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Topic: Japan Discussion

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RR529

781. Posted:

BEGIN Japanology was on last night! This week's theme was conveyor belt sushi!

Traditional sushi bars are generally more expensive than conveyor belt sushi restaurants, and thus are out of the price range for most families. Conveyor belt syshi joints arised to make the delicacy available to everyone.

They went to a medium sized restaurant that seats about 70. They have seats along the prep area for single diners & couples, and booths for parties of 3 or more. You don't order your food here, instead the chefs make a wide array of sushi and send it along the conveyor belt system which carries it around all the tables. Simply grab what looks good as it goes by, and at the end of your meal, they'll tally up your bill based upon how many plates you have (some restaurants have color coded plates which are worth different amounts, while others have a constant price across every plate). These types of restaurants are also starting to serve non-sushi items as well, to make sure every member of the family has something they want to eat. You also get as much free green tea as you like (there is a container of green tea powder at every table. Just put it in your cup & mix it with piping hot water).

Fish used to be pickled in rice, and that was said to be the forerunner to today's sushi. The first pressed sushi came about in the 16th century, and modern hand rolled sushi was introduced in the 19th century. At that time it was served in Edo (old Tokyo) at booths at inexpensive prices for all the merchants & the like going through (kind of like the traditional fast food). However, as time went on & sushi restaurants went to indoor establishments, it became a delicacy for the well off. In 1947 a young entrepreneur wanted to bring sushi back to the masses, so he opened up an old style booth. Soon afterwards he went to a beer bottling plant and was mesmerized by the conveyor belt system (he figured that if he had something like that running around his bar, he could serve 3X as many customers. He opened up his first conveyor belt sushi shop in the late 50's & it was a hit. There was a trade show in Osaka in 1970 where he showed it off, and it was such a success that similar shops started popping up all across Japan. This caused other problems though, as there weren't enough sushi chefs to staff all of these restaurants. In 1990, the first sushi making robot was developed, and it could make 1,200 rolls an hour, alleviating the issue.

They then went to a tech show where new sushi making devices were being shown off. Current sushi making robots can make 3,600 rolls an hour (about one every second).

They then went to a location of a larger chain, which can seat 197 people! Due to the longer amount of time the sushi has to travel here, the plates have covers over them that keep everything fresh as it goes along. There are computer chips on every cover, and this allows the restaurant to know exactly when a plate is taken from the belt, and thus who to charge without tallying up plates in the end (since they know how many plates are taken off when it happens). Because of this, there is a slot at every table here, that you put your plates in when you're done (it is a lower conveyor system that takes all plates directly to the dishwashing area). There are also touch panels at every table that let you order directly if you don't see what you want going by (there is an upper conveyor system that the kitchen uses to send orders quickly to their destination).

They then went to a really state of the art establishment. Here you are given a number as you walk in, and you simply find the seat with that number. You order on a touch screen and you get your meal sent to you really fast on the high tech conveyor system.

Tuna used to be the top sushi topping, but nowadays Salmon has topped it. Salmon used to not ever be used as a sushi topping as the wild salmon around Japan had too many parasites. However, they now ship farmed parasite-free salmon in from Norway. In 1980, it was a conveyor belt sushi shop that first served it, and it now is a standard across all types of sushi shops (they were also the first to serve sardines as a topping).

There is also an initiative to get people who don't like seafood in to the shops, so one conveyor sushi shop has invested in making citrus flavored fish. It was a huge success, so now they're trying to develop strawberry flavored fish.

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RR529

782. Posted:

I was watching this thing earlier about the role cats have played in Japanese art throughout the years.

Anyhow, a photographer who takes pictures of cats has set up a website called NekoFont, which will turn anything you type into letters made out of cats.

It's a pretty funny site to mess around on for a bit.

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RR529

783. Posted:

Tokyo Eye was on last night! This week they talked about all the places you should check out at the end of the year.

First they talked about the Hagoita Market. Hagoita are paddles that were traditionally used by woman in a badminton-like game during new year parties, and people nowadays often buy them for good luck. The Hagoita Market is opened from December 17-19 every year, and their elaborate designs are often based upon famous Kabuki actors (although modern day celebrities may be used as well).

