The slim and silent mini robot has been created by Speecys, who have applied for a patent for the “motion figure system”. Speecys’ Tomoaki Kasuga previous spent time at Sony working on the AIBO and we know how successful that turned out to be.
The demo video is pretty poor quality but I think you can see the nimbleness of the “karakuri” (automata). It is able to swivel its head and feet with an impressive degree of agility. It even kind of dances…
According to the Speecys specs, it has 20 axes (three in the waist, three in each leg, four in each arm, and three in the head), plus it is able to host voice functions and BLE and wifi connections.
While the head design is rather unpleasantly reminiscent of Pyramid Hill, the main drawback would seem to be the platform or stand the MF201 apparently requires for its motor.
Speecys showcased the Motion Figure System MF201 at a recent public event in order to search for commercial partners. If they are able to find the right business deal, they hope to sell it in the ¥50-100,000 ($500-$1,000) range. Obviously it needs to be turned into some sort of “character” before it can function as a toy or entertainment piece for kids or grown-ups.
I guess the question now is: will they make a mini AKB48 android version?
Japanese vagina artist Megumi Igarashi (Rokudenshi-ko) launches “deko-man” artwork sale to pay legal billsWritten by: William on July 30, 2014 at 10:50 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments
It garnered headlines worldwide and made a fringe figure the talk of the town. The arrest of Megumi Igarashi (Rokudenshi-ko) on July 12th ostensibly for “distributing obscene materials” after she made data for a 3D printing of her genitalia available to supporters of her crowdfunding campaign ignited a scandal.
She was arrested by ten (yes, ten!) officers, sparking a serious debate over whether she was being punished for being a woman who dared make a thing (literally) out of her you-know-what. There is also the question of whether art was being censored by the state, not to mention how in a nation with a mammoth sex industry, a correspondingly vibrant adult toys market, and the per-capita largest porn business in the world, why were the police so bothered about one woman making a kayak out of her genitalia? And any cursory glance at Japanese mythology or historical art genres like shunga prints would convince you that sexual liberty and nudity should form a healthy part of society.
But this is contemporary Japan, which has a long history of double standards in this area. Although there have been countless full-frontal photography books featuring female celebrities over the past decades — strictly speaking, showing genitals or genital hair is interpreted as “obscene” — and released into the mainstream to great success, last year Leslie Kee was arrested for exhibiting images of naked men in Tokyo. Freedom of expression is not protected for artists and, for example, a couple of years ago a major performing arts event in Tokyo (name retracted on recommendation!), upon being told by the city that they could not allow a public festival to program sexually explicit work, had to ask a director to re-configure a play featuring nudity so that the vital “bits” were hidden from view.
In the end, police decided not to indict Igarashi for now but she still has potential charges (carrying up to two years in prison and a fine) hanging over her. The prosecutors have inadvertently turned Igarashi into a martyr for both feminist and artist causes, though, and would be foolish to continue with their persecution.
Igarashi was released after six days. But getting arrested is an expensive business. Even if charges are not brought or — very rare in Japan! — you are acquitted, you still have to foot your lawyer’s bill.
Always one to utilize her grassroots support, Igarashi has turned to her fans now to help cover the costs. Her gallery has launched a sale of her vagina-inspired “deko-man” (decorated vagina) artworks and she promises in a tweet to use the proceeds to pay her legal team.
Rokudenshi-ko’s mission to reclaim what is hidden, what society deems “obscene”, into something playful and ordinary is here manifest in cute vinyl figurines of female genitalia. You can get pink or gold versions of “Manko-chan”, or even a glow-in-the-dark one! They cost between ¥2,100 ($21) and ¥2,800 ($28), though some of them won’t be available until late August.
See the Shinjuku Ganka Gallery online shop for more. If they put up an English website with PayPal options, we reckon this would be very popular overseas too!
Mika Ninagawa-designed Shibuya Chikamichi Lounge now open underneath Shibuya Station as rest stop for underground stylish shoppersWritten by: William on July 29, 2014 at 9:43 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments
Shibuya is like a hydra. Just when you think you have it sussed, along comes yet another shopping arcade or mall to confuse you.
Earlier this year Tokyu opened the Shibuya Chikamichi Lounge underneath Shibuya Station. The space is a bit hard to define (information portal? rest stop?), though we think it’s pretty typical of the kind of consumer spaces you often find in Japan. After all, in Shibuya Center Gai there is also the Blue Windy Lounge “smoking room” sponsored by a tobacco company, and other stations around the city feature special spaces for women to get massages and beauty treatment.
