Japanese technology

Got hay fever? No fear, the new ‘Pollen Robo’ is here!

For several years, Weather forecaster Weathernews Inc. has deployed a special robot at this time of the year to help Japan’s hay fever sufferers better navigate the pollen season.

The new Pollen Robo designed for this year will be capable of collecting data on not only pollen, but also on PM2.5 particulate matter and yellow sand that blows across the sea from China.

The company is dispatching 1,000 units across the country.

Hay fever sufferers will be able to access the information online in real time, allowing them to know where the levels are highest and plan their days accordingly.

Weathernews said pollen levels started climbing in the Kanto region (the Kanto region is where Tokyo is located)  from late January, and will greatly increase from around mid-February.

The amount of airborne pollen is expected to climb by 10 percent this year from an average year.

The spherical Pollen Robo measures 15 centimeters in diameter and has human facial features such as eyes, nose and a mouth. The eye color also changes according to the amount of pollen it detects.

Weathernews Inc.’s new Pollen Robo will monitor pollen and PM2.5 levels.

Weathernews Inc.’s new Pollen Robo will monitor pollen and PM2.5 levels.

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The Japanese secret to staying young for longer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wasabi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wasabi, the Japanese condiment which offers a delicious kick to the nasal passages with every bite, has long been embraced in Japan, and more recently other parts of the world. However, aside from accentuating sushi or playing jokes on friends, the pungent plant has been found to provide anti-aging effects in recent years.

 

For those who turn up their noses at the thought of a daily dose of wasabi, you may reconsider when you realize how easy it is to benefit from the sulfinyl found in it. That’s right: it keeps you pretty for longer!

 

 Sulfinyl

 

A lot of what goes on inside of a wasabi plant is accredited to a sulfur/oxygen bond called sulfinyl. When the plant is damaged the sulfinyl is combined with other molecules to make 6-methylthiohexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC). Stay with us. In short, this chemical group helps to give wasabi its unique taste, which is believed to be a natural pest repellent.

 

Studies are also finding that the 6-MSITC created by wasabi can lower the reactive oxygen in the body. Reactive oxygen is said to be related to cancers and the weakening of the body due to age. Other research is suggesting that wasabi’s unique sulfinyl compounds are also good for blood circulation and reflexes.

 

 Know your wasabi

 

So we know that wasabi is great but first you have to make sure you’re actually eating real Japanese wasabi. The wasabia japonica plant is a little tricky to farm and yields don’t tend to meet the demand for it. As a result much of the wasabi sold and served is actually mixed with horseradish known as seiyo wasabi (Western Wasabi) in Japan.

 

Although the taste is good, horseradish doesn’t have the same 6-MSITC health benefits of its Japanese cousin. So read the label before buying!

Wasabi explanation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dorito's with wasabi

Obviously your best bet would be buying a fresh wasabi rootstock, but they can be rather pricy and hard to maintain. After grating, the taste of wasabi dramatically decreases in only minutes.

 

On the other hand, powdered wasabi would have had most of the 6-MSITC processed out of it. Unfortunately this means that Wasabi Doritos and Wasabi Beef chips, despite tasting awesome, will not prevent aging… they probably accelerate it.

To get the best of both worlds we recommend the wasabi sold in tubes like toothpaste. As long as you check the label, it won’t take much to begin lowering your reactive oxygen.

 Just a teaspoon a day

According to studies, one would have to consume a minimum of five milliliters (one teaspoon) of wasabi a day to begin recieving the effects of 6-MSICT. You might want to consider a spoonful of it in the place of your morning coffee for a truly potent pick-me-up. Besides, it’ll help clear those tubes during the cold season!

Also, if you happen to not love the spicy zing of wasabi, no problem! Since 6-MSITC is very durable against heat you can just cook it up with something and reduce the nose-burning taste while maintaining the health benefits.

