Novels written using cellphones

For some years now, novels written with cellphones and read in cellphones have been really popular in Japan. In fact, they reached such a big audience that soon traditional publishers saw the opportunity and started to print them like traditional novels. Among the best selling novels category during the last 3 years, 4 of the top 10 novels in Japan were written with cellphones.

Novels written with cellphones have a very conversational style, they have short sentences, and sometimes they have too many abbreviations. Their style is a consequence of the characteristics of the medium used to write them and read them. Using a cellphone to write a 100,000 or 200,000 word novel is not an easy task, and being able to read it until the end in a small cellphone screen can be pretty painful. To make the reading easier, sentences are shorter, there are many spaces in between each paragraph and in most of the dialogues the characters hardly ever say many words in their interventions, not even a line.

The other day I found a whole shelf in Kinokuniya dedicated to books written with cellphones that have been successful in their digital form (having been bought and read from cellphones) and are now being sold in “analogic” format.

Cellphone novels

Cellphone novels

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A Distant Neighborhood

Some years ago, I had the chance to read the manga A Distant Neighborhood (遥かな町へ); one of the most famous works of Jiro Taniguchi. It is regarded by readers and critics as an excellent manga aimed for adults. It didn’t disappointed me one bit. It is a manga with very meticulous drawings and a wonderful and witty story that will make you think about your own past, your own life.

The story is about a 40-year-old-ish businessman who involuntarily travels in time, going back to his own 14-year-old self but keeping all his 40-year-old memories. He goes back to his life in high school in post-war Japan (to those of you who are interested in WWII stuff, the atmosphere and insight on Japanese society from post-war Japan can’t be better, as Jiro Taniguchi lived it himself) but with the mind of an adult male. From that moment on, he’ll try to fix the things that he couldn’t fix back in the day. What would you do if you had to go back again to being 14 but with the knowledge and mindset you have today?

A Distant Neighborhood

After reading it, the conclusion, or the message that I think Taniguchi wants to get across is that the only things that we really regret in life are the things that we don’t do.

I recommend this manga book to everyone, even to those who claim they don’t like manga. It’s compiled into only two volumes, you can grab them here and here.

Finally, I would like to highlight a small detail. When the main character sees himself traveling in time, there is a butterfly, as a reminder of the Chaos Theory. There are other details in the story that make you think Jiro Taniguchi had the Chaos Theory present when he was writing the story.

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The Emperor's Birthday

Yesterday happened to be the birthday of the Emperor of Japan (天皇誕生日: てんのうたんじょうび, birthday of the Emperor) and that’s why we didn’t have to work around here. However today and tomorrow we have to go to work, there’s no Xmas holidays in Japan.

One of the Emperor’s birthday traditions is that the “common people” is allowed to see him. The royal family gathers behind big windows specially prepared for the occasion at the Imperial Palace, and groups of people take turns to see the Emperor and his family. Each turn takes 3 minutes, the imperial family waves with their hand and smiles, and the people that go to see them wave small Japan flags.

Emperor class=

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A year using the Nikon D90

It’s been already a year since I bought my Nikon D90. Before owning a D90 I had a D40 that helped me introduce myself into the photography world; the problem is that after one year I had already gotten the best out of it and I felt the need to use a better camera, mainly due to its lack of internal focus.

When upgrading from a D40 to a D90, the biggest change in my way of taking pictures was that I was not afraid to increase the ISO until 800 or even 2000. The ISO performance of the D90 is fabulous; it uses the same sensor as the D300 and D3. For example, I took this picture with ISO 1600. Additionally I used a F1.4 lens… It was almost completely dark and I could take a pretty decent picture! That was the big change I noticed; being able to play in low luminosity situations.

Nikon D90
This photo would have been impossible to take with my D40.

Some other things about the D90 that I love are the LCD screen, which is huge and has a great contrast; and the extra wheel that changes your way of taking pictures, the D40 (and I think the D60 and the D5000 as well) have only one wheel because they are cameras for newbies. The D90 has two wheels, which make it really easy to select the F, the S and the ISO at the same time (the three main characteristics when taking a picture). In entry-level cameras they are usually hidden in beautiful menus.

金閣寺

One of the negative things I noticed was the weight…; you can really feel the change from the 500 grams of the D40/D60/D5000 to the 700-800 grams of the D90. Anyway, it’s not a really big problem and I have already gotten used to it. Another negative thing (even though I think it’s normal in cameras in the same price range) is that sometimes it’s not easy to focus in complicated situations, even though it has 11 focus points (Canon and Nikon entry/level cameras have only 3 focus points).
I suppose that to get even sharper focuses, faster and in complex situations you have to upgrade to a higher-end camera.

