Archives: October 2009

18th-century ‘Hyakki Yako’ scroll (for sale)

20 Oct 2009

Hyakki Yako scroll --

An 18th-century picture scroll featuring a procession of Japanese demons and monsters is for sale on eBay. This 11.25 meter (37 ft) long work depicts the Hyakki Yakō (lit. "Night Parade of One Hundred Demons") -- a deadly parade of demons and yōkai (traditional monsters) that, according to Japanese folklore, would often take place on summer nights. The Hyakki Yakō was a popular theme in Japanese visual art during the Edo period, and portrayals of these processions, while frightening, often incorporated a sense of humor. Here are a few images of the scroll, which is currently priced at $15,000.

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

Hyakki Yako scroll --

See more images and details on the eBay page for this item.

[Thanks, Darren!]

Tiësto & Sneaky Sound System – I Will Be Here

20 Oct 2009

The Tokyo cityscape becomes the ultimate light show in this video for "I Will Be Here," the recent collaboration single by Dutch DJ Tiësto and Australian dance music group Sneaky Sound System. Directed by Masashi Muto.


+ Video

Saya does Takashimaya

19 Oct 2009

Saya robot receptionist at Takashimaya --
Humanoid robot Saya works reception at Takashimaya main entrance [+]

Saya, a female humanoid robot that can recognize and respond to human speech, spent the past several days working as a receptionist at the prestigious Takashimaya department store in Tokyo's Nihonbashi district.

Saya robot receptionist at Takashimaya --
Saya dressed in Takashimaya uniform [+]

Developed in 2004 by professor Hiroshi Kobayashi of the Tokyo University of Science, the speech-capable robot can provide about 700 programmed responses to questions and commands -- enough to direct customers to the appropriate floor, make small talk, and answer a few basic questions about herself and her background.

Saya robot receptionist at Takashimaya --
A customer asks Saya a question [+]

Pneumatic actuators in Saya's head allow her to move her neck, mouth and eyes while she speaks. She can produce facial expressions ranging from happiness and surprise to sadness and anger.

Saya robot receptionist at Takashimaya --
A peek behind the counter [+]

During her stint at Takashimaya from October 14 to 18, Saya dressed like her human co-workers in a Takashimaya receptionist uniform. She also wore makeup by RMK (view a close-up). Curious shoppers seemed amused by her presence, and many stopped at the reception counter to ask questions and chat.

Saya robot receptionist at Takashimaya --
A shopper tells Saya she is pretty [+]

Although she responded appropriately most of the time, the cyber-receptionist occasionally seemed to misunderstand what people said. For example, one person complimented Saya by saying, "You are pretty," but the robot flashed a look of disdain and responded with, "Are you crazy?"

Saya robot receptionist at Takashimaya --
"Are you crazy?" [+]

Saya grabbed headlines earlier this year when she took on a side job as a substitute teacher at a Tokyo elementary school.

Anatomy of Japanese folk monsters

14 Oct 2009

Yōkai Daizukai, an illustrated guide to yōkai authored by manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, features a collection of cutaway diagrams showing the anatomy of 85 traditional monsters from Japanese folklore (which also appear in Mizuki's GeGeGe no Kitarō anime/manga). Here are a few illustrations from the book.

Kurokamikiri anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Kuro-kamikiri [+]

The Kuro-kamikiri ("black hair cutter") is a large, black-haired creature that sneaks up on women in the street at night and surreptitiously cuts off their hair. Anatomical features include a brain wired for stealth and trickery, razor-sharp claws, a long, coiling tongue covered in tiny hair-grabbing spines, and a sac for storing sleeping powder used to knock out victims. The digestive system includes an organ that produces a hair-dissolving fluid, as well as an organ with finger-like projections that thump the sides of the intestines to aid digestion.

Makuragaeshi anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Makura-gaeshi [+]

The Makura-gaeshi ("pillow-mover") is a soul-stealing prankster known for moving pillows around while people sleep. The creature is invisible to adults and can only be seen by children. Anatomical features include an organ for storing souls stolen from children, another for converting the souls to energy and supplying it to the rest of the body, and a pouch containing magical sand that puts people to sleep when it gets in the eyes. In addition, the monster has two brains -- one for devising pranks, and one for creating rainbow-colored light that it emits through its eyes.

