Soon, coming near you! A robot that can run

Soon, coming near you! A robot that can run

Posted on Sep 3, 2014 in Japanese technology, News | 0 comments

Scientists at the University of Tokyo announced Sept. 1 that they have developed a bipedal robot that can run like a human. Led by Masatoshi Ishikawa, professor of systems informatics at the university’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, the team of engineers created the “Achilles” robot, which is capable of running at 4.2 kph, equivalent to the speed of a human jogging. However, Achilles’ legs measure only 14 centimeters long. If extended to 70 cm, the length of an average human leg, the robot’s running speed would be about 10 kph. Conventional bipedal robots, such as Honda Motor Co.’s ASIMO, can walk, but are unable to run because they walk by moving only their legs. This movement differs significantly from the way humans run, as the upper torsos of the robots have to be kept erect to maintain stability. Achilles can run because it can pivot its hip forward, intentionally losing its balance. But right before it loses too much balance and falls, the robot swings one of its legs forward to kick the ground. This method of running is the same as a human being. It was achieved robotically by using a high-speed image processing system that enables Achilles to determine when it is about to fall, and a compact, lightweight actuator lets the robot swing its leg forward just in time. As the robot runs, a camera films its movement at 600 frames per second and sends signals to the actuators in the machine’s numerous joints to turn them on or off at just the right moment. In the near future, the team plans to develop a robot with a camera on its head that can jump over obstacles and play soccer. Original story found...

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Only in Japan! Boob groping for charity

Posted on Sep 2, 2014 in News, Stories about Japan | 0 comments

According to the Japan Times: A group of Japanese porn actresses raised tens of thousands of dollars over the weekend by having their breasts squeezed by fans at a Boob Aid charity event held for AIDS prevention. The nine adult movie stars, sporting yellow T-shirts rolled up to reveal their breasts, flashed a big smile as the crowd approached them at the kickoff on Saturday. Having sprayed their hands with disinfectant, many were seen fondling the breasts quite discreetly. A man was seen issuing a Buddhist prayer before and after softly touching the breasts of each of the nine girls. Women were also occasionally spotted in the mostly male crowd, prompting one of the actresses to say in rapture: “Wow, I’m happy. I want her to touch my breasts!” Boob Aid is part of the 24-hour Stop! AIDS event in Tokyo, which was also televised live on an adult cable channel. The breast-squeezing resumed Sunday morning after an overnight break. More than 4,100 pairs of hands groped for a total of 12 hours until Sunday afternoon, organizers said. The figure suggested that about ¥4 million had already been collected because each participant was expected to donate ¥1,000 or more. The final tally was to be announced after the event closed at around 8 p.m. Sunday. It was the 12th time that the event, backed by the Japan Foundation for AIDS Prevention, has been held since 2003. “I’m really looking forward to lots of people fondling my boobs,” Rina Serina told the Tokyo Sports tabloid beforehand. “But I would be very happy if you would please be delicate.” Despite ongoing criticism of Japan’s old-fashioned views toward women, none of the actresses seemed upset. “I never thought my boobs could contribute to society,” Serina said. Fellow porn actress Iku Sakuragi said: “It’s for charity. Squeeze them, donate money — let’s be happy.” Read original article here:...

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Things to do this weekend in Tokyo Friday February 7th – Sunday February 11th

Things to do this weekend in Tokyo Friday February 7th – Sunday February 11th

Posted on Feb 5, 2014 in Must see, News, Things to do, Where to shop | 0 comments

