Archives: November 2009

Photos: International Robot Exhibition 2009

25 Nov 2009

Hundreds of robots have gathered at the International Robot Exhibition (IREX) now underway at Tokyo Big Sight. Here are a few photos from the event, which runs until November 28.

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Yaskawa Electric Corporation displayed a variety of Motoman industrial robots able to perform tasks ranging from menial factory work to synchronized swordplay.

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Taizo, a clown-like assistant trainer robot by General Robotix, encouraged passersby to do stretching exercises.

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IREX 2009 --
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Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru) exhibited their AV-T3 autonomous cargo transport robot.

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IREX 2009 --
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Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru) also showcased their autonomous floor cleaning robot (developed jointly with Sumitomo), which was recognized as Robot of the Year in 2006.

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Neko-Tencho, a cat robot developed by RT, danced with its naked skeleton.

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The Manoi PF01 and AT01 athlete humanoids relaxed on a table at the Kyosho booth.

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Figla exhibited an interactive robot (prototype) with remote camera.

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An Actroid was on hand at Kokoro's booth to demonstrate new camera-based face mimicking technology.

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IREX 2009 --
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TOPIO, a ping pong playing robot by TOSY (Vietnam), waited for a worthy opponent.

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IREX 2009 --
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The iRobi home robot by Yujin (Korea) can monitor the home, provide weather information and news, respond to voice commands, and entertain the kids with songs.

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IREX 2009 --
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NT Research (Korea) demonstrated their RAMeX humanoid with tele-operated arms and hands.

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An intelligent building guide robot with arms, speech capabilities, and face/voice recognition skills was on display at the "Premium Korea" booth.

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Alderbaran Robotics (France) exhibited Nao, a fully-programmable autonomous humanoid.

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NEC's display included the Papero-mini tele-collaboration robot, which lacks the AI brain of its big brother and functions as a home videoconferencing tool.

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Fujitsu's Enon robot received some minor adjustments at the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) booth.

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NEDO also exhibited a Muratec receptionist robot.

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A mini-humanoid blended into the crowd.

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CMC Technology Development Co., Ltd. exhibited Robockle, a collision avoidance robot loaded with an array of CMCTD's sensors.

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Kawada Industries demonstrated their NEXTAGE next-generation industrial robot.

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They also exhibited their HIRO humanoid upper body for R&D purposes.

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Saya, a receptionist robot, was on display at the Kobayashi Laboratory (University of Tokyo) booth.

Video: 8-bit ‘Thriller’

24 Nov 2009

As a tribute to Michael Jackson, Japanese chiptune pioneer Saitone has released an 8-bit version of "Thriller."


+ Video

Watch the full live version here.

[Link: Hear Japan]

Mechani-Kong and Dr. Who’s secret pyramid base

20 Nov 2009

In 1967, Shōnen Magazine published a set of illustrations detailing the secret weapons of Dr. Who, an evil scientist bent on capturing King Kong who regularly appeared in "The King Kong Show," a popular animated series on Japanese and US television at the time (not related to the British "Doctor Who").

Mechanikong of Dr. Who --
[View full image]

"Death Battle with Robot Kong," an illustration by Takashi Minamimura, features a cutaway diagram of Robot Kong, also known as "Mechani-Kong" in the US version of the cartoon and in the 1967 spin-off film "King Kong Escapes." Built to defeat King Kong, the 50-meter tall remote-control robot is powered by a 200,000-kilowatt nuclear reactor and can shoot laser beams from its eyes and poison gas from its nose.

Mechanikong of evil Dr. Who -- Mechanikong of evil Dr. Who --

The accompanying text describes Dr. Who's sinister plans to capture King Kong, place a mind-control helmet on his head, and use him to hijack ships and rob banks. He estimates King Kong can carry about 100 million yen in cash in his giant paws.

Secret pyramid base of evil Dr. Who --
[View full image]

Appearing in the same issue of Shōnen Magazine is a schematic illustration by Takayoshi Mizuki entitled "Secret Pyramid Base," which shows Dr. Who's secret base inside one of the Giza pyramids in Egypt.

