Young Japanese artist crafts exquisite animal-shaped candy at his shop in Asakusa (Tokyo)

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RocketNews 24:

Japan sure knows how to elevate its food to an unparalleled level of art, and today we’d like to introduce you to the works of another master Japanese craftsman of sweets. His life’s passion is creating exquisitely detailed animal-shaped candy, which are so astoundingly intricate that it probably won’t be long before a museum asks to put them on display!

Shinri Tezuka is the artist behind these incredible edible creations. Born in 1989 in Chiba Prefecture, Tezuka states that he loved to sculpt anything he could get his hands on from a very young age. That childhood passion translated into a full-time career for him, and he now spends his days traveling across Japan to participate in all sorts of events and parties, and also offers hands-on workshops to teach people of all ages about his craft. As a result of these expeditions, he’s been featured on numerous Japanese television shows to date. And get this–despite being only 25, he’s already taken on three apprentices who are eager to carry on his tradition!

▼ Shinri Tezuka, the man behind the craft

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Since 2013, Tezuka has also overseen his own shop called Asakusa Amezaiku Ameshin (amezaiku refers to the art of making candy into human and animal-shaped forms). The shop is fittingly located in Tokyo’s traditional Asakusa district, only a short walk away from the popular tourist destination of Senso-ji Temple.

▼ Exterior and interior views of the shop

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While browsing through some of his breathtaking creations, it’s easy to forget that they are indeed candy and are meant to be eaten. In fact, some people find the distinction between the art and food so fine that one of the questions in the Q&A section of Asakusa Amezaiku Ameshin’s official site asks, “Can I really eat this candy?”

The answer is a resounding “yes,” by the way. In addition, Tezuka uses only naturally occurring dyes to color his creations, so you can rest easy knowing that you’re not eating any artificial pigments.

Let’s take a look at some of his animal-shaped candy creations now:

▼ The caption says that these goldfish are the two most popular designs among shop customers.

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▼ These gorgeous cranes were crafted using real gold leaf on their wings.

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▼ Here are some candy creations crafted in Tezuka’s Asakusa studio…

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▼ …and here are some he created at various public demonstrations.

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Tezuka does take orders for customized candy creations at his shop, but he is unable to accept requests for popular characters due to copyright laws. Guess we’ll just have to wait and hope for a deal to come through with Nintendo so that we can see Tezuka’s version of Pikachu in candy form!

Shop information
Ameshin / アメシン
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Imado 1-4-3, 1st floor
東京都台東区今戸1-4-3 1F
Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Closed Thursdays
Website

National Geographic: Solar panels floating on water will power Japan’s homes

Picture of a similar floating solar plant

Floating solar arrays take advantage of open water where land space is constrained.

National Geographic (by Bryan Lufkin):

Nowadays, bodies of water aren’t necessarily something to build around—they’re something to build on. They sport not just landfills and man-made beaches but also, in a nascent global trend, massive solar power plants.

Clean energy companies are turning to lakes, wetlands, ponds, and canals as building grounds for sunlight-slurping photovoltaic panels. So far, floating solar structures have been announced in, among other countries, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Italy.

The biggest floating plant, in terms of output, will soon be placed atop the reservoir of Japan‘s Yamakura Dam in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo. When completed in March 2016, it will cover 180,000 square meters, hold 50,000 photovoltaic solar panels, and power nearly 5,000 households. It will also offset nearly 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. (Since the EPA estimates a typical car releases 4.7 tons of CO2 annually, that’s about 1,700 cars’ worth of emissions.)

The Yamakura Dam project is a collaboration by Kyocera (a Kyoto-headquartered electronics manufacturer), Ciel et Terre (a French company that designs, finances, and operates photovoltaic installations), and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation.

So, why build solar panels on water instead of just building them on land? Placing the panels on a lake or reservoir frees up surrounding land for agricultural use, conservation, or other development. With these benefits, though, come challenges.

