Tag: ‘Kyushu’

Video: Kirishima volcano eruption

27 Jan 2011


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Shinmoe peak (Shinmoe-dake), part of the Kirishima volcano group in southern Kyushu, began erupting yesterday (Jan 26) in dramatic fashion. The eruption, thought to be the largest at Kirishima since 1959, sent a plume of ash 1,500 meters into the air, prompting the Japan Meteorological Agency to issue a Level 3 volcano warning for the surrounding area. This spectacular footage of the eruption was captured by an observer in the area.


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Last night's action was also captured on a webcam at Kirishima [click "霧島山 猪子石(新燃岳)" in the menu on the right to display the latest image], and the still images were pieced together into a time-lapse video.


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‘Kaikidan Ekotoba’ monster scroll

07 Apr 2010

Here is a look at the Kaikidan Ekotoba, a mysterious handscroll that profiles 33 legendary monsters and human oddities, mostly from the Kyushu region of Japan (with several from overseas). The cartoonish document, whose author is unknown, is believed to date from the mid-19th century. It is now in the possession of the Fukuoka City Museum.

Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
White monster/Bird-dog hybrid [+]

The black creature on the right was born by a dog that mated with a bird in the city of Fukuoka in the early 1740s. Next to the bird-dog hybrid is an amorphous white monster -- also encountered in Fukuoka -- which is said to have measured about 180 centimeters (6 ft) across. People at the time believed this creature was a raccoon dog that had shape-shifted.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Old woman at the temple [+]

This illustration depicts a ghostly old woman known to appear late at night in a certain guest room at a temple in the Kaho area of Fukuoka prefecture. On multiple occasions, terrified lodgers ended up fatally wounding themselves after trying to strike her with a sword.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba mystery monster scroll --
Russian fireball [+]

During heavy winds, this Russian hitodama (a fiery apparition composed of spirits of the recently departed) could be heard to say, "Oroshiya, oroshiya" ("Let me down"). There is some speculation that the author dreamed up the creature based on a play on words, as "oroshiya" sounds like the old Japanese pronunciation of "Russia."

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Kaikidan Ekotoba mystery monster scroll --
Tiger meow-meow [+]

This illustration depicts a Zenshu priest who was transformed by greed into a strange feline creature with three toes on each paw and the forked tail of a nekomata.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba scroll of horrors --
Toad from the sea near Pusan [+]

The illustration shows a fearsome horned toad said to inhabit the sea near Pusan, Korea.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba scroll of horrors --
Chinese sneezer [+]

This creature resembles a half-naked, cold-ridden Chinese man and is thought to be a caricature of China, which had fallen prey to Western colonial powers.

* * * * *

Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Man with oversized testicles [+]

Long ago, a man with massive testicles reportedly made a living as a sideshow attraction at Mt. Satta, on the old Tokaido Road near the city of Shizuoka. His scrotum is said to have measured about a meter across.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Wild woman [+]

The "wild woman" shown here appears to be an aquatic humanoid with scaly skin, webbed hands and feet (each with three fingers and toes), long black hair, and a large red mouth. People claim to have encountered the creature in the 1750s in mountain streams in the Asakura area of Fukuoka prefecture.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Ox woman [+]

The "ox woman" pictured here was sideshow attraction at Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine (Fukuoka prefecture) in the mid-18th century. The armless lady entertained audiences by using her peculiar feet to run string through the center holes of coins.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Man with snakes in his legs [+]

The illustration shows a middle-aged traveling monk from Nagano prefecture who would bathe in hot springs without removing his leggings. If anyone asked him why he did not fully undress before entering the water, he would show them the holes in his shins, which contained snakes. The man was born with snakes in his legs as punishment for misdeeds in a previous life.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Bizarre creature at Kanezaki Inlet [+]

Many Edo-period scrolls featured illustrations of unfamiliar creatures -- animals that actually existed but were rarely seen in Japan (such as fur seals and sea lions), along with creatures generally regarded as imaginary (mermaids and kappa). This illustration shows a 3-meter-long seal that was captured in the early 19th century at Kanezaki Inlet.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Giant red fish [+]

