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Sunday, June 24, 2018

360° Books Of Ono Yusuke

I suppose I'm an old fart. I like things that are considered out of fashion. I call it an antique while others call it old crap. That's fine.

I collect coins, stamps, comic books, sports cards and aviation tobacco cards. I read books - at least one per week.

While I do own a first-generation Kobo book reader - filled with classic stories and read them all, I actually prefer the tactile feel of paper between my fingers and don't give a crap how many trees have given their life for it.

Okay... I know that sounds harsh, but I think pretty much every one who cuts down trees for the pulp and paper industry is also involved in replenishing the stock by planting new trees.

Anyhow... along with my perverse love of the written word, I appreciate art. I can't draw, paint or sculpt or do anything artsy except write... but dammit, I sure love it when others do. Okay, I can play music (brass, woodwinds and keyboards).

I have a healthy respect for artists, and when someone like Ono Yusuke (surname first) comes along, I just want to stand up and applaud.

Born in Germany, Ono is an architect who graduated from the University of Tokyo, and has created the above book, the 360° BOOK, in this case about Mount Fuji.

It's not a book in the classic sense with words, but man does it tell a story with one simple picture... or is it pictures?

Each page is a piece of 3D art cut by laser to create an amazing pop-up book in the form of a diorama crossed with Japanese kirigami.

Kirigami (切り紙) is a type of origami (folding paper art), that along with folding paper includes the cutting of the paper, and definitely no glue.

There are a few books by Ono, including the Mount Fuji (aka Fujiyama), such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Welcome to FabCafe, Earth and the Moon, Snowy World, and Snow White.

I saw a four-pack on sale on Amazon Canada for $300, but then saw it on Amazon (US) for $140 - meaning that with the dollar exchange, Canadian are getting ripped off...

Tsk-tsk, Amazon. How about some price compatibility?

However... for the sheer artistry of the 360° Books Of Ono Yusuke, perhaps it's a fair price.


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Japan's Odor Tracking Robot

Whomever smelt it dealt it...

Fart jokes aside, I love dogs.

I have, up until very recently always been surrounded by dogs. I’m at ease around them, and they around me.

I am also fascinated by working dogs—the critters who work for the visually-impaired, the dogs who sniff out contraband at post offices and airports, canines who work alongside hunters, or who (used to) be rescue people who got lost in the woods or buried under an avalanche, and other working canines as well…

The one type of dog that I have not had the pleasure of seeing in action (and perhaps that’s a good thing) are the police dogs who are used to track suspects or even the so-called cadaver dogs.

While I was in Japan for three years teaching English, I did not have a doggie companion - though my neighbor across the street from my apartment condo did, letting him bark early in the morning and late at night. While I had a dislike for that dog, I realize I should have had a mad-on for the dog's owner.

There are no bad dogs, just bad owners.

But… Japan is at it again, however, seeking to deprive man of his best friend by replacing him with a robot.

I’m not talking about those robotic canine toys… no… I’m talking about a prototype robot developed by scientists from Kyushu University… a robot that can detect and track smells (spoors) left on the ground.

There are scent-tacking robots already in existence that can track air-borne odors… but they take a long time to analyze… no, the robot I am talking about, is one than can pick-up smells from the ground, and using its caterpillar treads (think bulldozer or tank) can follow the scent at an eye-watering rate of 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) per second.

Okay… it’s only 0.36 kilometers per hour (0.223 miles per hour), which is hardly quick… so maybe my dog buddies aren’t in any danger of being replaced… just yet.

The robot is developed by Hayashi Kenshi, Sassa Fumihiro (both surname first), and Zhongyuan Yang.

While no official name has been given to the robot, according to the ACS Sensors journal where the research was published, the robot uses a bottom-mounted tube to inhale smell molecules from the ground, moving it into its LSPR (localized surface plasmon resonance) sensor.

The LSPR sensor then measures changes in light absorption via a film of gold nanoparticles after it is after it is exposed to a target gas, which is currently ethanol… though other gases are now being considered.

Whatever… it works.

In fact, the poor-mans Wall-E (that’s what it looks like to me) read the word “odor” written on the ground, and using ethanol deposits, it was able to translate it into binary code, and thus “read” the word.

Anyhow… the robot works… but it will have a ways to go until it can replace the paw patrol.

But… is it just me, or will regular police officers one day as mechanical walking aid… like on the much loved (by me) cyber punk-police drama television show Almost Human that only ran for 13 episodes in 2013-14. It starred Karl Urban from the new Star Trek movies (the dude who plays Leonard Bones McCoy).

