Onitsuka Tiger (Japan) Colorado Eighty-Five “Okayama Denim”

Following the unveiling of the “Burgundy” colorway just a couple days back, Onitsuka Tiger presents a new unique rendition of the iconic Colorado Eighty-Five retro runner. This latest version sees the runner done up in a premium Okayama selvedge denim base, with dark blue overlays embellishing the toe cap, heel, and lacelets, while the branding at the side panel is rendered in a contrasting white hue. Vibrant red inner lining and leather details at the heel and tongue round out the premium offering.

Priced at $100 USD, the Onitsuka Tiger Colorado Eighty-Five “Okayama Denim” is available for purchase at select accounts like Rock City Kicks.

Japanese scientist synthesizes meat from human feces

poop burger 1Digital Trends:

Somehow this feels like a Vonnegut plotline: population boom equals food shortage. Solution? Synthesize food from human waste matter. Absurd yes, but Japanese scientists have actually discovered a way to create edible steaks from human feces.

Mitsuyuki Ikeda, a researcher from the Okayama Laboratory, has developed steaks based on proteins from human excrement. Tokyo Sewage approached the scientist because of an overabundance of sewage mud. They asked him to explore the possible uses of the sewage and Ikeda found that the mud contained a great deal of protein because of all the bacteria.

The researchers then extracted those proteins, combined them with a reaction enhancer and put it in an exploder which created the artificial steak. The “meat” is 63% proteins, 25% carbohydrates, 3% lipids and 9% minerals. The researchers color the poop meat red with food coloring and enhance the flavor with soy protein. Initial tests have people saying it even tastes like beef.

Inhabitat notes that “the meatpacking industry causes 18 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, mostly due to the release of methane from animals.”

Livestock also consume huge amounts of resources and space in efforts to feed ourselves as well as the controversy over cruelty to animals. Ikeda’s recycled poop burger would reduce waste and emissions, not to mention obliterating Dante’s circle for gluttons.

The scientists hope to price it the same as actual meat, but at the moment the excrement steaks are ten to twenty times the price they should be thanks to the cost of research. Professor Ikeda understands the psychological barriers that need to be surmounted knowing that your food is made from human feces. They hope that once the research is complete, people will be able to overlook that ugly detail in favor of perks like environmental responsibility, cost and the fact that the meat will have fewer calories.

HondaJet makes its first flight in Japan as it nears full-scale production in the US

hondajetflying

RocketNews 24:

After several decades of research, development, and testing, the HondaJet is almost ready for delivery. But even though the business class jet, which the Japanese media has referred to as the “realization of the company founder’s dream,” is nearing certification through test flights in the United States, it hadn’t actually made an appearance in the skies of Japan…until this week!

hondajet

It was apparently the dream of Soichiro Honda, engineer and founder of Honda, to have his company produce a jet. In fact, it’s been over half a century since the founder proclaimed that the company was entering the aircraft business in 1962. The first significant steps in producing aircraft were taken in 1986, and since then, the company has spent countless hours on research, development, and design in the United States, where the HondaJet has been developed and will be manufactured, partly in conjunction with GE.

Though the jet has not yet finished certification, it has made numerous flights in the United States with potential customers and orders are already being accepted. Despite its airworthiness and the sort of high-tech features you’d expect from Honda, the HondaJet never actually flew in Japan until April 23, when it landed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

hondajetcockpit

The jet holds up to seven people and sells for 4.5 million dollars in the United States. It also apparently has 17 percent better fuel efficiency than most other jets in the same class, so just drop that little tidbit, if you’re having trouble justifying the cost to your spouse or board of directors! But you’ll have company if you decide to order now. Honda reports that it’s gotten over 100 orders between North America and Europe and it expects to start making deliveries in the US “soon.”

For those of you in Japan right now, you can catch the HondaJet on display at Sendai Airport, Kobe Airport, Kumamoto Airport, Okanan Airport (in Okayama), and Narita Airport in Tokyo on various dates over the next two weeks. You’ll be able to view the aircraft parked and catch some flight demonstrations as well.

If you’re ready to buy a HondaJet of your own, you can find a list of dealers here. Sadly, they only list North American and European locations, so if you want one in Japan, it looks like you’ll have to import it yourself!

