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75 years ago

August 6th 1945, 8.15 am

A battered wristwatch recovered from the ruins of Hiroshima. It had stopped at 8.15 am on August 6th 1945, the time of the explosion.

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Ancient footage of Tokyo restored

I’ve been following Denis Shiryaev on YouTube for a while now. His restorations of degraded old movie camera footage are always amazing to see. His latest video is produced from old footage from Tokyo between 1913 and 1915. It’s surprising how little things seem to have changed at Sensō-ji, but I have no idea what other locations are depicted in here.

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Robot graduation ceremony

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread at a much slower rate in Japan than in most other countries. But yesterday the government finally decided that lockdown measures needed to be implemented.

And today, a university in Tokyo held a graduation ceremony where the students were replaced with robots:

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Shakuhachi music notation

Here’s a YouTube video about the notation used for Shakuhachi music. I’d always assumed that the Western notation system was used everywhere, but apparently not. Shakuhachi music is written in traditional tategaki style (i.e., top-to-bottom and right-to-left), and uses the katakana characters ロ, ツ, レ, チ and リ to represent the notes, plus メ to indicate where notes are to be flattened. Very interesting.

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Machine translation in 1968

The BBC recently published this excerpt from a 1968 edition of Tomorrow’s World featuring a computer system at Kyoto University that was not only able to translate simple sentences from Japanese to English, but could also read out the resulting Japanese text.

It looks like the translation it performed was as follows:

Input:
MY NAME IS JOHN PARRY, AND I WORK IN LONDON ENGLAND.
I HAVE COME TO KYOTO UNIVERSITY TO LOOK AT THE DIGITAL COMPUTER.

Output (Romaji):
WATASINO NAMAEWA JOHN PARRY DE ARU, SOSITE WATASHIWA
LONDON ENGLAND NONAKANI HATARAKU. WATASHIWA
DEJITARU KONPYUUTAAWO MIRUTAMENI KYOTO DAIGAKUE
KIMASITA.

Output (Kana):
ワタシノナマエハ JOHN PARRY デアル、ソシテワタシワ
LONDON ENGLAND ノナカニハタラク。ワタシハデジタル
コンピューターヲミルタメニ KYOTO ダイガクヘキマシタ。

Apart from the use of dictionary-form verbs instead of the more polite “desu/masu” forms that one would expect from a human translator, the results aren’t bad at all. Very impressive for a computer that probably had less processing capability than a modern washing machine.

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Technobuddhism

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

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.

scarecrow_1

scarecrow_2

scarecrow_3

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Header image: Maple leaves and bamboo stems in autumn at Tenryū-ji garden (天龍寺庭園) in Kyoto. Photo: Frank Gualtieri.

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