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kottke.org posts about Japan

Why It’s Almost Impossible to Lose Anything in Japan

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2022

Japan’s lost and found system is legendarily good — millions of items are turned into local police stations by residents every year and most of those items make their way back to their owners (unless it’s a cheap umbrella). As this short video explains, there are a few reasons why the system works so well — the importance of the “societal eye”1 in Japanese culture is one of them.

The Japanese concept of ‘hitono-me’ or the ‘societal eye’ is an important part of the process. “Our internal morals usually help us modify our behavior, but so does the ‘societal eye.’” The culture prevents people from doing wrong, even without a police presence. “Japanese people care deeply about how other people view their behavior. So their attitude to lost property is tied to their image in society.” The moral discipline is upheld even in the face of natural disasters. “It’s often the case in Japan that when disasters happen, crime doesn’t go up. The only exception was the Fukushima disaster when we had cases of crime. So I think that the power of people’s eyes around us is far greater than the power of public authority.”

This article goes into more detail about why Japan’s lost and found system works so well. The comments on YouTube are full of people describing their experience w/ the lost and found system, many by foreigners who are stunned at the honesty. Here’s one:

This is really true. I lost my bag that had all our passports, laptops, money… everything. Somehow they managed to track it down 200km in Nagoya and bring it to me the next morning in Takayama. I offered to give them something as a token of my gratitude but they didn’t accept because this is considered normal in their country. Absolutely amazing.

  1. It is not quite the same thing, but “hitono-me” reminds me of Jane Jacobs’ emphasis on the importance in cities of having “eyes upon the street”:

    A city street equipped to handle strangers, and to make a safety asset, in itself, out of the presence of strangers, as the streets of successful city neighborhoods always do, must have three main qualities:

    First, there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects.

    Second, there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.

    And third, the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.

    Almost no need to note here that “eyes upon the street” is a thing that almost does not exist in most American cities these days.

Recycling Center Made From Recycled Materials

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2021

I love this: the local recycling center in the town of Kamikatsu, Japan is itself made of recycled and upcycled materials. Most prominent of those materials are the hundreds of mismatched windows that form the building’s facade:

side of a building with many differently shaped windows

cozy inside of a building with many differently shaped windows

Brilliant. From Dezeen:

Kamikatsu’s main industry was once forestry, but all that remains of this today are neglected cedar forests. Nakamura’s studio worked with Yamada Noriaki Structural Design Office to design a structure using unprocessed cedar logs that reduce waste associated with squared-off lumber.

The logs are roughly sawn along their length to retain their inherent strength and natural appearance. The two sawn sections are bolted together to form supporting trusses that can be easily disassembled and reused if required.

The building’s facades are made using timber offcuts and approximately 700 windows donated by the community. The fixtures were measured, repaired and assigned a position using computer software, creating a seemingly random yet precise patchwork effect.

Recycled glass and pottery were used to create terrazzo flooring. Materials donated by companies, including bricks, tiles, wooden flooring and fabrics, were all repurposed within the building.

Unwanted objects were also sourced from various local buildings, including deserted houses, a former government building and a junior high school that had closed. Harvest containers from a shiitake mushroom factory are used as bookshelves in front of windows in the office.

exterior of a building with exposed wooden beams

The recycling center also includes a “take it or leave it” shop where residents can exchange used goods and a small hotel. (via colossal)

Illustrations from Japanese Fireworks Catalogs (circa 1880s)

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2021

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

From the excellent Public Domain Review, a collection of illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs published in the 1880s.

The spinning saxon, flying pigeons, polka batteries, jumping jacks and firecrackers, squibs and salutes, Aztec Fountains, Bengal Lights, and Egyptian Circlets, bangers or bungers, cakes, crossettes, candles, and a Japanese design known as kamuro (boys haircut), which looks like a bobbed wig teased out across the stratosphere… the language of fireworks has a richness that hints at the explosive payload it references. And yet, anyone who has ever held their camera up to the blazing sky knows that a brilliant firework show can rarely be captured to any satisfying degree. Perhaps this is what makes a nineteenth-century series of catalogue advertisements for Japanese fireworks so mesmerizing: denied the expectations of photorealism, these images are free to evoke a unique sense of visual wonder.