2015 best Japanese hotels, based on their breakfasts

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RocketNews 24:

Soft beds, nice views, good location; sure, these are all important factors when choosing a hotel, but what really makes a hotel, or even a trip, memorable is the food, more specifically, the breakfast.

Everyone needs a good breakfast to start their day, so why not eat the best of the best? Next time you’re in the area, you should probably check out one of the Japanese hotels with the most delicious breakfasts.

When you think back to the last hotel you stayed at, does your memory automatically cut to what you ate for breakfast there? Do soggy eggs or undercooked bacon ring a bell? Even if it was a pretty good meal that left you with fond memories, prepare yourself, because you may never look at hotel breakfasts again. You may also be finding yourself booking hotels just to try the breakfasts.

The TripAdvisor Japan website compiled the 2014 opinions and scores of hotels (and their breakfasts) posted on the site in order to create this 2015 ranking of “Hotels with Delicious Breakfasts.”

While many of the hotels have managed to hang on to their 2014 spots in the top 20, there are plenty of newcomers on the list too.

1st Place: Hotel Piena Kobe (Kobe City)

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Holding first place for three consecutive years is kind of a big deal, but after hearing about their buffet breakfast spread, you’ll understand how they’ve managed to pull it off.

To start off with, there is the sweets section filled with all-you-can-eat, freshly made pastries, like seasonal fruit tarts and strawberry shortcake. If you’re more of a fan of  savory breakfasts though, there is also a selection of traditional French-style breakfast items and, of course, traditional Japanese breakfast foods. All dishes are made from the freshest and highest quality ingredients you could ask for and being in Kobe, expect some breakfast steak too! To wash it all down, there is a drink bar of coffees and teas from a variety of specialty shops.

Usually, the breakfast itself costs 2,200 yen (US$18.50) per person, you can sometimes find deals for a room and breakfast for under 10,000 yen ($85).

2nd Place: La Vista Hakodate Bay Hotel (Hakodate, Hokkaido)

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Hotel Piena’s closest rival has held their spot at second for another year and they offer some stiff competition. Their breakfast spread offers fish and vegetables grilled before your eyes, a plethora of fresh Hokkaido seafood, and a healthy selection of well-prepared Western-style breakfast options.

3rd Place: Sapporo Grand Hotel (Sapporo, Hokkaido)

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These guys have their eyes on the prize, rising 9 spots since last year’s ranking. The Sapporo Grand Hotel offers three different breakfast venues for their morning diners. One location offers a Western-style breakfast with an on-sight bakery and cooked-to-order eggs. At another site, you can choose from three traditional Japanese-style set breakfasts, overflowing with delicious seasonal dishes. Finally, there is the buffet of grilled meat and veggies, as well as their famous creation, “ramen salad.”

4th: Hotel Keihan Sapporo (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
[2014: 3rd]

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5th: Hakodate Kokusai Hotel (Hakodate, Hokkaido)
[2014: 5th]

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6th: Century Royal Hotel (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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7th: Hotel Shiroyama (Kagoshima City)
[2014: 9th]

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8th: Hotel Rocore Naha (Naha, Okinawa)
[2014: 16th]

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9th: Hotel Nikko Alivila (Yomitan, Okinawa)
[2014: 4th]

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10th: Asahikawa Grand Hotel (Asahikawa, Hokkaido)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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11th: Mitsui Garden Hotel Okayama (Okayama City)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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12th: Rihga Royal Hotel Osaka (Osaka)
[2014: 8th]

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13th: Richmond Hotel Yamagata Station (Yamagata City)
[2014: 20th]

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14th: Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (Kanazawa City)
[2014: 13th]

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15th: Sheraton Grand Tokyo Bay (Urayasu, Chiba)
[2014: 6th]

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16th: Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay (Urayasu, Chiba)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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17th: Daiwa Roynet Hotel Naha Kokusaidori (Naha, Okinawa)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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18th: JR Tower Hotel Sapporo (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
[2014: 11th]

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19th: Laguna Garden Hotel (Ginowan, Okinawa)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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20th: Dormy Inn Premium Otaru (Otaru, Hokkaido)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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Apparently, Hokkaido hotels are proving that they are not a force to be reckoned with, as they settled into nearly half of all spots in the top 20 and took six of the top ten spots! It must be all of that fresh seafood and dairy! On the other side of the country, Okinawa held its own this year too with four on the list. While it’s easy for us to give Honshu hotels a hard time, since they are few and far between in the rankings, we can’t forget that Hotel Piena Kobe has won three years in a row! That food must be out of this world!

