LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Japan is giving away unwanted houses

Tokyo – VIJAY SHAH via LUCY DAYMAN and Culture Trip

While finding a home at even an average price is next to impossible in the big cities of much of the developed world (London, New York etc., I’m looking at you), Japan is making things a least a little bit easier for aspiring homeowners. Over there in the Far East, they are practically giving away abandoned houses for free, according to travel and culture site Culture Trip.

Some towns in Japan have started doling out residences for free, and in the very nature of town-hall bureaucracy, have divided the types of homes they are distributing into two categories.

 

The first category covers vacant homes, or akiya in Japanese. These are houses that have been abandoned, left vacant and are usually in dilapidated condition. Currently on the islands there are over eight million properties nationwide being abandoned to the elements, with concentrations of akiya predominant in large cities like Tokyo, according to a 2013 government report. About a quarter still have owner-landlords who do not bother to sell up or maintain their properties. Due to culture and superstitions, many of these properties have been left unwanted due to suicides, murders and other deaths occurring in them, which puts off local househunters uncomfortable with the lingering presence of an unfortunate soul’s passing. Demographics also play a part in the glut of unwanted homes Japan is facing, with the expensive cost of living putting off young families from moving away from their parents or rented accommodation and also Japan’s rapidly ageing population.

Unable to sell to locals, many town councils are now forced to give akiya away for free to stop them attracting drug addicts, squatters and wild animals, and to hold back urban decay. Some towns have started offering subsidies to attract potential homeowners. They now also offer online ‘akiya banks’, a sort of Gumtree for busted-up housing, with prices started from zero yen (yes that’s 0円! – bargain!!).

The second category of Japanese housing ‘on the house’ (well, technically heavily subsidised, but still very cheap) is found exclusively in the town of Okutama, on Tokyo’s western fringes. Okutama has unveiled a cheap rent to own housing scheme geared towards young families priced out of the Tokyo metropolitan market. For a monthly rent of 50,000 yen (£345), families can rent a whole house, which will pass to their ownership after a period of 22 years. There is no need to take out a mortgage or pricey housing loans, and the daily commute to Tokyo is only 1 hour and forty-five minutes (one-way). The Okutama houses are all brand-new, well-built and fully fitted, but you must be under the age of 43 and have junior school-age children.

If you do have money to splash, then fear not, you can buy an entire island off the coast of the Mie Prefecture, near Osaka, for less than the cost of an average 1-2 bedroom home in London. Now to learn Japanese, develop a taste for sushi and wave sayonara to your local overheated housing market!

SOURCES:

Sherrie Bachell/Facebook.

“Japan is Giving Away Abandoned Homes for Free” – Lucy Dayman, culture trip/The Culture Trip Ltd (8 November 2018) https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/japan-is-giving-away-abandoned-homes-for-free/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=link_japanhomes&fbclid=IwAR3t9mf53U8TQHNsly6w5rPVXUa2oG2Wvl_xg3oOAledtuNURT34SzI_Udo

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Japanese architecture” – Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_architecture

 

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POKEMON GO: International Community Day next month

Tokyo – VIJAY SHAH via RENE RITCHIE and iMore

While the hype around the celebrated Nintendo augmented reality game Pokémon Go has long since died down, perhaps because everyone decided to twaddle with fidget spinners instead, the game still draws a loyal support base. For the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is an interactive game, downloadable to your mobile phone, where you catch animals from the Pokémon kids’ cartoon series in real-life locations, raise them and use them to fight opponents. In 2016, the game’s popularity reached endemic proportions, with people crowding in parks to catch rare and elusive Pokemon, and state authorities such as police, giving out warnings for people to pay attention to their surroundings when immersed in the highly addictive game.

 

Pokémon Go lovers will soon be able to bond and exchange their little friends in a special Community Day event, scheduled for the 17th May 2018 across the world. The Community Day offers game players, known as ‘trainers’ a chance to go out and catch Pokémon together as teams in a special and social bonding experience.The creators of Pokémon Go, in a bid to counteract the perception of gaming as an anti-social hobby, created the events, held monthly, to encourage players to get out, discover new places, and meet new people.

There are many game bonuses being released for the day, according to online magazine iMore. These include extra XP, Stardust, faster egg hatching, lure modules that last three hours, and a special Pokémon with an exclusive move. The featured Pokémon for May’s event (the Community Day occurs for just three hours on one day per month) is Charmander, a small orange fire-breathing cross between a dinosaur and a dragon.

While the event is scheduled for just three hours, start and finish times will vary according to your location. Gamers in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, can start hunting at 12 pm to 3 pm JST (Japanese Standard Time). Participants in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India will have their regional event from 10 am-1 pm UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and those in the Americas (including Greenland) can play from 11 am to 2 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time).

