Only in Japan – Thanks Tail

tail_car.jpgA polite society based on mutual respect and courtesy requires new tools for the road. You flash your brights when you sugget someone go ahead or if warning on-coming traffic of a speed trap but what to do to when you want to indicate thanks to those that let you into traffic? Thanks Tail is a robotic rendition of a dog’s tail that is controlled from inside the car and can be wagged as an expression of “thank you” to the car behind you.

I think this thing would get you killed in New Jersey.

Thanks Tail!

Update: featured on RocketBoom

Girl’s Day

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As we drove through Chinatown this past weekend, we saw preparations for the Chinese New Year’s celebrations. Many were carrying sprigs of cut plum blossoms which are just starting to bloom so we bought some to go with the Girl’s Day display which we set up each year around this time and keep up until the beginning of March.

Tyler took a small plum blossom branch to school today to explain to his class about the festival and his Japanese background. Taking him to school this morning, he said he was worried that the boys in the class would make fun of a kid carrying pink flowers to show-and-tell. Later, in line waiting to go into the class, he noticed that the girls liked he flowers so he warmed up to the idea.

FCC and Doraemon

fccdoraemon.JPGThis is old news but Terrie Lloyd, who’s always good a picking up tidbits for his excellent email newsletter “Terrie’s Take” highlights the striking resemblence of the new FCC mascot, “Broadband” to Doraemon, the cartoon every Japanese kid knows by sight. Turns out the publisher of Doaemon, Shougakkan, is going to take legal action but it’ll be interesting to see how a suit lodged by a private Japanese company works out against a US government organization.

It will be interesting to see if a Japanese copyright claim against a US government department will be received with as as much vigor as trade disputes in the opposite direction. Expect to see more about this on slow news days on NHK and other Japanese media…

Slow News Day in Japan

I just love the Crime column in the English language Yomiuri. It’s either about some extremely gruesome incident which makes you question how people can be raised to be capable of such things or it’s some totally mundane non-event that makes you feel sorry for the totally bored reporter that had to write the silly thing up.

Today was a good example of the latter.

A bus driver has been fined for stopping on the Hamada Expressway in Chiyodacho, Hiroshima Prefecture, to let a 76-year-old woman get off the bus, it was learned Saturday.

SuperDeluxe is the Best in Asia

Our friends over at Klein Dytham architecture have made Time Magazine’s Best of Asia list as a cool spot to hang out and catch the pulse of the avant-garde scene in Tokyo. Located in what looks like an old auto body shop in Azabu, SuperDeluxe has turned into the modern day equivalent of a Merry Prankster’s workshop; there’s always something interesting going on.

Hooray and congrats to you all! For a list of the latest events (the planned one anyway) check out the SuperDeluxe website.

Little “t”

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I’m in Tokyo for the week catching up with the family who has been here for the past month and a half. Earlier in the year, Izumi negotiated with a local kindergarden to see if we could send Tyler (5) to their school for June and July while Japanese schools are still session. I had gone to a Japanese kindergarden when I was Tyler’s age and it did a world of good for my ability to pronounce Japanese so the logic was that it would help Tyler as well.

To a large part, it’s been successful. Tyler has fit right in and learned a little Japanese to boot. I’ll post pictures when I return and can upload them from my camera. He’s off today for a two night trip to the mountains to pick blueberries with his classmates which is a wonderful way to finish out his experience.

The school is affiliated with a Christian church in Denenchofu, about 15 minutes away by car. For the past two mornings, I’ve been walking Tyler to school after getting dropped off halfway by Izumi’s mom on her way to work. Tyler leads the way, explaining all the things he sees on the way to school. As we approached the school on Monday, he pointed down the road to his school, signposted by the, little “t” as he described it. It took a while for me to figure out what he was talking about but then I saw it. The little “t” he was talking about was the Cross, up on top of the building. I had internalized the symbol so much I didn’t see it for what it is, a little “t.”

Tyler with his Japanese school teacher
Tyler with his Japanese school teacher

Paul Krugman on Japan

Poking around to look for the latest Krugman column in which he illustrates the arrogance of President Bush’s one page request for an additional $25 billion for adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, I see that he’s also brought together the best of his writings on Japan into one place.

The state of Japan is a scandal, an outrage, a reproach. It is not, at least so far, a human disaster like Indonesia or Brazil. But Japan’s economic malaise is uniquely gratuitous. Sixty years after Keynes, a great nation – a country with a stable and effective government, a massive net creditor, subject to none of the constraints that lesser economies face – is operating far below its productive capacity, simply because its consumers and investors do not spend enough. That should not happen; in allowing it to happen, and to continue year after year, Japan’s economic officials have subtracted value from their nation and the world as a whole on a truly heroic scale.

Train Station Melodies

Update (Aug. 2012): replaced link.

A charming site that plays back a collection of Japanese Station Melodies.

In Japan, special melodies play when trains pull into or pull out of train stations. These melodies are unique, depending on the station. This website is devoted to these sounds, giving samples of them. Please look through this website for more detailed explanations.

Click the link below for a sample. Brings back memories!

Osaki Station Melody

Gross National Cool

Do you think Japan is Cool?

“Japan is reinventing superpower—again. Instead of collapsing beneath its widely reported political and economic misfortunes, Japan’s global cultural influence has quietly grown. From pop music to consumer electronics, architecture to fashion, and animation to cuisine, Japan looks more like a cultural superpower today than it did in the 1980s, when it was an economic one. But can Japan build on its mastery of medium to project an equally powerful national message? ”
– from Japan’s Gross National Cool