Descendants of “villain” in Korean box office hit “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” sue over historical inaccuracies

Written by: William on September 16, 2014 at 9:58 am | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

Descendants of a figure depicted as a “villain” in the current Korean box office smash “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” are suing over the film’s alleged historical inaccuracies.

“The Admiral: Roaring Currents” revolves around the 1597 Battle of Myeongnyang, a victory for the Korean Joseon navy despite the odds. The Koreans had only a dozen ships against the invading Japanese’s 133 warships.

the admiral roaring currents korean film lawsuit descendants sue producers historial inaccuracy

The film, known simply as “Myeongryang” in Korea, stars famed Korean actor Choi Min-sik (“Old Boy”) as Admiral Yi, the commander of the Korean last stand. Released in July, it has grossed over $100 million and been seen by over 17 million people. It is now the most successful film in Korean box office history. It received a limited release in America this summer.

Detractors have accused the film of having an nationalistic agenda. Its release and popularity at a time of Japanese and Korea tension over territorial and historical issues is certainly unfortunate for politicians, though the reasons for its success may also be more innocuous. Ordinary Koreans have much affection has for Yi, the underdog protagonist hero, and film’s distribution company is said to have a monopoly over local movie theaters.

Facing incredible odds, Admiral Yi held his ground even when ordered to fall back and devised strategies to hold the Japanese ships at bay. His leadership qualities are greatly admired by Koreans today and a translation of his diary into modern Korean has been a bestseller.

Not everyone feels that “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” is accurate or fair, however.

The suit, filed against the producer and director Kim Han-min, the screenwriter Jeon Cheol-hong, and a novelist, relates to the portrayal of a side character in the film.

“Our ancestor’s name has been defamed for commercialization and we are also suffering from stigma,” say descendants of Bae Seol, a Korean general whom the film depicts as a rival to Yi. Bae is often said to have deserted the battle but alternative theories say he was allowed to leave the battle due to illness. He was later captured and executed.

His modern-day descendants have asked for screenings of the film to be suspended.

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Geisai: Tokyo University of the Arts’ incredible student festival

Written by: William on September 15, 2014 at 9:56 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Being the season of the rice harvest, at this time of year there are lots of traditional festivals around Japan. Just this weekend (a long three-day holiday weekend) we saw several portable shrines (omikoshi) around Meguro and even in the heart of Shibuya.

But every year in early September there’s another kind of festival hosted by students from Tokyo University of the Arts, one that is part art carnival though with plenty of nods to the same modus operandi of a traditional Japanese matsuri.

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

It’s called Geisai (“Gei” means “arts” and comes from Geidai, the nickname for the college, while “sai” means festival) and the three-day festival always features elaborate (and huge) floats that show off the students’ creative talents. There are also performances and music during the festival, with the events happening at the main campus but also spilling out into the streets of nearby Ueno.

The students compete to see which team has the best float as they parade them around, wearing colorful clothes that sort of resemble the usual garb that shrine-bearers at festivals usually wear, with some extra flourishes.

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

This tiger float was the winning entry in the festival. The mouth is amazingly well made.

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

God knows what they do with the giant floats after the festival is over, though.

Also check out Tokyo Art Beat’s photo report on a Geisai event a few years ago.

[Images via NetGeek.biz]

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Sony cancels Summer Lesson Project Morpheus HMD demo at Tokyo Game Show

Written by: William on September 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

It was supposed to be Sony’s big advert for the Project Morpheus HMD system at the Tokyo Game Show (public days on September 20th-21st).

Instead, Sony Computer Entertainment just canceled the “Summer Lesson” demo.

sony summer lesson project morpheus demo hmd tokyo game show 2014 cancel creepy

Officially Sony says it has made the decision because it received so many inquiries about it after they announced the virtual reality demo on September 1st that it fearer it would not be able to cope with the anticipated demo from the media and the general public at TGS.

Our guess is that the backlash was so strong they wanted to have a re-think.

