The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Monday, October 22, 2007

Looked for, he can not be seen ...


Remember the old Kung Fu TV series? Remember the description of a Shaolin monk?

Listened for, he cannot be heard.
Looked for, he cannot be seen.
Felt for, he cannot be touched.

Well, a Japanese inventor came up with something. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article. An excerpt follows. Please follow the link, as you'll want to see the pictures. I didn't want to spoil the article by putting any of the pictures here.


Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place

TOKYO, Oct. 19 — On a narrow Tokyo street, near a beef bowl restaurant and a pachinko parlor, Aya Tsukioka demonstrated new clothing designs that she hopes will ease Japan’s growing fears of crime.

Deftly, Ms. Tsukioka, a 29-year-old experimental fashion designer, lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers — by disguising herself as a vending machine.

The wearer hides behind the sheet, printed with an actual-size photo of a vending machine. Ms. Tsukioka’s clothing is still in development, but she already has several versions, including one that unfolds from a kimono and a deluxe model with four sides for more complete camouflaging.

These elaborate defenses are coming at a time when crime rates are actually declining in Japan. But the Japanese, sensitive to the slightest signs of social fraying, say they feel growing anxiety about safety, fanned by sensationalist news media. Instead of pepper spray, though, they are devising a variety of novel solutions, some high-tech, others quirky, but all reflecting a peculiarly Japanese sensibility.

Take the “manhole bag,” a purse that can hide valuables by unfolding to look like a sewer cover. Lay it on the street with your wallet inside, and unwitting thieves are supposed to walk right by. There is also a line of knife-proof high school uniforms made with the same material as Kevlar, and a book with tips on how to dress even the nerdiest children like “pseudohoodlums” to fend off schoolyard bullies.

There are pastel-colored cellphones for children that parents can track, and a chip for backpacks that signals when children enter and leave school.

The devices’ creators admit that some of their ideas may seem far-fetched, especially to crime-hardened Americans. And even some Japanese find some of them a tad na├»ve, possibly reflecting the nation’s relative lack of experience with actual street crime. Despite media attention on a few sensational cases, the rate of violent crime remains just one-seventh of America’s.

But the devices’ creators also argue that Japan’s ideas about crime prevention are a product of deeper cultural differences. While Americans want to protect themselves from criminals, or even strike back, the creators say many Japanese favor camouflage and deception, reflecting a culture that abhors self-assertion, even in self-defense.

“It is just easier for Japanese to hide,” Ms. Tsukioka said. “Making a scene would be too embarrassing.” She said her vending machine disguise was inspired by a trick used by the ancient ninja, who cloaked themselves in black blankets at night.

To be sure, some of these ideas have yet to become commercially viable. However, the fact that they were greeted here with straight faces, or even appeared at all, underscores another, less appreciated facet of Japanese society: its fondness for oddball ideas and inventions.

Japan’s corporate labs have showered the world with technology, from transistor radios to hybrid cars. But the nation is also home to a prolific subculture of individual inventors, whose ideas range from practical to bizarre. Inventors say a tradition of tinkering and building has made Japan welcoming to experimental ideas, no matter how eccentric.

“Japanese society won’t just laugh, so inventors are not afraid to try new things,” said Takumi Hirai, chairman of Japan’s largest association of individual inventors, the 10,000-member Hatsumeigakkai.

In fact, Japan produces so many unusual inventions that it even has a word for them: chindogu, or “queer tools.” The term was popularized by Kenji Kawakami, whose hundreds of intentionally impractical and humorous inventions have won him international attention as Japan’s answer to Rube Goldberg. His creations, which he calls “unuseless,” include a roll of toilet paper attached to the head for easy reach in hay fever season, and tiny mops for a cat’s feet that polish the floor as the cat prowls.

Mr. Kawakami said that while some of Japan’s anticrime devices might not seem practical, they were valuable because they might lead to even better ideas.

“Even useless things can be useful,” he said. “The weird logic of these inventions helps us see the world in fresh ways.”

6 comments:

taijiquestion said...

This is unbelievable!

(Not that America is without weirdness, certainly...) :)

One of the finest flowers of Nippon culture IMO is the Ninja arts. Time for these urban dwellers to look to their own heritage for skills and philosophy of survival. Forget these Andy Warhol chadors, for pete's sake!

Rick said...

You can't make this stuff up.

ms_lili said...

Now it's my turn to say Good Grief! Those wearing the urban camo should be careful that robbers don't get ticked off at the gear and rob them for spite.

Rick said...

If the assailant decides to bash the coin box for quarters, it could be painful.

Chris @ Martial Development said...

If I saw a vending machine with wrinkles on the sides, I know I'd keep on walking.

ms_lili said...

lol Ever hear this one before:

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.
--Mark Twain