Monday, February 20, 2017

Anti-bullying Tech in Japan

A High-tech Approach to Control Bullying in Japan

NHK World News reported on Feb.18, 2017 that a school in the Kansai area (Tezukayama Elementary School in Nara) is the first  in the country to employ smart phones apps aimed at addressing bullying. With the app, students can report incidents, send messages and photos through the app service providers to the school. School bullying has been a serious problem in Japan, where group inclusivity is a major social concern. When surveyed about bullying, Japanese students often describe ostricization and online harassment as the main forms of bullying that are present in society; usually mentioned before physical violence as the typical form of modern bullying.

The school at the focus of the story has a section of their webiste dedicated to the various security measures that they take, including the new Stop!T app.

The Stop!T app is already being used by a number of schools in America. For the app to be used students must download the app, which is free, but schools must pay a fee to the software developers to be included in the system, this is how the developers make money from the system. The app was developed by an American company. The iTunes App store currently only has 21 ratings, the reports mention that the app has been used in America for about a year. There seem to be  number of other [anti]bullying apps. Hopefully this new approach will help to make reduce bullying and the high rates of suicides among Japanese students.

Newly elected Trump on Japanese bookshelves

The Japanese version of Newsweek: "The man who manipulates Trump; White House official Steve Banon - the 'other president' with the negative world view." International European version: Alzheimer's. American version: Putin is moving into the middle east and America is "losing out."
Three books by Tomohiro Machiyama on the shelves a bookstore in Osaka. The positions of the clansman next to Trump was a striking image especially given the events of this years election. That book with the KKK image on the cover is "The Most Danger American Movies" (a book about controversial movies such as "Birth of a Nation" and "Song of the South"). The center book is "Farewell White Nationalist America."

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Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper prints a Saturday comic strip illustrating world news for kids. This week was about Donald Trump: '"America First' has people worried." The cartoon characters talk about the wall. "Various places have protests and riots over Trump's inauguration. Only about 40% of people support President Trump. America's policies may affect Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Trump in November. He is meeting with the President again to restate Japan's positions."

The Japan Times also ran a story about Japanese students who were becoming anxious about the Trump travel bans and the accompanying political atmosphere in America.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Automesse 2017

Automesse 2017
Automesse is an annual auto show that is held in Osaka every February at INTEX, Osaka’s international expo complex (near Nakafuto station). Automesse occupies all six of the buildings at INTEX. There are some large manufacturers who occupy large spaces at Automesse but most  of the event is for customizations.

Car Manufacturers-
  • Honda- The Honda NSX was this year’s main attraction from the big car makers. The Honda NSX (New Sports eXperience) is known in America as the Acura NSX. Production of the first generation NSX series ran 1990-2005, halting due to the slow economy. The second generation of NSX came back in 2016 with a new sporty vehicle with a mid-sized had usually had a 40 minute line for visitors who wanted a chance to chance to sit behind the wheel and pose for photos. The new model is made from some innovative new lightweight materials and is powered by a 600 hp engine. Only 201 units of the Acura NSX were sold in America in 2016.

  • Daihatsu - Daihatsu is now owned by Toyota. Daihatsu is relatively unknown outside of Japan as the company specializes in the kei car. “Kei car,” or kei jidousha ( 軽自動車 ), means “light automobile” and they are designed for Japan with their small frames and engines. Japan has special regulations for parking, taxes and insurance which favor kei cars. Kei cars receive special license plates that reflect these privileges but there are technical limitations for kei cars as defined by 1998 regulations:
    • Length: 3.4 m (11.2 ft)
    • Height: 2 m height (6.6 ft)
    • 660cc engine (63 horsepower max.)
Daihatsu was displaying their “Sport” model alongside their box shaped family/commuter vehicles.
  • Suzuki- Suzuki was showing off the 4th generation of their subcompact Swift series hatchbacks.
  • Pagani- Car dealers had a Pagani Huayra on display. Showing off it’s gull-wing doors.

Custom Cars & Parts
A huge number of vendors were present to show off customizations, car parts and audio equipment.
The long, color anodized lugnuts were popular again this year and can now take the shape of shape ammunition rounds for a menacing look. Together on the wheel of the cars they look like something from a Ben-Hurr chariot.
Elaborate body customizations and paint-jobs were popular. Some of the bizarre examples of fiberglass bodywork include enormous rear spoilers which seem peculiar to Japan’s yankii or boso-zoku sub-cultures. These spoilers seem to negate the use of a central rearview mirror.

Race Cars
As in the past, a variety of modern and vintage race cars were on display at Automesse including F-1 (which is very popular in Japan) and offroad rally vehicles (notably Subaru). A number of talk-show style speaking panels featured industry experts and professional race drivers.

Bosozoku Culture- The bosozoku subculture is associated with noisy rides and extensive stylistic modifications such as elaborate paint jobs and high-backed seats. The display models of these bikes even include the characteristically bent up license plates (which make it harder for authorities and potential plaintiffs to identify).
Dekotora” is a subculture of truckers who drive decorated trucks. These trucks feature elaborate decorations with lights, chrome exterior parts, backlit art panels and trailers that are covered with huge works of art, usually depicting some motif that is very traditional such as mythical creatures or nature; the styles and motifs are similar to traditional Japanese tattoos, which is intimidating because of the association with Japanese gangsters. The dekotora fashion began in northern fishing ports where parts from military vehicles and tour buses assembled to make garish vehicles. The style was popularized by the 1975 movie Torakku Yarou (トラック野郎 / “Truck Guys”), which popularized the dekotora culture similar to the way that 1969’s Easy Rider popularized biker culture in America. The exhibitor at Automesse had copies of movie poster for Torakku Yarou. There is even a specialized dekotora festival that is held in Tokushima.

