Underground bicycle parking systems in Japan

The robotic system, called the Eco Cycle, stores bikes 36 feet underground. It can store 204 bikes at a time.

To use it, you need to attach a chip to the front wheel of your bike that links to your Eco Cycle parking account. When you pull up to the Eco Cycle, it will recognize you're a paying customer. Simply press the button and your will be taken underground.

Bikes are so ubiquitous in Japan that construction company Giken had to build an underground system to store them.

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The dead leaf butterfly 🦋 🍂

Known as the Kallima inachus, or dead leaf butterfly, the insect resembles the veins of a dry leaf when it's in the closed position. This type of butterfly is prevalent from Southeast Asia to Japan.

The upperside of the dead leaf butterfly is beautifully colored, with yellow and dark blue and blue patterns. Check out the two videos after the jump.


Jimmy Chin teaches adventure photography


Still chasing the butterfly in that dream of mine

David Bowie commemorated in Japanese woodblock prints

From Spoon and Tamago:

David Bowie, who passed away in 2016, had a very special connection – some may even call it a “love affair” – with Japan. He originally developed his affinity after taking an interest in Kabuki and was heavily influenced by the exaggerated gestures, costumes and make-up. He later went on to work with fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto on many iconic costumes, as well as with musicians like Tomoyasu Hotei and the filmmaker Nagisa Oshima. In a sense, the love affair has come full circle and now a project has been announced to immortalize David Bowie in the form of ukiyo-e woodblock prints that depict Bowie in elements of kabuki.

(h/t Open Culture)

How Japan uses blue LED light panels on station platforms to prevent suicides

Tokyo runs 13 billion passenger trips each year, making its train stations some of the busiest in the world.

Using sound design and various other psychological nudges, rail stations are able to bring some order to the chaos. One of the most effective tactics has been its use of blue LED mood lighting to prevent suicide attempts.

Photo by Allan Richarz/City Lab

Writes Tokyo resident Allan Richarz for Citylab:

According to a study by researchers at the University of Tokyo published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2013, data analyzed over a 10-year period shows an 84 percent decline in the number of suicide attempts at stations where blue lights are installed.

Operating on the theory that exposure to blue light has a calming effect on one’s mood, rail stations in Japan began installing these LED panels as a suicide-prevention measure in 2009. They are strategically located at the ends of each platform—typically the most-isolated and least-trafficked area, and accordingly, the point from which most platform jumps occur. Some stations, such as Shin-Koiwa Station in Tokyo, bolster their LED regime with colored roof panels, allowing blue-tinted sunlight to filter down on to platforms.

Whether it comes to the iPhone or infrastructure, Richarz's piece is yet another reminder how everyday design can impact our lives.

These owls in a Tokyo cafe are named after musician and band names 🦉

James Mollison of TOPIC ventured into one of Tokyo's animal cafes where you can sip your coffee with your animal of choice (cats, dogs, and rabbits). But this coffee shop was a little different.

Tokyo’s Pakuchi Bar is apparently one of eight owl cafes in the big city. The owner, Tomo Nanaka, owns 30 of them which she allows in public on the weekends and on special holidays. Even more, she's named them after musicians and bands.

Below are a some of my favorite.

From left to right: Kurt Cobain, The Chemical Brothers, Beck, and The Cure.

There's a video too.

(All images via James Mollison)

Views of Tokyo (1913-1915)

Views of Tokyo (1913-1915)

[bha size='120×120′ variation='01' align='alignright']Last week, I blogged about a trip through Golden Gate City: San Francisco (1939). This week’s archival video goes back in time to views of Tokyo, 1913-1915.

Some observations:

  • Notice the clash of those wearing modern (Western) clothing versus the traditional feudal garb
  • A lot these kids (and their kids) probably went on to fight in both World Wars
  • The girl with the bouncing ball (see gif) has impressive football and basketball skills

Another fascinating look at black and white footage augmented with a sound for added ambiance. Be sure to check out the archival footage of New York (1911) as well.

This hover backpack will make you jump, jump!

My dream of being able to dunk may come to reality thanks to the Lunativity Hoverpack.

Students from the University of Tokyo developed a hover backpack that frees you from gravity’s pull so you can jump and hang in the air like Michael Jordan. The rotors in the device thrust downward, allowing humans to jump 3 times higher than normal.

The team's goal “is to augment humans’ physical capabilities.”

The Japanese students built the wearable device to “make the world a more interesting place.” While its planned use may be ambiguous, the rest of up to the imagination. The Lunativity will be a slam dunk!

For more information, check out the official website.

