October 03, 2012

Michael Jackson counting sheep before his piano recital

Shing02 just sent me this hilarious voice over of Michael Jackson's Beat It video of an insomniac man with an Osaka accent counting sheep and stressing out because he can't sleep before his piano recital. Wow.

Question: is this only funny to people who understand Japanese or is it funny period?

September 21, 2012

Music video: Toastie aka Baguette Bardot in Paris

In 2009 I had the great pleasure of interviewing and becoming friends with Toastie, a lovely lady who grew up in Australia and now performs all over the world as the oh-so-wonderfully-kooky Toast Girl.

Here is a gorgeous video of her moonlighting as her alter ego Baguette Bardot against a Parisian backdrop. It has over 2 million views on YouTube! On some nights, you can find Toastie bartending in Golden Gai, an amazing clandestine bar district.

Oh and make sure you check out the Studio360 show featuring Toastie, produced by yours truly, in 2009.

September 09, 2012

How to do radio calisthenics the right way

Every Japanese kid at some point in their lives has to do radio calisthenics exercises in the morning. Even though I didn't go to a Japanese school, I stumbled upon this strange ritual at a local swimming school that my mom took me to for a few months in grade school.

I think this routine should be secret code for how to tell if someone is Japanese. You know, like a fraternity hand shake. I've also seen old Chinese people do a similar exercise routine early in the morning in parks all over San Francisco but cannot confirm that it's the exact same thing. Anyone?

September 04, 2012

Rapper Shing02's latest: a short film about technology and happenstance

This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting and having a long sun-soaked breakfast with rapper Shing02, who grew up all over the world -- Berkeley, Tanzania, Japan -- and now lives in LA. He's super famous for tracks he created with famous DJs like Nujabes and was part of the up-and-coming hip hop movement on the East Bay in the 90s. Understated, thoughtful, a true lyricist who can connect nodes of thought and makes cool analogies with words.

He recently made this film called then-n-now, watch!

August 13, 2012

Yukinori Yanagi's awesome Ultraman exhibit


Loved this piece, called Banzai Corner, at the Benesse House Museum on Naoshima.

August 08, 2012

Hiroshi Sugimoto's beautiful glass-ified shrine in Naoshima


In 2002, Hiroshi Sugimoto decorated Go'o Shrine on Naoshima with an optical glass staircase that leads to a subterranean stone chamber. It's now a permanent part of the Art House Project, an amazing art project on Naoshima that walks you through a small traditional Japanese village with several obscure buildings that have stunning contemporary experiential art pieces hidden in them. The most dramatic one was James Turrell's Minamidera -- a spiritual worship place transformed into a seemingly pitch black room that slowly over time metamorphoses into one of his signature empty rectangular box meditative spaces.

Go'o Shrine for Art House Project

August 06, 2012

Teru teru bozu bathing in curry

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Teru teru bozu are little tissue paper monks that Japanese people hang outside their windows when they don't want it to rain the next day.

August 05, 2012

Photo: Tokyo subway hand strap

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I'm sitting here in Naoshima with Florian, one of the photographers for Gakko Project, and loving this photo he took on a Tokyo subway.

Gakko Project, a super artsy inspirational summer camp on Naoshima

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I'm on Naoshima, an awesome little island off the coast of Kagawa Prefecture best known for its amazing collection of modern art (including, famously a giant yellow polka dotted pumpkin right on the seashore created by Yayoi Kusama). For six days, Kenta Koga, a 21-year old Yale undergrad has transformed the conference room at a local hotel into a six-day summer camp for 30 high school students and 15 Yale, Harvard and Tufts undergrads. It's called Gakko Project. The tag line is "Question Learning" and from what I can gather from my first hour here, it's an attempt to take people who normally learn in pedantic academic settings and put them in this amazing concrete modern art building on a gorgeous beach with art everywhere with inspirational thought leaders so that they absorb inspiration in different ways.

In a couple hours, my friend Chiaki Hayashi and I are teaching a course on how to create きっかけ. It will involve brainstorming, conversing with strangers, and running on a beach. Super fun! Tomorrow we'll be joined by our friend Fumio Nanjo, the director of the Mori Art Museum, who actually curated most of the art on Naoshima. We plan to have a blast, swim in the ocean, and fully support Kenta's ambitious and super inspirational initiative.

Photo: Florian Koenigsberger

Yayoi Kusama's awesome OCD art on fancy Louis Vuitton bags

I love Yayoi Kusama's OCD polka dots! You've seen them before on TokyoMango on cell phones, Coca Cola vending machines, and all types of furniture and walls. There's a super fun documentary about her, too.

