comfort deserves only a limited role in the home. In their vision, a home that keeps its inhabitants young and healthy should provide perpetual challenges. A tentative relationship with your environment, they argue, is key to "reversing the downhill course of human life."

This video takes a peek inside their Reversible Destiny Lofts in the Mitaka area of western Tokyo. Designed to stimulate the senses and force inhabitants to use balance, physical strength and imagination, the lofts feature uneven floors, oddly positioned power switches and outlets, walls and surfaces painted a dizzying array of colors, a tiny exit to the balcony, a transparent shower room, irregularly shaped curtainless windows, and more.

Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, In Memory of Helen Keller --

Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, In Memory of Helen Keller -- Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, In Memory of Helen Keller --

Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, In Memory of Helen Keller --

Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, In Memory of Helen Keller --

Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, In Memory of Helen Keller --

For the adventurous, two rental units are now available for 220,000 and 250,000 yen ($2,000/$2,400) per month, which is a bit pricey for Tokyo, but not outrageous. Short-term stays can also be arranged.

Mad cow sound check

25 Sep 2008

Sound check for mad cow disease -- As Japanese consumers become ever more "fussy" over food safety issues, there is a growing demand for technology that improves food quality. To ease the minds of health-conscious meat-eaters, researchers at Japan's National Institute of Animal Health (NIAH) have developed a convenient method for identifying cattle infected with mad cow disease, simply by measuring the brain waves they produce in response to audio stimuli.

To develop and test the new method, the researchers infected 11 healthy cows with mad cow disease and observed the onset of symptoms and changes in brain activity. Mad cow disease (a.k.a. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE) is a fatal infectious disease that affects the central nervous system of cattle (and humans), turning the brain into a sponge-like substance. Symptoms of the disease include loss of muscle control, inability to stand or walk properly, agitation, and red eyes.

Approximately 24 months after infection, the 11 test cows began to exhibit the typical physical signs of BSE. However, at around 22 months after infection -- before the physical symptoms became evident -- the researchers discovered that the brains of the infected cows had a delayed reaction to sound. In all 11 mad cows, the brain waves elicited in response to audio stimuli were a few tenths of a millisecond slower than in healthy cows.

The researchers believe the acoustic nerves responsible for transmitting sound impulses to the brain became damaged as the disease progressed, resulting in a delayed response time. By using a device that measures this delay, ranchers can identify mad cows in their herds, the researchers suggest.

While the newly developed method is still less accurate than conventional lab testing of brain samples taken from carcasses, it does make it easier to detect possible infection at an early stage, before outward signs of the disease appear.

The researchers, who plan to study the data further and improve the accuracy of the test, eventually hope to develop a portable version of the device.

[Source: Mainichi]

Murata Seiko-chan robot rides unicycle

24 Sep 2008

*Updated with video:

Electronic parts maker Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd., creators of the popular Murata Seisaku-kun (a.k.a. "Murata Boy") robot bicyclist, have developed a self-balancing robot unicyclist named "Murata Seiko-chan," it was announced on September 23.

MurataSeiko-chan (Murata Girl) robot rides unicycle --

The 50-centimeter (20 in) tall, 5-kilogram (11 lb) Seiko-chan -- which Murata says is modeled after a female kindergartener -- features a pair of gyro sensors that detect her posture angle. A single wheel moves the robot forward and back, and a rotating flywheel in the chest helps turn the unicycle left and right and maintain balance. In addition to ultrasonic sensors that detect and measure the distance to potential obstacles, Seiko-chan is equipped with built-in Bluetooth capabilities and an embedded camera that transmits live video.

According to Murata's press release, Seiko-chan is described as Seisaku-kun's younger paternal cousin. Born in Shiga prefecture on September 23 (and thus a Virgo), the "active but very shy" robot enjoys practicing her unicycle skills in the park. Her dream is to cycle the world with Seisaku-kun.

In her first public appearance, Seiko-chan will ride alongside Seisaku-kun at Japan's upcoming CEATEC trade show.

(Video of cousin Seisaku-kun demonstrating his bicycling skills)

[Source: Nikkei]

TETRA erasers

20 Sep 2008

Tetra erasers --

These TETRA erasers spotted at the recent Good Design Expo in Tokyo are the perfect editing tool for pencil-pushing tetrapod enthusiasts. Produced by Sun-Star Stationery Co., Ltd., the shapely erasers come in 9 colors and are available at stores like Tokyu Hands for 120 yen (about $1) a pop. Pile them on your desk to inspire daydreams of the beach in Japan.

Tetra erasers --

Rice rebranded with ‘moe’

19 Sep 2008

Moe rice bag --

Bad news for rice in Japan -- the recent tainted rice scandal has dulled the public's appetite for the staple, and kids these days are consuming less than ever. In an attempt to revive interest in the grain, agricultural cooperative JA Ugo (based in Ugo, Akita prefecture) is enlisting the help of a sweet, doe-eyed anime rice farmer girl.

