Bandai’s top-of-the-line capsule toys are expensive enough that you can’t buy them with coins,
Part of what makes vending machine capsule toys so popular in Japan is their impulse buy-friendly pricing. Most of them cost somewhere around 400 yen (US$3.60), so as long as you get even a mild chuckle out of, say, a miniature hand sanitizer stand or a chubby panda weighing itself on a bathroom scale, it’s pretty easy to buy one with whatever loose change you’ve got in your pocket.
Recently, though, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun found out about toy maker Bandai’s Premium Gachapon line. These high-end capsule toys have trinkets priced at 800, 1,000, and even, he’d heard, 1,500 yen (US$13.60). So with his journalistic juices flowing and his expense account-exploiting emotions surging, he went out to try a Premium Gachapon for himself.
Because of their higher price point, the Premium Gachapon is less about quirkiness and more about quality, and that translates into a lot of anime character figures. Sure enough, when P.K. looked at the 1,500-yen machine, it was offering figures of Dragon Ball’s Goku charging up a very cool Kamehameha energy blast.
Instead of pumping 1,500 yen’s worth of coins into the Premium Gachapon machines, they work with one of Japan’s chargeable train ticket/shopping cards, like Suica or Passmo, or smartphone payment apps, like Line Pay or Pay Pay. Near the machines was a charging terminal, with written instructions in multiple languages.
But just as P.K. was about to purchase a 1,500-yen Goku, he noticed that a machine selling even more expensive capsule toys, priced at 2,000 yen (US$18.20) each!
Now, as proper capsule toy machines, there’s a degree of randomness as to exactly what toy you’ll get. However, Bandai realizes that even the most enthusiastic gacha gamblers desire some degree of certainty about what they’re buying before they’ll part with that much money. So while this 2,000-yen machine had four possible toys you can get, they were all figures of the same character, Azu/As from tokusatsu series Kamen Rider Zero-One, but with different hairstyles, facial expressions, and poses.
Back at the SoraNews4 headquarters, P.K. opened up the capsule to see what he’d gotten.
Some assembly is required, since the figure can’t fit inside the capsule without being broken down into pieces. Putting them together is pretty simple, though, and doesn’t require any special tools or adhesives like a model kit would.
After a few seconds, the job was finished, and the figure even comes with a stand to help keep Azu upright on your desk or shelf.
The quality is honestly pretty impressive, far better than the suspect seams and dull paint some more cheaply made capsule toys occasionally have. Honestly, there was only one problem…
…P.K. has never watched Kamen Rider Zero-One, and so has no pre-existing attachment to or affection for Azu.
Honestly, though, that’s on P.K., not Bandai’s designers, and considering that we’ve got some pretty big otaku on staff, we’re sure she’ll find a good home with a more appreciative owner soon enough.
The passports are meant to be used strictly for travel purposes.
Though Japan’s vaccine campaign was off to a slow and somewhat hectic start, efforts to increase the number of vaccinated citizens have begun ramping up, bringing Japan’s vaccination rate up to nearly 20 percent.
With the progress remaining steady, the government considered it good timing to initiate the much-disputed idea of a vaccine passport to use as proof of vaccination. On July 11, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato announced on an NHK TV program that applications for vaccine passports will begin to be accepted at all municipal city and ward halls in the country starting on July 26.
The main purpose of the passport, which was apparently requested by the business community, would be to help Japanese citizens traveling overseas and domestically avoid strict epidemic control measures imposed by countries and airlines, like two-week quarantines or mandatory negative test results.
However, the government is also considering implementing additional benefits to having a vaccine passport, such as allowing private enterprises to provide special privileges to vaccine passport holders.
Since for many that seems to be a slippery slope leading into forced vaccinations or preferential treatment for vaccinated individuals, Secretary Kato did say that they’re looking into potential issues concerning this idea. “We have been working on identifying ways to keep this from resulting in unfair treatment or coercion,” he said. “As to how we’ll manage it will require separate consideration.”
For now, though, the government seems intent on restricting the use of the passport to travel to prevent any undue discrimination and improper use from happening. Applicants will have to present proof of a flight in order to receive the passport, for example, and must bring their travel passport to the application window as well.
However, several loopholes have distrusting citizens suspicious. For instance, no laws regarding the use of the passport have been put into place, and the government has only strongly requested that citizens apply for one only for travel purposes, rather than requiring it by law. There has also been no indication about what will happen to a vaccine passport after travel is completed. Do citizens get to keep it? Or do they return it? These questions and more leave several gaping loopholes that many critics think could be easily exploited, leading to discrimination.
