Toto is Japan’s biggest toilet bowl making company. You see the logo everywhere you go–at the airport, in department stores, at people’s homes. Now you may also see it on the road–the company just released its first hybrid toilet-motorcycle that runs entirely on poop! As the person drives, he can poop into the bowl, and that poop will be turned into fuel for the car. It’s actually part of a campaign that Toto is running in an effort to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50% in the next 6 years. The motorcycle will be making its way from Kyushu to Tokyo over the next month (departing in six days). Very exciting! I’m not sure who’s driving but I’m sure that, in addition to having a drivers license, they had to check his stool to make sure its healthy and fuel-worthy.
Everything is considered an art in Japan. Here, you really see how motorcycle builder Shinya Kimura perceives his job as more than that. “For me a motorcycle is more than art,” he says. “It’s something that brings out my instincts, the wildness and vulnerability in me.”
(Thanks, Kazu Y!)
Did this guy really construct a real life Mario Kart and drive it into a supermarket in France? So fun!
My friend Lisa G sent me this funny video for Honda in which Australian hipsters answer the question: How much hipster can you fit into a Honda Jazz? They quote Haruki Murakami and Jack Kerouac while putting beer in the cooler and taking Polaroids of themselves while saying “fair trade!” Silly.
A 42-year old former employee of Mazda drove his car into a bunch of people at a Mazda plant in Hiroshima, killing 1 and injuring 10. He was arrested on attempted murder charges — however, nobody really knows why the guy was so disgruntled. He only worked at Mazda for 8 days in April, and he quit on his own accord. One expert predicts that this could be a side effect of the discrepancy between the overly protective lifetime employment system and the half-assed contract worker agreements:
Koetsu Aizawa, professor of economics at Saitama University, said the discriminatory dual system of employment was common at major Japanese companies because regular workers, hired under a lifetime employment system, can’t be fired.
“Japan still needs to foster the idea of equal pay for equal work,” he said. “What many Japanese feel is that regular workers do little work but have big attitudes and get big money. It is a huge social problem.”
The manufacturers can better respond to changes in market demand with haken workers because they cannot generally dismiss regular employees.
Link (Thanks, Shael!)
Some driving schools are now offering extra perks to attract people to their lesson plans. The Musashi Sakai driving school, for example, is targeting female drivers by offering manicures and massages on-site. Another school offers lessons in BMW and Harleys for those who expect to graduate and buy a luxury car, or just want to dream of one.
Driving in Japan v. driving in the US
French advertising agency JCDecaux started a bike sharing system — like the one they have in Paris — in Toyama. It’s a neat idea: there are 15 bicycle stations in Toyama with 10 bicycles each, and for 500 yen a month, you can take a bike from station to station for up to 30 minutes. This may help reduce bicycle parking congestion on sidewalks, although I’m not sure how it will help people commute from their homes to the station.
I spent the whole day today out on the town in Tokyo on a photo shoot and reporting spree for an upcoming magazine story. One of the things we did was attempt to check out the giant subterranean bicycle parking vault near Kasai Station. Unfortunately, the place is run by the local ward and they were super paranoid about four people with cameras and notebooks strolling in without bicycles and taking pics of their customers. While the photographer was taking pics of one guy parking his bike, an employee in a red jacket came over and asked us what we were up to. The photographer told him I was visiting from the States and was just fascinated by this cool tech. He told us to go away until we came back with the proper permission.
In the meantime, I took out my Flip and videotaped the high-speed bicycle elevator at work, with the angry red man lecturing our photographer in the foreground.
Check out this ingenious concept for bicycle pit stop areas by Tokyo’s Store Muu Design Studio. Basically, anybody riding a bike could just ride straight into one of these tables, which locks the front wheel and provides them with an instant table to rest or snack on. The cyclist can stay on his/her seat and just have a regular seated meal. Japan has tons of bicycles, and parking them has become harder and harder as the crackdown on randomly parked bicycles continues. So this is a great solution for those who need to stop for a bite but don’t want to get their bikes confiscated. I can totally see a fast food chain or restaurant wanting to install these, but I can also see it causing huge clusterfucks on sidewalks and promptly being banned.
I feel really bad for the person in Japan who lives in this house. A reporter from Daily Portal Z took this pic from the train while on a quest to find places where the train runs dangerously close to human habitation.
If you want your car to have serious cred among otaku, then turn it into an itasha. It’s exactly what it looks like—a car decked out in manga, anime, and video game art, removable (thank god) and often depicting cutsey 2D girls. This one has the animated vocaloid Hatsune Miku all over it, and doubles as a major publicity stint for Crypton, Nico Nico Douga, Good Smile, and I guess for BMW too.
Happy Valentine’s Gay! I saw this van parked on the main street in Akiba today. Billy = Billy Herrington, a gay male porn star from New York who has become a huge web meme on Nico Nico Douga. He even made a special appearance in Akiba today, at an event sponsored by a major figurine manufacturer!
A recent study conducted by the government’s disaster management council found that a flooding of the Arakawa River could cause an apocalypse of the meticulously interwoven Tokyo subway system. Every 200 years or so, it rains over 550 millimeters a year; if this ever happens again, the heavily dammed river could flood, causing 97 subway stations in the city to be destroyed. It would start with just a few stations, but then the subway tunnels would function as pipes and bring the water damage from one station to the next, destroying close to 100 within days. Needless to say, government officials are now hard at work trying to figure out how to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Link (Thanks, Vagrant!)
Apparently, there is a subculture in Japan where young boys dress up their bicycles with steel boxes and horns and motors and bling so they look like delivery trucks in India. It’s called dekochari, and Tony McNichol has a great photo gallery of them on his web site. I think this is the boy version of purikura—a way to show comraderie, creativity, and personal taste.
Two very extreme rides made their debut this weekend in western Japan. On the left is the $400K Swarovski crystal SL600. It has 300,000 pieces of bling on its exterior, and it’s on display at a department store in Osaka. What do you think? I think I might get blinded if I look straight at it. On the right is BamGoo, a single-seater bamboo electric vehicle developed in Kyoto. It weights just 130 lbs and can drive up to 30 miles on a single charge. Not very impressive from a driving standpoint, but at least you won’t be spending lots of money on gas.
Which would you rather be driving? I’m gonna go with BamGoo. I think I’d just be way too embarassed in that Mercedes. The bamboo car is just silly.
Toyota just unveiled its new Hybrid X concept car. It looks like a Prius from the future, and has an internal interface that controls lighting, music and smell. Yep, smell. It has a perfume diffuser so you don’t have to hang those silly tree-shaped smelly things from your rear-view mirror. Read more about it here.