Cats help a Japanese chef take on American sushi

There’s something so satisfying about watching sushi being made.

JunsKitchen carefully crafts five American-inspired sushi rolls, which explores the difference between American and Japanese sushi. Jun says in the video’s comments that Japanese sushi focuses on “enjoying the pure flavor of ingredients that are in season,” while American sushi is based on the combination of flavors.

As Jun assembles the sushi, his two cats (Haku and Nagi, according to the description on his website) look on, giving their approval as he lets them sniff the ingredients. 

Sushi is good. Cat-approved sushi is even better. 

Source: http://mashable.com/

Every Year Japanese Art Students Get Together and Make Giant Animals Out of Straw

Since 2008, students from the Musashino Art University in Tokyo have travelled to Niigata City, Japan to create huge sculptures made from straw (featured previously) for the Wara Art Festival.

The giant straw sculptures are built atop large wooden frames which serve as the base for the woven straw artworks. The festival also features kite flying, a miniature market and other events. It’s a huge hit with kids and parents as people get to interact with the sculptures, taking photos and playing in the open fields.

Below you will find highlights from year’s festival. You can see works from previous years in our feature gallery from 2015. You can learn more about the festival at the official site as well as their Facebook page.

Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook

Source: http://twistedsifter.com/

Hilarious Photos Of Cat Falling In Love With A Heater During Cold Weather Will Make Your Day

It’s been pretty cold lately! With record-breaking low temperatures across much of the Northern Hemisphere, everyone is finding ways to keep warm and cozy from the freeze outside.

Japan is no different, with heavy snow in Tokyo bringing snowmen out on to the streets recently, and it’s not just the people who are feeling chilly! This is Busao the cat, and he just loves his heater. “Japan is so cold right now! All he wants is to warm up more,” Busao’s owner Ryuji Tan told Bored Panda.

To be honest, we think that perhaps he loves it just a little bit too much. In some of his pics, he seems to be almost worshiping the lamp as some kind of divine source of life, and we are pretty sure he has lost quite a few whiskers by flying too close to the sun!

Ryuji Tan adopted Busao from the streets of Ibaraki, where he lives. “Busao was originally a stray cat, he told Bored Panda. “I think that he is about 9 years old.” He regularly posts pictures of his beloved cat on InstagramFacebook and YouTube, so you can follow him there along with thousands of other Busao fans, he is popular in Japan and is starting to become known around the world too! 

Oblivious to his fame, Busao’s contented look suggests that he will be spending the whole winter in exactly the same place. Cozy and warm right next to his beloved heater. If only we could do the same…

Scroll down below to check out Busao’s pics, and let us know what you think in the comments!

192Kviews

Source: http://www.boredpanda.com/

Ancient Marine Reptile May Have Hunted Bioluminescent Fish At Night

When Tyrannosaurus rex prowled the land, the oceans of the Late Cretaceous werent particularly safe either. Cruising the waters at the time were large predatory reptiles known as mosasaurs, elongated and streamlined for hunting down their prey in the warm shallow seas. Some of these were true beasts reaching up to 18 meters (59feet) in length, but others were a little more modest. Researchers have revealed the first mosasaur of its kind to be discovered in Japan, and discovered that it probably hunted at night using binocular vision.

The marine reptile in question is a species called Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans, and came in at a relatively tiny for mosasaur at least 3 meters(10 feet) long. The remarkably well preserved skull is the only example known from Japan, and helps palaeontologists fill a geographic gap of the species from between the Middle East and the eastern Pacific. It also allows the researchers to determine that the animal quite possibly fed on bioluminescent fish and squid during the night, whilst their larger cousins dominated the sea during the daytime.

The forward-facing eyes on Phosphorosaurus provide depth perception to vision, and it’s common in birds of prey and other predatory mammals that dwell among us today, explains Takuya Konishi in a statement. Konishi is acoauthor of the study, which is published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. But we knew already that most mosasaurs were pursuit predators based on what we know they preyed upon swimming animals. Paradoxically, these small mosasaurs like Phosphorosaurus were not as adept swimmers as their larger contemporaries because their flippers and tailfins weren’t as well developed.

But when compared to their larger relatives, the vision of Phosphorosaurus is markedly different. On the bigger specimens, their eyes are located on either side of their head not unlikea horse or deer today which is thought to have helped streamline the reptile and allow it to swim faster to catch the turtles, sharksand other mosasaurs they fed on.

With the smaller species, however, the eyes are forward facing, which in nocturnal animals doubles the number of photoreceptors used to detect light. Because fossils of lantern fish and squid-like animals have been found in the same rock formations in Japan as Phosphorosaurus, the researchers suggest that the reptilemight have been hunting at night. They even go on to postulate that perhaps this might have been a larger trend for other species of mosasaurs, with the larger animals hunting and chasing down prey during the day, whilethe smaller, more vulnerable ones only came out at night.

The excavation of the skull that enabled this discovery took a painstaking two years. It involveddipping the rock in which it was encased in acid overnight, and then washing it off every morning, gradually freeing the bones. These werethen pieced togetherto re-create the original skull. The researchersnow intend to look into how the species fits into the evolutionary tree of mosasaurs.

Source: http://www.iflscience.com

Star of anti-dolphin killing film The Cove held by Japanese immigration

Ric OBarry seen in documentary about slaughter in a Japanese village says government is waging a war on dolphins

The star of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, about the killing of dolphins in a village in Japan, has been detained by immigration authorities at Tokyos Narita international airport.

Ric OBarry an American known for training the dolphins used in the TV series Flipper said immigration officials told him he could not enter Japan on a tourist visa because he was not a tourist, according to his lawyer, Takashi Takano.

Takano said officials accused OBarry of having close ties with the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, which OBarry denies. Immigration officials said it was their policy not to comment on individual cases.

Takano said he was appealing against the detention, and that the Japanese government would decide on whether to allow OBarry into the country or deport him. It was not clear when a decision would be made.

The Cove, which won the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary, shows the slaughter of dolphins herded into a cove in the fishing village of Taiji and bludgeoned to death.

The Japanese government is cracking down on those who oppose their war on dolphins, OBarry said in a statement sent to the Associated Press through his son, Lincoln OBarry.

Officials in Taiji, a small fishing village in central Japan, and fishermen have defended the hunt as a tradition, saying that eating dolphin meat is no different to eating beef or chicken.

Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat. Many say they are horrified by the dolphin killing and there is a campaign against the Taiji hunt. Animal welfare activists say the hunt is driven mostly by the lucrative sale of dolphins to aquariums, with the income from the sale of meat simply an added extra.

OBarry has been stopped and questioned by Japanese immigration before. He has also been taken into custody by local police on the suspicion of not having proper travel documents before being released. But this is the first time he has been detained in this way. He has the support of high-profile celebrities, including Sting, the US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, and the former Guns N Roses drummer, Matt Sorum.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

I Got A Cat For My Sick And Grumpy Grandpa, And He Turned His Life Upside Down

I’ve been photographing my grandfather, Jiji, since I had no clue how to use a camera. One day, 94-year-old Jiji’s life was turned upside-down by Kinako the cat.

Since the War ended, for 64 years, Jiji commuted to his office, but in 2009 he was sent to the hospital. The doctor said he was sick. The once outgoing man gradually lost his interest in life and became grumpier than ever. It was around that time that I brought Kinako to live with us.

An extraordinary friendship gradually grew between the two. Who would have thought that a timid kitten would befriend a grumpy old man! The border between human and animal melts, just as shy Kinako melted Jiji’s heart.

Source: http://www.boredpanda.com/

Every Year, Turtles Get Stuck In These Railroad Tracks — This Is The Cute Solution

When a bunch of turtles were found riding the rails near the Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe, Japan, something had to be done. Because of the park’s proximity to the ocean, these cute critters often end up climbing over one of the train tracks, becoming stuck between the two.

With nowhere to go though, they previously had to walk along the track where either they were run over by a train, or ended up destroying railway switches. At least that was until the West Japan Railway Company came up with a solution that has the Internet abuzz.

Because the turtles could hurt themselves, the train, or the switches, all causing major delays, the railway company worked hard with marine experts to determine a viable and cost-effective solution.

Their eventual idea? Create escape ditches for turtles all throughout the region.

And the results have been phenomenal. In just a few months, the passageways have saved the lives of at least ten turtles, not to mention the monetary benefits associated with trains arriving on time.

One thing’s for sure: this is definitely a better long-term fix compared to getting seeing-eye dogs for all the turtles…

Thanks to the ingenuity of a few, everyone in this situation comes out a winner.

Source: http://www.viralnova.com

‘Not ashamed’: dolphin hunters of Taiji break silence over film The Cove

Members of the tiny Japanese community, which was vilified in the 2009 documentary, speak to the Guardian about fishing and their unique way of life

Taiji is still in darkness when a dozen men gather at the quayside and warm themselves over a brazier. While the rest of the town sleeps, they sip from cans of hot coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk in hushed tones.

As soon as the sun edges above the peninsula, they take to their boats, steering out to sea in formation in search of their prey: the dolphin.

It has been eight years since the Oscar-winning film The Cove propelled this community in an isolated corner of Japans Pacific coast to the centre of a bitter debate over the pursuit of dolphins for human consumption and entertainment.

The films graphic footage of dolphins being slaughtered with knives, turning the surrounding sea a crimson red, shocked audiences around the world.

Unaccustomed to international attention and wrong-footed by their social media-savvy opponents, the towns 3,200 residents simply went to ground. Requests for interviews with town officials went unanswered; the fishermen took a vow of silence.

But after years of keeping their counsel, Taijis fishermen have finally spoken out, agreeing to talk to the Guardian about their work, their whaling heritage, and their determination to continue hunting dolphins.

Weve mostly stayed silent since The Cove, and thats why our point of view was never put across in the media, says Yoshifumi Kai, a senior official with Taijis fisheries cooperative.

Taijis
Taijis dolphin hunters head out to sea Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

Kai attributes that reticence down to what he claims are attempts by activists from Sea Shepherd and other conservation groups to manufacture confrontations, which they film and post online, and challenges claims that the practice of slaughtering dolphins beneath tarpaulin sheets is proof that he and his fellow fishermen have something to hide.

Activists say we are concealing something because we know that what we are doing is immoral, but thats nonsense, he says. You never see cattle or other animals being slaughtered in public. Its not something you do out in the open.

The earliest recorded coastal whale hunts in Taiji can be traced back to the early 1600s. Scrolls on display in the towns whale museum depict dozens of boats decorated with symbols taken from Buddhism and Japans indigenous religion, Shinto, in pursuit of a whale big enough to sustain the entire community for months.

Foreign activists ask us why we kill these cute animals, but we see them as a vital source of food, even now, says Taijis mayor, Kazutaka Sangen. When I was a boy, a third of the town would turn out to greet a whale being brought back to shore, because they were desperate to eat its meat. We are grateful to the whales we want Westerners to understand that.

Taiji Japan map

By killing dolphins and other small whales, fishermen are continuing a tradition that enabled their ancestors to survive before the days of mass transport and the availability of other sources of nutrition, adds Sangen.

We couldnt grow rice or vegetables here, and we had no natural water supply. We needed to kill whales to eat, and hundreds of people died doing so. This was a very difficult place to survive, and we will always be grateful to our ancestors for their sacrifice. Its because of them that we are all here today.

For Sangen, everything in Taiji from services for elderly residents to education and tourist infrastructure depends on the income it makes from the sale of dolphins to zoos and aquariums. Several times during the interview he refers to kujira no megumi literally, the blessing of the whale. Whaling enables this town to function, he says.

Using remote-controlled helicopters and hidden underwater cameras, The Cove provided graphic footage of Taijis infamous drive hunts, whose critics include the former US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.

Typically, fishermen pursue pods of dolphins across open seas, banging metal poles against their boats to confuse their hypersensitive sonar, before herding them into a narrow inlet. There, they are either slaughtered for their meat or selected and sold for large sums to aquariums and marine parks.

While dolphin meat for human consumption generates only modest profits, Taijis fishermen can reportedly sell a live specimen to brokers for about 8,000 US dollars. A fully trained dolphin can then fetch more than 40,000 US dollars if sold overseas, and about half that in Japan.

Minke
Minke whale sashimi served at a restaurant in Taiji Photograph: Justin McCurry

The 20 or so Taiji fishermen who take to the sea between September and April to hunt bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales and other small cetaceans have been emboldened by the release of Okujirasama (A Whale of a Tale) a documentary by the New York-based filmmaker Megumi Sasaki that counters what she describes as The Coves one-sided treatment of a complex issue.

While making her film, Sasaki concluded that the debate over Taiji is an irreconcilable clash of cultures between the global, and Western-led, animal rights movement and local traditions steeped in religion and ancestor worship.

Whaling is the glue that holds this town together

If dolphins are so important to the local community, then why kill them thats what many Westerners cant understand, Sasaki says. But we think of animals as a resource, not that they are special creatures that can do things humans cant do. Its a totally different way of thinking. Whaling is the glue that holds this town together its inseparable from local identity and pride.

Kai dismisses claims that that he and other fishermen employ a singularly cruel method to kill the dolphins. The way we work has changed with the times, he says. In response to criticism, fishermen now dispatch the animals by inserting a knife into their neck, severing their brain stem a method he claims is the most humane possible, but which some experts have said does not result in a painless or immediate death.

On a recent morning, the seafront in Taiji is free from confrontation, although activists have tweeted their regular early-morning photos of the banger boats heading out to sea.

The fishermen appear to have reached an uneasy truce with overseas campaigners, first from Sea Shepherd, and now from the Dolphin Project, a group formed by the dolphin trainer-turned activist Ric OBarry.

Warning
Warning signs near the cove in Taiji. Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

But there is still little interaction between the two sides. They dont want to listen, only to provoke us, Mitsunori Kobata, president of Taijis dolphin-hunting association, says over a dinner of minke whale sashimi and steamed rice flavoured with thin strips of whale blubber.

Theyre here to do whatever they can to obstruct our business, so we dont see any point in engaging with them. Theyre never going to change their minds, whatever we say.

Pointing to slices of sauted meat, from the belly of a short-finned pilot whale, that he has brought from home, Kobata adds: In the days when there was no refrigeration, people preserved meat like this in salt. Of course, there are lots of other sources of protein around these days, but people of my generation and older still have the right to eat whale if we want to.

Both men hope Sasakis documentary will restore some equilibrium to a debate that has cast a shadow over Taiji for almost a decade.

They point out that they kill just under 2,000 small cetaceans a year, a tenth of Japans annual quota, adding that none of the species is endangered or covered by the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling.

Were not ashamed of hunting dolphins and would never consider stopping, Kai says. Its the most important part of our local tradition.

Just look around you if we didnt make a living from the sea, there would be nothing left. People keep telling us to stop whaling and find another way of earning a living. But what on earth would we do instead?

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Japan kills more than 300 whales in annual Antarctic hunt

Whaling fleet returns to port after slaughtering hundreds of minke whales, in defiance of moratorium on hunting and global criticism

A Japanese whaling fleet returned to port on Friday after an annual Antarctic hunt that killed more than 300 of the mammals, as Tokyo pursues the programme in defiance of global criticism.

The fleet set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, with plans to slaughter 333 minke whales, flouting a worldwide moratorium and opposition led by Australia and New Zealand.

The fleet consisted of five ships, three of which arrived on Friday morning at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, the countrys Fisheries Agency said.

More than 200 people, including crew members and their families, gathered in the rain for a 30-minute ceremony in front of the Nisshin Maru, the fleets main ship, according to an official of the Shimonoseki city government.

In a press release, the agency described the mission as research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea.

But environmentalists and the International Court of Justice (IJC) call that a fiction and say the real purpose is simply to hunt whales for their meat.

Anticipating the fleets return, animal protection charity Humane Society International called for an end to Japanese whaling. Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed, said Kitty Block, the groups executive vice-president.

It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end.

Japan also caught 333 minke whales in the previous season ending in 2016 after a one-year hiatus prompted by an IJC ruling, which said the hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as science and ordered Tokyo to end it.

Under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to which Japan is a signatory, there has been a moratorium on hunting whales since 1986.

Tokyo exploits a loophole allowing whales to be killed for scientific research and claims it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.

But it also makes no secret of the fact that whale meat ends up on dinner tables and is served in school lunches.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and their meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-second world war years, when the country was desperately poor. But consumption has dramatically declined in recent decades, with significant proportions of the population saying they never or rarely eat whale meat.

In response to the ICJ ruling, Japans 2014-15 mission carried out only non-lethal research such as taking skin samples and doing headcounts.

Past missions have been hampered by a confrontational campaign on the high seas by environmentalists Sea Shepherd. A fisheries agency official said that the whalers this time faced no obstructive behaviour threatening safety of the fleet and crew members by the group.

He attributed that partially to Japan dispatching patrol ships to protect the fleet.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

In Search of the Heart of the Online Cat-Industrial Complex

A cat wearing a short tie plays music on a cat-shaped keyboard (“Pancake Meowsic Video,” 185,459 views). A woman performs sun salutations with a cat on her back (“Cat Loves Yoga,” 1,539 views). A man slaps two cats on an ironing board to the beat of “Atmosphere” (“Cat Slap Joy Division,” 357,605 views; watch this one). (Now, I mean.) Kittens try to keep up with an accelerating treadmill (“Treadmill Kittens,” 3.4 million views). A fat cat walks on an underwater treadmill (“Fat Cat Walking on Underwater Treadmill,” 133,434 views). Two cats cuff at a treadmill in perplexed inquisition (“Cats Try to Understand Treadmill,” 1.9 million views). Search YouTube for “cat treadmill” and see how many results there are. Or, actually, don’t.

Writing that paragraph took more than an hour. To continue the catalog for a page would’ve taken weeks. But if one has set out to say something definitive about the relationship between cats and the Internet, it’s important not to be delayed indefinitely by Internet cats.

The obvious place to begin an inquiry into the Internet cat is with Maru, the most famous feline on the Internet. Maru’s shtick, in brief: Maru gets into a box (“,” 8.1 million views). Maru gets into a box (“. A box and Maru 8,” 3.1 million views). Maru gets into some boxes (“. Many too small boxes and Maru,” 7.9 million views). Maru tries to get into a box (“. The box which Maru can’t enter,” 2.2 million views).

Maru, which means “circle” or “perfection” in Japanese, is a Scottish fold with nonfolded ears. He is 5 years old and lives in an undisclosed Japanese city that is, by consensual rumor, almost certainly not Tokyo, because no indoor cat in Tokyo has that much space to jump into boxes, especially not the bigger ones. Maru has upwards of 168 million YouTube views and, according to other rumors, has generated enough ad revenue to buy his owner a new apartment. His is the seventh-most-subscribed YouTube channel in Japan.

But Maru is just one of Japan’s famous Internet cats, and his reign will not last forever. Japan is also home to child-tortured Mao; to Shironeko (aka Basket Cat aka White Basket Cat aka Zen Cat), the cat who serenely closes his eyes no matter what is stacked atop his head; to Cute Overload’s beloved Persian, Winston-san, who sometimes appears propped on pillows before plates of untouched gyoza; to the enormous Papi-chan, a Norwegian forest cat of considerable bulk and endurer of the Internet’s first extensively featured cat diet.

There’s also the famous flying-Pop-Tart cat, of course, Nyan Cat; his tie to Japan remains obscure unless you’ve been made aware, by someone who knows something about Japan and cats, that nya is how Japanese cats say “meow.” Some of Japan’s most interesting cat activity originally appeared on TV, but by the time we’ve been exposed to the game show that turns cats into weight lifters by putting increasingly heavy fish onto scales, or the variety show in which a phalanx of kittens is invited to nest in a patch of cooking pots (a fad called neko-nabe), we’re seeing them on the Internet, posting them to Facebook, emailing the links to our moms and yoga teachers.

The Internet’s preference for cats runs so deep that when Google’s secretive X Lab showed a string of 10 million YouTube images to a neural network of 16,000 computer processors for machine learning, the first thing the network did was invent the concept of a cat. America might have inflated the Internet-feline bubblethe Cheezburger Network raised $30 million last year in venture funding, and the Bible has been translated into Lolcatbut Japan was where the Internet-feline market began, and persists, as a quiet, domestic cattage industry. If you want to know why the Internet chose cats, you must go to Japan.

est I unfairly ratchet up your collective expectations: I will never get to pet Maru, and neither will you. Maru’s supervisory documentarian is named Mugumogu, but beyond that fact, hardly anything is known about her. When I write Maru’s US book publicistyou read that rightit turns out that she knows no more than you or I. The publicist loops in Maru’s US book editor, who offers to pass along some interview questions to Mugumogu’s Japanese agent, who could have them translated, answered, and sent back. But I have no questions for the human being called Mugumogu. My interest lies entirely with the cat. I write back to the US editor in my most professional tone, the one in which I don’t sound like somebody who watches cat videos all day, and say that for my purposes I need to meet Maru IRL. I am willing to sign an IRL NDA. I promise I won’t write a word about Mugumogu herself. I just want 20 or 30 minutes with that cat.

A few days later the publicist writes back: Impossible. I’m welcome to write to the Japanese agent, she says, but I should know that not even the agent knows who Mugumogu is; her correspondence all goes through Maru’s Japanese publisher, a certain Okumura-san, of Tokimeki Publishing, a boutique outfit specializing in Internet cat nya-alls and coffee table celebrations of Korean soap operas. I commence months of fruitlessly obsequious email courtship with Mugumogu but ultimately to no avail.

All of this reticence is infuriating. In America people post a video of themselves whistling “Free Bird” in a tutu and they’re heartbroken if they’re not immediately invited on The View. It’s different in Japan, though. There, they haven’t yet cottoned to the idea that the whole point of the Internet is not only that it might make you famous and universally loved but that it might make you famous and universally loved overnight, and for no real reason, and that then it would give you fairly precise metrics for just how famous and loved you were, and for how long. For the Japanese, the Internet is primarily not about self-promotion and exposure but about restraint and anonymity.