SOURCES:

interactive storytelling, ICIDS, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/icids/lists/interactive-storytelling

Louz Wate, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/LouzWate/

“Pokémon Go Events for April 2018” – Rene Ritchie, iMore/Mobile Nations (22 April 2018) https://www.imore.com/pokemon-go-events

“Pokémon Go Community Day Guide for May 2018” – Rene Ritchie, iMore/Mobile Nations (15 April 2018) https://www.imore.com/pokemon-go-community-day

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Abington Pokemon GO” – Penn State, Flickr (20 July 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/28170409310

AMBIGUOUS OBJECT ILLUSION: An incredible new design by Kokichi Sugihara

For centuries, optical illusions have fascinated people with their visual tricks, appearing as something and then something else, only to be something else entirely. From the ‘rabbit duck’ illusion that appeared in the US magazine Harper’s Weekly in 1892 (said to be the world’s oldest) to the Magic Eye three-dimensional cacophonies of colour that were the rage twenty years ago, optical illusions have mesmerised and shocked.

Now the deception has really gone 3D. The advent of 3D printing technology for plastics has opened up a new stream of possibilities for artists of groundbreaking optical illusions. One artist who has embraced this is Japanese academic, Kokichi Sugihara, who has released an incredible new design, titled ‘Ambiguous Object Illusion’.

 

The artwork consists simply of a blue plastic toy with holes. When turned around ninety degrees, the objects holes change from diamonds to circles without any alteration to the fabric of the design. Turn it around again and the holes suddenly increase in size as well as changing shape to triangles and a diamond with curved sides. Introduce a mirror into the mix and things get more surreal, with the object’s reflection completely different to how the real deal appears to our eyes. A closer inspection of the little plastic thingie reveals it has wavy edges, which affect how the object is perceived depending on the angle.

Sugihara’s ambiguous art projects have been a hit online and in 2016 they helped him become a finalist at the Best Illusion of the Year Contest, as well as taking first place in the same competition in earlier years. A mathematician on the faculty of Japan’s renowned Meiji University, his mathematical engineering skills, combined with a love of art, has already produced novelties such as an artwork where a marble appears to be rolling uphill, and another where a circular pipe appears rectangular. Of particular note is his artwork ‘Ambiguous Garage Roof’. His interest in illusions stems from his research in the 1980s on automating the analysis of perspective drawings, including computer programmes that examined the objects featured in the designs of famous optical illusionist M.C. Escher.

The optical illusion works because the holes or cylinders are based on a shape which is halfway between a circle and a square, with the side edges formed as waves. Two sides dip up, and two sides dip down. When combined, the shape is ‘corrected’ depending on which shape is projected into the mirror. Your eyes and brain’s visual cortex do the rest. It is complicated physics and not something this poor author can adequately explain. Nevertheless this mind-frying trick is very confounding.

SOURCES:

PhysicsFun.

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

RΛMIN NΛSIBOV, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/RaminNasibov

“Kokichi Sugihara” – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokichi_Sugihara

“How Does The Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion Work? This Mystery Has The Internet Stumped — VIDEO” – Maddy Foley, Bustle (5 July 2016) https://www.bustle.com/articles/170704-how-does-the-ambiguous-cylinder-illusion-work-this-mystery-has-the-internet-stumped-video

 

 

HIS EXCELLENCY PIKACHU: Japan foreign minister appoints children’s characters as ambassadors

Osaka – VIJAY SHAH via RAMIN NASIBOV, VICTORIA HO and Mashable

In a very ordinary development from Japan this past week, the country’s foreign minister Taro Kano appointed popular children’s characters Pikachu, from the cult series Pokémon alongside Hello Kitty as official ambassadors for the city of Osaka, Mashable online magazine reported yesterday.

In honour of their role in publicising Japan around the world, the foreign minister, who is a representative of the Liberal Democratic Party, announced in an English message on the 29th November, that Pikachu and Hello Kitty would represent Osaka in its bid to host the World Expo 2025. Accompanying the tweet were two photos of Kono handing official dossiers of appointment to two individuals dressed in the children’s cartoon character costumes.

 

Hello Kitty, designed by Yuko Shimizu for Sanrio, has been adored by countless girls and boys since 1974, while Pikachu, the lead character of the animated Pokémon series and friend of human youngster Ash Ketchum, who always chooses him to battle other Pokemon, will be considerably pleased at being chosen for this prestigious appointment by the government of Japan. Pikachu first appeared on a video game in 1996 and the TV cartoon became a defining memory of the late 1990s and early 2000s

The appointments come as Osaka vies for the chance to host the 2025 Expo alongside three other nominated cities, Paris, France; Yekaterinburg, Russia; and Baku, Azerbaijan. If Osaka does win the bid, it will be next in line after Dubai hosts the 2020 event. The winner will be announced in November 2018.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

RΛMIN NΛSIBOV, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/RaminNasibov

“Pikachu gets his highest honor yet, becomes Japan city ambassador” – Victoria Ho, Mashable UK/Mashable, Inc. (1 December 2017) http://mashable.com/2017/12/01/pikachu-ambassador-osaka/#0YiaW17MCkqa

KONO Taro, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/konotaromp