Japan’s Best Mundane Halloween Costumes for 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 01, 2021

It’s become a tradition in Japan to dress up in mundane costumes that depict everyday situations for Halloween and once again Johnny Waldman of Spoon & Tamago has collected some of the best and most creative efforts for 2021. Here are a few favorites. “Guy who leans in as his Mario Kart character turns a curve” (I am 100% this guy when I play):

Guy who leans in as his Mario Kart character turns a curve

“That person who showed up for the free trial lesson”:

That person who showed up for the free trial lesson

“That cashier who looks away as you enter your debit PIN”:

That cashier who looks away as you enter your debit PIN

“Girl who started decluttering but ended up on her phone”:

Girl who started decluttering but ended up on her phone

You can see the rest here or check out the costumes from 2019 and 2020.

Living While Black, in Japan

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2021

In Living While Black, in Japan, directed by Keith Bedford and Shiho Fukada, a group of African-Americans talk about what it’s like to live in Japan as Black people versus their experiences living in the United States.

“I didn’t leave because I was running away from anything. I left because I felt I could be more myself in Japan.”

“Living in Japan, as an African-American, I’ve honestly never felt more free.”

“You know, I can do things here in Japan that I can’t do back at home, in the U.S.”

“I can catch a cab when I’m not trying to catch a cab. People in stores that are supposed to serve you, serve you, like they serve everybody else.”

Edo Period Shadow Puppetry Woodblock Prints

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2021

woodblock print of shadow puppet instructions

woodblock print of shadow puppet instructions

woodblock print of shadow puppet instructions

Circa 1842, ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige released an 11-print series revealing the secrets of shadow puppetry performances. From the description of one of these woodblock prints held in the collection at The Minneapolis Institute of Art:

As comic entertainment, shadow performances were among the many diversions, including music and dance, offered at teahouse parties during the Edo period. In the eleven-print series Improvised Shadow Performances, Hiroshige depicted figures making shadows on shōji screens by contorting their bodies. The images demonstrate how to create ingenious shadows and could easily have been used as a how-to guide for clever shadow making.

You can find more of Hiroshige’s shadow prints at Ukiyo-e.org. (via colossal)

Animated Folding Screen of Painted Sekigahara Landscapes

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2021

Riffing on a byōbu folding screen of the Battle of Sekigahara painted in the 1700s, Yusuke Shigeta made a pixel animated version for a recent exhibition. The video above is a tantalizingly short preview of the work — I could have watched these tiny pixel vignettes all day.

Wooden Satellites

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2021

Wooden Satellites

Researchers at Kyoto University and a Japanese forestry company have joined forces to develop orbital satellites made out of wood, purportedly to address the growing threat of space junk. The design will need to be resistant to dramatic changes in temperature and sunlight but will easy burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere upon reentry.

I love the idea of satellites made from wood — it seems like Victorian-era scifi. The harshness of space seems like a domain exclusively for metals and ceramics, but wood is a surprisingly versatile material used in many different severe environments on Earth. There’s no reason it couldn’t work in space as well — and if their traditional expertise in joinery is any indication, I trust the Japanese to figure out a way make it happen.

But as Ars Technica’s John Timmer notes, wooden satellites won’t meaningfully help with the space junk problem.

Unfortunately, making satellite housings out of wood won’t help with this, for many, many reasons. To start with, a lot of the junk isn’t ex-satellites; it’s often the boosters and other hardware that got them to orbit in the first place. Housings are also only a fraction of the material in a satellite, leaving lots of additional junk untouched by the change, and any wood that’s robust enough to function as an effective satellite housing will be extremely dangerous if it impacts anything at orbital speeds.

The (unrelated) photo above is of toy company Papafoxtrot’s wooden scale models of NASA spacecraft.

The Art of Traditional Japanese Wood Joinery

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2020

This video is three minutes and nine seconds of pure precision — welcome to the world of Japanese wood joinery. Carpenter Dylan Iwakuni wordlessly demonstrates taking two or more pieces of wood and (improbably, impossibly) making them one. Seriously, I am gobsmacked at how exactly these bits of wood fit together.

If you enjoyed that, you may want to check out another of Iwakuni’s videos, Making the “Impossible Joint”.

(via colossal & the kid should see this)

How Soy Sauce Is Made Using Traditional Methods

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 13, 2020

Since 1789, Fueki Syoyu Brewing has been making soy sauce using simple ingredients, big wooden barrels for aging, and traditional methods handed down through the generations to ensure the signature richness and taste of their product. This video from Eater takes us inside the brewery to see how the magic happens.