Abracadabra Fri Feb 7, 2014 Saloon             Daikanyama’s Saloon welcomes Tokyo resident Englishman Max Essa for this intimate Friday-night bash, where he will be joined by house veteran Toshiyuki Goto. Details Open Fri Feb 7 Time doors 11pm Admission ¥1,500 (¥1,000 with flyer) Venue Saloon Address ZaHouse Bldg. B3F, 1-34-17 Ebisunishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Transport Daikanyama Station (Tokyu Toyoko line); Nakameguro Station (Tokyu Toyoko line, Hibiya line); Ebisu Station   Tokyo Grand Shopping Week Thu Jan 23 – Wed Feb 5, 2014 Laforet Harajuku , Omotesando Hills, Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku, and other area shops and restaurants Now this is a sales bash that no tourist can miss! Around 260 shops and restaurants in the Harajuku-Omotesando area will be participating with bargains and much more during Grand Shopping Week, a massive sales event that sees a total of 183 stores in the shopping centres Laforet Harajuku, Omotesando Hills, and Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku holding sales with discounts of up to 90%. In addition, 79 area shops will advertise specially recommended souvenirs for foreign tourists, while 23 restaurants, including ’takoyaki’, ‘okonomiyaki’, and crepe shops popular with tourists, participate in Restaurant Week with special offers such as free drinks, 10% off the final bill, and free sweets. Pick up the official Time Out Tokyo-produced leaflet and map for full information on all discounts, souvenir recommendations, and Restaurant Week offers. During the event, foreign tourists who spend ¥1,000 or more at any of the participating shops receive a scratch card, thus participating in a lottery with prices including gift vouchers and gift items. Shoppers who pay with an overseas-issued Visa card also receive an additional scratch card at the time of purchase. On February 1 and 2, visitors can experience Japanese culture at workshops, with alternatives including trying on anime and manga character costumes or kimonos, traditional ink marbling, origami paper folding, ‘kendama’ (a Japanese ring-and-pin game), and handkerchief decoration. Guided tours of the Harajuku-Omotesando area will also be available. Details Open Jan 23-Feb 5 Time Varies by store URL gojsf.com/campaign/tgsw2014/ Venue Laforet Harajuku , Omotesando Hills, Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku, and other area shops and restaurants Address 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo Transport Harajuku station (JR Yamanote Line), Takeshita Exit, Meiji-Jingumae station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda, Fukutochin Lines), exit 5.   The 88th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition Until Wed Feb 12, 2014 Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum           Hobbyists battle it out for years just to get their trees accepted for judging at Japan’s (and the world’s) premier bonsai exhibition, first held in 1934. If you attend both parts, you’ll see over 500 of these fascinating little masterpieces.   Details Open Part 1: Feb 4-7, Part 2: Feb 9-12 Time 9:30am-5:30pm Admission ¥1,000 (students ¥500)  URL www.bonsai-kyokai.or.jp/kokuhuten.htm URL www.bonsai-corner.ch/Nippon_1.htm Venue Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum Address 8-36 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo Transport Ueno Station (Yamanote line), park exit; (Ginza, Hibiya lines), Shinobazu exit   High Street feat. DJ Craze Fri Feb 7, 2014 Sound Museum Vision             High Street, a ‘street-style party for...

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The next olympic sport? Synchronized walking, only in Japan

Posted on Feb 3, 2014 in Must see, News, Stories about Japan | 0 comments

The video of a 47-year-old tradition at Japan’s Nippon Sports Science University went viral in November last year. ‘Shuudan koudou’, which means ‘Collective Action’, is a unique routine where a group of students put up an amazing display of synchronized walking. On November 14, 77 students performed before a crowd of 11,000 people at the university’s festivities. Their walking routine was similar to military movement exercises or synchronized marching band movements. But they were far more intricate and precise. Watch the video, and you’ll know just how precise. Seriously, the way they move is simply mind-blowing. Prior to the program, the students practiced three days a week, for five months straight. Their training included exercises to get them in shape for the dazzling display. They ended up walking almost 1,200 kilometers during practice (roughly the distance between Paris and Rome). 23-year-old Keiko Suzuki, the captain of the team, said: “People say Japanese youngsters these days lack the ability to work collectively in a group, but we just proved that we don’t.” She also said that the training would give them an edge in their job search. “We all mastered this highly disciplined training and made it our habit to stick to strict rules. I believe this experience will be an asset as we enter into the job market.”     Synchronized movements are embedded deep into Japan’s culture. In Japanese schools, morning assemblies have students standing equidistant from each other. The NSSU group movement is a very popular tradition. It is almost like the western equivalent of cheerleading. The complicated routines have been practiced since 1966, and the very first exhibition by female students happened in 2011. NSSU is famous for producing Olympic gold medalists, sumo wrestlers, and surprisingly, politicians. Many of its graduates go on to work as Physical Education teachers, trainers and coaches. The annual festival is meant to be a display of the students’ athletic prowess.          ...