Dorotabo anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Doro-ta-bō [+]

The Doro-ta-bō ("muddy rice field man"), a monster found in muddy rice fields, is said to be the restless spirit of a hard-working farmer whose lazy son sold his land after he died. The monster is often heard yelling, "Give me back my rice field!" Anatomical features include a gelatinous lower body that merges into the earth, a 'mud sac' that draws nourishment from the soil, lungs that allow the creature to breathe when buried, and an organ that converts the Doro-ta-bō's resentment into energy that heats up his muddy spit. One eyeball remains hidden under the skin until the monster encounters the owner of the rice field, at which time the eye emerges and emits a strange, disorienting light.

Hyosube anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Hyōsube [+]

The Hyōsube, a child-sized river monster (a relative of the kappa) from Kyushu that lives in underwater caves, ventures onto land at night to eat rice plants. The monster has a relatively small brain, a nervous system specialized in detecting the presence of humans, thick rubbery skin, sharp claws, two small stomachs (one for rice grains and one for fish), a large sac for storing surplus food, and two large oxygen sacs for emergency use. A pair of rotating bone coils produce an illness-inducing bacteria that the monster sprinkles on unsuspecting humans.

Yanagi-babaa anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Yanagi-baba [+]

Yanagi-baba ("willow witch") is the spirit of 1,000-year-old willow tree. Anatomical features include long, green hair resembling leafy willow branches, wrinkled bark-like skin, a stomach that supplies nourishment directly to the tree roots, a sac for storing tree sap, and a cane cut from the wood of the old tree. Although Yanagi-baba is relatively harmless, she is known to harass passersby by snatching umbrellas into her hair, blowing fog out through her nose, and spitting tree sap.

Mannendake anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Mannen-dake [+]

The Mannen-dake ("10,000-year bamboo") is a bamboo-like monster that feeds on the souls of lost travelers camping in the woods. Anatomical features include a series of tubes that produce air that causes travelers to lose their way, syringe-like fingers the monster inserts into victims to suck out their souls, and a sac that holds the stolen souls.

Fukurosage anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Fukuro-sage [+]

The Fukuro-sage -- a type of tanuki (raccoon dog) found in Nagano prefecture and Shikoku -- has the ability to shapeshift into a sake bottle, which is typically seen rolling down sloping streets. The bottle may pose a danger to people who try to follow it downhill, as it may lead them off a cliff or into a ditch. The Fukuro-sage usually wears a large potato leaf or fern leaf on its head and carries a bag made from human skin. The bag contains a bottle of poison sake. Anatomical features include a stomach that turns food into sake, a sac for storing poison that it mixes into drinks, and a pouch that holds sake lees. The Fukuro-sage's urine has a powerful smell that can disorient humans and render insects and small animals unconscious.

Ka-sha anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Kasha [+]

Kasha, a messenger of hell, is a fiery monster known for causing typhoons at funerals. Anatomical features include powerful lungs for generating typhoon-force winds that can lift coffins and carry the deceased away, as well as a nose for sniffing out funerals, a tongue that can detect wind direction, and a pouch containing ice from hell. To create rain, the Kasha spits chunks of this ice through its curtain of perpetual fire.

Bishagatsuku anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Bisha-ga-tsuku [+]

The Bisha-ga-tsuku is a soul-stealing creature encountered on dark snowy nights in northern Japan. The monster -- which maintains a body temperature of -150 degrees Celsius -- is constantly hidden behind a fog of condensation, but its presence can be detected by the characteristic wet, slushy sound ("bisha-bisha") it makes. Anatomical features include feelers that inhale human souls and cold air, a sac for storing the sounds of beating human hearts, and a brain that emits a fear-inducing aura. The Bisha-ga-tsuku reproduces by combining the stolen human souls with the cold air it inhales.

Kijimuna anatomical illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Daizukai --
Kijimunaa [+]

The Kijimunaa is a playful forest sprite inhabiting the tops of Okinawan banyan trees. Anatomical features include eye sockets equipped with ball bearings that enable the eyeballs to spin freely, strong teeth for devouring crabs and ripping out the eyeballs of fish (a favorite snack), a coat of fur made from tree fibers, and a nervous system adapted for carrying out pranks. The Kijimunaa's brain contains vivid memories of being captured by an octopus -- the only thing it fears and hates.

[Source: Shigeru Mizuki's Yōkai Daizukai, 2004]

+ See also: Kaiju anatomical drawings

Concept cars at Tokyo Motor Show 2009

08 Oct 2009

In recent days, Japan's major automakers have been releasing details about the concept cars they plan to unveil at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, which will be held from October 24 to November 4, 2009 at Makuhari Messe near Tokyo. Environmental friendliness appears to be the common theme.

* * * * *

- Toyota FT-EV II

Toyota will debut the FT-EV II, an ultra-compact electric vehicle.