As soon as it was announced there was a strong intake of breath. Sony had chosen to go with a demo made by the team behind Tekken that showcased the virtual reality headset’s technology in a way that could be described at best as, well, creepy.

sony summer lesson project morpheus demo hdm tokyo game show 2014 cancel creepy

There were many at home and abroad quick to apply other adjectives. The “Summer Lesson” demo features a loosely dressed schoolgirl at home that the player can, to be blunt, ogle up close.

It certainly lives up to the stereotype of Japanese male gamers being perverts and is bound to be a big hit with a specific demographic. But the TGS is the most important event in the industry and this was Sony’s chance to fight back after being in the economic doldrums (billion dollar losses for fiscal 2013).

Rather than going mainstream, it went with a divisive and (to many people) sexist demo.

Officially Sony is saying that it is considering a new date and venue to showcase its demo, though we have our suspicions that “Summer Lesson” may not see the full light of day in its current state.

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Sega’s Eederu Sunaba is interactive sandbox with realtime projectors, height sensors

Written by: William on September 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 10 Comments

Sega have created an interactive sandpit for kids. The Eederu Sunaba (translating literally as “Wow, appears! Sandbox”) uses projectors and special non-sticky sand so that kids can have fun playing god by re-modeling the landscape in any way they fancy. As they make hills, lakes and rivers with the sand, the projection mapping changes in realtime to match the shifting topography.

Sega plans to install the system in arcade game centers in Japan from this autumn, reports Nikkei Technology, and also in playroom facilities at showrooms for cars and houses, to keep the kids occupied while the grown-ups sort out the important purchase.

sega interactive sand sandpit sandbox projector projection responsive colors make landscape eederu sunaba asobi arcade game system

The system above the sandbox has a senor that measures distance so it can detect the changing height of the sound and generate imagery according to the shapes. If, say, it detects a hole it will create a river or lake image, complete with swimming fish. When the player piles some sand into a mound the projection will make a mountain.

Judging from the videos, the system seems very fast and intuitive, and the colors are great. There are lots of cool gimmicks like the shadows of aircraft flying over the scenery and the seasons change too. It seems to have no trouble interacting with multiple players at once.

sega interactive sand sandpit sandbox projector projection responsive colors make landscape eederu sunaba asobi arcade game system

It also detects movement. It projects animal characters and when the player touches these, they respond as they move around the landscape. Current examples of the creatures are ladybugs and beetles, though surely the possibilities are nearly endless here. (Future ideas could be tie-ups with Disney, Sanrio or other character-driven franchises.)

sega interactive sand sandpit sandbox projector projection responsive colors make landscape eederu sunaba asobi arcade game system

There are two modes. “Suna Asobi” (sand play) is for playing around freely in the box while “Dekirukana” (I can do it) mode allows players to draw pictures according to various themes, which are shown on a display for the kids to imitate.

It’s not necessarily the first sand pit of its kind; there have been Kinect sandpits and augmented reality sandboxes before. However, this may well be the first fully commercial example of a system like this.

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Former Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School Japanese idol group members (and fans) sued by management for dating

Written by: William on September 12, 2014 at 10:38 am | In CULTURE | 2 Comments

In a possibly unprecedented move, the management of a Japanese idol group is suing two former members, their parental guardians, and the fans they had relationships with for damages.

MovingFactory, the management and label behind the seven-girl idol group Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School has named both the two members, the fans and the parents in the lawsuit, which was made public yesterday.

Formed in 2012, Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School is not as famous as other idol groups like Perfume, AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z, but still has a reasonable fan base. Its single “STARTING OVER”, released in March, got to No.7 on the Oricon weekly singles chart.

In April this year it was suddenly announced that one of the members was leaving due to “health issues” and then in July another member was said to be taking a “break” from event appearances. New members were announced (the group now has eight members).

However, it was not until August that the reasons for the departure of Miho Yuuki (19) and Sena Miura (22) were made clear when a producer explained at an event that the two had been dating fans, which breached their contracts with MovingFactory. They were fired and the management even went so far as to reveal the names of the fans, which led to people tracking down their social media accounts and photos.

Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School japanese idol group sued lawsuit relationship with fan

And now it has emerged a lawsuit has been filed for over ¥8.2 million (in excess of $75,000) for damages as a result of the girls’ actions. The two members are named in the suit, as are the men who had relationships with the girls.