This hover backpack will make you jump, jump! gif

 


Van Gogh’s fascination with Japan

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Japanese art flooded Western Europe when in 1854, America forced Japan to open its borders to trade.

Some of the prints of Japanese woodcuts made it all the way to Vincent Van Gogh in Paris. He grew obsessed with ukyio-e, or “pictures of the world,” joyful elements he copied into his own art.

‘Seeing with Japanese eye'

Van Gogh amassed a collection of Japanese wood prints in his Paris studio. It was there he started emulating the bright and exotic images of Japanese art, an influence he called Japonaiserie.

“My studio’s quite tolerable, mainly because I’ve pinned a set of Japanese prints on the walls that I find very diverting. You know, those little female figures in gardens or on the shore, horsemen, flowers, gnarled thorn branches.

According to the exhibition of Van Gogh & Japan at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, the artist adopted the ‘bold, flat areas of color, bold contour lines, and prominent diagonals.' He even cropped subjects at the edges of pictures and used the Japanese unique play on foreground/background spatial effects.

Van Gogh's Japanese obsession permeated his work. “All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art,” he told his brother Theo.

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Courtesan (after Eisen) by Vincent van Gogh (1887)

Find out more about the Van Gogh's love affair with Japan at the Exhibition Van Gogh & Japan.

Van Gogh: ‘These waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it.’

Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai finished his most famous work, The Great Wave, at the age of 71. #ocean #art #waves #doorcurtain #interior #house #apartment
The Great Wave off Kanagawa Door Way Curtain (Amazon)

Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai finished his most famous work, The Great Wave, at the age of 71. Upon seeing the print, Van Gogh remarked: “These waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it.”

Read about Hokusai’s great wave: a lesson in persistence

Why there are three types of chopsticks

People have been eating with chopsticks since the 4th century BC. In the below video, historian Edward Wang explains why the chopsticks in China, Japan, and Korea are all unique:

To summarize:

  • The Chinese developed longer chopsticks in the 10th century to share food. Sitting around tables, they needed an extended utensil to reach dishes further away.
  • The Japanese used smaller chopsticks because they believed in maintaining a spiritual cleanliness. Japan's chopsticks are also pointier because they eat more fish which allows for easier removal of bones.
  • Koreans have been using metal utensils since the 7th century; historically, to avoid arsenic poisoning from perceived enemies. The chopsticks are also flatter and more durable, which saves material and makes them tougher for Korean BBQ.

Japan’s lonely vending machines by Eiji Ohashi

Photographer Eiji Ohashi spent nine years capturing images of Japan's vending machines on his late-night commutes home from work.

“At the time, I was living in a town in the north of Japan that would get hit by terrible blizzards during the winter months. I'd drive my car in (these) conditions and use the light of the vending machines to guide me.”

Well-maintained even in harsh winter conditions, the machines stand out in Japan's remote towns like ‘roadside lights', the eponymous title of Ohashi's photography book.

For a country that produces “300-plus flavors of KitKat,” the vending machines not only look the same, they all sell the same items. Said Ohashi: “I wanted to capture the standardized form of the vending machines. I thought you could see the differences between the regions through the scenery around them.”

All photos via Eiji Ohashi 

 

 

Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ – Train Travel Scene

We all must confront our demons from time to time. We must let them pass through the millions of burnt light bulbs in our imagination.

Everything good seems to disrupt our life. Struggle ensures that nothing is transactional. It is felt, a lesson in disguise.

But where does the journey lead us?

There's no clear answer other than staying on the one we're already on, not enamored with uncertainty but pausing to realize life's ebb and flow.

Watch the beautiful scene from Hayao Miyazaki's fantastical movie Spirited Away

Shugo Tokumaru – Bricolage Music

 

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Image courtesy the artist

 

Shugo Tokumaru is a Japanese singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. He's basically a one-man show.

But you don't need to understand his native Japanese to dig his euphoric melodies, such as the jubilant track ‘Bricolage Music' which pops and claps in a fidgety rhythm before breaking open to a balearic jam at the two-minute mark.

The song appears on his latest album TOSS.

Would you rather be late or on time?

(Un)Acceptable lateness (image via Clem Onojeghuo)

Can you coax a train out of a tunnel? Probably not, unless you're Darth Vader or a magician.

America is the land where trains are prone to lateness. So we find things to do to fill in the gaps like passing the yellow line to “lean-and-look.”

In contrast, trains in Japan run on time. If it's late, the train will write you a note to pass on to your employer. It's no wonder it's acceptable for Japanese business folks to fall asleep in meetings; they don't get to take advantage of the public transportation's mistakes.

Would you rather be late or on time?

Bonus: Read more why the American rail is so backward.