Newly established Japan Ninja Council promises to be your one-stop website for all things ninja

RocketNews 24:

When you think of “cool Japan,” it’s hard to overlook ninjas, those stealthy spies and assassins with more tricks up their sleeve than a magician in a parka. And yet it seems these timeless icons of Japanese culture have largely been overlooked by the national government’s Cool Japan in favor of AKB48 spin-offs and abacuses.

So instead, a band of 11 Japanese governors and mayors have assembled to create the Japan Ninja Council (JNC) with the sole aim of reminding everyone how cool ninjas are. Having officially launched on 9 October they aim to collect every bit of information on ninjas, including their history and culture, and provide it to anyone who wants to learn more about these elusive figures.

All 11 founding fathers of the JNC took part in an opening ceremony last Friday to celebrate its birth. They include the governors of Kanagawa, Shiga, and Saga Prefectures along with the mayors of Odawara, Ueda, Iga, Koga, and Ureshino.

The council will be led by its president, Mie Prefecture Govenor Eikei Suzuki, and vice-president, former Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Hiroshi Mizohata. Rounding out the group is prominent kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo the Eleventh in a supporting role.

▼ Most members decided to look the part for the council’s launch

Unfortunately since they decided to launch on a Friday before a long weekend, nothing much has happened yet. The JNC website “ninja-official.com” is up but only has a brief history of ninjas and a video about a ninja weapons show in Iga. It is a fairly cool video though.

Japan Ninja Council
Official WebsiteTwitter
Facebook

If you’ve got the cash, you can pre-order this stunning Ghost in the Shell ukiyo-e print

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RocketNews 24:

Ghost in the Shell may well be one of the most beloved anime in history. Its compelling story, engaging characters and beautiful art all combine to make one of the most exciting franchises we can name, so it’s little surprise that 25 years after its release, the film remains a fan favorite to this day.

In celebration of the first film and the entire franchise, a special product has been announced: a limited-edition series of ukiyo-e prints featuring images from Ghost in the Shell! But when we say limited-edition, we really do mean limited — only 300 copies will be made!

And they won’t come cheap either…

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Pictured above is the first ukiyo-e to be produced by OtakuWorks Inc., based on the poster for the original Ghost in the Shell movie directed by Mamoru Oshii. The image will be printed on Japanese paper produced by “living national treasureIchibe Iwano, a ninth-generation master of Echizen paper. The prints will also bear the signature of Hiroyuki Okiura, the artist who created the original poster.

Only 300 copies will be made, and you can pre-order one of your own right now for only 43,200 yen (US$370 for pre-orders for those living outside Japan). Pre-orders will be open until the end of November or until all 300 prints have been claimed. We have a feeling they won’t make it until the end of November…

The next image in the series will be of the poster for the most recent film, Ghost in the Shell: The Movie, which was released in Japan this June. Pre-orders for the second ukiyo-e print are expected to be announced soon.

It seems both odd and yet somehow fitting that such a futuristic series is receiving such a traditional treatment. If nothing else, it reflects the very human mind wrapped up in the cybernetic body of the original film.

Covry Sunwear makes sunglasses that are made to fit Asian faces

COVRY SUNWEAR

Huffington Post (by Madelyn Chung):

If you’re Asian, you probably know the difficulty of finding a pair of sunglasses that actually fits.

With our high cheekbones and low nose bridges, glasses seem to constantly fall down our faces, only to sit too tightly on our cheeks.

Well, a new sunglasses brand has the answer to all of our problems. Started by high school friends Athina Wang, 25, and Florence Shin, 24, Covry Sunwear goes beyond the standard fit to better complement diverse facial features.

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We were both frustrated with not being able to find sunglasses that fit us,” Shin told Cosmopolitan.com. “We always felt like we had to compromise the style, the fit, or the price.”