To help me understand this introversionand also in the hope of making contact with some famous Internet catsI enlist the assistance of David Marx. An American living in Tokyo, Marx writes a very intelligent, popular blog called Nojaponisme, which I’d stumbled upon in my cat-related forays. In a particularly interesting post, Marx offers three reasons for the Japanese cult of online anonymity. The first, which he deems silly, is the fear that criminals or con men might use personal information to harm an unwary Internet user. The second one, the fear that colleagues or bosses might discover personal details that could be problematic at work, he connects to the Japanese cultural milieu, where “any sort of questionable hobby automatically qualifies as a ‘secret double life.’” The third reasonfear that anonymous mobs might bash anyone who tried to stand out too aggressively onlinehe considers totally legitimate, “in that the Internet in Japan so far has been almost exclusively about anonymous mobs making trouble for individuals and industry.” (He notes that he once had his own photo posted on a Japanese board called Suspicious Foreigners.) I write Marx a fan email and ask if his theories might apply to the question of why the Internet chose cats. He replies right away. Not only has he written about Japanese media trends, he works at YouTube. We Skype.

“Japan was relatively late to getting on the Internet,” he says, “and still lags behind in some ways. But with cat stuff they were always leaderswith cats as their conduits. Think about it.” I think about it. I’ve been doing very little but think about it. “Most of the named cats on the Internet are Japanese,” he observes. It’s an excellent point: Those cats on treadmills and cats on yoga mats and cats being slapped to a Joy Division soundtrack, anonymous grimalkins all. But your Marus, your Maos, and your Shironekosall of them are in Japan.

Marx’s interest in cats lies in his work with the YouTube Partner Program, or YPP, a service that makes it possible to turn on ads to monetize your content, as the phrase has it. The deal is that the content has to be your own; you can’t just post G’n’R songs and then rake in ad money to pay for your brownstone renovation. Either you’re invited by the YouTube people because of your pageviews or you can opt in. Once you’ve joined, they help you with your marketing. They take you through the ad options (banners versus prerolls, etc.) and provide tools and tips for making successful videos. They’ve got representatives assigned to aid certain classes of partners with the marketing of their monetized videos: some who work with comedians, some who work with musicians, and quite a few who work with cats. Marx says he’ll email several new star cats, up-and-coming cats, and see what he can do. He says that a few years ago the cat people tended to be as reclusive as Mugumogu, but that the newer cat folks seem more amenable to revealing themselves.

A few days later, he emails me back: Sure enough, he has some famous cats willing to meet. I fly to Japan to meet the Musashis.

ouTube has told me that Hideo Saito and Manaho Morithe custodians, managers, promoters, and chief can openers of the Musashis, once one of the most important cat bands on the Internetwould be delighted for me to visit them and interview their cats, but that it would be best if I brought along a translator. My friend Rebecca, who loves cats but lives in a Tokyo apartment building that does not allow pets, is happy to oblige. She is not, however, without concern.

“These people have five cats,” she says. “And those cats are in a band, and they are best known for a Christmas song, and they live in a remote resort town at the top of a mountain, and they have invited you, a foreigner, to come to their home to meet their famous Internet cats. I promise you they are going to be weird people.” She asks me how many homes I think she’s been in, in her 10 years on and off in Japan. I can’t begin to guess. She holds up one hand; she can count the number on it.

Hideo, as it turns out, speaks about his cats in calm, measured, elegant English. (He spent some of his childhood in England and the US.) “I started writing songs for cats because I’d gotten bored writing songs for humans. But the thing is, cats have limited vocal … limited vocal”

“Limited vocal range?” Rebecca suggests.

“Yes, limited vocal range. I found I needed five cats to cover one octave.” We are sitting around an oblong dining room table in the sun-drenched cedar den of a ski chalet in a central Nagano prefecture, along with six cats spanning a spectrum of liveliness that runs from contemptuously drowsy to asleep. Manaho, Hideo’s wife and business partner, holds one on her lap, face out and totally blas9 as it regards us. Hideo is trained as a musician and sound engineer and looks the part, with variable-tint eyeglass lenses (the panels now shaded graphite from the ambient snow glare), a retiring studio voice, a scruffy suggestion of goatee, and a relaxed-bemused ’70s mien. Manaho describes herself as a voice coach and producer.

“So I made the Christmas song. I took voice samples from the cats. I had to bribe them with food. They’re a quiet breed, these cats. They don’t make much noise.”

Four of the cats are Norwegian forest cats. They’re huge, lustrous, woolly, like a sheepdog made into a pillow. Their coats have a glossy weft of lunar rainbow. According to a thinly sourced but entirely plausible Wikipedia squib, Norse legends refer to a skogkatt, a “mountain-dwelling fairy cat with an ability to climb sheer rock faces that other cats could not manage.” That’s apparently this cat’s pedigree; he is directly descended from myth. On the way up into the mountains, before I lost data service on my phone, Manaho friended me on Facebook, then sent me a photograph of Musashi hovering over snow. Rebecca worried I was bringing her to meet a bobcat. Hideo and Manaho’s teenage son, who is about to leave Japan to study animals at a university in Tasmania, hands me Musashi after I sit down. He holds Musashi out to me like a muff of fraying fog. Musashi makes no noise; he is sandbag-limp. The cat is 8 years old and weighs almost 20 pounds, his fur the ur-slate of celestial cinder. My chair bends back beneath his heft. He goes back to sleep as soon as the fuss of brief stir is complete, clucking and grumbling in his resumed dreams. He is the biggest cat I’ve ever seen. I hold him to me. I love him.

Hideo and Manaho Mori in-studio with the Musashis. Panda Kanno

Neither Hideo nor Manaho were cat people, originally. She grew up in Tokyo with four large dogs. He lived abroad and had no pets. The first cats that adopted them were two strays, Ginny (now deceased) and Seri. But everything changed when they took in another stray, badly injured, called Marble, a black cat marbled with rust. He, they discovered, had a voice suitable for sampling.

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Cat-Industrial Complex

Now they became cat people. They went to a breeder of Norwegian forest cats and bought a kitten called Luka, the only cat they paid for. Needless to say, after a little while Hideo and Manaho wanted more Norwegian forest cats, so they went back to the breeder and asked if they could borrow his stud Norwegian forest cat. He said yes, in exchange for a kitten. The stud cat came to live with them for some number of monthsManaho says two, Hideo says three or fourand Luka gave birth to four kittens. They kept two of them, Musashi and Leo. When Marble died (on the same day as Michael Jackson), the breeder gave them a fourth Norwegian forest cat, Kai. For free. Hideo named the band the Musashis, in honor of its telegenic frontcat.

It was Christmastime then, so Hideo mixed a Christmas songspecifically “Jingle Bells”out of meow samples and put it on YouTube. The music industry in Japan, like the music industry everywhere and every industry in Japan, has been depressed, and he thought that it might do something to help him introduce himself to new markets.

This was in 2007, soon after YouTube Japan got going. Before that, the Japanese had access to the regular YouTube, but now they had their own native version. The staff from YouTube Japan noticed the Christmas song video, called them up, and said, “We want to put your video on our homepage as we introduce ourselves.” They were going to have seven featured videos, a new one each day of their launch week.

In that week, the Musahis got 275,000 views. That was more than expected. But it wasn’t until a few weeks later that there was, in Hideo’s words, “the big explosion.” Manaho had set their YouTube account so she would receive an email alert on her mobile phone when someone left a comment. One day she got 4,000 alerts. She thought her phone was broken, so she called her telecom provider. There was no problem: She had just gotten 4,000 emails, was all.

The problem, as it turned out, was that their 275,000 views on YouTube Japan had brought the Musahis to the attention of the YouTube people in California, who put them on the global home page. The email alerts arrived in German, Hindi, Chinese, unrecognizable languages. Manaho turned off her email-alert function. Within a few days they’d gotten well over a million views.

That’s when the Korean TV station got in touch. It came down to Japan with a film crew and shot the Musashis at home. Soon after, Hideo and Manaho heard from NHK, the national broadcasting corporation of Japan. The people from NHK were surprised that no other Japanese networks had covered them yet, so they sent a crew to shoot them for a popular Sunday-evening program called @Human, which introduces a wide TV audience at home to the sorts of interesting things happening at the moment on the Internet. Manaho brings up a blog entry with a TV still of Musashi next to a cookie that has “NHK” printed on it.

The economics of a viral Japanese cat can be nontrivial, as David Marx explains to me over a lunch debrief at Google’s offices, on the 27th floor of a Roppongi high-rise. Marx is unusually tall for an American and thus almost impolitely tall in Japan. He’s not only tall but he tapers, an effect accentuated by the wide float of his rolled pant cuffs over narrow ankles. His black hair is prematurely frosted; it crowns a voluble fanboyish enthusiasm, giving his whole appearance the sense of an artful parody of distinction.

He takes me back to his office, where there is a conference room with whiteboards for walls. He warns me that he’s unable to comment on or speculate about individual YouTube partners, but we can talk generally about cats. He can’t tell me exactly how many Japanese cat partners there are, but he nods when I ask if it’s more than a hundred. “There are cats,” he says, “that are making more money than the average salary in Japan”which the Internet estimates to be around $29,000. Most of the partners, the active second-tier ones, are probably making much less, though a good deal of them are earning enough to put a dent in their mortgages.

Marx and I watch a few new cat videos, some of the up-and-comers, those challenging or exceeding Maru’s pageviews. “An interesting thing, here in Japan, is that it’s not just the cat partners who post cat stuff. It’s everybody.” Soezimax, for example, is an action-film maker, one of the most popular partners in Japan, with millions of views. But some of his most popular videos are the ones he posts of the fights he has with his girlfriend’s vicious cat, Sashimi-san, who regularly puts Soezimax to rout. He’s the anti-Maru, the standard-bearer of uncute Internet cat aggression. The videos are slightly alarming, especially when we’re all so used to anodyne felinity. Then Marx brings up Japan’s most popular Internet comedian, who used to post regular videos of himself in a cat caf. (In Japan, they have cafs where you go to pet cats.)

“It’s like,” Marx says, “no matter how successful you are here on the Internet on your own terms, it’s de rigueur that you still have to do something with a cat.” In a culture of Internet anonymity, bred of island claustrophobia and immobility, the Japanese Internet cat has become a crucial proxy: People who feel inhibited to do what they want online are expressing themselves, cagily, via the animal that only ever does what it wants.

The Cateriam Cat Cafe in Tokyo. Panda Kanno

After their Christmas song went viral, the Musashis were signed by an outfit called Stardust Promotion. “They didn’t sign us, they signed them,” Hideo says. He means the cats.

Rebecca and I laugh.

Hideo doesn’t laugh. “No,” he says. “They paid in fish.”

I look to Rebecca for a cue about how Japanese etiquette might encourage us to react here. She looks at me defenselessly.

Hideo says, “They presented Musashi with a whole fish. Musashi put his paw print on the contract.” They laugh now, so we do too. Manaho returns to one of the two laptops on the table, browses her blog, and turns the screen back toward us to show a video.

In it, two men come around the back of an unmarked minivan, open the double doors, and gingerly lift a silver fish on a stretcher.

Hideo narrates. “Those are the Stardust guys, getting the fish.” They bring it inside. “They brought it inside.” Musashi sits propped against the couch like the sultan of Brunei.

“That’s Musashi,” Hideo says, as if there is any other known cat that takes up a third of a couch, and as if he isn’t still sleeping in my lap. The men present Musashi with the fish. Musashi remains expressionless; whatever avarice the cat was feeling remained concealed behind his aldermanic composure. They zoom in. Musashi doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t notice.

“He’s thinking about it,” Hideo says. “Now he agrees.” Musashi puts his red paw print on the contract, then scuds off, blotting the couch with his cerise paw.

Hideo closes the laptop. “The whole thing is a joke,” he explains.

“But that was a real fish,” I say. He nods.

“Did they eat the fish?” I ask.

The son speaks up, rousing himself for the first time from the lidded pretend funk of filial humiliation. “No! We ate the fish.”

You ate the fish?” Rebecca is incredulous. After all, Hideo made such a big deal about how the cats were signed by Stardust, not them.

Hideo seems a little sheepish. “The cats didn’t even know what it was! They’d never even seen a whole fish before. They didn’t recognize it. So we ate it.”

“It was good,” their son says.

“Was there an agreement about royalties?” Rebecca asks.

“They wanted us to make video content for mobile phones,” Hideo says.

“Can we see the mobile phone content?” I ask.

“I burned you a DVD,” he says. He reopens his laptop and plays a video of the Musashis singing “Auld Lang Syne.” The chopped mews sting sharply, like slashes from an 8-bit-videogame sword, and Marble rings in with a hoarse bark that, knowing what we know now about his and Michael Jackson’s coincident deaths, is hard not to read as the kind of netherworldly incursion that used to get cats set ritualistically on fire. Musashi wears big, chunky studio headphones, which he subsequently throws off in a diva tantrum. All five Musashis at one point groom themselves while floating in the dim amniotic aura of pink orbs. They bleat the 18th-century tune in short squawks; it’s hard to reconcile the sounds with the majestically unrousable beasts loafing all around.

I ask Hideo about his one original composition for the cats, which he hasn’t played for us.

“Oh, that,” he says. “They wanted to use that as the theme song for a TV show.” This smacks of Stardust Promotion. “The show was on in the summer of 2008.” Rebecca asks what it was called.

“It was a family drama, and it was called …” Hideo thinks for a moment. “Daisuki! Itsutsugo.” Daisuki means “I like it a lot!” or “I like you a lot!” or, because the Japanese don’t really have a way to say it, “I love you!” The show was about quintuplets (itsutsugo) and the problems they face and then overcome.

The show’s producers wanted to use Hideo’s original composition for the show’s theme song, but the problem was that they needed lyrics. “But I told them, the cats don’t sing lyrics, they sing instrumental! So then they went and got the girls’ group.” The girls’ group was called P-A, for Pawa-Aiji, or Power Age. “They asked us to take the girls and the cats and make a song and a video.”

“What happened to P-A?” Rebecca asks.

“They already disappeared, naturally,” Hideo’s son says.

“But they were popular back then?”

“Uh, no,” Hideo says. “They wanted to make the girls popular. By using the cats, because the cats were already popular. So I said OK. But it didn’t work. The girls did not get popular. Still, the cats were the very first species besides humans to sing the theme song for a network TV show.”

We watch the video of five unpopular girls and five popular cats sing the theme song to a family drama about troubled quintuplets. It begins with scrolling Star Wars-style lettering announcing the publication of the Musashis’ first book. Then Leo and Luka bubble-chat as a UFO flies overhead. The cats appear backlit and powerful, then lift their paws out of a huddle. Each walks through the ether toward the camera. I refuse to continue describing this video. It is on the Internet.

An interlude: three Tokyo cat cafs, briefly reviewed.

Cateriam, Shimokitazawa: immaculate, homey, very gemtlich, with 9 to 11 above-average to excellent cats, including a docile rag doll good for holding and a lively Persian that yowls when won over. Cat books and manga for perusal line the walls, and the owner has thoughtfully hung branches from the ceiling for good overhead cat action. Cats may remain less than enthusiastic until engaged by an informative onsite shill/fluffer. Serves delicious green tea lattes and will gladly replace the ones that cats drink out of. Wireless Internet. 9/10.

Nekobukuro, Ikebukuro: Inexpensively priced, with unlimited cat time, but the nitrogenous tang of egesta will prevent anybody but the hardiest cat lover from lingering. The cats are large and plentiful, with at least 25 on the premises; highlights are a colorpoint Himalayan named Hiyawari and a Norwegian forest cat behind glass. Often feels like an Ambien party for cats, though some apparently tweet. Present are various autoerotic machines, including one that allows cats to bunt against spiked rubber massagers. Ikebukuro locals vastly prefer the mom-and-pop cat caf9 around the corner, Nekorobi, but time constraints prevented this reviewer from visiting. 4/10.

Neko Caf Club, Jiyugaoka: This former nail salon entertains upwardly mobile yoga moms with kittens, including the Internet’s beloved munchkin and Scottish fold varieties. No postcards or DVDs, unfortunately, and the large picture windows to the street make you feel as if you’re on the Internet. The cats are extremely high-quality, though they may be drugged. Private rooms available. 7/10.

So what, then, is it about cats? Internet pundits have drafted back-of-the-envelope theories. “The Internet is a dog park for cat people” is one line that gained online currency. Sounds good, but it doesn’t hold up: The Internet’s cat obsession goes well beyond so-called cat people. Plenty of those who’d never think of owning a cat are pleased to watch them on the Internet’s treadmills.

Time magazine put forward the proposition that “there’s something about watching a normally proud animal thrust into a humiliating situation that’s especially funny.” This is barely worth rebutting, as even the worst cat retains its dignity no matter the circumstances. The cat is the Thing That Will Not Be Humiliated.

The same Time piece then ended by taking Internet cats not seriously but simply srsly. “Or maybe we’re over-thinking it. ‘Cat videos are just cute,’ says [Nyan Cat creator Christopher] Torres. Indeed.” Except not indeed. Not even remotely indeed. Baby hedgehogs are also cute, arguably cuter, but they do not compete with porn for Internet real estate. One thing competes with porn, and that is cats.

In the course of my research, by which I mostly mean desultorily clicking on links in my friends’ Gchat away-statuses, I came across two seemingly unrelated but profoundly complementary recent scientific studies. The first, conducted by computer scientists and a psychologist at Missouri University of Science and Technology, took up the link between the Internet and depression. The people at MST had a few major findings that correlated patterns of heavy Internet usage, with some apparent statistical significance, to symptoms of depression. The first was the presence of P2P packets, an indicator of file-sharingmusic and movies. The second was frequent email checking. A third example was increased “flow duration entropy,” a result of rapid switching between applications, and to that the authors of the study added increased video watching, gaming, and chatting. Their examples of depressive Internet activity overlapped nearly perfectly with most people’s idea of Internet usage. They didn’t break out the video-watching by genre, but one can only suspect that a lot of those depressive Internet users were watching cat videos.

Meanwhile, around the time of the depression study, someone in the cat group I’m in on Facebookno explanation necessaryposted a write-up of a study conducted by some cat scientists at the University of Vienna on the relationship between cats and neurotics. The dryness of the study’s title (“Factors Influencing the Temporal Patterns of Dyadic Behaviours and Interactions Between Domestic Cats and Their Owners”) belied the most exciting ethology of cat ownership since D. C. Turner’s seminal 1991 paper in the august journal Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd. The authors cite Turner’s towering influence: “Turner (1991),” wrote Wedl, Bauer, et al., found that “the higher the proportion of all successful intents to interact [with the cat] that were due to the cat, the longer was the duration of interactions.”

In other words, your cat will like you best if you pretend that you don’t desperately want to play with it all the time. What the current group of researchers seemed to suggest was equally fascinating: The more neurotic the cat ownerthe more desperate for fuzzy comfort and nuzzly security and unconditional affectionthe briefer the interactions that damn cat would allow.

So we have a reputable study correlating Internet usage and depression. We have another reputable study correlating neuroticism and being ignored by cats. We are only one step away from the grand synthesis that has thus far eluded the ever-growing community of Internet-cat researchers.

This all comes together for me at that first cat caf. I guess I feel about it what one might theoretically feel about an orgy, or that old chestnut about the ’60s: if you were keeping good notes, or if the memory is much more than a lot of velutinous petting alongside irascible demands for submaxillary attention, you probably weren’t making the most of it.

It’s on the second floor of a nondescript building in Shimokitazawa, and the walls are papered with information about the cats’ Twitter feeds. The setup is this: You walk in, pay 1,000 yen, or about $12, for an hour (which includes one drink), take off your shoes, go up a step and through a gate, sit down, pick up a toy, and wait for the cats, who, needless to say, want absolutely nothing to do with you. I remember a video I watched online, a Time magazine segment on the web about the first cat caf9, which opened in Osaka in 2004. The initial highlight of the Time piece was this one middle-aged woman who loved cats. She said she came to the cat caf, like many people, because her apartment building didn’t allow pets. She worked in a factory, and after the feel of cold metal all day she liked to come here and feel warm fur.

The real pathos of the Time segment, though, was a bit toward the end, where it was clear that the women couldn’t figure out why some of the cats were being standoffish; they looked like they thought they were doing something wrong. And the needier the women, the more indifferent the cats; they seemed not to understand that this is how a cat works.

Think of it this way: What we do on the Internet is mostly “like” things, and while liking them we wait for our own content to be liked. We check our analytics as we await retweets. This is where the cats come in. A cat will not retrieve some dumb object so that you can throw it yet again. A cat will not do a shtick to be petted on its head. A cat will not jig for a mackerel ingot. That goes against everything cats stand for. Or more often sit. It’s not just that cats are unable to be anything but real; it’s that cats both know they are performing and couldn’t possibly care less about how their performance is received. Their play in front of a camera is exactly like their play absent one.

What an Internet cat does is thus confront us with how cravenly we ourselves court approval. A cat, if it decides to love you, will do so only on its own terms, and, as that Viennese study showed, the more you let it come to you, i.e., the less you need it, the better loved you’re going to be. The reason the lolcat says “Oh hai” is because he only just noticed, and certainly doesn’t care, that you caught him serenely occupying ur nouns, verbing ur other nouns. He doesn’t worry about you or what you think; by his living in your screen, you can love him, but there isn’t a prayer of reciprocation. Thus is the Internet cat the realest cat of all.

The late-afternoon light is pink on the snow, and we need to drive out of the mountains before the roads freeze over. But there is one more thing I want to talk about.

“So,” I say, “are you guys interested in any, er, other Internet cats?”

“There’s Maru,” Hideo says right away. “He’s very interesting. He likes boxes. Jumping into them.”

I say I tried to meet him and was refused. I hope I sound convincingly flat, affectless, unfixated.

Manaho asks where Maru lives. “Nobody knows,” I reply.

