Omnibot: The wonderful world of Tomy’s Robots

Just like any other kid, I liked toy stores. One German toy store called “Spielwahn” in particular seemed magic to me. That store didn’t sell action figures, Barbie or board games but a range of games and robots by the Japanese manufacturer Tomy. Since then, I have a soft spot for that company which even to this day continues the tradition of quirky toys, most of which will never make it outside Japan.

Omnibot book

This book is the Omnibot fan book and was published in 2007 by Mycom, coinciding with the release of Tomy’s humanoid i-SOBOT. The pictures on the cover are not in scale as the i-SOBOT is merely 16cm (6.5″) tall, about a quarter of the size of the Omnibot 2000 pictured on the left. The quite agile successor to the Omnibot range came out in 2007 and that particular toy store in Germany had long been replaced by a shoe store by then.

Going back to that 80’s toy store, the Omnibot was the king of robots at that place. Its shape resembled R2-D2 and the complicated buttons on the front promised many features. Simple programs could be put on cassette tape and the robot was also able to carry light items using the supplied tray. Also in the box was the remote control which is essential to using the Omnibot. The robot was released in multiple colors, although the white one is the most common. But what about the black Omnibot? Read the rest of this entry


Art Aquarium in Fukuoka

Over 2.5 million visitors across Japan have seen the special exhibition Art Aquarium which features goldfishes in small and big tanks illuminated with changing lights. I have been to the exhibition two years ago when it started in Tokyo. The exhibition is now in Fukuoka and in Osaka. The Osaka exhibition’s tanks vary from the ones shown here.

Japanese people love good illumination shows as can be seen every year in December. The Art Aquarium features both video projections and lighting, with the latter changing color after a few seconds. Thus you can see every tank in different colors.

The tanks itself are also impressive. The exhibition starts with a few smaller tanks which can only be enjoyed if you knee down. Different breeds of goldfish swim in the tanks and while the smaller ones only house a couple of fishes, the biggest contains almost one thousand! Lighting changes between seven colors.

Art Aquarium

Some of the works combine aquariums with Japanese motives such as the four distinctive seasons.

More photos: Read the rest of this entry

Space Station Osaka: A Gaming Bar

Space Station  Osaka  07

A while ago I stayed in Osaka for New Year’s and was unsure where to spend the evening. So I decided to check out Space Station Osaka, a video game bar in the Americamura neighborhood of Osaka. You can get drunk while playing Atari, Nintendo and Sony games.

The free magazine which mentioned the bar didn’t include a map or a good photo of the place, so I was wandering around trying to find it. There is a small sign in front of the stairs which leads to the bar.

Inside is a row of flat screens and classic consoles. The bar has both the NES and the Famicom, Super NES and Super Famicom, Mega Drive, Dreamcast and more recent consoles such as the Wii and PlayStation 3. There was even an Atari VCS in a corner, although I can’t imagine someone playing it.

Space Station  Osaka  09

I picked the Dreamcast first because mine is broken and Jet Set Radio is one of my favorite games. The bar doesn’t have a great selection of Dreamcast games yet. Unsurprisingly, many games were for Nintendo 8-bit: Retro game shops are full of Famicom games. Read the rest of this entry

Japan’s 007 Museum in Naoshima

007 Museum  Naoshima  15
The 23rd James Bond is out and again is not set in Naoshima. Naoshima is a small Japanese island between Honshu and Shikoku and is known for its art museums. One museum is dedicated to the James Bond novel “The Man with the Red Tattoo” by Robert Benson. Naoshima officials are still hoping for a movie adaption.

The museum is located near the Miyanoura Ferry Terminal, the main arrival points for passengers coming from Uno Port. It’s just one big room with no staff on site so it doesn’t claim to be an expansive James Bond museum. Most of the exhibits are indeed dedicated to the novel which is set partially in Naoshima, while the rest are mostly from the movie “You Only Live Twice”. An object called “Heartbreak” which is featured in the novel can be seen as well as notes and photos collected by Benson.

007 Museum  Naoshima  01

The latter is of course the only James Bond movie so far set in Japan. It’s one of my favorite ones too, because I like that Bond stays in one country for most of the story. In “The Man with the Red Tattoo” Bond reunites with his Japanese friend and chief of secret service “Tiger” Tanaka.

The main reason for a visit should be the 007 tribute “From Naoshima with Love” though… Read the rest of this entry

Visiting Tokyo’s Giant Tunnel System – Water Discharge Tunnel

Waterdischargetunnel 04

“Sairyu no Kawa” is one of the world’s largest underground discharge channel systems and is sometimes compared with a cathedral due to its size. The water discharge tunnel not only provides safety for an area easily flooded, but is also often featured in the media. They allow visitors.

