Dan Osman, one of the craziest rock climbers ever to have lived

History_4Dan Osman was a Japanese-American extreme athlete perhaps best known for the video (below), in which he speed-climbs a 400+ foot tall rock wall without a safety rope in four minutes. (I spent this past weekend in Lover’s Leap, the area in South Lake Tahoe that he did this in, and climbed the same rock.) Osman later became hooked on free-jumping, which is kinda like bungee jumping but for much greater heights in much more dangerous conditions on a normal rope that doesn’t slow you down at all. He even set a Guinness Record for it. Then, in 1998, he died doing when a rope failed him when free-jumping a cliff in Yosemite. A QA guy from Black Diamond, who made the rope, did an evaluation and concluded that it was a freak accident caused by the rope rubbing against itself &mdash something resulting from human error, a slight miscalculation in the angle at which he jumped.

There’s a great story about the life and death of Dan Osman in Outside Magazine.


Japanese comedy skit from the 80s parodies Michael Jackson’s Thriller

I’ve posted this before, but here it is again because it is, in my humble opinion, one of the best tributes to Michael Jackson originating in Japan. Around 1:58, Ken Shimura, who has just confessed to his girlfriend that he becomes a henna ojisan (a weird middle-aged man) when there’s a full moon, jumps out of the bushes and starts dancing to the chorus of Thriller played on a Japanese flute. This clip is from the late 80s, I think, or possibly the early 90s.

Rest in peace, MJ.

In the Realm of the Senses, a film based on a true story about sexual obsession

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In the Realm of the Senses is a 1976 movie directed by acclaimed director Nagisa Oshima about sexual obsession gone awry. I watched it on Friday night, and can safely say that I have never seen anything like it. 90% of the footage is sex scenes, but it looks more like Edo period erotica art than porn &mdash beautiful, fleshy scenes of a man and a woman (and sometimes, a man and women) exploring their sexuality on tatami mat floors with their kimonos strewn all over the room. It’s set in the 1930s, when prostitution was legal and geishas were commonplace. Sada, the female protagonist, is a prostitute-turned-maid who she gets involved in a lusty affair with the charismatic master of the hotel she works at. They have sex all day and all night, and Sada quickly develops a serious obsession with Kichi’s penis. Sounds like campy porn, but the actual film is nothing of the sort &mdash it’s a true story told in a really beautiful artsy sexy way. Oshima takes us on a journey through their affair that is so provocative that the film had to be produced in France, was once banned from the NY Film Festival, and to this day is censored in Japan*. The Criterion Collection just released a fully uncensored version of the film with extras, though, and that’s available all over the Internet. (Warning: Spoilers ahead! If you want to stop reading now and just watch the movie, you can get the Criterion collection DVD on Amazon.)

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Child actor Yumi Adachi’s mom to debut as a porn star at age 51

2bfb0d14Everyone, meet Yuri Adachi. She is a new porn star &mdash her first DVD comes out in July. Apparently, the 51-year old spend $60,000 getting full body cosmetic surgery and increasing her bust size by 3cm to get ready for her big debut.

The most interesting thing about Yuri Adachi is that she is the mother of Yumi Adachi, one of the first and most famous child actors in Japan. Yumi Adachi debuted in 1993 at the age of 11 as a pop singer, and then became really really famous after starring in a drama about an orphan a year later. Actually, scratch that. Yumi Adachi made her debut at the age of zero, when she started modeling for baby magazines.

So now everyone in Japan is gossiping about how screwy the parents of child actors must be to want to have their kid in the spotlight from such an innocuous age &mdash Yuri Adachi has quickly become the epitome of that bad parent. I bet all the hype will drive a lot of people to watch her porn though.

Ronald Takaki, prominent ethnic scholar, is dead

TakakiRonald Takaki, a Japanese-American historian and ethnographer from Hawaii, died yesterday at the age of 70. He was a huge advocate of racial equality, and played a big role in fighting things like the model minority stereotype for Asians, but also, he was the first person to ever teach a class on black history in the UC system. He wrote interesting books well worth reading, like A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America and Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb. UC Berkeley plans to publish a full obit tomorrow, but I just wanted to put up a quick post about it. May he rest in peace.

Link

Japan’s Miss Universe rep announced (pic & video)

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Japan has been kicking butt in the Miss Universe contest for the past couple of years—Riyo Mori won in 2008, Kurara Chibana was the first runner up in 2007. The 2009 candidate has some big shoes to fill. Meet her—she’s Emiri Miyasaka, a 24-year old model from Shibuya. She’ll be traveling to the Bahamas in August to compete against the rest of the countries,

In her finalist video (below), she compares herself to a bowl of natto—sticky and persistent in reaching her goals. Cute!


Fred Schodt wins the Order of the Rising Sun

Picture 1My friend Fred Schodt just won the Japanese government’s Order of the Rising Sun. That’s, like, the second most prestigious honor you can win in Japan, ever. I think it’s like being knighted in the UK. Fred was a longtime friend and interpreter for Tezuka Osamu, and he predicted Japan’s humanoid robot craze and the manga revolution way before anyone else in the books Inside the Robot Kingdom
and Manga! Manga! respectively.

Congrats to Fred! You deserve it.
(Total coincidence, by the way, that the last two posts on this blog just happened to mention him.)