Solar Enters New Territory

Overall, this is a very interesting idea. If successful, it will bring a huge impact,” says Yang Yang, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles who specializes in photovoltaic solar panels. “However, I do have concerns of its safety against storms and other natural disasters, not to mention corrosion.”

Unlike a solar installation on the ground or mounted on a rooftop, floating solar energy plants present relatively new difficulties. For one thing, everything needs to be waterproofed, including the panels and wiring. Plus, a giant, artificial contraption can’t just be dropped into a local water supply without certain precautions, such as adherence to regulations on water quality—a relevant concern, particularly if the structure starts to weather away.

That is one reason we chose Ciel et Terre’s floating platforms, which are 100 percent recyclable and made of high-density polyethylene that can withstand ultraviolet rays and corrosion,” says Ichiro Ikeda, general manager of Kyocera’s solar energy marketing division.

Another obstacle? Japan’s omnipresent threat of natural disasters. In addition to typhoons, the country is a global hot spot for earthquakes, landslides, and tidal waves.

Aerial view of the Yamakura Dam

The planned floating solar array for Japan would sit atop the Yamakura Dam, east of Tokyo.

To make sure the platforms could withstand the whims of Mother Nature, Ciel et Terre’s research and development team brought in the big guns: a wind tunnel at Onera, the French aerospace lab. The company’s patented Hydrelio system—those polyethylene “frames” that cradle the solar panels—was subjected to very high wind conditions that matched hurricane speeds. The system resisted winds of up to 118 miles per hour.

Why Japan Could Be the Perfect Spot

Given its weather, why build floating solar panels in the storm-filled, Ring of Fire-hugging Land of the Rising Sun? The reason: Many nations could benefit from floating solar power. And Japan is their poster child.

The largely mountainous archipelago of Japan suffers from a lack of usable land, meaning there’s less room for anything to be built, let alone a large-scale solar plant. However, the nation is rich in reservoirs, since it has a sprawling rice industry to irrigate, so more solar energy companies in Japan are favoring liquid over land for construction sites. Suddenly, inaccessible terrain becomes accessible.

Kyocera’s Ikeda says available land in Japan is especially hard to come by these days, as the number of ground-based solar plants in the country has skyrocketed in the past few years.

But, he added, “the country has many reservoirs for agricultural and flood-control purposes. There is great potential in carrying out solar power generation on these water surfaces.”

In Japan’s case, Ciel et Terre says that the region’s frequent seismic fits aren’t cause for concern, either. In fact, they illustrate another benefit that floating solar panels have over their terrestrial counterparts, the company says.

Earthquakes have no impacts on the floating photovoltaic system, which has no foundation and an adequate anchoring system that ensures its stability,” says Eva Pauly, international business manager at Ciel et Terre. “That’s a big advantage in a country like Japan.”

Solar’s Potential Ecological Impact

Floating solar panel manufacturers hope their creations replace more controversial energy sources.

Japan needs new, independent, renewable energy sources after the Fukushima disaster,” says Pauly. “The country needs more independent sources of electricity after shutting down the nuclear power and relying heavily on imported liquid gas.”

This up-and-coming aquatic alternative impacts organisms living in the water, though. The structure stymies sunlight penetration, slowly making the water cooler and darker. This can halt algae growth, for example, which Ciel et Terre project manager Lise Mesnager says “could be either positive or negative.” If there’s too much algae in the water, the shadow-casting floating panels might be beneficial; if the water harbors endangered species, they could harm them.

It is really important for the operator to have a good idea of what kind of species can be found in the water body,” Mesnager says.

Since companies must follow local environmental rules, these solar plants are usually in the center of the water, away from banks rich with flora and fauna. Plus, companies might prefer building in man-made reservoirs instead of natural ones, as the chances of harming the area’s biodiversity are smaller.

Could the Future Include Salt Water?

More than three-quarters of our planet is ocean, which might present alternative energy companies a blank canvas on which to dot more buoyant energy farms. But moving floating panels to the open sea is still in the future. Kyocera’s Ikeda says it would bring up a whole new realm of issues, from waves to changing water levels, which could lead to damage and disrupted operations.