“Ah so!” Manaho says. She continues in Japanese, and Rebecca translates. “She says they’re quite good videos, the way they shoot them. She also says she thinks it’s a professional doing them.”

It sounds to me as though she meant something weighted by “professional.” Later I ask Rebecca if I was right about that, or if it was just her translation. She says she thinks there’s something to it: To the resolutely DIY Musashis, the slick high-roller Maru might look like a bit of a sellout. “I mean, Hideo’s videos, they’re so aggressively amateurish. It looked like he’d just clicked the box for every single effecthighlight, aura, fade, starburst, whatever.”

Manaho asks why Maru declined my interview request. I tell her his owner thinks the cat is the way he isuncorrupted by fame, unselfconscious in his performancebecause she keeps him quarantined. If he met outsiders, she worries, he wouldn’t be the same anymore. He might get anxious.

Manaho nods. “Usually when cats encounter someone new they go and hide, but these cats are different.” She points under the table, where her cats are sitting and sleeping. “Because of their personality, we thought they would be OK with the media. It didn’t stress them out.” It didn’t even wake them up.

“It was all a crazy period,” Manaho says.

“Did it change your life at all?” I ask.

“Not at all,” Hideo says. “We weren’t the crazy mom and dad.”

“So are you still writing songs for the cats?”

“Not recently,” Hideo says.

Manaho breaks in, and Rebecca translates: “Of all the experience they have working with all the other artistsand she just named some pop stars even I’ve heard ofshe says they can say that the cats are by far the most difficult. It really takes a lot of time. They don’t follow instructions. They don’t know where or when to meow. They won’t stand in front of the microphone. So the microphone needs to stand in front of the cats.” She makes a motion that is halfway between the operation of a boom mic and a lacrosse pass.

His cat-music career having foundered on the superciliousness and indifference of his imperious cats, Hideo tells me what he’s up to now. “I’m working on a charity song. After the earthquake and tsunami happened, there were so many pages on Facebook that people made to send their good wishes or money to Japan, but most of the comments on the Facebook pages were in English. I went to all the different pages for Japan and wrote that the people of Japan were grateful for their thoughts and prayers. I became friends with many more people on Facebook, from all over the world.”

He found an Internet that was accountable and kind, not anonymous and mean-spirited. “I wanted to share all of this with Japanese people, so I asked my friends on Facebook in all these countries if they would sing for me. I made a huge chorus of many voices that I’m still working on. I get to collaborate with all these people I’ve never met and never had conversations with but we can still make work together. Maybe you will sing for me?”

“I don’t think you want me singing for you.”

“But maybe you will write about this, and more people will find me and collaborate with me.” His name is Hideo Saito, and he is on Facebook.

The cedar shadows have grown narrow in the snow outside, and the cats snore and mutter in their dreams. We take pictures until we are all too sore to keep holding Musashi aloft. We all bow at each other. Rebecca and I bow at the cats. The cats drift off.

On the long drive home, Fuji hovering before us, solitary and immanent in cloudy magenta, Rebecca and I talk about how terrible we feel that we expected these Internet cat video people to be out of their minds. They are just normal people who have some special cats to share with the world and have gotten something back. I picture-message Micah, my brother, an image of Musashi obscuring my lap.

“That’s not a cat,” he texts back. “That’s a lion.”

“It’s a Norwegian forest cat.”

“Norwegian forests must be terrifying.”

“No, it wasn’t terrifying. It was really nice, and sleepy. If you want to see him sing, search YouTube for ‘! !P-A Musashi’s.’”

It takes him a few minutes to respond.

“Dude what the fuck.”

kthxbai.

Gideon Lewis-Kraus (gideonlk@gmail.com) is the author of the memoir A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful.

Source: http://www.wired.com/

Yen to Climb to 90 as Negative Rates Fizzle for Mad Dog Analyst

The yen will strengthen almost 20 percent to 90 per dollar by early next year as Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kurodas negative interest rates fail to weaken this years best-performing Group-of-10 currency, says former trader Eishi Wakabayashi.

Known as mad dog for his aggressive trading style during a 50-year career in foreign-exchange markets, Wakabayashi analyzed long-term charts to predict the yens record high in April 1995, the end of its strength in the start of 2012, and the ascent toward 100 this year when the currency was around 120. Now hes predicting Japans currency will rise to levels unseen since January 2013 from 107.31 per dollar as of 10:08 a.m. in Tokyo Tuesday.

Currencies arent moving on interest rates — they move in a wave motion, said Wakabayashi, the president of Wakabayashi FX Associates Co., an investment information service firm in Tokyo. How can you explain by the interest rate differentials the move from 121 to 105 yen as Japan decided to adopt negative rates? The yen will advance even with negative rates because it is currently in a rising phase.

Japans currency has gained about 12 percent this year, posing an obstacle to the BOJs efforts to push inflation to 2 percent with record assets purchases and a negative interest-rate strategy. Policy divergence between the central bank and the Federal Reserve did little to prevent the yen from reaching an 18-month high in May. The currency also attracted demand as a safe haven amid speculation U.S. rates will rise and uncertainty whether the U.K. will stay in the European Union.

Wakabayashis forecast goes against the trend. According to a Bloomberg survey of analysts, the currency is projected to end this year weaker at 115 per dollar.

Mad Man

Theres not much Kuroda can do to change the currencys long-term trend, based on chart analysis, said Wakabayashi, who joined Bank of Tokyo, now Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., in 1966.

The way Kuroda adopted negative rates shows he is totally a mad man, Wakabayashi, 72, said in an interview in Tokyo on June 2. To do something totally for surprise is an impermissible act for a central banker. Markets are telling Kuroda, Dont do anything, we wont listen to you.

While Kuroda may not have much influence on the yens direction, he may succeed in getting prices to pick up next year as Japans economy improves, Wakabayashi said. He pointed to a recovery in the high-end condominium market and a better job market for university graduates as positive signs.

Gold Attractive

After the yen approaches 90, it will revert back to a weakening phase until the middle of 2018, before eventually rebounding to as high as 65 yen by March 2022, said Wakabayashi, who bases his analysis on trends lasting 40 1/2 years. What goes up must come down.

He foresees an era of global deflation, and recommends investors seek capital gains and buy gold. The metal may climb to $6,000 in the next six years as U.S. stocks collapse and the nation struggles to spur inflation, he said. During the Great Depression, when the price of gold was fixed, mining stocks of the commodity jumped sixfold in the five years from 1930, according to Wakabayashi. Gold is currently at about $1,245 per ounce.

Under deflation, asset values fall across the board, Wakabayashi said. How do you protect your financial assets? Its easy — Buy gold.

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Animals Kept In Deep Freeze For 30 Years Brought Back To Life

Microscopic creatures kept frozen for more than three decades have been successfully brought back to life.

The 1mm long tardigrades were collected from a frozen moss sample in Antarctica in 1983, according to a new paper published in the journal Cryobiology. 

Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research stored the 8 legged, segmented critters at -4F for just over 30 years. They thawed and revived two of the animals, which are also known as water bears or moss piglets, in early 2014.

Credit: Photolibrary via Getty Images
The previous record for a tardigrade being revived from a deep freeze was 8 years.

One of them died 20 days into the experiment, reports the BBC. But its companion survived and managed to reproduce with a third tardigrade that had been hatched from a frozen egg. It went on to lay 19 eggs, of which 14 survived.

Tardigrades, found living in water across the world, are renowned for being tough and have previously survived several days after being blasted into space.

According to Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, their metabolism shuts down and they enter a cryptobiotic state when faced with low temperatures. 

The previous record for tardigrades surviving extreme cold was eight years. “The present study extends the known length of long-term survival in tardigrade species considerably,” researchers wrote in the newly released paper.

Credit: STEVE GSCHMEISSNER via Getty Images
Anematode worm was revived after 39 years in deep freeze.

Lead researcher Megumu Tsujimoto said the team now wants to “unravel the mechanism for long-term survival by looking into damage to tardigrades’ DNA and their ability to repair it.”

The tardigrade has some way to go beat the record for surviving in a frozen state, however, which is currently held by the nematode worm – which managed 39 years in deep freeze before being revived.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Oscar-winning star of anti-dolphin hunt documentary Ric O’Barry held in Tokyo

Tokyo (CNN)The animal-rights activist and star of the “The Cove,” which highlighted Japan’s controversial annual dolphin slaughter in the town of Taiji, has been detained at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, his lawyer says.

Takashi Takano told CNN that Ric O’Barry has been detained in a deportees’ facility at the airport on Monday and that he had met with the activist in the company of immigration officials. Takano was told by officials that O’Barry had tried to enter Japan on a tourist visa but his tourist status was not fully proven. Officials refused to refused to provide him with further information.

    His son, Lincoln O’Barry, told CNN that his father had entered Japan to monitor the hunt, to test the dolphin meat for mercury poisoning and to work with local activists.

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    The Japanese government is cracking down on those who oppose their war on dolphins,” O’Barry said, through his son. “I feel I am being used as a figurehead representing all Western activists.”

    His son continued: “This is a desperate attempt by the Japanese Government to hide the atrocities in Taiji. They have run out of excuses on why the slaughter and sale of mercury-contaminated dolphin meat continues. Dolphin hunting in Taiji began in the 1950s and is hardly cultural or traditional. The dolphins that aren’t slaughtered are sold to dolphin ‘abusement’ parks around the world.”

    He told CNN that the slaughter of dolphins is a relatively new phenomenon and not part of the area’s long-held traditions.

    “Traditionally whaling goes back very far in Taiji but dolphin hunting is not something that is traditional. Everything that is killed in the cove is a dolphin and that started in the 1950s. It’s not part of their culture or tradition.”

    READ MORE: Opinion: How hunters slaughter dolphins in Japan

    Source: http://edition.cnn.com/

    Now your pets can pledge unwavering loyalty to you with samurai armor

    Image: Samurai Age

    If you’re looking for a way to instill a sense of loyalty in your pet, we have the perfect solution.

    Novelty retailer Samurai Age is making suits of armor inspired by the warriors of medieval Japan for your feline or canine friend.

    The company which has also created samurai-themed bottle covers, armor for dolls, and samurai helmets has released a line of samurai armor for your pet to pledge their loyalty to you.

    Samurai Age sells both ready-made armor for cats, smaller dogs, and children, but you’ll have to place a custom-made order for larger dogs.

    A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

    # # #2017 # #samuraiage #cat #petarmor #

    A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

    The red armor inspired by the armor of famed 16th century samurai Sanada Yukimura will definitely give your pet that Kurosawa feel.

    A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

    # # # #samuraiage # #cat #samuraiarmor

    A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

    The armor, which is made out of foam and resin, comes in red, black, silver, or gold, and is priced between 14,040 yen ($128) to 16,416 yen ($148.79).

    If you’re into samurai helmets, they’ll cost between 7,020 yen ($63.63) to 14,256 yen ($129).

    She loves it. I swear. – #samuraiage #samuraicap #bostonterrier #bostonterriersofinstagram

    A post shared by Roman Cortez (@romancortez) on

    It’s not the first time Japan has become obsessed with samurai pet armor wanko kacchu, or doggy armor, was first made available to rent from pet supply store Kandaya in 2015.

    Samurai Age ships overseas. You can buy their armor here, and their helmets here. To make a custom order, you can click here.

    (h/tGrapee.jp)

    Source: http://mashable.com/

    Dog gone: United Airlines mistakenly flies family German shepherd to Japan

    German shepherd, 10, was meant to fly from Oregon to Kansas City and airline is investigating after family were instead handed a great Dane

    United Airlines is investigating after mistakenly flying a Kansas familys dog to Japan.

    KCTV reports that Kara Swindle and her two children flew from Oregon to Kansas City, Missouri, on Tuesday on a United flight.

    They went to a cargo facility to pick up 10-year-old Irgo, a German shepherd, but were instead given a great Dane.

    Swindle, of Wichita, Kansas, learned Irgo had been put on a flight to Japan, where the great Dane was supposed to go.

    Airline officials in Japan put Irgo on a flight back to Kansas City.

    It was not clear when the dog would arrive.

    The news of Irgos unplanned odyssey comes as United admits another dog died after a flight attendant forced it to travel in an overhead bin on a Houston-to-New York flight.

    On United Flight 1284 on Monday, a woman who was flying with children and a small dog was pressured by a flight attendant to put her dog in overhead storage during the three-and-a-half-hour flight.

    According to fellow passenger Maggie Gremminger, the woman wanted to keep the dog, which was in a small carrying bag, under her seat, but the flight attendant insisted that she put the animal overhead.

    At the end of the flight, the woman found her dog, deceased. She sat in the airplane aisle on the floor crying, and all of surrounding passengers were utterly stunned, Gremminger wrote in a series of tweets alongside a picture of the woman and her children.

    United called the incident a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin.

    This is not the first time United has come under scrutiny for its treatment of animals. Last year, the carrier was sued by the owners of a giant rabbit that died on one of its flights.

    Some 24 pets died while flying with US carriers last year, 18 of them with United, according to the Department of Transportation.

    The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Star of dolphin-hunting film The Cove to be deported from Japan

    Ric OBarry is accused of trying to enter the country using tourist visa to join campaign against slaughter of dolphins in Taiji

    A leading US animal rights activist is to be deported from Japan after being accused of trying to enter on a tourist visa to support a campaign against the slaughter of dolphins.

    Ric OBarry, who starred in The Cove, the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary about the annual dolphin cull in the town of Taiji, has been detained at Narita airport near Tokyo since Monday.

    His son, Lincoln OBarry, said immigration authorities had turned down his fathers request to visit Japan using a tourist visa. They reportedly accused him of lying during questioning and of having links to the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd, whose members have a constant presence in Taiji.

    The 76-year-old, who trained dolphins for the 1960s TV series Flipper before devoting himself to conservation, reportedly denied the charges, saying he was going to observe dolphins as a tourist.

    Taiji, on Japans Pacific coast, gained international notoriety as a result of The Cove, which followed OBarry and other activists as they attempted to document the killing of dolphins by local fishermen. The film, directed by Louie Psihoyos, won the Academy Award for best documentary.

    The method used to kill the animals has been widely condemned by environmentalists. The US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, has also voiced deep concern about the drive-hunt method.

    Fishermen pursue pods of dolphins and bang metal poles together beneath the water to confuse their hypersensitive sonar. The dolphins are then driven into a large cove sealed off by nets, and taken to a secluded inlet to be killed with knives and spears.

    Last year, aquariums in Japan voted to stop buying live dolphins from Taiji after they were threatened with expulsion from the worlds leading zoo organisation. Taijis mayor, Kazutaka Sangen, later said the town would set up a new body that would continue to sell dolphins to aquariums.

    OBarry, who heads the Dolphin Project campaign group, is a regular visitor to Taiji, where fishermen catch hundreds of dolphins during the six-month season, which starts in September. The most attractive specimens, usually bottlenoses, are sold to aquariums and sea parks, while others are killed and their meat sold in local restaurants and supermarkets.

    In an email to his son seen by the Associated Press, OBarry said: Im incarcerated, on trumped-up charges. In a world where so much that is wild and free has already been lost to us, we must leave these beautiful dolphins free to swim as they will and must.

    Fishermen

    Fishermen drive bottlenose dolphins into a net during the annual hunt off Taiji, Japan. Photograph: AP

    Media reports said OBarry was resisting deportation and had been transferred to another detention facility near Narita airport. His lawyer Takashi Takano visited him on Friday and said OBarry was being held alone but was in good spirits.

    The Japanese government was expected to issue a formal warrant and physically deport him, Takano added.

    The deportation order marks a hardening of attitudes among Japanese authorities towards environmental activists in Taiji. Police have increased their presence in the town in case of clashes between Sea Shepherd members and locals, who claim they are being unfairly vilified for maintaining a coastal whaling and dolphin-hunting tradition stretching back centuries.

    OBarry was arrested near the town last September for allegedly failing to carry his passport, but was released the following day.

    Takano said immigration officials refused to believe OBarrys claim that he was not planning to participate in any campaigns. They cited his presence last August at Japan Dolphins Day in Tokyo, despite having told them he would not attend the event.

    Immigration officials said they were unable to comment on individual cases.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Japanese Fleet Slaughters 333 Whales In Antarctic Expedition

    Japanese ships have returned from the Antarctic Ocean after slaughtering 333 whales.

    In a statement published on Thursday, the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) announced that itsfour-ship fleet has killed 333 minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean since December 1, 2015. One hundred and threeof these were males and 230 were females, of which 90.5 percent are estimated to have been pregnant.

    These actions challenge the United Nations legally-binding ban on Japans whaling activity, which waspassed in 2014. However, the ruling features a few loopholesthatallows whaling if its done in the name of scientific research.

    The location of this season’s whaling operation by the ICR.ICR

    Indeed, the ICR claim these whales were killed for “scientific” research, such as analysis of krill population and information on the marine environment. However, for a long time, many have questioned the purpose or validity of the research. Much of Japans research has been seen as an attempt to prove that whale population numbers are high and stable enough to resume commercial whaling.

    We can collect all the information we need from whales using non-lethal means and the ICJ said Japan needs to look at those non-lethal means, Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, told The Guardian in 2014. And yet the bottom line is that Japan wants to kill more than 300 minke whales.”

    Photo Gallery

    Source: http://www.iflscience.com

    Ancient Marine Reptile May Have Hunted Bioluminescent Fish At Night

    When Tyrannosaurus rex prowled the land, the oceans of the Late Cretaceous werent particularly safe either. Cruising the waters at the time were large predatory reptiles known as mosasaurs, elongated and streamlined for hunting down their prey in the warm shallow seas. Some of these were true beasts reaching up to 18 meters (59feet) in length, but others were a little more modest. Researchers have revealed the first mosasaur of its kind to be discovered in Japan, and discovered that it probably hunted at night using binocular vision.

    The marine reptile in question is a species called Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans, and came in at a relatively tiny for mosasaur at least 3 meters(10 feet) long. The remarkably well preserved skull is the only example known from Japan, and helps palaeontologists fill a geographic gap of the species from between the Middle East and the eastern Pacific. It also allows the researchers to determine that the animal quite possibly fed on bioluminescent fish and squid during the night, whilst their larger cousins dominated the sea during the daytime.

    The forward-facing eyes on Phosphorosaurus provide depth perception to vision, and it’s common in birds of prey and other predatory mammals that dwell among us today, explains Takuya Konishi in a statement. Konishi is acoauthor of the study, which is published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. But we knew already that most mosasaurs were pursuit predators based on what we know they preyed upon swimming animals. Paradoxically, these small mosasaurs like Phosphorosaurus were not as adept swimmers as their larger contemporaries because their flippers and tailfins weren’t as well developed.

    But when compared to their larger relatives, the vision of Phosphorosaurus is markedly different. On the bigger specimens, their eyes are located on either side of their head not unlikea horse or deer today which is thought to have helped streamline the reptile and allow it to swim faster to catch the turtles, sharksand other mosasaurs they fed on.

    With the smaller species, however, the eyes are forward facing, which in nocturnal animals doubles the number of photoreceptors used to detect light. Because fossils of lantern fish and squid-like animals have been found in the same rock formations in Japan as Phosphorosaurus, the researchers suggest that the reptilemight have been hunting at night. They even go on to postulate that perhaps this might have been a larger trend for other species of mosasaurs, with the larger animals hunting and chasing down prey during the day, whilethe smaller, more vulnerable ones only came out at night.

    The excavation of the skull that enabled this discovery took a painstaking two years. It involveddipping the rock in which it was encased in acid overnight, and then washing it off every morning, gradually freeing the bones. These werethen pieced togetherto re-create the original skull. The researchersnow intend to look into how the species fits into the evolutionary tree of mosasaurs.

    Source: http://www.iflscience.com

    Video captures terrifying moment massive lion pounces at toddler at the zoo

    A terrifying encounter between a 180kg lion and a two-year-old toddler at a zoo in Chiba, Japan, was captured on video and posted online over the weekend.

    In the video, the boy who was reported to be visiting the zoo with his family, was staring at the lion through a glass panel, until he broke eye contact and turned his back on the big cat.

    The lion, which was crouching on all fours in the background suddenly leapt into the air towards the boy. Its approach was halted by a glass panel that divided the animal from its audience.

    The audible crash startled the boy, who momentarily lost his balance from the ledge he was standing on and quickly turned to find the lion pawing at the glass panel. He continued to rub his head in confusion while watching the lion warily until it stopped its advances.

    Since the video went viral, netizens have started weighing in on whether the lion was trying to attack or play.

    According to The Metro, zookeepers at the Chiba Zoological Park have come out to say that the lion meant no harm and only wanted to play with the toddler.

    However, Adam Roberts, the chief executive of Born Free USA, a non-profit national animal advocacy group, disagreed, telling The Dodo that it was a blessing that the glass divider held up against the lion’s attack.

    “Lions are natural wild predators and the child in this video, especially when turning his back to the massive feline, becomes prey in the animal’s eyes,” said Roberts. “The firm glass wall held the lion inside his enclosure, surely frustrating his innate instincts. But luckily for the family, if the barrier had not held the consequences could have been catastrophic.”

    This incident comes just weeks after the Cincinnati Zoo controversy, where a gorilla was fatally shot when a boy fell into its enclosure.

    Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

    Source: http://mashable.com/

    ‘Not ashamed’: dolphin hunters of Taiji break silence over film The Cove

    Members of the tiny Japanese community, which was vilified in the 2009 documentary, speak to the Guardian about fishing and their unique way of life

    Taiji is still in darkness when a dozen men gather at the quayside and warm themselves over a brazier. While the rest of the town sleeps, they sip from cans of hot coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk in hushed tones.

    As soon as the sun edges above the peninsula, they take to their boats, steering out to sea in formation in search of their prey: the dolphin.

    It has been eight years since the Oscar-winning film The Cove propelled this community in an isolated corner of Japans Pacific coast to the centre of a bitter debate over the pursuit of dolphins for human consumption and entertainment.

    The films graphic footage of dolphins being slaughtered with knives, turning the surrounding sea a crimson red, shocked audiences around the world.