The Japanese Sustainable Forestry Technique Called Daisugi (Platform Cedar)

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2020

Daisugi

Daisugi is a sustainable forestry technique that originated in Kyoto in the 14th or 15th century. The tops of Kitayama cedar trees are carefully pruned so that a stand of very straight branches grow straight up from a main platform. From Spoon & Tamago:

The technique was developed in Kyoto as a means of solving a seedling shortage and was used to create a sustainable harvest of timber from a single tree. Done right, the technique can prevent deforestation and result in perfectly round and straight timber known as taruki, which are used in the roofs of Japanese teahouses.

The technique is not really used in forestry anymore, but daisugi are popular as garden trees and bonsai. There are lots of terrible videos about daisugi on YouTube, so I’d recommend watching this one from NHK about how Kitayama cedars are pruned & harvested, what the wood is used for, and a short segment on daisugi near the end.

A Long Walk Along Japan’s Historic Nakasendo Highway to Eat Pizza Toast

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2020

Kissa By Kissa

Kissa By Kissa

Last year, Craig Mod walked 620 miles from Tokyo to Kyoto along the Nakasendō historic highway and along the way he stopped at kissaten (or kissa), old-school Japanese cafes known for their pizza toast. Mod wrote about his quest late last year for Eater and has now turned a fuller account of the journey into a gorgeous book called Kissa By Kissa.

Those kissaten — or kissa — served up toast. I ate that toast. So. Much. Toast. Much of it pizza toast. If you buy this book, you’ll learn more than you ever dared to know about this variety of toast available all across Japan. It’s a classic post-war food staple. Kissa by kissa, and slice by thick slice of beautiful, white toast, I took a heckuva affecting and long walk. This book is my sharing with you, of that walk, the people I met along the way, and the food I ate.

Even more interesting is that to sell the book, Mod built a Kickstarter clone on top of Shopify called Craigstarter. And he’s released the code for it on Github.

Kickstarter is an excellent way to run a crowdfunding campaign. But if you already have a community built up, and have communication channels in place (via a newsletter, for example), and already run an online shop, then Kickstarter can be unnecessarily cumbersome. Kickstarter’s 10% fee is also quite hefty. By leaning on Shopify’s flexible Liquid templating system and reasonable CC processing fees, an independent publisher running a campaign can save some ~$7,000 for every $100,000 of sales by using Craigstarter instead of Kickstarter. That’s materially meaningful, especially in the world of books.

You can order Kissa By Kissa right here.

Update: Mod made a short video of the proprietor of Būgen, one of the kissaten featured in the book, making pizza toast:

A fabrication lab in Japan hopes to rejuvenate the local cedar industry

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Feb 07, 2020

Mount Aso by Takahiro Taguchi, Unsplash

Over the last decade plus, Fab Labs have had some years of great growth and visibility. Recently, some have had a harder go of it and a growing number of people, including most of media, seem to have dismissed them.

Fab Lab Aso Minami-Oguni is one kind of project that can “keep the dream alive” and shows how local fabrication workshops can serve a number of functions and help different groups within a community.

Created by the companies Anai Wood Factory and Foreque Inc., the lab sits in a relatively remote village of 4000 people.

[B]uilt with the intention of developing new products with Oguni Cedar, a locally prized resource. Oguni Cedar is a fine-grained, high-quality wood, known for its lustre, texture and beautiful pink colour. The Fab Lab is affiliated with a shop called the FIL Store which sells tableware and furniture, from wooden plates and cups to tables, lounge chairs, and coat hangers, all made by Foreque Inc. under the FIL brand. All the products are made from Oguni Cedar, and their hallmark is the way in which the grain of the wood is incorporated into their design. Suzutani explains that the products symbolise the way the industry has changed over time.

It’s part of an effort to rejuvenate the exploitation of the local cedar and to help another generational shift, having gone from logs, to lumber, and hopefully now to more finished products.

The lab also caters to other audience in the village.

Fab Lab Aso Minami-Oguni attracts all kinds of people, from housewives who want to engage in craftwork, to newcomers to the village working on ambitious projects. But according to Suzutani, they expend their biggest efforts on primary school and junior high school students, aged 6 - 15. “Rural towns like this do not have many places for children to safely go and play on their own. Because of that, many of them go home after school just to play games on their phone for hours. You could even say that smartphones are their only connection to the outside world.”

Credits: The interview is a collaboration between Pop-Up City and MOMENT Magazine. Photo of Mount Aso by Takahiro Taguchi (Fab Lab Aso Minami-Oguni is just north of the mountain).