Secret pyramid base of Dr. Who --

The pyramid is equipped with advanced military hardware, including 3D radar, jet launchers, recoilless guns, flamethrowers, rocket launchers, and military tanks that burrow underground. Dr. Who monitors all the action from a wall of TV screens in his room at the center of the pyramid. The base is powered by a nuclear reactor in the basement and surrounded by giant ant-lion sand traps.

Secret pyramid base of evil Dr. Who --

Situated nearby is a giant nuclear-powered Sphinx Tank. King Kong battles a variation of this weaponized Sphinx in an episode of "The King Kong Show." (Watch "The Jinx of the Sphinx.")

The diabolical Dr. Who and Mechani-Kong also appear in the 1967 film "King Kong Escapes," which was an adaptation of some of the cartoon episodes.

King Kong Escapes --

In the film, King Kong is captured and hypnotized by Dr. Who, but he eventually snaps out of it and escapes to Tokyo. Dr. Who sends Mechani-Kong after him, and the two end up in a battle to the death atop Tokyo Tower.


+ King Kong Escapes - US trailer

[Images via: 昭和の雑誌広告・懐かしモノ]

Top 60 Japanese words/phrases of 2009

16 Nov 2009

Publisher Jiyu Kokuminsha has released its annual list of the 60 most popular Japanese expressions of the year. The words and phrases (listed below in no particular order) reflect some of the major trends, events, and people that captured the attention of the Japanese mass media in 2009. Included are plenty of references to Japan's recent political shake-up, the ailing economy, and the blurring of traditional gender roles. From this list, a panel of judges will select the 10 trendiest Japanese expressions of 2009 and announce the results in early December.

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UPDATE (Dec 2, 2009): The top 10 most popular words/phrases of 2009:

1. Regime change (see #1 below)
2. Child store manager (see #56 below)
3. Sorting out operations (see #40 below)
4. New flu (see #30 below)
5. Herbivorous men (see #4 below)
6. De-bureaucratization (see #28 below)
7. Temp worker cutbacks (see #20 below)
8. Fast fashion (see #7 below)
9. Complaints (see #45 below)
10. History girls (see #60 below)

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1. Regime change [seiken kōtai - 政権交代]: The landslide election victory of the Democratic Party of Japan brought an abrupt end to 54 years of Liberal Democratic Party rule. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has promised a host of political and economic reforms and may open a new era in foreign and security policy. [More]

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2. The Alien [uchūjin - 宇宙人]: Because of his quirky hairstyle, prominent eyes, and eccentric manner, Prime Minister Hatoyama is known by his supporters and opposition as "The Alien," a nickname his wife says he earned because of how different he is from old-style Japanese politicians.

Hatoyama sable cookie box --
Box of Hatoyama Sable Cookies on sale at Tokyo Station

In his book Seicho no Genkai ni Manabu (Learning from the Limits of Growth) published in 2000, Hatoyama claims he is happy to be called an alien. "All humans are aliens. We are earthlings, and at the same time, we are aliens, one existing part in the universe," Hatoyama writes. "As a human being, I think it is very important to go beyond the bounds of global awareness into universal consciousness." [More]

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3. "...to Venus in a UFO" [UFO de kinsei ni - UFOで金星に]: Colorful first lady Miyuki Hatoyama drew worldwide attention with her claim to have traveled to Venus aboard a UFO. Her account first appeared in a book entitled "Most Bizarre Things I’ve Encountered," which features interviews with prominent people about unusual experiences. “While my body was sleeping, I think my spirit flew on a triangular-shaped UFO to Venus,” she said. “It was an extremely beautiful place and was very green.” [More]