One of the improvements of the D90 (also available in the D300/D700/D3) is D-Lighting which was not available in Nikon cameras before. D-Lighting is a technology patented by Nikon that supposedly is able to “get more dynamic range” in a scene. It can do the job, but the problem is that indirectly it generates photos with an exaggerated contrast, and colors that seem artificial. For example, this picture is a JPEG withouth processing taken with my Nikon D90; notice the huge dynamic range, but also notice how blue is the sky even though the picture was taken at midnight!:

This is NOT HDR. No postprocessing, direct capture from my D90

I am really happy with my D90; I have learned a lot with it and I still have a lot to learn. After one year using it, I really recommend it to any of you that has an entry-level camera and is willing to go a step further; I even recommend it as a first SLR camera. In this flickr set I have compiled pictures that I have taken with my D90 during the last year.

Nikon 50mm f/1.2 Nikkor AI-S

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Follow the rabbit with blue eyes

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The Sea of Fertility by Yukio Mishima

The Sea of Fertility is a tetralogy written by Yukio Mishima, which is considered by many his best work. The tetralogy consists of four books: Spring Snow, (春の雪; Haru no yuki), Runaway Horses (奔馬; Honba), The Temple of Dawn (暁の寺; Akatsuki no tera) and The Decay of the Angel (天人五衰; Tennin gosui). When he finished writing the last book he commited suicide in public following the seppuku ritual.

Yukio Mishima prepared his suicide for more than a year, he knew he was going to die after he finished writing the last book of his tetralogy. The plot of the books spans from 1912 until 1975. The main character is a law student named Honda that has high society friends, even within the imperial family. The first book tells the impossible love story between Satoko and Koyoaki (a friend of Honda), the problem is that Satoko must marry the son of the emperor in an arranged marriage following the omiai tradition. In the following books things keep happening to friends that Honda meets during his life.

Spring Snow. Yukio Mishima
Cover of the first book, Spring Snow.

Yukio Mishima was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times, and he sure would have received it if he hadn’t comitted suicide, The Sea of Fertility is considered one of the most valuable legacies of 20th century Japanese society. It’s a mandatory book to read if you want to become a “Japanology expert”.

You can buy the tetralogy at Amazon:

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International Manga Library

The construction of the “Tokyo International Manga Library” has just started in downtown Tokyo. This project of the Meiji University will be completed by 2014, becoming the biggest library in the world exclusively dedicated to host comics (manga). The 5-floor building will host more than two million mangas, anime, games and all kinds of articles related to the Japanese manganime industry.
It is still not confirmed, but in addition to the library there will probably be a complementary museum.
This is how the library will look like:

International Manga Library

Via

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PhotoelasticTouch

Researchers at the University of Electro-communications in Tokyo and the Japan Science & Technology agency, have recently showcased a new “3D multi-tactile” technology which they have named PhotoelasticTouch.

The system uses transparent rubber objects that interact as an input device to a computer. The “trick” is that above the screen (in between the user hands and the screen) there is a camera with a polarized filter that captures the polarized light that the LCD screen emits. This way, the camera can easiliy detect when the transparent rubber object changes its shape, because the polarized light from the screen also changes.

Via Singularityhub.

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Beer produced in space

Sapporo has put on sale 250 six-packs of beer produced in space. The six-packs, holding 330-ml bottles, are available at a price of ¥10,000 each (around 75 euros, 110 dollars). What makes the beer special is that the original barley seeds were stored for five months in the International Space Station. It is the first time “Space beer” is produced. Sapporo Breweries Ltd. promises that the money earned from the sale of the beer will be destined to promote scientific education in Japan.

Sapporo space beer

Via Japantimes.

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2009 Top 3 best selling books in Japan

Usually best selling books in Japan are not novels, but this year things have changed and the top best selling book in Japan has been 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. The novel, published by Shinchosha has two volumes, and both occupy the top two spots in the ranking.

Haruki Murakami
1.- The novel 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.

The second most sold book during 2009 is “読めそうで読めない間違いやすい漢字” that can be translated as “Kanjis that seem legible but are easy to mix up”. It is a book about Japanese characters that can be confusing or that usually cause problems. It is aimed to Japanese people, and it’s not recommended for Japanese language learners, anyway if you have a Japanese language level near 1-kyu it can be a quite useful tool. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t surprise me that a book like this is the second most sold book, taking into account how complex Japanese language can be, even for native speakers.

Kanji book
2.- Kanjis that are easy to mix up.

And the third spot on the list is occupied by “ドラゴンクエスト9 星空の守り人 大冒険プレイヤーズガイド” which is a guide, published by Shueisha, for the Nintendo DS video game Dragon Quest 9. This third position doesn’t surprise me either because Dragon Quest 9 has been the best selling video game this year in Japan.

Dragon Quest 9 guide
3.- Dragon Quest 9 guide

Via Mainichi.

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