Ciel et Terre is experimenting with salt water-friendly systems in Thailand, but ocean-based plants might be impractical, as offshore installations are costly, and it’s more logical to produce electricity closer to where it’ll be used.

For now, companies are aiming to build floating energy sources that conserve limited space, are cheaper than solar panels on terra firma, and are, above all, efficient. Ciel et Terre says that since its frames keep Kyocera’s solar panels cool, the floating plant could generate up to 20 percent more energy than a typical ground system does.

The Yamakura Dam project might be the world’s biggest floating solar plant, but it wasn’t the first-and it almost certainly won’t be the last.

 

Batman appeared in Chiba Prefecture, Japan!

With the unprecedented success of his Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan has single-handedly spawned a new generation of Batman fans – an impressive feat considering the Caped Crusader’s inherent flaw as a superhero (his lack of superpowers). Spider-Man fans would argue that Batman is an inferior character because he’s basically just a guy with cool stuff, while others take solace in the fact they too could be a superhero if they won the lottery.

In Japan (the world capital of cool stuff), one citizen is proving that it’s not quite that easy. A video captured in traffic on a motorway in the Chiba prefecture shows a convincing Dark Knight imposter, complete with Nolan-inspired Bat-suit cruising the streets on the closest thing you can get to a Batpod without spending a ridiculous amount of money. While the impersonator definitely looks the part, he seems to lack the heroic spark that makes the real Batman so great.

Instead of brazenly shooting through lanes of traffic in pursuit of super villains this guy seems to just drive around, diligently obeying road laws.

Link

Japanese railway sets up literal love seats with special seating for couples

 

RocketNews 24:

 

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In plenty of situations, Japan’s reliance on public transportation is a life-saver. Need some extra time to study for that test in first period? Pull out your notebook and review on the train to school. Had a few drinks too many? Park yourself in a seat on the subway, take a 30-minute nap, and arrive at the station with just enough power to walk home and get your key in the door.

Now, a railway in Chiba Prefecture is looking to give a hand not just to procrastinating students and heavy drinkers (who are, of course, often one and the same), but to young lovers, too, with its special priority seats for couples.

On most Japanese trains, the bench seats in the corner of each car are designated as ‘courtesy’ or ‘priority’ seats. While technically anyone can sit in them, passengers are asked to give priority to the elderly, injured, or people travelling with small children and relinquish the seat as soon as someone more in need steps on board.

Rail operator Ryutetsu is still earmarking 75 percent of its corner seats for such groups, but starting April 1 the company has also been designating one corner seat in each of the five cars in its trains as being for couples.

 

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The special seats can be found on trains running along the Nagareyama Line, which connects Nagareyama and Mabashi Stations, located respectively in the cities of Nagareyama and Matsudo. Both towns are low-key communities in relatively quiet Chiba Prefecture, and neither one is exactly what you’d call a hot date spot. This makes Ryutetsu’s choice of promotion a little surprising, until you remember that Nagareyama is also the city where couples (or even lonely individuals) can officially register their feelings of affection.

 

▼ Nagareyama’s koitodoke, or Love Declaration Form

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Over 4,000 koitodoke were submitted in the first month since the forms became available. The romantic paperwork is part of a local publicity effort playing up Nagareyama being the filming location for upcoming romance movie Momoso, Kochi wo Muite, which comes out May 10.

In addition to the scenes which take place in the town itself, Ryutetsu trains and stations also appear in the film, which led to the rail operators idea to decorate one bench seat (which naturally seats two people) in each car with romantic images. Each car features different decorations, such as samples of the koitodoke, the high school uniforms worn by the movie’s main characters, and a blackboard scribbled with romantic messages.

 

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The seats are officially known as the koitodoke seats, and Ryutetsu is betting they’ll give a boost to local tourism. “We’re hoping couples will sit in them as they make the rounds of the places where the movie was filmed,” said Ryutetsu Rail Division Deputy Manager Koji Kitahara.