Toyota FT-EV II concept at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Toyota FT-EV II

With a range of 90 kilometers (56 mi) and a top speed of around 100 kph (62 mph), the FT-EV II -- which stands for "Future Toyota Electric Vehicle II" -- is designed for short-distance urban driving.

Toyota FT-EV2 concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Toyota FT-EV II [+]

Despite the vehicle's tiny size, there is seating for four inside. The designers were able to free up interior space by removing items found in traditional vehicles, such as the brake and acceleration pedals, which have been replaced by joystick controls. Other features include a dye-sensitized solar panel, electric sliding doors, and a retro-futuristic interior.

Toyota FT-EV II concept at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Toyota FT-EV II

By incorporating a variety of communications functions into the dashboard, Toyota aims to demonstrate how the electric vehicle might function as a powerful information device in the networked society of the future.

Toyota FT-EV II concept at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Toyota FT-EV II

In addition to connecting with navigation services, the FT-EV II can download music and movie content, make recommendations tailored to individual preferences, and communicate with the driver's home network, thus allowing the driver cruise the information superhighway while tooling around town. [More]

Toyota FTEV2 concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Toyota FT-EV II [+]

* * * * *

- Mazda Kiyora

Mazda Kiyora concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Mazda Kiyora [+]

Mazda plans to exhibit an updated version of the Kiyora, a compact and lightweight concept car first unveiled in 2008.

Mazda Kiyora concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Mazda Kiyora [+]

Equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission, the new Kiyora is powered by a fuel-efficient 1.3-liter gasoline engine that gets up to 75 mpg with the help of regenerative braking, advanced aerodynamics and a system that shuts the engine off at stops. [More]

Mazda Kiyora concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Mazda Kiyora [+]

* * * * *

- Honda Skydeck

Honda will debut the Skydeck concept, a six-passenger hybrid minivan featuring a strikingly odd combination of doors.

Honda Skydeck concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Honda Skydeck [+]

The Skydeck is equipped with scissor doors up front and a sliding door on the side.

Honda Skydeck concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Honda Skydeck [+]

Other features include an all-glass roof, translucent green wheels, and a minimalist interior with center-mounted floating seats.

Honda Skydeck concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Honda Skydeck [+]

* * * * *

- Honda EV-N

Honda EV-N concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Honda EV-N [+]

Honda's EV-N concept, which looks like a 21st-century version of the classic Honda N600 of the late 60s and early 70s, has a solar roof that charges the battery-powered motor, interchangeable seat fabrics, and a car-to-car communications system in the front bumper.

Honda EV-N concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Honda EV-N [+]

The passenger-side door includes space for storing a Honda U3-X personal mobility vehicle. [More]

Concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Honda U3-X personal mobility unit fits into the passenger-side door [+]

The 10-kilogram (22-lb) U3-X is a self-balancing unicycle equipped with Honda's state-of-the-art omni-directional wheel system.

Honda U3-X at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Honda U3-X personal mobility unit [+]

Using the latest in balancing technology obtained from Honda's ASIMO robot, the U3-X is capable of detecting slight changes in weight shift and adjusting its directional path accordingly. By leaning, the rider can steer the U3-X forward, backward, side-to-side and diagonally, as seen in the video below.

* * * * *

- Honda CR-Z

Although Honda still calls it a concept car, the CR-Z hybrid hatchback is slated for production early next year in Japan.

Honda CR-Z concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Honda CR-Z [+]

The two-seater is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and has a six-speed manual transmission. [More]

Honda CR-Z concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Honda CR-Z [+]

* * * * *

- Nissan Land Glider

Nissan Land Glider concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Nissan Land Glider [+]

Nissan plans to debut the Land Glider, an ultra-compact, ultra-lightweight EV concept car for urban mobility.

Nissan Land Glider concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Nissan Land Glider [+]

This fully electric two-seater has a narrow body designed to help reduce traffic congestion and make it easier to find a parking space.

Nissan Land Glider concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Nissan Land Glider [+]

Inside the cockpit, the driver sits front and center behind a futuristic-looking instrument panel and a steering wheel that resembles a pair of joysticks.

Nissan Land Glider concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Nissan Land Glider [+]

With the ability to lean into turns like a motorcycle, the Land Glider can handle tight curves with ease, as seen in the video below. [More]

* * * * *

- Nissan Qazana

Nissan will also exhibit the Qazana concept car, a compact four-seater that made its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2009.

