Tuesday, January 27, 2009

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 15

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday January 27th, 2009. Today we will be talking about a music group called Sukima-switch.

I think for the next few weeks I am going to introduce some modern Japanese music groups. The group that I am going to talk about this week is called Sukima-switch. Sukima-switch is a group that consists of Ohashi Takuya and Tokita Shintaro. Ohashi Takuya is in charge of the singing and playing the guitar while Tokita Shintaro is in charge keyboards, singing and arranging the music. The name of the group comes from the word sukima (meaning gap) and switch. According to the people in the group it has no real meaning (though no big surprise there). The group has been around since 1999 and have so far put out 10 singles, 4 albums (one of them being a "mini-album"), and two "best of" albums (one of which is their live music). All in all a good amount of music.

Here are a couple of their songs. This first song is called Aka Tsuki no Uta. Enjoy

And this next one is called Kanade.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 奏でる(かなでる). It is pronounced kanaderu and means to play an instrument or to sing. If anyone out there has ever heard me sing, they would never want to go to karaoke with me.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, January 26, 2009

JJNN Monday: Science - 14

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday January 26th, 2009. Today we will be talking about a problem the people that reside in the international space station face.

So what do the people on the international space station and the explorers in Antarctica have in common? Well, besides the fact that they are both groups of people that explore environments and live in conditions that humans not normally live in. It turns out that these two groups of people are each facing a similar problem. Both living for a long time in space and being cooped up in a cabin for a long Antarctic winter both lead to deterioration of the muscles, especially in their legs.

There are a lot of people that are looking for a solution to this shared problem. According to this article a Japanese professor of medical science named Shiba has come up with what might be a solution. Professor Shiba wanted to find a way that was more convenient than the strict training regiment that the people in the international space station have to go though now. His idea looks something like this.

The device is rather simple. When the device detects that you are using your muscles it gives those muscles in use a little electric zap. The net effect of this electric zap is about the same as if you were lifting a dumbbell with that limb. It is a simple idea, but if it ends up helping the people in the international space station it is a great idea.

The idea has already been put to the test. Last year a group of 18 people (4 male and 14 female) over 60 were used to test the device 2 times a week for 12 weeks. They would only use it 20 minuets a day. The results were actually rather amazing. The 18 people that tried out the device ended up with a increase of muscle power of 43% over the mean. Quite the change.

This summer (winter in the Antarctica ) the 10 people that Japan are sending to Antarctica will be wearing the device on their calves for 8 weeks. They will use it 3 times a week for 20 minuets. The scientists will compare their muscle power before and after the 8 weeks to see how the muscle power changed.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 筋肉(きんにく). It is pronounced kinniku and means muscle. I think I want this device.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, January 23, 2009

JJNN Friday: Technology - 14

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday January 23rd, 2009. Today we will be talking about the successful launch of the H2A rocket.

Long gone is the time when people gather around their television sets to see the launch of a rocket bound for space. You can't get people away from their TV sets if the rocket is one that is used for war and it is heading for someplace where people live. Of course that makes sense. When there is lives on the line people are always willing watch. When it is just a lot of money and scientific knowledge that is on the line, it is hard to find people that care. I guess this is just the way things are. It has been like that ever since people got used to the idea of people riding rockets to the moon (AKA, people figured out that it is mostly safe). I just hope some day that people get excited by the prospect of gaining knew knowledge. Maybe that will never happen, but I guess I can wish that it will come.

Any way, on to the news. According to this article, Japan launched a rocket today with a payload of 8 small satellites that each have different uses and are all provided by different universities and companies. The name of the rocket they use is the H2A. The H2A rocket is made by the Mitsubishi company and with the latest rocket they are up to number 15. This successful launch is also the 9th successful launch in a row for this type of rocket. The first launch of the H2A took place in 2001. The 6th launch in 2003 was a failure. Rather than go into a lot of specific details about the rocket that can be looked up anywhere I want to show you what one of these launches actually looks like. Enjoy the clip below.

Looks great, doesn't it?

The latest rocket has 8 different satellites. Here is a list of what they are called, who made them and what they should do. The list (as almost all of my lists) is in no specific order.