“The parental guardians signed contracts that said the members would not have relationships with fans and would not neglect their work,” the management was quoted. “They have betrayed the members of the group and all their fans. We cannot forgive this.”

It was not until yesterday that the lawsuit was confirmed, though rumors about it had been circulating since mid-August when MovingFactory explained why the two members had left. One of the men in question wrote a blog post claiming that as an ordinary citizen he was free to have a relationship with someone and that he had received notice of a lawsuit. The other man went so far as to make a public apology via a YouTube video (since taken down).

There is a recent similar case. Last month the management company for idol group N Zero announced a lawsuit against a member and a fan for having “private contact”.

While there have been some scandals of this nature before, what usually happens is the “shamed” member is fired or punished. AKB48 member Minami Minegishi was demoted and even shaved her head in a bizarre act of public self-humiliation, while fellow member Rino Sashihara was exiled to a Kyushu “sister group” for a similar romantic episode, though her fan base has since exonerated her and turned her into one of the most popular members in the AKB sphere.

Some have criticized the management of idol groups for moral hypocrisy, demanding that female members be all pure and innocent while actually selling them as sex objects and profiting from the sexualization of young girls. In fact, as is alleged with former AKB48 member Tomomi Kasai, there are cases where relationships with the idols are condoned but only when it is with the (older) male management themselves.

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Okashina Tamago Mawashite Purin Egg Flan Maker: Takara Tomy’s latest food cooking toy

Written by: Japan Trends on September 11, 2014 at 9:47 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Japan is a nation obsessed with food and also, so people say, childishness. And so it is only natural that the two things would be combined at some point. The result is cooking toys, which Takara Tomy in particular has been really pushing over the past three years.

The latest is the Okashina Tamago Mawashite Purin Egg Flan Maker, which allows you to cook egg flan just by moving a lever back and forth for two minutes.

okashina tamago mawashite mawashite purin flan egg maker toy japanese

Part a game, part a genuine way to make a dessert, the video promoting the product is frankly remarkable.

This cooking toy trend has been rolling out over the last couple of years now.

Takara Tomy started it off in 2012 with the Takara Tomy Gurefuru Chuchu, a kind of mini-blender attachment to make orange juice inside the fruit itself.

takara tomy gurefuru chuchu toy fruit juice maker

Just watch this video and you will see the instant appeal of the product!

Others then followed in the “Okashina” (literally “silly”) series, including the Takara Tomy Chupa Chups Ice Candy Maker and the Okashina Banana Juice Mixer.

takara tomy chupa chups ice candy maker toy

Invariably the products are all marketed with a suitable silly video, usually with an annoyingly catchy song and music. And sometimes dancing too.

Another recent example is the Maracas de Popcorn, which combines making popcorn with a musical instrument (yes, these are also maracas).

maracas de popcorn japan food cooking toy musical instrument

No surprise that there is also a funny video.

Besides the tone of the marketing, something common to most of the cooking toys is also that they do not require batteries or electricity for the most part, instead relying on a bit of elbow grease and the enthusiasm of kids. They are also actually very simple technologically but rely on the fun pop design, and the accompanying “action” (or even dance) to appeal to kids and parents.

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Infinity of Flowers: teamLab and Gucci create interactive digital floral installation

Written by: William on September 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

teamLab has got together with Gucci to create “Infinity of Flowers”, an interactive digital installation at the Gucci Shinjuku store from September 13th.

Visitors will be able to “touch” the flowers on the screen and see them bloom, scatter, grow and wither. The installation using a computer program to “paint” the flowers in realtime on the screen. The imagery on the display is created spontaneously by the system. We look forward to the video that will surely be made.

teamlab gucci infinity of flowers digital installation shinjuku japan tokyo

There will also be a teamLab work in display in the 8-meter window that faces Shinjuku-dori.

teamLab is an award-winning group of “ultra-technologists” working with digital experiential media. Its previous projects include a remarkable high school musical, an amazing digital mural of Tokyo at the Skytree, smart clothes hangers in a department store in Shibuya, and many more. This Shadow Dance and Shadowgraph video from early 2011 was a hit, not least because it seemed to adhere to everything we love about Japan — samurai swords and technology!

teamLab already has a florally-themed installation, “Time-blossoming Flowers”, at the new KITTE department store in Marunouchi.

team lab flower installation kitte tokyo marunouchi

They have a new permanent installation, “Vortex of Water Particles”, at Narita Airport’s Terminal 1 North Wing (joining their other installation at the South Wing that started last year).