Then they said to check out the Bound Jizo Ceremony. At one temple, people tie rope around a Buddhist Jizo statue as part of a prayer ritual. At 11 P.M. on December 31, a ceremony is held where they untie all the rope that has been placed upon the statue for the year, and then people line up to be the first to tie a prayer rope around the statue in the new year.

Then they talked about the Sumida Aquarium, which gets into the Christmas spirit. The aquarium mostly focuses on sea life from around the Tokyo area, although they have other species as well. The place is decorated with images of Santa penguins, and they have penguin feeding shows at night during December. Up through Christmas, kids can make their very own sea life inspired Christmas ornaments. Admission is ¥800 for adults, ¥500 for high schoolers, & free for anyone younger.

They then highlighted Yomiuri Land. At daytime this is just another inconspicuous amusement park with roller coasters, ferris wheels, & the like, but during winter nights, the place lights up with over 8 million lights! Also, during December, they play Christmas music & the staff all wear Santa outfits. Admission is ¥2,000 for adults, ¥1,500 for middle & high schoolers, and ¥1,000 for children.

They then talked about the "End of the Year" feasts co-workers generally get together for (the more senior the worker, the more prime seating they get, with the boss getting the best seat at the table & arriving last). They first showcased a Sengoku era themed restaurant, that serves everything on Samurai themed plating, and then they showcased Zauo, a restaurant with a fresh pool of fish that guests can try to catch for their meal (it costs nothing extra, and you actually get a discount if you catch your own fish).

Finally, they talked about a night club called Sound Museum Vision, if you want to party late into the night. They have three different dance floors, so you can find a style of music you want to dance to. During December, they serve red & green colored "Christmas Liquors". On December 21st, women get in free, and on December 25th (Christmas) any woman wearing a Santa outfit gets in for just ¥1,000.

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Artwark

784. Posted:

My dad usually gets to go to Japan. Which reminds me, do you guys know anywhere in Japan where food is pure vegetarian?

I do want to go to Japan myself. I did visit China once but it wasn't much and I only had to go to the bridge just to see Kailash. I really want to see Nintendo and all there even my dad recorded footage of how gaming is over there and according to him, Sega is well known there.

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kepsux

785. Posted:

My wife and I live in Japan and have for almost three years. We make videos about it sometimes, some of you might think they are interesting. I'm not really into anime or anything though. Search our channel for "Japan" and it should give you a list of stuff, sort by most watched and you'll get stuff other people liked.

https://www.youtube.com/user/kepsux

Or just check out our website: kydeanderic.com

Oh, here's a video about video games in Japan I made a couple of years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1I1Vl_rRK4

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RR529

786. Posted:

@Artwark, while I can't remember any of their names off hand, numerous vegetarian restaurants have been mentioned on the programs I've watched, and with the influence of Buddhism, it shouldn't be hard to eat vegetarian at all (in fact, if you stay the night at a Buddhist temple, they'll serve their guests vegetarian meals).

@Kepsux, thanks! I'll be sure to check some of those out later :)

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RR529

787. Posted:

I watched Hachi: A Dog's Tale tonight!

The film was understandably Americanized, but still, this was one of the most emotionally engaging movies I've ever seen, and it'll tug at your heart strings.

Of course, it's based on the true story of Hachi, an actual Japanese dog (Akita breed) who was taken in by a Japanese professor who was teaching at the University of Tokyo. Hachi would always wait for him at the train station (when he went to work), and he continued to do so for 10 years after the professor had died. There is actually a statue of Hachi at that train station now, in remembrance of his loyalty.

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turtlelink

788. Posted:

I just found the channel that shows J-Melo and all that stuff you post about, RR529, lol. NHK World

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RR529

789. Posted:

turtlelink wrote:

I just found the channel that shows J-Melo and all that stuff you post about, RR529, lol. NHK World

Oh really, how are you liking it?

I haven't posted anything this week since they're showing all reruns (some sort of viewer's choice thing of programs of the year).

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RR529

790. Posted:

Well, the local channel that I watched that had the NHK World programming, has seemed to cut back on the amount of it they're going to air (ever since the start of the year), so it doesn't look like I'll be able to watch it anymore :(

They used to show 3 hours of it a day (2-3am, 8-9am, 3-4pm central), but now they only airing it during the 8-9am slot (the only one I'm not able to catch...).

Of course, this DOESN'T spell the end for this thread, but I'll probably update it much less unfortunately.