The facility uses five banks connected to the rivers Naka, Kuramatsu, Koumatsu, Otoshifurutone. In case of an overflow, water is taken from the rivers, filling the banks until all banks are full. The first bank is connected to a drainage pump station which directs water to the Edo River. The whole tunnel is 6.3 kilometers long and 50 meters below ground.

Waterdischargetunnel 05
The Ryukyukan

The discharge tunnel protects a part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area that has been devastated multiple times. The Naka River drainage basin is surrounded by large rivers and fills like a bathtub in case of heavy rainfall. Since the area has been urbanized – 52 percent are urban area – more people are affected than in 1955, when rice paddy fields made up 52 percent and only 5 percent of the area was urban.

Except when it’s used to collect water, the facility may be visited. Tours are offered free of charge. So what’s a visit like? Read the rest of this entry

No Nukes 2012

No Nuke 2012  Makuhari Messe  25
The No Nukes festival was initiated by Ryuichi Sakamoto and called for a ban of nuclear power plants and weapons. He assembled many fellow artists such as Asian Kung-Fu Generation, the Hiatus and Kraftwerk for a two-day festival held at Makuhari Messe.

For me, the performances of Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) and Kraftwerk were the main reason to pay 6800 Yen for a one-day pass. Kraftwerk only played on the first day.

Unlike most of the Summer festivals, Nu Nukes was located conveniently for Tokyoites. Getting to and back from Makuhari Messe on the same day is no problem. The downside is that trade fair halls are not great concert locations. Read the rest of this entry

iPhone 5 in Japan

From the Wall Street Journal to Biscuit Today, there was probably not one magazine which didn’t report about the iPhone 5 and its launch day. Since Apple tends to give even its partners as little information as possible, most of the smaller cell phone shops here in Japan had to improvise. Most important for the customer was, whether the shop takes reservations or not.

So cell phone shops know the iPhone 5 will sell well, but they haven’t received promo material or event demo units yet. Therefore they improvise:

iPhone 5 Japan
Shop with iPhone 5 mockup

Some shops even had cases! Read the rest of this entry

Kansai Vegan Meet-up at Genmai Cafe

Vegan Meetup Kansai  03
Among meet-up groups in Japan, the Tokyo Vegan Meet-up is one of the biggest with over 1000 member. The Kansai one is much smaller and has an irregular schedule. During my stay in Osaka I attended one of their meet-ups at the Genmai Cafe Honmachi.

Genmai Cafe is in a shopping street just three minutes away from Honmachi Station. On the first floor is the Genki Shop for healthy food products. The cafe on the second floor is nice and clean. Every food item is vegetarian, some items contain animal products (eggs) or fish and are marked as such.

Vegan Meetup Kansai  01

They have various set menus, soups, desserts and organic drinks on their menu. I didn’t go for the curry as it’s relatively easy to find vegetarian curry in Japan. The one Indian restaurant near the place where I stayed (Yotsubashi Station) was even all-vegetarian. I picked their regular set and could select two rice balls (onigiri) and one soup from their menu. Read the rest of this entry

Shinjuku Classic Camera Show

Camera Show
Classic analog film cameras are exciting and Japan is the place to buy them. At camera shows such as the this one at the Takashimaya department store, you can see and buy rare items. Most are sold during the first few days. I had no plans to buy another camera, but I still went to the Camera Show to enjoy the variety of analog cameras.

There are a few cameras I wouldn’t mind owning however. The large display of Polaroid cameras was an eye catcher and many different models and designs were on display. Even though Polaroid left the instant film business, cameras are still sold at used camera shops and stores like Village Vanguard which stock them together with modern toy cameras. I own an instant film camera by Fujifilm, but Fuji offers less variety and only one type of film.

Shinjuku Classic Camera Show

Another type of camera which fascinates me is the stereo or 3D camera. Coincidentally, it is again a modern version made by Fujifilm which I happen to own.

On to the other cameras… Read the rest of this entry


Sometimes meet-ups groups wake up from their year-long slumber, such as the Karaoke Group. The meet-up venue was Karaoke no Tetsujin in Shinjuku, a karaoke chain that offers various rooms, including big ones for company parties. Costume rental is also possible, though their selection doesn’t seem to be very large.

They even have an English website and organize international karaoke parties. One feature is missing from their international site though: The ability to search for songs and artists and write down the code. The search feature works the same way as the controller in the karaoke rooms and is a nice way to find out if they even have your favorite songs.

karaoke controller

Obviously they have a large selection of songs in Japanese, English and Korean language. Other languages are harder to find. Read the rest of this entry