Karl Urban (left) and Michael Ealy who, respectively, played a human cop, and the world's most handsome combat model android on the television show Almost Human.
Andrew "Blaming It On The Dog" Joseph

Friday, June 22, 2018

Japan Cleans-Up At World Cup With Colombia

After Japan's lucky and surprising victory over Colombia (2-1) on June 19, 2018 in the 2018 World Cup of soccer being held in Russia, something wonderful happened.

While Colombia was screwed after three minutes into the game when one of their players earned a Red Card and was sent off, leaving the South American squad with 10 men versus Japan's 11, Colombia's fans were still gracious in defeat.

That's not surprising.

While the media is rife with stories of soccer hooliganism (most fans aren't hooligans), it is nice to see such cool interactions between the fans.

In the image above, posted by Japanese Twitter user @tsunsan (, the Japanese fans began to pick up the garbage around the stadium, even bringing their own garbage bags.

The Japanese fans have done this before at many other international soccer events.

However, this time, the Colombian fans got into the act - an especially remarkable thing to do after their better team was beaten by Japan.

The Colombians (some anyway) joined the Japanese fans (some anyway) and picked up some of the garbage around them.

It was a great sign of sportsmanship for all involved.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Dogs, 7-11, And Japanese Banks

I have no idea what the fug this is all about, but dammit, it certainly caught my eye!

These are ads from 2015... so no need to say just how on top of new things I am... at least this one was from the current decade. 

Anyhow... this is Inuyama Shibao (translated the name means Dog Mountain Shibao... I have no idea what Shibao means, and neither did any on-line translator), and he is a Shiba dog. Inu is Japanese for dog, while yama is mountain.

Inuyama is the doggie sensation shilling for Seven Bank, Ltd. Seven Bank (株式会社セブン銀行, Kabushiki-gaisha Sebun Ginkō) is a Japanese bank, and is a subsidiary of Ito-Yokado, along with Seven & I Holdings Co., Ltd. (parent company of 7-Eleven Japan and of Ito Yokado). 

Inuyama is the doggie sensation shilling for Seven Bank.

For people like me in North America, knowing I could get a loan and purchase a bag of chips at the same time is mind-blowing. P-koooooow.

Okay, not really. Seven Bank is a real banking institution with ATM machines all over the place. And, should you go into a branch office, you can NOT purchase a Slurpee, or anything like that. 

Anyhow... I can't embed this video, but you can click HERE for the video to watch it on someone's FaceBook page.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Renting Or Buying A Ghost Home

Japan has a secret (or maybe not-so-secret) love affair with ghosts and ghouls and demons et al.

And by that, I mean that Japanese society seems to love stories about the supernatural. Heck, if you have never seen Ringu (The Ring) movie, watch it and be prepared to have the crap scared out of you.Seriously - it is one creepy flick.

But… just because Japan loves the scary stories, it doesn’t mean Japanese people want to live the scary life.

Jiko bukken (事故物件) are the real estate properties where an occupant has died, whether it be  murder or suicide or simple neglect (they died and no one realized for days or weeks) … and I assume also by some sort of demonic entity.

It actually means "stigmatized property".

Actually, here's a list of what a jiko bukken property consists of (I took it from the Tokyo Cheapo website - HERE:
  • A property where a murder, suicide or a natural death occurred (including cases where the body wasn’t found for a while); 
  • A property near criminal gangs;
  • A property constructed on top of a well;
  • A property by a waste treatment facility, or a graveyard/crematorium;
  • A property made by, or on ground once owned by, a cult;
  • A property with a history of fire, flooding or other things that caused death or injury (asbestos poisoning, gas leaks etc);
  • A property with a complicated history regarding ownership, as shown in the registry listings— multiple owners over a short period of time inherently means something amiss with the property.
Thanks Tokyo Cheapo!
Okay, back to me. In Japan, the jiko bukken properties are actually recognized by Japanese law, meaning that any real estate agent attempting to unload a murder house, must fully explain the the would-be buyer or renter if someone had previously died in the place. It really is against the law to conceal such information to a would-be consumer.

It’s done to avoid any surprises when a dripping wet teenager ghost girl comes crawling out from your television set in an attempt to see what sort of snack you are having.

But not to worry… if you are a property rental agent… you only have to warn a would-be renter who is the first person after an “incident”.

For example… if someone has died in a house, let’s say by choking on mochi, that glutenous, tasty, but deadly dangerous rice ball, and if Client A rents the place, and then decides after a few months that they want to move out, the real estate agent does NOT have to tell you about the incident, when you apply.

