Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Supertrees and Futuristic Cities

Singapore Supertrees
Way to the south of Japan is the tiny, but prosperous nation, of Singapore.  In the business district of the city are man-made supertrees located in Bay South Garden Park that just opened in June of 2012.  This garden is part of a Singapore National Parks initiative called Garden by the Bay which is supposed to create sustainable gardens with technology and nature elements.

Flickr / BaboMike

These are giant trees between 25 to 50 metres high (as big or bigger than a life sized Gundam!)  made of reinforced concrete and steel with vertical garden panels, massive numbers of LED lights powered by solar panels.  During the day, they act as temperature moderators by acting as a tree-like canopy that sucks up solar power, and provide a spectacular light show at night. Sky bridges connect some of the trees together for a great view of the gardens below. It's been a long time since I've been to Singapore but I know I'd make a trip to see this wonder the whenever I get there next!
Pretty Lights!   Flickr / williamcho
These cool supertrees are very pretty to look at and they also remind me of these awesome Beobob trees from Madagascar.

Lilypad Floating Cities
The Lilypad floating city, by Vincent Callebaut, is a design concept for self-sustained cities to house refugees who have lost their low lying homes due to rising sea levels from climate change.  The design is based off of a waterlily and floats on the sea.  They are huge structures with the ability to collect alternate power sources such as wind, tidal, and solar energy and even collect rain water.  They would house about 50,000 people with residential, maintenance, business, parks, and even agricultural space.  Wow, they are pretty darn cool.
Flickr / news.bn.gs

City in the Sky
These mega city towers are supposed to be tranquil oasis and living areas that spire high over our cities.  They were designed as part of the Megatropolis project in New York City and London.  The spires are based on the Lotus Flower which a beautiful and clean above the waters it grows from.  Very utopian indeed, but it does make one wonder if it would be egalitarian or for an upper class in the end. Well worth a look at so hit the link below!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Raid On Kahamba Ebook Promo Is Finished

Hi Everyone!  I maintain this Japanese pop culture blog, but also write science fiction.  In my Exocrisis Blue stories I am building a world that feels like traditional SF but has a mecha anime undertone.  They are action stories and my second story, Raid On Kahamba was just released on September 15.  The free promo is now over after running for a 5 days, so thanks to all the people who downloaded it!
I hope people enjoy this science fiction action story with mecha combat.  I would love to hear comments back from mecha fans or anyone who just enjoyed the story.  I've tried to create a believable world and am introducing key elements that will figure in the the Exocrisis Blue series which is the next thing I'll be writing up.
    Hit the link below to see the direct links to the Kindle store.
    My Ebook Publications

    I had a pretty good free promo run and gave away 280 copies of the book.  Hopefully this will eventually generate some buzz about Exocrisis and these stories I'm writing.  I've received a few reviews at Amazon now and they have been pretty good which makes me happy!

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    Nomiya Edmonton Review (Ramen, Sushi, and Tapas)

    Hmmm.... I'm in Edmonton and looking for ramen, sushi, or some izakaya type appetizers or tapas.  Where do I go?  For sushi, there are a ton of places.  Some of my favourites are Mikado and Wasabi for sushi.   This blog is based out of Edmonton so it is a long way to go to Vancouver or Tokyo for ramen, sushi, and izakaya dishes.  I even make my own gyudon as no one does that around here.  Nomiya hits that sweet spot for all three items I just talked about.  This is a great place to go if you have people wanting different things to eat.
    Shio Ramen with Extra Egg (yolks are supposed to be a little runny)
    It is probably the best place in the city to go for Japanese ramen (Wikipedia) and I'm not talking about Chinese noodle soup here from Chinatown.  The restaurant's ramen compares very well with other ramen places in Calgary and some in Vancouver.  Tokyo is going to win this hands down, but how many other ramen restaurants do you see in this city of the great white north? I've been going to Nomiya for years now and the quality has been pretty good for the soup which is hearty and tasty (yes, there has been the odd time that it isn't as good, but that can happen anywhere).  I usually have the shio or soy ramen, but the tonkotsu and other types of soup are all good too.

    Their sushi comes out pretty good too with good quality fish that can be enjoyed in conventional sushi or sashimi or in a very tasty sushi salad with a miso dressing.   Finally, on the izakaya side, they do a decent tonkatsu pork cutlet, chicken karaage (like my mom used to make), and a number of other side appetizers.  The appetizers are something that is often overlooked and they offer a good variety of dishes - even grilled fish.  At lunch the bento boxes are a good deal.

    Anyhow, one of these day I'm going to do a humorous blog post about why Edmonton isn't Tokyo, but this place will come out with praise in it!

    646, 3803 Calgary Trail
    Edmonton, Alberta T6J5M8
    Phone (780) 462-1300

    Japanese Souvenirs For An Otaku Or Others

    You are in Tokyo and have to bring back souvenirs for an anime fan.  What do you bring them?The traditional list of souvenirs is always good, but here is a short list of character goods that could be good souvenirs.  If you know what their favourite anime series is or what the hot new anime series are then your job is easier. Hello Kitty, Evangelion, Gundam, One Piece, Naruto, Pretty Cure are some popular series.
    Anime Souvenirs  / Tostzilla

