Posts Tagged With: Google

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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Categories: Japanese customs, Japanese technology, Must see, News about Japan, Stories about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

 

Categories: Japanese technology, Must see, News about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things to do: Boutique shopping and more in Tokyo’s Jiyugaoka

Boutique Shopping and More in Tokyo’s Jiyugaoka

It’s hard to believe that Jiyugaoka is only ten minutes by train from Shibuya. Walking the calm and sophisticated streets of this leafy residential area, the gaudy neon and Manga inspired mayhem of Shibuya seem a world away.

For the discerning international visitor Jiyugaoka offers a glimpse of an urban Japan rarely seen by other tourists. For Tokyoites, however, this place is no secret and many dream of making a life here. It’s easy to see why as you join young families, dating couples and singles, all out to enjoy the area’s understated, yet creative and classy, shopping and dining scene.

Jiyugaoka is relatively compact and rewards an aimless stroll. Below are some suggestions for spending a half-day in the area.

Map:

SHOP

There are a wealth of fashion boutiques and home-ware stores here that offer astute shoppers the chance to move away from high-street lines and find something unique. Many collections and pieces balance elements of European and Japanese design.

Jiyugaoka boutique

You’ll want to explore the many unique shops of Jiyugaoka.

Watashi no Heya and Quatre Saisons – Located on Sunset Street, these popular stores have collections of home-ware accessories, tending towards a clean, organic sensibility.

Popeye Camera – Enthusiasts will love this store just north of the station, which sells trinkets with which to deck out your camera along with frames and albums to display your Japan pics. There’s also a delightful collection of vintage cameras.

Luz – A smart little shopping center for Japanese fashion on Suzukake Street which attracts a younger crowd who want urban style without losing sophistication.

Jiyugaoka Department Store – Next to the train station (central exit) this department store harks back to an older era (and an older clientele). It’s an interesting local attraction without being a tourist trap, and a great place for authentic souvenirs.

EAT CAKE

Jiyugaoka Cake Shop

Refuel for more exploration with sweets and a coffee.

The Japanese obsession with cake is astonishing given how slim everyone is. (Where does it all go?). Jiyugaoka has an abundance of French inspired boulangerie (French Bakeries) for you to drool over. A local favorite is Pais S’eveille on Hilo Street which sells an exquisite range of cakes, cookies and jams. For a more low-brow experience (yes, Jiyugaoka is capable) Sweets Forrest on Green Street has a whole floor of treats for you to enjoy.

MEET THE LOCALS

Green Street Jiyugaoka

Green Street in Jiyugaoka is a great place to meet the locals.

Green Street, so named for the row of trees running down the center, is one of Jiyugaoka’s main thoroughfares. On the pedestrianized stretch south-east of the train station you’ll meet many locals, visitors and the occasional old-timer hanging out on benches beneath said trees. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a break with your purchase from the boulangerie and watch some beautiful people rocking the latest in tasteful Japan fashion.

GO TO TEMPLE

Joshin Temple Jiyugaoka Tokyo

Joshin Temple: A traditional treasure in modern Jiyugaoka.

Follow Green Street west out of town and you’ll arrive at Joshin Temple, also known as Kuhonbutsu. The temple is a mystery. The mystery being how a place so staggeringly beautiful and peaceful, surrounded by some thirty million people, could be so little visited. Founded in 1678, it’s a large complex of amazing buildings, Buddhas, gates and bells, hidden in an area of woodland. People spend days chasing around Kyoto for experiences like this. And it’s free! I almost feel guilty for writing about it.

DINE AL FRESCO

Jiyugaoka, Tokyo outdoor dining

Al Fresco dining opportunities abound in leafy Jiyugaoka.

Opportunities to dine Al fresco in crowded Japan are limited so take advantage of the charming options in Jiyugaoka to round off your visit. One of the nicest terraces belongs to the Rakeru restaurant on Hillside Street. Surrounded by greenery it offers privacy, peace and fresh air. Although it’s a chain restaurant it’s one of the best places to try an ‘only in Japan’ combination of omelet and rice. Otherwise known as omuraisu!

 
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Categories: Daytrips, Must see, Things to do, Where to drink, Where to eat, Where to shop | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese men use “infidelity phone”

Over the past few years, as many people rushed to trade in their old phones for smartphones, Japan’s philanderers have remained faithful to one particular brand: Fujitsu Ltd.‘s older “F-Series” phones, which feature some attractive stealth privacy features.

The aging flip-phone—nicknamed the “uwaki keitai” or “infidelity phone”—owes its enduring popularity to customers who don’t believe newer smartphones are as discreet at hiding their illicit romances.