    Unaccustomed to international attention and wrong-footed by their social media-savvy opponents, the towns 3,200 residents simply went to ground. Requests for interviews with town officials went unanswered; the fishermen took a vow of silence.

    But after years of keeping their counsel, Taijis fishermen have finally spoken out, agreeing to talk to the Guardian about their work, their whaling heritage, and their determination to continue hunting dolphins.

    Weve mostly stayed silent since The Cove, and thats why our point of view was never put across in the media, says Yoshifumi Kai, a senior official with Taijis fisheries cooperative.

    Taijis
    Taijis dolphin hunters head out to sea Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

    Kai attributes that reticence down to what he claims are attempts by activists from Sea Shepherd and other conservation groups to manufacture confrontations, which they film and post online, and challenges claims that the practice of slaughtering dolphins beneath tarpaulin sheets is proof that he and his fellow fishermen have something to hide.

    Activists say we are concealing something because we know that what we are doing is immoral, but thats nonsense, he says. You never see cattle or other animals being slaughtered in public. Its not something you do out in the open.

    The earliest recorded coastal whale hunts in Taiji can be traced back to the early 1600s. Scrolls on display in the towns whale museum depict dozens of boats decorated with symbols taken from Buddhism and Japans indigenous religion, Shinto, in pursuit of a whale big enough to sustain the entire community for months.

    Foreign activists ask us why we kill these cute animals, but we see them as a vital source of food, even now, says Taijis mayor, Kazutaka Sangen. When I was a boy, a third of the town would turn out to greet a whale being brought back to shore, because they were desperate to eat its meat. We are grateful to the whales we want Westerners to understand that.

    Taiji Japan map

    By killing dolphins and other small whales, fishermen are continuing a tradition that enabled their ancestors to survive before the days of mass transport and the availability of other sources of nutrition, adds Sangen.

    We couldnt grow rice or vegetables here, and we had no natural water supply. We needed to kill whales to eat, and hundreds of people died doing so. This was a very difficult place to survive, and we will always be grateful to our ancestors for their sacrifice. Its because of them that we are all here today.

    For Sangen, everything in Taiji from services for elderly residents to education and tourist infrastructure depends on the income it makes from the sale of dolphins to zoos and aquariums. Several times during the interview he refers to kujira no megumi literally, the blessing of the whale. Whaling enables this town to function, he says.

    Using remote-controlled helicopters and hidden underwater cameras, The Cove provided graphic footage of Taijis infamous drive hunts, whose critics include the former US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.

    Typically, fishermen pursue pods of dolphins across open seas, banging metal poles against their boats to confuse their hypersensitive sonar, before herding them into a narrow inlet. There, they are either slaughtered for their meat or selected and sold for large sums to aquariums and marine parks.

    While dolphin meat for human consumption generates only modest profits, Taijis fishermen can reportedly sell a live specimen to brokers for about 8,000 US dollars. A fully trained dolphin can then fetch more than 40,000 US dollars if sold overseas, and about half that in Japan.

    Minke
    Minke whale sashimi served at a restaurant in Taiji Photograph: Justin McCurry

    The 20 or so Taiji fishermen who take to the sea between September and April to hunt bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales and other small cetaceans have been emboldened by the release of Okujirasama (A Whale of a Tale) a documentary by the New York-based filmmaker Megumi Sasaki that counters what she describes as The Coves one-sided treatment of a complex issue.

    While making her film, Sasaki concluded that the debate over Taiji is an irreconcilable clash of cultures between the global, and Western-led, animal rights movement and local traditions steeped in religion and ancestor worship.

    Whaling is the glue that holds this town together

    If dolphins are so important to the local community, then why kill them thats what many Westerners cant understand, Sasaki says. But we think of animals as a resource, not that they are special creatures that can do things humans cant do. Its a totally different way of thinking. Whaling is the glue that holds this town together its inseparable from local identity and pride.

    Kai dismisses claims that that he and other fishermen employ a singularly cruel method to kill the dolphins. The way we work has changed with the times, he says. In response to criticism, fishermen now dispatch the animals by inserting a knife into their neck, severing their brain stem a method he claims is the most humane possible, but which some experts have said does not result in a painless or immediate death.

    On a recent morning, the seafront in Taiji is free from confrontation, although activists have tweeted their regular early-morning photos of the banger boats heading out to sea.

    The fishermen appear to have reached an uneasy truce with overseas campaigners, first from Sea Shepherd, and now from the Dolphin Project, a group formed by the dolphin trainer-turned activist Ric OBarry.

    Warning
    Warning signs near the cove in Taiji. Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

    But there is still little interaction between the two sides. They dont want to listen, only to provoke us, Mitsunori Kobata, president of Taijis dolphin-hunting association, says over a dinner of minke whale sashimi and steamed rice flavoured with thin strips of whale blubber.

    Theyre here to do whatever they can to obstruct our business, so we dont see any point in engaging with them. Theyre never going to change their minds, whatever we say.

    Pointing to slices of sauted meat, from the belly of a short-finned pilot whale, that he has brought from home, Kobata adds: In the days when there was no refrigeration, people preserved meat like this in salt. Of course, there are lots of other sources of protein around these days, but people of my generation and older still have the right to eat whale if we want to.

    Both men hope Sasakis documentary will restore some equilibrium to a debate that has cast a shadow over Taiji for almost a decade.

    They point out that they kill just under 2,000 small cetaceans a year, a tenth of Japans annual quota, adding that none of the species is endangered or covered by the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling.

    Were not ashamed of hunting dolphins and would never consider stopping, Kai says. Its the most important part of our local tradition.

    Just look around you if we didnt make a living from the sea, there would be nothing left. People keep telling us to stop whaling and find another way of earning a living. But what on earth would we do instead?

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Every Year Japanese Art Students Get Together and Make Giant Animals Out of Straw

    Since 2008, students from the Musashino Art University in Tokyo have travelled to Niigata City, Japan to create huge sculptures made from straw (featured previously) for the Wara Art Festival.

    The giant straw sculptures are built atop large wooden frames which serve as the base for the woven straw artworks. The festival also features kite flying, a miniature market and other events. It’s a huge hit with kids and parents as people get to interact with the sculptures, taking photos and playing in the open fields.

    Below you will find highlights from year’s festival. You can see works from previous years in our feature gallery from 2015. You can learn more about the festival at the official site as well as their Facebook page.

    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
    Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook

    Source: http://twistedsifter.com/

    In Search of the Heart of the Online Cat-Industrial Complex

    A cat wearing a short tie plays music on a cat-shaped keyboard (“Pancake Meowsic Video,” 185,459 views). A woman performs sun salutations with a cat on her back (“Cat Loves Yoga,” 1,539 views). A man slaps two cats on an ironing board to the beat of “Atmosphere” (“Cat Slap Joy Division,” 357,605 views; watch this one). (Now, I mean.) Kittens try to keep up with an accelerating treadmill (“Treadmill Kittens,” 3.4 million views). A fat cat walks on an underwater treadmill (“Fat Cat Walking on Underwater Treadmill,” 133,434 views). Two cats cuff at a treadmill in perplexed inquisition (“Cats Try to Understand Treadmill,” 1.9 million views). Search YouTube for “cat treadmill” and see how many results there are. Or, actually, don’t.

    Writing that paragraph took more than an hour. To continue the catalog for a page would’ve taken weeks. But if one has set out to say something definitive about the relationship between cats and the Internet, it’s important not to be delayed indefinitely by Internet cats.

    The obvious place to begin an inquiry into the Internet cat is with Maru, the most famous feline on the Internet. Maru’s shtick, in brief: Maru gets into a box (“,” 8.1 million views). Maru gets into a box (“. A box and Maru 8,” 3.1 million views). Maru gets into some boxes (“. Many too small boxes and Maru,” 7.9 million views). Maru tries to get into a box (“. The box which Maru can’t enter,” 2.2 million views).

    Maru, which means “circle” or “perfection” in Japanese, is a Scottish fold with nonfolded ears. He is 5 years old and lives in an undisclosed Japanese city that is, by consensual rumor, almost certainly not Tokyo, because no indoor cat in Tokyo has that much space to jump into boxes, especially not the bigger ones. Maru has upwards of 168 million YouTube views and, according to other rumors, has generated enough ad revenue to buy his owner a new apartment. His is the seventh-most-subscribed YouTube channel in Japan.

    But Maru is just one of Japan’s famous Internet cats, and his reign will not last forever. Japan is also home to child-tortured Mao; to Shironeko (aka Basket Cat aka White Basket Cat aka Zen Cat), the cat who serenely closes his eyes no matter what is stacked atop his head; to Cute Overload’s beloved Persian, Winston-san, who sometimes appears propped on pillows before plates of untouched gyoza; to the enormous Papi-chan, a Norwegian forest cat of considerable bulk and endurer of the Internet’s first extensively featured cat diet.

    There’s also the famous flying-Pop-Tart cat, of course, Nyan Cat; his tie to Japan remains obscure unless you’ve been made aware, by someone who knows something about Japan and cats, that nya is how Japanese cats say “meow.” Some of Japan’s most interesting cat activity originally appeared on TV, but by the time we’ve been exposed to the game show that turns cats into weight lifters by putting increasingly heavy fish onto scales, or the variety show in which a phalanx of kittens is invited to nest in a patch of cooking pots (a fad called neko-nabe), we’re seeing them on the Internet, posting them to Facebook, emailing the links to our moms and yoga teachers.

    The Internet’s preference for cats runs so deep that when Google’s secretive X Lab showed a string of 10 million YouTube images to a neural network of 16,000 computer processors for machine learning, the first thing the network did was invent the concept of a cat. America might have inflated the Internet-feline bubblethe Cheezburger Network raised $30 million last year in venture funding, and the Bible has been translated into Lolcatbut Japan was where the Internet-feline market began, and persists, as a quiet, domestic cattage industry. If you want to know why the Internet chose cats, you must go to Japan.

    est I unfairly ratchet up your collective expectations: I will never get to pet Maru, and neither will you. Maru’s supervisory documentarian is named Mugumogu, but beyond that fact, hardly anything is known about her. When I write Maru’s US book publicistyou read that rightit turns out that she knows no more than you or I. The publicist loops in Maru’s US book editor, who offers to pass along some interview questions to Mugumogu’s Japanese agent, who could have them translated, answered, and sent back. But I have no questions for the human being called Mugumogu. My interest lies entirely with the cat. I write back to the US editor in my most professional tone, the one in which I don’t sound like somebody who watches cat videos all day, and say that for my purposes I need to meet Maru IRL. I am willing to sign an IRL NDA. I promise I won’t write a word about Mugumogu herself. I just want 20 or 30 minutes with that cat.

    A few days later the publicist writes back: Impossible. I’m welcome to write to the Japanese agent, she says, but I should know that not even the agent knows who Mugumogu is; her correspondence all goes through Maru’s Japanese publisher, a certain Okumura-san, of Tokimeki Publishing, a boutique outfit specializing in Internet cat nya-alls and coffee table celebrations of Korean soap operas. I commence months of fruitlessly obsequious email courtship with Mugumogu but ultimately to no avail.

    All of this reticence is infuriating. In America people post a video of themselves whistling “Free Bird” in a tutu and they’re heartbroken if they’re not immediately invited on The View. It’s different in Japan, though. There, they haven’t yet cottoned to the idea that the whole point of the Internet is not only that it might make you famous and universally loved but that it might make you famous and universally loved overnight, and for no real reason, and that then it would give you fairly precise metrics for just how famous and loved you were, and for how long. For the Japanese, the Internet is primarily not about self-promotion and exposure but about restraint and anonymity.

    To help me understand this introversionand also in the hope of making contact with some famous Internet catsI enlist the assistance of David Marx. An American living in Tokyo, Marx writes a very intelligent, popular blog called Nojaponisme, which I’d stumbled upon in my cat-related forays. In a particularly interesting post, Marx offers three reasons for the Japanese cult of online anonymity. The first, which he deems silly, is the fear that criminals or con men might use personal information to harm an unwary Internet user. The second one, the fear that colleagues or bosses might discover personal details that could be problematic at work, he connects to the Japanese cultural milieu, where “any sort of questionable hobby automatically qualifies as a ‘secret double life.’” The third reasonfear that anonymous mobs might bash anyone who tried to stand out too aggressively onlinehe considers totally legitimate, “in that the Internet in Japan so far has been almost exclusively about anonymous mobs making trouble for individuals and industry.” (He notes that he once had his own photo posted on a Japanese board called Suspicious Foreigners.) I write Marx a fan email and ask if his theories might apply to the question of why the Internet chose cats. He replies right away. Not only has he written about Japanese media trends, he works at YouTube. We Skype.

    “Japan was relatively late to getting on the Internet,” he says, “and still lags behind in some ways. But with cat stuff they were always leaderswith cats as their conduits. Think about it.” I think about it. I’ve been doing very little but think about it. “Most of the named cats on the Internet are Japanese,” he observes. It’s an excellent point: Those cats on treadmills and cats on yoga mats and cats being slapped to a Joy Division soundtrack, anonymous grimalkins all. But your Marus, your Maos, and your Shironekosall of them are in Japan.

    Marx’s interest in cats lies in his work with the YouTube Partner Program, or YPP, a service that makes it possible to turn on ads to monetize your content, as the phrase has it. The deal is that the content has to be your own; you can’t just post G’n’R songs and then rake in ad money to pay for your brownstone renovation. Either you’re invited by the YouTube people because of your pageviews or you can opt in. Once you’ve joined, they help you with your marketing. They take you through the ad options (banners versus prerolls, etc.) and provide tools and tips for making successful videos. They’ve got representatives assigned to aid certain classes of partners with the marketing of their monetized videos: some who work with comedians, some who work with musicians, and quite a few who work with cats. Marx says he’ll email several new star cats, up-and-coming cats, and see what he can do. He says that a few years ago the cat people tended to be as reclusive as Mugumogu, but that the newer cat folks seem more amenable to revealing themselves.

    A few days later, he emails me back: Sure enough, he has some famous cats willing to meet. I fly to Japan to meet the Musashis.

    ouTube has told me that Hideo Saito and Manaho Morithe custodians, managers, promoters, and chief can openers of the Musashis, once one of the most important cat bands on the Internetwould be delighted for me to visit them and interview their cats, but that it would be best if I brought along a translator. My friend Rebecca, who loves cats but lives in a Tokyo apartment building that does not allow pets, is happy to oblige. She is not, however, without concern.

    “These people have five cats,” she says. “And those cats are in a band, and they are best known for a Christmas song, and they live in a remote resort town at the top of a mountain, and they have invited you, a foreigner, to come to their home to meet their famous Internet cats. I promise you they are going to be weird people.” She asks me how many homes I think she’s been in, in her 10 years on and off in Japan. I can’t begin to guess. She holds up one hand; she can count the number on it.

    Hideo, as it turns out, speaks about his cats in calm, measured, elegant English. (He spent some of his childhood in England and the US.) “I started writing songs for cats because I’d gotten bored writing songs for humans. But the thing is, cats have limited vocal … limited vocal”

    “Limited vocal range?” Rebecca suggests.

    “Yes, limited vocal range. I found I needed five cats to cover one octave.” We are sitting around an oblong dining room table in the sun-drenched cedar den of a ski chalet in a central Nagano prefecture, along with six cats spanning a spectrum of liveliness that runs from contemptuously drowsy to asleep. Manaho, Hideo’s wife and business partner, holds one on her lap, face out and totally blas9 as it regards us. Hideo is trained as a musician and sound engineer and looks the part, with variable-tint eyeglass lenses (the panels now shaded graphite from the ambient snow glare), a retiring studio voice, a scruffy suggestion of goatee, and a relaxed-bemused ’70s mien. Manaho describes herself as a voice coach and producer.

    “So I made the Christmas song. I took voice samples from the cats. I had to bribe them with food. They’re a quiet breed, these cats. They don’t make much noise.”

    Four of the cats are Norwegian forest cats. They’re huge, lustrous, woolly, like a sheepdog made into a pillow. Their coats have a glossy weft of lunar rainbow. According to a thinly sourced but entirely plausible Wikipedia squib, Norse legends refer to a skogkatt, a “mountain-dwelling fairy cat with an ability to climb sheer rock faces that other cats could not manage.” That’s apparently this cat’s pedigree; he is directly descended from myth. On the way up into the mountains, before I lost data service on my phone, Manaho friended me on Facebook, then sent me a photograph of Musashi hovering over snow. Rebecca worried I was bringing her to meet a bobcat. Hideo and Manaho’s teenage son, who is about to leave Japan to study animals at a university in Tasmania, hands me Musashi after I sit down. He holds Musashi out to me like a muff of fraying fog. Musashi makes no noise; he is sandbag-limp. The cat is 8 years old and weighs almost 20 pounds, his fur the ur-slate of celestial cinder. My chair bends back beneath his heft. He goes back to sleep as soon as the fuss of brief stir is complete, clucking and grumbling in his resumed dreams. He is the biggest cat I’ve ever seen. I hold him to me. I love him.

    Hideo and Manaho Mori in-studio with the Musashis. Panda Kanno

    Neither Hideo nor Manaho were cat people, originally. She grew up in Tokyo with four large dogs. He lived abroad and had no pets. The first cats that adopted them were two strays, Ginny (now deceased) and Seri. But everything changed when they took in another stray, badly injured, called Marble, a black cat marbled with rust. He, they discovered, had a voice suitable for sampling.

    More on the
    Cat-Industrial Complex

    Now they became cat people. They went to a breeder of Norwegian forest cats and bought a kitten called Luka, the only cat they paid for. Needless to say, after a little while Hideo and Manaho wanted more Norwegian forest cats, so they went back to the breeder and asked if they could borrow his stud Norwegian forest cat. He said yes, in exchange for a kitten. The stud cat came to live with them for some number of monthsManaho says two, Hideo says three or fourand Luka gave birth to four kittens. They kept two of them, Musashi and Leo. When Marble died (on the same day as Michael Jackson), the breeder gave them a fourth Norwegian forest cat, Kai. For free. Hideo named the band the Musashis, in honor of its telegenic frontcat.

    It was Christmastime then, so Hideo mixed a Christmas songspecifically “Jingle Bells”out of meow samples and put it on YouTube. The music industry in Japan, like the music industry everywhere and every industry in Japan, has been depressed, and he thought that it might do something to help him introduce himself to new markets.

    This was in 2007, soon after YouTube Japan got going. Before that, the Japanese had access to the regular YouTube, but now they had their own native version. The staff from YouTube Japan noticed the Christmas song video, called them up, and said, “We want to put your video on our homepage as we introduce ourselves.” They were going to have seven featured videos, a new one each day of their launch week.

    In that week, the Musahis got 275,000 views. That was more than expected. But it wasn’t until a few weeks later that there was, in Hideo’s words, “the big explosion.” Manaho had set their YouTube account so she would receive an email alert on her mobile phone when someone left a comment. One day she got 4,000 alerts. She thought her phone was broken, so she called her telecom provider. There was no problem: She had just gotten 4,000 emails, was all.

    The problem, as it turned out, was that their 275,000 views on YouTube Japan had brought the Musahis to the attention of the YouTube people in California, who put them on the global home page. The email alerts arrived in German, Hindi, Chinese, unrecognizable languages. Manaho turned off her email-alert function. Within a few days they’d gotten well over a million views.

    That’s when the Korean TV station got in touch. It came down to Japan with a film crew and shot the Musashis at home. Soon after, Hideo and Manaho heard from NHK, the national broadcasting corporation of Japan. The people from NHK were surprised that no other Japanese networks had covered them yet, so they sent a crew to shoot them for a popular Sunday-evening program called @Human, which introduces a wide TV audience at home to the sorts of interesting things happening at the moment on the Internet. Manaho brings up a blog entry with a TV still of Musashi next to a cookie that has “NHK” printed on it.

    The economics of a viral Japanese cat can be nontrivial, as David Marx explains to me over a lunch debrief at Google’s offices, on the 27th floor of a Roppongi high-rise. Marx is unusually tall for an American and thus almost impolitely tall in Japan. He’s not only tall but he tapers, an effect accentuated by the wide float of his rolled pant cuffs over narrow ankles. His black hair is prematurely frosted; it crowns a voluble fanboyish enthusiasm, giving his whole appearance the sense of an artful parody of distinction.

    He takes me back to his office, where there is a conference room with whiteboards for walls. He warns me that he’s unable to comment on or speculate about individual YouTube partners, but we can talk generally about cats. He can’t tell me exactly how many Japanese cat partners there are, but he nods when I ask if it’s more than a hundred. “There are cats,” he says, “that are making more money than the average salary in Japan”which the Internet estimates to be around $29,000. Most of the partners, the active second-tier ones, are probably making much less, though a good deal of them are earning enough to put a dent in their mortgages.

    Marx and I watch a few new cat videos, some of the up-and-comers, those challenging or exceeding Maru’s pageviews. “An interesting thing, here in Japan, is that it’s not just the cat partners who post cat stuff. It’s everybody.” Soezimax, for example, is an action-film maker, one of the most popular partners in Japan, with millions of views. But some of his most popular videos are the ones he posts of the fights he has with his girlfriend’s vicious cat, Sashimi-san, who regularly puts Soezimax to rout. He’s the anti-Maru, the standard-bearer of uncute Internet cat aggression. The videos are slightly alarming, especially when we’re all so used to anodyne felinity. Then Marx brings up Japan’s most popular Internet comedian, who used to post regular videos of himself in a cat caf. (In Japan, they have cafs where you go to pet cats.)

    “It’s like,” Marx says, “no matter how successful you are here on the Internet on your own terms, it’s de rigueur that you still have to do something with a cat.” In a culture of Internet anonymity, bred of island claustrophobia and immobility, the Japanese Internet cat has become a crucial proxy: People who feel inhibited to do what they want online are expressing themselves, cagily, via the animal that only ever does what it wants.

