The Genbi Shinkansen: Japan’s newest bullet train is the world’s fastest gallery, packed with contemporary art inside and out

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

From an engineering standpoint, Japan’s famed Shinkansen is already a work of art. Recently, though, the country’s bullet trains have been putting a renewed effort into their appearance, taking inspiration from centuries-old tradition and science-fiction anime.

The latest Shinkansen to be unveiled, though, incorporates design cues more modern than tatami reed floors yet not as futuristic as giant robots. Instead, it’s envisioned as a travelling gallery of contemporary art, allowing for what operator East Japan Railways calls “the world’s fastest art appreciation.”

A special train needs a special name, and the new Shinkansen has been christened Genbi, combining the kanji gen (), meaning “contemporary,” and bi (), “beauty.” The Genbi Shinkansen will run along the Joetsu Shinkansen line between Niigata and Echigo Yuzawa Stations in Niigata Prefecture.

▼ Fittingly, the kanji used in the Genbi Shinkansen’s logo are heavily stylized.

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Seven of the carriages will be used as art exhibition spaces, with different painters, sculptors, and visual creators represented in each. The contributing artists have been announced as Nao Matsumoto, Yusuke Komuta, Kentaro Kobuke, Naoki Ishikawa, Haruaka Kojin, and Brian Alfred.

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If you’d like your sense of taste to be stimulated along with your sight, there’s also a cafe. On the menu you’ll find sweets made with rice flour from Niigata’s prized (and pricy) Uonuma-grown Koshihikari rice and butter from dairies on Sadogashima Island.

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And it’s not like only passengers inside the train will have something pretty to look at, either. The non-windowed side of the Genbi Shinkansen’s exterior is covered with colorful photographs of Niigata’s Nagaoka Fireworks Festival, one of the largest in Japan, taken by photographer Mika Ninagawa.

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The Genbi Shinkansen goes into service next spring.


Guard your smartphone with a tiny ninja accomplice

RocketNews 24:



Lurking in the shadows is a mysterious figure. He conceals himself behind a giant kite, a flipped tatami mat, or a sliding door. Only his eyes are visible from beneath his dark robes.Yes, it’s a tiny ninja, and with a distinctly modern purpose: to protect your smartphone from would-be assailants!

There are three different warriors to choose from, each using a different ninja art to fend off attacks:

1) Giant kite

Legend has it that ninja used colossal kites, larger than a man, to leap into the sky and evade their enemies. Here, your smartphone acts as a counter-weight, stopping clan leader Fuma Kotarou from being swept away on the wind. The kite’s motif is the kanji character (nin) from the word ninja, too, which is a pretty sweet touch.

▼ Just don’t drop my phone when you’re gliding about on that kite, ok?

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2) Flipping the tatami

This famous ninja move, called tatamigaeshi in Japanese, involves flipping a floor mat up at lightning speed to deflect incoming missiles. Crouching behind the tatami mat (and your smartphone) is Sarutobi Sasuke, ready to slash anyone who lays a greasy finger on your touchscreen.

▼ Sasuke is a fictional character, anyway, making this a perfect likeness of him!


3) Blowgun

Peering out from behind a sliding door is our most lethal assailant: touting a Japanese blowgun, it’s Hattori Hanzou. Just don’t turn your back on him, or you might end up with a dart in an uncomfortable place.

▼ Hanzou crouches behind what appears to be a giant bar of dark chocolate.

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Your new ninja friends are available for 2,000 yen (US$20), and can assist you with any kind of smartphone or small tablet:

However, seeing as the art of ninja warfare hasn’t developed much since the 17th century, it’s unlikely these little guys will be able to do much to protect you from phishing scams or phone hacking. You’ll have to rely on your own ninja skills for that.

Source: NetLab

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Guard your smartphone with a tiny ninja accomplice