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4. Herbivorous men [sōshoku danshi - 草食男子]: Coined in 2006 by author Maki Fukasawa, this term refers to an emerging breed of man whose passive nature stands in stark contrast to conventional notions of masculinity. Typically in his 20s or 30s, the herbivore doesn't earn much money, spends little, takes a keen interest in fashion and his personal appearance, and does not aggressively pursue "flesh" (i.e. romance and sex). Friendly and home-oriented, he tends to favor cosmetics over deluxe cars and would rather eat sweets at home than treat his girlfriend to dinner at a fancy restaurant. [More]

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5. Herbivorous/carnivorous [sōshoku-kei/nikushoku-kei - 草食系/肉食系]: Where the herbivorous man is passive, the so-called "carnivorous woman" is aggressive. The words "herbivorous" and "carnivorous" have come to denote one's level of passiveness or aggressiveness, particularly with respect to sex and romance.

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6. Nogyaru [nogyaru - ノギャル]: Nogyaru -- a combination of the words nōgyō (agriculture) and gyaru (gal) -- is the name of a rice-farming project started by young Shibuya gal entrepreneur Shiho Fujita.

Nogal, Shibuya rice --

The crops are grown in Akita prefecture with the help of Shibuya gals and marketed under the brand name "Shibuya Rice." [More]

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7. Fast fashion [ファストファッション]: The weak economy appears to have impacted Japan's fashion world by pushing consumers toward the cheaper end of the market. A "fast fashion" boom has erupted in Tokyo's trend-setting Harajuku area, where a crowd of cheap chic European and US retailers such as H&M, Forever 21, Topshop, Zara, and Gap are now competing in close proximity to one another. [More]

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8. 990-yen jeans [990円ジーンズ]: Fast Retailing, which operates the Uniqlo casual fashion chain, attracted attention in March when it began selling blue jeans for a surprisingly cheap 990 yen (about $11) at its g.u. stores. In addition to driving up sales at g.u., the bargain jeans touched off a denim price war as competitors slashed prices in response. [More]

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9. 25% reduction [25% sakugen - 25%削減]: At a climate change symposium in Tokyo in September, Prime Minister Hatoyama pledged big cuts in Japan's greenhouse gas emissions, saying he will aim for a 25% reduction by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. [More]

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10. State-run manga cafe [kokuei manga kissa - 国営マンガ喫茶]: In April, the government fast-tracked plans to construct an 11.7 billion yen ($130 million) National Center for Media Arts -- a museum for manga, anime, video games, and other technology-based art.

National manga cafe --
Illustration of proposed "state-run manga cafe"

In a debate with the now former Prime Minister Taro Aso, new Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama criticized the planned facility as a waste of taxpayer money, referring to it mockingly as a "state-run manga cafe." After assuming office, Prime Minister Hatoyama put a halt to the project. [More]

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11. Eco-car tax breaks [eco-kaa genzei - エコカー減税]: In April, the government began offering consumers a series of tax breaks and subsidies designed to encourage more eco-friendly car purchases. Under the scheme, consumers who buy new electric, hybrid and clean diesel cars are exempted from automobile acquisition and weight taxes, and those who purchase gasoline-fueled cars that meet certain fuel efficiency and emissions criteria are entitled to a 50% to 75% tax reduction. In addition, subsidies of up to 250,000 yen ($2,700) are available to people replacing older vehicles with eco-friendly cars that meet certain criteria. [More]

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12. Eco-points [エコポイント]: To stimulate consumption and promote the use of energy-efficient home appliances, the government set up a massive subsidy program based on eco-points, a type of currency that consumers earn by purchasing government-designated air conditioners, refrigerators and TVs. Accumulated eco-points can later be used toward the purchase of other goods. [More]

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13. 1000-yen expressways [sen-en kōsoku - 1000円高速]: To help stimulate the economy, the government reduced the maximum toll for passenger cars on expressways across most of Japan to 1,000 yen ($11) for unlimited distances on weekends and national holidays. [More]

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14. Convenience store medical treatment [conbini jushin - コンビニ受診]: This expression refers to a growing problem in which patients with busy schedules seek minor medical attention at hospitals during off-hours, when only the emergency room facilities are available. By popping into the hospital late at night as if it were a 24-hour convenience store, these patients end up placing undue strain on emergency room facilities.