So yeah… let’s suppose Family A is living in a murder house with its own trans-dimensional portal in the kitchen…

They move out after a while having decided that it’s way easier to dump garbage through the portal to another dimension, than to have to pack up and move again… besides… the price was right!

So… after the father gets transferred to a new town with a new nuclear power generating facility, another family (Family B) moves in.

They don’t have to be told a thing about the murder house or even the trans-dimensional portal.

However, IF Family A, after learning about the murder house decides to move in any way, and is then themselves murdered by trans-dimensional beings pissed off at all of the garbage being tossed into their universe, the real estate agent would have to warn the next potential buyers about the death.

But murderous ghosts aside, for those looking to save a few yen on housing the jiko bukken properties provide fiscal relief.

For those who are looking to rent an apartment, a jiko bukken property can save the renter as much as half the rent money.

Besides… with Japan’s population growing increasingly older, there’s going to be more and more homes in which someone has died… which could be bad news for real estate agents, but good news for consumers.

Two people that I know of—my mother and her father (my grandfather) passed away in my current house. While there have been no supernatural incidents that I am aware of, if I was in Japan with this place, I would have to disclose the information to the real estate agent - even though the deaths were over 20 years ago - so they could warn any one wanting to rent or purchase my house.

But despite the cost savings, Japanese people really don’t seem to want to move into any place where someone has died in it previously.

I’m not talking about an apartment where a family was hacked to death by a crazed tattooed guy who simply wanted the money owed him where the blood won’t come away from the walls, or even where the screams still echo in air years later… no… Japanese people simply don’t care to live where death has been.

Look… even though the word for death is “shi” (死)… and the word for four is “shi” (四)… each having it’s own unique “Chinese-style” kanji symbol… because it sounds exactly the same, many Japanese people will say “yon” in stead of “shi” when describing the number four.

Plus… in Japan (China, too - because it uses the same characters), no one wants to live anywhere where the number four is part of the address… though what the heck… some do.

I wonder if they get a break on their purchase/rental price?

For example, in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken where I lived for three-plus years in Japan, I lived on the third floor of a family condo. Did the people on the fourth floor care that regardless if it was Floor shi or Floor yon, it was still Floor sounds-like-death.

Westerners have their own fear of the number 13, which is why it is rare to find an apartment building or office building littered with Floor 13… skipping the offensive number for the number 14… but I wonder… don’t the people on Floor 14 know they are actually on Floor 13?

Back to the house/home where death occurred.

For those brave souls willing to pay half-price or so for a jiko bukken, one does not have to put up with anything supernaturally evil or scary.

No… you can hire a Buddhist priest to come and perform a cleansing ceremony on your place to try and quell any unhappy spirits still residing there, as well as to bless this house.

I suppose such ceremony could also be considered supernatural, but in this case it is supernaturally good.

Japan’s Airbnb, may not have to disclose any sort of “incident”… at least this new housing rental scenario doesn’t seem to be part of the Japanese real estate jiko bukken law…

As usual, caveat emptor… let the buyer beware.

Andrew Joseph
PS: During WWII on the island of Saipan (across the street from Guam), rather than surrender to Allied troops, Japanese soldiers leaped off a cliff to their death while yelling "Banzai!!!" The Saipan people call it Banzai Cliff. The view is spectacular, as you can see in the photo I took when I visited there. Lots of Japanese died here, though I did not hear of any ghosts inhabiting the area. Hey... I actually asked the locals! Wanna use the photo?  Just note my name as photographer and go ahead:

PPS: Banzai, along with being a Japanese battle cry, is also a form of greeting by the Japanese emperor. You can decide which one I mean when I use it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Radioactive Cesium From Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Still In Tokyo Bay

I know I’ve gone on and on carping about the complete mismanagement of things during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

The 9.0 earthquake caused a tsunami, which hit many places along Japan’s north east coast, moving over sea walls, in in this case, over and into the Dai-ichi nuclear power generating station in Fukushima-ken.

The inflow of water swamped the nuclear power site, rendering backup generators inoperable for the most part, allowing three of the six nuclear power units to nearly go into nuclear meltdown after a lack of coolant was unable to be pumped in to keep things under control. 

Look… I actually think nuclear power—if done properly—is an excellent way to generate electricity. But in Japan’s case - prior to the March 11, 2011 events, it simply wasn’t being handled safely.

Perhaps countries should consider using the safer nuclear methods used in Canada, which even uses a different type of uranium base.