Vanishing Japan: Five things to see before they disappear completely

tanada

RocketNews 24:

Today we introduce you to five icons of Japan that you need to see now before these few vestiges are completely lost!

1. Sento–local public baths 銭湯

bath entrance

Up until WWII, most houses in Japanese cities were built without baths (even if you did have your own bath, you’d probably have to share it with your neighbors). Instead, local sento, (public baths) were located within walking distance in the neighborhood. People would change into their yukata or pajamas and head to perform their ablutions at the end of the day. With the day’s activities finished and nothing left to do but sleep, people spent a long time in the large, steaming-hot baths that soaked out all the stress of the day, both mental and physical. The size of the tubs and the socializing aspect would have been impossible to replicate at home even if you did have your own bath.

I also enjoyed this aspect of the public bath house when I first moved to Japan and lived in a small six-mat tatami room near the university. Over four years I got naked with my neighbors. The large bath hall with its high acoustic ceilings reverberated with ladies’ laughter that spilled out onto the evening streets as neighbors caught up with the day’s gossip. I learned to speak Japanese with a distinct echo.

But nowadays houses are all built with private baths, so the sento culture is dying out. Only the old lady who lives in that decrepit old house on the corner still goes to thesento–if there is one left in the neighborhood.

Japanese bathing rituals are still carried out at the onsen, where you’ll get a more modern, luxurious hot bath experience in natural hot spring water, but you’ll probably have to drive there, pay a lot more money for the privilege, and the socializing aspect will be almost non-existent. The onsen will also be much cleaner and beautiful because they are made to attract local tourists. Thus they will not have a mural of Mount Fuji hand-painted on the inside of the bath house wall, revealing faded colors and cracked lacquer paint. Nor will they have aging, coin-operated message chairs that look more like torture devices with the rollers sticking out to jab into your back. And they certainly won’t have hair dryer chairs that require a large glass globe be lowered over your head and a tornado-producing wind that hovers over your head while your locks stand up and whip around as if they’re inside a blender. Doesn’t the sento sound much more interesting than the onsen?!

Local sento are few and far between these days but you can still catch a part of this Japanese bathing history if you search the oldest neighborhoods of any city. Look for a chimney that looks more like a smoke stack coming out of the top of the building (remember Spirited Away?) or a noren curtain out the front with the ゆ mark on it, the symbol of a sento.

Or check out this website for locations by prefecture.

2. Ama Divers 海人

Mikimoto pearl divers

ama

While the above photo may look like surgeons ready to operate on a whale in its own aquatic environment, they’re actually ama pearl divers, a distinctly female Japanese profession. The ama divers have a two-thousand-year-old history and used to dive in fundoshi loin cloths while tethered to a wooden barrel that floated on the ocean’s surface. Nowadays they wear white outfits but still dive–sometimes as deep as 25 meters (82 ft)–with just a mask, unassisted by oxygen. They must be able to hold their breath for up to two minutes, and expel the air gradually as they resurface. While in the 1950s there were still some 17,000 ama divers in Japan, there are only around two thousand left, most penetrating the waters of Ishikawa and Mie prefectures. These days they retrieve abalone and other shellfish from the bottom and almost all of the divers are over 40 years old.

Mikimoto Pearl company made the ama famous when they started using them to retrieve oysters so they could plant irritants into their mantle cavities to create pearls. The ama then returned the mollusks to the sea bottom. Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba (Mie Prefecture) holds demonstrations for tourists. Although it is just a demonstration, at least you can still see the divers while they are extant.

3. Seto Inland Sea Islands 瀬戸内海/瀬戸内

▼Four-hundred-year-old bon dance, Shiraishi Island, Okayama Prefecture

bon dance

Out of approximately 700 islands in the Seto Inland Sea (also called the setonaikai or setouchi in Japanese), the largest is Shodoshima with a population of around 20,000. But the majority of the Inland Sea islets support traditional fishing communities of less than 500 citizens. With the decline of the fishing industry in the Inland Sea coupled with the push in education after the war, the islands are losing their populations to the cities that offer higher paying jobs and more modern lifestyles. The islands have been left with aging and stagnant populations. The government has attempted to make the islands more accessible by building bridges to connect them with the mainland. While bridges ensure the survival of these islands, the traditional lifestyles are disappearing due to the proximity of outside influences.