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15. Change [チェンジ]: Echoes of Obama's mantra of "change" could be heard during this year's historic general election in Japan.

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16. Ozawa girls [小沢ガールズ]: The Democratic Party of Japan's landslide election victory in August brought 26 new female members -- many of them young and attractive -- to the legislature. Japanese reporters and political commentators have nicknamed these women the "Ozawa girls" after former party boss Ichiro Ozawa, who spearheaded the campaign.

Ozawa girls --

A few of the more well-known Ozawa girls include Kayoko Isogai (a 43-year-old unemployed woman), Mieko Tanaka (a former sex-industry reporter who has appeared in provocative photo spreads and starred in the erotic horror cult flick "Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf"), Ai Aoki (a former late-night television reporter), and Eriko Fukuda (a 28-year-old activist who became famous by leading a high-profile legal battle against the government after contracting hepatitis from a tainted blood transfusion).


+ Scene from "Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf," starring Mieko Tanaka

Opponents have criticized the DPJ for recruiting unqualified female candidates who they say will never actually be given the power to make important decisions. Party leaders have dismissed the criticism. [More]

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17. Supplementary income payments [teigaku kyūfukin - 定額給付金]: To help stimulate spending in the sluggish economy, the government offered supplementary income payments to the residents of Japan. Payments amounted to 12,000 yen ($130) per person (20,000 yen, or $180, for children and seniors). [More]

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18. Life-sized Gundam [jitsubutsudai gandamu - 実物大ガンダム]: For a few weeks this summer, an 18-meter-tall "life-sized" Gundam statue was erected in Tokyo's Shiokaze Park to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the "Mobile Suit Gundam" animated television series and to draw attention to Tokyo's bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Odaiba Gundam at sunset --

Over a million people are estimated to have visited the statue while it was on display. [More]

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19. Poverty [hinkon - 貧困]: According to a recent survey by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, nearly one in six Japanese people are living in poverty -- one of the highest rates in the developed world. [More]

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20. Temp worker cutbacks [haken-giri - 派遣切り]: When struggling companies are forced to make cuts, temp workers are among the first to lose their jobs.

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21. Temp Workers' New Year Village [toshikoshi haken mura - 年越し派遣村]: To draw attention to the plight of Japan's haken-giri poor, a group of 20 organizations set up a temporary emergency camp in Hibiya Park next to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare building. From December 31, 2008 to January 5, 2009, the village provided meals and sleeping facilities to the needy, as well as recreational events and entertainment to help ring in the New Year. [More]

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22. Housing poor [housing poor - ハウジングプア]: Japan's social safety net has come under increasing criticism for its inability to handle the growing ranks of people at risk of becoming homeless. Particularly vulnerable are people in their 20s and 30s who live in company-provided housing. When these workers lose their jobs, they often end up sleeping in Internet cafes and restaurants before ending up on the streets. [More]

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23. Zero/zero apartments [zero zero bukken - ゼロゼロ物件]: Rental properties requiring zero security deposit and zero "key money" are an attractive option for young people on a budget. However, the unfair practices of some zero/zero apartment agents -- particularly with respect to the way late payments are handled -- have come to light, resulting in a series of legal battles. Tokyo-based zero/zero agent "Smile Service" has been accused of barging into tenants' apartments in the middle of the night to demand money, charging outrageous penalty fees, changing the locks and confiscating belongings, even when rental payments were a day late.

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24. Sexy buchō [sekushii buchō - セクスィー部長]: Sexy Buchō ("department chief") is a popular character with humorously exaggerated masculine sex appeal who appears in skits on the NHK sketch-comedy show "Salaryman NEO."

Sexy bucho --
Sexy Buchō, played by actor Ikki Sawamura

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25. Home appliance entertainers [kaden geinin - 家電芸人]: Group discussions with famous comedian guests on the weekly late-night variety TV show "Ame Talk" sometimes revolve around the latest in consumer electronics and home appliances. The comedian guests participating in these episodes are referred to as "home appliance entertainers." Due to the show's popularity, various electronics makers have reported significant spikes in sales after their products were discussed.