The Yayoi Kusama Collection

August 02, 2012

Pachinko parlor promises female attention to gamblers


Prego, a Pachinko parlor, promises in giant pink letters that women will fall in love with you if you gamble your life away here. Interesting marketing strategy...

Super flexible neon yoga man USB drive


2 gigs!

Spotted in Ikebukuro: kimchee soda


The text on the bottle claims that it is a flavor of ramune (classic Japanese soda) with a spicy kick. Have any of you tried it?

August 01, 2012

Watch the final episode of We Are All Radioactive

We Are All Radioactive - Chapter 7: Departure from Lisa Katayama on Vimeo.

Just released the final chapter of my documentary, WE ARE ALL RADIOACTIVE. I hope you enjoyed it! If you missed previous episodes, you can watch all of them at our Vimeo channel.

Coming soon: a new web site, discussion forums in real time with characters from the show. Please keep an eye on TokyoMango or WeAreAllRadioactive.com for updates!

Kohei Uchimura, the best gymnast in the world

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I wrote an article about Olympic gymnast Kohei Uchimura in last weekend's New York Times Magazine. You can read it here. (There's also a video story to go with it!) It's a fun piece with quotes from NBC commentators, Olympic judges, and the athlete's mom.

Uchimura actually screwed up a bit on his pommel horse routine earlier this week. He has another chance to really prove that he's the greatest gymnast of all time when he hits the mats again on 8/2. Fingers crossed he'll live up to his Superman reputation!

UPDATE: He *just* won the individual gold in London!!

Gakko Project, an innovative cross-cultural education experiment in Naoshima

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I'm excited and honored that Kenta Koga invited me to teach a course at Gakko Project, a cool new initiative founded by the Yale undergrad to redefine cross-border education between Japan and the US. We're going to be on Nao Island (Naoshima) from Monday to Wednesday next week. Kenta's one of those innovative, entrepreneurial young Japanese leaders that we at The Tofu Project want to see more of. Stay tuned for updates from the event next week!

July 25, 2012

Pyschedelic pop art by 76-year old former Playboy art director


Keiichi Tanaami's colorful depictions of psychedelic Astro Boy and evil POpEye are fun, but much more meaningful when you understand that he's a 76 year old active artist who was the first art director of Playboy Magazine four decades ago.

Johnny Strategy over at Spoon and Tamago says:

To understand his art one simply needs a brief history lesson into the artist himself. Highlights include experiencing the Great Tokyo Air Raid at age 9, experimenting with LSD in his 20s, travelling to New York and meeting Andy Warhol at age 31, and becoming the first art director of Playboy Magazine (Japan) at age 39.

Check out his latest exhibit, which is on display in Shibuya through August 5th.

via Spoon and Tamago

July 16, 2012

New super-cute Sony commercial featuring over 200 screens

I love this TV commercial made by the Tokyo-based creative agency PARTY for Sony's make.believe campaign. It was shot with over 70 performers using 200 Sony devices, and it was all taken in one continuous shot.

"SCREEN STORY" is a new TV commercial film for Sony "make.believe." The film was created with over 70 performers using more than 200 devices, taken in one continuous shot.than 890,000 people watched it live, and over 7 million pushes were recorded during the show.

So great!

July 12, 2012

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.

July 05, 2012

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. 

We Are All Radioactive main page
Our Vimeo Channel

Please "like" our Facebook page for frequent updates!!


Lisa Katayama's personal blog.
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My Bio

  • I write articles about culture, technology, and human rights for Wired, Popular Science, Fast Company, and the New York Times Magazine. I also produce radio segments for PRI's Studio360 and am a Correspondent for Boing Boing, one of Time Magazine's five most essential blogs of 2010.

    My latest project is an episodic documentary film called We Are All Radioactive..

    In 2008, Chronicle published my book: Urawaza: Secret Everyday Tips and Tricks from Japan.

    I am also the founder of The Tofu Project, a boutique program that helps Japanese entrepreneurs and creators think deeper, tell better stories, and go out into the world in a much bigger way. We work with companies like Mixi, Japan Airlines, and Salesforce.com.

    Sometimes I try to explain Japanese culture on CNN, BBC, CBC, WSJ, ABC (so many acronyms!) or in person at places like the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, ETech, and Ignite!

    Follow me on Twitter
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    Read some of my published magazine stories

    Send tips to mango [at] tokyomango [dot] com


  • My book, Urawaza: Secret Everyday Tips and Tricks from Japan, was published in April 2008. Get it now!

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