1) SDS-1: SDS stands for Small Demonstration Satellite. Made by JAXA (think of JAXA as the NASA for Japan). It is going to be used to gain data for a program that studies small satellites.

2) SPRITE-SAT: Made by Tohoku University. This satellite has many different pieces of data taking equipment. It can do things like check the weather in the area of Earth below it and even has a detector for the high energy gamma rays given off by lightning.

3) Maido 1: Made by Astro-Technology SOHLA. This satellite is used to help collect data that could be used later to model electric storms.

4) Ibuki: Made by JAXA. Also know as GOSAT, this satellite is going to be use to monitor the level of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses like methane in the Earth's atmosphere.

5) Kagayaki. Made by Soran. This satellite is being used by the company to help out kids with bad illnesses. They can get their dream of piloting something in space from their hospital bed. It is really touching.

6) KKS—1: Made by Tokyo Metropolitan College of Industrial Technology.

7) STARS: Made by Kanagawa University.

8) PRISM: Made by Tokyo University.

I could not find a lot of information on the last few because they are used in private research projects. If anyone else find out anything about these satellites please let me know.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 打ち上げ(うちあげ). It is pronounced uchiage and means launch. Someday I want to go to one of these rocket launches.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 16

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday January 22nd, 2009. Today we will be talking about Japanese calligraphy.

Calligraphy is deeply ingrained into Japanese culture. Like most things in Japanese culture, it had its start in China. Calligraphy probably made its way over from China over 1100 years ago. Calligraphy is used during many different times of the for different purposes. For example, in the first few days of the new year children uses write something in calligraphy to represent their hope or wish for the new year.

There are many different groups that teach and experiment with calligraphy all though out Japan. There are classes and courses in major universities all over Japan. There are also official organizations devoted specifically to calligraphy. This all means that not only is it possible to get your masters in calligraphy you can also become some sort of calligraphy group leader if you are good enough. The possibilities are endless.

As you all can already probably imagine, there are not many tools needed to practice calligraphy. At the most fancy you will only need 5 different things. The first and foremost is the brush. The brush is made from anything from horse hair to cat hair. The shaft (*snicker* "He said shaft") is usually made from wood or bamboo. Next is the paper. This is, well, paper. You can't really use normal paper for it because it does not soak up the ink fast enough. I have tired calligraphy on normal paper before and it just lead to a huge inky mess. Next is the inkstone. This is a specially made item that is shallow on one end and deep on the other. It is made so you can add water and grind the ink as you go. Next is, of course, the ink. It is not in liquid form but a solid block. You add water to it and grind it up against the inkstone to produce the liquid ink. And last is a weight to keep your paper weighted down. You can see a calligraphy set below.

Put that all together and with a little practice you can make really good looking calligraphy. You can see some of examples of good calligraphy below.

Notice that all the styles are a little bit different. The style of the artist that drays the calligraphy as well as what the artist wants to say and what situation the calligraphy will be used all effect the end result. Which one do you like? Never mind the fact that you may not be able to read the words, just look at it like you would look at a painting. How does each of them make you feel?

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 書道(しょどう). It is pronounced shodou and means calligraphy. Literally translated the symbols mean way of writing. I guess that makes sense.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 13

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday January 21st, 2009. Today we will be talking about the Metal Gear Solid Series.

Metal Gear Solid is a video game series that dates back to 1998. The game was a huge hit that sold over 6 million copies. The director of the series, Kojima Hideo, went on to make many sequels and prequels to the original game. The basic story is about a solder with the code name Solid Snake. He goes onto missions and has the plot of the games unfold around him. In the original game he is young, but in the newest installment he is getting up there in age. Just to give you a feel of the game here is a look at the newest game:

This game is not really news because it came out a little while ago. The news is where the series director got his inspiration for the series in the first place. It turns out that Kojima Hideo is a huge movie fan. He loves to watch lots of movies and absorb their ideas. According to this article Kojima Hideo got together with Tsutaya (sort of like the Blockbusters/Net Flix of Japan) to share with everyone the movies that gave him inspiration for this game series. There are 15 movies. If you know the movies and the game series see if you can connect the dots between the two.