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26. "Doll stand" entertainers [hinadan geinin - ひな壇芸人]: This expression refers to the small groups of comedians frequently seen on variety TV shows, who typically occupy a set of tiered seats (resembling a traditional hina-doll stand).

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27. Obama administration [Obama seiken - オバマ政権]: The Obama administration grabbed its fair share of headlines in Japan this year.

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28. De-bureaucratization [datsu kanryō - 脱官僚]: The new government has promised to break up the entrenched relationships between bureaucrats, big business and the LDP by decentralizing the bureaucracy and filling high-ranking civil-service posts with political appointments. [More]

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29. Donations from dead people [kojin kenkin - 故人献金]: This refers to a scandal in which dozens of people, including those deceased, were falsely listed as donors in political funding reports filed by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's fund-raising organization. In June, Hatoyama acknowledged that the bogus lists included 193 donations from 94 people, many of them dead, totaling 21.8 million yen ($240,000). The matter is still under investigation. [More]

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30. New flu [shingata infuruenza - 新型インフルエンザ]: About 6 million people in Japan have been infected with the new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 since early July. [More]

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31. Pandemic [パンデミック]: In June, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of H1N1 to be a pandemic. [More]

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32. 1Q84 [pronunciation - 日本語]: The first two volumes of 1Q84, a three-part novel by Haruki Murakami, were published in Japan in late May (the third volume is scheduled for release in summer 2010). The much-anticipated novel rocketed onto the best-seller list, selling out the first printing on the first day of release. Over two million copies were sold in the first six weeks of publication.

1Q84 --

1Q84 is described as a complex and surreal tale that touches on themes of murder, history, cult religion, violence, family ties and love. The title of the work is a reference to the year 1984, which the characters experience in an alternate reality. It is also a nod to Orwell's 1984, as the Japanese word for the number nine is pronounced "kyū." But unlike Orwell's 1984, which concerned the future, Murakami's 1Q84 approaches the year from the opposite direction, creating an alternate past. [More]

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33. Lay judge trials [saibanin saiban - 裁判員裁判]: Japan's new "lay jury system" -- which requires randomly selected citizens to participate as jurors in trials for certain serious crimes -- went into effect this year. In the first trial under the new system in August, lay jurors found 72-year-old Katsuyoshi Fuji guilty of stabbing to death his 66-year-old neighbor and sentenced him to 15 years in jail. [More]

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34. DNA evidence [DNA kantei - DNA鑑定]: In June, a Japanese man who spent over 17 years in jail for the murder of a four-year-old girl in 1990 was released after fresh DNA tests showed he was not the perpetrator. The 63-year-old man had been sentenced to life in jail after confessing to the crime, but he later retracted his confession, saying it was forced. The case has prompted fresh criticism of Japan's system of police interrogations, in which suspects can be detained and questioned for up to 23 days without the presence of a lawyer. [More]

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35. "It happens" [aru to omoimasu - あると思います]: "Aru to omoimasu" -- loosely translated as "it happens" -- is a line used by comedian Tenshin Kimura each time he finishes singing one of his humorously erotic shigin poems.

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36. Tuusu! [トゥース]: This is a popular greeting used by comedian Toshiaki Kasuga of the owarai duo Audrey. [More]

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37. Otomen [otomen - 乙男]: Otomen -- a play on the word "otome" (乙女), meaning "young lady" or "mistress," and the English word "men" -- is the title of a popular romantic comedy manga centered around a cool, masculine student who excels at martial arts but harbors a secret girlish love for sweets, cute things, cooking, shōjo manga, and sewing. [More]

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38. Pork-barrel politics [baramaki - ばらまき]: The Hatoyama government has pledged to put a stop to wasteful government spending.