Official Posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2020

Wow, check out the official posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

2020 Olympic Posters

2020 Olympic Posters

2020 Olympic Posters

What an amazing array of styles and disciplines — there’s manga, shodo (calligraphy), Cubism, photography, surrealism, and ukiyo-e. That stunning poster at the top is from Tomoko Konoike — fantastic. As you can see, posters from past Olympics have tended towards the literal, with more straightforward depictions of sports, the rings, stadiums, etc. Kudos to the organizers of the Tokyo Games for casting their net a little wider. Love it. (via sidebar)

Woven City, Toyota’s Prototype City of the Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2020

In early 2021, Toyota plans to break ground on a prototype city of the future located at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan. Around 2000 people will populate Woven City at first, which will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The masterplan of the city includes the designations for street usage into three types: for faster vehicles only, for a mix of lower speed, personal mobility and pedestrians, and for a park-like promenade for pedestrians only. These three street types weave together to form an organic grid pattern to help accelerate the testing of autonomy.

The city is planned to be fully sustainable, with buildings made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint, using traditional Japanese wood joinery, combined with robotic production methods. The rooftops will be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota plans to weave in the outdoors throughout the city, with native vegetation and hydroponics.

Residences will be equipped with the latest in human support technologies, such as in-home robotics to assist with daily living. The homes will use sensor-based AI to check occupants’ health, take care of basic needs and enhance daily life, creating an opportunity to deploy connected technology with integrity and trust, securely and positively.

The press release and video above are the best sources of info about the city, but there’s also a website with not a lot of info and some weirdly fuzzy low-res icons that I hope are not indicative of the level of effort and polish being put into this effort. Those icons definitely didn’t go through the Toyota Production System.

Japan’s “Mundane” Halloween Costume Party for 2019

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2019

Each year since 2014, a group in Japan holds a Halloween event where people come dressed not as witches, Avengers, or zombies but in everyday “mundane” costumes. This year’s costumes include “woman who forgot to take out the trash” and “woman who showed up to a BBQ with no intention of helping out”. My personal favorite is “guy who face-swapped with a Starbucks cup”:

Mundane Halloween 2019

You can see more costumes from this year on Twitter #DPZ or Spoon & Tamago. See also some of last year’s costumes, including “a girl who just gave blood and now can’t do anything for a few minutes” and “guy at the office whose turn it is to empty the shredder”.

Mundane Halloween 2019

I’m not much for Halloween, but this I could get into.

The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2019

The servers at The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders, a series of pop-up restaurants in Tokyo, are all living with dementia, which means that you might not receive what you ordered.

All of our servers are people living with dementia. They may, or may not, get your order right.

However, rest assured that even if your order is mistaken, everything on our menu is delicious and one of a kind. This, we guarantee.

“It’s OK if my order was wrong. It tastes so good anyway.” We hope this feeling of openness and understanding will spread across Japan and through the world.

At the first pop-up, 37% of the orders were mistaken. This video explains a bit more about the concept and shows the restaurant in action.

Sato San, duct tape typographer

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 31, 2019

Tokyo subway's humble duct-tape typographer

Lovely story of a Tokyo security guard who’s enhancing his guidance work through constructions sites with some fantastic custom made signage. He crafts those crisp and distinctive signs with… duct tape and a knife! Having no formal training in graphic design, he managed to create a style so noticeable and appreciated that it is now “highly regarded by designers and curators” and is even known as “Shuetsu Sans.”

The man in question, Shuetsu Sato, also published an instructional book and has fans on Instagram, spotting and sharing his work!

Tokyo subway's humble duct-tape typographer

Mateusz Urbanowicz’s Tokyo storefronts

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 29, 2019

Mateusz Urbanowicz's Tokyo Storefronts

Gorgeous work by a Polish illustrator working in Japan. Originally found him through this page about his Tokyo storefronts book, which features a number of super detailed watercolor illustrations. You can see even more on the series page and the Tokyo by night ones are also worth a long look. He also links to this very detailed review of the storefronts book, with a page by page description (sounds boring but the work is so beautiful, it goes by fast).

Urbanowicz also has a Youtube channel with lots of making-of videos, including a series about the book above.

Mateusz Urbanowicz's Tokyo Storefronts

(Via Darran Anderson)

Night Photography of Urban Japan

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2019

Photographer Jun Yamamoto (a.k.a. jungraphy) takes these subdued (but somehow also vibrant) photos of Japanese cities at night. This one in particular caught my eye:

Jun Yamamoto

I’m assuming the photos are processed to get that moody red/blue/black color palette.