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Got hay fever? No fear, the new ‘Pollen Robo’ is here!

Posted on Jan 29, 2014 in Japanese technology, News | 0 comments

For several years, Weather forecaster Weathernews Inc. has deployed a special robot at this time of the year to help Japan’s hay fever sufferers better navigate the pollen season. The new Pollen Robo designed for this year will be capable of collecting data on not only pollen, but also on PM2.5 particulate matter and yellow sand that blows across the sea from China. The company is dispatching 1,000 units across the country. Hay fever sufferers will be able to access the information online in real time, allowing them to know where the levels are highest and plan their days accordingly. Weathernews said pollen levels started climbing in the Kanto region (the Kanto region is where Tokyo is located)  from late January, and will greatly increase from around mid-February. The amount of airborne pollen is expected to climb by 10 percent this year from an average year. The spherical Pollen Robo measures 15 centimeters in diameter and has human facial features such as eyes, nose and a mouth. The eye color also changes according to the amount of pollen it detects....

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Dog Castle – The Coolest Dog House in Japan

Posted on Jan 28, 2014 in Must see, News, Stories about Japan | 0 comments

Japanese love their pets, but some take their love to a whole new level! Meet Nanami,  a playful Japanese pooch can claim to be the only dog in the world to be living in a regular castle. Built as a small replica of Japan’s famous Matsumoto Castle, Nanami’s castle stands 2.5 meters tall and features three rooms. At the front is the main hall, where Nanami can just lay on his belly and watch out for the mailman, while at the back he has a sand-floor room, for cooling down during the hot summer days, and a rear room to hide in during thunderstorms. Located in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Nanami’s castle took his owner six months to complete, and cost 50,000 yen ($583). While it may not be as old and famous as the real Matsumoto Castle, built in 1504, Nanami can be proud of his new dog castle.                                  ...

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Things to do this week in Tokyo: Tuesday January 28th- Sunday February 2nd