These types of health studies can be shaky at times, so we can’t guarantee eating wasabi will keep you cancer-free. However, it takes almost no effort at all, so why not give it a try? In fact, I’m going to start putting it on my morning McGriddle to try and undo the years of damage it’s no-doubt done to me.

 

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Japanese love their vending machines. Now there is even one for games!

Vending machines are quite popular in Japan, and Google recently put up a few of its own to distribute mobile games to Android users. Engadget reports that the machines offer 18 different games—some of which are free while others require payment—and transactions are made by resting an NFC-enabled phone running Android 4.0 or higher onto a tray below the large touchscreen.

googleplay

Photo credit: Engadget

If you don’t have a compatible device, the vending machine lets you take it for a test run with a Nexus 4, which, unsurprisingly, you do have to give back. Google employees will be present to ensure proper return of the phone.

The Google Play machines can be found in front of the Parco department store in Shibuya and will be there for just over a week. Or, if Japan is too far for you, you can always just tap the Play Store icon on your Android phone or tablet for a similar, albeit less novel, experience.

 

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Secret treasures of Japan: Origami

 

origami

 

Voor een Nederlandse vertaling: Scroll naar beneden

Origami (折り紙), Japanese: ‘ori’ means to fold and ‘kami’ paper, is a traditional Japanese folding art and developed in the Edo period.

 

Origami uses a limited number of folds but due to the combination of these folds intriguing designs are possible. The art originates in China during the first or second century, shortly after the invention of paper. From China it came to Japan, where it gained its shape and form as we know it today. In general the designs start with a piece of squared paper of which the sides can be differently colored. The paper may be fold but it cannot be cut.

 

Japanese origami has been applied since the Edo period (1603-1867). Although frequently assumed, Japanese origami can also be made with a rectangular piece of paper instead of a squared one.

 

origami as a secret art for the Noble

The Japanese are said to be good at handcrafted work. Of course, there are always exceptions but in general children in kindergarten can already fold a crane bird or helmet. A foreigner completely ignorant regarding origami will be very impressed by the many possibilities one can make out of a single piece of paper.

 

Simple origami erects from the time of Prince Shoutokutashi (572-622) when the method of produce was first introduced by the Korean priest Tan Zhi. Traditionally de acts of ‘break’, ‘fold’ and ‘bind’ were linked to religious ceremonies. In these days people came up with certain rules concerning the folding of paper because this form of folding art was being used during formal and, most of all, holy occasions.

 

 

family secret

During the Muromachi period (1333-1568), when the shogun laid down several rules and laws, the Ogasawara and Ise families were responsible for the rules regarding ceremonial ornaments (made out of paper) and gift wraps. They decided that the rules could only be passed on as a family secret and strictly to a select number of people.

 

gift wrapping

During this period it was important that, if a gift was to be wrapped, it was easy to guess what it contained by the way it was packed. In other words, the package had to clearly show the form of the object inside or there had to be a small opening so one could peek inside. If it was a small gift, the giver had to write down a description of the content including the quantity.

 

1000 crane birds for good luck

During the Edo Period a book was published which reflected 49 ways of folding a crane bird. From that time on the tradition of folding a 1000 crane birds for luck, began to arise. This was done when, for example, someone was ill or was going to make a great journey. A crane bird is supposed to deliver a blessed feeling, therefore a 1000 or more should give you enough to be quite alright.

 

Mid-Meiji Period people started to teach children to fold origami in order for them to learn about art in a playful manner.

 

magical origami

The first person to introduce origami in Europe was a magician. In that time balloons were not yet invented so no balloon animals could be crafted. Therefore, this magician gave children joy by making them an animal of origami. He used the origami technique as well during his shows and the crowd was very impressed by his capability of crafting 3D figures out of a single piece of paper.

