How to do radio calisthenics the right way

Every Japanese kid at some point in their lives has to do radio calisthenics exercises in the morning. Even though I didn’t go to a Japanese school, I stumbled upon this strange ritual at a local swimming school that my mom took me to for a few months in grade school.

I think this routine should be secret code for how to tell if someone is Japanese. You know, like a fraternity hand shake. I’ve also seen old Chinese people do a similar exercise routine early in the morning in parks all over San Francisco but cannot confirm that it’s the exact same thing. Anyone?

Rapper Shing02’s latest: a short film about technology and happenstance

This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting and having a long sun-soaked breakfast with rapper Shing02, who grew up all over the world — Berkeley, Tanzania, Japan — and now lives in LA. He’s super famous for tracks he created with famous DJs like Nujabes and was part of the up-and-coming hip hop movement on the East Bay in the 90s. Understated, thoughtful, a true lyricist who can connect nodes of thought and makes cool analogies with words.

He recently made this film called then-n-now, watch!

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s beautiful glass-ified shrine in Naoshima


In 2002, Hiroshi Sugimoto decorated Go’o Shrine on Naoshima with an optical glass staircase that leads to a subterranean stone chamber. It’s now a permanent part of the Art House Project, an amazing art project on Naoshima that walks you through a small traditional Japanese village with several obscure buildings that have stunning contemporary experiential art pieces hidden in them. The most dramatic one was James Turrell’s Minamidera — a spiritual worship place transformed into a seemingly pitch black room that slowly over time metamorphoses into one of his signature empty rectangular box meditative spaces.

Go’o Shrine for Art House Project

Gakko Project, a super artsy inspirational summer camp on Naoshima

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I’m on Naoshima, an awesome little island off the coast of Kagawa Prefecture best known for its amazing collection of modern art (including, famously a giant yellow polka dotted pumpkin right on the seashore created by Yayoi Kusama). For six days, Kenta Koga, a 21-year old Yale undergrad has transformed the conference room at a local hotel into a six-day summer camp for 30 high school students and 15 Yale, Harvard and Tufts undergrads. It’s called Gakko Project. The tag line is “Question Learning” and from what I can gather from my first hour here, it’s an attempt to take people who normally learn in pedantic academic settings and put them in this amazing concrete modern art building on a gorgeous beach with art everywhere with inspirational thought leaders so that they absorb inspiration in different ways.

In a couple hours, my friend Chiaki Hayashi and I are teaching a course on how to create きっかけ. It will involve brainstorming, conversing with strangers, and running on a beach. Super fun! Tomorrow we’ll be joined by our friend Fumio Nanjo, the director of the Mori Art Museum, who actually curated most of the art on Naoshima. We plan to have a blast, swim in the ocean, and fully support Kenta’s ambitious and super inspirational initiative.

Photo: Florian Koenigsberger

Watch the final episode of We Are All Radioactive

We Are All Radioactive – Chapter 7: Departure from Lisa Katayama on Vimeo.

Just released the final chapter of my documentary, WE ARE ALL RADIOACTIVE. I hope you enjoyed it! If you missed previous episodes, you can watch all of them at our Vimeo channel.

Coming soon: a new web site, discussion forums in real time with characters from the show. Please keep an eye on TokyoMango or for updates!

Kohei Uchimura, the best gymnast in the world

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I wrote an article about Olympic gymnast Kohei Uchimura in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine. You can read it here. (There’s also a video story to go with it!) It’s a fun piece with quotes from NBC commentators, Olympic judges, and the athlete’s mom.

Uchimura actually screwed up a bit on his pommel horse routine earlier this week. He has another chance to really prove that he’s the greatest gymnast of all time when he hits the mats again on 8/2. Fingers crossed he’ll live up to his Superman reputation!

UPDATE: He *just* won the individual gold in London!!

Gakko Project, an innovative cross-cultural education experiment in Naoshima

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I’m excited and honored that Kenta Koga invited me to teach a course at Gakko Project, a cool new initiative founded by the Yale undergrad to redefine cross-border education between Japan and the US. We’re going to be on Nao Island (Naoshima) from Monday to Wednesday next week. Kenta’s one of those innovative, entrepreneurial young Japanese leaders that we at The Tofu Project want to see more of. Stay tuned for updates from the event next week!

Pyschedelic pop art by 76-year old former Playboy art director


Keiichi Tanaami’s colorful depictions of psychedelic Astro Boy and evil POpEye are fun, but much more meaningful when you understand that he’s a 76 year old active artist who was the first art director of Playboy Magazine four decades ago.

Johnny Strategy over at Spoon and Tamago says:

To understand his art one simply needs a brief history lesson into the artist himself. Highlights include experiencing the Great Tokyo Air Raid at age 9, experimenting with LSD in his 20s, travelling to New York and meeting Andy Warhol at age 31, and becoming the first art director of Playboy Magazine (Japan) at age 39.

Check out his latest exhibit, which is on display in Shibuya through August 5th.

via Spoon and Tamago

New super-cute Sony commercial featuring over 200 screens

I love this TV commercial made by the Tokyo-based creative agency PARTY for Sony’s make.believe campaign. It was shot with over 70 performers using 200 Sony devices, and it was all taken in one continuous shot.

“SCREEN STORY” is a new TV commercial film for Sony “make.believe.” The film was created with over 70 performers using more than 200 devices, taken in one continuous shot.than 890,000 people watched it live, and over 7 million pushes were recorded during the show.

So great!

New We Are All Radioactive episode features Joi Ito and a humble government official

We Are All Radioactive – Chapter 5: Measurements from Lisa Katayama on Vimeo.

In Chapter 5, a team of hackers in Tokyo and Boston take radiation monitoring into their own hands, mapping the measurement levels across the entire country of Japan. Greenpeace and a blogging organic farmer join them in this civilian effort, and a government official admits that they need help.

Chapter 4: Radiation of We Are All Radioactive

Episode 4 of We Are All Radioactive is live!! And it’s super important: in this longer (9 minute) special episode, we go deeper with the characters we’ve gotten to know from Motoyoshi, AND we also meet nuclear experts from the US and Japan who help us make sense of the complex web of information out there concerning the threat of radiation in post-earthquake Japan. As you know, this week, Japan returned to nuclear power after a two-month break, and the parliament released an investigative report about the Fukushima disaster pointing out major human flaws in the handling of the disaster. 

We Are All Radioactive main page
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Controversial comfort women photo exhibit is currently on show in Shinjuku

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Since the 1990s, photographer Ahn Sehong has spent a lot of his time and attention shooting images of comfort women &mdash Korean women forced into sexual slavery in Japan during World War II who now live in China. He was slated to display his work in Shinjuku at the Nikon Salon from two days ago through July 9, but a few days before opening, Nikon said they were going to cancel the exhibition because it was too controversial.

Havoc ensued, and a court ruled that Nikon would have to allow the exhibit to go on. Nikon’s still trying to appeal to the court to shut down the show, and their web site claims that the show is *not* on display, but according to the LA Times the show is still alive and well. If you’re in Tokyo, please go see it and show your support for this photographer’s work!

Several months ago, I blogged about my high school friend Hiro Fujita, who is living with ALS in Japan. Next Wednesday, he's going to be giving a public talk at McCann Erickson Japan &mdash the ad agency he works at &mdash together with rapper Verbal and father-of-Harajuku Hiroshi Fujiwara. Through a candid conversation, the trio will be providing much-needed information about ALS to the Japanese public. Live tickets are limited, but it will also be streamed in real time on Kaikai Kiki's UStream channel if you want to watch online. More details here.