    The Cateriam Cat Cafe in Tokyo. Panda Kanno

    After their Christmas song went viral, the Musashis were signed by an outfit called Stardust Promotion. “They didn’t sign us, they signed them,” Hideo says. He means the cats.

    Rebecca and I laugh.

    Hideo doesn’t laugh. “No,” he says. “They paid in fish.”

    I look to Rebecca for a cue about how Japanese etiquette might encourage us to react here. She looks at me defenselessly.

    Hideo says, “They presented Musashi with a whole fish. Musashi put his paw print on the contract.” They laugh now, so we do too. Manaho returns to one of the two laptops on the table, browses her blog, and turns the screen back toward us to show a video.

    In it, two men come around the back of an unmarked minivan, open the double doors, and gingerly lift a silver fish on a stretcher.

    Hideo narrates. “Those are the Stardust guys, getting the fish.” They bring it inside. “They brought it inside.” Musashi sits propped against the couch like the sultan of Brunei.

    “That’s Musashi,” Hideo says, as if there is any other known cat that takes up a third of a couch, and as if he isn’t still sleeping in my lap. The men present Musashi with the fish. Musashi remains expressionless; whatever avarice the cat was feeling remained concealed behind his aldermanic composure. They zoom in. Musashi doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t notice.

    “He’s thinking about it,” Hideo says. “Now he agrees.” Musashi puts his red paw print on the contract, then scuds off, blotting the couch with his cerise paw.

    Hideo closes the laptop. “The whole thing is a joke,” he explains.

    “But that was a real fish,” I say. He nods.

    “Did they eat the fish?” I ask.

    The son speaks up, rousing himself for the first time from the lidded pretend funk of filial humiliation. “No! We ate the fish.”

    You ate the fish?” Rebecca is incredulous. After all, Hideo made such a big deal about how the cats were signed by Stardust, not them.

    Hideo seems a little sheepish. “The cats didn’t even know what it was! They’d never even seen a whole fish before. They didn’t recognize it. So we ate it.”

    “It was good,” their son says.

    “Was there an agreement about royalties?” Rebecca asks.

    “They wanted us to make video content for mobile phones,” Hideo says.

    “Can we see the mobile phone content?” I ask.

    “I burned you a DVD,” he says. He reopens his laptop and plays a video of the Musashis singing “Auld Lang Syne.” The chopped mews sting sharply, like slashes from an 8-bit-videogame sword, and Marble rings in with a hoarse bark that, knowing what we know now about his and Michael Jackson’s coincident deaths, is hard not to read as the kind of netherworldly incursion that used to get cats set ritualistically on fire. Musashi wears big, chunky studio headphones, which he subsequently throws off in a diva tantrum. All five Musashis at one point groom themselves while floating in the dim amniotic aura of pink orbs. They bleat the 18th-century tune in short squawks; it’s hard to reconcile the sounds with the majestically unrousable beasts loafing all around.

    I ask Hideo about his one original composition for the cats, which he hasn’t played for us.

    “Oh, that,” he says. “They wanted to use that as the theme song for a TV show.” This smacks of Stardust Promotion. “The show was on in the summer of 2008.” Rebecca asks what it was called.

    “It was a family drama, and it was called …” Hideo thinks for a moment. “Daisuki! Itsutsugo.” Daisuki means “I like it a lot!” or “I like you a lot!” or, because the Japanese don’t really have a way to say it, “I love you!” The show was about quintuplets (itsutsugo) and the problems they face and then overcome.

    The show’s producers wanted to use Hideo’s original composition for the show’s theme song, but the problem was that they needed lyrics. “But I told them, the cats don’t sing lyrics, they sing instrumental! So then they went and got the girls’ group.” The girls’ group was called P-A, for Pawa-Aiji, or Power Age. “They asked us to take the girls and the cats and make a song and a video.”

    “What happened to P-A?” Rebecca asks.

    “They already disappeared, naturally,” Hideo’s son says.

    “But they were popular back then?”

    “Uh, no,” Hideo says. “They wanted to make the girls popular. By using the cats, because the cats were already popular. So I said OK. But it didn’t work. The girls did not get popular. Still, the cats were the very first species besides humans to sing the theme song for a network TV show.”

    We watch the video of five unpopular girls and five popular cats sing the theme song to a family drama about troubled quintuplets. It begins with scrolling Star Wars-style lettering announcing the publication of the Musashis’ first book. Then Leo and Luka bubble-chat as a UFO flies overhead. The cats appear backlit and powerful, then lift their paws out of a huddle. Each walks through the ether toward the camera. I refuse to continue describing this video. It is on the Internet.

    An interlude: three Tokyo cat cafs, briefly reviewed.

    Cateriam, Shimokitazawa: immaculate, homey, very gemtlich, with 9 to 11 above-average to excellent cats, including a docile rag doll good for holding and a lively Persian that yowls when won over. Cat books and manga for perusal line the walls, and the owner has thoughtfully hung branches from the ceiling for good overhead cat action. Cats may remain less than enthusiastic until engaged by an informative onsite shill/fluffer. Serves delicious green tea lattes and will gladly replace the ones that cats drink out of. Wireless Internet. 9/10.

    Nekobukuro, Ikebukuro: Inexpensively priced, with unlimited cat time, but the nitrogenous tang of egesta will prevent anybody but the hardiest cat lover from lingering. The cats are large and plentiful, with at least 25 on the premises; highlights are a colorpoint Himalayan named Hiyawari and a Norwegian forest cat behind glass. Often feels like an Ambien party for cats, though some apparently tweet. Present are various autoerotic machines, including one that allows cats to bunt against spiked rubber massagers. Ikebukuro locals vastly prefer the mom-and-pop cat caf9 around the corner, Nekorobi, but time constraints prevented this reviewer from visiting. 4/10.

    Neko Caf Club, Jiyugaoka: This former nail salon entertains upwardly mobile yoga moms with kittens, including the Internet’s beloved munchkin and Scottish fold varieties. No postcards or DVDs, unfortunately, and the large picture windows to the street make you feel as if you’re on the Internet. The cats are extremely high-quality, though they may be drugged. Private rooms available. 7/10.

    So what, then, is it about cats? Internet pundits have drafted back-of-the-envelope theories. “The Internet is a dog park for cat people” is one line that gained online currency. Sounds good, but it doesn’t hold up: The Internet’s cat obsession goes well beyond so-called cat people. Plenty of those who’d never think of owning a cat are pleased to watch them on the Internet’s treadmills.

    Time magazine put forward the proposition that “there’s something about watching a normally proud animal thrust into a humiliating situation that’s especially funny.” This is barely worth rebutting, as even the worst cat retains its dignity no matter the circumstances. The cat is the Thing That Will Not Be Humiliated.

    The same Time piece then ended by taking Internet cats not seriously but simply srsly. “Or maybe we’re over-thinking it. ‘Cat videos are just cute,’ says [Nyan Cat creator Christopher] Torres. Indeed.” Except not indeed. Not even remotely indeed. Baby hedgehogs are also cute, arguably cuter, but they do not compete with porn for Internet real estate. One thing competes with porn, and that is cats.

    In the course of my research, by which I mostly mean desultorily clicking on links in my friends’ Gchat away-statuses, I came across two seemingly unrelated but profoundly complementary recent scientific studies. The first, conducted by computer scientists and a psychologist at Missouri University of Science and Technology, took up the link between the Internet and depression. The people at MST had a few major findings that correlated patterns of heavy Internet usage, with some apparent statistical significance, to symptoms of depression. The first was the presence of P2P packets, an indicator of file-sharingmusic and movies. The second was frequent email checking. A third example was increased “flow duration entropy,” a result of rapid switching between applications, and to that the authors of the study added increased video watching, gaming, and chatting. Their examples of depressive Internet activity overlapped nearly perfectly with most people’s idea of Internet usage. They didn’t break out the video-watching by genre, but one can only suspect that a lot of those depressive Internet users were watching cat videos.

    Meanwhile, around the time of the depression study, someone in the cat group I’m in on Facebookno explanation necessaryposted a write-up of a study conducted by some cat scientists at the University of Vienna on the relationship between cats and neurotics. The dryness of the study’s title (“Factors Influencing the Temporal Patterns of Dyadic Behaviours and Interactions Between Domestic Cats and Their Owners”) belied the most exciting ethology of cat ownership since D. C. Turner’s seminal 1991 paper in the august journal Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd. The authors cite Turner’s towering influence: “Turner (1991),” wrote Wedl, Bauer, et al., found that “the higher the proportion of all successful intents to interact [with the cat] that were due to the cat, the longer was the duration of interactions.”

    In other words, your cat will like you best if you pretend that you don’t desperately want to play with it all the time. What the current group of researchers seemed to suggest was equally fascinating: The more neurotic the cat ownerthe more desperate for fuzzy comfort and nuzzly security and unconditional affectionthe briefer the interactions that damn cat would allow.

    So we have a reputable study correlating Internet usage and depression. We have another reputable study correlating neuroticism and being ignored by cats. We are only one step away from the grand synthesis that has thus far eluded the ever-growing community of Internet-cat researchers.

    This all comes together for me at that first cat caf. I guess I feel about it what one might theoretically feel about an orgy, or that old chestnut about the ’60s: if you were keeping good notes, or if the memory is much more than a lot of velutinous petting alongside irascible demands for submaxillary attention, you probably weren’t making the most of it.

    It’s on the second floor of a nondescript building in Shimokitazawa, and the walls are papered with information about the cats’ Twitter feeds. The setup is this: You walk in, pay 1,000 yen, or about $12, for an hour (which includes one drink), take off your shoes, go up a step and through a gate, sit down, pick up a toy, and wait for the cats, who, needless to say, want absolutely nothing to do with you. I remember a video I watched online, a Time magazine segment on the web about the first cat caf9, which opened in Osaka in 2004. The initial highlight of the Time piece was this one middle-aged woman who loved cats. She said she came to the cat caf, like many people, because her apartment building didn’t allow pets. She worked in a factory, and after the feel of cold metal all day she liked to come here and feel warm fur.

    The real pathos of the Time segment, though, was a bit toward the end, where it was clear that the women couldn’t figure out why some of the cats were being standoffish; they looked like they thought they were doing something wrong. And the needier the women, the more indifferent the cats; they seemed not to understand that this is how a cat works.

    Think of it this way: What we do on the Internet is mostly “like” things, and while liking them we wait for our own content to be liked. We check our analytics as we await retweets. This is where the cats come in. A cat will not retrieve some dumb object so that you can throw it yet again. A cat will not do a shtick to be petted on its head. A cat will not jig for a mackerel ingot. That goes against everything cats stand for. Or more often sit. It’s not just that cats are unable to be anything but real; it’s that cats both know they are performing and couldn’t possibly care less about how their performance is received. Their play in front of a camera is exactly like their play absent one.

    What an Internet cat does is thus confront us with how cravenly we ourselves court approval. A cat, if it decides to love you, will do so only on its own terms, and, as that Viennese study showed, the more you let it come to you, i.e., the less you need it, the better loved you’re going to be. The reason the lolcat says “Oh hai” is because he only just noticed, and certainly doesn’t care, that you caught him serenely occupying ur nouns, verbing ur other nouns. He doesn’t worry about you or what you think; by his living in your screen, you can love him, but there isn’t a prayer of reciprocation. Thus is the Internet cat the realest cat of all.

    The late-afternoon light is pink on the snow, and we need to drive out of the mountains before the roads freeze over. But there is one more thing I want to talk about.

    “So,” I say, “are you guys interested in any, er, other Internet cats?”

    “There’s Maru,” Hideo says right away. “He’s very interesting. He likes boxes. Jumping into them.”

    I say I tried to meet him and was refused. I hope I sound convincingly flat, affectless, unfixated.

    Manaho asks where Maru lives. “Nobody knows,” I reply.

    “Ah so!” Manaho says. She continues in Japanese, and Rebecca translates. “She says they’re quite good videos, the way they shoot them. She also says she thinks it’s a professional doing them.”

    It sounds to me as though she meant something weighted by “professional.” Later I ask Rebecca if I was right about that, or if it was just her translation. She says she thinks there’s something to it: To the resolutely DIY Musashis, the slick high-roller Maru might look like a bit of a sellout. “I mean, Hideo’s videos, they’re so aggressively amateurish. It looked like he’d just clicked the box for every single effecthighlight, aura, fade, starburst, whatever.”

    Manaho asks why Maru declined my interview request. I tell her his owner thinks the cat is the way he isuncorrupted by fame, unselfconscious in his performancebecause she keeps him quarantined. If he met outsiders, she worries, he wouldn’t be the same anymore. He might get anxious.

    Manaho nods. “Usually when cats encounter someone new they go and hide, but these cats are different.” She points under the table, where her cats are sitting and sleeping. “Because of their personality, we thought they would be OK with the media. It didn’t stress them out.” It didn’t even wake them up.

    “It was all a crazy period,” Manaho says.

    “Did it change your life at all?” I ask.

    “Not at all,” Hideo says. “We weren’t the crazy mom and dad.”

    “So are you still writing songs for the cats?”

    “Not recently,” Hideo says.

    Manaho breaks in, and Rebecca translates: “Of all the experience they have working with all the other artistsand she just named some pop stars even I’ve heard ofshe says they can say that the cats are by far the most difficult. It really takes a lot of time. They don’t follow instructions. They don’t know where or when to meow. They won’t stand in front of the microphone. So the microphone needs to stand in front of the cats.” She makes a motion that is halfway between the operation of a boom mic and a lacrosse pass.

    His cat-music career having foundered on the superciliousness and indifference of his imperious cats, Hideo tells me what he’s up to now. “I’m working on a charity song. After the earthquake and tsunami happened, there were so many pages on Facebook that people made to send their good wishes or money to Japan, but most of the comments on the Facebook pages were in English. I went to all the different pages for Japan and wrote that the people of Japan were grateful for their thoughts and prayers. I became friends with many more people on Facebook, from all over the world.”

    He found an Internet that was accountable and kind, not anonymous and mean-spirited. “I wanted to share all of this with Japanese people, so I asked my friends on Facebook in all these countries if they would sing for me. I made a huge chorus of many voices that I’m still working on. I get to collaborate with all these people I’ve never met and never had conversations with but we can still make work together. Maybe you will sing for me?”

    “I don’t think you want me singing for you.”

    “But maybe you will write about this, and more people will find me and collaborate with me.” His name is Hideo Saito, and he is on Facebook.

    The cedar shadows have grown narrow in the snow outside, and the cats snore and mutter in their dreams. We take pictures until we are all too sore to keep holding Musashi aloft. We all bow at each other. Rebecca and I bow at the cats. The cats drift off.

    On the long drive home, Fuji hovering before us, solitary and immanent in cloudy magenta, Rebecca and I talk about how terrible we feel that we expected these Internet cat video people to be out of their minds. They are just normal people who have some special cats to share with the world and have gotten something back. I picture-message Micah, my brother, an image of Musashi obscuring my lap.

    “That’s not a cat,” he texts back. “That’s a lion.”

    “It’s a Norwegian forest cat.”

    “Norwegian forests must be terrifying.”

    “No, it wasn’t terrifying. It was really nice, and sleepy. If you want to see him sing, search YouTube for ‘! !P-A Musashi’s.’”

    It takes him a few minutes to respond.

    “Dude what the fuck.”

    kthxbai.

    Gideon Lewis-Kraus (gideonlk@gmail.com) is the author of the memoir A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful.

    Source: http://www.wired.com/

    Oscar-winning star of anti-dolphin hunt documentary Ric O’Barry held in Tokyo

    Tokyo (CNN)The animal-rights activist and star of the “The Cove,” which highlighted Japan’s controversial annual dolphin slaughter in the town of Taiji, has been detained at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, his lawyer says.

    Takashi Takano told CNN that Ric O’Barry has been detained in a deportees’ facility at the airport on Monday and that he had met with the activist in the company of immigration officials. Takano was told by officials that O’Barry had tried to enter Japan on a tourist visa but his tourist status was not fully proven. Officials refused to refused to provide him with further information.

      His son, Lincoln O’Barry, told CNN that his father had entered Japan to monitor the hunt, to test the dolphin meat for mercury poisoning and to work with local activists.

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      The Japanese government is cracking down on those who oppose their war on dolphins,” O’Barry said, through his son. “I feel I am being used as a figurehead representing all Western activists.”

      His son continued: “This is a desperate attempt by the Japanese Government to hide the atrocities in Taiji. They have run out of excuses on why the slaughter and sale of mercury-contaminated dolphin meat continues. Dolphin hunting in Taiji began in the 1950s and is hardly cultural or traditional. The dolphins that aren’t slaughtered are sold to dolphin ‘abusement’ parks around the world.”

      He told CNN that the slaughter of dolphins is a relatively new phenomenon and not part of the area’s long-held traditions.

      “Traditionally whaling goes back very far in Taiji but dolphin hunting is not something that is traditional. Everything that is killed in the cove is a dolphin and that started in the 1950s. It’s not part of their culture or tradition.”

      READ MORE: Opinion: How hunters slaughter dolphins in Japan

      Source: http://edition.cnn.com/

      Animals Kept In Deep Freeze For 30 Years Brought Back To Life

      Microscopic creatures kept frozen for more than three decades have been successfully brought back to life.

      The 1mm long tardigrades were collected from a frozen moss sample in Antarctica in 1983, according to a new paper published in the journal Cryobiology. 

      Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research stored the 8 legged, segmented critters at -4F for just over 30 years. They thawed and revived two of the animals, which are also known as water bears or moss piglets, in early 2014.

      Credit: Photolibrary via Getty Images
      The previous record for a tardigrade being revived from a deep freeze was 8 years.

      One of them died 20 days into the experiment, reports the BBC. But its companion survived and managed to reproduce with a third tardigrade that had been hatched from a frozen egg. It went on to lay 19 eggs, of which 14 survived.

      Tardigrades, found living in water across the world, are renowned for being tough and have previously survived several days after being blasted into space.

      According to Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, their metabolism shuts down and they enter a cryptobiotic state when faced with low temperatures. 

      The previous record for tardigrades surviving extreme cold was eight years. “The present study extends the known length of long-term survival in tardigrade species considerably,” researchers wrote in the newly released paper.

      Credit: STEVE GSCHMEISSNER via Getty Images
      Anematode worm was revived after 39 years in deep freeze.

      Lead researcher Megumu Tsujimoto said the team now wants to “unravel the mechanism for long-term survival by looking into damage to tardigrades’ DNA and their ability to repair it.”

      The tardigrade has some way to go beat the record for surviving in a frozen state, however, which is currently held by the nematode worm – which managed 39 years in deep freeze before being revived.

      Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

      Star of anti-dolphin killing film The Cove held by Japanese immigration

      Ric OBarry seen in documentary about slaughter in a Japanese village says government is waging a war on dolphins

      The star of Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, about the killing of dolphins in a village in Japan, has been detained by immigration authorities at Tokyos Narita international airport.

      Ric OBarry an American known for training the dolphins used in the TV series Flipper said immigration officials told him he could not enter Japan on a tourist visa because he was not a tourist, according to his lawyer, Takashi Takano.

      Takano said officials accused OBarry of having close ties with the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, which OBarry denies. Immigration officials said it was their policy not to comment on individual cases.

      Takano said he was appealing against the detention, and that the Japanese government would decide on whether to allow OBarry into the country or deport him. It was not clear when a decision would be made.

      The Cove, which won the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary, shows the slaughter of dolphins herded into a cove in the fishing village of Taiji and bludgeoned to death.

      The Japanese government is cracking down on those who oppose their war on dolphins, OBarry said in a statement sent to the Associated Press through his son, Lincoln OBarry.

      Officials in Taiji, a small fishing village in central Japan, and fishermen have defended the hunt as a tradition, saying that eating dolphin meat is no different to eating beef or chicken.

      Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat. Many say they are horrified by the dolphin killing and there is a campaign against the Taiji hunt. Animal welfare activists say the hunt is driven mostly by the lucrative sale of dolphins to aquariums, with the income from the sale of meat simply an added extra.

      OBarry has been stopped and questioned by Japanese immigration before. He has also been taken into custody by local police on the suspicion of not having proper travel documents before being released. But this is the first time he has been detained in this way. He has the support of high-profile celebrities, including Sting, the US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, and the former Guns N Roses drummer, Matt Sorum.

      Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

      Japan kills 333 minke whales

      (CNN)Japan’s whaling fleet has returned with more than 300 whales harvested from Antarctic waters, according to the country’s Fisheries Agency.

      A four-ship fleet from Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research traveled to the Antarctic Ocean and killed 333 minke whales. Some 230 were female; about 90% of these were pregnant, according to the report.
        The research was conducted as part of an effort to understand the minke whale populations in the Antarctic Ocean, the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries said in a statement on its website. The purpose was to study the best methods for managing minke populations, the ministry said. It said there were no incidents with anti-whaling activists.
        In the past, opponents, including New Zealand and Australia, have raised concerns about the legitimacy of the scientific research contention. In 2014, the United Nation’s International Court of Justice ordered Japan to halt its whaling program, over concerns of its whaling activities in the Antarctic region.
        On social media, Greenpeace, a longtime opponent of Japan’s whaling program, stated in a tweet: “The Japanese whaling fleet defies the UN and kills 333 whales, including 200 pregnant mothers.”
        Japan has continued to reject international orders to stop its program, alleging that its whaling activities are vital to a larger body of research, as opposed to commercial purposes.
        Scientific research gets exemption from the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling. But the International Court of Justice rejected Japan’s scientific claims and ordered an end to its JARPA II research, which claims to study the maintenance and improvement of the minke whale population and the effects of environmental changes on the whale’s food supply, according to its website.
        Japan launched a new research program after the court ruling in 2014 that says 333 whales could be killed annually, according to Japan’s Fisheries Agency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
        The four vessels left the port of Shimonoseki, southwest of Tokyo on December 2015, returning more than a year later with their quota.The 2015 expedition is part of a 12-year program that will capture 4,000 minke whales.

