Ashima Shiraishi is the cutest most bad-ass rock climber ever

Ashima Shiraishi is a 4-foot-5 Japanese-American 11-year old girl who can kick anyone’s ass rock climbing. She grew up climbing boulders in Central Park when she was 6 – her parents came to the US from Japan in 1978 – and for the past couple of years has been dominating some of the hardest climbs in the world including the Crown of Aragorn, a V13 (do you know how hard that is??) near El Paso that most adult professional climbers can’t flash. Yes, she does have the advantage of being tiny. But that doesn’t make her any less badass.

Here’s a recent story about her in the NY Times.

(Thanks, Jeremy!)

Vintage 70s Yamamotoyama seaweed commercial

At the fantabulous wedding of a childhood friend last night, the topic at one point turned to a vintage Japanese commercial about a 300+ year old seaweed + tea manufacturer called Yamamotoyama. Do any of you remember this commercial?

It’s from the 70s. Below, an updated one from the 90s.

The catchy phrase that you hear in both is their tag line, which translates as: read it from the top and it’s Yamamotoyama. Read it from the bottom and it’s Yamamotoyama.

It’s a palindrome!

Today is A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

You guys — take a moment today to think about all Asian and Pacific Islanders living with or who have died of HIV/AIDS. In addition to the physical effects of the disease, our communities deal with a lot of stigma, which often includes the inability to even mention it to our closest friends and family. Of course, that is counterproductive to the fight against the issue.

This post is a shout out to the A&PI Wellness Center, an amazing Bay area organization dedicated to this cause, and its Banyan Tree Project. The above video is part of Taking Root, a national digital storytelling advocacy initiative.


In Chapter 2, a fisherman takes us on a journey around the world on his blue fin tuna boat, and a veteran surfer tells us how his uncle saved his entire family from being swept away by the tsunami.

WE ARE ALL RADIOACTIVE is a brand new crowdfunded online documentary film project created by me and TED film director Jason Wishnow. It’s about surfers rebuilding northern Japan after the earthquake and tsunami on 3.11.2011. New episodes are released only as they are funded.


Join the conversation on our Facebook fan page.


Since 3/11, I’ve been really busy with the making of my first ever film project. It’s called We Are All Radioactive, and it’s an online episodic crowdfunded documentary about a community of Japanese surfers and fishermen who are trying to rebuild their community after the tsunami.

Episodes 1-3 are out already, and for some reason I have completely neglected to post them on TokyoMango until right now. Here’s Episode 1!! You can watch 2 and 3 on our Vimeo channel, or you can wait until I post them here over the next couple of days!

48 different kinds of ojisan


The most entertaining thing I saw on Japanese TV while I was back last week was a special that had the subtitle: The 48 different kinds of ojisan: What one do you like best? Apparently it’s trending right now to study the ojisan zukan (old man almanac). If you’ve lived in Japan, it’s hilarious because you know you’ve all met these old men before. Maybe he was sitting next to you on the subway. Maybe he is your dad, or your husband.


Help me crowdfund our documentary about surfers rebuilding Japan

We Are All Radioactive IndieGoGo campaign video

Hey guys – just a quick reminder to visit We Are All Radioactive’s crowdfunding campaign page, when you have a sec. As you know, this is an episodic documentary film that I’m making with TED director Jason Wishnow, and the *only* way you get to see new episodes is if you help us fund them!

Right now, we’re just a couple thousand bucks away from funding Episode 3. Episode 2 is in its final stages of post-production before it goes out to the world this Wednesday!! So get excited, and join us. We have some great perks lined up for those of you who do – special shout outs, signed copies of Jason’s amazing short film starring a potato and a tomato, and the ability to influence future episodes.


The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, a short documentary about the spring after 311

I just watched The Tsunami and The Cherry Blossom, a beautiful Oscar-nominated short by director Lucy Walker. It’s a beautiful film that begins with some of the saddest raw footage of the tsunami I’ve seen yet . Walker interviews several survivors shortly after the disaster, juxtaposing their resilience against the power and flexibility of the sakura trees that survived and, despite being drowned in sea water, proceeded to bloom a month later. Watch the trailer here, and keep an eye out for screenings near you!

And, of course, while you’re on the post-tsunami film binge, don’t forget to check out and donate to my film, We Are All Radioactive.

We Are All Radioactive – Chapter 1 is now online

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Chapter 1 of WE ARE ALL RADIOACTIVE, the episodic online documentary that I’m making with TED film director Jason Wishnow, is now live. Please take a look!

Episodes of WAAR are only released as they’re funded. We’re just a couple hundred dollars away from unlocking Episode 2. Please visit our IndieGoGo page and donate to what we promise will be informative, beautiful, and engaging.

Maywa Denki debuts the Otamatone Deluxe at SXSW

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I just got back from a fabulous two-day trip to Austin, Texas for SXSW with Novmichi Tosa of Maywa Denki. Tomo + I went took him there as part of the IEEE contingency. He gave an amazing performance and debuted the Otamatone Deluxe, which goes on sale next month. (You can buy the normal-sized Otamatone on Amazon.) I’ve known him for years, but this was the first time I got to see him perform live. So great!

Amazing video interview here

We Are All Radioactive – my new online documentary film project!

Hey guys! Guess what, I’m making a movie!

We Are All Radioactive is an interactive, episodic documentary film project about surfers rebuilding northern Japan. I co-directed it with Jason Wishnow, who is the film director at TED.

Sunday is the one-year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake, and we really need to remind people of how people in Japan are still living with the aftermath + uncertainty about radiation every day.

Because I’m a storyteller and I spend a lot of time on the Internet, I figured the best way for me to help Japan is to tell stories that are normally ignored. Like the stories of these surfers. And the fishermen they’re helping. And the government officials who are looking for a neutral third party to connect them with the locals.

We Are All Radioactive is going to do all these things, and more.

Because this is an independent project, we need your help in making it real. We are crowdfunding the film — as soon as we raise enough money to pay our editors + designers, we’ll release a new episode on our web site. Our web site launches on Sunday, so I’ll give you the URL as soon as it’s ready!

For now, please visit our campaign page to join the movement! We have lots of fun, meaningful interactive perks lined up for those who join the Radioactive community, like video messages from the characters and the chance to contribute your thoughts on a future episode. Super cool right?

Remember: by supporting this campaign, you’re helping us tell the inside story of an amazingly resilient community that shared their lives with us so that we can communicate their struggles to the world.

Material Change, a new book about fabrics, design, and human rights

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My friend Eve Blossom recently released this beautifully bound, thoughtful, and inspirational book called Material Change. Eve does her part in making the world a better place by connecting artisans from countries plagued by human trafficking with high-end designers to create beautiful fabrics through her company, Lulan. The book puts her story in the context of the larger movement of social entrepreneurship and design thinking, both movements that are super close to my heart as well. There’s even a little segment in there about Tofu Project advisor Joi Ito! Be sure to check it out next time you’re at a bookstore.