TagJapan

A Buddhist priest confronts Japan’s suicide culture

Here’s a long piece by Larissa MacFarquhar from the New Yorker last year about Ittetsu Nemoto , a Zen Buddhist priest who works with suicidal people and shut-ins known as “hikikomori.” Read the whole thing, but I found this letter a hikikomori wrote to Nemoto, included in the article, particularly interesting:

Long ago, becoming a training priest was recognized as a way of living, and I think that considerable numbers of the priests were people who had troubles that prevented them from living in society—people who would be called depressed or neurotic in today’s terms. . . . The basic rule was to leave the family and friends, discard all the relationships and renounce the world. . . . The old society accepted these training priests, although they were thought to be completely useless. Or rather, it treated them with respect, and supported them by giving offerings. . . . In very rare cases, some attained so-called “enlightenment,” and those people could spread teachings that could possibly save people in society who had troubles. In other words, there were certain cases where training priests could be useful to society, and I think that is why society supported them. . . . I think that training priests and hikikomori are quite similar. First, neither of them can fit in to this society—while the training priests are secluded in mountains, hikikomori are secluded in their rooms. They both engage in the activity of facing the root of their problems alone. . . . However, nobody accepts this way of living anymore, and that’s why hikikomori hide in their rooms. . . . But hikikomori are very important beings. Hikikomori cannot be cured by society; rather, it is society that has problems, and hikikomori may be able to solve them.

Full Story: The New Yorker: Last Call

Kowloon Walled City Rebuilt in Japan As Video Arcade

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The famous Kowloon Walled City has been painstakingly recreated in Japan as a video arcade.

Full Story and Many More Photos: Randomwire: Kowloon Walled City Rebuilt in Japan

(via Tim Maughan)

See Also

The making of the Kowloon Walled City arcade

Kowloon Walled City Infographic

TAZ History: Kowloon Walled City

Video: Kowloon Walled City Documentary

How to Do Asian Steampunk Right

Zheng Yi Sao, 19th centry female pirate
Zheng Yi Sao, 19th centry female pirate

Jess Nevins wrote an article on “the problem with Asian steampunk.” Nevins points out that most people default to ninjas, samurai and geishas when they try to do Asian steampunk, but there’s a much richer world of possibilities. “Pirates, submarine captains, hard-boiled reporters, female private detectives… these are all part of east Asian history and popular culture in the steampunk era. Steampunk writers and cosplayers, expand your horizons!”

Here are some examples:

  • Zeppelin pirates are a staple of steampunk, but nautical pirates were a reality in the waters of Southeast Asia. Notable among these were the female pirates, from Zheng Yi Sao and Cai Qian in the beginning of the 19th century to Lo Hon Cho and Lai Choi San in the early part of the 20th century. These women were captains and admirals, commanding dozens of ships and leading them into battle from the front, gaining reputations as fierce fighters. According to a contemporary Chinese account Cai Qian Ma even commanded ships with crews of niangzijun, “women warriors.”
  • The hardboiled, crime-solving reporter was a part of Western mystery fiction from the 1880s, but in real life there were large numbers of reporters just like that in China, especially Shanghai, where the competition between newspapers was intense and reporters and editors did anything they could for a hot scoop. These newspapers were modeled on American and English newspapers, and though many of them were aimed at the Europeans in China, some were written by Chinese for Chinese.
  • Roguish treasure-hunters need not automatically be white. Since the 11th century there has been a tradition among Nyingma Buddhists in Bhutan and Tibet of a special class of lamas, the gter-ston or “treasure hunters,” who “discover” gter-ma (scriptural treasures) which have supposedly been hidden away during the Buddha’s lifetime so that they can be found and revealed to the world at a foreordained time. The gter-ston were active through the 19th century, and while some were genuine many were fraudulent.