Shibuya Chikamichi (“underground street”) Lounge has toilets and baby room facilities but it’s more than just an amenity. It has a women-only “powder room” and a men-only “dressing room” (this is Shibuya, the men like to look their best too), though be warned the wifi in the main lounge is “fake wifi”, i.e. only a booster for certain domestic network providers.
Okay, so Tokyu lost a point there but make up for it in the lounge’s friendly and pop interior vibe. Perhaps the only thing it’s “missing” is an actual cafe or coffee bar, though there’s no shortage of those in Shibuya, of course.
Tokyu says this is the first station facility of its kind but we also like how the functionality has not taken precedence over how the place looks. The powder room features designs by photographer and film director Mika Ninagawa and the men’s room is also suitably snazzy and colorful.
Overseas visitors may also be interested to learn that in the lounge, among the desks and sofas for relaxing is a concierge who speaks English and can help out lost tourists trying to navigate the subterranean maze of Shibuya. (Officially he or she will be there to give out information about Shibuya trains.)
Open 10:00-20:00, Shibuya Chikamichi Lounge is located between the underground shopping plaza in Shibuya and Shibuya 109, and is free to use.
Tokyu is on a mission to transform Shibuya, a program of powerhouse developments it launched with the Shibuya Hikarie building it opened in 2012 (so posh it even has its own Swarovski-designed Lawson convenience store) and then its merger of the old above-ground Toyoko Line with the underground Fukutoshin Line last year. Several others are on the way. By 2027 it plans a further five large buildings. Shibuya will evolve further for train passengers when the JR Station also puts both Yamanote Lines onto one island platform and moves the notoriously distant Saikyo Line to a more accessible location. This is all going to be part of a new 46-storey station building with offices and shops. After all, if there’s one thing Shibuya lacks, it’s new construction work. Oh, wait…
It got quite a bit of attention when Japan’s largest crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, launched its own website (with theme song and videos) earlier this year, not least because the design is less Web 1.0 than Web 0.0. Oh, and they are claiming the organization is actually all about “drug expulsion”. Right, even the Yakuza claimed they are anti-amphetamines — drugs are that taboo in Japan — but what about the other unsavory criminal pies they have their hands in?
It’s been updated with a skeletal English version. Here is their self-penned English profile, warts and all.
We are the Alliance to Eradicate Marijuana and Purify the Country(the”Alliance”),
It is solemn oath,as it is a basic human right and of national interest as a treasure of our
Constitution under Japanese law,to be a pioneer in the pursuit of our societal wellbeing by sweeping
away marijuana and narcotics from the country,thus protecting youth from this bewilderment of
society and to serve as a guide to a Japan of orderliness and excellence.
We have made this new home page in acceptance of Boss Taoka’s undertaking and strong conviction
regarding the eradication of illicit drugs from Japan.
And as reports Jake Adelstein on his Japan Subculture Research Center website, they have also launched a new site (also with an English version for global audiences!) dedicated to Yakuza ideals.
The Yamaguchi-gumi is on a mission to bring back ninkyo (or ninkyodo), or the code of chivalry.
Ninkyo-dou is inspirational and educational way to a spiritual discipline yet it is almost distinct. In today’s society, it is frustrating to see people not understanding what Ninkyo-dou truly means yet they believe it is same as violence.
Recently, people in Ninkyo world are recognized as mafia and both members and their acquaintances are discriminated. Moreover, the government is attempting to ban ninkyo spirit and its practice all along.
They even get a bit self-righteous.
“Yakuza is bad” “Everyone else who is associated with this practice is wrong”
This thought is not only oppressive but also dangerous.
Interestingly, they also condemn Prime Minster Abe whom they claim (like many leftists) is taking the country down the road to fascism.
Beside the proud list of the crime syndicate’s list of “recent social contributions”, perhaps most shocking is how they decry the rise in “vicious crimes” in Japan, as if they had nothing to do with all that malarky.
So how about English lessons from the new line of schools by the Yamaguchi-gumi, launched in the near future as part of its latest “social contribution”? Farfetched, for sure, but not as much as they other things on their website!
Fancy having Namie Amuro on your cup?