But Japan’s nuclear reactors are not built that way. They follow the American style of reactor. Excellent power generation, to be sure… but…

Anyhow… would it surprise anyone to learn that even five years after the nuclear disaster, Fukushima No. 1 (of six) reactors continued to spew radioactive cesium into Tokyo Bay for five years after the initial nuclear disasters in 2011?

No. I’m not surprised. Saddened. But not surprised.

According to Yamazaki Hideo (surname first)—a former professor of environmental analysis at Kindai University (a private university in Osaka)—a study he led a study on hazardous materials being released from the Dai-ichi plant.

His team’s research showed that some five months after the triple meltdown, that there was 20,100 becquerels of cesium per square meter in mud collected at the mouth of the Kyu-Edogawa (Kyu-Edo river). This river leads directly into Tokyo Bay.

Further research shows that by July 2016, that in the same area, 104,000 becquerels of cesium per square meter from mud collected was found.

Basically, that means that the cesium released during the disaster did NOT get washed away in the subsequent five years after.

Well… they did wash away from Fukushima, but it did accumulate and stay adhered to the mud in Tokyo Bay.

Good for Fukushima and Chiba to the south, but bad for Tokyo.

Now… the average amount of radioactivity from the cesium detected in the July 2016 study was only 350 becquerels… implying that there are apparently areas where it is extremely high, and other places were it may not be found.

But is it safe?

Probably not at the points where the study found the 104,000 becquerels in July 2016.

Even at that high level, the Government of Japan will not allow soil to be used on road construction et al. In fact, it will only allow soil containing 8,000 becquerels or less for such usage.

So… is there any damage to the fish in Tokyo Bay?

Maybe… maybe if the fish caught are coming from that area there the radioactivity is through the roof, congregating in the Tokyo Bay mud… but generally speaking, there doesn’t seem to be an issue with the fish.

Apparently of the fish caught and measured in the Tokyo area, the average still appears to be less than 100 becquerels per kilogram… 100 becquerels per kilogram is considered to be the number for safe fish consumption in Japan.

So… there’s some cesium radiation in the fish… but not enough to worry the Japanese Government.

Heck… there’s even a few hot pockets of cesium radiation in the mud in Tokyo Bay… but I’m sure that’s no big deal.

Move along… nothing to see here. Yeesh.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, June 18, 2018

6.1 Earthquake Kills Three In Osaka - UPDATED

This past Monday, a 6.1 Magnitude earthquake—that’s a pretty strong one—hit at 8AM local time north of Osaka, at a depth of eight miles (12.9 kilometers).

Three people died, including a nine-year-old girl who was crushed by large slab of a concrete wall that fell on her as she was walking along her elementary school’s outside wall in Takatsuki. See Reuters image above. Damn.

Mayor Hamada Takeshi (surname first) apologized over her death, acknowledging that that concrete wall made up of concrete blocks, was old and not up to the more current building safety codes.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide (surname first) has ordered the Education Ministry to perform safety checks on any concrete walls near public schools—nationwide.

A man in his 80s also died after a concrete wall collapsed on him in Osaka-shi (Osaka City), while an 84-year-old woman died after a bookcase fell on her in her home in the nearby city of Takatsuki.

Additionally, 307 people have been officially listed as hurt during the seismic event, though Japanese media giant NHK says there were at least 350 people hurt. Whatever. Lots of people hurt.

Japanese buildings—especially the newer ones are designed and built with earthquake occurrence in mind, but for whatever reason, it seems, in this case, that concrete walls are NOT part of the same consideration. 

It was a pretty damn strong earthquake, but earthquake-proofing designs for seismic events stronger than that are in place.

The earthquake was strongest north of Osaka-shi, but the good news (so far) is that the three nuclear power facilities at Mihami, Takahama and Ohi—all north of Osaka—are fine, according to the news agency Reuters.

Local, express, and shinkansen high-speed bullet train and subway service in Osaka has been halted, while domestic air flights in and out of Osaka were suspended to ensure safety.

As evidenced by the fallen sign at Ibaraki-shi eki (Ibaraki City station) - see above in the Getty image - someone could have easily been killed when that electronic signage partially collapsed.

Along with small fires (broken gas mains, or cooking implements hitting the ground), thee roads in the area have cracked, along with many water pipes, bursting up through roadways, leaving many residents without water.

But it is Japan… and like people everywhere, they will band together quickly and make sure every one is looked after.

Oh... and there's no risk of a tsunami from this seismic event. 

Andrew Joseph