TOR: The Problem With “Asian Steampunk”

Japanese Scientist Produces an Artificial Alternative to Rare Earth Minerals (Specifically Palladium)

Palladium

The world–and particularly the Japanese–may be in a frenzy over China’s newly announced 35% cut in rare earth exports, those used to produce many high-tech devices, in the first half of this year. But a Japanese scientist has found one answer: Create the metals artificially.

Professor Hiroshi Kitagawa of Kyoto University has announced that he and his team of researchers have artificially produced a metal similar to palladium, a material commonly used in catalytic converters. In his lab, Kitagawa used a heating method to produce ultramicroscopic metal particles, ultimately mixing the usually resistant rhodium and silver to create the palladium-like metal.

Fast Company: Rare Earth Race: A Japanese Scientist Produces an Artificial Alternative

Meanwhile: U.S. rare earth mine resumes active mining

In Japan capsule hotels become home

japanese capsule hotel

For Atsushi Nakanishi, jobless since Christmas, home is a cubicle barely bigger than a coffin — one of dozens of berths stacked two units high in one of central Tokyo’s decrepit “capsule” hotels. […]

Now, Hotel Shinjuku 510’s capsules, no larger than 6 1/2 feet long by 5 feet wide, and not tall enough to stand up in, have become an affordable option for some people with nowhere else to go as Japan endures its worst recession since World War II.

Once-booming exporters laid off workers en masse in 2009 as the global economic crisis pushed down demand. Many of the newly unemployed, forced from their company-sponsored housing or unable to make rent, have become homeless.

New York Times: For Some in Japan, Home Is a Tiny Plastic Bunk

(via Mister X)

Vintage Japanese graphic design

new face

(Toru Kogure (photographer), Takashi Tanabe (designer), ‘New Face’ editorial for Fashion News, early 80s)

give us back man

(Tsunehisa Kimura, 1968, commercial and industrial photography)

More Pics: A Journey Around My Skull

UFO shaped, solar powered water purifiers in Japan

solar ufo

As part of the upcoming Aqua Metropolis festival in Osaka, engineering firm NTT Facilities has developed a pair of solar-powered, UFO-shaped floating water purifiers that will be deployed in the city’s canals and in the moat at Osaka Castle.

Pink Tentacle: ‘Solar UFO’ water cleaners afloat in Osaka canals

Monster mummies of Japan

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More Pics: Pink Tentacle

See also: Mermaid Mummies at Pink Tentacle

These remind me of the work of Alex CF:

Infant rat heads grafted onto adults’ thighs

This is an old story. How did I not hear about this before?

Infant rats are being decapitated and their heads grafted onto the thighs of adults by researchers in Japan.

If kept cool while the blood flow is stopped, a transplanted brain can develop as normal for at least three weeks, and the mouth of the head will move, as if it is trying to drink milk, the team reports.

The grafted heads could be “excellent models” for investigating brain function in human babies after periods of no blood flow, known as ischemia, they claim.

“Our main purpose is to investigate how the transplanted brain can develop and maintain function after prolonged total brain ischemia,” researcher Nobufumi Kawai, at the Jichi Medical School in Tochigi, told New Scientist. “And we tried to investigate the effect of lowering the temperature of the brain during the grafting.”

Full Story: New Scientist.

(Thanks James).

The Life and Strange Death of Seth Fisher

Seth Fisher Vertigo Pop Tokyo issue one cover

Ben Morse writes:

Tokyo, Japan-the cultural and fiscal hub of one of the world’s most elegant and sophisticated societies. It’s the last place one would expect to find a naked man roaming the streets.

But Seth Fisher is out for a midnight stroll.

‘Seth was trying to overcome his fear of being naked in public,’ relates Langdon Foss, college roommate and longtime friend of the Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big In Japan artist. ‘He would draw all his scripts and then go out and walk around the neighborhood naked. His wife would lock him out, she was so mad. For somebody to do that in Japan, well, he might as well have eaten a baby or something.’

Full Story: Wizard: The Life and Strange Death of Seth Fisher

See also: Meanwhile interview with Seth Fisher

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