Filed under: COOL SHT, Feature | Tags: animated gifs, Aritsugu, Asahi Pearls, bullet train, carbon, Cell Phones, Facebook, Facebook Camera, Ginza, Imperial Palace, Instagram, IPO, Japan, Knives, Kyoto, Lost in Translation, Nijo Castle, Park Hyatt, pearls, Shibuya, Shibuya Crossing, Shinjuku, Shinkansen, shogun, Smartphone, steel, street art, sushi, Sushi Dai, tampons, Tokugawa, Tokyo, Tsukiji Market
THIS WEEK: LOST IN TRANSLATION IN JAPAN
For the past week, I’ve been darting across Japan from Tokyo to Kyoto attempting to soak in as much as possible within only several days. I came to Japan in hopes of seeing family, a mission which became complicated by the challenges which only family can bring. I left Japan with a deep respect for the tradition and rules which make every day tick along to the second. Here’s a download from my maraudering…
Nothing Says Japan Like a 6A Sushi Breakfast
Tsukiji Market, Tokyo
Tsukiji Market is the renowned fish auction market where most of the fish in Tokyo is purchased on a daily basis. A few suggestions if you plan to go. Get there EARLY! I don’t mean 5A early. I mean 4A early. To get there this early, you can only take a taxi as the trains don’t run until around 5 in the morning. Friends recommended that we head there on our first morning in Tokyo. Being that time is misaligned from the many hours of time difference from LA, this was the perfect plan. Sushi Dai is the famous sushi restaurant in Tsukiji but with 2 hour lines and the crowds to match, we settled for a more random spot along the market. I would name it but unfortunately, the sign was in Japanese and well, there you have it. As you can see from the toro, salmon and roe in the bowl above, it did not disappoint.
Pretense as an Iron Chef
Knives in Tsukiji Market
In Tsukiji, you can buy many things from fish obviously to souvenirs. I suggest playing tourist fools like we did and walking thru the prohibited areas until you get ‘caught.’ Japanese knives are world -renowned and clearly a shop stop was necessary. The knives with the blue labels are the ones with the carbon steel. The others usually come crafted with stainless steel. You can find many knife vendors in the market and for a full download on the many attributes of Japanese knives and where to go in Tsukiji, click here. In general, Japanese steel is considered much harder than Western steel. In addition, carbon sharpens more easily than stainless steel.
THIS is as Close as You Get to the Imperial Palace
Water Fountaining, Tokyo
It turns out you need a reservation to visit the Imperial Palace, a fact completely lost on two most spontaneous of travelers. In short, the water fountain outside the stone walls was as close as we got. In a city where the trains run down to the second, order is imperative.
THAT’s Not a PEARL. THIS…is a PEARL.
Asahi Pearls in the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo
My father has worked in Japan at Toshiba since I was a little girl and ever since then, he has returned home with pearl earrings from his friend in Tokyo. I first met the shop owner on my trip to Tokyo last year, which was cut short after the wreckage from the tsunami. This year, I decided to return and say hello to the man who has been working in this store since 1949. He knows my entire family and has been selling my father jewelry since 1976. It’s a funny thing finding a piece of home in a foreign country.
Nothing Says Tokyo like Cell Phones for Babies
It seems necessary to make a stop in a cell phone store and check out all the gleaming technology. Here you have cell phones with only a few simple buttons, so the wee kiddies can use them. I’m constantly affronted by the challenge of technology approaching a destructive quality in peoples’ lives rather than a beneficial one. Being in Tokyo was filled with technology pornography but reaffirmed my assertion that we’re all running precariously close to being addicted to smart phones and the connections they bring.
Tampons are like Porn
The Japanese art of being demur translates to even the simple task of buying tampons. Not only were they protected from prying eyes in this fine brown paper bag, they were tapped shut, for security of course.
After 8 years of living in New York City, I thought there could not possibly be a place of more chaos. Color me corrected. Pedestrians cross in all directions including on a diagonal. Only in Tokyo could this chaos seem strangely organized.
Harder. Faster. Stronger. Tokyo.
Shinkansen, the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto
The bullet train maxes out at around 180 mph clearly giving it speed-advantage to anything we have in the US. That said, Amtrak has free Wi-Fi on several trains now and sincerely, I’d take free Wi-Fi over speed. I’m sure that says something about me but I hardly care. I expected to come to Tokyo and find Wi-Fi in abundance. While it is in fact everywhere, it’s heavily restricted, locked behind a series of passwords or payment gates. Free love otherwise equated to free Wi-Fi certainly doesn’t exist here. Perhaps the Japanese know where to look, but open Wi-Fi equals innovation, giving all access to the open educational system which is the internet.
One Bad Ass Shogun
Nijo Castle, Kyoto
Tokugawa was one bad ass shogun and here lies his castle. While he typically spent most of his time in Tokyo, here’s where he came to rest while in Kyoto. Tokugawa is a prime example of a smart leader. He imposed taxes on all the feudal lords so that he could keep their wealth under control. Pimp. Money brings power and heavy defense systems. Pimp. By keeping their purse strings tight, he kept them under his control. And yes, this makes him one badass shogun. PIMP.
