The Kung-fu Master [photo]

Zhanghua, Taiwan February 16, 2006

He sits on the steps leading up to the giant Buddha of Zhanghua, which was the largest Buddha in the world until Hong Kong built theirs at Tian Tan. Laid out on the ground around him are old, laminated newspaper articles about him when he was younger. As visitors to the temple come up the stairs, he strikes a pose for them, but few even look at him.

You can visit Nintendo, but don’t expect a tour

I noticed that Kotaku has a post offering very helpful and detailed directions on how to get to Nintendo HQ in Kyoto, Japan.

But before you all book your ticket for a trip to Kyoto, you might want to consider this: Nintendo Japan does NOT offer tours of either its factories or offices. The Q&A section of the company’s website makes this clear:

Q: Can I take a tour of Nintendo’s factories/offices?

A: Since we are entrusted with the business secrets of our various licensee companies, we do not offer factory tours or company tours. Please take note.

Now, one place that does offer tours is the National Diet Building in Tokyo. Perhaps not as exciting as seeing where Mario was born, but hey, you get to see where Japanese policymakers vote to screw their constituents on a regular basis!

No right turn for the right

Wander around Tokyo long enough, and you’ll notice emergency roadblocks by certain intersections, staffed by police from morning to night. Most of these roadblocks are located around Minato-ku; you’ll see them in Azabu, Hiroo, Roppongi and other trendy districts. The purpose of said roadblocks? To keep rightwingers in speaker trucks from harrassing the embassies of countries they don’t like, e.g. China and Korea.

Once they hear the noise of speaker truck music (something like enka meets Chinese opera), the cops spring into action, as in this encounter near the RussiaKorean embassy in Minami-azabu:

With the road blocked off, the speaker truck is forced to hang out in the right turn lane for a while, annoying nobody but the drivers stuck up against the fence.

The first time I saw rightwingers harassing people in Tokyo was when I was visiting the city in high school, and I thought it was crazy back then. But after a while, it becomes as natural as separating your burnable and non-burnable garbage.

Porn v. Google: MF replays the highlights

Proof that federal judges understand the beauty of internet porn, courtesy of Perfect 10 v. Google, Inc., Case No. CV 04-9484 AHM (C.D. Cal. Feb. 21, 2006):

In the final analysis, P10’s use is to provide “entertainment,” both in magazines and on the internet. For some viewers, P10’s use of the photos creates or allows for an aesthetic experience.

Aesthetic indeed.

Contrary to P10’s contention, photographs of nude women can, like photographs of the American West, vary greatly.

Ride ’em, cowboy!

Both kinds of pictures can be described verbally, yet no matter how susceptible any image is to textual description, words cannot adequately substitute for thumbnails in quickly and accurately conveying the content of indexed full-size images.

Ain’t it the truth. And this has got to be the best footnote ever:

Google argues that P10’s works are not creative because P10 “emphasizes the objects of the photographs (nude women) and [P10] assumes that persons seeking Perfect 10’s photos are searching for the models and for sexual gratification.” Google contends that this “implies a factual nature of the photographs.” The Court rejects this argument. The P10 photographs consistently reflect professional, skillful, and sometimes tasteful artistry. That they are of scantily-clothed or nude women is of no consequence; such images have been popular subjects for artists since before the time of “Venus de Milo.”

I wonder if this judge is still hiring clerks?

(The practical effect of this decision might be to end or at least limit the wonderful thumbnail function on Google Image Search; for more, see this Wired article.)

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: METI Explains Stance on Secondhand Game Consoles

It’s amazing how fast misinformation can spread. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, people seem to be accepting at face value Akihabara News’ mistaken claim that the Japanese government is about to ban its thriving used video game electronics market. Though some consoles will be banned without proper certification (contrary to what Roy indicated, Sega fans might be screwed!), the truth is that no comprehensive ban is forthcoming. We at Mutant Frog Travelogue intend to set things right.

The only source that Akihabara News cited in the post is this Japanese government Q&A regarding the provisional measures to the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law, which regulates the safety of old electronics, electric appliances, etc. by instituting an inspection system.

