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Many years ago, out of curiosity, I got up early to attend the morning prayers at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. It wasn’t much fun, to be honest. The monotone chanting seemed to go on forever, and sitting in seiza the whole time rapidly became excruciating. When it was finally over, I felt like I’d been stuck there for hours although the whole thing probably lasted no more than 30 minutes.

But there’s a temple in Fukui city where things are done slightly differently. Twice a year, the Sho-on-ji (照恩寺) temple puts on a prayer service with techno music and flashing lights…

According to a BBC news item, these performances are the creation of Gyosen Asakura (朝倉行宣), a DJ-turned-priest who hopes to get more young people interested in Buddhism.

I’d definitely go along if I happened to be in the area. I’d probably bring something to sit on, though.

Click through to Asakura’s YouTube channel to see the videos of these events, with sound.

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Ōyama Sutematsu

Someone recently uploaded the story of a Japanese education pioneer called Ōyama Sutematsu (大山 捨松). It’s quite an interesting read:

The first Japanese woman to go to college didn't have a choice.

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Japanese kennels

I never realised competitive carpentry was a thing in Japan. Here are two teams competing to create dog houses in the style of traditional Japanese architecture. The results are pretty amazing.

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Dekotora art truck from Japan (by sanberdoo via Flickr; CC-BY-2.0)

Dekotora art truck from Japan (by sanberdoo via Flickr; CC-BY-2.0)

A Youtube channel called Great Big Story has made a lot of videos about Japan. I particularly liked this one about the decorated trucks, or deco tora (デコトラ) for short. Every one is unique, and the amount of money people spend on these things is astonishing.

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Japanese scarecrows

The Tokyo Times blog has posted a set of photos showing the scarecrows that recently appeared in a field near Tokyo. The mixture of mannequin heads and discarded business attire works really well.

I don’t know what the crows make of it, but I’m sure they’d give me a fright on a dark night.

Follow the link for more photos.




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Sayonara, Adobe

I’ve been offering business card translations for many years now, but only as a sideline and never in sufficient quantity to justify perpetual updates to the latest and greatest graphic design software. Fortunately, I was always able to get perfectly legal and serviceable versions of Adobe Illustrator up and running by purchasing upgrades a few steps behind the current version.

That all stopped when Adobe came up with their Creative Cloud concept. Now if you want to use Adobe Illustrator legally, you have no choice but to use the latest version. And you have to pay hundreds of pounds every year for the privilege of doing so. This just wasn’t a sensible option for me, so instead I carried on using the version I had at the time (CS2). It did everything I needed, so things were fine for a while.

But CS2 isn’t compatible with newer Macs. These days I have to run it on a machine that is so old it could conk out at any minute. It makes no sense to continue like this.

For this reason, I’ve switched to Affinity Designer, which does almost everything I need. One major omission is support for vertical writing (tategaki; 縦書き), but I don’t need this for business card translations that match the original English layout.

Don’t worry if you don’t use Affinity Designer, I can still work from business card artwork supplied as PDF files.

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70 years ago

Here’s a propaganda leaflet that was dropped over Japanese cities following the destruction of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. The original text and a translation are shown below.

Let’s hope this sort of thing never happens again.

Leaflet AB-12












Attention People Of Japan!!

— Evacuate your cities immediately —

The content of this leaflet is of the utmost importance, so please read it carefully.

The Japanese people are facing a grave situation.

Your military leaders were given the opportunity to stop this futile war by accepting the thirteen conditions of the Potsdam Declaration, but have ignored it.

As a result, the Soviet Union has declared war on Japan.

Furthermore, the United States has invented a formidable atomic bomb, which has already been used. Just one atomic bomb carries the destructive force of 2,000 B‑29 Superfortress bombers, as you can see for yourselves by witnessing the destruction caused by a single bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

All military forces involved in prolonging this futile war will be destroyed by these atomic bombs. The United States hopes that you will petition the Emperor to end the war before many more of these weapons are used. The president of the United States urges you to agree immediately with the thirteen generous conditions previously set forth, and to start building a new, more peace-loving Japan.

Accordingly, the Japanese people must surrender immediately.

Otherwise, the United States is resolved to use atomic bombs and other advanced weapons to force this war to a rapid conclusion.

— Evacuate your cities immediately —

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Studio Ghibli

I’m quite a fan of the animations made by Studio Ghibli (スタジオジブリ), but I was unaware that the studio closed down last year following the retirement of director Hayao Miyazaki (宮﨑 駿). They may start making films again some day, but nobody knows when — or even if — this will happen.

Here’s a documentary of the studio’s work over the last 30 years:

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Japanese pancakes

It’s pancake day today. If you want to try something a bit different, here’s a video that shows you how to make Japanese-style pancakes called どら焼き (dorayaki). The voice-over is in Japanese, but the essential points are written in the English captions.

Use L-size eggs, and ordinary plain flour — “weak” flour is a direct translation of 薄力粉, a term used to distinguish ordinary cake flour from the “strong” flour (強力粉) used in breadmaking. It looks like he’s using icing sugar in the video, but caster sugar should work fine.

An authentic dorayaki is made from two of these pancakes with some red bean paste sandwiched between then. Your local Asian shop might have some. Alternatively, try maple syrup and ice cream.

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Name translator issues

arigatoThank you to everyone who emailed in about the issues with the name translation tool. It looks like the problem was caused by an expired SSL certificate. Hopefully things are working properly again now. Please keep me updated if you encounter any more problems.

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Header image: The three wise monkeys (三匹の猿) at Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō (日光東照宮), said to be the origin of the saying “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. Photo: Frank Gualtieri.

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