One of the first things in Japan that caught my attention were trains and also the amount of train geeks around here. A general passion for trains exists in Japan. Train geeks collect books about trains, they travel just to have the opportunity to “try a new train” or to visit a particular train station, they collect pictures of trains and they even know the inner workings of trains and how a certain engine works. At the beginning I was surprised by all these obsessions but little by little I am finally getting it: using every day a train line that transports more people a day than ALL New York lines, using ALWAYS train stations as meeting points, using train stations as a starting point to decide where to buy/rent a house, seeing how all the activity-life-restaurant-businesses gather almost always around train stations… These are facts that have made me realize that it is not only an obsession of some people; trains are a fundamental part of Japanese society and everyday life.
In big bookstores there’s always a section with books and magazines about trains, these are some pictures that I took in Kinokuniya, my favorite bookstore:
Plenty of magazinees about trains and railroads.
The book with the Galaxy Express 999 cover is a boring train schedule catalog.
All this books are about trains!
This book had tons of maps with every minimum detail on how railroads are placed in some stations in the north of Tokyo.
Everything started in 1889 when Fusajiro Yamauchi began producing Japanese playing cards called Hanafuda; apart from Hanafuda cards he also imported some western games, mixed ideas and set up two stores, one in Kyoto and one in Osaka. Playing cards were a novelty for Japanese people and were very succesful at the time. Fusajiro Yamauchi decided to expand his business and in 1933 he legally established Yamauchi Nintendo & Co, establishing as well the first factory in Nintendo’s history. Nowadays Nintendo still sells playing cards in Japan, however its video games division was the responsible for its international expansion. Nintendo is now the leading video games company in the world thanks to the success of Nintendo DS and Wii.
I was searching around online to see if I could find the location of that 1933 first building of Nintendo, however I was not successful until it occured to me to use Google Maps and search for YAMAUCHI NINTENDO!! and it worked! Here you have the pictures of what probably is a reconstruction of the original building on top of the original location. When I went there I peeped inside the building and nobody seemed to be using it nowadays.
In the following video, an actor (who ironically turns out to be Kusanagi) showers/takes a bath in some kind of goemon-buro, the same way as it was supposedly done two hundred years ago. He cleans his teeth with his finger using salt.
Vídeo by Japanprobe
I was browsing through the flickr account of Tetsuya Blues and I came across this video. It seems that for some weeks now people in Osaka have been able to see a giant rubber duck roaming around the city. The duck is not a Japanese creation but an idea by a Dutch artist called Florentijn Hofman and the duck has already visited some other countries and cities before..
Video by TetsuyaBlues
The Dutch duck in Osaka waters.
The electric motorbike prototype in the video is able to reach 150 km/h, while the battery charging time is only 6 hours and has autonomy of 200 km. It will cost around 3.000 euros and will be released to the Japanese market next year.
The motorbike design reminds me of the motorbikes in the movie Akira.
Japanese people, speciallly Japanese women, love pets. The more kawaii (cute) they are, the better. When you meet a Japanese woman the first thing they often do is to show you a picture of their pet, which they usually have as a wallpaper on their cellphones. Apart from the usual dog books section, the other day I saw a special cat books section. The incredible thing is that most of the books only include pictures of one cat posing and doing different activities.
They have been popular online for a while but the other day I came across again one of the Human Tetris videos. It is one of the events in a popular Fuji TV show that began three years ago. The events
in the show are similar to those in the popular Takeshi’s Castle. In fact many of the producers of Takeshi’s Castle work now in this new show in Fuji TV.
I came across this interesting stuffed blowfish. Now you can see why it is called “blowfish” or “ballonfish”. Fugu or blowfish usually have this appearance when they are calm, but when they get angry they inflate themselves until they acquire quite a spherical shape. When they inflate themselves they turn into a balloon with spikes, its poison is one of the most dangerous in the world.
If you travel to Japan and want to try fugu there are a lot of specialized restaurants that only serve fugu cooked in different ways. To recognize a fugu restaurant is quite easy because they usually have an aquarium plenty of blowfish at the entrance to the restaurant:
One of the restaurant waiters fishing a fugu for one of the clients.
There are still many arcade game centers in Japan plenty of video game arcade machines; they are known in Japan simply as “game centers”. One of the companies owning many of the game centers in Japan is Sega. Although Sega stopped producing its own video game consoles a while ago, they have continued until today in the arcade business, specially focusing on the Japanese market. This is one of the entrances to one of the biggest Sega game centers in Shibuya, specialized in arcade machines “for adults”.