Designed by eroge illustrator Aoi Nishimata, the original moe character will appear on 10,000 bags of locally grown "Akitakomachi" rice, which will go on sale September 22. Some Tokyo department stores have reportedly said the bags seem out of place on their shelves, but JA Ugo believes young people will embrace the design. The moe rice will undoubtedly sell well, provided it's free from mold and pesticide.

In recent weeks, consumers have been shocked to learn that moldy rice tainted with the pesticide methamidophos was served to thousands of people at schools, day-care centers and nursing homes and included in a variety of commercial food products. The tainted rice was originally imported from China for use as a raw material in industrial products such as glue, but was instead distributed as food. There have been no reports of people getting sick from the tainted rice.

[Source: Asahi // Image: Aoi Nishimata]

Man charged with dumping silicone girlfriend

17 Sep 2008

Silicon sex doll dumped in woods --

Breaking up is hard to do, and few know this better than a lifelike sex doll owner who Shizuoka police have charged with illegal dumping.

On August 21, the 60-year-old unemployed resident of Izu (Shizuoka prefecture) wrapped his 1.7-meter tall, 50-kilogram silicone girlfriend in a sleeping bag, drove to a remote wooded area, and dumped her. A nice, clean break, he thought.

But nearly two weeks later, on September 1, a couple alerted police after discovering what appeared to be a corpse while walking their dog. The body had been wrapped in a bag and bound around the neck, waist and ankles. A head of black hair protruded from one end of the bag.

Police retrieved the body and immediately launched a criminal investigation. But several hours later, when forensic pathologists began to unwrap the "corpse" to perform the post-mortem, they realized it was actually a state-of-the-art sex doll. Seeing themselves as victims of a malicious prank, the authorities vowed to track down the perpetrator and charge him with interfering with police business.

The incident quickly captured the attention of the national (and international) press. After seeing the news reports, the culprit realized the trouble he had caused and contacted police on September 6.

According to investigators, the man had lived with the sophisticated doll for several years after his wife passed away, but decided to part with her after making plans to move in with one of his children. "It seems he grew attached to the doll over the years," said the chief investigator. "He was confused about how to get rid of her. He thought it would be cruel to cut her up into pieces and throw her out with the trash, so he proceeded to dump her illegally."

The man, who regrets his lifelike doll was mistaken for a corpse, now faces fines for violating Japan's Waste Management Law.

[Source: ZAKZAK, Yomiuri]

Hei Helsinki

09 Sep 2008

Nokia --

Pink Tentacle is hitting the skies this week to participate in the 2008 Nokia Open Lab workshop in Helsinki, Finland, where dozens of selected bloggers and social media participants from across the globe will converge to discuss the future of mobile technology. Topics on the agenda include the future of content creation, location aware solutions, entertainment, and the use of emerging technologies in working life. Sounds intriguing.

Give me a shout if you'd like to stay up to date on the happenings. Or if you know Helsinki, what do you recommend for a taste of the town?

‘Anata to wa chigau n desu’

04 Sep 2008

Anata to wa chigaun desu --

Anata to wa chigau n desu ("I am different from you"). In the few short days since Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda uttered these words to a pesky reporter after his shock resignation, Japan has witnessed the birth of a new buzz phrase online.

At the end of the press conference following Fukuda's resignation, a Chugoku Shimbun reporter told the Prime Minister that many people thought he often seemed detached when he spoke, almost as if the problems facing Japan were none of his business. The reporter suggested that Fukuda also sounded distant in his resignation announcement and asked what impact he thought his sudden resignation (which comes just one year after previous Prime Minister Abe suddenly resigned) would have on the country. Seemingly perturbed, Fukuda fired back at the reporter: "You said I sounded detached, but I am able to see myself objectively. I'm different from you."

Fukuda's jarringly out-of-character words came as an awkward exclamation point to his resignation and threw some people for an extra loop. The phrase has been percolating for days on 2-channel, where dozens of popular threads with the words "anata to wa chigau n desu" (??????????) in the title have been posted, many containing Fukuda-inspired ASCII art.

Anata to ha chigau --

I'm not like you --

I'm different from you --

I'm different than you --

Anata to wa chigau --

The Asobit City otaku department store in Akihabara is cashing in on the buzz, too. A sidewalk display for what appears to be some sort of "Sayonara Fukuda Sale" features a stack of Fukuda-themed sweets. The subheading on the poster reads: "I'm different from you."

Anata to wa chigau n desu --

Anata to wa chigau n desu --

Anata to wa chigau n desu --

Club T is also jumping on the bandwagon with a line of Fukuda resignation memorabilia that includes T-shirts, coffee mugs, caps and more imprinted with the popular phrase.

Anata to wa chigau n desu --

[Sources: Akiba Blog, IT Media, FG]