Things to do this week in Tokyo: Tuesday January 28th- Sunday February 2nd

Posted on Jan 27, 2014 in Must see, Things to do | 0 comments

of Montreal Tue Jan 28, 2014 Tsutaya O-West             Funky indie rockers of Montreal (actually of Athens, Georgia) return to Japan after a five-year absence, during which time their style has gone through a number of mutations, most recently returning to a form of classic, straightforward rock with the 2013 ‘Lousy with Sylvianbriar’ album. Details Open Tue Jan 28 Time doors 6pm, show 7pm Admission Adv ¥5,000, same-day ¥5,500 URL shibuya-o.com/west/2014/01/20597 Venue Tsutaya O-West Address 2-3 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Transport Shibuya station (Yamanote, Ginza, Hanzomon lines), Hachiko exit.   Akiko Endo exhibition: ‘Opening the Abyss of the Soul’ Until Tue Jan 28, 2014 Ueno Royal Museum Renowned contemporary Tokyo artist Akiko Endo’s work has been compared to Escher’s for its layered complexities. Visit her solo exhibition at Ueno Royal Museum for a retrospective of her work, including a new film ‘depicting the four seasons’ and a talk by the artist herself.   etails Open Jan 15-28 2014 Time 10am-5pm daily (until 6pm during special exhibitions). Admission ¥600 adults, ¥400 university students, free for high school students and children Telephone 03 3833 4191 URL www.akiko-endo.com URL www.ueno-mori.org Venue Ueno Royal Museum Address 1-2 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo Transport Ueno station (Yamanote line), park exit; (Ginza, Hibiya lines), Shinobazu exit.   Jamie Cullum Wed Jan 29 – Thu Jan 30, 2014 Orchard Hall Standing at around 5’4″ and with a six-album discography of easygoing swing-pop, Jamie Cullum has become known as the ‘jazz hobbit’ – a nickname that was reinforced when he married the rather taller author and model Sophie Dahl in 2010. Matters of height aside, Cullum is eminently likeable on stage and has branched out musically in recent years to embrace house and trip-hop – there’s even a guest vocal spot by Roots Manuva on his new record Momentum. This Tokyo date, his first visit to Japan since playing at Fuji Rock in 2010, kicks off a nationwide tour including gigs in Osaka, Nagoya, Hiroshima and Fukuoka. Tickets go on general sale on July 20. Details Open January 29-30 Time Doors 6pm. Gig 7pm Admission ¥6,500 adv Venue Orchard Hall Address Bunkamura, 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Transport Shibuya station (Yamanote, Ginza, Hanzomon lines), Hachiko exit.   Positive Short Films Program Until Fri Jan 31, 2014 Brillia Shortshorts Theatre This program includes five short films with positive or otherwise light-hearted messages, allowing visitors to escape their daily troubles and emerge from the theatre with smiles on their faces. Check out the German flick Dear Mr Starr, a thoughtful story about a hairdresser in early 1990s Germany who admires the Beatles drummer. Details Open Jan 2-31 2014 Time 5:30pm-7:30pm Admission Adults ¥1,000, children & seniors ¥800 URL www.brillia-sst.jp/topic/2013/11/12-2.html Venue Brillia Shortshorts Theatre Address Filmee 2F, 5-3-1 Minatomirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa Transport Shin-Takashima Station (Minatomirai line)   Los Lonely Boys Thu Jan 30, 2014 Liquidroom Get a swinging introduction to ‘Texican’ rock ‘n’ roll with Los Lonely Boys tonight at Liquidroom. Hailing from the great state of Texas, the three Garza brothers won a Grammy in 2005, and captured the hearts of many Japanese...

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Where to stay: Check out the new “hotspot” for cheep accommodations in the newly renovated flophouse district

Where to stay: Check out the new “hotspot” for cheep accommodations in the newly renovated flophouse district

Posted on Jan 23, 2014 in Where to stay | 0 comments

When Tokyoites think of Sanya, they traditionally think of poverty. The district in the eastern part of the Japanese capital, was long known for its clusters of cheap rooming houses for day laborers. These days, the area is attracting a different crowd: budget-conscious foreign tourists. Juyoh Hotel last summer set up a common room where guests can gaze at a Japanese-style garden. Located right in the heart of the city, Sanya makes a convenient jumping-off point for sightseeing. Hotels offering cheap yet modern accommodations are starting to cash in. The Kangaroo Hotel is one such establishment. The hotel charges 3,300 yen ($31.2) per night for a single room. It counts Canadians, Germans, Thais and other nationalities among its guests. Visitors from Southeast Asia, in particular, have been increasing rapidly since Japan relaxed visa restrictions last year. In 2013, the Kangaroo Hotel’s occupancy rate rose about 10 percentage points to 90%. To meet the demand, the hotel is investing around 100 million yen to build a new four-story building across the street. The annex, which is to have 18 guest rooms and English-speaking staff, is to open in December. Fumio Kosuge, the Kangaroo Hotel’s owner, says many foreign tourists prefer to stay in an inexpensive room to free up more money for shopping and entertainment. With the more touristy Asakusa and Roppongi districts nearby, there are plenty of ways for Kangaroo guests to part with yen. Kosuge aims to build up his hotel’s capacity to be ready for a surge in visitors when the Summer Olympics come to town in 2020. Over at Juyoh Hotel , another Sanya spot catering to the budget-minded, foreign tourists now account for 80-90% of guests. During the year-end and New Year’s holiday season, the hotel’s 72 rooms were fully occupied. Dutch and Indonesian travelers were among the customers. Mago Yoshihira, Juyoh Hotel’s manager, predicted day laborers in Sanya will continue to make way for foreign tourists. Last summer, the hotel set up a common space where guests can gaze at a small Japanese garden. Juyoh is also working on an English map of neighborhood restaurants. A single room costs as little as 2,900 yen a night. Yet another no-frills hotel aiming to ride the tourism wave is Hoteiya. It takes reservations through foreign online booking portals; it is also working on a website in several languages, including English and Thai. Hoteiya often has 30-40 tourists from abroad, some of whom stay for more than a week. There are repeat visitors who use Hoteiya as a place to crash after practicing Japanese martial arts. A single room goes for roughly 3,000 yen per night. Meet the foreigners Sanya is not the only flophouse district becoming a favorite with visitors from overseas. In the Kotobuki area of Yokohama, not far from Tokyo, a community building company called Koto Lab has made 40 rooms available in three buildings. The company...