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39. Yamba Dam [八ッ場ダム]: As promised during the campaign, the new government quickly halted construction of the $5.2 billion Yamba Dam in the town of Naganohara, north of Tokyo. Somewhat surprisingly, many residents opposed the government's decision to cancel the dam because they depend on the construction jobs and compensation payments for their livelihood (even though the dam would ultimately submerge their town under water). Halting the project is seen as a test of the Hatoyama government's ability to fulfill its promise to revitalize the economy and end Japan's addiction to massive, often wasteful, government-funded construction projects. [More]

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40. Sorting out operations [jigyō shiwake - 事業仕分け]: To eliminate wasteful government spending and trim the budget before next April, the new government is employing an innovative method of reassessment called jigyō shiwake (sorting out operations). Developed by Japan Initiative, a private-sector think tank, the jigyō shiwake method has been used for seven years to streamline budgets and boost efficiency at the local government level. These budget-cutting panels involve teams of government employees and outside evaluators -- called shiwake-nin -- who work together to prioritize government projects and services one by one. The teams assess the necessity of each service, decide whether to keep it or outsource it, and determine whether to change the scale of the service and the way it is provided. [More]

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41. Ashuraa [アシュラー]: In spring, a popular exhibit entitled “The National Treasure Ashura and Masterpieces from Kohfukuji” was held at the Tokyo National Museum. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a 8th-century statue of Ashura, a Buddhist deity.

Asura --

This exhibit attracted over 940,00 visitors -- the most ever for a Japanese art exhibit at the Tokyo National Museum. Female fans of this and other Ashura statues came to be known as "Ashuraa." [More]

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42. King of Pop [キング・オブ・ポップ]: Japanese fans of Michael Jackson mourned his death in June. [More]

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43. Flying object [hishōtai - 飛翔体]: Despite international appeals, North Korea proceeded with a long-publicized rocket launch on April 5. After the rocket passed over Japan and fell into the Pacific, the Japanese government issued a statement that read: "A short time ago a flying object appeared to have been launched from North Korea." A strong message of protest was delivered to North Korea following the incident. [More]

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44. World without nuclear weapons [kakunaki sekai - 核なき世界]: On April 5, just hours after North Korea launched a "flying object" over Japan, US President Barack Obama spoke in Prague and called for "a world without nuclear weapons."

Obama English books and CDs --
CDs of Obama's Prague speech, a popular English learning tool in Japan

In mid-November, after a summit meeting with Prime Minister Hatoyama in Tokyo, the two leaders issued a joint statement expressing their determination to realize a nuclear-free world and urge other nations to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their security strategies. [More]

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45. Complaints [boyaki - ぼやき]: Katsuya Nomura, 74-year-old manager of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles professional baseball team, attracted attention this year for his habit of voicing colorful complaints during post-game interviews. Nomura was replaced as manager by American baseballer Marty Brown after the season ended. [More]

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46. Mā-kun, child of god [maa-kun kami no ko - マー君神の子]: "Mā-kun" is the nickname of Masahiro Tanaka, a starting pitcher for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Manager Katsuya Nomura has called him "kami-no-ko" (child of god) for his remarkable ability to help the team win when he is in the lineup. [More]

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47. Players under development [ikusei senshu - 育成選手]: Under the new player development system adopted by the Nippon Professional Baseball League, teams with more than 65 contracted members can sign players to ikusei contracts and allow them to develop at the minor league level. [More]

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48. Samurai Japan [侍ジャパン]: Japan's national baseball team -- nicknamed "Samurai Japan" -- successfully defended their championship title at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. [More]

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49. Katsumaa [katsumaa - カツマー]: "Katsumaa" are fans of Kazuyo Katsuma, a charismatic businesswoman, working mother and author of several best-selling books that have sold millions of copies. She writes mostly about self-management, work-life balance, gender equality, and how women can achieve greater success. [More]

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50. Marriage hunting [konkatsu - å©šæ´»]: Konkatsu ("marriage hunting"), which refers to the desperate marriage quest activities among people in their 30s and 40s, was included in this same list of popular phrases last year. This year the phenomenon became the theme of a few TV dramas, such as Fuji TV's "Konkatsu!" about an out-of-work 30-something man whose family owns a tonkatsu (pork cutlet) restaurant. The character pretends to be married in order to obtain a city hall job devoted to reversing the town's declining birth rate. [More]

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51. Seeking divorce [rikatsu - 離活]: On the flip side of the konkatsu marriage-hunting phenomenon is rikatsu (divorce-seeking activities). The two phenomena became the theme of an 8-episode NHK comedy drama series entitled "Konkatsu Rikatsu" (Seeking Marriage, Seeking Divorce).