Nissan Land Glider concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Nissan Qazana [+]

Designed for tough city streets, the all-wheel drive Qazana crossover is masculine, agile, lean and intelligent.

Nissan Land Glider concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Nissan Qazana [+]

The five-door compact crossover combines sporty driving with environmental performance, and its exterior and interior are inspired by dune buggies and motorcycles.

Nissan Land Glider concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Nissan Qazana [+]

Inside, the framework of the seats and doors is partially exposed for an unfinished look, and the center console is designed to resemble a motorcycle fuel tank and seat. [More]

Nissan Land Glider concept car at Tokyo Motor Show 2009 --
Nissan Qazana [+]

* * * * *

- Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept

Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept [+]

Billed as an environmentally-friendly grand touring car, the Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept is a four-passenger hybrid vehicle equipped with gullwing doors for a sense of openness.

Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept [+]

During normal driving, the all-wheel drive Hybrid Tourer is powered by a 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged gasoline engine. The vehicle's two electric motors are used for low-speed driving and recharging the lithium-ion batteries, and for providing an boost when extra acceleration is needed. [More]

Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept [+]

* * * * *

- Mitsubishi PX-MiEV

Mitsubishi plans to exhibit the PX-MiEV concept, a plug-in hybrid crossover loaded with features designed to boost fuel efficiency and safety.

Mitsubishi PX-MiEV concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Mitsubishi PX-MiEV [+]

The PX-MiEV's front and rear wheels are powered by two permanent magnet synchronous motors, while a 1.6-liter gasoline engine powers the front wheels and works as a generator. The vehicle's smart control system automatically switches between the various driving modes depending on the vehicle speed, battery level, and road conditions.

Mitsubishi PX-MiEV concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Mitsubishi PX-MiEV [+]

A 3-way battery charging system allows the vehicle to be charged using either a 100-volt or a 200-volt domestic supply, or a high-power quick-charging station. In addition to powering the motors, the battery can also supply electricity to user's home during the daytime when domestic power consumption is highest, and it can be used used as an emergency power source in the event of a natural disaster. Devices can also be plugged into the vehicle's 100-volt AC auxiliary socket in the rear luggage compartment.

The PX-MiEV uses heat reflective glass and paint for a cool interior. Each of the four seats is equipped with an individual air conditioner, while a negative-ion aroma humidifier and oxygen enricher improve the comfort level and reduce fatigue.

Mitsubishi PX-MiEV concept car at Tokyo Motor Show, 2009 --
Mitsubishi PX-MiEV [+]

Safety features include a monitor that displays a composite image of the vehicle's immediate surroundings, as well as a driver monitoring system that uses a camera to detect drowsy eyes. If the system detects a lapse in concentration, the driver is alerted by a series of attention-getting lights, sounds, vibrations, and smells. [More]

Video: HRP-4C robot sings with Vocaloid voice

07 Oct 2009

Outfitted with Yamaha's Vocaloid singing voice synthesizer software, the HRP-4C female fashion model humanoid robot developed by AIST earlier this year has been entertaining CEATEC Japan visitors with renditions of popular songs.


+ Video

In this video, HRP-4C sings a rendition of Hitoto Yo's "Hanamizuki."

Photos: CEATEC Japan 2009

07 Oct 2009

Hundreds of companies have gathered to showcase their latest technology at CEATEC Japan 2009, the largest consumer electronics trade show in Asia, which is being held at Makuhari Messe near Tokyo until October 10. Here are a few photos from the event.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
Nissan EPORO robots [+]

Nissan stole the show with their demonstration of the EPORO robot concept car, which travels in groups and is designed to avoid obstacles and collisions by mimicking the behavior of fish. [More]

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
NTT DoCoMo's eye-controlled music player [+]

NTT DoCoMo showcased a set of earphones that enable the wearer to control a music player simply by shifting his or her eyes. Electrodes embedded in the earphones detect the subtle changes in eye movement.