If you recall, Koppu no Fuchiko (literally “Fuchiko on the edge of the cup”) was originally a Gachapon capsule toy created by Kitan Club. The mini mini Office Lady figure perches or hangs from your cup. A simple but cute idea — and it took off. There have been several series, a pop-up cafe in Harajuku, and the capsule toy has even now become a piece of merchandising for Japan’s biggest pop diva, Namie Amuro.
This isn’t as random as it sounds, since Amuro is a famous example of hattoushin bijin, a beautiful girl with her head one-eighth the size of her body. In other words, she kind of looks like a doll!
To coincide with Amuro’s latest arena tour, there is going to be a new Fuchiko model called “Diva who came down to earth to sit on your cup” — or just “Koppu no Fuchi no Amuro” for short. Look out for it around Japan from August 22nd, when her tour kicks off in Shizuoka. It will be sold through Namie Amuro’s website, Tower Records online store, and at Amuro’s concerts as part of a ¥3,000 ($30) concert pack.
As miniature J-Pop divas go, this is quite well done. Amuro’s trademark knee-high boots and hairstyle have been faithfully replicated on this mini toy, which measures a very petite 50mm. But does she sing?
Bandai’s Tamagotchi is one of those series that just continues to survive — and not only survive, but keep on innovating and coming up with new tricks.
Tamagotchi probably needs no introduction to any reader of a blog called “Japan Trends”. The digital pet was a phenomenon in the 1990′s, its egg shape as funky as its concept, and as addictive as pressing the three buttons. It first hit stores in late 1996 and has since sold over 78 million units.
Needless to say, the world of toys is a fickle one and subsequent Tamagotchi have been no match for the sales of the original, which was a global smash. The sea change led to maker Bandai over-stretching itself and posting large losses for 1998.
Bandai then went back to the drawing board and came up with enhanced Tamagotchi with more sophisticated functionality: new models to meet the changing times. Tamagotchi Plus had infrared communication functions (infrared was once a standard in many Japanese flip phones) and then Tamagotchi iD could interact with cellphones. The series underwent a further revival in 2011 with the release of a 15th anniversary model of the Tamagotchi iD L and this went on to shift around 500,000 units in 2011.
So, not quite the sensation it once was but still going strong. Not bad for a nation with a declining birthrate, and so less and less young consumers every year.
The latest Tamagotchi is the Tamagotchi 4U, which ups the tech by adding NFC but still looks as cute as ever. This allows the handheld pet to interact with “Touch Spots” that are located around Japan, plus with other Tamagotchis and devices. You can download new characters, clothes, items, and “collaborate” digitally.
For example, go past a vending machine and pick up a “drink” for your Tamagotchi, or a “dress” at a clothes store.
The city is now your Tamagotchi playground! There are also various covers and straps to accessorize and coordinate the style of your Tamagotchi device.
Get your hands on the Tamagotchi 4U in September.
The sad truth is that sometimes Japanese consumers are a simple bunch. Forget complex marketing strategies or clever stunts. The way to their hearts is just to put a famous person on the front of whatever it is you’re selling.
Hence why there are so many TV commercials and other ads featuring the same gallery of celebrities. Hence why Hollywood films will have some random Japanese model appear at a press conference to promote the movie. And hence why this free 126-page guide for Hiroshima Prefecture tourism has sold out immediately after it hit the shelves.
It was published and released on July 14th but reprints have already been ordered. How come? Well, in order to give the booklet a push, the folk at Hiroshima made the decision to pay a no doubt not inconsiderable pile of cash to have Perfume to appear on the cover, looking cute and pop like the trio of young girls always do.
Within two hours of launching the campaign website, they had already reached the limit for 2,000 reservations, and now the publishers are getting orders from book stores all over the country, desperate to get their hands on the rare booklet. The initial run of 50,000 copies is almost all gone and the next run won’t arrive until mid-August.
The idea to include Perfume in the “Nakeru! Hiroshima-ken” (literally, “Hiroshima Prefecture that will make you cry!”) booklet and campaign is not as cynical as it sounds, since the girls originally hail from the region (it does, though, time in nicely with the release of their latest single). They also appear in a short PR video and are interviewed in the book.
The best place to get a copy in Tokyo is from the TAU Hiroshima Prefecture Store in Ginza, though at time of writing it no longer has any guidebooks left.