On the top of the Q&A page it states in big letters (paraphrased since the Japanese is kind of awkward): The items that were given a 5-year grace period in 2001 when the law came into effect will come under regulation starting in April 2006.

Below that is a table outlining what kind of labelling will be required of which types of electric/electronic goods. The items that will come under regulation this April are listed as follows: “Electric refrigerators, electric laundry machines, television receivers, electric musical instruments, audio equipment, gaming devices, etc.”

GAMING DEVICES?! My guess is that Mr. Akihabara News must have panicked at this point and typed up his post immediately to warn people.

But if you glance down at Question 4, you’ll find this (provisional translation):

Q4. Will the sale of all secondhand electronics no longer be permitted?

A4. It is not the case that one will no longer be able to sell all secondhand electronics.

The Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law does not designate all electronics. If an electronics product is not designated in the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law, then it is not subject to the regulations of the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law.

For the electronics products that are designated in the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law, it is possible to sell them the same as ever if the new labels are included.


Even if an item is on the list, such as electronic musical instruments, audio equipment, gaming devices, etc., the console/body will not be subject to the regulations if it receives its power supply via a removable AC adapter (AC adapters are subject to the regulations with a 7 year grace period (ending on March 31, 2008).

End of story, right? Well, I hate to tell you this, but the scenario is apparently not as rosy as the government would have you believe.
Continue reading Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: METI Explains Stance on Secondhand Game Consoles

2nd hand electronics sales will NOT soon be illegal in Japan

Update HERE- finally some good news!

Akihabara News, Engadget, and probably a number of other blogs have posted a completely misinformed and alarmist claim that Japanese law will soon make it illegal to sell used electronics. First the alarmist claim, and then the explanation of why it is about 80-90% incorrect.

The second hand marker flourishes over here, and most people take good care of their equipment, so used goods are usually in a very good condition and are sold easily to be replaced by new goods. It’s easy to strike a good deal when buying these second hand goods. But that’s exactly the big problem for manufacturers, because this grey market is not generating them any profit, and they would like to get rid of this phenomenon.
So from April 1st 2006, ALL electronic products sold in Japan before 2001 will be prohibited from the 2nd hand market! This means that for example a PC like the Vaio U1 (PCG-U1) will be soon not vailable on the Japanese market anymore, since it was sold in April 2002… and you still have about a month to get a Vaio C1! It also seems that a 5 yeas old product (made after 2001) will Face the same problem in the futur.

Gosh, terrifying isn’t it? Reading it I practically wet my pants and burst into tears simultaneously at the prospect of never again being able to pass up the chance of buying a 20 year old vintage game console. (Note: I just play them on emulators anyway.)

But notice something very important: Engadget is merely repeating what Akihabara News said, and Akihabara News doesn’t quote any source at all. So why don’t we try actually looking at a real news source, and see what they say. As it so happans, the English langauge Asahi website has a very thorough article on this topic.

There are a couple of major points that contradict what the Akihabara News post said.

Well, exports are exempt. Some retailers are hoping to find overseas buyers, or set up branch offices abroad. Leases are exempt, too, meaning retailers can simply lease their products for fixed terms.

[One company] plans to lease its used products, an action not restricted under the law.

The firm will charge customers in advance for a fixed time period, and the customer will be able to return the item at any time. When the lease expires, the firm will simply give the appliance away–another action exempt from the PSE rule.

So foreign sales will not be restricted at all. This is no surprise, considering how common sales of used Japanese vehicles are overseas. For example, in the Philippines all of the buses seem to be bought used from Japan. The very first bus I rode as I stepped out of the airport had a plate mounted above the windshield saying that it had been a Kyoto city bus that was refurbished by the Keihan Bus Company in around 1980. Second, companies can use what seems to amount to fake leases to get around the sales restrictions.

But there is more to it. Domestic non-lease sales are not being flat-out banned anyway, they are simply requiring an inspection. So what is the inspection?

By law, a retailer can become a “manufacturer,” authorized to conduct safety inspections and affix PSE labels, simply by registering with the ministry.

Registered “manufacturers” may attach PSE labels after confirming three very simple things: the product looks fine, works properly when turned on, and does not leak electricity at 1,000 volts.