Back to the Knives
Aritsugu in the Nishiki Market, Kyoto
Aritsugu has been making knives for over 450 years, originally favored by the Imperial Palace. I picked out a carbon steel blade based on some excellent recommendations from Shogo Minami, who spoke incredible English I may add. Aritsugu will etch whatever you like in your blade. Choosing “Marauder” on a carbon blade felt like I was having a Kill Bill moment.
Lost in Translation
Park Hyatt, Tokyo
This hotel may be the finest hotel I will ever experience. Selected due to its Lost in Translation moment, this hotel did not disappoint on any end. Even checking in was far superior to anything I have ever experienced. Upon arrival, you are whisked away to a lounge-like seating area and welcomed like royalty. Our room was on the 49th floor and showcased the most expansive urban view I imagine I will ever have of Tokyo. Swimming in the pool and reading Shakespeare’s love sonnets seemed incredibly surreal. In short, stay here for whatever time possible. You will never forget it.
Japan taught me a respect for order but a LOVE for passion.
I came away from my experience in Tokyo wishing that certain things in the US ran along the order the Japanese maintain so carefully but secretly longing for the crazy train of emotions that I had come to expect from home. I was hyper-aware of the mess I seemed to be making as I simply walked along the street and that awareness brought me nothing but an additional layer of stress. I loved Tokyo and would return in a heartbeat, but a little mess…aint that bad.
In other news, Salesforce acquired BuddyMedia, Instagram puts the nail in the PicPlz coffin, Facebook’s stock price continues to see decline, flirts with getting into the smartphone business (BAD idea), and launches a camera app clearly in direct competition with Instagram. Frankly, the Facebook camera application is a bad user experience with the exception to the News Feed which streamlines your Facebook feed simply to the pictures. To this end, I think the better user proposition would have simply been to allow for a visual picture-based-only-view to the News feed in the original Facebook mobile app rather than to launch an additional application.
Some more Cool Sh-t:
Filed under: MISC | Tags: Arts, DVD, Entertainment, Japan, Movie studio, Movies, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Television
Sony Pictures Entertainment, the movie studio subsidiary of the Japanese electronics maker, is laying off nearly 250 people and eliminating nearly 100 open positions in an effort to cut costs. The studio cites declines in television syndication, DVDs and advertising sales. (Iwantmedia 3/11, http://tech.yahoo.com/news/ap/20090310/ap_on_hi_te/sony_pictures_cuts 3/10)
Filed under: WIRELESS | Tags: Apple, Asia, Facebook, iPhone, ITunes Store, Japan, Mobile phone, Softbank
There are no official statistics available as how well the iPhone sells after Apple started offering it in the Japanese market. Now Softbank Mobile, one of Asia’s biggest tech companies and the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in Japan, thinks sales need a boost and decided to give away the hardware basically for free. (http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/02/26/iphone-not-selling-well-in-japan-now-available-for-free 2/26)
How much overlap is there between your Facebook “friends” and the real contacts in your mobile phone’s address book? If those two world’s align and you have an iPhone, you might want to check out a nifty utility called Photo Phonebook (iTunes link). It finds the matches between the people in your iPhone’s contact list and your Facebook friends and downloads their Facebook profile photos. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/02/26/import-facebook-photos-into-your-iphone-contact-list-with-photo-phonebook 2/26)
Available in two tasty flavors, free (”AIM Free”) and paid (”AIM Paid”), AIM 2.0 for iPhone now provides SMS notifications, has location-aware services, and supports multiple accounts (among other updates). It appears as though all of the application updates have been included in both the free and paid versions, with the major (and obvious) difference being the inclusion of ads in the buddy list of the AIM Free app. (http://www.mobilecrunch.com/2009/02/26/im-wars-aim-for-iphone-grows-up-gets-paid-version 2/26)
Google has made its Android Market app store off-limits to those who bought an unlocked version of its G1 handsets as the company moves to prevent them from accessing copy-protected applications. Anyone who pays $25 to join the Android developer program can buy the unlocked hardware, which typically costs $400. Macworld/IDG News Service (2/25)
Thanks to the spike in mobile internet use and the push toward mobile TV services, U.S. mobile advertising search, SMS and display revenues will grow to $3.1 billion in 2013, up from a nascent $160 million in 2008, according to The Kelsey Group, a division of BIA Advisory Services. That represents a compound annual growth rate of 81.2%. (Cynopsis 2/26)
Filed under: GAMING | Tags: Console Platforms, GAME, Japan, Nintendo, Online game, Video game, Wii, Yahoo
Thanks to strong demand for its Wii and DS gaming platforms, Japan‘s Nintendo announced a 21% rise in operating profit in the third quarter. But that good news came with a caveat: The company also scaled back its forecast because of a strong yen, which makes Nintendo’s goods less desirable on the world import stage. Reuters (1/29)
Online gaming usage spiked significantly last year as broadband became more affordable and consumers looked for cheap entertainment options, according to ComScore. The category itself surged by 27% to nearly 86 million users with Yahoo! Games leading the pack. Americans’ total share of internet time spent playing online games grew from 3.7% in December 2007 to 4.9% in December 2008. (Cynopsis 1/29)
Top Online Gaming Sites – December 2008 vs. December 2007
Total Unique Visitors (000)
Dec-2007 Dec-2008 % Change
Online Gaming 67,457 85,977 27
Yahoo! Games 16,184 19,468 20
EA Online 12,673 15,369 21
Disney Games 11,933 13,458 13
WildTangent Network 7,650 13,306 74
Addictinggames.com 9,706 11,343 17
AOL Games 8,380 10,750 28
MSN Games 9,685 10,263 6
Miniclip.com 7,264 8,636 19
Nick.com Games 6,020 7,092 18
Spil Games 1,821 6,715 269
Total Internet Audience 183,619 190,650 4
Source: comScore Media Metrix
The gaming category also attracted more display ads, with total display ad views increasing by 29% to 8.6 billion.