 

origami after WWII

After the Second World War the soldiers brought the art of folding back to the United States and there as well it became a huge success. Many of the more unique designs of origami which are invented in this period, were made by foreigners. After all, the Japanese had to obey strict rules that did not influence nor impede the designs of foreigners. They could fold whatever fantasy they imagined and therefore created many more creative forms. This freedom eventually reached Japan as well and they decided to ditch the rules and give their imagination free rein.

 

“origamians”

Official practitioners of origami are called Origamians and are a phenomenon all over the world. There are even competitions where participants are being challenged to great new creative pieces and push the boundaries of Origami.

 

geometrical imagination

During the Showa Period (1926-1989) Origami was seen as inferior to kids in kindergarten because it would limit the free imagination and fantasy. A chemist called Ryuutarou Tsuchida and Kouji Fuhimi, a physicist, spread around that Origami was actually good for children in their development phase. The creation of many complicated forms stimulates the geometrical imagination and will prepare children to solve difficult mathematical problems later on in high school. These two geniuses thought that children who learn to think with their spatial skills by making Origami, will be able to apply this way of thinking at mathematics while children who have never created Origami will have much more trouble in this area.

 

 

origami in space

Nowadays Origami is even applied in space. The technique is used to fold a solar panel. Professor Kouryou developed the Muira-ori method. This is an ideal way to fold a solar panel in space, for it to be as effective in space as possible. This Muira-ori method has ever since been applied to many more utilizations. Origami has been proved to be ideal for all ages. It can provide hours of joy but also improve science and technology.

 

Want to learn the art of Origami by an expert?

Surf to: www.shoko-origami.com for more information.

NEDERLANDSE VERTALING:

Origami  (折り紙), Japans: ‘ori’, vouwen, en ‘kami’, papier is een traditionele Japanse vouwkunst en is ontstaan in de Edo periode.

 

Origami gebruikt een beperkt aantal vouwen, maar door de combinatie hiervan zijn intrigerende ontwerpen mogelijk. De kunst stamt uit China in de eerste of tweede eeuw, kort na de uitvinding van het papier. Van daar uit is het overgewaaid naar Japan, waar het de bekende vorm heeft gekregen. In het algemeen beginnen deze ontwerpen met een vierkant stuk papier, waarvan de zijdes verschillend gekleurd kunnen zijn. Het papier mag wel gevouwen worden maar er mag niet in geknipt worden.

 

Japans origami wordt dus al toegepast sinds de Edoperiode (1603-1867). In tegenstelling met wat algemeen wordt aangenomen, wordt in de Japanse origami soms ook met rechthoekig en rond papier gewerkt.

 

origami als een geheime kunst voor de nobelen

Van Japanners wordt gezegd dat ze goed zijn in handwerk. Natuurlijk zijn er altijd uitzonderingen, maar over het algemeen kunnen kinderen vanaf de kleuterschool al een kraanvogel of een helm vouwen. Een buitenlander die

niets weet van origami, zal onder de indruk zijn van wat je allemaal kunt maken uit 1 velletje papier.

 

Simpele origami stamt al uit de tijd van de prins Shoutokutashi (572-622) toen de methode voor het produceren voor het eerst werd geÏntroduceerd door de Koreaanse priester Tan Zhi. Traditioneel gezien waren de handelingen van ‘breek’, ‘vouw’ en ‘binden’ gelinkt aan religieuze ceremonies. In deze tijd bedachten de mensen al bepaalde regels voor het vouwen van papier aangezien deze vorm van vouwkunst destijds werd gebruikt tijdens formele en vooral ook heilige gelegenheden.

 

 

 

familiegeheim

In de Muromachi periode (1333-1568), toen de shogun allerlei wetten en regels vast stelde, waren de Ogasawara en de Ise familie verantwoordelijk voor de regels omtrend ceremoniële ornamenten (gemaakt van gevouwen papier)en cadeauverpakkingen. Zij stelden dat de regels alleen doorgegeven mochten worden als familiegeheim en alleen aan een select aantal personen.