    Anime Themed Souvenirs
    1. Mugs and teacups with an anime character on it.
    2. Anime pen / mechanical pencils.  Pencil boards with character art.
    3. Anime figure keychains, cell phone straps, and especially iPhone cases.
    4. Folding paper hand fans with anime character art.
    5. Anime T-shirt.
    6. Anime / hobby model magazine if there is a special figure or item bundled with it.
    7. PVC anime figure (the modern version of a doll / statuette).  These can be quite expensive.
    8. Buy a Figma, Revoltech, or Nendoroid anime / mecha figure (These are cheaper than the full PVC figures).  Also think of Gundam models if they are into robots / mecha.
    9. Anime chopsticks such as Star Wars lightsaber or Evangelion pilot plug themes.
    10. Anime stuffy - Totoro, Ponyo, Bleach, Naruto, and other anime characters.
    11. Anime towel, face cloth, pillow, etc.
    12. Canned bread, canned oden, canned ramen (I hear the noodles in these are now being used as diet food).  Get these in Akihabara - the Anime Centre sells some of these.
    13. Canned coffee or other souvenir drinks (need to pack these good of course).
    14. Any kind of Japanese snack like Pocky, odd flavoured chips, chocolate, gummy candy, gum, etc.
    15. Japanese instant noodles/instant miso soup, cup noodles, especially cup noodles you make yourself at the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama.
    16. Japanese face mask for colds / allergies
    17. Train souvenir or something Yamanote Line related.
    18. Nifty high tech device / watch / headphones or accessory of some sort.
    19. Jpop music CDs, especially limited edition singles with nice artwork from some show.
    20. Expensive Blu-ray discs if you are from Region 1 (North America).
    21. Anime clear file or stationary.

    Regular Souvenirs

    1. Stationary or office supplies.  Japan has an amazing variety of paper products such as fancy origami paper, notepads, notebooks, papers, etc.  They also have an amazing supply of pens, pencils, stapleless staplers, erasable pens (Frixion brand), and other art supplies too.
    2. Traditional ceramics such as tea sets, bowls, etc. (need to pack these good).
    3. Traditional toys such as koma (a spinning top) or kendama. Games suchs as Go or Shogi.
    4. Food models and keychains.  Fancy a bowl of ramen that will last a hundred years?
    5. Bento lunch boxes
    6. Fun masks that you wear at festivals.
    7. Traditional Japanese doll.
    8. Duruma doll for luck.
    9. Meneki Neko lucky cat in all forms shapes and sizes
    10. Yukata
    11. Paper hand fans
    12. Wagasa - paper umbrellas / parasols
    13. Nice chopsticks
    14. Ukiyo-e Prints or other artworks.
    15. Paper lantern or vinyl lantern like you see hanging outside restaurants.
    16. Noren curtains that you see hanging in Japanese restaurants to separate the kitchen from the rest of the establishment.
    17. Japanese kitchen knife (don't take this as carry on - big bad no no. Pack it or lose it).
    18. Furin glass chime.
    19. Koinbori - fish kites.
    20. Saki (pack well - don't want it breaking in your luggage and there is no carry on unless you get it at the airport).
    21. Traditional Japanese snacks or food. e.g. Tea, dried squid, dried fruit, rice crackers (senbei), etc.
    22. T-shirt
    23. Traditional hand crafts (woodwork, lacquer ware, iron teapot, masks)

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

    Japanese Art / Photo Apps for iPad, iPod, iPhone

    There are a great many Japanese art / photo apps for the iPad and iPhone.  I have listed a few that I keep on my own iPad below.  Some are free, some are not, but they are not generally expensive and look pretty nice!  Look for many other apps from the various museums on the App store there too.

    My other app list pages:
    Taro Map
    This is a guide to the art installations of famous painter and sculptor Taro Okamoto in Tokyo.  You'll see his sculptures in Ginza and a massive painting of his in the Shibuya Train Station.
    For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taro_Okamoto

    Japanese Traditional Art Gallery
    Many nice images for traditional Japanese art prints and paintings.  Not much information, but the pictures are pretty.

    Animal Giga
    This is a COOL APP.  It simulates a scroll of the Choju Giga that is famous for the humorous depictions of animals acting like humans and is known as the first manga.
    For more information on Giga.

    The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō Road. Hiroshige Utagawa painted ukiyo-e. Classic and very pretty.
    For more information on Hiroshige: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroshige
    For more information on the Tokaido Road itself.

    36 views of Mount Fuji. Hokusai Katsushika painted ukiyo-e. Classic and very pretty.
    For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokusai

    NOTE: if you want to use an image as a wallpaper, press the sleep / wake button at the top right corner and the big round Home button at the bottom simultaneously.  It will save the image to your photo roll.

    Silent Fiction
    This is an app from a photography exhibit in Tokyo where the photos were enhanced to show what the city would look like if it were immersed by water.  Very peaceful and eerie at the same time.

    SkyTree Timer
    This is a neat little app that is a timer for boiling eggs, cooking ramen, or holding your breath.  It shows the Skytree being built as the time passes.  Very nicely done!

    Fotopedia Japan
    Very nice photos from all over Japan.

    Game Related
    iSpot Japan
    This is a spot the difference between two versions of the same picture game. I upgraded to the full version and played it for quite awhile.

    Pocket Pond
    Want a koi pond in your pocket?  Photo-realistic,very pretty, and relaxing with lilypads and fish.

    Wa Kingyo
    This is a pretty app with a goldfish pond.  The app shows painted goldfish in an environment that you can choose and it is a very pretty app that is different from the above Pocket Pond.

    Magic Ink
    This app simulates ink brush on paper drawing or writing.  A simple, but interesting little app.  You can make some pretty patterns.

    Fuji Leaves
    This is an interactive game where you create music with falling leaves and stones.