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RR529

791. Posted:

Yay! I got the NHK World TV app on our tablet, so I should be able to start updating this thread again!

I was even able to hook it up to our TV thanks to the mini HDMI cable that came with it (the tablet), so even though the picture wasn't quite as good as it was when that local channel was showing their programming, I had no trouble watching it.

I watched an hour of it today (Newsline & Dining With the Chef, where they made Gyoza), and other the image temporarily freezing twice the first 10 minutes, it worked fine :)

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792. Posted:

It's good to be back, and BEGIN Japanology was on today! This week's theme was the role of the piano in Japan.

There are over 10,000,000 pianos in Japan, making it the most popular instrument in the nation (10X more popular than any traditional Japanese instrument, based solely on numbers). 40% of the Japanese population has taken piano lessons at some level, and the nation's largest producer of pianos, Yamaha, has 40% of the world marketshare. Nowadays, 90% of pianos sold in Japan are electric, while 10% are acoustic.

The piano was introduced to Japan during the late 1800's, and the first piano built in the nation was in 1900 (by the founder of Yamaha). Just like televisions & refrigerators, pianos became a status symbol during the post war economic boom, especially after Japanese piano companies started giving out free lessons starting in 1954. By the 1960's, Japan was the largest producer & consumer of pianos. Those numbers have been scaled back in modern times, after the halt of the economic boom in the 1990's.

Nowadays, the second hand piano market is booming in Japan. There is a company that restores used pianos to pristine conditions, and then they ship them out to over 40 foreign markets. The biggest consumers are other asian markets that have booming economies, like China & Thailand, who prize the quality of Japanese made pianos.

Japan is also the world leader in piano technology. Some pianos made in Japan today have a built in screen that forgoes the need for physical sheet music (it's all displayed on screen, and guides you through note by note). After playing, these pianos will even grade you based on how you did, and even make a game out of learning how to play. They also have acoustic pianos that have sensors built inside them that transmit your playing over the internet to another piano, so you can play two at once. Since the signal is over the internet, the two pianos can work in tandem even on opposite sides of the Earth. They plan on using this technology so people can order a professional performance to be played at home on their own pianos (they've already launched the service in the United States). Also, the sound a piano makes is different depending on which market they're sending it to. A Grand Piano may be tuned one of three different ways depending on the market it's being shipped to (the Japanese market prefers quiter tones that linger, the North American market favors a more bright, pronounced initial sound, and the European market likes something a bit in the middle).

Finally, they talked about Takeo Tchinai, a young professional piano player in Japan, who only plays with his left hand. He suffers from a rare disease that keeps him from using his right hand, and at first he thought his piano playing days were over, until he discovered (while on a trip to Germany) that many famous composers developed left handed piano compositions, but due to their lack of popularity, have faded into obscurity, and have been displaced across the world. He travels the world, searching in obscure book stores to find where these pieces have gone, and he shares his findings on his website. The left handed playing technique has been lost to time, so he has studied the music sheets to piece it together, to bring it to modern piano enthusiasts.

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Jollykarp

793. Posted:

RR529 wrote:

Some pianos made in Japan today have a built in screen that forgoes the need for physical sheet music (it's all displayed on screen, and guides you through note by note). After playing, these pianos will even grade you based on how you did, and even make a game out of learning how to play.

If they had those when I was a kid, I might have actually worked my way to being half decent at piano. I feel bad, because I had no respect for the instrument (and fair enough since it's something Asian parents tend to push their children into) but now I love piano music and wish I had the time to go learn it properly.

I never imagined Japanese pianos were so well regarded though! I had always thought the really big brands would be European, like most other instruments.

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Mitsuko_Chan

794. Posted:

Wagyu (Japanese meat) apparently has more healthy fat than American cows. I'm not sure where they sell it.

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Mitsuko_Chan

795. Posted:

@RR529 I see you've been watching NHK World, like me. That's my favorite channel now. And what you said in the last paragraph is true. I saw BEGIN Japanology yesterday and that's exactly what they talked about.

Edited on by Mitsuko_Chan

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RR529

796. Posted:

Jollykarp wrote:

RR529 wrote:

Some pianos made in Japan today have a built in screen that forgoes the need for physical sheet music (it's all displayed on screen, and guides you through note by note). After playing, these pianos will even grade you based on how you did, and even make a game out of learning how to play.