Using their backgrounds in fashion design and business, the duo developed a prototype over a year before coming up with the “Elevated Fit,” which features longer nose pads, reduced frame curvature and a narrowed nose bridge. They chose this name over “Asian Fit” because they realized people of all ethnicities also struggle with the same issues.

covry elevated fit

Covry offers three styles: The Castor, Lynx and Vega, all of which are unisex and UV protected with polarized lenses and reduced glares. And the best part? They’re actually stylish, unlike the “Asian Fit” glasses offered by other brands.

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And it looks like tapping into this underrepresented market has paid off — Covry’s Kickstarter campaign has surpassed their goal of $18,500 and their stretch goal of $25,000. Now, customers can sign up at www.covrysunwear.com to be notified as soon as they’re available to shop. They’ll retail for $95 each.

We’re hoping that this solves sunglasses shopping, an experience that isn’t inclusive of everyone,” Wang told Mashable.

We say, it’s about damn time.

Giant Gundam headed for Hong Kong

Unicorn Gundam

RocketNews 24 (by Aleisha Riboldi):

Citizens of Hong Kong, brace yourself. An exciting Gundam exhibition is headed your way. This summer, as part of a month-long exhibition in Hong Kong, a giant  Gundam statue – something not usually seen outside of Japan’s Odaiba Bay in Tokyo – will be on display.

This isn’t the first time that Hong Kong has hosted a Gundam display; two years ago, there was an exhibit featuring a stand-off between an RX-78 Gundam statue and a Char’s Zaku statue. This time around, the exhibition will feature several giant displays including a 1:3 scale statue of an RX-0 Unicorn Gundam suspended Wing Gundam, a three-metre (approx. 10-foot) wide S-06F Zaku II head, and two-metre (6.5 foot) tall Gundam Build Fighters TRY statues.

Gundam build fighters

Gundam suspended

According to the Gundam Global Portal Facebook page, there will also be the chance to meet director Kazuhiro Furuhashi and voice actor Koki Uchiyama from the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam UC. In addition, there will be lots of limited-edition model kits and items as well as a display of Hajime Katoki’s Gundam art which has never been exhibited outside of Japan.

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Occupying Hong Kong’s Time Square, the exhibit will no doubt be hard to miss. The event, titled “Gundam docks at Hong Kong II“, will only be on exhibit for a limited time running from August 1-31.

Daft Punk x Medicom Toy (Japan) “Random Access Memories” Set

Top 5 wedding destinations in Asia

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Audrey Magazine (by Pauline Yang):
While this is surely an exciting time for engaged couples, you don’t need me to tell you that it can be stressful planning a wedding. For instance, those who have close relatives in foreign countries may end up with guests who simply can’t make it because a trip to America is expensive. This is just one of the reasons many couples are now opting for a destination wedding in Asia. It can be easier for some relatives to travel to, and with the right budgeting, a wedding in Asia can even be less expensive than having a wedding in America. Sounds like a win-win!

So if you’re considering a wedding in Asia, we’re here to help! Check out our top 5 wedding destinations as well as specific locations we recommend to have the wedding of your dreams.

1. Taiwan – Lakeside Luxury

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Taiwan has become a global trendsetter in the wedding industry, inviting international couples to celebrate the beginning of a new life together on the beautiful island. Many find that they are able to have more lavish parties and photoshoots for a fraction of the price. Taiwan has proven to be a great choice for those on a budget but don’t want to compromise on their happy day.

Where in Taiwan?
One of the eight wonders of Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is a scenic jewel in the island’s mountainous heart. The romantic lake transforms throughout the day to create different moods. In the early morning it is misty and mysterious. During the day it is a mirror of the mountains and forests that surround it. At sunset it shimmers with gold dust, and after dark, the lights of the villages and temples reflect gently across its surface. A stay at the Fleur de Chine Hotel, situated on the northern peninsula of the Sun Moon Lake, presents these magnificent views, as well as services and accommodations for an elegant outdoor wedding. Under the sun and moon, surrounded by the sky and earth, couples will surely take home sweet, unforgettable memories.