 

kadootjes inpakken

In deze periode was het van belang dat als een cadeau werd ingepakt, het door de wijze van verpakken gemakkelijk te raden was wat er in zat. Ofwel het pakje moest duidelijk de vorm tonen van hetgeen erin zat, of er moest een kleine opening worden open gelaten zodat men naar binnen kon gluren. Als het een klein kadootje was, dan moest de gever een omschrijving van de inhoud op de verpakking schrijven plus de hoeveelheid.

 

1000 kraanvogels voor geluk

Tijdens de Edo periode werd er een boek gepubliceerd die 49 verschillende manieren weergaf hoe je een kraanvogel kunt vouwen. Vanaf die tijd begon ook de traditie om 1000 kraanvogels te vouwen voor geluk, bijvoorbeeld als iemand ziek was of een lange reis zou gaan maken. Een kraanvogel zou een gelukzalig gevoel moeten brengen, dus als er 1000 of meer zijn, dan moet het wel goed komen met je.

 

Tijdens het midden van de Meiji periode begon men met het leren van origami aan kinderen om hen op een speelse manier artistieke kunst bij te brengen.

 

magische origami

De eerste persoon die Origami in Europa introduceerde was een googelaar. In die tijd hadden ze nog geen ballonnen om ballonbeesten van te maken, dus maakte deze ‘magiër de kinderen die toestroomden blij met een beestje gemaakt van Origami. Hij gebruikte de Origami techniek ook tijdens zijn shows en zijn publiek was bijzonder onder de indruk dat hij de meest fantastische 3D vormen uit een enkel blaadje papier wist te krijgen.

 

origami na WWII

Na de Tweede Wereldoorlog brachten de soldaten de kunst van het vouwen terug naar de Verenigde Staten en werd het ook daar een groot succes. Veel van de meer unieke Origami kunstwerkjes die in deze periode zijn ontworpen, waren gemaakt door buitenlanders. Japanners moesten zich immers aan strikte regels houden, maar buitenlanders werden hier niet door gehinderd en konden hun fantasie de vrije loop laten, waardoor de meer creatievere vormen buiten Japan ontstonden. Deze beweging bleek een stimulans te zijn voor Japan. Hier werd ook eindelijk besloten de regels overboord te gooien en simpelweg de fantasie de vrije loop te laten.

 

“origamians”

Officiële beoefenaars van Origami worden Origamians genoemd en is in de hele wereld een fenomeen. Er zijn zelfs wedstrijden waar deelnemers worden uitgedaagd om nieuwe creatieve werkstukken te verzinnen die de grenzen van wat mogelijk is met Origami opzoeken.

 

 

geometrische verbeelding

Tijdens de Showa periode (1926-1989) werd Origami als ongeschikt beschouwd voor kinderen die naar de kleuterschool aan omdat het de vrije verbeelding en fantasie zou beperken. Een chemicus, Ryuutarou Tsuchida genaamd en Kouji Fushimi die werkzaam was als natuurkundige, zeiden dat Origami juist goed was voor kinderen in de ontwikkelingsfase. Het maken van de vaak ingewikkelde vormen zorgt ervoor dat de geometrische verbeelding wordt gestimuleerd en zal kinderen voorbereiden om de ingewikkelde wiskunde die ze later op de middelbare school moeten doen. Deze twee knappe koppen meenden dat kinderen die ruimtelijk leren denken door het maken van Origami, zullen deze denkwijze gemakkelijker kunnen toepassen op ingewikkelde wiskundige problemen, terwijl kinderen die nog nooit Origami hebben gemaakt, hier meer moeite meer zullen hebben.