Display Advertising Trends in Online Gaming Category – Nov. 2008 vs. Nov. 2007
Online Gaming Nov-2007 Nov-2008 % Change
Total Display Ad Views (MM) 6,659 8,610 29
Advertising Exposed Unique Visitors (000) 52,066 67,834 30
Advertising Exposed Reach % 28.6 35.6 25
Display Ads per Page Viewed 1.00 0.83 -17
Average Frequency 127.9 126.9 -1
GRPs Total Population 2,271 2,913 28
Source: comScore Ad Metrix
Filed under: WIRELESS | Tags: Arduino, Asia, Business and Economy, Electronics, Industrial, Information retrieval, Japan, Manufacturing
Apple’s share of the global smartphone market is likely to grow as high as 40% by 2013, a seismic shift that would unseat Nokia as the world’s No. 1 handset manufacturer, according to a report from Generator Research, a U.K. market-analysis firm. The study compared Apple’s model for its iPhone to its successful music-platform strategy for the iPod and iTunes Music Store and said Apple was well-positioned to develop its smartphone into a long-term high-growth business. cellular-news (U.K.) (1/12) , Digital Trends (1/12)
Apple will buy organic light emitting diode displays from South Korea’s LG Display that the iPhone maker will install on its handsets, iPods and computers, LG announced. LG added in a government filing that Apple would send the world’s second-largest maker of LCD screens a $500 million advance under the five-year deal. OLEDs are next-generation flat panels that not only will improve current LCD performance and use less power but also enable companies to build thinner devices with longer battery life. International Herald Tribune/Reuters (1/12) , Softpedia (Romania) (1/12)
CBS is expanding its retransmission and carriage agreement with Verizon to include VOD and mobile rights for full episodes of several CBS prime time, daytime and news shows on the FiOS TV platform and Verizon Wireless’ VCast mobile video service. Features shows include including the CSI franchises and 60 Minutes. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. (Cynopsis 1/13)
Filed under: GAMING | Tags: Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy XIII, Japan, Microsoft, Nintendo, Square Enix, Wii Shop Channel, Xbox 360
Can’t afford a ticket to China to go visit the Forbidden City? Well, now all you need is your computer. IBM, which is a big believer in virtual worlds, and China’s Palace Museum have created an exact replica of the 178-acre Forbidden City. (http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/10/real-world-got-you-down-ibm-invites-you-to-a-virtual-forbidden-city 10/10)
The one segment of the industry that may fare well during the downturn is gaming, based on recent trends:
- Nintendo continues to lead among 3rd generation consoles approaching 30 million global units sold. The company’s Wii Shop Channel is gaining popularity, offering downloads of classic games for points that can be purchased online or at a retail outlet. The platform also offers an increasing selection of WiiWare – games built by independent developers
- Microsoft says sales are picking up steam since it lowered the price on the entry level Xbox 360, even in Japan where the company has struggled to gain market share. Microsoft raised its forecast for sales in Japan, emboldened when publisher Square Enix said the latest Final Fantasy edition would launch for the Xbox 360 as well as the PS3. (FF has quite a cult following it Japan)
- Sony is so confident that it is refusing to lower the price of the PS3 for the holiday season according to Edge magazine, which at $399 is the priciest console on the market. Sony said it’s on track to meet its goal of selling 10 million units of the PS3 and 15 million units of the PSP in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009 (Cynopsis 10/10)
Filed under: Feature | Tags: Brain Wall, Game Show, Games, HumanTetris, Japan, Puzzle, Television, Tetris
ONLINE VIDEO OF THE WEEK: HUMAN TETRIS
There’s nothing like a little game of human tetris. Split anyone? Only in Japan. . .
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