CEATEC Japan 2009 -- CEATEC Japan 2009 --
TOUCH WOOD: Front [+] // Back [+]

NTT DoCoMo's TOUCH WOOD prototype handset is made from the surplus wood of trees culled during forest-thinning operations. [More]

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
A model wears special glasses to promote Sony's 3D Full HDTV displays [+]

Sony's booth featured a variety of new 3D Full HDTV displays, and the accompanying presentation starred a pair of models wearing special 3D glasses.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
A model wears special glasses to promote Sony's 3D Full HDTV displays [+]

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
Vaio concept [+]

Sony also displayed a few concept items incorporating their flexible display technology, such as this future Vaio notebook.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
Panasonic 3D Full HDTV PDP [+]

Panasonic exhibited their latest 3D display technology, which includes 50" 3D Full HDTV plasma displays.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
Sekai Camera [+]

Sekai Camera, an augmented reality social tagging application for the iPhone, was on display at the Yamaha booth. [More]

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
Squid robot 1 [+]

Representatives from Hakodate showcased a pair of squid robots designed to attract attention to their area. The robots are part of an unorthodox campaign that includes some entertaining tourism promotion videos. [More]

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
Squid robot 2 [+]

Fujitsu exhibited a selection of interesting concept phones submitted by participants in the mobile phone design competition.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
F-Circle: Fujitsu concept phone [+]

The F-Circle phone, designed by Yuji Ito, has a "timeless" appearance that departs from the typical rectangular mobile shape.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
FOLD-A-PHONE: Fujitsu concept phone [+]

Designed by Hanna Sahlen and Sachiko Munakata, the FOLD-A-PHONE is a paper-thin handset that can be folded into a compact shape. The design was inspired by the "Miura-fold" origami method.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
chamelephone: Fujitsu concept phone [+]

The chamelephone, designed by Hiroyuki Tabuchi, has a body that changes its appearance to match the texture of the surface it is placed on.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
KAORA: Fujitsu concept phone [+]

Designed by Wataru Igarashi, the KAORA concept features a curved design that can assume various configurations to suit different uses.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
Amoeba Phone: Fujitsu concept phone [+]

The Amoeba Phone (designed by Kwak Yeon), whose entire surface is a touchscreen, has a concave shape designed to fit the user's face when they are talking on the phone.

CEATEC Japan 2009 --
Sento-kun [+]

Sento-kun, the official mascot character for next year's Commemorative Events of the 1,300th Anniversary of the Nara-Heijokyo Capital, was on hand to promote investment in Nara prefecture.

Tarako Kewpie is back

04 Oct 2009

Tarako Kewpie is at it again with a new pasta sauce commercial.


+ Video

Ig Nobel Prize: Panda poo power

02 Oct 2009

Researchers from Kitasato University in Tokyo have been awarded this year's Ig Nobel Biology Prize for demonstrating a method to reduce kitchen waste by more than 90% by using bacteria derived from Giant Panda excrement.

Giant Panda --

Professor Fumiaki Taguchi, who shares the prize with fellow researchers Song Guofu and Zhang Guanglei (both from the Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences), began the project in 1998 after suspecting panda feces must contain bacteria capable of breaking down even the hardiest of foods because of the bear's vast consumption of bamboo.

Found in only a handful of areas in mainland China, the Giant Panda has a diet which is 99% bamboo. The rare and exotic animal, which can weigh as much 150 kilograms (330 lbs), feeds on 25 varieties of bamboo and consumes as much as 9 to 14 kilograms (20 to 30 lbs) per day.

After identifying some 270 different microorganisms in panda dung obtained from Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, the researchers isolated five types of bacteria that were the most efficient at breaking down proteins and fats and that could reproduce easily even under high heat.

In one experiment, the researchers mixed the bacteria with 70 to 100 kilograms (lbs) of raw garbage, including vegetable stems, potatoes (raw and fried) and fish remains, and placed it in an industrial waste disposal machine. Seventeen weeks later, only 3 kilograms (6.6 lbs) of waste remained, while the rest had turned to water and carbon dioxide. With a digestive rate of up to 96%, the bacteria from panda excrement is significantly more effective than most commercial disposal bacteria, which has a digestive rate of around 80%.

In 2003, Taguchi also claimed it was possible to harvest about 100 liters (26 gallons) of hydrogen gas for every kilogram (2.2 lbs) of waste treated with panda poo. At the time, he was exploring the possibility of integrating a hydrogen fuel cell into a waste disposal unit to sell to food processing companies in Japan.

Interestingly, Taguchi is not the first Japanese scientist to receive an Ig Nobel Prize for excrement-themed research. In 2007, researcher Mayu Yamamoto won the chemistry prize for developing a method for extracting vanillin an ingredient in vanilla fragrance and flavoring from cow dung.

Taguchi is the 13th Japanese person to receive an Ig Nobel Prize since the awards were established in 1991. Previous prize-winning achievements from Japan include the invention of karaoke, which received the Peace Prize, and the Tamagotchi, which received the Economics Prize.

The annual Ig Nobel Prizes are meant to honor scientific achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think, according to the founders at science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

[Links: Improbable Research, Abstract (2001), ABC (2003)]