This illustration depicts a giant red fish encountered by a shark fisherman in northern Japan. The head of the angry fish is said to have measured about 2 meters across.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Tiger meow-meow [+]

Much like the money-hungry priest described above, the people shown here have been transformed by greed into bizarre cat creatures.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Ezo wolf [+]

This illustration shows an Ezo Wolf (a.k.a. Hokkaido Wolf), which is believed to have gone extinct in the late 19th century (after this illustration was made). The animal is seen here with its paw on a human skull.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Korean monk [+]

The "Korean monk" in this illustration, seen singing and playing a gekkin (moon guitar), has the physical characteristics of a kappa (water imp).

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Lantern man [+]

In the early decades of the 18th century, a man with a malleable head made a living as a popular sideshow attraction. It is said that he could collapse his head like a traditional paper lantern.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Ghost of woman with child [+]

This illustration shows the ghost of a woman from the Asakura area of Fukuoka prefecture, who died during a difficult childbirth.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Nekomata [+]

The nekomata is a cat monster with a forked tail and a taste for human flesh. The creature's powers include the ability to talk, walk on hind legs, shape-shift, fly, and even resurrect the dead. The nekomata pictured here was encountered in the Nasuno area of Tochigi prefecture.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Kawataro [+]

The kawataro is a variety of kappa (water imp) which, according to the accompanying text, likes to eat people and practice sumo. An indentation on top of the creature's head is filled with water. The kawataro becomes weak when the water spills out.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Monster hole [+]

This illustration shows a monster cave believed to exist deep in the mountains of Kumamoto prefecture. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary cave. But as you approach the entrance, the eyes and teeth become visible.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Snake woman [+]

The snake woman pictured here was reportedly encountered by six people on Mt. Mikasa in Nara prefecture. Five of the eyewitnesses died instantly. The sixth person survived long enough to make it home and tell the tale, but he grew ill and died three days later. The snake-bodied woman resembles the notorious nure-onna, except that this one has a beautiful face.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Rokurokubi [+]

This rokurokubi -- a woman with the ability to stretch her neck to extraordinary lengths -- is said to have been encountered by a messenger one night near Ninna-ji temple in Kyoto.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Mikoshi-nyudo [+]

The mikoshi-nyudo pictured here was encountered by a peasant on the road late one night in the Naka area of Fukuoka prefecture.

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Kaikidan Ekotoba monster scroll --
Unknown [+]

Although no explanation is given for this creature, it seems to resemble the notorious gagoze, a demon who attacked young priests at Gango-ji temple.

[Note: This is the latest in a series of weekly posts on Japanese urban legends.]

Photos of Sakurajima volcano

25 Feb 2010

On a recent visit to Japan, alien landscape photographer Martin Rietze captured some spectacular images of Sakurajima volcano in Kagoshima prefecture.

Sakurajima volcano, photo by Martin Rietze --
Multiple lightning flashes caused by fast moving fine ash

Sakurajima volcano, photo by Martin Rietze --
Lava bombs hitting the flank

Sakurajima volcano, photo by Martin Rietze --
Strombolian eruption with lightning

Sakurajima volcano, photo by Martin Rietze --
Detail with multiple lightning flashes

Sakurajima volcano, photo by Martin Rietze --
Lava brightens the ash cloud

Sakurajima volcano, photo by Martin Rietze --
Ash eruption causing lightning

Sakurajima volcano, photo by Martin Rietze --
Violent eruption

Sakurajima volcano, photo by Martin Rietze --

The photos were taken between December 24, 2009 and January 10, 2010.

[Link: Martin Rietze]

Styrofoam dome homes

08 Aug 2008

Styrofoam dome house --
Styrofoam dome houses at Aso Farm Land (Photo by: Erika Snyder)

While styrofoam may be most commonly associated with disposable coffee cups, meat trays and packaging, prefab home manufacturer Japan Dome House Co., Ltd. uses it to construct easy-to-assemble modular kit homes.