        Source: http://edition.cnn.com/

        Now your pets can pledge unwavering loyalty to you with samurai armor

        Image: Samurai Age

        If you’re looking for a way to instill a sense of loyalty in your pet, we have the perfect solution.

        Novelty retailer Samurai Age is making suits of armor inspired by the warriors of medieval Japan for your feline or canine friend.

        The company which has also created samurai-themed bottle covers, armor for dolls, and samurai helmets has released a line of samurai armor for your pet to pledge their loyalty to you.

        Samurai Age sells both ready-made armor for cats, smaller dogs, and children, but you’ll have to place a custom-made order for larger dogs.

        A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

        # # #2017 # #samuraiage #cat #petarmor #

        A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

        The red armor inspired by the armor of famed 16th century samurai Sanada Yukimura will definitely give your pet that Kurosawa feel.

        A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

        # # # #samuraiage # #cat #samuraiarmor

        A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

        The armor, which is made out of foam and resin, comes in red, black, silver, or gold, and is priced between 14,040 yen ($128) to 16,416 yen ($148.79).

        If you’re into samurai helmets, they’ll cost between 7,020 yen ($63.63) to 14,256 yen ($129).

        She loves it. I swear. – #samuraiage #samuraicap #bostonterrier #bostonterriersofinstagram

        A post shared by Roman Cortez (@romancortez) on

        It’s not the first time Japan has become obsessed with samurai pet armor wanko kacchu, or doggy armor, was first made available to rent from pet supply store Kandaya in 2015.

        Samurai Age ships overseas. You can buy their armor here, and their helmets here. To make a custom order, you can click here.

        (h/tGrapee.jp)

        Source: http://mashable.com/

        Taiji legal battle: court backs activist over baby dolphin kept in aquarium

        Victory for animal rights after Japanese court awards Australian activist 110,000 yen after museum refused her entry to check on captive bottlenose

        Animal rights activists have claimed a significant victory in its battle to end Japans dolphin slaughter after a court ruled that an aquarium in Taiji where hundreds of dolphins are killed every year acted illegally when it refused entry to an Australian campaigner.

        The court in Wakayama, western Japan, on Friday awarded 110,000 yen (690) to Sarah Lucas, head of Australia for Dolphins, who had attempted to enter the Taiji whale museum in 2014 but was turned away and shown a cardboard sign saying anti-whalers were not welcome.

        Lucas had intended to check on the welfare of a baby albino bottlenose that had been kept at the museum since being separated from its pod and captured earlier in the year. The museum reportedly paid $500,0000 (354,000) for the animal.

        Lucas said the rare dolphin, called Angel, was being kept in a tiny crowded tank full of chlorine, and was being bullied by other dolphins.

        The legal battle to save Angel is much bigger than a rescue mission to save one albino dolphin calf, Lucas said after the verdict.

        This win proves the Taiji whale museum, the institution at the heart of the dolphin hunting trade, behaved illegally. It also shows the Taiji dolphin hunts are not above the law, which means the Japanese legal system can be used to end the cruel dolphin hunts for good.

        Tetsuo Kirihata, deputy chief of the Taiji museum, said he was satisfied with the verdict because the initial demand for damages had been for about 3m yen.

        We feel much of our case was taken into account by the court, he told Associated Press. Kirihata said the dolphin was eating well and getting along with other dolphins, with regular blood tests showing it was healthy. What to some might look like bullying was, in fact, part of regular activity in nature, he added.

        The museum is owned by the town government in Taiji, the setting for the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary The Cove, which showed fishermen driving pods of dolphins into shallow water before killing them with knives.

        Photo
        Photo taken in 2014 by environmentalist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society shows bottlenose dolphins trapped in the cove during the selection process by fishermen in the Japanese town of Taiji. Photograph: Sea Shepherd Conservation Societ/AFP/Getty Images

        The use of the drive method has attracted widespread criticism, including from the US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.

        International pressure on Taiji to distance itself from the global trade in dolphins intensified last year when aquariums in Japan voted to stop buying live specimens from the town to avoid expulsion from the worlds leading zoo organisation.

        The move came after the Guardian revealed that the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza) had been targeted in a court action launched by Australia for Dolphins. The group accused Waza of being complicit in the hunts by failing to take decisive action against Japanese aquariums.

        The museum in Taiji, however, quit the Japanese branch of the world association in protest, with local fishermen vowing to continue the hunts.

        During the most recent season, which ended last month, Taijis fishermen killed 652 dolphins and took 111 into captivity, according to figures supplied by the Sea Shepherd marine conservation group.

        Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

        Japan kills more than 300 whales in annual Antarctic hunt

        Whaling fleet returns to port after slaughtering hundreds of minke whales, in defiance of moratorium on hunting and global criticism

        A Japanese whaling fleet returned to port on Friday after an annual Antarctic hunt that killed more than 300 of the mammals, as Tokyo pursues the programme in defiance of global criticism.

        The fleet set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, with plans to slaughter 333 minke whales, flouting a worldwide moratorium and opposition led by Australia and New Zealand.

        The fleet consisted of five ships, three of which arrived on Friday morning at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, the countrys Fisheries Agency said.

        More than 200 people, including crew members and their families, gathered in the rain for a 30-minute ceremony in front of the Nisshin Maru, the fleets main ship, according to an official of the Shimonoseki city government.

        In a press release, the agency described the mission as research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea.

        But environmentalists and the International Court of Justice (IJC) call that a fiction and say the real purpose is simply to hunt whales for their meat.

        Anticipating the fleets return, animal protection charity Humane Society International called for an end to Japanese whaling. Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed, said Kitty Block, the groups executive vice-president.

        It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end.

        Japan also caught 333 minke whales in the previous season ending in 2016 after a one-year hiatus prompted by an IJC ruling, which said the hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as science and ordered Tokyo to end it.

        Under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to which Japan is a signatory, there has been a moratorium on hunting whales since 1986.

        Tokyo exploits a loophole allowing whales to be killed for scientific research and claims it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.

        But it also makes no secret of the fact that whale meat ends up on dinner tables and is served in school lunches.

        Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and their meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-second world war years, when the country was desperately poor. But consumption has dramatically declined in recent decades, with significant proportions of the population saying they never or rarely eat whale meat.

        In response to the ICJ ruling, Japans 2014-15 mission carried out only non-lethal research such as taking skin samples and doing headcounts.

        Past missions have been hampered by a confrontational campaign on the high seas by environmentalists Sea Shepherd. A fisheries agency official said that the whalers this time faced no obstructive behaviour threatening safety of the fleet and crew members by the group.

        He attributed that partially to Japan dispatching patrol ships to protect the fleet.

        Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

        Every Year, Turtles Get Stuck In These Railroad Tracks — This Is The Cute Solution

        When a bunch of turtles were found riding the rails near the Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe, Japan, something had to be done. Because of the park’s proximity to the ocean, these cute critters often end up climbing over one of the train tracks, becoming stuck between the two.

        With nowhere to go though, they previously had to walk along the track where either they were run over by a train, or ended up destroying railway switches. At least that was until the West Japan Railway Company came up with a solution that has the Internet abuzz.

        Because the turtles could hurt themselves, the train, or the switches, all causing major delays, the railway company worked hard with marine experts to determine a viable and cost-effective solution.

        Their eventual idea? Create escape ditches for turtles all throughout the region.

        And the results have been phenomenal. In just a few months, the passageways have saved the lives of at least ten turtles, not to mention the monetary benefits associated with trains arriving on time.

        One thing’s for sure: this is definitely a better long-term fix compared to getting seeing-eye dogs for all the turtles…

        Thanks to the ingenuity of a few, everyone in this situation comes out a winner.

        Source: http://www.viralnova.com

        Ancient Marine Reptile May Have Hunted Bioluminescent Fish At Night

        When Tyrannosaurus rex prowled the land, the oceans of the Late Cretaceous werent particularly safe either. Cruising the waters at the time were large predatory reptiles known as mosasaurs, elongated and streamlined for hunting down their prey in the warm shallow seas. Some of these were true beasts reaching up to 18 meters (59feet) in length, but others were a little more modest. Researchers have revealed the first mosasaur of its kind to be discovered in Japan, and discovered that it probably hunted at night using binocular vision.

        The marine reptile in question is a species called Phosphorosaurus ponpetelegans, and came in at a relatively tiny for mosasaur at least 3 meters(10 feet) long. The remarkably well preserved skull is the only example known from Japan, and helps palaeontologists fill a geographic gap of the species from between the Middle East and the eastern Pacific. It also allows the researchers to determine that the animal quite possibly fed on bioluminescent fish and squid during the night, whilst their larger cousins dominated the sea during the daytime.

        The forward-facing eyes on Phosphorosaurus provide depth perception to vision, and it’s common in birds of prey and other predatory mammals that dwell among us today, explains Takuya Konishi in a statement. Konishi is acoauthor of the study, which is published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. But we knew already that most mosasaurs were pursuit predators based on what we know they preyed upon swimming animals. Paradoxically, these small mosasaurs like Phosphorosaurus were not as adept swimmers as their larger contemporaries because their flippers and tailfins weren’t as well developed.

        But when compared to their larger relatives, the vision of Phosphorosaurus is markedly different. On the bigger specimens, their eyes are located on either side of their head not unlikea horse or deer today which is thought to have helped streamline the reptile and allow it to swim faster to catch the turtles, sharksand other mosasaurs they fed on.

        With the smaller species, however, the eyes are forward facing, which in nocturnal animals doubles the number of photoreceptors used to detect light. Because fossils of lantern fish and squid-like animals have been found in the same rock formations in Japan as Phosphorosaurus, the researchers suggest that the reptilemight have been hunting at night. They even go on to postulate that perhaps this might have been a larger trend for other species of mosasaurs, with the larger animals hunting and chasing down prey during the day, whilethe smaller, more vulnerable ones only came out at night.

        The excavation of the skull that enabled this discovery took a painstaking two years. It involveddipping the rock in which it was encased in acid overnight, and then washing it off every morning, gradually freeing the bones. These werethen pieced togetherto re-create the original skull. The researchersnow intend to look into how the species fits into the evolutionary tree of mosasaurs.

        Source: http://www.iflscience.com

        Oscar-winning star of anti-dolphin hunt documentary Ric O’Barry held in Tokyo

        Tokyo (CNN)The animal-rights activist and star of the “The Cove,” which highlighted Japan’s controversial annual dolphin slaughter in the town of Taiji, has been detained at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, his lawyer says.

        Takashi Takano told CNN that Ric O’Barry has been detained in a deportees’ facility at the airport on Monday and that he had met with the activist in the company of immigration officials. Takano was told by officials that O’Barry had tried to enter Japan on a tourist visa but his tourist status was not fully proven. Officials refused to refused to provide him with further information.

          His son, Lincoln O’Barry, told CNN that his father had entered Japan to monitor the hunt, to test the dolphin meat for mercury poisoning and to work with local activists.

          Dolphin

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          The Japanese government is cracking down on those who oppose their war on dolphins,” O’Barry said, through his son. “I feel I am being used as a figurehead representing all Western activists.”

          His son continued: “This is a desperate attempt by the Japanese Government to hide the atrocities in Taiji. They have run out of excuses on why the slaughter and sale of mercury-contaminated dolphin meat continues. Dolphin hunting in Taiji began in the 1950s and is hardly cultural or traditional. The dolphins that aren’t slaughtered are sold to dolphin ‘abusement’ parks around the world.”

          He told CNN that the slaughter of dolphins is a relatively new phenomenon and not part of the area’s long-held traditions.

          “Traditionally whaling goes back very far in Taiji but dolphin hunting is not something that is traditional. Everything that is killed in the cove is a dolphin and that started in the 1950s. It’s not part of their culture or tradition.”

          READ MORE: Opinion: How hunters slaughter dolphins in Japan

          Source: http://edition.cnn.com/

          In Search of the Heart of the Online Cat-Industrial Complex

          A cat wearing a short tie plays music on a cat-shaped keyboard (“Pancake Meowsic Video,” 185,459 views). A woman performs sun salutations with a cat on her back (“Cat Loves Yoga,” 1,539 views). A man slaps two cats on an ironing board to the beat of “Atmosphere” (“Cat Slap Joy Division,” 357,605 views; watch this one). (Now, I mean.) Kittens try to keep up with an accelerating treadmill (“Treadmill Kittens,” 3.4 million views). A fat cat walks on an underwater treadmill (“Fat Cat Walking on Underwater Treadmill,” 133,434 views). Two cats cuff at a treadmill in perplexed inquisition (“Cats Try to Understand Treadmill,” 1.9 million views). Search YouTube for “cat treadmill” and see how many results there are. Or, actually, don’t.

          Writing that paragraph took more than an hour. To continue the catalog for a page would’ve taken weeks. But if one has set out to say something definitive about the relationship between cats and the Internet, it’s important not to be delayed indefinitely by Internet cats.

          The obvious place to begin an inquiry into the Internet cat is with Maru, the most famous feline on the Internet. Maru’s shtick, in brief: Maru gets into a box (“,” 8.1 million views). Maru gets into a box (“. A box and Maru 8,” 3.1 million views). Maru gets into some boxes (“. Many too small boxes and Maru,” 7.9 million views). Maru tries to get into a box (“. The box which Maru can’t enter,” 2.2 million views).

          Maru, which means “circle” or “perfection” in Japanese, is a Scottish fold with nonfolded ears. He is 5 years old and lives in an undisclosed Japanese city that is, by consensual rumor, almost certainly not Tokyo, because no indoor cat in Tokyo has that much space to jump into boxes, especially not the bigger ones. Maru has upwards of 168 million YouTube views and, according to other rumors, has generated enough ad revenue to buy his owner a new apartment. His is the seventh-most-subscribed YouTube channel in Japan.

          But Maru is just one of Japan’s famous Internet cats, and his reign will not last forever. Japan is also home to child-tortured Mao; to Shironeko (aka Basket Cat aka White Basket Cat aka Zen Cat), the cat who serenely closes his eyes no matter what is stacked atop his head; to Cute Overload’s beloved Persian, Winston-san, who sometimes appears propped on pillows before plates of untouched gyoza; to the enormous Papi-chan, a Norwegian forest cat of considerable bulk and endurer of the Internet’s first extensively featured cat diet.

          There’s also the famous flying-Pop-Tart cat, of course, Nyan Cat; his tie to Japan remains obscure unless you’ve been made aware, by someone who knows something about Japan and cats, that nya is how Japanese cats say “meow.” Some of Japan’s most interesting cat activity originally appeared on TV, but by the time we’ve been exposed to the game show that turns cats into weight lifters by putting increasingly heavy fish onto scales, or the variety show in which a phalanx of kittens is invited to nest in a patch of cooking pots (a fad called neko-nabe), we’re seeing them on the Internet, posting them to Facebook, emailing the links to our moms and yoga teachers.

          The Internet’s preference for cats runs so deep that when Google’s secretive X Lab showed a string of 10 million YouTube images to a neural network of 16,000 computer processors for machine learning, the first thing the network did was invent the concept of a cat. America might have inflated the Internet-feline bubblethe Cheezburger Network raised $30 million last year in venture funding, and the Bible has been translated into Lolcatbut Japan was where the Internet-feline market began, and persists, as a quiet, domestic cattage industry. If you want to know why the Internet chose cats, you must go to Japan.

          est I unfairly ratchet up your collective expectations: I will never get to pet Maru, and neither will you. Maru’s supervisory documentarian is named Mugumogu, but beyond that fact, hardly anything is known about her. When I write Maru’s US book publicistyou read that rightit turns out that she knows no more than you or I. The publicist loops in Maru’s US book editor, who offers to pass along some interview questions to Mugumogu’s Japanese agent, who could have them translated, answered, and sent back. But I have no questions for the human being called Mugumogu. My interest lies entirely with the cat. I write back to the US editor in my most professional tone, the one in which I don’t sound like somebody who watches cat videos all day, and say that for my purposes I need to meet Maru IRL. I am willing to sign an IRL NDA. I promise I won’t write a word about Mugumogu herself. I just want 20 or 30 minutes with that cat.

          A few days later the publicist writes back: Impossible. I’m welcome to write to the Japanese agent, she says, but I should know that not even the agent knows who Mugumogu is; her correspondence all goes through Maru’s Japanese publisher, a certain Okumura-san, of Tokimeki Publishing, a boutique outfit specializing in Internet cat nya-alls and coffee table celebrations of Korean soap operas. I commence months of fruitlessly obsequious email courtship with Mugumogu but ultimately to no avail.

          All of this reticence is infuriating. In America people post a video of themselves whistling “Free Bird” in a tutu and they’re heartbroken if they’re not immediately invited on The View. It’s different in Japan, though. There, they haven’t yet cottoned to the idea that the whole point of the Internet is not only that it might make you famous and universally loved but that it might make you famous and universally loved overnight, and for no real reason, and that then it would give you fairly precise metrics for just how famous and loved you were, and for how long. For the Japanese, the Internet is primarily not about self-promotion and exposure but about restraint and anonymity.

          To help me understand this introversionand also in the hope of making contact with some famous Internet catsI enlist the assistance of David Marx. An American living in Tokyo, Marx writes a very intelligent, popular blog called Nojaponisme, which I’d stumbled upon in my cat-related forays. In a particularly interesting post, Marx offers three reasons for the Japanese cult of online anonymity. The first, which he deems silly, is the fear that criminals or con men might use personal information to harm an unwary Internet user. The second one, the fear that colleagues or bosses might discover personal details that could be problematic at work, he connects to the Japanese cultural milieu, where “any sort of questionable hobby automatically qualifies as a ‘secret double life.’” The third reasonfear that anonymous mobs might bash anyone who tried to stand out too aggressively onlinehe considers totally legitimate, “in that the Internet in Japan so far has been almost exclusively about anonymous mobs making trouble for individuals and industry.” (He notes that he once had his own photo posted on a Japanese board called Suspicious Foreigners.) I write Marx a fan email and ask if his theories might apply to the question of why the Internet chose cats. He replies right away. Not only has he written about Japanese media trends, he works at YouTube. We Skype.

          “Japan was relatively late to getting on the Internet,” he says, “and still lags behind in some ways. But with cat stuff they were always leaderswith cats as their conduits. Think about it.” I think about it. I’ve been doing very little but think about it. “Most of the named cats on the Internet are Japanese,” he observes. It’s an excellent point: Those cats on treadmills and cats on yoga mats and cats being slapped to a Joy Division soundtrack, anonymous grimalkins all. But your Marus, your Maos, and your Shironekosall of them are in Japan.

          Marx’s interest in cats lies in his work with the YouTube Partner Program, or YPP, a service that makes it possible to turn on ads to monetize your content, as the phrase has it. The deal is that the content has to be your own; you can’t just post G’n’R songs and then rake in ad money to pay for your brownstone renovation. Either you’re invited by the YouTube people because of your pageviews or you can opt in. Once you’ve joined, they help you with your marketing. They take you through the ad options (banners versus prerolls, etc.) and provide tools and tips for making successful videos. They’ve got representatives assigned to aid certain classes of partners with the marketing of their monetized videos: some who work with comedians, some who work with musicians, and quite a few who work with cats. Marx says he’ll email several new star cats, up-and-coming cats, and see what he can do. He says that a few years ago the cat people tended to be as reclusive as Mugumogu, but that the newer cat folks seem more amenable to revealing themselves.

          A few days later, he emails me back: Sure enough, he has some famous cats willing to meet. I fly to Japan to meet the Musashis.

          ouTube has told me that Hideo Saito and Manaho Morithe custodians, managers, promoters, and chief can openers of the Musashis, once one of the most important cat bands on the Internetwould be delighted for me to visit them and interview their cats, but that it would be best if I brought along a translator. My friend Rebecca, who loves cats but lives in a Tokyo apartment building that does not allow pets, is happy to oblige. She is not, however, without concern.

          “These people have five cats,” she says. “And those cats are in a band, and they are best known for a Christmas song, and they live in a remote resort town at the top of a mountain, and they have invited you, a foreigner, to come to their home to meet their famous Internet cats. I promise you they are going to be weird people.” She asks me how many homes I think she’s been in, in her 10 years on and off in Japan. I can’t begin to guess. She holds up one hand; she can count the number on it.

          Hideo, as it turns out, speaks about his cats in calm, measured, elegant English. (He spent some of his childhood in England and the US.) “I started writing songs for cats because I’d gotten bored writing songs for humans. But the thing is, cats have limited vocal … limited vocal”

          “Limited vocal range?” Rebecca suggests.

          “Yes, limited vocal range. I found I needed five cats to cover one octave.” We are sitting around an oblong dining room table in the sun-drenched cedar den of a ski chalet in a central Nagano prefecture, along with six cats spanning a spectrum of liveliness that runs from contemptuously drowsy to asleep. Manaho, Hideo’s wife and business partner, holds one on her lap, face out and totally blas9 as it regards us. Hideo is trained as a musician and sound engineer and looks the part, with variable-tint eyeglass lenses (the panels now shaded graphite from the ambient snow glare), a retiring studio voice, a scruffy suggestion of goatee, and a relaxed-bemused ’70s mien. Manaho describes herself as a voice coach and producer.

          “So I made the Christmas song. I took voice samples from the cats. I had to bribe them with food. They’re a quiet breed, these cats. They don’t make much noise.”

          Four of the cats are Norwegian forest cats. They’re huge, lustrous, woolly, like a sheepdog made into a pillow. Their coats have a glossy weft of lunar rainbow. According to a thinly sourced but entirely plausible Wikipedia squib, Norse legends refer to a skogkatt, a “mountain-dwelling fairy cat with an ability to climb sheer rock faces that other cats could not manage.” That’s apparently this cat’s pedigree; he is directly descended from myth. On the way up into the mountains, before I lost data service on my phone, Manaho friended me on Facebook, then sent me a photograph of Musashi hovering over snow. Rebecca worried I was bringing her to meet a bobcat. Hideo and Manaho’s teenage son, who is about to leave Japan to study animals at a university in Tasmania, hands me Musashi after I sit down. He holds Musashi out to me like a muff of fraying fog. Musashi makes no noise; he is sandbag-limp. The cat is 8 years old and weighs almost 20 pounds, his fur the ur-slate of celestial cinder. My chair bends back beneath his heft. He goes back to sleep as soon as the fuss of brief stir is complete, clucking and grumbling in his resumed dreams. He is the biggest cat I’ve ever seen. I hold him to me. I love him.