Remote Controlled Cars
Tamiya, a maker of remote controlled cars had a race for hobbyists on a special, miniature track. There were also remote controlled car drivers giving demonstrations at a booth in among the car parts and merchandise vendors. The remote controlled cars had very evolved, complex controls ands the “drivers” had very impressive skills at manipulating the machines.

Race Queens and Models
The car show models are the real draw for Automesse. Some exhibitors bring their own models to their show with specialized outfits that reflect the company's brand; this approach is the “race queen” model and these types of models are often seen at auto races. Smaller vendors will hire freelance models to attract attention; these models don’t have branded costumes and they often appear at multiple booths.

The large crowds of aggressive photographers swarm around the booths when the models appear. I suspect that most of them go to Automesse specifically for the car show girls. Fights have been known to break out among the photographers as the jostling ensues, despite the typically polite and tolerant nature of Japanese people. It is actually the older and more impatient cameramen who are prone to lashing out as they quickly take offense to perceived slights from their juniors in society. The men with cameras often seem excessively prurient; you can usually survey a crowd and see only breasts and butts in their digital viewfinders. They even record long segments of video with only that view! It seems like most of the material they must capture in this way would have little artistic or even erotic merit. It was rare to see wedding rings or female companions with these hentai cameramen. This year, you could even see one man who brought some sort of “real-doll”/silicone mannequin in a wheelchair so “she” could pose in front of the cars for him; however that guy actually had a human wife with him and she seemed supportive!(?).

The mobs of photographers sometimes became the real human spectacle, especially at the “Car Sense” booth which, every year, has a reputation for featuring sexy models in the most blatantly raunchy costumes.

Performers- In addition to the models, dancing groups took the stage. Other years, Automesse has featured singers, DJs and even (clothed) pole dancers.

  • Boats - In the spirit of motorsports the local boat racing course had a display featuring videos and a chance to get on one of the boats, which is basically an enhanced jet ski.
  • Exoskeletons - In the broader spirit of mechanical engineering, Automesse also exhibits some other technologies that are outside the world of cars or motor sports. A good example of this is Yaskawa Electronics, Assistive Robotics exoskeleton project; ReWalk. ReWalk is based on the designs of Israeli ARGO Medical Technologies. The device straps to a person's legs and uses motorized joints, powered by battery-backpack, to assist paraplegics, or people with other difficulties walking. Users still need to use the canes to hold up their torsos and direct the “legs” of the exoskeleton


Monday, February 6, 2017

Osaka World Hobby Fair 2017

World Hobby Fair - Osaka

The World Hobby Fair (WHF) is held in various locations around Japan; Osaka, Tokyo, Fukuoka and Nagoya. Osaka’s Kyocera Dome which is usually a venue for baseball games and large concerts and every February thousands of people come for the one-day event.

Entry is free and kids can receive gift bags upon entry, the event also gives out promotional clear file folders at the exit. The event is very much geared toward kids with costumed stage shows, some workshops, had on product demonstrations and game competitions.

The Competitions:

The 2017 WHF had a Beyblade competition which drew in some very serious kids who were hauling large tackle boxes filled with the fighting tops, launchers, gloves, etc. The competition had 25 of the bowl shaped BeyBlade arenas. Beyblade referees check the competitor's equipment with official-looking sets of weights and measures; is there some sort of cheating that they are looking for?

There were tables for the Pokemon Card Game with staff members in costumes playing opposite of visitors.

The hallways and empty spaces of the convention floor were filled with people (kids and adults) using mats to place collectible card games (Pokemon, YuGiOh, etc.).

Photo Ops:

Every year there are performers wearing mascot costumes; the year you could see Tamadra (Puzzle & Dragon) while previous events featured Pikachu, Yokkai Watch characters etc.). The booth also feature large fiberglass and inflatable figures of games characters; this year you could see Link, Mario, Alolan Exeggutor, Conan and more.

Demos and exhibits:

The large Nintendo booth formed the core of the convention floor. Alongside the fiberglass statues there were window displays featuring the hardware for the Nintendo Switch and monitors playing video demos of launch software; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey.

Long lines formed to get into small booths that provide access to a 10 minute, two-player demonstration hosted by Nintendo staffers. All of the demonstrations seemed to be the same mini-game featured in the stage demonstration.

This mini-game was a sword catching game which employed two motion capture controllers. The game had a very forgiving window of time for players to react to each others actions; so the game would register catchers 67% of the time even when the person catching the sword had slow reflexes. There were also promotions for what appeared to be a wild west quick draw mini-game.

Japan has a lot of game center (arcade) machines for Pokemon and a bank of these machines was set to free-play for visitors. This machines employ thick plastic cards which have a QR code label, these plastic Cards are placed into a slot on the control panel with a QR scanner.

Stage Shows:

The Nintendo booth had some technical difficulties with controller connections but the audience seemed to enjoy the brief demonstrations of a mini-game.

The Gung Ho booth offered a demonstration of their Nintendo 3DS game, Puzzle and Dragons (but nothing about the mobile freemium version of the game). The Beyblades booth seemed to be capitalizing on the recent PPAP (Pikotaro) craze.

The Gung Ho booth offered a demonstration of their Nintendo 3DS game, Puzzle and Dragons (but nothing about the mobile freemium version of the game).

The Beyblades booth seemed to be capitalizing on the recent PPAP (Pikotaro) craze.