Japan Dome House --

Dubbed the "habitat for the 21st century," the Dome House is an igloo-shaped structure built from snap-together wall sections made of 100% expanded polystyrene foam (styrofoam). It might seem like an odd choice of material for a house, but the company lists a number of advantages that styrofoam has over traditional materials. Unlike wood and metal structures, for example, the styrofoam Dome House does not rust, rot or attract termites. It is also highly resistant to earthquakes and typhoons. In addition, the walls, which are treated with a flame retardant, emit no toxic fumes in a fire.

Styrofoam dome house --
Dome House interior

The styrofoam used in the Dome House's 175-millimeter (7 in) thick walls is significantly denser and stronger than ordinary packing foam. The material has excellent thermal insulation properties, resulting in higher energy efficiency and lower heating and cooling costs.

Styrofoam dome house --

Construction of the Dome House shell is quick and easy. The prefabricated pieces, which each weigh about 80 kilograms (175 lbs), can be carried by 2 or 3 people and assembled in a few hours. Once the shell is put together, coats of mortar and paint are applied for further protection from the elements. (Watch a short video of the assembly process.)

Measuring 7.7 meters (25 ft) wide and 3.85 meters (13 ft) tall, the basic Dome House has a floor space of 44.2 square meters (475 sq ft). It is possible to construct larger, elongated domes by adding more pieces, and joint units allow multiple domes to be connected into a single structure.

Dome Houses, which are approved by Japan's Land and Transport Ministry, can be erected anywhere in Japan with the proper permit. According to the manufacturer, the versatile structures are suitable for use as hotel rooms, restaurants, freezer rooms, or even as hog farms.

The Aso Farm Land resort village in Kyushu uses about 480 styrofoam domes as lodging, recreational facilities and retail shops.

Styrofoam dome houses at Aso Farmland Village --
Aso Farm Land

The Dome House can also be used as a bar, karaoke room, steam room, and more.

Japan Dome House --
Styrofoam dome bar

Styrofoam dome house --
Mushroom House karaoke room at Suijin-no-mori hot spring (Oita prefecture)

Styrofoam dome home --
Styrofoam dome steam room

Whether or not this type of home is truly "perfect for the modern age" as the company suggests, the price is right. Dome House kits start at around 3 million yen (under $30,000), which does not include the cost of transport, assembly, interior construction, etc.

[Link: Japan Dome House]

Seven mysterious creatures of Japan

27 May 2008

Bigfoot. The Loch Ness Monster. The Abominable Snowman. Tales of unidentified mysterious animals have long intrigued and captured the imagination of people around the world -- and Japan is no exception. Here is a brief introduction to 7 of the island nation's most notorious cryptids, complete with grainy photographs where available. Whether you regard these tales as fact or fiction, their impact on the culture where they were encountered is undeniable.

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- Hibagon

Hibagon --

The Hibagon (a.k.a. Hinagon) is a cryptic hominid, similar to Bigfoot, inhabiting the area around Mt. Hiba in northern Hiroshima prefecture. According to numerous eyewitness accounts from the early 1970s, the Hibagon stands about 1.5 to 1.7 meters (about 5 ft) tall, weighs an estimated 80 to 90 kilograms (about 180 lbs), is covered in a thick coat of black or brown fur (sometimes it is reported as having a spot of white fur on its chest or arms), and has an unusually large triangular head and intelligent human-like eyes. The Hibagon received its name from the local animal control board.

Hibagon -- The first known Hibagon sighting occurred on July 20, 1970 in the area around Mt. Hiba near the border with Tottori prefecture. Three days after the initial sighting, the furry ape-like creature was seen again walking through a rice paddy in the nearby rural town of Saijo. A total of 12 sightings were reported that year, and mysterious footprints were found in the snow that December.

Numerous Hibagon sightings were reported in areas surrounding Mt. Hiba in the summers between 1971 and 1973, as increased human activity during the hunting season forced the creature down from the mountain. On August 15, 1974, the Hibagon was photographed as it hid behind a persimmon tree. Unusual footprints measuring 20 centimeters (9 in) long were found nearby. After this photo was taken, the Hibagon went back into hiding, only to be seen two more times -- once in 1980 and again in 1982 -- before disappearing forever.