          Hideo and Manaho Mori in-studio with the Musashis. Panda Kanno

          Neither Hideo nor Manaho were cat people, originally. She grew up in Tokyo with four large dogs. He lived abroad and had no pets. The first cats that adopted them were two strays, Ginny (now deceased) and Seri. But everything changed when they took in another stray, badly injured, called Marble, a black cat marbled with rust. He, they discovered, had a voice suitable for sampling.

          More on the
          Cat-Industrial Complex

          Now they became cat people. They went to a breeder of Norwegian forest cats and bought a kitten called Luka, the only cat they paid for. Needless to say, after a little while Hideo and Manaho wanted more Norwegian forest cats, so they went back to the breeder and asked if they could borrow his stud Norwegian forest cat. He said yes, in exchange for a kitten. The stud cat came to live with them for some number of monthsManaho says two, Hideo says three or fourand Luka gave birth to four kittens. They kept two of them, Musashi and Leo. When Marble died (on the same day as Michael Jackson), the breeder gave them a fourth Norwegian forest cat, Kai. For free. Hideo named the band the Musashis, in honor of its telegenic frontcat.

          It was Christmastime then, so Hideo mixed a Christmas songspecifically “Jingle Bells”out of meow samples and put it on YouTube. The music industry in Japan, like the music industry everywhere and every industry in Japan, has been depressed, and he thought that it might do something to help him introduce himself to new markets.

          This was in 2007, soon after YouTube Japan got going. Before that, the Japanese had access to the regular YouTube, but now they had their own native version. The staff from YouTube Japan noticed the Christmas song video, called them up, and said, “We want to put your video on our homepage as we introduce ourselves.” They were going to have seven featured videos, a new one each day of their launch week.

          In that week, the Musahis got 275,000 views. That was more than expected. But it wasn’t until a few weeks later that there was, in Hideo’s words, “the big explosion.” Manaho had set their YouTube account so she would receive an email alert on her mobile phone when someone left a comment. One day she got 4,000 alerts. She thought her phone was broken, so she called her telecom provider. There was no problem: She had just gotten 4,000 emails, was all.

          The problem, as it turned out, was that their 275,000 views on YouTube Japan had brought the Musahis to the attention of the YouTube people in California, who put them on the global home page. The email alerts arrived in German, Hindi, Chinese, unrecognizable languages. Manaho turned off her email-alert function. Within a few days they’d gotten well over a million views.

          That’s when the Korean TV station got in touch. It came down to Japan with a film crew and shot the Musashis at home. Soon after, Hideo and Manaho heard from NHK, the national broadcasting corporation of Japan. The people from NHK were surprised that no other Japanese networks had covered them yet, so they sent a crew to shoot them for a popular Sunday-evening program called @Human, which introduces a wide TV audience at home to the sorts of interesting things happening at the moment on the Internet. Manaho brings up a blog entry with a TV still of Musashi next to a cookie that has “NHK” printed on it.

          The economics of a viral Japanese cat can be nontrivial, as David Marx explains to me over a lunch debrief at Google’s offices, on the 27th floor of a Roppongi high-rise. Marx is unusually tall for an American and thus almost impolitely tall in Japan. He’s not only tall but he tapers, an effect accentuated by the wide float of his rolled pant cuffs over narrow ankles. His black hair is prematurely frosted; it crowns a voluble fanboyish enthusiasm, giving his whole appearance the sense of an artful parody of distinction.

          He takes me back to his office, where there is a conference room with whiteboards for walls. He warns me that he’s unable to comment on or speculate about individual YouTube partners, but we can talk generally about cats. He can’t tell me exactly how many Japanese cat partners there are, but he nods when I ask if it’s more than a hundred. “There are cats,” he says, “that are making more money than the average salary in Japan”which the Internet estimates to be around $29,000. Most of the partners, the active second-tier ones, are probably making much less, though a good deal of them are earning enough to put a dent in their mortgages.

          Marx and I watch a few new cat videos, some of the up-and-comers, those challenging or exceeding Maru’s pageviews. “An interesting thing, here in Japan, is that it’s not just the cat partners who post cat stuff. It’s everybody.” Soezimax, for example, is an action-film maker, one of the most popular partners in Japan, with millions of views. But some of his most popular videos are the ones he posts of the fights he has with his girlfriend’s vicious cat, Sashimi-san, who regularly puts Soezimax to rout. He’s the anti-Maru, the standard-bearer of uncute Internet cat aggression. The videos are slightly alarming, especially when we’re all so used to anodyne felinity. Then Marx brings up Japan’s most popular Internet comedian, who used to post regular videos of himself in a cat caf. (In Japan, they have cafs where you go to pet cats.)

          “It’s like,” Marx says, “no matter how successful you are here on the Internet on your own terms, it’s de rigueur that you still have to do something with a cat.” In a culture of Internet anonymity, bred of island claustrophobia and immobility, the Japanese Internet cat has become a crucial proxy: People who feel inhibited to do what they want online are expressing themselves, cagily, via the animal that only ever does what it wants.

          The Cateriam Cat Cafe in Tokyo. Panda Kanno

          After their Christmas song went viral, the Musashis were signed by an outfit called Stardust Promotion. “They didn’t sign us, they signed them,” Hideo says. He means the cats.

          Rebecca and I laugh.

          Hideo doesn’t laugh. “No,” he says. “They paid in fish.”

          I look to Rebecca for a cue about how Japanese etiquette might encourage us to react here. She looks at me defenselessly.

          Hideo says, “They presented Musashi with a whole fish. Musashi put his paw print on the contract.” They laugh now, so we do too. Manaho returns to one of the two laptops on the table, browses her blog, and turns the screen back toward us to show a video.

          In it, two men come around the back of an unmarked minivan, open the double doors, and gingerly lift a silver fish on a stretcher.

          Hideo narrates. “Those are the Stardust guys, getting the fish.” They bring it inside. “They brought it inside.” Musashi sits propped against the couch like the sultan of Brunei.

          “That’s Musashi,” Hideo says, as if there is any other known cat that takes up a third of a couch, and as if he isn’t still sleeping in my lap. The men present Musashi with the fish. Musashi remains expressionless; whatever avarice the cat was feeling remained concealed behind his aldermanic composure. They zoom in. Musashi doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t notice.

          “He’s thinking about it,” Hideo says. “Now he agrees.” Musashi puts his red paw print on the contract, then scuds off, blotting the couch with his cerise paw.

          Hideo closes the laptop. “The whole thing is a joke,” he explains.

          “But that was a real fish,” I say. He nods.

          “Did they eat the fish?” I ask.

          The son speaks up, rousing himself for the first time from the lidded pretend funk of filial humiliation. “No! We ate the fish.”

          You ate the fish?” Rebecca is incredulous. After all, Hideo made such a big deal about how the cats were signed by Stardust, not them.

          Hideo seems a little sheepish. “The cats didn’t even know what it was! They’d never even seen a whole fish before. They didn’t recognize it. So we ate it.”

          “It was good,” their son says.

          “Was there an agreement about royalties?” Rebecca asks.

          “They wanted us to make video content for mobile phones,” Hideo says.

          “Can we see the mobile phone content?” I ask.

          “I burned you a DVD,” he says. He reopens his laptop and plays a video of the Musashis singing “Auld Lang Syne.” The chopped mews sting sharply, like slashes from an 8-bit-videogame sword, and Marble rings in with a hoarse bark that, knowing what we know now about his and Michael Jackson’s coincident deaths, is hard not to read as the kind of netherworldly incursion that used to get cats set ritualistically on fire. Musashi wears big, chunky studio headphones, which he subsequently throws off in a diva tantrum. All five Musashis at one point groom themselves while floating in the dim amniotic aura of pink orbs. They bleat the 18th-century tune in short squawks; it’s hard to reconcile the sounds with the majestically unrousable beasts loafing all around.

          I ask Hideo about his one original composition for the cats, which he hasn’t played for us.

          “Oh, that,” he says. “They wanted to use that as the theme song for a TV show.” This smacks of Stardust Promotion. “The show was on in the summer of 2008.” Rebecca asks what it was called.

          “It was a family drama, and it was called …” Hideo thinks for a moment. “Daisuki! Itsutsugo.” Daisuki means “I like it a lot!” or “I like you a lot!” or, because the Japanese don’t really have a way to say it, “I love you!” The show was about quintuplets (itsutsugo) and the problems they face and then overcome.

          The show’s producers wanted to use Hideo’s original composition for the show’s theme song, but the problem was that they needed lyrics. “But I told them, the cats don’t sing lyrics, they sing instrumental! So then they went and got the girls’ group.” The girls’ group was called P-A, for Pawa-Aiji, or Power Age. “They asked us to take the girls and the cats and make a song and a video.”

          “What happened to P-A?” Rebecca asks.

          “They already disappeared, naturally,” Hideo’s son says.

          “But they were popular back then?”

          “Uh, no,” Hideo says. “They wanted to make the girls popular. By using the cats, because the cats were already popular. So I said OK. But it didn’t work. The girls did not get popular. Still, the cats were the very first species besides humans to sing the theme song for a network TV show.”

          We watch the video of five unpopular girls and five popular cats sing the theme song to a family drama about troubled quintuplets. It begins with scrolling Star Wars-style lettering announcing the publication of the Musashis’ first book. Then Leo and Luka bubble-chat as a UFO flies overhead. The cats appear backlit and powerful, then lift their paws out of a huddle. Each walks through the ether toward the camera. I refuse to continue describing this video. It is on the Internet.

          An interlude: three Tokyo cat cafs, briefly reviewed.

          Cateriam, Shimokitazawa: immaculate, homey, very gemtlich, with 9 to 11 above-average to excellent cats, including a docile rag doll good for holding and a lively Persian that yowls when won over. Cat books and manga for perusal line the walls, and the owner has thoughtfully hung branches from the ceiling for good overhead cat action. Cats may remain less than enthusiastic until engaged by an informative onsite shill/fluffer. Serves delicious green tea lattes and will gladly replace the ones that cats drink out of. Wireless Internet. 9/10.

          Nekobukuro, Ikebukuro: Inexpensively priced, with unlimited cat time, but the nitrogenous tang of egesta will prevent anybody but the hardiest cat lover from lingering. The cats are large and plentiful, with at least 25 on the premises; highlights are a colorpoint Himalayan named Hiyawari and a Norwegian forest cat behind glass. Often feels like an Ambien party for cats, though some apparently tweet. Present are various autoerotic machines, including one that allows cats to bunt against spiked rubber massagers. Ikebukuro locals vastly prefer the mom-and-pop cat caf9 around the corner, Nekorobi, but time constraints prevented this reviewer from visiting. 4/10.

          Neko Caf Club, Jiyugaoka: This former nail salon entertains upwardly mobile yoga moms with kittens, including the Internet’s beloved munchkin and Scottish fold varieties. No postcards or DVDs, unfortunately, and the large picture windows to the street make you feel as if you’re on the Internet. The cats are extremely high-quality, though they may be drugged. Private rooms available. 7/10.

          So what, then, is it about cats? Internet pundits have drafted back-of-the-envelope theories. “The Internet is a dog park for cat people” is one line that gained online currency. Sounds good, but it doesn’t hold up: The Internet’s cat obsession goes well beyond so-called cat people. Plenty of those who’d never think of owning a cat are pleased to watch them on the Internet’s treadmills.

          Time magazine put forward the proposition that “there’s something about watching a normally proud animal thrust into a humiliating situation that’s especially funny.” This is barely worth rebutting, as even the worst cat retains its dignity no matter the circumstances. The cat is the Thing That Will Not Be Humiliated.

          The same Time piece then ended by taking Internet cats not seriously but simply srsly. “Or maybe we’re over-thinking it. ‘Cat videos are just cute,’ says [Nyan Cat creator Christopher] Torres. Indeed.” Except not indeed. Not even remotely indeed. Baby hedgehogs are also cute, arguably cuter, but they do not compete with porn for Internet real estate. One thing competes with porn, and that is cats.

          In the course of my research, by which I mostly mean desultorily clicking on links in my friends’ Gchat away-statuses, I came across two seemingly unrelated but profoundly complementary recent scientific studies. The first, conducted by computer scientists and a psychologist at Missouri University of Science and Technology, took up the link between the Internet and depression. The people at MST had a few major findings that correlated patterns of heavy Internet usage, with some apparent statistical significance, to symptoms of depression. The first was the presence of P2P packets, an indicator of file-sharingmusic and movies. The second was frequent email checking. A third example was increased “flow duration entropy,” a result of rapid switching between applications, and to that the authors of the study added increased video watching, gaming, and chatting. Their examples of depressive Internet activity overlapped nearly perfectly with most people’s idea of Internet usage. They didn’t break out the video-watching by genre, but one can only suspect that a lot of those depressive Internet users were watching cat videos.

          Meanwhile, around the time of the depression study, someone in the cat group I’m in on Facebookno explanation necessaryposted a write-up of a study conducted by some cat scientists at the University of Vienna on the relationship between cats and neurotics. The dryness of the study’s title (“Factors Influencing the Temporal Patterns of Dyadic Behaviours and Interactions Between Domestic Cats and Their Owners”) belied the most exciting ethology of cat ownership since D. C. Turner’s seminal 1991 paper in the august journal Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd. The authors cite Turner’s towering influence: “Turner (1991),” wrote Wedl, Bauer, et al., found that “the higher the proportion of all successful intents to interact [with the cat] that were due to the cat, the longer was the duration of interactions.”

          In other words, your cat will like you best if you pretend that you don’t desperately want to play with it all the time. What the current group of researchers seemed to suggest was equally fascinating: The more neurotic the cat ownerthe more desperate for fuzzy comfort and nuzzly security and unconditional affectionthe briefer the interactions that damn cat would allow.

          So we have a reputable study correlating Internet usage and depression. We have another reputable study correlating neuroticism and being ignored by cats. We are only one step away from the grand synthesis that has thus far eluded the ever-growing community of Internet-cat researchers.

          This all comes together for me at that first cat caf. I guess I feel about it what one might theoretically feel about an orgy, or that old chestnut about the ’60s: if you were keeping good notes, or if the memory is much more than a lot of velutinous petting alongside irascible demands for submaxillary attention, you probably weren’t making the most of it.

          It’s on the second floor of a nondescript building in Shimokitazawa, and the walls are papered with information about the cats’ Twitter feeds. The setup is this: You walk in, pay 1,000 yen, or about $12, for an hour (which includes one drink), take off your shoes, go up a step and through a gate, sit down, pick up a toy, and wait for the cats, who, needless to say, want absolutely nothing to do with you. I remember a video I watched online, a Time magazine segment on the web about the first cat caf9, which opened in Osaka in 2004. The initial highlight of the Time piece was this one middle-aged woman who loved cats. She said she came to the cat caf, like many people, because her apartment building didn’t allow pets. She worked in a factory, and after the feel of cold metal all day she liked to come here and feel warm fur.

          The real pathos of the Time segment, though, was a bit toward the end, where it was clear that the women couldn’t figure out why some of the cats were being standoffish; they looked like they thought they were doing something wrong. And the needier the women, the more indifferent the cats; they seemed not to understand that this is how a cat works.

          Think of it this way: What we do on the Internet is mostly “like” things, and while liking them we wait for our own content to be liked. We check our analytics as we await retweets. This is where the cats come in. A cat will not retrieve some dumb object so that you can throw it yet again. A cat will not do a shtick to be petted on its head. A cat will not jig for a mackerel ingot. That goes against everything cats stand for. Or more often sit. It’s not just that cats are unable to be anything but real; it’s that cats both know they are performing and couldn’t possibly care less about how their performance is received. Their play in front of a camera is exactly like their play absent one.

          What an Internet cat does is thus confront us with how cravenly we ourselves court approval. A cat, if it decides to love you, will do so only on its own terms, and, as that Viennese study showed, the more you let it come to you, i.e., the less you need it, the better loved you’re going to be. The reason the lolcat says “Oh hai” is because he only just noticed, and certainly doesn’t care, that you caught him serenely occupying ur nouns, verbing ur other nouns. He doesn’t worry about you or what you think; by his living in your screen, you can love him, but there isn’t a prayer of reciprocation. Thus is the Internet cat the realest cat of all.

          The late-afternoon light is pink on the snow, and we need to drive out of the mountains before the roads freeze over. But there is one more thing I want to talk about.

          “So,” I say, “are you guys interested in any, er, other Internet cats?”

          “There’s Maru,” Hideo says right away. “He’s very interesting. He likes boxes. Jumping into them.”

          I say I tried to meet him and was refused. I hope I sound convincingly flat, affectless, unfixated.

          Manaho asks where Maru lives. “Nobody knows,” I reply.

          “Ah so!” Manaho says. She continues in Japanese, and Rebecca translates. “She says they’re quite good videos, the way they shoot them. She also says she thinks it’s a professional doing them.”

          It sounds to me as though she meant something weighted by “professional.” Later I ask Rebecca if I was right about that, or if it was just her translation. She says she thinks there’s something to it: To the resolutely DIY Musashis, the slick high-roller Maru might look like a bit of a sellout. “I mean, Hideo’s videos, they’re so aggressively amateurish. It looked like he’d just clicked the box for every single effecthighlight, aura, fade, starburst, whatever.”

          Manaho asks why Maru declined my interview request. I tell her his owner thinks the cat is the way he isuncorrupted by fame, unselfconscious in his performancebecause she keeps him quarantined. If he met outsiders, she worries, he wouldn’t be the same anymore. He might get anxious.

          Manaho nods. “Usually when cats encounter someone new they go and hide, but these cats are different.” She points under the table, where her cats are sitting and sleeping. “Because of their personality, we thought they would be OK with the media. It didn’t stress them out.” It didn’t even wake them up.

          “It was all a crazy period,” Manaho says.

          “Did it change your life at all?” I ask.

          “Not at all,” Hideo says. “We weren’t the crazy mom and dad.”

          “So are you still writing songs for the cats?”

          “Not recently,” Hideo says.

          Manaho breaks in, and Rebecca translates: “Of all the experience they have working with all the other artistsand she just named some pop stars even I’ve heard ofshe says they can say that the cats are by far the most difficult. It really takes a lot of time. They don’t follow instructions. They don’t know where or when to meow. They won’t stand in front of the microphone. So the microphone needs to stand in front of the cats.” She makes a motion that is halfway between the operation of a boom mic and a lacrosse pass.

          His cat-music career having foundered on the superciliousness and indifference of his imperious cats, Hideo tells me what he’s up to now. “I’m working on a charity song. After the earthquake and tsunami happened, there were so many pages on Facebook that people made to send their good wishes or money to Japan, but most of the comments on the Facebook pages were in English. I went to all the different pages for Japan and wrote that the people of Japan were grateful for their thoughts and prayers. I became friends with many more people on Facebook, from all over the world.”

          He found an Internet that was accountable and kind, not anonymous and mean-spirited. “I wanted to share all of this with Japanese people, so I asked my friends on Facebook in all these countries if they would sing for me. I made a huge chorus of many voices that I’m still working on. I get to collaborate with all these people I’ve never met and never had conversations with but we can still make work together. Maybe you will sing for me?”

          “I don’t think you want me singing for you.”

          “But maybe you will write about this, and more people will find me and collaborate with me.” His name is Hideo Saito, and he is on Facebook.

          The cedar shadows have grown narrow in the snow outside, and the cats snore and mutter in their dreams. We take pictures until we are all too sore to keep holding Musashi aloft. We all bow at each other. Rebecca and I bow at the cats. The cats drift off.

          On the long drive home, Fuji hovering before us, solitary and immanent in cloudy magenta, Rebecca and I talk about how terrible we feel that we expected these Internet cat video people to be out of their minds. They are just normal people who have some special cats to share with the world and have gotten something back. I picture-message Micah, my brother, an image of Musashi obscuring my lap.

          “That’s not a cat,” he texts back. “That’s a lion.”

          “It’s a Norwegian forest cat.”

          “Norwegian forests must be terrifying.”

          “No, it wasn’t terrifying. It was really nice, and sleepy. If you want to see him sing, search YouTube for ‘! !P-A Musashi’s.’”

          It takes him a few minutes to respond.

          “Dude what the fuck.”

          kthxbai.

          Gideon Lewis-Kraus (gideonlk@gmail.com) is the author of the memoir A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful.

          Source: http://www.wired.com/

          Animals Kept In Deep Freeze For 30 Years Brought Back To Life

          Microscopic creatures kept frozen for more than three decades have been successfully brought back to life.

          The 1mm long tardigrades were collected from a frozen moss sample in Antarctica in 1983, according to a new paper published in the journal Cryobiology. 

          Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research stored the 8 legged, segmented critters at -4F for just over 30 years. They thawed and revived two of the animals, which are also known as water bears or moss piglets, in early 2014.

          Credit: Photolibrary via Getty Images
          The previous record for a tardigrade being revived from a deep freeze was 8 years.

          One of them died 20 days into the experiment, reports the BBC. But its companion survived and managed to reproduce with a third tardigrade that had been hatched from a frozen egg. It went on to lay 19 eggs, of which 14 survived.

          Tardigrades, found living in water across the world, are renowned for being tough and have previously survived several days after being blasted into space.

          According to Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, their metabolism shuts down and they enter a cryptobiotic state when faced with low temperatures. 

          The previous record for tardigrades surviving extreme cold was eight years. “The present study extends the known length of long-term survival in tardigrade species considerably,” researchers wrote in the newly released paper.

          Credit: STEVE GSCHMEISSNER via Getty Images
          Anematode worm was revived after 39 years in deep freeze.