We’ve long struggled to understand the popularity of Perfume. On a superficial level, they are hardly what you might think of as glamorous. Rather, like many idol groups, they are presented as “amateurs” and this is reflected in that basically only one could be called beautiful. But it also shows in their ultimately fairly limited abilities to sing and dance, let alone write their own songs. Their managers are savvy folk and know to employ talented people to make cool music videos and album covers, which raises their sophistication. But what is the appeal of the Perfume girls themselves? Clearly they must have something, as this latest development shows!
Now we just have to see if the Perfume effect can actually increase tourism in Hiroshima.
Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more innovations on past traditions, along comes something that makes your jaw drop.
Makoto Azuma, known for his eye-catching botanical art work such as the greenery sculptures that decorated Shinjuku’s Isetan Department Store when it reopened in 2013, has taken things to the next level, stratospherically speaking.
While he has previous suspended bonsai in the air, this time round he actually launched a new piece called Exbiotanica into space. The two botanical objects were sent where no plant had gone before from a special site in Black Rock Desert outside Gerlach, Nevada, on July 15th.
According to Spoon Tamago, Azuma and his ten-man crew, along with help from JP Aerospace (despite the name, actually US-based) and Fujifilm (thanks for the great images!), launched a version of his Japanese white pine work “Shiki” and an untitled flower bouquet into space using a helium balloon.
T Magazine describe the launch:
The expedition started in the dead of night, at 2 a.m. One hour later, Makoto was already building a bouquet with about 30 varieties of flowers. He started with an aerial plant tied to a six-rod axis and studiously added peace lilies, poppy seed pods, dahlias, hydrangeas, orchids, bromeliads and a meaty burgundy heliconia. “I am using brightly colored flowers from around the world so that they contrast against the darkness of space,” he said.
The scent of the flowers was stronger and more concentrated in the dry desert breeze than in their humid, natural environments, and the launch site was redolent with their perfume. Makoto worked quietly, until the metal rods were covered completely with plants. Then he directed his attention to his bonsai. For this particular project, Makoto chose a 50-year-old pine from his collection of more than 100 specimens, and flew it over from Tokyo in a special box. While readying it for space, he kept it moist and removed a few brown needles with a tweezer.
The two helium balloons went up in the early morning, both covering the same flight path. The helium balloons then burst at around 90,000 feet and parachutes softened the impact after the two vessels fell back to earth. Sadly the dangling bonsai and the flower bouquet both disintegrated during the fall. The vessels returned safely but alas, not the foliage.
Two things Japan is famous for just came crashing together big time: idols and robots.
AKB48′s fans have become notorious for spending vast amounts of time and money on merchandise and tributes to their favorite idols. But this takes the crown, we think. One particularly skilled and devoted admirer of AKB48 idol Yuki Kashiwagi showed his affection for the young idol by creating a realistic working robot of her!
Yukirin Robot may be missing her arms but she makes up for it with her luscious hair and cute long face that mimics the real-life singer she is based on.
Let’s compare. This is the “real” Yuki Kashiwagi.
And here the robotic tribute.
Not bad, huh?
The Yukirin (based on Yuki Kashiwagi’s nickname) android, whose eyes and head can move but who apparently lacks the ability to speak, was on exhibit at Niconico Chokaigi 3, a spin-off conference-style event of the popular streaming site, Niconico (formerly Nico Nico Douga). The event is touring the country at the moment, giving locals at every venue a chance to shine and show off their talents in various tech fields.
Over the weekend it was held in Suzaka City in Nagano Prefecture. On Saturday, visitors were greeted by the AKB48 starlet in robotic form.
Although Yukirin’s appearance at the recent Nagano edition of the touring “conference” has stirred up interest online, the robot was already seen in public in June at another Niconico Chokaigi event. As reported by Nihongo.com, Yukurin was developed by Takayuki Todo, a post-grade media art student who made the android for his graduation project.
Yukirin Robot works using an Xbox Kinect sensor in its (her?) chest to respond to people so the eyes will meet yours… just like you are meeting the real Yuki Kashiwagi at an AKB48 handshaking event. And the materials? Apparently it’s wood. We look forward to the upgrades!
It’s not just the Yukirin Robot, though. There were many other examples of the geeky but creative and fun creations that Nagano had to offer.
So there you have it. Japan is officially living in an uncanny valley. Its mobile phone shops are staffed by robots, it expends large amounts of science budgets on making creepy children androids, and now even its idols are robots.