Japan’s newest celebrity: Imalu

Tnr0903280808003-n1Japan’s newest buzz celebrity is Imalu, the 19-year old daughter of big-time stars Sanma Akashiya and Shinobu Otake. She’s kinda cute! Not much is known about her professional aspirations, but she did sign a contract with her mom’s talent agency, and thinks she wants to be a singer.

Why was SMAP’s Kusanagi naked in the park?

20090423p2a00m0na013000p_size5A couple days ago, cops found 90s boy band star Tsuyoshi Kusanagi sitting naked on a park bench at 3AM. As he was taken away, the drunken ex-heartthrob allegedly yelled something like: What’s wrong with being naked???

Which not only brings up a valid point, but raises the question of why he was in the nude in the middle of the night by himself in a park. Here are my three best guesses:

1. It was hot. I am not sure what the weather was like that day in Tokyo, but it can get pretty gruesome.
2. Panicked by the lack of recent attention in his drunken stupor, he thought being in his birthday suit might bring back some fans.
3. He has a serious drinking problem.

From what the news reports are saying, it sounds like #3 might be the most realistic answer.

Greatest living samurai is a TV sensation

My friend Jason just sent me this video of Japan’s greatest modern day samurai. His sword skills are really quite amazing, but it’s a little bit unfortunate that he has nothing better to slice than mushrooms and cucumbers on variety TV shows.

13-year old boy becomes the youngest weather forecaster in Japan

20090307p2a00m0na016000p_size5A 13-year old Yokohama boy just became the youngest weatherman in the country. Kazuya Yamazaki wanted to become a weather forecaster since the 5th grade, when he read about it in a reference book. So he studied to take the semiannual forecaster exam, a difficult test that has a pass rate of 6%, and passed it on his fourth try. His mom claims he was a science geek since kindergarten. He told the Mainichi:

“I’m also interested in chemistry, and I want to do jobs like making medicines and discovering new materials.”

What a cute kid!

Ai Iijima predicted her death on TV

I just found this video from a variety show few years back in which Ai Iijima talks about a famous fortune teller she saw in Taiwan. The fortune teller told Iijima that she would disappear in three years. When Iijima asked what she mean, the fortune teller said: “When you die, you can’t take anything with you,” and started crying. Iijima tells the audience: Maybe you can use this video in three years. I’m curious to see what happens.

Iijima was found dead in her apartment in Shibuya on Christmas Eve.

R.I.P. Ai Iijima, famed porn actress-turned-AIDS activist

AiijimaI am shocked to hear about the sudden and mysterious death of 36-year old Ai Iijima, a former porn star-turned-activist celebrity who portrayed a type of resilience, boldness, and femininity that is rare among Japanese female celebrities.

Her cries of “Iku! Iku!” (I’m coming! I’m coming!) made her 80s porn videos famous, but it also let women know in a very public way that it was okay to feel good during sex. After leaving the adult video industry, she made it up the ranks of the Japanese celebrity scene and maintained a regal presence on many a variety show stage where she talked frankly and surely about issues like sex, AIDS, and women while other women celebrities just looked cute and giggled. She was an important icon for female empowerment in Japan, whether she meant to be or not.

Emily wrote this about the incident:

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Rumors about the Emperor’s health, and why the Imperial Family is still relevant

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The Emperor is stressed out. He's turning 75 this year, and bad relations with his son and heir, Crown Prince Naruhito, has him plagued with worries about the fate of the Imperial Family, causing rumored stomach problems that may keep him away from the spotlight this New Years. Since World War 2, the Emperor of Japan has just been a figurehead—its greatest role in today's Japan is as the favorite subject of fluffy rumors and as the symbol behind the Japanese dating system—since his reign started, we entered the Heisei era (Hirohito's time was Showa). Despite his lack of political power and the fact that most young Japanese people don't even know his name, though, I think he still plays an important societal role, maybe. Whose babies will we collectively fuss over as a nation if we no longer cared about how the Emperor's granddaughters look as they commute to school?

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American YouTube manga girl making waves in Japan

Magibon is an American You Tube idol taking her obsession with Japan to the extreme. The Florida-born 22-year old who used to be a supermarket cashier now spends a bulk of her time making YouTube videos of herself staring blankly into the camera, babbling elementary Japanese, and striking cutesy poses. Her popularity in Japan catapulted when Japanese online publication JCast wrote an article about her in January of this year. In April, a Japanese broadcasting company called Gyao invited her to be a guest on one of their shows. Here’s one of her famous stare-down videos. What do you think? Cute? (by Emily Co)

Japanese man lives in Mexico’s airport for no reason

260xstory_2 Hiroshi Nohara is a mini-celebrity in Mexico City. Why? The Japanese traveler visited Mexico City, and then, on September 2, headed to the airport to fly home but never flew home. He’s been living in Terminal 1 of Benito Juarez airport ever since, surviving off of fast-food donations. Apparently, neither Mexican nor Japanese authorities can make him leave until his visa expires in March. He’s been there for nearly three months now—the media caught on, and now he’s regularly asked for autographs and has even been on Mexican TV. When asked why he’s doing this, he said:

"I don’t understand why I’m here. I don’t have a
reason."

Apparently, airport vendors have been giving him clothes and mugs to carry when he’s on TV to promote their brands. An interesting twist on the concept of free promo swag!

Link (Thanks, Mark!)