          Lead researcher Megumu Tsujimoto said the team now wants to “unravel the mechanism for long-term survival by looking into damage to tardigrades’ DNA and their ability to repair it.”

          The tardigrade has some way to go beat the record for surviving in a frozen state, however, which is currently held by the nematode worm – which managed 39 years in deep freeze before being revived.

          Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

          Every Year Japanese Art Students Get Together and Make Giant Animals Out of Straw

          Since 2008, students from the Musashino Art University in Tokyo have travelled to Niigata City, Japan to create huge sculptures made from straw (featured previously) for the Wara Art Festival.

          The giant straw sculptures are built atop large wooden frames which serve as the base for the woven straw artworks. The festival also features kite flying, a miniature market and other events. It’s a huge hit with kids and parents as people get to interact with the sculptures, taking photos and playing in the open fields.

          Below you will find highlights from year’s festival. You can see works from previous years in our feature gallery from 2015. You can learn more about the festival at the official site as well as their Facebook page.

          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook

          Source: http://twistedsifter.com/

          ‘Not ashamed’: dolphin hunters of Taiji break silence over film The Cove

          Members of the tiny Japanese community, which was vilified in the 2009 documentary, speak to the Guardian about fishing and their unique way of life

          Taiji is still in darkness when a dozen men gather at the quayside and warm themselves over a brazier. While the rest of the town sleeps, they sip from cans of hot coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk in hushed tones.

          As soon as the sun edges above the peninsula, they take to their boats, steering out to sea in formation in search of their prey: the dolphin.

          It has been eight years since the Oscar-winning film The Cove propelled this community in an isolated corner of Japans Pacific coast to the centre of a bitter debate over the pursuit of dolphins for human consumption and entertainment.

          The films graphic footage of dolphins being slaughtered with knives, turning the surrounding sea a crimson red, shocked audiences around the world.

          Unaccustomed to international attention and wrong-footed by their social media-savvy opponents, the towns 3,200 residents simply went to ground. Requests for interviews with town officials went unanswered; the fishermen took a vow of silence.

          But after years of keeping their counsel, Taijis fishermen have finally spoken out, agreeing to talk to the Guardian about their work, their whaling heritage, and their determination to continue hunting dolphins.

          Weve mostly stayed silent since The Cove, and thats why our point of view was never put across in the media, says Yoshifumi Kai, a senior official with Taijis fisheries cooperative.

          Taijis
          Taijis dolphin hunters head out to sea Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

          Kai attributes that reticence down to what he claims are attempts by activists from Sea Shepherd and other conservation groups to manufacture confrontations, which they film and post online, and challenges claims that the practice of slaughtering dolphins beneath tarpaulin sheets is proof that he and his fellow fishermen have something to hide.

          Activists say we are concealing something because we know that what we are doing is immoral, but thats nonsense, he says. You never see cattle or other animals being slaughtered in public. Its not something you do out in the open.

          The earliest recorded coastal whale hunts in Taiji can be traced back to the early 1600s. Scrolls on display in the towns whale museum depict dozens of boats decorated with symbols taken from Buddhism and Japans indigenous religion, Shinto, in pursuit of a whale big enough to sustain the entire community for months.

          Foreign activists ask us why we kill these cute animals, but we see them as a vital source of food, even now, says Taijis mayor, Kazutaka Sangen. When I was a boy, a third of the town would turn out to greet a whale being brought back to shore, because they were desperate to eat its meat. We are grateful to the whales we want Westerners to understand that.

          Taiji Japan map

          By killing dolphins and other small whales, fishermen are continuing a tradition that enabled their ancestors to survive before the days of mass transport and the availability of other sources of nutrition, adds Sangen.

          We couldnt grow rice or vegetables here, and we had no natural water supply. We needed to kill whales to eat, and hundreds of people died doing so. This was a very difficult place to survive, and we will always be grateful to our ancestors for their sacrifice. Its because of them that we are all here today.

          For Sangen, everything in Taiji from services for elderly residents to education and tourist infrastructure depends on the income it makes from the sale of dolphins to zoos and aquariums. Several times during the interview he refers to kujira no megumi literally, the blessing of the whale. Whaling enables this town to function, he says.

          Using remote-controlled helicopters and hidden underwater cameras, The Cove provided graphic footage of Taijis infamous drive hunts, whose critics include the former US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.

          Typically, fishermen pursue pods of dolphins across open seas, banging metal poles against their boats to confuse their hypersensitive sonar, before herding them into a narrow inlet. There, they are either slaughtered for their meat or selected and sold for large sums to aquariums and marine parks.

          While dolphin meat for human consumption generates only modest profits, Taijis fishermen can reportedly sell a live specimen to brokers for about 8,000 US dollars. A fully trained dolphin can then fetch more than 40,000 US dollars if sold overseas, and about half that in Japan.

          Minke
          Minke whale sashimi served at a restaurant in Taiji Photograph: Justin McCurry

          The 20 or so Taiji fishermen who take to the sea between September and April to hunt bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales and other small cetaceans have been emboldened by the release of Okujirasama (A Whale of a Tale) a documentary by the New York-based filmmaker Megumi Sasaki that counters what she describes as The Coves one-sided treatment of a complex issue.

          While making her film, Sasaki concluded that the debate over Taiji is an irreconcilable clash of cultures between the global, and Western-led, animal rights movement and local traditions steeped in religion and ancestor worship.

          Whaling is the glue that holds this town together

          If dolphins are so important to the local community, then why kill them thats what many Westerners cant understand, Sasaki says. But we think of animals as a resource, not that they are special creatures that can do things humans cant do. Its a totally different way of thinking. Whaling is the glue that holds this town together its inseparable from local identity and pride.

          Kai dismisses claims that that he and other fishermen employ a singularly cruel method to kill the dolphins. The way we work has changed with the times, he says. In response to criticism, fishermen now dispatch the animals by inserting a knife into their neck, severing their brain stem a method he claims is the most humane possible, but which some experts have said does not result in a painless or immediate death.

          On a recent morning, the seafront in Taiji is free from confrontation, although activists have tweeted their regular early-morning photos of the banger boats heading out to sea.

          The fishermen appear to have reached an uneasy truce with overseas campaigners, first from Sea Shepherd, and now from the Dolphin Project, a group formed by the dolphin trainer-turned activist Ric OBarry.

          Warning
          Warning signs near the cove in Taiji. Photograph: Justin McCurry for the Guardian

          But there is still little interaction between the two sides. They dont want to listen, only to provoke us, Mitsunori Kobata, president of Taijis dolphin-hunting association, says over a dinner of minke whale sashimi and steamed rice flavoured with thin strips of whale blubber.

          Theyre here to do whatever they can to obstruct our business, so we dont see any point in engaging with them. Theyre never going to change their minds, whatever we say.

          Pointing to slices of sauted meat, from the belly of a short-finned pilot whale, that he has brought from home, Kobata adds: In the days when there was no refrigeration, people preserved meat like this in salt. Of course, there are lots of other sources of protein around these days, but people of my generation and older still have the right to eat whale if we want to.

          Both men hope Sasakis documentary will restore some equilibrium to a debate that has cast a shadow over Taiji for almost a decade.

          They point out that they kill just under 2,000 small cetaceans a year, a tenth of Japans annual quota, adding that none of the species is endangered or covered by the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling.

          Were not ashamed of hunting dolphins and would never consider stopping, Kai says. Its the most important part of our local tradition.

          Just look around you if we didnt make a living from the sea, there would be nothing left. People keep telling us to stop whaling and find another way of earning a living. But what on earth would we do instead?

          Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

          Now your pets can pledge unwavering loyalty to you with samurai armor

          Image: Samurai Age

          If you’re looking for a way to instill a sense of loyalty in your pet, we have the perfect solution.

          Novelty retailer Samurai Age is making suits of armor inspired by the warriors of medieval Japan for your feline or canine friend.

          The company which has also created samurai-themed bottle covers, armor for dolls, and samurai helmets has released a line of samurai armor for your pet to pledge their loyalty to you.

          Samurai Age sells both ready-made armor for cats, smaller dogs, and children, but you’ll have to place a custom-made order for larger dogs.

          A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

          # # #2017 # #samuraiage #cat #petarmor #

          A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

          The red armor inspired by the armor of famed 16th century samurai Sanada Yukimura will definitely give your pet that Kurosawa feel.

          A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

          # # # #samuraiage # #cat #samuraiarmor

          A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

          The armor, which is made out of foam and resin, comes in red, black, silver, or gold, and is priced between 14,040 yen ($128) to 16,416 yen ($148.79).

          If you’re into samurai helmets, they’ll cost between 7,020 yen ($63.63) to 14,256 yen ($129).

          She loves it. I swear. – #samuraiage #samuraicap #bostonterrier #bostonterriersofinstagram

          A post shared by Roman Cortez (@romancortez) on

          It’s not the first time Japan has become obsessed with samurai pet armor wanko kacchu, or doggy armor, was first made available to rent from pet supply store Kandaya in 2015.

          Samurai Age ships overseas. You can buy their armor here, and their helmets here. To make a custom order, you can click here.

          (h/tGrapee.jp)

          Source: http://mashable.com/

          Now your pets can pledge unwavering loyalty to you with samurai armor

          Image: Samurai Age

          If you’re looking for a way to instill a sense of loyalty in your pet, we have the perfect solution.

          Novelty retailer Samurai Age is making suits of armor inspired by the warriors of medieval Japan for your feline or canine friend.

          The company which has also created samurai-themed bottle covers, armor for dolls, and samurai helmets has released a line of samurai armor for your pet to pledge their loyalty to you.

          Samurai Age sells both ready-made armor for cats, smaller dogs, and children, but you’ll have to place a custom-made order for larger dogs.

          A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

          # # #2017 # #samuraiage #cat #petarmor #

          A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

          The red armor inspired by the armor of famed 16th century samurai Sanada Yukimura will definitely give your pet that Kurosawa feel.

          A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

          # # # #samuraiage # #cat #samuraiarmor

          A post shared by SAMURAI AGE (@samurai_age) on

          The armor, which is made out of foam and resin, comes in red, black, silver, or gold, and is priced between 14,040 yen ($128) to 16,416 yen ($148.79).

          If you’re into samurai helmets, they’ll cost between 7,020 yen ($63.63) to 14,256 yen ($129).

          She loves it. I swear. – #samuraiage #samuraicap #bostonterrier #bostonterriersofinstagram

          A post shared by Roman Cortez (@romancortez) on

          It’s not the first time Japan has become obsessed with samurai pet armor wanko kacchu, or doggy armor, was first made available to rent from pet supply store Kandaya in 2015.

          Samurai Age ships overseas. You can buy their armor here, and their helmets here. To make a custom order, you can click here.

          (h/tGrapee.jp)

          Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/09/samurai-armor-pets/

          Every Year Japanese Art Students Get Together and Make Giant Animals Out of Straw

          Since 2008, students from the Musashino Art University in Tokyo have travelled to Niigata City, Japan to create huge sculptures made from straw (featured previously) for the Wara Art Festival.

          The giant straw sculptures are built atop large wooden frames which serve as the base for the woven straw artworks. The festival also features kite flying, a miniature market and other events. It’s a huge hit with kids and parents as people get to interact with the sculptures, taking photos and playing in the open fields.

          Below you will find highlights from year’s festival. You can see works from previous years in our feature gallery from 2015. You can learn more about the festival at the official site as well as their Facebook page.

          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook
          Photograph via Wara Art on Facebook

          Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2017/10/wara-art-festival-japan-highlights/

          Animals Kept In Deep Freeze For 30 Years Brought Back To Life

          Microscopic creatures kept frozen for more than three decades have been successfully brought back to life.

          The 1mm long tardigrades were collected from a frozen moss sample in Antarctica in 1983, according to a new paper published in the journal Cryobiology. 

          Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research stored the 8 legged, segmented critters at -4F for just over 30 years. They thawed and revived two of the animals, which are also known as water bears or moss piglets, in early 2014.

          Credit: Photolibrary via Getty Images
          The previous record for a tardigrade being revived from a deep freeze was 8 years.

          One of them died 20 days into the experiment, reports the BBC. But its companion survived and managed to reproduce with a third tardigrade that had been hatched from a frozen egg. It went on to lay 19 eggs, of which 14 survived.

          Tardigrades, found living in water across the world, are renowned for being tough and have previously survived several days after being blasted into space.

          According to Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, their metabolism shuts down and they enter a cryptobiotic state when faced with low temperatures. 

          The previous record for tardigrades surviving extreme cold was eight years. “The present study extends the known length of long-term survival in tardigrade species considerably,” researchers wrote in the newly released paper.

          Credit: STEVE GSCHMEISSNER via Getty Images
          Anematode worm was revived after 39 years in deep freeze.

          Lead researcher Megumu Tsujimoto said the team now wants to “unravel the mechanism for long-term survival by looking into damage to tardigrades’ DNA and their ability to repair it.”

          The tardigrade has some way to go beat the record for surviving in a frozen state, however, which is currently held by the nematode worm – which managed 39 years in deep freeze before being revived.

          Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/01/17/animals-deep-freeze-japan_n_9002034.html

          Star of dolphin-hunting film The Cove to be deported from Japan

          Ric OBarry is accused of trying to enter the country using tourist visa to join campaign against slaughter of dolphins in Taiji

          A leading US animal rights activist is to be deported from Japan after being accused of trying to enter on a tourist visa to support a campaign against the slaughter of dolphins.

          Ric OBarry, who starred in The Cove, the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary about the annual dolphin cull in the town of Taiji, has been detained at Narita airport near Tokyo since Monday.

          His son, Lincoln OBarry, said immigration authorities had turned down his fathers request to visit Japan using a tourist visa. They reportedly accused him of lying during questioning and of having links to the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd, whose members have a constant presence in Taiji.

          The 76-year-old, who trained dolphins for the 1960s TV series Flipper before devoting himself to conservation, reportedly denied the charges, saying he was going to observe dolphins as a tourist.

          Taiji, on Japans Pacific coast, gained international notoriety as a result of The Cove, which followed OBarry and other activists as they attempted to document the killing of dolphins by local fishermen. The film, directed by Louie Psihoyos, won the Academy Award for best documentary.

          The method used to kill the animals has been widely condemned by environmentalists. The US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, has also voiced deep concern about the drive-hunt method.

          Fishermen pursue pods of dolphins and bang metal poles together beneath the water to confuse their hypersensitive sonar. The dolphins are then driven into a large cove sealed off by nets, and taken to a secluded inlet to be killed with knives and spears.

          Last year, aquariums in Japan voted to stop buying live dolphins from Taiji after they were threatened with expulsion from the worlds leading zoo organisation. Taijis mayor, Kazutaka Sangen, later said the town would set up a new body that would continue to sell dolphins to aquariums.

          OBarry, who heads the Dolphin Project campaign group, is a regular visitor to Taiji, where fishermen catch hundreds of dolphins during the six-month season, which starts in September. The most attractive specimens, usually bottlenoses, are sold to aquariums and sea parks, while others are killed and their meat sold in local restaurants and supermarkets.

          In an email to his son seen by the Associated Press, OBarry said: Im incarcerated, on trumped-up charges. In a world where so much that is wild and free has already been lost to us, we must leave these beautiful dolphins free to swim as they will and must.

          Fishermen

          Fishermen drive bottlenose dolphins into a net during the annual hunt off Taiji, Japan. Photograph: AP

          Media reports said OBarry was resisting deportation and had been transferred to another detention facility near Narita airport. His lawyer Takashi Takano visited him on Friday and said OBarry was being held alone but was in good spirits.

          The Japanese government was expected to issue a formal warrant and physically deport him, Takano added.

          The deportation order marks a hardening of attitudes among Japanese authorities towards environmental activists in Taiji. Police have increased their presence in the town in case of clashes between Sea Shepherd members and locals, who claim they are being unfairly vilified for maintaining a coastal whaling and dolphin-hunting tradition stretching back centuries.

          OBarry was arrested near the town last September for allegedly failing to carry his passport, but was released the following day.

          Takano said immigration officials refused to believe OBarrys claim that he was not planning to participate in any campaigns. They cited his presence last August at Japan Dolphins Day in Tokyo, despite having told them he would not attend the event.

          Immigration officials said they were unable to comment on individual cases.

          Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/22/star-dolphin-hunting-film-cove-ric-obarry-deported-japan

          Every Year, Turtles Get Stuck In These Railroad Tracks — This Is The Cute Solution

          When a bunch of turtles were found riding the rails near the Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe, Japan, something had to be done. Because of the park’s proximity to the ocean, these cute critters often end up climbing over one of the train tracks, becoming stuck between the two.

          With nowhere to go though, they previously had to walk along the track where either they were run over by a train, or ended up destroying railway switches. At least that was until the West Japan Railway Company came up with a solution that has the Internet abuzz.

          Because the turtles could hurt themselves, the train, or the switches, all causing major delays, the railway company worked hard with marine experts to determine a viable and cost-effective solution.

          Their eventual idea? Create escape ditches for turtles all throughout the region.

          And the results have been phenomenal. In just a few months, the passageways have saved the lives of at least ten turtles, not to mention the monetary benefits associated with trains arriving on time.

          One thing’s for sure: this is definitely a better long-term fix compared to getting seeing-eye dogs for all the turtles…

          Thanks to the ingenuity of a few, everyone in this situation comes out a winner.

          Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/turtle-train/

          Neko Atsume cat collecting phone game being made into a live-action movie

          Film version of wildly popular and notoriously addictive kitty collector app will star Japanese actor Atsushi Ito

          A popular mobile phone game about collecting cats is being made into a live-action movie, to be released in 2017, in what has to be one of the most 21st-century article introductions ever written.

          The Japanese game Neko Atsume, which means kitty collector, created by Hit-Point, is being turned into a film starring the popular Japanese television and film actor Atsushi Ito.

          The notoriously addictive game involves players populating a virtual backyard with food, cushions and toys to attract cats, who leave behind silver and gold fish as thanks.

          The film, titled Neko Atsume No Ie, or Cat Collectors House, tells the story of a young author, Katsu Sakumoto, who is struggling with writers block in the shadow of his own early success. After moving house in an unsuccessful attempt to reinvigorate his creative side, he spies a cat in his garden. He leaves food outside overnight in an effort to befriend it and a new obsession is born.

          Ito, who plays Sakumoto, said his characters connection with cats made him re-evaluate the way he dealt with other human beings. The contact I had with cats while we were shooting scenes was a healing experience and gave me lots of energy, he said on the film website.

          The director, Masatoshi Kurakata, said: I wanted to make a simple movie that gives off feelings of warmth. I and the staff and cast of the film really put our hearts into making the film.

          Neko Atsume has become a worldwide hit since its release in late 2014, with more than 5.5m downloads in its first year. Originally only available in Japanese, Hit-Point released an English-language version on iOS and Android in October 2015.

          Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/09/neko-atsume-cat-collecting-phone-game-being-made-into-a-live-action-movie

          Japan safari park worker killed in bear attack

          Kiyomi Saito died from her injuries after a black bear climbed into her car in Gunma safari park and attacked her, say police

          A safari park employee in Japan has been killed by a bear that climbed into her car and attacked her.

          The Asian black bear was seen clambering into the vehicle at Gunma safari park, north-west of Tokyo, and mauling Kiyomi Saito, a police spokesman said.

          Saito, 46, sustained fatal injuries to her chest and stomach.

          The details are not yet known, including how the bear got inside the car, the spokesman said. The animal was believed to be a five-year-old male weighing 160 kg (25st 3lb).

          The park remains under police investigation and no details can be confirmed at this point, said Yusuke Yamazaki, a park employee.

          Japan has been hit by a spate of wild bear attacks this year. Four people in the north were killed in separate incidents in May and June.

          In 2012, several bears escaped from Hachimantai bear park in northern Akita prefecture, which had kept 38 animals, most of them brown bears. Two female workers at the facility were later found dead.

          Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/16/japan-safari-park-worker-killed-bear-attack-gunma

          Pot-growing neighbors blamed for fire that killed import cars, dogs

           (International Vehicle Importers)

          A few days ago, we brought you news on marijuana’s danger to drivers. Today, we bring you news on marijuana’s danger to cars.

          Earlier this month, a fire at International Vehicle Importers, a Southern California company that specializes in bringing Japanese cars to the United States, destroyed much of the inventory. The cause of the blaze wasn’t initially known, but now the owner of the company is blaming a pot-growing operation in an adjacent warehouse.

          “After the fire, it was discovered that an illegal (in Ontario, California) marijuana grow was moving in next door,” Sean Morris, the owner of International Vehicle Importers, wrote on Facebook. “There was activity all day on Sunday next door, just prior to the fire. The thoughts are that they overloaded the main power breakers and this caused the fire.”

          ———-

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          Twenty-four cars were lost in the fire, which occurred May 1, including several 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R and GTS models, a 1989 Nissan Cefiro, 1989 Toyota Soarer, and a ’94 Eunos/Mazda Cosmo, along with several motorhomes and motorcycles. Most important, Morris and his family lost two dogs, Max and Gigi, in the fire.

          Police officials have yet to confirm the link between the fire and a marijuana-growing operation next door, though Morris posted pictures of a search warrant and apparent plant on his Facebook page. He writes the business was insured, and that it still has cars en route from Japan and more at its Long Beach location.

          “Along with business items, the dogs, and some spare parts, we also had some personal items that were being stored at the warehouse,” he said. “Thank you for all the support out there. You know who you are.”

          Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2016/05/13/pot-growing-neighbors-blamed-for-fire-that-killed-skylines-dogs/

          Japanese Couple Captures Every Time Their Cats Watch Them Eat

          No matter how hard asleep, my cat would always wake up and race downstairs when he’d hear my mom chopping meat. But he’d only stick around while she was cooking. However, these two cats from Japan also awkwardly watch their humans eat. Every single time.

          The two felines seem to never miss their owners’ dinner as it is meticulously documented on the couple’s Instagram. No wonder the meals look so mouth-watering – under the supervision of such adorably strict kitties, hoomins have no other choice but to oblige.