 

 

origami in de ruimte

Tegenwoordig wordt Origami zelfs in de ruimte toegepast. De techniek wordt gebruikt om een zonnepaneel op te kunnen vouwen. Professor Kouryou ontwikkelde de Muira-ori methode. Dit is de ideale manier om een

zonnepaneel in de ruimte op te vouwen, zodat het zo effectief mogelijk kan werken in de ruimte. Deze Muira-ori methode heeft inmiddels vele andere toepassingen gevonden. Origami is dus ideaal voor jong en oud. Het zorgt voor urenlang vermaak, maar kan ook zorgen voor een rijk belegde boterham!

Origami leren van een expert?

Kijk dan eens op www.shoko-origami.com voor meer informatie

 

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How to drink… Shochu (Japanese gin or vodka)

barrels

 

While sake is familiar to millions outside of Asia, shochu is the drink of choice amongst the Japanese. Since 2003, shipments of shochu within Japan have outstripped sake and the trend shows no sign of reversing.

Shochu can be made from barley, sweet potatoes or rice and is distilled like whisky, unlike sake, which is brewed similarly to beer. The shochu is then aged in oak barrels giving the drink more kick (it averages around 25 percent alcohol, rising to 40 percent for some barley shochus) and a deeper flavour.

The famed Shinozaki brewery has been producing sake and shochu for over 200 years. Here Hiroyuki Shinozaki, CEO offers his tips for how to enjoy shochu:

‘The difference between different types of shochu is huge, be it rice, barley or sweet potatoes it is a case of finding what suits you. For me though, the best shochu is made from rice.’

‘If you are new to shochu, look for a bottle that is around 13 percent alcohol, the stronger shochus are more of an acquired taste. ’

‘Although you can drink shochu neat I’d always recommend diluting it with water to bring out the taste.’

‘Rather than just throwing the water in, as you would with whisky, you should dilute the shochu the night before you plan on drinking it. That way it blends overnight allowing the water and shochu to fuse. Don’t be impatient – a good shochu is aged for four years, it deserves one more day.’

‘Once you are ready to drink the shochu heat it gently in a pot of hot water – never, ever, use a microwave. The drink is best served at about 38 degrees Celsius, body temperature. It’s not a cup of tea after all.’

SHINOZAKI details

SHINOZAKI Co., Ltd, 185 Hiramatsu Asakura-shi, Fukuoka 838-1303
Telephone +81 946 52 0005
www.shinozaki-shochu.co.jp/shochu_index.php

 

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In Japan, Young Women Rent Out Their Legs As Ad Space

A good way to get your advertisement plenty of exposure is to place it where there will be a lot of people looking.

With that in mind, Japanese advertising company Absolute Territory PR is offering a unique service that gives brands a ‘leg up’ on their competitors—by renting the legs of young Japanese girls as ad space.

Using the notion that ‘sex sells’, this clever marketing strategy was reported to be a big hit with businesses across Tokyo—especially to Japanese men.

Girls who are interested in renting out their legs will have to get their legs ‘stamped’ with an ad, after which they can go about their daily routine.

They will have to wear the ad for eight hours or more a day to get paid—and preferably dressed in miniskirts and high socks.

To prove that they are ‘advertising’ the stickers, participants must also post pictures of themselves wearing the ad on Facebook, Twitter or other social media networks.

Eichi Atsumi—a spokesperson for the ad company—said that the only guidelines for the job is that the registered person should be connected to “at least more than 20 people on some social network and that they are over 18 years old”.

According to The Daily Mail, about 1,300 girls have already “registered their legs as ad space” with the company, and the numbers are only increasing.

‘Thigh-vertisements’—yay or nay?

 

 

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Japanese design explained: Shizen and Wabi-sabi

banner-nieuwe-website

ryoanji

Japanese design is famous the world over, but what is it exactly what we are looking at? I always believe if you know a bit of the back ground of things, it becomes easier to better appreciate the intentions of the designer and to appreciate something beyond face value. In this blog posting I aim to explain two different, but intertwined Japanese design principles.

Wabi-sabi a form of Japanese aesthetics

Wabi-sabi () represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhistteaching of the three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常 mujō), the other two being suffering (苦 ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空 ).

