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September 2011
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Researchers win Ig Nobel Prize for wasabi-scented smoke alarm

September 30, 2011   


This team of Japanese researchers proudly accepted the Ig Nobel Prize for Improbable Research yesterday, for its invention of a wasabi-scented smoke alarm that could alert deaf people who can’t hear audible warnings of fire emergencies. The Wasabi Smoke Alarm emits a dense wasabi oil mist when triggered.

From InventorSpot:

Japan is a true powerhouse when it comes to winning Ig Nobel Prizes, as Japanese recipients have now won awards for the fifth straight year. Previous Ig Nobel Prize winners from Japan have been recognized for using slime molds to design rail networks (2010), proving panda poop can dissolve kitchen refuse (2009), teaching amoebas how to navigate mazes (2008), and for developing a method of extracting vanillin (vanilla fragrance and flavoring) from cow dung (2007).

And, of course, let’s not forget Dr. NakaMats!

(Thanks, Jason!)

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Motorcycle that runs on poop to take its debut cross-country journey

September 30, 2011   


Toto is Japan’s biggest toilet bowl making company. You see the logo everywhere you go–at the airport, in department stores, at people’s homes. Now you may also see it on the road–the company just released its first hybrid toilet-motorcycle that runs entirely on poop! As the person drives, he can poop into the bowl, and that poop will be turned into fuel for the car. It’s actually part of a campaign that Toto is running in an effort to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50% in the next 6 years. The motorcycle will be making its way from Kyushu to Tokyo over the next month (departing in six days). Very exciting! I’m not sure who’s driving but I’m sure that, in addition to having a drivers license, they had to check his stool to make sure its healthy and fuel-worthy.

Toilet Bike Neo Project via Spoon and Tamago
(Thanks, Jonny Strategy, for instantly thinking of me when you posted this!)

The state of Japanese politics explained in a single image

September 29, 2011   


This image alone says so much more about the state of Japanese politics than any dissertation, news article, or analysis I’ve ever seen.

via Joi’s tumblr

Aum Shinrikyo recruitment anime features levitating Asahara character

September 21, 2011   

I remember seeing screen captures of this anime around the time when Aum Shinrikyo gassed the Tokyo subways, but never actually watched the full episode. Here it is, in its full glory.

By the way, the best book about the Aum attacks–and one of the best ways to understand the dark underbelly of the Japanese psyche–is Underground by Haruki Murakami.

via (Thanks, Jason!)

This is what a Japanese wedding procession looks like

September 20, 2011   

I happened to be at a shrine a couple of weeks ago with the family when a wedding procession came directly my way. It’s very beautiful, and quiet, and serious.

Minister of State for Conclusion of the Nuclear Incident and Prevention of Reoccurrence

September 20, 2011   


I was in a government building conducting an interview a couple of weeks ago and noticed that a new role had been created: Minister of State for Conclusion of the Nuclear Incident and Prevention of Reoccurrence.

Watch ONL x Tofu day live

September 8, 2011   

In case you’re not in Tokyo or stuck at work during our 10-12AM JST Friday session on innovation and tech in Japan at Open Network Lab, here’s the live stream of the event. I’ll be on for the first 10 minutes, and then I’m passing it on to my much more eloquent lineup of speakers.

Here’s a link:
The hashtag if you tweet about it is #onlxtofu

Blind, a short film about post-nuclear Japan

September 8, 2011   

I don’t really know what to say about it at the moment, but it’s a beautiful short five-minute movie worth watching.