The Wasabi Farmer

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2019

By some accounts, 99% of the wasabi consumed in the world is not actually wasabi — it’s horseradish + green food coloring. Real wasabi is difficult to grow:

Authentic wasabi, known as Wasabia japonica, is the most expensive crop to grow in the world. The temperamental semiaquatic herb, native to the mountain streams of central Japan, is notoriously difficult to cultivate. Once planted, it takes several years to harvest; even then, it doesn’t germinate unless conditions are perfect. Grated wasabi root loses its flavor within 15 minutes.

Profiled in the short film above, 75-year old Shigeo Iida is the 8th generation owner of a wasabi farm in Japan, where he’s been painstakingly growing the herb in a beautiful valley for decades. He loves his work, but like other aging Japanese responsible for long-lived family businesses, there’s uncertainty about the future. (via craig mod)

A Japanese Illustrated History of the United States from 1861

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2019

Japan Us History 1861

Japan Us History 1861

With the 1853 arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry on the shores of Japan, the isolationist country was introduced to the United States in a rather American fashion: trade with us or we’ll open fire. Faced with a seemingly overwhelming military force, the Japanese opened their country to foreign trade in the years following. Published just a few years later in 1861 by writer Kanagaki Robun and illustrator Utagawa Yoshitora, Osanaetoki Bankokubanashi is an illustrated history of America that provides a glimpse into how the Japanese perceived their new trading partners.

For instance, the two pages above feature George Washington fighting a tiger with his bare hands and John Adams battling a massive snake with a sword. As Japanese historian Nick Kapur notes in this thread, the book also contains illustrations of a burly Ben Franklin wielding a cannon as well as many other amazing and fantastical scenes. (via open culture)

Meet the Yamabushi Monks, Who Commune with Nature to Find Themselves

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2019

Mountain Monks is a short film by Fritz Schumann about a group of Japanese monks called the Yamabushi who regularly commune with nature to get in touch with their true selves.

The Yamabushi in northern Japan practice a once forbidden ancient religion. While their tradition is at risk of disappearing, it offers a way for those seeking a different path in Japan’s society.

Walking barefoot through rivers, meditating under waterfalls and spending the nights on mountaintops — that is the way of the Yamabushi. They walk into the forest to die and be born again.

You may remember another short film by Schumann that I posted last year about Hoshi Ryokan, a 1300-year-old family-run hotel in central Japan. (via laughing squid)

A Searchable Database of Japanese Woodcut Prints

posted by Tim Carmody   Nov 02, 2018

This is a real treasure: a free, searchable database of hundreds of thousands of Japanese woodcut prints, from many collections, spanning from the early 18th century to contemporary artists. It’ll even do reverse image search and find alternate prints of the same woodcut.

A few favorites I browsed from the collection:

Nishikawa Sukenobu - 1731.jpg

(Nishikawa Sukenobu, 1731)

Katsushika Hokusai - 1830.jpg

(Katsushika Hokusai, 1830)

Katsushika Hokusai - 1832.jpg

(Katsushika Hokusai, 1832)

Hagiwara Hideo - 1950s.jpg

(Hagiwara Hideo, 1950s)

Photos of Tokyo taken with a fractal lens look incredibly futuristic

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 02, 2018

Photographer Steve Roe brought his fractal lens to Japan & Korea and got some shots that look like they’re out of Blade Runner, Speed Racer, or anime.

Steve Roe Fractal

Steve Roe Fractal

Steve Roe Fractal

The lenses are adjustable prism filters that picks up images from outside the camera’s normal field of view, allowing for in-camera layering effects. You can check out more photos shot with these lenses on Instagram (though few quite as successful as Roe’s).

In Search of Forgotten Colors

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 13, 2018

The Victoria and Albert Museum filmed this short four-part documentary about the Somenotsukasa Yoshioka dye workshop near Kyoto, Japan. They make dyes using only natural materials, producing vibrant colors using little-used and often long-forgotten techniques.

Sachio Yoshioka is the fifth-generation head of the Somenotsukasa Yoshioka dye workshop in Fushimi, southern Kyoto. When he succeeded to the family business in 1988, he abandoned the use of synthetic colours in favour of dyeing solely with plants and other natural materials. 30 years on, the workshop produces an extensive range of extremely beautiful colours.