Hibagon --

The Hibagon may have disappeared long ago, but the residents of Saijo have not forgotten. The town has adopted the likeness of the creature as its mascot, and souvenir shops sell Hibagon Eggs and other cryptid ape-themed sweets. [More]

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- Tsuchinoko

Tsuchinoko --
Tsuchinoko -- Reality? Myth? Or mistaken identity?

The Tsuchinoko is a snake-like cryptid found throughout Japan, except in Hokkaido and the Okinawan islands. Reports describe the Tsuchinoko as having a thick, stubby body measuring 30 to 80 centimeters (12 to 30 in) in length, often with a distinct neck, gray, brown or black scaly skin, and venomous fangs. Some accounts suggest the Tsuchinoko has a loud, high-pitched squeak and can jump as far as one meter.

Tsuchinoko --

The earliest known written record of the Tsuchinoko dates back to the 7th century, where it appears in the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), the oldest surviving book in Japan. In some legends, the Tsuchinoko can speak, has a tendency to tell lies, and enjoys the taste of alcohol.

Tsuchinoko --

Skeptics dismiss Tsuchinoko sightings as simple cases of mistaken identity, suggesting the creatures are nothing more than snakes in the process of digesting large meals, or perhaps even escaped exotic pets such as the blue-tongued lizard.

Tsuchinoko --

Regardless, local tourist boards in rural areas frequently organize Tsuchinoko hunts to attract visitors, promising large sums of money to any participant lucky enough to capture one. The town of Itoigawa in Niigata prefecture, for example, has a hunt scheduled for June 8, 2008 and is offering a 100 million yen (about $1 million) reward to whoever brings one back alive. [More]

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- Kusshii

Kusshii --

Kusshii is a giant lake monster believed to inhabit Hokkaido's Lake Kussharo, a large freshwater lake located in an environment and climate similar to that of the famed Loch Ness. According to eyewitness accounts, Kusshi is 10 to 20 meters (30 to 60 ft) long and has humps on its back, a long neck and a pair of horns on its head. Reports suggest it can swim as fast as a motorboat. Kusshii's most famous appearances include a 1973 sighting by 40-member team of biologists from Hokkaido University, as well as 15 separate reports by tourists in 1974.

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- Isshii

Isshii --

Isshii, another Japanese cryptid lake monster, is believed to inhabit Kagoshima prefecture's 20,000-year-old Lake Ikeda, the largest caldera lake in Kyushu. The creature is similar in appearance to Kusshii, but larger.

Isshii entered the public consciousness in September 1978, after more than 20 people reportedly witnessed a giant creature moving at a blistering speed through the water. Widespread news coverage of the sighting brought a flood of tourists to the lake, and in December of the same year, a photograph was taken showing what some believe is the back of the creature poking through the water surface. Since 1990, a number of home videos have emerged showing mysterious activity just under the water surface, but none of the videos are widely seen as irrefutable proof of Isshii's existence.

Some theories suggest Isshii could be an unidentified descendant of the Plesiosaur, while others believe it to be some sort of giant eel. Other theories suggest the sightings can be explained as rogue waves generated by winds unique to the lake.

Rogue waves cannot, however, explain what happened in 1961, when a large-scale search was conducted for a US military jet believed to have crashed in the lake. Sonar equipment used in the search reportedly revealed a large rock-shaped object moving through the water below, and records indicate that divers on the lake floor were nearly attacked by a large, unidentified creature.

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- Giant Snake of Mt. Tsurugi

Mt. Tsurugi, the second highest peak on the island of Shikoku, is steeped in mystery. According to one local legend, the mountain is actually a giant man-made pyramid, and another legend says that a hoard of King Solomon's secret treasure lies buried within. A giant snake believed to be guarding that treasure has been sighted on many occasions.