Konkatsu Rikatsu --

The story revolves around the desperate quests of two 40ish-year-old women rivals -- one who seeks marriage and one who seeks divorce. [More]

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52. Nori-P shock [nori pii shokku - のりピーショック]: Pop idol-turned-actress Noriko Sakai (a.k.a. Nori-P) shocked the celebrity world after she was busted for possessing and using stimulant drugs. [More]

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53. "Seaweed salt" incident [nori-shio jiken - のり塩事件]: Nori-shio (seaweed salt) is a play on the names of Noriko Sakai (nori - "seaweed") and singer/actor Manabu Oshio (shio - "salt"), both of whom were arrested on separate drug charges in early August. The celebrity drug arrests together came to be known as the "nori-shio incident."

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54. Aburi [aburi - あぶり]: Aburi, which ordinarily refers to the act of lightly roasting food, is street-slang for smoking amphetamines. Following her arrest in August, Noriko Sakai confessed to doing aburi with her husband.

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55. "I didn't want to come to this place" [konna tokoro kitou wa nakatta - こんなところ来とうはなかった]: This is a memorable line from the first episode of "Tenchijin," a 47-part weekly drama about the life of 16th-century samurai Naoe Kanetsugu, which aired on NHK from January 4 to November 22, 2009. The famous line belongs to the very upset 5-year-old Kanetsugu (known as "Yoroku" in his youth), who has been separated from his family and sent to a temple to be educated as a samurai. The young Kanetsugu is played by child actor Seishiro Kato. [More]

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56. Child store manager [kodomo tenchō - こども店長]: In addition to playing the boy samurai in "Tenchijin," child actor Seishiro Kato starred as a young store manager in a series of commercials for Toyota. [More]

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57. Silver Week [シルバーウィーク]: In the third week of September, Japan enjoyed a 5-day holiday due to the unusual occurrence of a weekend followed by three public holidays -- Respect for the Aged Day (third Monday in September), Autumnal Equinox Day (usually September 23, on Wednesday this year), and the "freebie" national holiday that occurs in between two holidays when spaced a day apart. This string of holidays came to be known as "Silver Week" in reference to the Golden Week holidays in April/May.

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58. Girl power [joshi-ryoku - 女子力]: The young women's fashion magazine (a la JJ and CanCam) version of "girl power" involves the skilled use of makeup, fashion and taste to boost one's self-image and feminine appeal.

* * * * *

59. Bento men [bentō danshi - 弁当男子]: A trend sparked by the recession is the rise of so-called "bento men" -- salarymen who prepare bento box lunches at home and take them to the office. According to a recent survey conducted by a Japanese bank, nearly 10% of Japanese salarymen now take homemade bentos to work to save money. [More]

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60. History girls [reki-jo - 歴女]: Japanese history -- particularly that of the Warring States period (mid-15th to early 17th century) -- has become a hot topic among many young women in Japan. Called reki-jo (history girls), these newfangled history buffs are reportedly flocking to important historical landmarks and buying up history books, magazines, and samurai-themed knickknacks.

Samurai undewear --
Rogin's "Oda Nobunaga" underwear sells for 9,240 yen ($100) a pair

Tokyo-based underwear manufacturer Rogin, which sales a line of samurai-themed underwear, has also reported consistently strong sales. About 80% of buyers are women, according to the company.