2. Indonesia – Island Dreams

P1_Nirwana Bali Resort

For those dreaming of a storybook wedding, Indonesia can provide dreamy backdrops and vivid imagery. With botanical gardens, intimate beaches and cliff top venues overlooking the Indian Ocean, Bali effortlessly sets the scene for romance.

Where in Indonesia?
Consider Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort for your stay and venue. The picturesque property transports guests to an otherworldly setting where postcards come to life. Pan Pacific’s grand location, luxurious facilities and excellent service was recently selected to host Miss World. Guests can play around on the award-winning Greg Norman golf course and enjoy spectacular sunsets over the Indian Ocean. The resort’s spacious coastline lawns serve as a perfect wedding location with incredible views of Tanah Lot and its iconic temple.

3. Singapore – Chic Cityscape

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If you opt for a more modern wedding in the city, Singapore is your place to go. The island country is known for its surreal city skyline. Singapore is not only considered one of the safest places to live, it is also boasted to be the food capital of the world. Sounds like a solid place for a wedding!

Where in Singapore?
Marina Bay Sands Singapore
is home to the futuristic Skypark, one of many iconic architectural buildings in Singapore. Its daring design and breathtaking rooftop decks, including the world’s largest infinity pool at 57 stories above ground, draw many couples to this contemporary resort. The Skypark’s landscaped rooftop gardens offers 360-degree views of Singapore and its offshore islands, easily becoming the most photogenic venue for couples tying the knot. World-class chefs and culinary concepts are also available to satisfy every taste.

4. Thailand – Golden Hours

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A country rich with culture and beautiful scenery, Thailand is one of the most versatile destinations for a wedding. From nature parks and beaches to Buddhist temples, there is a venue for every bride’s vision. Thailand’s prime location in the center of Asia also makes it a sensible choice for those inviting relatives from all over Asia.

Where in Thailand?
The Four Seasons Tented Camp, situated in an elephant sanctuary in the jungles of northern Thailand’s Golden Triangle, is right on the border of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Intimate tented camps perched on private platforms receive six-star service to ensure guests have the best experience during their stay. Still not convinced? Imagine dressing in soft Thai silks while riding a gentle elephant through the bamboo jungle before your wedding ceremony. Yes, it’s just as beautiful as it sounds.

5. India – Heaven in the Hills

P1_Tree of Life Resorts

There are many hidden gems in India when it comes to finding the perfect getaway. Its long history and strong cultural traditions make India a special destination to experience. For instance, the “pink city” of Jaipur is a popular choice for those interested in exploring the diversity of wedding venues available, such as ornate palaces, old mansions and private villas.

Where in India?
Nestled in the undulating Aravalli hills is the gorgeous Tree of Life Resort & Spa. This venue features 14 luxury villas built using local styles and designs to reflect Rajasthan’s long architectural history. Complete with an infinity pool at its center and private outdoor spas for each villa, this resort was created with a vision of a heaven away from the bustle of city life. Guests also have the opportunity to dine in their villa from a personalized 4-course menu that guests can design daily with the head chef’s help. Talk about an extravagant getaway!

Miss Saigon’s Kwang-Ho Hong performs title song from Frank Wildhorn’s Broadway musical adaptation of DEATH NOTE manga series

Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, Bonnie & Clyde) is currently working on turning Japanese manga series DEATH NOTE into a musical. Below, check out a Korean music video featuring the title song from the musical, performed by Kwang-Ho Hong (Miss Saigon UK, Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll & Hyde, Don Quixote)!

WOEI x Onitsuka Tiger (Japan) Colorado 85 “Cervidae II”

A pairing of two reputable imprints in footwear, Japanese label Onitsuka Tiger has teamed up with Rotterdam store WOEI to rework the Colorado 85. In honor of Onitsuka Tiger’s 30th anniversary, the sneaker is highlighted by ceremonial golden accents inspired by the vigor of a cervidae. The brown and beige upper features 3M reflective detailing on its toe and heel cap, while a perforated toebox and D-ring eyelets offer a distinctive, athletic look.