“Dogs need proof of a rabies vaccine, and humans need proof of a COVID vaccine.”
“The discrimination begins.”
“They should make it okay for you to go to drinking parties at night if you have a vaccine passport.”
“If things go wrong, these would become excellent proof in the vaccine’s harmful side effect lawsuit. This vaccine is super fishy. The government is definitely hiding something.”
“If they’d just give them out when people get their shots, they could avoid people getting any extra doses like that one guy did.”
“No matter what the government does, there will always be those who will use this to discriminate, in the same way that they’ll never get rid of slander on social media.”
While the move doesn’t come without controversy, one can’t deny that having a vaccine passport could certainly come in handy when it comes to travel, but with so few Japanese citizens already vaccinated, and most of them being senior citizens and valuable healthcare workers who may be less likely to travel, it seems quite unlikely that very many people will need one, at least for now. That’s why we probably won’t have to worry about any unfair treatment resulting from their distribution any time soon.
Source: Jiji News via Yahoo! News via Hachima Kiko, Jiji News (2)
Top images: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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The health ministry plans to lower the minimum age for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. from 18 to 12, sources with access to the plan said Thursday. (Japan Times)
Avoid getting stuck inside the train station forever with these handy solutions.
For many commuters in Japan, swapping an IC transport card for the mobile system that allows you to simply swipe your phone over the ticket reader as you pass through the gates is a big step up in terms of speed and convenience.
However, what do you do if you’ve swiped your phone to get through the gates at one end and your phone battery ends up dying before you get to your destination? That’s the situation our Japanese reporter Ahiruneko found himself in the other day, when he was out on the field with fellow reporters Yoshio and P.K. Sanjun.
While his colleagues swiped themselves through the gates without any problems, Ahiruneko froze in fear when he looked down and saw his phone screen was black. With no power left for him to use his phone as usual, this was a situation he’d never been in before while commuting, and he immediately feared he’d be left behind at the platform forever.
He quickly called out to his workmates, and asked them what he should do, in a panicked conversation that went like this:
Ahiruneko: “P.K.! Yoshio! Oh my God! My iPhone battery’s dead!!”
Ahiruneko: “No, seriously — I used my phone to get through the ticket gate at the last station…What should I do!?”
Yoshio: “Hmm, I wonder what you should do?”
With his colleagues being of no help to him whatsoever, Ahiruneko felt a sense of relief wash over him when he saw a station attendant at the window beside the gates, so he went over to them and told them what had happened.
Ahiruneko was told to pay the fare in cash in order to get through the ticket gates, which freed him from the confines of the station platform, but there was still the problem of the trip not being closed off on the mobile app.
Because of this, if he were to use the phone again at the station, it would set off an error at the ticket gate, and even at the fee-paying terminal if he tried to add money to the balance on his mobile. To fix the problem, station staff handed him a slip of paper with “PASMO/Suica processing contact form” written at the top, and told him to hand this over to station staff, along with his iPhone, to have the entry record deleted once his phone battery was charged up.
It was a bit of a complicated process, and Ahiruneko thought it was a shame he couldn’t have the record of his trip fixed on his phone straight away. However, once he got back to the office and did some further delving into the matter, he found there was an easier way to fix the problem, and it had been staring him in the face all along.
According to the official website of East Japan Railway Company, Ahiruneko could’ve exited from the station without having to consult with the station staff, as there’s a section that reads:
“For devices with a reserve battery power option, if the Suica is set as an express card, Suica alone can be used for a certain period of time (even if it says the battery needs to be charged).”
That means our reporter could’ve exited the station by simply holding his battery-zapped iPhone over the ticket gate!
▼ Who knew a phone could still work with a dead battery?
Apparently, this “Power Reserve mode” was introduced with iOS 12, and it reserves just enough power on your phone to support Express Card transactions for around five hours on a seemingly dead battery. Unfortunately, the service appears to be limited to some iPhones, but to see if it works on yours, simply press the side button on your iPhone when it’s out of battery, and if you see a message appear on the screen that says you can still use Express Cards, you’ll be able to use cards in Apple Wallet, like that all-important transit card.
▼ Sure enough, that message was there on Ahiruneko’s screen, and now he knew what it meant!
As long as you don’t manually power down your phone, this reserve power mode can be accessed, so Ahiruneko made a note of this for future reference. He was surprised to learn his phone had such powers, and after asking around the office to see if other iPhone owners knew about this feature, he found that only two out of around a dozen people knew about it.