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Where to eat: Best yakitori in town

Where to eat: Best yakitori in town

Posted on Jan 22, 2014 in Where to eat | 0 comments

Where to get your tasty skewered chicken fix in Tokyo Best known as every Japanese oyaji‘s favourite beer snack, the humble yakitori (grilled, skewered chicken) is most commonly consumed in noisy pubs, at simple roadside stalls, or at various open-air festivals taking place year-round all over the country. However, the gourmet value of this simple delicacy is also widely recognised, best evidenced by the existence of Michelin-starred yakitori restaurants in Tokyo. Below, we have selected 10 of the best places in the city for getting your mouthwatering chicken-on-a-stick fix, ranging from friendly neighbourhood izakayas to splendidly sophisticated bird bars.             Located close to Sendagi Station, this tiny yakitori eatery caters to all friends of wine and/or nihonshu. Go for the standard menu (¥5,400, includes appetiser, skewers, and a main dish) or pick your favourites off the blackboard – menus change daily, with the birds being grilled ranging from duck to shamo chicken, and vegetable plates rotating seasonally. Choose your drinks from a wide selection of organic wines from France, Italy, and Japan, or make your pick from the equally impressive nihonshu lineup. The friendly owner is always ready to make recommendations and answer any questions about ingredients and preparation methods. Reservations required. Details Address  2-29-4 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo Transport Sendagi Station (Chiyoda line), exit 1 Telephone 03 3821 2989 Open 6pm-10pm / closed Mon Isehiro Kyobashi             Be it at lunch or at dinner, Kyobashi’s Isehiro will never let a yakitori lover down. The lunch bowl (yakitori-don) maintains the same high quality as the dinner courses (from ¥4,725), which allow visitors to taste a variety of chicken parts, all not only flavoured differently but also featuring different textures. We recommend the five-skewer bowl (¥1,800), which contains delicacies like liver and lean sasami breast. Details Address  1-5-4 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Transport Kyobashi Station (Ginza line), exit 6 Telephone 03 3281 5864 Open 11.30am-2pm, 4pm-9pm / closed Sun, holidays URL www.isehiro.co.jp   Uchida             This tiny yakitori eatery in Musashi-Koyama often fills up right away after opening, making reservations highly recommended. The very reasonably priced yakitori (from ¥150) are outstanding, particularly the perfectly cooked livers and tsukune meatballs, which can be combined with a nice bottle from the shop’s expansive sake collection. If you’re ever strolling the area, do take a peek in to see if there are any seats available. Details Address  3-14-7 Koyama, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo Transport Musashi-Koyama Station (Tokyu Meguro line) Telephone 03-5749-3455 Open 5pm-2am / closed Thu Edomasa             Located along the row of one-man shops and wholesalers near the foot of Ryogokubashi bridge, Edomasa is a chicken-and-drinks bar that’s been a fixture in the neighbourhood for decades. Slip in through the curtain and find the counter right there – the tiny space fits only 12 patrons. Items from the shop’s early days are still in use, while the wall is decorated with hand-written notes from old-timer Sumo wrestlers....