Another great find from internet gem The Kid Should See This.

Hoshi Ryokan, One of the World’s Oldest Hotels

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2018

From visual journalist Fritz Schumann, a short, poignant documentary on Hoshi Ryokan, a Japanese hotel built on a hot springs that has been run by the same family for 1300 years, making it the oldest running family business in the world.

This ryokan (a traditional japanese style hotel) was built over a natural hot spring in Awazu in central Japan in the year 718. Until 2011, it held the record for being the oldest hotel in the world.

Houshi Ryokan has been visited by the Japanese Imperial Family and countless great artists over the centuries. Its buildings were destroyed by natural disasters many times, but the family has always rebuilt. The garden as well as some parts of the hotel are over 400 years old.

The ryokan is now on its 46th generation of ownership. As you might expect, the changing role of the family in Japanese society has put the future succession of the hotel to the next generation in jeopardy. (via open culture)

The world’s smallest sushi is made from a single grain of rice

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2018

Tiny Sushi

At Sushiya no Nohachi in Tokyo, you can eat sushi that is made using a single grain of rice. The tiny sushi came about when a customer challenged the owner’s son to make the smallest possible sushi.

The most difficult tiny sushi are the ones with nori seaweed — those are the sea urchin and egg. For sea urchin, he has to put a small piece of nori around a grain of rice horizontally. For egg, he has to wrap the nori around the egg and grain of rice. It’s pretty impressive to witness.

You can see the small sushi being made in this video:

That said, when we asked how often they need to make a plate of small sushi, we were surprised.

“Just a few times a week and at most five times in a day.” Though when customers from overseas order, they tend to be extra enthusiastic about the tiny sushi.

He told us that one woman from Europe burst into tears and cried for an hour and a half after seeing the cute, little sushi.

(thx, jason)

Older Japanese women are shoplifting to find community and meaning in jail

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2018

Shiho Fukada

Shiho Fukada

In Japan, where 27.3% of the population is 65 or older, elderly women are committing petty crimes like shoplifting in order to go to jail to find care and community that is increasingly denied them elsewhere. Japan’s jails are becoming nursing homes.

Why have so many otherwise law-abiding elderly women resorted to petty theft? Caring for Japanese seniors once fell to families and communities, but that’s changing. From 1980 to 2015, the number of seniors living alone increased more than sixfold, to almost 6 million. And a 2017 survey by Tokyo’s government found that more than half of seniors caught shoplifting live alone; 40 percent either don’t have family or rarely speak with relatives. These people often say they have no one to turn to when they need help.

Even women with a place to go describe feeling invisible. “They may have a house. They may have a family. But that doesn’t mean they have a place they feel at home,” says Yumi Muranaka, head warden of Iwakuni Women’s Prison, 30 miles outside Hiroshima. “They feel they are not understood. They feel they are only recognized as someone who gets the house chores done.”

All photos by Shiho Fukada. The first photo is of Mrs. F, aged 89, who stole “rice, strawberries, cold medicine”. She says: “I was living alone on welfare. I used to live with my daughter’s family and used all my savings taking care of an abusive and violent son-in-law.” The woman in the second photo recounts:

The first time I shoplifted was about 13 years ago. I wandered into a bookstore in town and stole a paperback novel. I was caught, taken to a police station, and questioned by the sweetest police officer. He was so kind. He listened to everything I wanted to say. I felt I was being heard for the first time in my life. In the end, he gently tapped on my shoulder and said, ‘I understand you were lonely, but don’t do this again.’

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy working in the prison factory. The other day, when I was complimented on how efficient and meticulous I was, I grasped the joy of working. I regret that I never worked. My life would have been different.

I enjoy my life in prison more. There are always people around, and I don’t feel lonely here. When I got out the second time, I promised that I wouldn’t go back. But when I was out, I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic.

The neon glow of Tokyo modified car culture

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2017

New Zealand drift racer Mike Whiddett recently travelled to Japan to explore Tokyo’s “extraordinary after-dark modified auto scene”. He found people making California-style lowriders, Dekotora (my favorite, if only for the sheer spectacle), illegally modified cars, and a man who says with a straight face that “driving an unmodified Lamborghini is boring”.

What’s interesting is that more than one of these guys in the video repeated some variation of “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me”. I….don’t believe you? If there’s one thing most humans care deeply about, it’s what other people think about them, particularly when you’re driving million-dollar, pulsing-neon supercars around the world’s most populous city.