So any retailer of any size will be able to perform the inspections themselves. This is starting to sound less like ban on second hand sales designed to encourage the consumption of new goods than it is a fairly reasonable attempt at consumer protection.

But there’s something else. Notice the final part of the test, seeing how the device operates at 1000 volts. This law seems not to be aimed at electronics per-se, so much as electrical appliances. I think there’s a strong chance that it doesn’t apply at all to computers (including game systems) due to the nature of the safety tests. Notice they check if it functions safely at 1000 volts, well the electronics of a computer generally run on 12 volts, and any more than that will fry it, so the test clearly can’t apply!

No, instead what they would be testing are devices that include such things as heating coils or motors, that draw large amounts of power and can be a serious fire risk. In the case of a computer or game system, the power supply would certainly require testing, but I think that the primary device will suffer no restrictions whatsoever.

In short, it will be rather more troublesome for retailers to sell used electronics, and there may be less small stores doing so. On the other hand, larger stores with the economy of scale to set up a small certification department will be able to carry on with their business, and used electrical applicances will now come with a certification that they work and don’t catch on fire when you plug them in, which will probably make it easier for consumers to return defective merchandise. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see someone set up a new business, designed simply to test and certify used electronics for the hundreds or thousands of smaller stores that don’t have the ability to do it themselves.

What we will NOT see is the dismal scenario that Akihabara News incorrectly imagined when they first heard about this law.

UPDATE: This site includes very precise details about what the law regulates, in both Japanese and English. It would seem that I was completely correct. Computers are NOT on the list of regulated items, but power cords and transformers/power adapters ARE. In a very interesting turn, it specifies that television recievers are to be regulated, but says nothing about the CRT tube itself (including computer monitors). This is a rather strange turn, since a tv reciever is just another radio reciever-a very low power device, whereas the actual CRT is a very high power device that can deliver a fatal charge or start a fire if tampered with incorrectly.

Business plan no. 304: a corporate penal colony

One of the fun things about Japanese law is that it’s really, really difficult to fire people who aren’t on a fixed-term contract. You can’t lay people off for economic reasons in Japan unless there’s simply no way for the company to survive. And you can’t lay people off for poor performance unless they break their rules of employment, which generally requires some sort of intentional wrongdoing or gross negligence.

So Japanese companies don’t fire people; instead, they demote them to undesirable jobs. If the assistant manager in Tokyo isn’t working hard enough, he might get sent to Ehime. If he still doesn’t earn his salary, he might be gradually moved toward the basement, much like Milton in Office Space, until finally he gets the idea to quit.

But maybe some people don’t mind being in Ehime. And therein lies the problem… what do you do when you can’t fire a really crap worker?

Solution: Send them to your “branch office” at the Iwo Jima Commercial Park, a development managed by Mutant Frog Capital Partners®. We’ll fly your “special” employees to a tiny self-contained office and dormitory at our compound on Iwo Jima, a sulfur-filled volcanic island in the middle of nowhere that’s still covered in unexploded ordnance from 1945. With no connections to the outside world, they’ll only have time to do your work! And if they decide to quit, we’ll fly them home and you’ll never see them again!

Ah, if I only had the money, I would show the world what a real redhead can do.

If the poison doesn’t kill you, the implications will

A simple rhetorical question…

[8:44] Joe: if hootie and the blowfish ate fugu, would it be cannibalism?
[8:45] Adamu: if just hootie ate it then no
[8:45] Adamu: but it might be impossible to separate hootie from the blowfish

But then, this spanner got thrown into the equation:

The band’s name comes from two of [lead singer Darius] Rucker’s friends, neither of whom was ever a band member. One, with a round face and glasses, was nicknamed Hootie because of his perceived owl-like appearance. The Blowfish also got his nickname from his facial appearance, in his case chubby cheeks.

So it wouldn’t be cannibalism as long as “Hootie and the Blowfish” refers to the band, and not to the actual Blowfish. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

On a side note, a friend of mine just had a very bad experience with fugu prepared by his girlfriend. He didn’t die (fortunately), but it made him quite ill. So, a tip for all you Japanophiles out there: Don’t eat your girlfriend’s fugu unless she knows what she’s doing!