▼ One of those people was Shinji Kawarano, who was surprised Ahiruneko didn’t know about it, saying, “Isn’t this common knowledge?”
It certainly wasn’t common knowledge to Ahiruneko, nor to the majority of the office, so our reporter made it his mission to spread the word with our readers too. Even if you don’t own an iPhone with a Power Reserve mode option, it’s always handy to know the procedure involved in exiting the station and clearing fare data from your phone when it runs out of battery.
Because getting stuck inside a train station, particularly when you’re not familiar with the area, can be a nerve-wracking experience. But don’t worry – rail staff are so kind and helpful they’ll even pop out of walls to help you!
Three monuments that symbolize the effort to recover after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan have been unveiled ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. (NHK)
The Japanese government says that nearly 80 percent of the elderly in the country have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine so far, and more than half of them have been fully vaccinated with two shots. (NHK)
Like they always say, stealing sea cucumbers doesn’t pay.
A surprisingly growing problem in Japan has been the poaching of those gelatinous-looking echinoderms sea cucumbers. While they may not be much to look at, these creatures can fetch a fair price on the black market for their use in cuisine and holistic medicine.
▼ People really seem to enjoy the squishy-but-crunchy texture of them.
This, combined with the relatively lax regulation on their fishing and export, make them an ideal low-risk-high-yield target for yakuza fishermen, who are not only a real thing, but fairly common if the number of arrests over the years are any indication.
However, in the early morning of 8 July the Rumoi Coast Guard in Hokkaido uncovered a unique sea cucumber heist, not only in its scale but in the perpetrators involved. Having received a tip that poaching may have been going on off the coast of Tomamae, Hokkaido, the Coast Guard were out on patrol when they spotted an inflatable raft with an outboard motor.
By the time the small craft made it to shore, officers were already waiting for its captain. All in all they rounded up 11 people who were well equipped with diving gear, submersible machines, and cars. They also had 688.3 kilograms (1,500 pounds) of sea cucumbers in their possession with a street value of about 2.2 million yen (US$20,000).
▼ News report showing all the equipment and sea cucumbers seized
The men involved in this crime, however, were not yakuza members but residents of various cities such as Sapporo and Otaru with different levels of employment and ages ranging from 19 to 53. They were all said to have been previously acquainted with each other and share a knowledge of the area. During the theft they were all stationed in different positions from lookout posts to transportation to actual sea cucumber plucking.
The investigation is still ongoing, however, and links to organized crime may be uncovered later on. The authorities still need to confirm that this group was planning to smuggle the sea creatures outside of the country. Preliminary charges have been pressed but the details haven’t been disclosed while the investigation is ongoing.
▼ They may have just wanted to make a bunch of key chains.
— 小松史典(彫ふみ) (@horifumi1) February 22, 2017
One member in particular may escape the full force of the law though, because at the age of 19 he is still considered a minor. If this arrest were to have taken place the same time next year, when the age of adulthood is lowered to 18, it would be a very different outcome.
While it’s still possible this crew were recruited by yakuza henchmen sick of waking up early to go jump in the ocean themselves, it’s also likely they just heard about the money that could be made and decided band together for one big score of their own.
While that admittedly could make for a whimsical indie film plot, the fact is that these increasingly gigantic hauls of sea cucumbers must be endangering their populations and need to be curbed as soon as possible.
Japan’s population, including foreign nationals, fell by 868,177 over the past five years, results of the national census survey conducted last year showed. (Japan Times)
Theatre Mangekyo is a project in response to COVID-19 and the BLM movement. We aim to increase representation, diversity, and inclusion in theatre in Japan.
Our online workshop performance DISCONNECTED is up July 15-18th!
The work is inspired by and developed from Japanese mythology and the lived experiences of our ensemble members who have a personal connection to Japan. The story revolves around the daily lives of modern-day gods within an online-like sphere of existence! It’s a fun, quirky show, and the performance will be streamed via YouTube Live Stream.
After each workshop performance, there will be an interactive feedback session on Zoom that will help us polish the script further in phase 2. We aim to develop a full script based on audience feedback and through working with members of the community we hope to represent. Once COVID-19 measures allow, we hope to finally gather in-person and perform a final stage performance in Japan to record and stream for audiences all around the world. So please come to the show and join us for the feedback session after if you are interested!
Tickets are ¥1000 and can be purchased through the crowdfunding link above.
The body of a Nottinghamshire teacher who disappeared in Japan has been discovered, it has been reported. (nottinghampost.com)