If they had those when I was a kid, I might have actually worked my way to being half decent at piano. I feel bad, because I had no respect for the instrument (and fair enough since it's something Asian parents tend to push their children into) but now I love piano music and wish I had the time to go learn it properly.

I never imagined Japanese pianos were so well regarded though! I had always thought the really big brands would be European, like most other instruments.

Yeah (on the statement regarding their reputation), they said there is some sort of world renowned concert hall or competition whose pianos are supplied solely by Japanese producers (Yamaha & another one), and there was a famous European piano player from the 20th century (can't remember his name) that swore by the quality of Japanese pianos.

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797. Posted:

Journeys in Japan was on today! This week, they went to the small mountain towns of Nagatoro & Chichibu, outside of Tokyo.

This whole area is known for it's pristine natural beauty, and is even designated as a natural park.

There is a natural rock formation here called Iwadatami, that gathers lots of attention. During the winter you can take a leisurely ride along a local river to take in the sight, and during the spring, when the water level rises, it attracts thrill junkies who are enticed by white water rafting.

The host then visited Asami Reizo, a popular local restaurant that serves natural shaved ice the way nobility ate it 1,000 years ago (though it's popular all year long, during the summer months it attracts over 1,000 customers a day). They pipe in pure spring mineral water from it's source in the mountains to a large tank on their grounds, where they harvest the ice made from it throughout the winter, to serve throughout the year. It takes 3 weeks for the ice to be ready for harvest, and if they don't keep it free of dirt & snow, they have to start it all over again (they cover up the tank during snows, and sweep off the ice daily). The shaved ice is served with all natural Strawberry syrup & Black Peanut syrup for you to use. Using a mixture of a certain sugar, the proprietor has even found a way to imitate the Amazura syrup that the nobles used to eat it with (true Amazura is rare & difficult to make). Once the ice harvest is over, the leftovers are carved into ice sculptures that the people of the area can enjoy.

The host stayed the night at a 200 year old farm house that has been converted into a Ryokan in Chichibu. Since it's located by the road, the Miyamoto family has traditionally let travelers stay, and 40 years ago, they completely renovated it into an inn. The barn has been turned into a bar, and it's decorated with memorabilia from the owner's 11 year career as a professional Sumo wrestler. For dinner, guests are served a hearty hot pot stew that the owner learned to make during his Sumo career (they eat it every day since it's filled with so many nutrients). The family still owns 23 acres of farm land, where they raise an endangered local breed of mountain horse (Samurai used to ride them, but it's believed there are only about 150 left altogether).

The area also has a mountain known as Hodo, and you can take a ride up to it's peak to view the surrounding area. During January & February, the flowering trees at the top are in full bloom.

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798. Posted:

Tokyo Eye was on today! This week, they discussed the latest lunch trends in Tokyo.

Firstly, they visited the business district of Shinbashi, which is full of hungry salarymen during lunchtime. On average, they spend ¥540 & 22 minutes on lunch. They visited a standing noodle shop, where you can get a bowl of noodles for ¥360 (their motto is "time is money"). It takes the shop 20 seconds to prepare it for the customer, and the customer can finish it in a little over 5 minutes. They also talked about the growing popularity of the "One Coin Lunch", where a customer can get a full lunch set for only ¥500. This is becoming big business especially for bars, because even though they don't make much money on them initially, satisfied customers are more likely to return after work for drinks.

Then they went to Murounochi, another busniness district, this one with a large percentage of female office workers. They're tastes are a bit more expensive than their Shinbashi counterparts, as they average ¥864 & 34 minutes on lunch. Land is at a premium here, so most restaurants are grouped together in the basement or top floor of a building. Buffets are popular here, which have an atmosphere more akin to an upscale restaurant, and consumers can get a large meal for ¥1,000. Food trucks are growing in popularity here, where you can get a bento for about ¥600 (the food truck cuisine ranges from Thai to American).

Then they went to the district of Kudanshita, to visit an upscale restaurant called Juhaku, that has been in business for 20 years. During dinner time, their meals cost around ¥30,000 (and is a good place to impress clients), but during lunch time, they offer their same upscale quality for around a mere ¥4,000. They say they barely break even on their lunch deals, but they think every one has the right to eat their food.