The Cervidae II will be available at WOEI on June 13 and international stockists from June 20.

Toyota redesigning Prius plug-in hybrid to double car’s all-electric range

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RocketNews 24:

Toyota’s Prius is designed for one purpose, and it’s not to deliver the sort of exciting performance that will seduce you into taking a spirited drive through a moonlit mountain pass (that’s another car’s job). No, the Prius promise is that it will get you from Point A to Point B in the most energy-efficient way possible.

But while the standard hybrid Prius remains a popular choice for eco-conscious motorists, sales of its plug-in variant have been stagnant. Toyota is hoping to change that, though, with an updated Prius that can travel roughly twice as far under purely electric power than the current model.

If you’re the kind of person who’s more familiar with the handling differences between front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive than what separates one class of hybrid from another, a brief refresher on just what constitutes a plug-in hybrid may be in order. Unlike a standard hybrid vehicle, the batteries in a plug-in hybrid can be charged directly by plugging the car into a socket. By allowing the car to run in either a purely electric mode or with the electric motor and gas engine working together, plug-in hybrids seek to combine the flexibility of a normal hybrid with the efficiency and lower emissions of an all-electric vehicle.

Toyota released its first plug-in Prius, called the Prius PHV, in January of 2012. Hoping to build on the strong brand awareness and reputation of the normal hybrid Prius, the company was expecting a similarly warm response for the newer, ostensibly more advanced version of the car.

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But while the Prius PHV sought to offer the advantages of both a hybrid and all-electric mode, it couldn’t deliver on the latter for very long. From a full charge, the current Prius PHV can only run 26.4 kilometers (16.4 miles) in full-electric mode before its batteries are drained, meaning that unless you’re headed someplace fairly close, you’re going to need to burn a little gas to get there and back.

Car buyers haven’t seen that as much of an advantage, especially considering that prices for the Prius PHV start at 2,931,429 yen (US$24,634), more than 30 percent more than the ordinary Prius hybrid, which is priced from 2,232,000 yen. The end result is lackluster sales numbers, and three years and three months after its launch, Toyota has only found some 20,000 buyers for the Prius PHV, a mere fifth of what the company was hoping for in that time frame.

In contrast, rival Mitsubishi Motors has enjoyed great success with its Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid SUV, which boasts a 60.2-kilometer all-electric range. Even with its much higher price (starting at 4,123,440 yen), Mitsubishi has been selling Outlander PHEVs at a brisk pace, moving 13,000 in 2015 alone.

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This sales gap has shown Toyota that it needs to step up its game, and the company has announced that the Prius PHV will be getting an update. Equipped with an increased quantity of batteries, and also thanks to weight-saving measures in other parts of the vehicle, Toyota is promising that the refreshed Prius PHV will be able to travel more than 50 kilometers in its all-electric mode, a distance roughly twice what the current model is capable of.

The new Prius PHV is expected to arrive at dealers in the fall of 2016. In the meantime, grab a map and start plotting out all the new places you’ll be able to go without needing a drop of gas.

Ai Weiwei unveils “Golden Age” designer wallpaper at Serpentine Galleries in London

London’s Serpentine Galleries unveils “Golden Age,” a designer wallpaper by contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. The piece is a social commentary of sorts by the artist and features interlocking gold chains reminiscent of luxurious silk scarves, as well as surveillance cameras surrounding Twitter’s Larry Bird logo. This is possibly an allusion to the ongoing discussion of privacy topics like social media rights and government surveillance issues, as Ai Weiwei is reputed for his critiques on the Chinese government and his longstanding dissidence of the state’s policies.

“Golden Age” and the preview video above will debut ahead of the gallery’s upcoming wallpaper exhibition by artists, designers, architects and the like. The wallpaper collection will be available for purchase this May.

Serpentine Galleries
Kensington Gardens,
London W2 3XA, United Kingdom