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Next-generation vending machines

28 Apr

In your country, do vending machines give weather forecasts and recommend a drink for you based on your gender and estimated age ( using facial recognition software) like here in Japan?

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We can also pay for the drinks by using our train commute IC cards.

Let me introduce you to…

13 Nov

I have written a number of posts about interesting people. Most of whose stories are related to Japan in some way.
Maybe you haven’t seen many of them…so I decided to put links to all of them on a new page that I titled “Who’s Who?“.

Please check them out and leave comments to let me know what you think.

The new page is here.

New school year

8 Apr

Yesterday both my oldest and my youngest daughters had their 入学式 (School Entrance Ceremony).
My oldest daughter began 高等学校 (High School (10th grade)) and my youngest daughter began 中学校 (Junior High School (7th grade)).
(My second daughter is now a 中学校三年生 (Jr. High 9th grader)…her last year of 中学校 (Junior High School)).

Since two of my daughters had their 入学式 (School Entrance Ceremonies) on the same day, my wife went with our youngest daughter and I went with our oldest daughter.

I can’t believe how fast they’re growing up!

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On a different note, here are a few photos that I meant to add to my blog before but never got around to it. Taken from various places around Tokyo at various times this past year:

Tokyo Tower illuminated for New Years 2009.

Tokyo Tower illuminated for New Years 2009.

Tokyo Tower illuminated with "2009" for New Years.

Tokyo Tower illuminated with "2009" for New Years.

An extremely large doll display for ひな祭 (Doll Festival).

An extremely large doll display for ひな祭 (Doll Festival).

Over a hundred of Torii Gates at 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

Over a hundred of Torii Gates at 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

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About twelve days ago at 六本木ヒルズ (Roppongi Hills), an artist named Yanobe Kenji displayed his 7.2 meter (23.6 feet) tall robot called “Giant Torayan“.

He bills Giant Torayan as

…the ultimate child’s weapon, as it sings, dances, breathes fire, and follows only those orders given by children.

The fire-breathing "Giant Torayan".

The fire-breathing "Giant Torayan".

Click here to visit the “Giant Toryan” website.

KISS パチンコ

28 Dec

As I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog (for example: here and here), I’m a big fan of the American rock band KISS.

(By the way, I wrote a post about the Japanese KISS-related movie called Detroit Metal City (click here) last August and it’s still the most popular post on my blog!)

Well, I just found out that a new KISS パチンコ (pachinko) machine has debuted here in Japan.

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パチンコ (pachinko) is a Japanese game that can be compared to a vertical pinball machine…with many small balls played simultaneously rather than just one larger ball. And unlike pinball, the object is to get the balls into certain holes at the right time. And, unlike pinball, パチンコ (pachinko) can also be compared to a slot machine in that there’s a payout…albeit the jackpot is more BB balls rather than money (due to anti-gambling laws), but the balls are exchanged for prizes (and then “sold” for money). It’s a loophole in the law, and the only reason for the popularity of パチンコ(pachinko).

I’ve already written a post about パチンコ (pachinko)…(click here to see it).

I’ve played パチンコ (pachinko) a few times…I’m not a big fan of the game—especially since I usually lose and the parlors are noisy and smokey from all the smokers (but recently, many パチンコ (pachinko) parlors have begun enforcing “No Smoking” rules to lure more customers)—but if I happen to see a parlor advertising that they have the new KISS パチンコ (pachinko) machine, I may go inside and try it out! Just because it’s KISS.

Wanna see the website for the KISS パチンコ (pachinko) machine? It’s in 日本語 (Japanese)…but it has a cool Flash® intro.

Click here to visit the KISS パチンコ (pachinko) website.

パチンコ (pachinko) machines, like pinball machines, usually have a theme…and it’s often something from pop-culture. Usually it’s Japanese pop-culture…but sometimes, like the KISS パチンコ (pachinko) machine, it’s from Western culture.

Another example (that may interest a friend of mine whose a big Star Wars fan), is the fairly new Darth Vader パチンコ (pachinko) machine.

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I guess the machine’s full name is 「Fever STAR WARS ダース・ベイダー降臨」 (“Fever STAR WARS: Darth Vader’s Arrival“).

It has a 日本語 (Japanese) website with a Flash® intro, too. Click here to see it.

Sunday afternoon

9 Nov

Today my wife met a couple friends that she hadn’t seen in a long time.
My oldest daughter had to go to school for a test, and my second daughter went out with one of her friends.

So, it was just me and the “baby” at home together today (alright, she’s twelve years old…but she’s my youngest and therefore the “baby” to me!).

She told me that her friend’s birthday coming up and she wanted to go to the mall to get her a gift.
So, we went to the mall together and had a “father-daughter” day. :)
It’s not often that I get to spend quality time with just one of my kids alone…so when the chance arises, I enjoy it!

After she bought her friend’s birthday present we went to the game center (arcade) and played the “UFO Catcher ” (crane game) a few times. One machine had a “Play Station Portable” that we tried to get and another had tickets to 東京ディズニーランド (Tokyo Disneyland) that we tried four times to get…we didn’t manage to get either! Oh well.

Do they have “crane games” in arcades in your country? What types of prizes do they have?
Japan has all kinds of crane games. Most offer small toys or candy…but there are also machines with Ipods®, watches, radios, Nintendo DS®, amusement park tickets, ice cream (in refrigerated crane games)…and I’ve even seen one with live lobsters!

Here’s one with ice cream:

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And another had パン (bread):

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I guess only shopping malls in Japan have 着物屋 (kimono stores).

This kimono costs ¥98,000 (about US$970):

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Winter’s almost here. The weather’s getting colder, and on the way to the mall we saw a 焼きいも (Grilled potato) truck (a sure sign of winter in Japan :) )…and many stores have their x-mas decorations up—and the 文具店 (stationery stores) have the 年賀状 (Japanese New Years postcards) on sale.

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We had a good time together. We got home at about 5:00 and my wife and two oldest daughters got home at about 5:30.

Then the four of them made an excellent burrito dinner for my birthday! :) [明日誕生日 (Tomorrow is my birthday)...]

Taspo

29 Oct

Japan has many kinds of 自動販売機 (vending machines)….including cigarette vending machines.

I don’t smoke, so I have no use for these machines…but they’re a convenience for people who do smoke. But, an obvious problem with them is the fact that they make it easier for minors to buy cigarettes.

So, to address this problem, Japan introduced a smart card with IC this year.
This card is called “Taspo“. It stands for “Tobbaco Passport”

To use this card, people who want to buy cigarettes from vending machines would submit an application with a photo and proof that they are at least 20 years old (the legal smoking age in Japan). The card is free but only necessary when buying cigarettes from a machine…not necessary when purchasing them from a store.

Once the card is received in the mail, it can be used like the popular IC cards for Japan’s trains and buses (see my post about that card at the end of this post here). Cigarettes cannot be purchased from a vending machine in Japan without scanning this card on the machine’s reader now…this is meant to help prevent underage smoking (only the person whose name and photo is on the Taspo card can legally use it).

It can be charged with money so cigarettes can be purchased with the card alone–no need to put money into the vending machine–the cost of the cigarettes is deducted from the card’s charge automatically.

In theory, this should be successful and popular. But the Taspo Card may very well lead to the end of cigarette vending machines in Japan.
Most smokers here didn’t bother to apply for the card and just buy their cigarettes from a store now.

Here’s the Taspo Card scanner on a cigarette vending machine:

Do you smoke? Do they have cigarette 自動販売機 (vending machines) in your country? Or, if you live in Japan, do you use the Taspo?

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