Giant snake of Mt. Tsurugi -- In May 1973, a group of 4 forestry workers reportedly encountered a 10 meter (33 ft) long snake as big around as a telephone pole. The creature was described as having shiny black scales, and it reportedly made a loud chirping sound. In the months that followed, local officials organized a large-scale hunt for the snake, enlisting the help of hundreds of volunteers. While the creature was not apprehended, the searchers did find what appeared to be giant snake tracks that measured 40 centimeters (16 in) wide and passed alongside fallen trees.

A local history museum has in its collection a large jawbone measuring 34 centimeters (13 in) across, which many believe belongs to the giant snake. Others speculate it belongs to a shark.

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- Takitaro

Takitarou --

The Takitaro is a type of giant fish measuring up to 3 meters (10 ft) long, which is found in Yamagata prefecture's Lake Otoriike. Located nearly 1,000 meters above sea level, the remote mountain lake was created ages ago when an earthquake triggered a massive landslide that dammed up a mountain stream.

The Takitaro appears in a number of stories throughout the 20th-century. In 1917, for example, a pair of men are said to have captured a 1.5 meter (5 ft) long fish that was large enough to feed 20 floodgate construction workers for 4 days. In 1982, a group of mountain climbers above the lake observed a fish over 2 meters (6.5 ft) long in the clear water below. This sighting grabbed headlines nationwide.

Three years later, in 1985, a team of scientists went to the lake in search of the Takitaro. Sonar equipment revealed the presence of giant fish, and the scientists identified some smaller specimens as relatives of ancient salmon that likely became trapped in the lake when it was formed long ago. The true identity of the giant Takitaro, however, remains a mystery, but some believe it is a mutant descendant of these ancient fish.

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- Kappa

Kappa (river imps) have appeared in countless stories and folk legends for centuries, and they rank among Japan's most well-known cryptids. While most people nowadays regard the amphibious child-sized troublemakers as pure myth, stories of kappa encounters still crop up from time to time, such as the following two reports from Japan's southern island of Kyushu.

Kappa -- Kappa -- Kappa --

Report 1 -- Slimy Footprints at the River's Edge: At around 11 PM on August 1, 1984 in the town of Tsushima in Nagasaki prefecture, a squid fisherman named Ryu Shirozaki was walking home from the local pier after work. As he passed near the Kuta river, he came upon a small group of children playing at the water's edge. While it was not entirely uncommon to encounter people fishing in the river at night, it was rather surprising to see youngsters there.

As Shirozaki approached the children, he was struck by how bizarre they appeared in the moonlight. He could make out swarthy faces, unusually spindly arms and legs, and glistening skin. Suspicious, Shirozaki called out to them as he neared, but they seemed startled and quickly disappeared into the water.

The next morning when he returned to the same spot, Shirozaki discovered a set of moist, teardrop-shaped footprints on the nearby pavement. The prints, which appeared to consist of a slimy substance that had begun to coagulate under the hot morning sun, stretched for about 20 meters. Each footprint measured 22 centimeters (about 10 in) long and 12 centimeters (5 in) wide, and they were spaced about 50 to 60 centimeters (about 2 ft) apart.

Shirozaki and a few curious onlookers immediately suspected the footprints belonged to a kappa. People began to gather around as the news spread quickly through town, and all agreed the prints belonged to a kappa. In the minds of many residents, the footprints confirmed the existence of the river imps they knew through local legends.

When police forensic investigators arrived on the scene, they determined that the slimy footprints consisted of an unknown secretion. They took a sample to the lab for analysis, but the results unfortunately turned out to be inconclusive because the sample was too small. The police eventually dropped their investigation, and the mystery of the slimy footprints was never solved.

Report 2 -- The Unclean Guest: Another recent kappa encounter occurred on June 30, 1991 in the town of Saito in Miyazaki prefecture, when an office worker named Mitsugu Matsumoto and his wife Junko returned home for the evening. Upon opening the front door, the Matsumotos were confronted with a strange smell inside their home. Inside, they found dozens of small, wet footprints around the front door and in the hallway, bathroom, and two tatami rooms. At first they suspected a burglar, but they soon realized nothing had been stolen.

The police briefly surveyed the house, but found nothing except a floor soiled by 30 footprints, each measuring about 7 centimeters long and 6 centimeters wide, and having 4 or 5 toes. To Matsumoto, the footprints did not look human, nor did they appear to belong to any animal he could imagine.

