What do you do when you really need a smoke break but don’t want to leave your office? You step into your personal smoking booth, of course. Tokyo-based Ryonetsu Co. has started selling prefabricated ultra-compact one-man smoking box named ES-R1 (links with more info in Japanese are here and here), designed to be easily assembled and installed in offices or anywhere else where you need a separate smoking area.
Say konnichiwa to the latest online celebrity — Kimiko Nishimoto, a 88-year-old Japanese woman from Kumamoto, who likes to take some unusual self-portraits in amusing and often dangerous situations. As Kimiko-san (that’s her online nickname) writes in her photography blog, she was born in May of 1928 and has first touched camera at age 72 and learned how to use a Mac at age 74. She has been enjoying doing digital photography ever since.
This is welcome news for tourists coming to Tokyo where finding help in English can be a real challenge. Starting October 1st, English railway map for sightseeing will be distributed for free at major train stations. The A3-sized map was created by six railway operators with the goal of helping tourists reach major sightseeing spots in and around the capital.
I must say I never heard of this, but rock balancing is a discipline and a form of art. It’s definitely not something anybody can do; you need a great deal of patience and dedication. Kokei Mikuni is an extremely talented Japanese rock balancing artist who has really become perfect in what he does.
Archaeologists excavating at the site of the Katsuren Castle in Uruma City in Okinawa have found something fairly unusual: four copper coins that are apparently from the 3rd and 4th century ancient Rome.
In the summer of 1982, Seiko released a wristwatch that had a miniature LCD TV screen built in. Wow! This futuristic gadget was produced in limited quantities and a few versions were made during the mid-1980s. The Guinness Book of Records named the 1984 edition as “the smallest TV set in the world”.
From the outside, the Ruriden looks like a traditional Buddhist burial building. But once you swipe an electronic IC pass card at the entrance, the tall wooden doors open to reveal a futuristic display of hundreds of multi-colored LED-lit Buddha statues.
If you’re tired of your plain lettuce and tomato salad, a trip to Vegedeco Cafe will make you rethink the whole concept of salad altogether. Located in the city of Sakae in Nagoya, the cafe serves some amazing looking salad cakes called Vegedeco Salad that are made completely of nutritious whole vegetables — with little or zero sugar, gluten-free, and no fat or batter. The sponge part is made of natural ingredients such as soybean flour.
Remember the floating mountains in Avatar? Now you can create your own miniature Avatar-like world with floating bonsai trees. A Japanese company Hoshinchu from Kyushu has invented “Air Bonsai” — an incredible system that makes bonsai magnetically levitate and spin above a small electrified pedestal.
Welcome to Fureai Sekibutsu no Sato. Literally “the village where you can meet stone statues” (ふれあい石像の里), an abandoned park in Osawano, Toyama, is a place where almost three decades ago a very rich man named Mutsuo Furukawa — a chairman of a medical corporation — decided to build an area with hundreds of sculptures in hopes to keep them with him for all eternity. He wanted the park to become a popular tourist place where people could come to relax.
Unless you are a car enthusiast, you may have never heard of Mitsuoka Motor. It’s a small automaker headquartered in Toyama, known for building uniquely designed cars, some of which take inspiration from British vehicles of the 1950s and 1960s. Two interesting things stand out about this company. One is that they take production cars (from makers like Nissan or Mazda), utilize their engines but replace various aspects of the bodywork to turn it into their own custom-made design. Secondly, they do it all by hand, with a team of 45 skilled craftsmen.
In August, there was a light festival in Kyoto that attracted thousands with some truly incredible illuminations. The event took place for two weeks in Tadasu No Mori at the Shimogamo Shrine — a World Heritage Site. According to the organizers, starting this year, the festival will take root as an annual traditional event with the aim of promoting the cultural value of Kyoto. The illumination is the brainchild of the teamLab art group which has become famous for its interactive digital installations.
Also known as the Myriad year clock, the Mannen Jimeishou (万年自鳴鐘) was a universal clock designed by the Japanese genius inventor Hisashige Tanaka, who built most of the clock by himself using simple tools like files and saws between the years 1848 and 1851. It is designated as an Important Cultural Asset by the Japanese government.
Kubo and the Two Strings — critics hail it as a “masterpiece” and “the best animated movie of the summer” — was released in the U.S. last month. Set in mythical Japan, it’s a stop-motion samurai tale, produced by the Oregon-based independent studio Laika (the studio is known for its feature films from a few years ago such as Coraline and ParaNorman). In the flood of computer generated 3D cartoons, it’s captivating to see a movie like this, where the vast majority of elements were made by hand. I can only imagine how much painstaking work was behind the scenes and the result is nothing short of astonishing.
Female samurai were rare, but they did exist. They were known as onna-bugeisha (女武芸者) and belonged to the Japanese upper class. Trained in the use of weapons, they fought alongside samurai men in times of war to protect their household, family and honor. Some of the famous examples of onna-bugeisha are Empress Jingu, Tomoe Gozen, Nakano Takeko and Hojo Masako.