Researcher Tetsuaki Higashida of the Dentsu Communication Institute suggests history girls may be attracted to samurai for their powerful masculinity -- something many women may find lacking in their modern male counterparts. "Gender role reversals have been taking place, with men cooking and women playing golf," he says. "It's not unacceptable nowadays for women to take an interest in warlords, which used to be an area of interest reserved for men." [More]

Bra doubles as golf putting mat

11 Nov 2009

Lingerie maker Triumph International Japan has unveiled a new concept bra designed to appeal to the hardcore female golfing enthusiast.

Nice Cup In Bra --

Called the "Nice Cup In Bra," the lingerie consists of a grass-green top that, when removed, conveniently unfurls into a 1.5-meter-long putting mat. When the user sinks a putt into one of the cups, a built-in speaker pumps out a cry of "Nice shot." (Watch a short video.)

Nice Cup In Bra --

In addition to functioning as a practice mat, the bra incorporates features that can come in handy on the course, such as pockets for storing extra balls and tees, as well as a detachable flag pin that doubles as a score pencil.

The bottom half of the lingerie consists of a detachable pink skirt with the words "Be Quiet" printed in bold letters on the rear. When removed, the extra-short skirt can be used as a flag to encourage onlookers to remain silent.

Nice Cup In Bra -- Nice Cup In Bra --

According to the maker, the Nice Cup In Bra -- which is not yet for sale -- was created in response to the growing popularity of golf among females in Japan, and is designed to appeal to busy working women looking for a unique and convenient way to practice their putt.

Twice a year, Triumph International Japan unveils a new concept bra that highlights a popular trend or draws attention to social issues. Previous Triumph bras include the Marriage-hunting Bra, Shopping Bag Bra, Solar Power Bra, My Chopsticks Bra, and Voter Turnout Bra.

[Source: Walkerplus]

Sci-fi illustrations by Shusei Nagaoka

10 Nov 2009

In the 1970s and 1980s, the sci-fi art of Japanese illustrator Shusei Nagaoka graced numerous album covers and appeared in a variety of advertisements, magazines, and movie posters. Here is a small sample of his fantastic work. (Click the "+" under each image to enlarge.)

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Munich Machine (album cover), 1977 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Midnight Star: "The Beginning" (album cover) 1980 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
ELO: "Out of the Blue" (album cover), 1977 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
The Humanoid (movie poster), 1979 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Close Encounter of the Fifth Kind [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Star Trek [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Conceive [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Airplanes are not as safe as you might think (magazine announcement) [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Earth, Wind & Fire: "I Am" (album cover inside), 1979 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
The Skyliners: "The Love Bug" (album cover), 1978 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Station (illustration for Tsukuba Expo '85), 1984 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Space Flower (illustration for Tsukuba Expo '85), 1984 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Nuclear explosion over Tokyo (for NHK's "Earth After Nuclear War"), 1984 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Monster Bird, 1972 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Deep Purple: "When We Rock, We Rock..." (album cover), 1977 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Sun: "Destination Sun" (album cover), 1977 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
The Sylvers: "New Horizons" (album cover), 1977 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Hovercraft for leisure use, 1975 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Humanoid (magazine cover), 1982 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Bridge (poster for Mitsubishi Cordia XG), 1984 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Station (poster for Mitsubishi Cordia XP), 1984 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Birth (poster for Mitsubishi Starion GSR-X), 1984 [+]

Sci-fi illustration by Shusei Nagaoka --
Caldera: "Sky Island" (album cover), 1970 [+]

[Images from "The Works of Shusei Nagaoka" Part 1 (1981) and Part 2 (1985), NHK Publications]

Velvet kaiju paintings

07 Nov 2009

The fierce beauty of classic Japanese movie monsters is dramatically captured in these black velvet paintings by artist Bruce White.

Gamera by Bruce White --
Gamera

Mechagodzilla by Bruce White --
Mechagodzilla

Godzilla by Bruce White --
Godzilla

Ultraman by Bruce White --
Ultraman

Hedorah by Bruce White --
Hedorah

Mothra by Bruce White --
Mothra

[Via: @bonniegrrl]