The koitodoke seats will only be around until the end of May, though, so if you’ve got your eye on someone but you’ve been dragging your feet about asking him or her out, you’d better get off your butt if you want to put it into one of these special seats.

Source: Hachima Kiko

 

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Japanese railway sets up literal love seats with special seating for couples

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Japanese company builds giant robot you could be piloting right now

RocketNews 24:

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Chiba Prefecture’s Wonder Festival is a bi-annual figure and model expo. The event’s bread and butter is figurine of anime and video game characters, in both frighteningly realistic and sexily unrealistic varieties.

But while the first thing most people associate with the event is toys, if your model is made of metal instead of plastic or urethane, and it’s self-propelled to boot, you’ve crossed the line of three-dimensional art and moved into straight-up engineering. Of course, Wonder Festival’s exhibitors aren’t going to stray too far from their fanciful roots, so what do you get when you combine technology with science fiction? You get this amazing giant robot, which is so easy to pilot that attendees could test drive it.

Not too long ago we tried out a powered suit from Sagawa Electronics. We’re not going to lie, it was awesome, and if it were in our budgets, we’d totally choose it over the train for our commute to the office.

Still, sometimes you don’t feel like settling for a robot suit when what you want is an actual robot. So imagine our joy when, while heading out into the walkway connecting two of the Wonder Festival exhibit halls, we came across the 3.4-meter (11-foot, two-inch) Landwalker from machinery manufacturer Sakakibara Kikai.

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This was no mere decoration piece, either, as the Landwalker is mobile. It’s not a pre-programmed automation either, as the imposing mecha is controlled by an operator seated inside its chest cavity.

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▼ It even comes with a cool racing seat.

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Despite the Landwalker’s intimidating-looking replica weaponry, you don’t need a military background in order to operate it, as proven by the 12 civilians who took it for a spin in front of the extremely jealous crowd in a demonstration put on by hobby website Guru Guru Box. Eight lucky Guru Guru Box users were chosen in the days leading up to Wonder Festival, and another four applicants were selected by drawing at the site.

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It’s impossible to look at the Landwalker and not be reminded of mecha anime such as GundamMacross, and Evangelion. While we’re on the subject of those three classics, though, let’s stop and ponder the implications of a scene that all three share.

Early on in each title, through a series of events the protagonist suddenly finds himself in the cockpit of a giant war machine for the first time. With no training, he’s able to pilot it simply by listening to explanations and commands from his allies, which seems like stretching artistic license pretty far. Piloting a giant robot can’t really be that easy, can it?

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Apparently it can. Before the 12 mecha jocks tried out the Landwalker, they stood around for a few short minutes while the staff briefed them on the controls. Next, without any training or practice, they strapped in and, one by one, easily manipulated the bipedal robot by pedals placed in the footwell of the machine.

The Landwalker’s forward progress is accompanied by all the whirring and clanking you’d expect, and honestly hope for, from a robot of its size. The test pilots reported that despite all the noise, the seating area remains relatively stable when the unit is in motion, and the cockpit isn’t at all an uncomfortable place to be. Given their complete lack of experience, some had trouble keeping their movement to a perfectly straight line, and others felt the outward visibility could have been better, but aside from that, there were no complaints.

Despite our giddiness at seeing Sakakibara Kikai’s creation in action, we do have one tiny nitpick about its name. Technically speaking, the Landwalker doesn’t actually walk. Yes, it stands on two legs, which it pumps back and forth to move. It doesn’t actually pick up its feet though, instead shuffling them along the ground like an 8-bit Castlevania character.

So how does the Landwalker get around without tearing up the ground under it? By having wheels embedded in the soles of its feet. Technically it’s a Landslider, but we’ll give Sakakibara a pass on the semantics for creating something this cool.

Check out this link:

Japanese company builds giant robot you could be piloting right now