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetryasperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

“Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West”. “If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” “[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

wabi sabi

The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi originally referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; sabi meant “chill”, “lean” or “withered”. Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations. Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.

After centuries of incorporating artistic and Buddhist influences from China, wabi-sabi eventually evolved into a distinctly Japanese ideal. Over time, the meanings of wabi and sabi shifted to become more lighthearted and hopeful. Around 700 years ago, particularly among the Japanese nobility, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honored as tantamount to the first step to satori, or enlightenment. In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi-sabi is often condensed to “wisdom in natural simplicity.” In art books, it is typically defined as “flawed beauty.” 

From an engineering or design point of view, wabi may be interpreted as the imperfect quality of any object, due to inevitable limitations in design and construction/manufacture especially with respect to unpredictable or changing usage conditions; then sabi could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the phonological and etymological connection with the Japanese word sabi, to rust. Specifically, although the Japanese kanji characters 錆 (sabi, meaning “rust”) and 寂 (sabi, as above) are different, as are their applied meanings, yet the original spoken word (pre-kanji, yamato-kotoba) is believed to be one and the same.

A good example of this embodiment may be seen in certain styles of Japanese pottery. In the Japanese tea ceremony, the pottery items used are often rustic and simple-looking, e.g. Hagi ware, with shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and colors or textures that appear to emphasize an unrefined or simple style. In fact, it is up to the knowledge and observational ability of the participant to notice and discern the hidden signs of a truly excellent design or glaze (akin to the appearance of a diamond in the rough). This may be interpreted as a kind of wabi-sabi aesthetic, further confirmed by the way the colour of glazed items is known to change over time as hot water is repeatedly poured into them (sabi) and the fact that tea bowls are often deliberately chipped or nicked at the bottom (wabi), which serves as a kind of signature of the Hagi-yaki style.

wabi-sabi-barbecue

Wabi and sabi both suggest sentiments of desolation and solitude. In the Mahayana Buddhist view of the universe, these may be viewed as positive characteristics, representing liberation from a material world and transcendence to a simpler life. Mahayana philosophy itself, however, warns that genuine understanding cannot be achieved through words or language, so accepting wabi-sabi on nonverbal terms may be the most appropriate approach. Simon Brown  notes that wabi-sabi describes a means whereby students can learn to live life through the senses and better engage in life as it happens, rather than be caught up in unnecessary thoughts. In this sense wabi-sabi is the material representation of Zen Buddhism. The idea is that being surrounded by natural, changing, unique objects helps us connect to our real world and escape potentially stressful distractions.

In one sense wabi-sabi is a training whereby the student of wabi-sabi learns to find the most basic, natural objects interesting, fascinating and beautiful. Fading autumn leaves would be an example. Wabi-sabi can change our perception of the world to the extent that a chip or crack in a vase makes it more interesting and gives the object greater meditative value. Similarly materials that age such as bare wood, paper and fabric become more interesting as they exhibit changes that can be observed over time.

The wabi and sabi concepts are religious in origin, but actual usage of the words in Japanese is often quite casual. The syncretic nature of Japanese belief systems should be noted.

Black_Raku_Tea_Bowl

Wabi-sabi in design

Many Japanese arts over the past thousand years have been influenced by Zen and Mahayana philosophy, particularly acceptance and contemplation of the imperfection, constant flux and impermanence of all things. Such arts can exemplify a wabi-sabi aesthetic. Here is an incomplete list:

Shizen, the art of nature

Shizen (自然) by itself means “nature” or “natural”. When the term is applied to arts and crafts, including modern designs, it also encompasses things that are made to look like the were taken straight out of nature.

Japanese have a fondness of using this style a lot, for instance an ‘Ikebana’ piece (Japanese flower arrangement) must look as though it is still in ‘the wild’. Not only in Ikebana is this technique used, it is also applied in the products Japanese make and of course ever prevalent in the Japanese landscape design.