 

Fujitsu NTT docomo F04 phone

Fujitsu NTT docomo F04 phone

 

A Japanese blogger who goes by the name Bakanabe and writes anonymously about picking up women, said he looked into buying a new device but found the privacy settings fell short of his current phone. Instead, he opted to refurbish his battered, three-year-old Fujitsu flip-phone with a new casing and a new battery.

“Women may want to check my phone for strange emails or calls when I’m not around. With Fujitsu’s ‘privacy mode,’ they can’t see that information at all,” he said in an email. “The key is to give off the impression that you’re not locking your phone at all.”

Fujitsu’s “privacy mode” is a layer of nearly invisible security that hides missed calls, emails and text messages from contacts designated as private. If one of those acquaintances gets in touch, the only signal of that communication is a subtle change in the color or shape of how the battery sign or antenna bars are displayed. If ignored, the call doesn’t appear in the phone log.

The changes are so subtle that it would be impossible to spot for an untrained eye. When the privacy mode is turned off through a secret combination of keys, the concealed calls and messages appear, and voice mail becomes accessible.

This comes in handy to another blogger who calls himself “Poza.” He claims to have various romances on dating sites while juggling three girlfriends. He said he was introduced to the Fujitsu phone nearly five years ago and uses the privacy features to keep from getting caught. He says he recently bought an iPhone, but giving up his Fujitsu phone to carry just a smartphone is “unthinkable.”

“In terms of keeping my cheating hidden, this does more than enough,” he wrote in an email. Poza, who says he works for a design company in western Japan, declined to provide his real name.

The older Japanese phones also run on software created for the domestic market. For years, this gave the manufacturers significant control over new features but limited their international reach. With smartphones running Google Inc.‘s Android operating system—the main software option for today’s handsets—the Japanese makers don’t have as much control to develop new features.

Fujitsu started offering the privacy mode in 2002 as part of more stringent security requirements for all phones offered by NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest carrier. Takeshi Natsuno, a senior DoCoMo executive at the time, said he insisted on tougher security after hearing too many stories of couples splitting or workers landing in hot water because they left their phones out and unguarded.

“If Tiger Woods had this Japanese feature in his phone, he wouldn’t have gotten in trouble,” said Mr. Natsuno, now a professor at Keio University’s Graduate School of Media and Governance.

The phones, though, aren’t available outside Japan.

With emails, phone calls and text messages all coming into the phone, it is also where many affairs are carried out. Toshiyuki Makiguchi, who runs Uwaki Rescue SOS, a Tokyo-based consulting company to help people find out if their partners are cheating, said more than half of his 600 customers a year find some evidence of cheating on their partner’s mobile phone.

Fujitsu promotes the strong security of its phones, but does so without acknowledging its subset of loyal cheater fans. Fujitsu spokesman Naoki Mishiro said tight security is critical these days with so much sensitive information on handsets. He declined to comment on the infidelity phone nickname.

These days, the devotion of infidelity phone users is being tested. Both Japanese carriers and Fujitsu are starting to phase out the older phones for an all-smartphone lineup. And a growing number of so-called cheater apps are looking to bring similar functions to smartphones.

As a result, Fujitsu has added some of the privacy features to its smartphone lineup. The company’s new models conceal calls and emails from contacts marked private. Like its older cousin, it alerts the users with a subtle change in the battery or antenna mark. However, the privacy mode requires a separate mail and address book app designed by Fujitsu, rather than the default email program and address book provided by the carrier.

“It’s totally useless,” said blogger Bakanabe, who researched the Fujitsu smartphone before sticking with his existing phone. “I hold out hope that Fujitsu adds the real privacy mode with its next smartphone.”

Fujitsu said it aims to roll out more convenient and secure features in the future.

The world appears to be catching up with the infidelity phone.

Delaware-based CATE, or Call and Text Eraser, has been offering a similar level of security since last year. It is an app for Android-based smartphones that intercepts and hides text messages and phone calls from people on a selected “blacklist.” Those texts and calls, as well as the app itself, remain hidden until the user punches in a code.

“I believe most cheaters use text and get caught by the text,” said Neal Desai, a 25-year-old entrepreneur from Austin, Texas, who raised $70,000 for the $4.99 app on ABC’s reality TV show “Shark Tank.”

At $4.99 per download, CATE has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, and an iPhone version will be available soon, said Mr. Desai.

When told about Fujitsu’s privacy features that have been available in Japan for several years, Mr. Desai was impressed: “That’s more genius than my app.”

Categories: Stories about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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