Next up was Shin-Okubo, where they went to a neighborhood called "Islam Alley", due to the large Muslim population that resides here. Ever since Japan eased travel restrictions from south east Asia in 2013, they've had an influx of Muslim immigration. Kabob restaurants are growing in popularity here, and there's a growing amount of Halal certified food (Halal is food prepared with the standards of the Muslim faith in mind. In order to be Halal, food must be prepared with cooking equipment that hasn't come in contact with pork, for example. It's their equivalent to what Kosher food is to the Jewish faith).

Finally, they went to the Okachimachi district to highlight a unique restaurant. It's dining area is designed to replicate an elementary school class room, and they serve all the foods Japanese people ate as kids in school. It's a great place for adults to come & reminisce about their childhood.

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799. Posted:

BEGIN Japanology was on today! This week's theme was squid!

There are over 120,000 tons of squid caught in Japan each year, and it's as popular as any other mainstream seafood like tuna & salmon. There are over 100 different kinds of squid & cuttlefish (which are classified together here) around Japan, though the Pacific Flying Squid makes up 80% of Japan's squid market. It's most popularly eaten raw as Sashimi, but can also be eaten dried, boiled, or fried. The mouth of the squid is ofted fried, and are served as a snack that is said to go nicely with a tall glass of beer.

Traditionally, they are caught by lure (the earliest known lures for squid fishing in Japan dating back 300 years), and while there are still some fishermen who like doing things the traditional way, most squid caught today are by machine. Back in the 1980's, a company out of Hakodate developed a robotic squid fishing machine that could mimick the actions of a seasoned fisherman, but with a higher rate of success. They now ship these machines off to over 90 countries, and they hold 70% of the world marketshare in such machines.

Up until recently it was hard to get fresh squid inland, due to their frail nature, but one man has developed a tank that will keep them from getting stressed during long trips. It's a donut shaped tank that has a constant circular stream of water, that imitates the squids' natural habitat (keeping them from ramming into the sides of the tank in confusion), and it insulates the water at 14ºC (their ideal tempurature). 4 years ago a truck was constructed with his system built in, so squid can be sold fresh to the lucrative Tokyo market (the trucks are also outfitted with small windows on the outside, and a video camera on the inside, so the driver can monitor the squid at all times).

The first written record of the squid in Japan dates back to the 10th century, but it was rare and a treat only available to nobility. It wasn't until the 17th century when it became available to the common public. During WWII, when rice was being rationed, a fisherman found that filling the mantles of smaller squid (which other fisherman would put back at the time) with a small ration of rice & cooking it, was quite filling, and that became popular during the wartime years (in fact, that dish is still popular today).

A dried squid is often a part of Japanese marriage ceremonies, it's longevity a symbol of how strong the couple hope their union to be. Dried squid is also buried underneath a Sumo arena (along with rice, and a few other foods), which is traced back to the sport's origins as a religious ceremony, where the foods were offered to Shinto gods of the Earth.

Lately, squid have become the subject of scientific research, most notably sightings of rare Giant Squid. Tiny squid, such as the Firefly Squid are getting attention too, however. These small squid only get close to land on one spot on Earth, and that just so happens to be a bay on the western side of Japan. They're so intriguing because they have certain pigments that allow them to glow. The ends of their tentacles are believed to glow to surprise/confuse potential predators, while the tiny glowing dots they have all over their body allow them to camouflage themselves with the amount of light filtering down from the surface, that way predators looking for a dark silhouette won't be able to see them.

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800. Posted:

Journeys in Japan was on today! This week the covered the Kohoku region, on the northern shore of Lake Biwa, an area which is known for it's very religious culture.

First off they visited Chikubushima Island. It was a place of mystery to the locals in ancient times, and they seen the island itself as some sort of deity. Eventually a Shinto shrine was constructed on the island, then a Buddhist temple years later. Both temples draw visitors to this day, with the big attraction being a 1,000 year old idol known as the "Kannon" (an important idol throughout the region).

On the shoreline itself sits Mt. Ibuki which itself is seen as sacred. They spent the rest of the episode visiting the various small villages around the mountain, and observed their own rituals for worshiping the "Kannon". One village has a sign with a mobile phone number visitors call, then one of the villagers (who rotate the duty) will take you on a tour of their shrine). Another (on the mountain itself) has only 10 villagers, and they ring a large bell to gather themselves whenever they get a visitor.

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