New We Are All Radioactive episode features Joi Ito and a humble government official

We Are All Radioactive – Chapter 5: Measurements from Lisa Katayama on Vimeo.

In Chapter 5, a team of hackers in Tokyo and Boston take radiation monitoring into their own hands, mapping the measurement levels across the entire country of Japan. Greenpeace and a blogging organic farmer join them in this civilian effort, and a government official admits that they need help.

Chapter 4: Radiation of We Are All Radioactive

Episode 4 of We Are All Radioactive is live!! And it’s super important: in this longer (9 minute) special episode, we go deeper with the characters we’ve gotten to know from Motoyoshi, AND we also meet nuclear experts from the US and Japan who help us make sense of the complex web of information out there concerning the threat of radiation in post-earthquake Japan. As you know, this week, Japan returned to nuclear power after a two-month break, and the parliament released an investigative report about the Fukushima disaster pointing out major human flaws in the handling of the disaster. 

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We Are All Radioactive – my new online documentary film project!

Hey guys! Guess what, I’m making a movie!

We Are All Radioactive is an interactive, episodic documentary film project about surfers rebuilding northern Japan. I co-directed it with Jason Wishnow, who is the film director at TED.

Sunday is the one-year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake, and we really need to remind people of how people in Japan are still living with the aftermath + uncertainty about radiation every day.

Because I’m a storyteller and I spend a lot of time on the Internet, I figured the best way for me to help Japan is to tell stories that are normally ignored. Like the stories of these surfers. And the fishermen they’re helping. And the government officials who are looking for a neutral third party to connect them with the locals.

We Are All Radioactive is going to do all these things, and more.

Because this is an independent project, we need your help in making it real. We are crowdfunding the film — as soon as we raise enough money to pay our editors + designers, we’ll release a new episode on our web site. Our web site launches on Sunday, so I’ll give you the URL as soon as it’s ready!

For now, please visit our campaign page to join the movement! We have lots of fun, meaningful interactive perks lined up for those who join the Radioactive community, like video messages from the characters and the chance to contribute your thoughts on a future episode. Super cool right?

Remember: by supporting this campaign, you’re helping us tell the inside story of an amazingly resilient community that shared their lives with us so that we can communicate their struggles to the world.

Summary of Joi and Lisa’s session about Japanese obsessions at Foo Camp

IMG_0107On Saturday, August 29th, Joi Ito and I gave an impromptu talk at O’Reilly’s Foo Camp about Japanese otaku culture and how it relates to hacking and Zen Buddhism. The talk wasn’t recorded so we don’t have an exact transcript, but here’s the gist of it:

We started by showing several photos that portray otaku obsessions—rows of figurines on a store shelf, cat cafes, itasha, body pillow covers, a man with his body pillow girlfriend, and a maid cafe bento box with a bunny rabbit drawn on the lid. We also showed some non-otaku photos, like a perfectly designed plate of cooked vegetables at the restaurant Daigo and Yoichiro Kawaguchi’s futuristic sea creatures lined up in front of a Yushima Seido temple. The obsessiveness of otaku culture, we said, can be seen even in more traditional and non-otaku Japanese aesthetic, from food presentation to religious display. And it’s this obsessiveness—which clearly goes beyond economical or functional rationale—that enables the precision manufacturing, cleanliness, punctuality, and politeness that we think of as stereotypically Japanese.

Joi noted that the caste system of Japan probably plays a role in this obsessiveness. For generations, people have been taught to be happy perfecting their role in society, without necessarily viewing social or financial gain as a measurement of their success—it’s the shokunin culture in which focusing on one job allows one to obsess with abandon until they reach perfection on a very local level. As examples, we mentioned waiters working for no tip and the guy at Narita airport whose only job is to tell people that their checked-in bags are on the revolving belt. As an example of obsession reaching a perfected end, Joi mentioned ukiyo-e, a type of woodblock printing that was popular during the Edo period. According to Professor Mitsuhiro Takemura, a media design scholar at Sapporo City University, the art form was essentially made more simple and abstract through rapid iterations until it reached obsessive perfection, and that was where innovation in this genre ended. (The actual end of ukiyo-e is attributed to the Meiji Restoration.)

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Taiji dolphins freed due to pressure from The Cove

I just got this information from the Oceanic Preservation Society, the organization behind the documentary The Cove about the dolphin killings in Taiji:

Fishermen in Taiji, Japan will be releasing captured dolphins this week in response to international outcry following the award-winning film “The Cove.” Some of the dolphins captured during the annual round up will be sold to aquariums, and while the rest are typically slaughtered in secret, the fishermen will be releasing them because of recent criticism.

…An anonymous Taiji fisheries official said that it’s not clear whether the town will stop killing dolphins permanently. Taiji residents see the dolphin hunt as a tradition that is no different than killing other animals for food. However, the dolphins that are killed and sold as food, often as mislabeled whale meat, contain toxic levels of mercury and are potentially poisoning Japanese consumers.

…The fishermen in Taiji captured about 100 bottlenose dolphins and 50 pilot whales on Wednesday, with plans to sell some of their catch to aquariums for up to $150,000 per animal.

The Taiji government hasn’t confirmed yet whether the killings will be halted permanently, but the fact that they’re on hold means that they’re listening.

Related stories:
The Cove, an upcoming documentary about dolphins in Taiji
Dolphin slaughter: horrible injustice, or just another meal?

Polaris, a new cell phone x robot that acts as a desktop secretary


This is Polaris, a robot designed by KDDI and Flower Robotics that monitors your behavior via your cell phone and then communicates to you via your TV. Basically what it does is function as an intelligent dock for your cell phone — when you put the phone on it, it extracts information from the handset and then gives you recommendations and reminders. Kinda like a miniature personal secretary! It also has the ability to self-navigate on flat surfaces. We should be seeing this in the consumer market soon — so far it’s just a prototype.

via Impress Watch (Japanese)

Bamboo dining set teaches kids table manners


I love this dining set for kids made by Funfam. Everything’s made of bamboo and is reusable (huge amounts of wooden chopsticks are used and thrown away every day in Japan), but not only that, the embedded cutlery design automatically teaches your kids how to set a table! It’s one less thing you have to teach them &mdash not to mention that it’s just an extremely cute design. The only caveat: it costs $200.

Product page via Designboom

The crazy chihuahua lady’s decked out ride


You know the crazy cat lady? Well, I think I found her chihuahua
counterpart outside a Tokyo pet store complete with a chihuahua mobile. Check out the
personalized decals of her chihuahuas pasted all over her car. The back
and the front seats of her car were fully occupied by very comfy
looking doggy beds. Lucky little yappers. (by Emily Co)

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