The obvious idea behind basing designs on Shinzen principle is that nature is the original designer and nature made things are inherently appealing to human beings on both a conscious and subconscious level. We instinctively recognise that we have a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual connection to nature; the more closely a product relates to certain aspects of nature, the more attractive it is to people. especially applies to building materials, household furniture, utensils and interior decorations. Japanese have applied this style for ages and are real masters where it comes to apply its principles.

 

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Nissan goes starwars

Nissan has joined forces with the Empire. Images of stormtroopers, the shock troops seen in the Star Wars films, will be emblazoned on promotional materials up and down the country and on TV screens as the car maker enlists their help for the launch of its redesigned Juke sport-utility vehicle.

Invision for DisneyConsumer Products/AP Images
The stormtrooper character from the Star Wars movies is helping Nissan sell its redesigned Juke SUV in Japan.

In a TV ad aimed to boost sales in a flagging market, the sporty compact turns stormtrooper heads at a futuristic base, as it shoots past with a striking red paint job featuring a white go-faster stripe. The flash of red and white then inspires one of the legion of identical stormtroopers to try out a new paint job of his own. It’s not bad to stand out declares the ad’s tagline.

As part of the sales campaign, which started last week, Nissan will award Stormtrooper Armor to a winner selected by lottery among those who sign up for the company’s mail magazine by Nov. 29. Oh yes, it will also present the lucky winner with one of the new Jukes, too.

This is “a very rare opportunity” to win a set of stormtrooper armor because only a limited number of people get to wear the armor even in the movies, a Nissan spokeswoman said. The costume isn’t exactly the same as the one used in the films, but it is “close” to the real outfit, the spokeswoman added.

Nissan will also give away gift certificates – each worth Y5,000 ($50) – to 100 people, again by lottery.
Outside fancy dress parties and Halloween, it isn’t clear what use anyone apart from a a geekish collector of Star Wars paraphernalia would have for the armor. It certainly doesn’t seem the best outfit for driving the new Juke.
In fact motoring in full stormtrooper dress might attract unwanted attention from the authorities. In a YouTube video a stormtrooper wannabe can be seen getting a warning from a police officer for driving in costume.

Saying “This isn’t the droid driver you’re looking for”  is unlikely to work on such occasions.

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Back to the future: take a 500 kph ride on the new Maglev Shinkansen (bullet train)

Now you will never have an excuse to be late ever again! Not yet travelling by the speed of light, but we’re getting there!

Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) has begun test runs of a magnetically levitated train that can reach speeds of up to 500 kph with an eye toward commercial operations beginning in 2027.

The test runs got under way on Aug. 29 on an extended Yamanashi Maglev Test Line over a distance of 42.8 kilometers using the latest prototype L0 train cars.

The test runs will initially involve five linked L0 cars and reach speeds of 500 kph.

The Yamanashi Maglev Test Line was extended from its previous length of 18.4 kilometers. The longer test line will allow JR Tokai to conduct test runs at 500 kph using a long link of train cars, as well as through long tunnels.

To prepare for actual train operations, the company will also assess the environmental impact on the ground and examine ways to reduce maintenance costs. When put into commercial operation, the maglev train will run on the yet-to-be-constructed Chuo Shinkansen Line, which would link Tokyo and Osaka.

An additional nine train cars will be constructed by fiscal 2015, with eventual test runs involving up to 12 train cars that would extend to a total length of 299 meters.

Among the participants at a ceremony on Aug. 29 to mark the start of the test runs were Yoshiyuki Kasai, JR Tokai chairman, Akihiro Ota, the transport minister, and Yamanashi Governor Shomei Yokouchi.

“We want to export technology completed in Japan to the United States so that it becomes the international standard,” Kasai said during a speech at the ceremony.

