March 28, 2007

It was the biggest bicycle a Japanese department store carried and it's still too small for me.

I imagine that scene in Lost in Translation where Bill Murray struggles to deal with the low shower head. Although we can clearly see that the head can be raised to a height comfortable even to Bill Murray, the joke still works cause we all know that the Japanese are shorter than us, right?

I'm of average height in the West. I never had problems with low shower heads, and I comfortably rode my bike around Tokyo—experiences that contradict the Japanese-are-short stereotype much like the LA Times' author's experience with the stolen bike contradict the Tokyo-is-perfectly-safe stereotype. Maybe the author is just innocently looking to profit from the popularity of that movie with those three or so short comments, or maybe he's so nauseatingly tall that he's never experienced a situation where his height was not an issue.

March 21, 2007

Since nobody behind this operation seems to have any idea to bring Japanese bands with some semblance of appeal to American indie rock audiences and instead let big labels throw them some bands, we got a weird mix of newcomers, old-timers, and garage bands on holiday.

Although these bands probably are without an expected level of popularity for a band playing at SXSW, I'm sure they still earned fans solely for being Japanese.

March 20, 2007

My grid

Too bad that Subtraction didn't win Best Blog Design. To me, it really stands out as very different and more well thought out than the other nominees—no gradients, drop shadows, or mirrored text; strong grid that supports all elements on the site; black and white (yeah!). Besides that, it's really the only blog from the nominees that I faithfully check out.

And inspired by a recent post on grids and web design, I'm posting here the grid I used for this site.

my grid

The blog is (so far) fairly simple. I decided on a two-column layout based on the Golden Ratio of 5:3 (close enough, right?). I've got a total of 9 units making up the two columns. It's a fixed size designed for at least a 1024x768 resolution. I really didn't want the main content column to exceed 500 pixels wide (which I find to be a comfortable reading width), and I wanted to maintain the Golden Ratio as much as I could. If in the future, I decide that it needs to be updated to accommodate different content, then maybe I'll also make it a flexible size. For now, I think this looks just fine.

March 17, 2007

A post over at Jean Snow's site reminded me that I've been meaning to post links to my two favorite issues of Nineaem:

Unfortunately, it looks like Nineaem is no more, but that's not confirmed.

Does anyone know where Monocle can be bought in the LA area?

March 15, 2007

The Japanese have only started eating sushi since World War II. Koreans and Chinese have been making sushi and sashimi for thousands of years.

The Japanese have only started eating sushi since World War II. Koreans and Chinese have been making sushi and sashimi for thousands of years.

March 14, 2007

Part of me is surprised that none of the Japanese bands I know and have played with are at SXSW this year, but frankly, it's a small part.

I'm always curious to see what Japanese bands get attention in America. By and large, they tend not to have the same popularity in Japan. I think that Envy is the only band of their social circle and genre that has reached a somewhat proportional level of popularity in the States. This is thanks in part to Steve Aoki, but Steve's also introduced some other incredible Japanese bands into the American scene without as much success. (Full disclosure: Although, I did play bass in a band with the guitarist from There Is A Light That Never Goes Out/Z, I was a There Is A Light fan long before.)

I really like these. Very timely.

Despite the fact that all faithful New York Times readers know that the Japanese are, to a fault, unrelenting in their national collectivism and patriotism, I was glad to see that the AP didn't turn a drop in a Japanese stock market into "a blow to the nation's pride".

March 9, 2007

This dependence on local services as extensions of one's tiny living space makes for an effervescent and vital city, with lots of youthful fizz in public places.

March 8, 2007

March 7, 2007

Australian beef exports to Japan will fall by 5% over the next two years due to increased competition from U.S. beef, the government's chief rural economic forecaster said Tuesday.
I'd rather eat my running shoes than eat meat from a cloned animal.

Vodafone (known as Softbank in Japan) has released a line of mobile phones in Pantone colors.

My LastFM profile's feeling a bit Toe heavy. The newest album that I have ("The Book about My Idle Plot...") is great workin' music.

But my Overall Top Artists list reflects my other favorite records of 2006: Dabrye's "Two/Three" is just amazing. That's it. Boards of Canada's "Trans Canada Highway" is a tasty snack between what hopes to be full-length releases, but I mostly liked the Dayvan Cowboy video. I'm also listening to the Battles record a lot, but I'm undecided on it. I'm starting to think that they're better live.

In other music news:

Asmeias live

Update: I forgot to mention probably the funnest music find of 2006, and he doesn't get enough attention on my LastFM profile. Flying Lotus

The nav is a bit unconventional—and perhaps my favorite part of the site—serving as a strong masthead, mission statement, and flavor copy.

I'm a bit late on this one. The nav is definitely my favorite part of this site.

I've worked on a few sites where the design and the content don't jive. In one case, the second level of a two-level horizontal navigation bar was sometimes used to display important news. What are you supposed to call that <div>? It's not a "navbar," but it's also not a "newsbar." You end up giving it a nonsensical or nonsemantic name—"navnews" or "topbar."

I've also worked on sites, even portfolio sites, where the content was an afterthought. In these cases, I've already worked out the semantic XHTML, taking care to use just enough, but not more, classes and IDs. I've hammered out the CSS to style all elements. And then I find out that there is a new type of content. And did I mention the looming deadline? So, the easiest option here is to add loads of classes and IDs to get everything looking pretty.

It's for these reasons that I enjoy reading articles like this, even if I don't program content management systems.

Muji in New York. Once a staple in our life in Tokyo, now a project for New York. Damn, why didn't they open when we were living there?

Actually, their PR department told my wife that they didn't have plans of opening in the US for fear of the competition. Muji has much better design than most of the reasonably priced stores here in the US, but they fear that they won't be able to sell to American consumers who are used to the big, bright products of Ikea and Target. True, Muji has a more quiet aesthetic, but I think that it will appeal to many people here. And if that doesn't work, they can just remind people that they're Japanese. That never fails to garner attention with American kids these days.

One thing we probably won't be seeing at Muji NY is their glasses department. I picked up a pair at their store in Yurakucho last December that I'm totally digging. The only hard part was deciding which design to get.

"The Japanese government is setting up another task force to tackle the difficult issue of work-life balance. Experts will come together to figure out how working hours can be effectively curbed."

It would be interesting, though, if the government set an example by modeling its own work policies on the findings of this report. Maybe then my Mombusho friend won't have to work until 5 AM, take a taxi home, ask the driver to wait while he runs inside for a shower and change, then hop back in the cab and head back to the office.

But here's the real talking stick from the article:

Work-life balance, however, is a completely loaded Western liberal concept because it creates a dichotomy between work and life - as if they are antagonizing forces.


A web designer/developer by trade, Brian lived in Japan for 5 years and likes to think he knows something about that. He's most recently into talking about design, culture, typography, and web technology.