But what about the other islands? Those without bridges and that you still need a ferry to get to?

These islands, because they are still fairly isolated, still maintain their traditions. But with no focused plan to revive island economies, these communities are fading away.Ferry services are cut back (or stopped completely), and the few remaining families move to the mainland due to lack of services. Yet each of these islands has its own unique culture: folkloric traditions, bon festivals and Shinto rites. Each island that dies takes an entire set of unique cultural values with it.

It is still possible to see the traditional Japanese island way of life and experience 400-year-old ceremonies as the sole outsider (as well as the only foreigner!) present. In fact, a few tourist-friendly islands are hoping to survive by inviting sightseers, including foreigners, to come out and experience island life. Islands like Manabeshima (population of 230), Shiraishijima (pop. 556) and Kitagishima (pop. about 1,000) in the Kasaoka Island chain (Okayama) are island gems that are dropping out of sight fast and taking their ancient traditions with them. Naoshima (Okayama) and the lesser islands of Kagawa Prefecture are supported by the Benesse Art Site Naoshima and the Setouchi Triennial Art Festival (the next one is 2016) which offer the chance to see art against the background of traditional island scenery. So get out and see the Inland Sea islands before it’s too late!

4. Terraced Rice Fields 棚田

▼Terraced rice field, Mie Prefecture

tanada

Terraced rice fields are a scene reminiscent of South East Asia such as Bali or Vietnam, but before Japan’s industrial revolution in the ’60s, they could still be seen all over the country. At that time, rice was the main agricultural product and the grains were planted, cultivated and harvested by hand. With so many mountains, terraced paddies allowed rice to be grown on places that were otherwise considered unusable. The rice fields offered other benefits including maintaining biodiversity in the environment, holding back water during the rainy season to prevent landslides, and adding to the greenery and scenery around Japan. The industrial revolution not only lured people to the cities, but it also rendered the terraced rice paddies unfit for sowing since machinery could not easily reach or be used in such narrow, sometimes very steep, stacked fields.

While the tanada have been almost completely abandoned, there has been an effort to preserve some of them recently via government subsidies and non-governmental campaigns.

5. Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場

tuna

Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, established in 1935, is the largest wholesale fish market in the world. It is here were a single Blue Fin Tuna sold for a record US$1.7 million. The market is also one of the top five sightseeing spots in Tokyo for Japanese tourists. But this icon is scheduled to be relocated to make more room for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. This has created great controversy, especially since the move has been delayed by two years already due to decontamination efforts of the new 40.7-hectare site, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay where previously a refinery was located. Recently, additional tainted ground was discovered leading to more time needed for clean-up safety measures. Although the new venue will be twice as big as the current 230,000 square meters (around 2.5 million square feet), many people will miss the old atmosphere and the quaint restaurants that have thrived around the current market for so many years, including Dai, Japan’s highest-ranked sushi restaurant. And while everyone understands the need to update and innovate, we all know that not all the charms of the past are necessarily transferred to the newer more futuristic establishments. Nor will all of the old restaurants be able to weather the move.

Current Location: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.

ASICS 2015 Gel Lyte III “Okayama Denim” Pack

Beautiful 400-year-old garden in Okayama, Japan about to be replaced with condominium complex

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RocketNews 24:

 

Japan loves to devise top three lists, and Okayama City’s Korakuen is held to be one of the country’s three best gardens. Anyone who’s visited will tell you that it’s indeed beautiful, but Korakuen isn’t the city’s only garden, or even its oldest.

Okayama is also where you’ll find Tokoen,a garden with a history that stretches back to the early days of Japan’s feudal Edo era. Tranquil and easily accessed by public transportation, Tokoen would make an ideal spot for history buffs and nature lovers looking for a less crowded, quieter urban oasis than Korakuen.

Sadly, though, after roughly four centuries, Tokoen has closed down, and is soon likely to be demolished and replaced with a condominium complex.

Although the exact year Tokoen was completed is unclear, historians do know that it was initially the private retreat of Ikeda Tadakatsu, the lord whose domain included present-day Okayama City.