Later that night, as Mrs. Matsumoto was putting laundry away, she discovered an unusual orange stain on some clothing. The next morning, as Matsumoto inspected the house more closely, he discovered a deposit of orange liquid on the portable stereo in the tatami room. He took a sample to the local public health center for analysis, and the results indicated the liquid had an extremely high iron content and a chemical composition resembling spring water.

Troubled by the incident, Matsumoto decided to visit a shaman. After listening to Matsumoto's story, the shaman encouraged him not to worry, explaining that the kappa indigenous to the nearby swamp enjoyed playing the occasional prank on local residents. The kappa were harmless, the shaman told him.

Harmless, perhaps, but Matsumoto found the kappa difficult to clean up after. He tried using detergent, paint thinner and gasoline to remove the footprints and orange stains, but nothing seemed to work.

[Note: This post includes information from Shin-ichiro Namiki's Nippon No Kaiki Hyaku, 2007 (published in Japanese)]

MOTOMAN: Industrial-strength taiko drummer

23 Jul 2007

Yaskawa MOTOMAN robots play taiko drums --

As industrial equipment manufacturer Yaskawa Electric forces the MOTOMAN robot out of its comfort zone on the factory floor, we see it quickly acquiring new skills. First the robot developed the ability to sort mail. Now it has learned to play taiko drums.

On July 21, a team of four MOTOMAN machines -- two dual-armed MOTOMAN-DIA10 robots and two MOTOMAN-HP3 welding robots -- gave a special taiko performance at the nearly 400-year-old Kokura Gion Daiko Festival in Kitakyushu, which is famous for its traditional drumming competition. Organizers invited the robots to spice up the special opening ceremony for the competition's 60th anniversary. The robots -- the first ever to play taiko drums at the ancient festival -- were paraded through the crowd of spectators on a float while they performed.

Yaskawa worked with festival organizers for four months to teach the robots the proper rhythm, technique and choreography for the performance, which was seen as a success. Here's a short video.

[Source: Robot Watch]

Rainy season brings glow-in-the-dark mushrooms

24 May 2006

Glowing mushroomsWith the arrival of Japan's rainy season, a mysterious type of green, glow-in-the-dark mushroom begins to sprout in Wakayama prefecture. The Mycena lux-coeli mushrooms, known locally as shii no tomobishi-dake (literally, "chinquapin glow mushrooms"), sprout from fallen chinquapin trees. As they grow, a chemical reaction involving luciferin (a light-emitting pigment contained within the mushrooms) occurs, causing them to glow a ghostly green.

The luminescent mushrooms were long believed to be indigenous solely to Tokyo's Hachijojima Island after they were discovered there in the early 1950s. In 1995, however, mycologists found the fungus growing wild in coastal areas of the southern Kii peninsula, as well as in Kyushu and other areas.

The mushrooms thrive in humid environments, popping up during Japan's rainy season, which typically lasts from the end of May to July. The caps can grow to as large as 2 cm (about 1 inch) in diameter, but because the mushrooms are prone to dehydration, they only have a few days to live once the rain stops.

[Source: Mainichi Shimbun]

Robotic Maetel lands job at airport

02 Mar 2006

MaetelA robot modeled after Maetel, the heroine of Leiji Matusmotos legendary Galaxy Express 999 (Gingatetsudo 999) anime, will go to work as a guide at the New Kitakyushu Airport, which is scheduled to open on March 16. The android was unveiled on February 28.

The 170 cm (5 ft 7 in) tall Maetel, who was developed by the Kyushu Institute of Technology, will stand duty in the airport terminals tourist information center. She is programmed to respond verbally and non-verbally (with gestures) to 200 types of questions about airport facilities, transportation and local accommodations.

Leiji Matsumoto, a native of Kitakyushu, says he hopes to see the airport connect Kitakyushu to the rest of the world. However, the airport will provide no international service when it opens.

At the moment, Maetel is only able to respond to questions posed in Japanese.

[Source: Asahi Shimbun]