Ota said: “This provides pride and hope as a technology power, and it will also be important in dealing with natural disasters. We want to provide support for the realization of this technology.”

Ota and others also took a speedy ride as part of a test run.

“I experienced the ride at 505 kph,” Ota told reporters. “My body felt the sense of speed, but it was not at all uncomfortable and conversation was possible as usual. There was not much vibrating.”

Research started on the “linear motor” propulsion floating system in 1962. Cumulative test runs have exceeded 800,000 kilometers.

A preparatory environmental impact report will be released this autumn as part of plans to begin construction on the Chuo Shinkansen Line in fiscal 2014.

JR Tokai is planning to begin operations between Tokyo’s Shinagawa and Nagoya in 2027. It has plans to eventually extend the line to Shin-Osaka by 2045.

Plans call for linking Shinagawa and Nagoya in 40 minutes and Shinagawa and Shin-Osaka in 67 minutes.

 

 

 

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Don’t feel like driving? Just take this self-driving car from Nissan out for a spin

Nissan Motor Co., which grabbed a global lead in electric car sales with its Leaf hatchback, wants to do the same thing with self-driving vehicle technology and plans to offer such models by 2020.

“We will be able to bring multiple, affordable fully autonomous vehicles to the market by 2020,” Andy Palmer, Nissan’s executive vice president, told reporters Tuesday at a briefing in Irvine, Calif.

Such systems mean “frustrating and unproductive commutes could become a thing of the past,” he said.

Just as the Yokohama-based carmaker set a goal of becoming the world’s biggest seller of battery-powered autos, Nissan wants to be a leader in the move to make cars safer by adding electronic systems capable of preventing accidents and injuries. The systems also can reduce traffic jams by rerouting vehicles, which helps curb emissions of carbon dioxide.

Nissan has sold more than 75,000 Leaf electric vehicles worldwide since late 2010. Including alliance partner Renault SA of France, they have delivered about 100,000 electric cars.

The company showed off self-driving Leaf models at a former U.S. military base in Irvine on Tuesday with the robotic cars ferrying passengers in simulated urban driving conditions.

Technology underpinning autonomous autos, including adaptive cruise control, electronic steering and throttle controls, is already available, and added sensors and road-monitoring capabilities are being refined, Palmer said.

“The technology to create self-driving cars is already here,” said Karl Brauer, senior industry analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “As sci-fi as it sounds, self-driving cars that don’t ever crash, reduce traffic congestion and make valet attendants obsolete are coming.”

Nissan, Japan’s second-largest automaker, is developing its system in-house, though it is willing to work with companies, including Google Inc., which has been promoting driverless car systems in recent years.

 

“I don’t preclude the possibility of working with Google, or anyone else for that matter,” Palmer, who leads vehicle development, told reporters.

Nissan has contacts with Google on various matters, he said, without elaborating.

A difference in approach between Nissan and Google is that Nissan’s system does not need to be linked to an Internet-based data system, said Mitsuhiko Yamashita, the company’s executive vice president for research and development.

“We don’t count on infrastructure so much. All the technology is in the cars,” Yamashita said Tuesday. “We are trying to get to crash-free, fatality-free vehicles.”

Nissan’s North American operations are based in Franklin, Tenn., near Nashville.

 

Over 2 mil. cars in Americas

Nissan Motor Co., pushing to make more vehicles at plants in the Americas, said it will have the ability to build more than 2 million autos annually in the region by early next year.

The carmaker is spending more than $5 billion to expand capacity in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, the company said Monday in a statement. Expansion in the United States will help Nissan almost double exports from plants in Tennessee and Mississippi, the company said in a separate release.

Nissan began a push to build up production capacity in North America following Japan’s earthquake and tsunami that caused some supplier disruptions, and after the yen surged to a record high against the dollar, making imports to the United States less profitable. The automaker has not pulled back on the expansion even as the yen has weakened in the past year.

 

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