 

▼ Ikeda Tadakatsu

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Ikeda’s short life lasted from 1602 to 1632, making Tokoen one of the oldest gardens in Okayama Prefecture, and also several decades older than Korakuen, which was built in 1700.

The garden’s layout is thought to be the work of noted landscaper Kobori Enshu, who designed Tokoen in the kaiyu style, in which visitors are led on a course that winds around the grounds and past a spring-fed pond and tea house. As with many Japanese gardens, it was created with sight lines that ”borrow” aspects from the surrounding scenery, which in Tokoen’s case means affording visitors views of nearby Mt. Misaoyama.

 

▼ Tokoen, bursting with greenery…

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▼ …tinged with autumn crimson…

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▼ …and blanketed in snow.

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After the death of Ikeda, ownership of the garden was transferred to the Niwa samurai family, and Tokoen has remained in private hands since. Although Okayama was bombed in the closing days of World War II, the garden escaped damage, and several of its features, such as the pond and seven-layer granite tower (which itself was constructed during the Kamakura period which lasted from the 12th to 14th centuries), have been left as they were when Tokoen was first opened centuries ago.

 

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Despite remaining in private ownership, for many years the roughly 700-square meter (39,826-square foot) garden was open to the public for a modest 400 yen (US $3.95) admission fee.

Tragedy struck, though, in 2012, when the then-owner of Tokoen passed away. The heirs to the property said they were no longer able to continue operating the garden in its previous capacity, and in May of 2013, entrance to Tokoen became limited to those making advance reservations.

Apparently even this austerity measure was not enough, and on December 3 of the same year, Tokoen closed its gates for good.

 

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Tokoen was never registered as an official cultural property, and as such does not seem to be eligible for any sort of special protection from the local government. With its former owners incapable of serving as caretakers, the land has been sold off to property developers. According to an article published by the local Sanyo Shimbun newspaper, a multi-floor condominium complex will be built on the site.

 

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A quick look at the cramped dimensions of the average Japanese home is enough to make almost anyone long for more modern, spacious, and comfortable housing. Still, the loss of what should have been considered a cultural treasure is a high price to pay for such amenities, especially when it seems like more could have been done to prevent the garden’s loss.

 

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Tokoen is not located in a remote, outlying corner of Okayama City. The city streetcar’s Kadotayashiki Teiryujo stop is right in front of the garden, sitting just 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) from Okayama Station and the city center. Nonetheless, little if anything was done to promote Tokoen as a destination for travelers. Most tourism literature makes no mention of it, and even Okayama City’s official website seems to have given no more than a single page to Tokoen, lacking even such basic information as directions for visitors.

We were alerted to this sad tale by a resident of the neighborhood where Tokoen is located. Our source informed us that towards the end of its days, the garden was indeed struggling to draw visitors, who primarily consisted of elderly couples and small groups of amateur photographers and artists.

 

▼ Demolition of Tokoen’s teahouse is already underway, as can be seen in these photos.

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With buildable land always scarce, it’s an unfortunate fact of life in Japan that in order to put up something new, something old often has to be swept away. The area surrounding Tokoen isn’t immune to such changes, as our source reports. “A little over a year ago we got a new grocery store and the nearby school is expanding. Parking lots are being turned into houses and houses are renovating.”

Still, the sale of Tokoen came as a complete surprise. “A few old homes may have been torn down, but nothing like this.” What makes the situation particularly frustrating is the lack of an earnest attempt to engage the community in finding a way to save the garden. “Had they come forward…people could have helped,” the resident laments. “There have been no signs posted or anything, and the city has said nothing.”

▼ This series of photographs shows the continuing dismantling of structures and removal of trees inside Tokoen.

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With the sale completed, it’s likely too late for historical conservationists to do anything to halt the construction project now. An outpouring of support could, possibly, encourage developers to preserve at least a portion of the garden, or at the very least plant the seed of such an idea in the heads of those in charge of future projects.

If nothing more, hopefully all this will serve as a reminder of the dangers of taking things for granted. Almost every town in Japan has its own Tokoen, someplace that’s been part of the local cultural heritage for so long it’s slowly becoming forgotten, even as its need for support grows more and more critical. So whether you’re a resident or a visitor to Japan, next time you’re at what seems like just another shrine, temple, or garden, consider putting a few yen into the collection box or the hand of a local vendor. Otherwise, you just might find a condo there the next time you stop by.

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