A Geek in Japan | 2009 August
Adventures of a geek living in Japan
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Fujifilm Square

I don’t know why but after walking by Tokyo Midtown many times I never realized that there is a photography gallery+museum by Fujifilm in the first floor! It is called Fujifilm Square and they have temporal photography galleries and a permanent museum room with all the cameras that Fujifilm has manufactured up until now, they even have all the latest digital ones. Current exposition information can be checked here and the location map here.

These are some pictures I took at Fujifilm Square, there are many old cameras and there are even daguerreotypes:

Fuji
That one on the left-bottom corner is a daguerreotype

Fuji

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Fuji
This pictures are from one of the current exhibitions.

Fuji

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Sponsors inside Meiji Jingu temple

When I visited the Meiji Jingu temple for the Hatsumode tradition there were lots of sake bottles at the altar from different famous distilleries that pay to have their bottles placed next to the Gods. By doing this they hope business will go well in the future.
The funny thing is that there were Coke and Sprite bottles as well (The sign says Tokyo Coca-Cola bottling company). The monk was sitting down next to the Coke bottles during the whole ceremony :). I wonder how much The Coca-Cola Company payed to have those bottles placed right there in the most visited Hatsumode ceremony in the country. Can you imagine a Christian priest with Coke bottles next to the altar during mass?

Meiji Jingu
Altar overview

Meiji Jingu
Sponsors inside the temple!

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The Statue of Liberty in Tokyo

In Odaiba there is a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Japanese people love to bring the best things in the world to Japan and adapt them according to their needs and tastes. Apart from the Statue of Liberty replica, in Tokyo there is also a red color replica of the Eiffel Tower called the Tokyo Tower, but in this case the Japanese replica is a little bit higher than the original.
The interesting thing is that the Japanese Statue of Liberty is NOT a copy of the American statue. It is an almost exact copy of the statue located in the Sena river in Paris. Japanese people built it in Odaiba to celebrate and strengthen Franco-Japanese relations.

The Japanese Statue of Liberty is located next to the sea in front of the Aqua City building in the Odaiba island (the best way to get there is using the Yurikamome line and stop at the Daiba station). The best photo of the statue can be taken during sunset, as the Sun appears on the left side or behind the statue depending on the season. If you take a picture in Summer there is also a lot of ships on the bay, which will give you the opportunity to take even a more original photo.

This is the best shot I have been able to get until now:

Odaiba
Maybe I played around with Lightroom too much and the photo ended up with some exaggerated halos!

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Excessive flirting forbidden

One of the rules at the entrance of a club in Shibuya caught my attention:

“Excessive Nampa (trying to pick up a member of the opposite sex) will NOT be tolerated.”

Flirt
This is the mentioned sign. Notice the other funny rules like “No sleeping”

“Nampa” (軟派 [なんぱ]) can be translated into English as “hitting on someone”, “flirting” or, as explained in the sign, “trying to pick up a member of the opposite sex”. I wonder where is the limit between “Nampa” and “Excessive Nampa” :)

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Shogun Assassin

The other day I was watching the movie “Shogun Assassin” which is based on the manga by Kazuo Koike Kozure Okami (Lone Wolf and Cub). The movie was released in 1980 and the truth is that, having read the manga, I wasn’t expecting too much of it, however I have to say that I loved it. Pure adrenaline!
The plot is based around a samurai (ronin) father and son who are looking for revenge. The father, “Lone Wolf”, is played by Tomisaburo Wakayama, one of the best martial arts actors at the time. His performance in battles is brilliant and gives the movie a lot realism in some parts.
Don’t miss it if you enjoy samurais and revenge stories, like for example The Vengeance Trilogy or Kill Bill. In fact, Quentin Tarantino admits loving Shogun Assassin and that he watched it several times before and during the production of Kill Bill.

Shogun Assassin

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Ryoan-ji – 龍安寺

Ryoan-ji Zen temple is a temple located in Kyoto renowned for the beauty of its dry garden, which is said to cause tranquility and peacefulness to those that contemplate it.

Ryoanji

The garden is composed by 15 different rocks arranged in 3 big groups in a way that all the rocks can only be seen at the same time from one point. When looking at the arrangement the first thing you notice is the group on the left, and then your attention flows slowly to the center eventually ending at the big group to the right. If you want to see all the rocks at the same time you have to stand at the far right.

Ryoanji
Standing on the spot from where you can view all 15 rocks.

The big mystery of this little garden is that nobody knows its meaning, nor the reason why it produces so much tranquility and peacefulness to its visitors. The designer of the dry garden is unknown, as well as his intention and the design process he followed. One of the traditional interpretations says that the rocks look like a tiger crossing a river, other interpretations say that they are Chinese mountains over a sea of clouds and so on. But it turns out that those interpretations are not on the right track, as Zen emphasizes the emptiness, the nothing.

“-What’s so special about the garden at Ryoanji?
-The spaces between the rocks” – Alan Booth

In 2002, a group of University of Kyoto scientists used computers to look for shapes in the empty areas of the garden instead of the rock areas. The result was that they found a tree pattern hidden inside the structure of the garden. They say that is the reason why it is so pleasant to contemplate the garden because our subconscious grasps the tree pattern without us noticing it.

The same research team moved some rocks randomly and saw that the harmony of the initial configuration was easily lost. Because of that, they think the configuration of the garden is thoroughly thought and not achieved by coincidence.

The researchers applied Voronoi algorithm, which looks for the farthest point from the rocks. In other words, the algorithm looks for the emptiest areas and marks them with lines. They joined all the lines obtained with the algorithm and a tree shape appeared. The tree branches converged where supposedly the monks have to meditate.

In the following image the black lines are drawn by the algorithm. The blue rectangle marks the dry garden. The red rectangle marks the central area of the temple. The red dot is where all the branches that are generated in the empty areas of the garden converge, and where the best viewing spot is. The green dot is from where you can see all 15 rocks at the same time.

Ryoanji
Image taken and modified from here.

So it seems that mathematics can explain somehow the beauty of the garden. The interesting thing is that the monk that designed the place 500 years ago didn’t have computers, probably didn’t know much about maths and obviously didn’t know about the Voronoi algorithm. However he concluded that this arrangement was ideal. The scientists conjecture about the possibility that it is possible to find patterns in the subconscious through Zen meditation and bring them to the conscious part of the mind.

Ryoanji
High resolution picture

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