Here are the movies in no particular order:
The Guns of Navarone
The Great Escape
2001: A Space Odyssey
Planet of the Apes
The Deer Hunter
Dawn of the Dead
Full Metal Jacket
Die Hard
Black Hawk Down
Children of Men
The Bourne Identity
Casino Royal

There are some really good classic movies in there mixed up with some more modern fair. All in all a good list of movies to watch whether you are interested in the video game series or not.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 映画(えいが). It is pronounced eiga and means movie. The movies in Japan are so expensive to go to. I can bring my whole family to watch a movie in America for the same price as one ticket in Japan. Bah!

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 14

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday January 20th, 2009. Today we will be talking about studio 4°C.

There are many different studios out there that produce animation. Probably the most well known studio is Studio Ghibli. Studio Ghibli is the animation studio that did such famous movies as "Princess Mononoke" and "My Neighbor Totoro." Another one of the studios out there is called Studio 4°C. Studio 4°C was set up on May second 1986 when Tanaka Eiko and Morimoto Kouji came together. The reason for the name of the studio is the fact that water is most dense at about 4°C. The studio said they wanted all of their works to be dense with meaning and full of life.

Studio 4°C has done a lot of work on movies, but their main line of animated work is on music videos. A couple of these music videos can be seen below.

Studio 4°C also does some work on commercials. Below you can see one of their more wacky car commercials. It basically tells the story of ...something... from the sea and how a family uses their car to get it back to the sea. Extremely strange by funny.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 摂氏(せっし). It is pronounced kasshi and means Celsius. In my own personal opinion Celsius kicks Fahrenheit's ass.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, January 19, 2009

JJNN Monday: Science - 13

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday January 19th, 2009. Today we will be talking about the Crafoord Prize.

What's that? You have never heard of the Crafoord prize? Well there is a good reason for that. It is over-shadowed by its bigger and stronger cousin the Nobel prize. The Nobel Prize and the Crafoord Prize are both given out by the same group of people, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. They also have other prizes like Gregori Aminoff Prize in crystallography and The Rolf Schocks Prizes in math and arts, just to name a few. All the other prizes were created to compliment the Nobel Prize. Compliment is another way of saying filling in the gaps of the Nobel Prize by adding categories that are not in the original prize.

The Crafoord Prize has categories for astronomy, math, geoscience, and biosciences. The bioscience part of the award is divided into ecological prizes and prizes that have to do with rheumatoid arthritis. Why rheumatoid arthritis? Well that is because the person who established the prize, Holger Crafood, had rheumatoid arthritis. I guess it is always good to give money to people that are helping to cure something that you are afflicted with.

So, what does this have to do with Japan? Well this year two of the winners of the Crafoord Prize are from Japan. Their names are Kishimoto Tadamitsu and Hirano Toshio. They worked together in a research group from Osaka University to help isolate things called interleukins. So what are interleukins and what do they have to do with rheumatoid arthritis? Well interleukins are a type of molecule that is used by the immune system to communicate with different places though out the body. It is used to call white blood cells, but it can also be used to do other things like signal the body to start making antibodies and causes inflammation and fevers. I know these do not seem good, but in the end these things help us all live. The problem is when these interleukins are released in great abundance when they should not be. This happens in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. The interleukins are released and the body tells the white blood cells to start attacking the joints. People like Kishimoto Tadamitsu and Hirano Toshio helped discover the connection with interleukins and rheumatoid arthritis and helped find ways for people to deal with the terrible disease.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 関節リウマチ(かんせつりうまち). It is pronounced kansetsu riumachi and means rheumatoid arthritis. I can't imagine how much it must hurt to have your own immune system eating away at your joints. This is something I would never wish on anyone.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm back!

Hi all

How are you all doing? I have enjoyed my unscheduled vacation from the blog-sphere, but I think that it is about time that I come back. I will start again tomorrow with the same old schedule. Also, if anyone has any suggestions or comments let me know. I just want to make this blog one of the best ones out there for Japanese news etc.

Talk to you all again tomorrow.