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Things to do this week in Tokyo Wednesday January 22nd- Sunday January 26th

Things to do this week in Tokyo Wednesday January 22nd- Sunday January 26th

Posted on Jan 21, 2014 in Things to do | 0 comments

This week’s hottest events, gigs, films, festivals and more   Salon du Chocolat 2014 Wed Jan 22 – Mon Jan 27, 2014 Isetan Main Building 6F, 7F Event Plaza With Valentine’s Day just a few weeks off, Tokyo’s most indulgent romantics will be heading to Shinjuku Isetan to stock up on fancy choccies at this year’s Salon du Chocolat. Now into its 12th year, the Tokyo incarnation of Paris’s famous chocolate trade show bears little relation to its French forebear: gone are the free samples, workshops and chocolate fashion shows, replaced by what more closely resembles a department store food court on the first day of the New Year sales. If you don’t mind braving the crowds, though, there’ll be a range of exotic, hard-to-find treats on offer from the likes of world-famous chocolatiers Patrick Roger and Oriol Balaguer – and look out for the Japan debuts of Thierry Bamas and David Capy. Details Open Jan 22-27 2014 Time 10am-8pm (Jan 27 until 6pm) URL www.salon-du-chocolat.jp Venue Isetan Main Building 6F, 7F Event Plaza Address 3-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Transport Shinjuku-Sanchome station (Marunouchi, Shinjuku lines), exits B3, B4, B5 or Shinjuku station (Yamanote, Chuo lines), east exit; (Oedo line), exit 1.   Savages Wed Jan 22, 2014 Liquidroom           Get in touch with your savage side. They only launched their debut album in 2013, but already this punk revival quartet from London has played at impressive venues including David Lynch’s exclusive Paris nightclub, Silencio. Japan saw them at Fuji Rock ’13, and now Savages are back for a more intimate affair at the legendary Liquidroom. Details Open Wed Jan 22 Time doors 6pm, show 7pm Admission ¥5,000 URL www.liquidroom.net/schedule/20140122/17045/ Venue Liquidroom Address 3-16-6 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Transport Ebisu station (Yamanote, Hibiya lines), west exit.   Yoji Yamada Retrospective Until Wed Jan 22, 2014 National Film Centre Main Hall Celebrating Yoji Yamada’s 50 years as director, the National Film Centre presents a retrospective of the decorated auteur’s work. A total of 54 films will be screened, ranging from Yamada’s first movie ‘Nikai no Tanin’ to 20 films from the ‘Tora-san’ series, as well as more recent works like ‘Twilight Samurai’. The director himself will also give a talk on December 3 (from 5pm, following the 4pm screening). Details Open Dec 3-Jan 22 2014 (closed Mon, Dec 28-Jan 6) Time See schedule Admission ¥500, students & seniors ¥300, schoolchildren ¥100 Telephone 03 5777 8600 URL www.momat.go.jp/FC/NFC_Calendar/2013-12/kaisetsu.html Venue National Film Centre Main Hall Address 3-7-6 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Transport Kyobashi station (Ginza line), exit 1.   Haim Thu Jan 23, 2014 Shibuya Club Quattro   These three sisters took Fuji Rock by storm last summer, and are now back in Japan to promote their critically acclaimed debut studio album, ‘Days Are Gone’. The LA-based trio’s music combines folky rock with R&B influences, an eclectic style that’s been widely praised in industry circles on both sides of the Atlantic. Hop on the fast-moving bandwagon and check out these rising stars at Shibuya’s Club Quattro. Details Open Thu Jan 23 2014...

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