“Infinity of Flowers” will run from September 13th to September 28th at the third-floor event space at Gucci Shinjuku. Entry is free.

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New Hatsune Miku Meets Blythe: Eclectic Super Idol doll is a sell-out

Written by: William on September 9, 2014 at 9:47 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Was this inevitable? The fashion doll series Blythe and otaku idol character Hatsune Miku have got together.

While Blythe is now licensed by Hasbro and originally American, the dolls with oversized heads are popular in Japan. The doll starred in a TV commercial for the department store Parco in 2000 and Takara made new editions of the dolls in 2001.

The new Hatsune Miku Meets Blythe: Eclectic Super Idol doll was put on pre-order on Junie Moon, a shop on the Rakuten platform, from 12pm on September 5th and immediately sold out. They then went on pre-order on the Takara Tomy online store yesterday and not surprisingly also sold out.

hatsune miku blythe doll meets eclectic super idol limited edition japanese vocaloid otaku

The limited edition doll is priced ¥20,000 (nearly $200) plus tax and if you are lucky enough to get your hands on one, expect it to shop in early February 2015.

Hatsune Miku, the virtual idol first created for the Vocaloid system, has since become a veritable industry in its (her?) own right, responsible for racing bikes, an opera, and more.

hatsune miku blythe doll meets eclectic super idol limited edition japanese vocaloid otaku

The Hatsune Miku Meets Blythe: Eclectic Super Idol doll features a tie, ribbons, a skirt and boots, and Miku’s trademark turquoise hair.

What do you think? Cute? Weird? Or both?

hatsune miku blythe doll meets eclectic super idol limited edition japanese vocaloid otaku

It’s far from the first time that the idol has become a physical doll, though. Pullip Dolls previously created a 12-inch doll of the Vocaloid star.

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“Toy Tokyo” explores Japan’s capital city in blurry, lo-fi photography

Written by: William on September 8, 2014 at 10:23 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

“Toy Tokyo” is a new photography book by Manami Okazaki, a collection of 26 interviews and images.

New from Kingyo Books, “Toy Tokyo” features “the work of several photographers who are either from, or are shooting in Japan. While generic, commercial, travel photography based on stock has become the norm, ‘Toy Tokyo’ captures the exhilaration of travel photography and life on the road, in one of the world’s most intense locations.”

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book

Photographers included in the book are: Frederic LeBain, Takeshi Suga, Cory Lum, Taiju Fubuki, Yusuke Abico, Genqui Numata, Hodachrome, Jorge Sato, Michael Feather, Katherine Oktober Matthews, Leo Berne, Kevin Meredith, Tommy Oshima, GHST WORLD, Kevin Meredith, Rei Sato, Paolo Patrizi, Sean Lotman, Jorge Sato, Remo Camerota, Michael Lyons, Martin Cheung, and Naga.Design by Cakefortiger.

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book jorge sato

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book taiju fubuki

You can read comments from some of the contributing lo-fi photographers over on GUP Magazine.

For example, here is what Michael Feather (responsible for the image below) says: “The reason I went with the pinhole is partly because commercial work is mostly digital, so to get away from that aspect, and with digital now, and iPhone and smart phones, we can shoot anything any time and stick a filter on it. You are playing around. You don’t start out with an actual vision, you just snap away. Whereas, when you start using something like a pinhole, with film, you start to think about what you are doing. You have made a conscious decision at the start.”

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book michael feather

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book sean lotman

“Toy Tokyo” is promised as the first in a series of location-specific toy camera photography books. It is available for $30 from Kingyo Books.

Australia-born Okazaki is the author of other coffee table books like “Kimono Now”, “Wabori” (on traditional Japanese tattoos) and “Kicks Japan” (about street culture and sneakers).

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