Sunday, May 31, 2009

Entroducing... Gregory


My top priority..

AOKIGAHARA FOREST, Japan (CNN) -- Aokigahara Forest is known for two things in Japan: breathtaking views of Mount Fuji and suicides. Also called the Sea of Trees, this destination for the desperate is a place where the suicidal disappear, often never to be found in the dense forest.

Japan's Aokigahara Forest is known as the "suicide forest" because people often go there to take their own lives.

Japan's Aokigahara Forest is known as the "suicide forest" because people often go there to take their own lives.

Taro, a 46-year-old man fired from his job at an iron manufacturing company, hoped to fade into the blackness. "My will to live disappeared," said Taro. "I'd lost my identity, so I didn't want to live on this earth. That's why I went there."

Taro, who did not want to be identified fully, was swimming in debt and had been evicted from his company apartment.

He lost financial control, which he believes to be the foundation of any stable life, he said. "You need money to survive. If you have a girlfriend, you need money. If you want to get married, you need it for your life. Money is always necessary for your life." Video Watch Taro describe why he wanted to die in "suicide forest" »

Taro bought a one-way ticket to the forest, west of Tokyo, Japan. When he got there, he slashed his wrists, though the cut wasn't enough to kill him quickly.

He started to wander, he said. He collapsed after days and lay in the bushes, nearly dead from dehydration, starvation and frostbite. He would lose his toes on his right foot from the frostbite. But he didn't lose his life, because a hiker stumbled upon his nearly dead body and raised the alarm.

Taro's story is just one of hundreds logged at Aokigahara Forest every year, a place known throughout Japan as the "suicide forest." The area is home to the highest number of suicides in the entire country.

Japan's suicide rate, already one of the world's highest, has increased with the recent economic downturn.

There were 2,645 suicides recorded in January 2009, a 15 percent increase from the 2,305 for January 2008, according to the Japanese government.

The Japanese government said suicide rates are a priority and pledged to cut the number of suicides by more than 20 percent by 2016. It plans to improve suicide awareness in schools and workplaces. But officials fear the toll will rise with unemployment and bankruptcies, matching suicide spikes in earlier tough economic times.

"Unemployment is leading to this," said Toyoki Yoshida, a suicide and credit counselor.

"Society and the government need to establish immediate countermeasures to prevent suicides. There should be more places where they can come and seek help."

Yoshida and his fellow volunteer, Norio Sawaguchi, posted signs in Aokigahara Forest urging suicidal visitors to call their organization, a credit counseling service. Both men say Japanese society too often turns a cold shoulder to the unemployed and bankrupt, and breeds a culture where suicide is still seen as an honorable option.

Local authorities, saying they are the last resort to stop people from killing themselves in the forest, have posted security cameras at the entrances of the forest.

The goal, said Imasa Watanabe of the Yamanashi Prefectural Government is to track the people who walk into the forest. Watanabe fears more suicidal visitors will arrive in the coming weeks.

"Especially in March, the end of the fiscal year, more suicidal people will come here because of the bad economy," he said. "It's my dream to stop suicides in this forest, but to be honest, it would be difficult to prevent all the cases here."

One year after his suicide attempt, Taro is volunteering with the credit counseling agency that helped him get back on his feet. He's still living in a shelter and looking for a job. He's ashamed, he said, that he still thinks about suicide.

"I try not to think about it, but I can't say never. For now, the will to live is stronger." 

Concourse Alpha

Unfortunately my pencil lines are very thin, so a lot of this didn't translate well to this size (a lot of this could have used inking treatment vs. photoshop). A bit of an odd comic...Mainly aspect to aspect (though the space is somewhat imaginary). A few moment to moment at the beginning, though they aren't the smoothest transitions.

Link to Slightly Better Quality Version

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Richards Comic


Here it is...a comic about my constant state of distraction.
Amanda C.


my comic

here is my comic. I have to get my new photoshop installed because i dont use the schools (its no good to me if they deactivate it afterword). I also go it scanned at kinkos (who were not very professional) so please bear with this till i can do it properly. I'm sorry and I will try to make it the proper format asap
This post is a video harajuku girls. I think this way of dress and play is very interesting and i look forward to see some japanese girls in custom when we are on the trip. These young women have a wonderful sense of both play and fashion. 


This post is an image of a Japanese hotel. They are small little containers that include one bed mat and a small pillow. You simply pay for the space for an certain about of time and shut your self in this little space to rest. relax or take a break from a long day or travel. These are also located in some subway staions as well. I thought this was very odd and that they looks like little washing machines. Space in places like tokyo are so cramped but i could never imagine sleeping in one of these cube where it was tight and where people could watch you as you rested.

Comic Blog

My Comic Project

Here's my project for the 6-9 panel project. Don't really have a title, but off the top of my head, this comic is entitled, Time. Hope you like it!

At this point in the dream I realized my food was poisoned

Scene, aspect, moment, action transitions

GOTH-TRAD (Japanese Dubstep)

Seem as if this guy had a good grasp on the Dubstep scene in Japan. He has a stack of shows lined up this summer in Japan and around the rest of the world. He flaunts a healthy discography and club resume. Check out his site and myspace



Mornings (Amanda Albrent)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

When I come home...

There's always a small animal waiting for me!

The Artists View: Museum

This is my 9-panel narrative depicting a day at the museum i spent with two of my closest friends. i chose this moment of my life in chicago because it is a perfect example of how random moments of my life are. I apologize for the PG13 rating, but i think we can all handle it and i hope this real moment from my life makes you laugh. (^-^)

Ginza District

Hi all! I know this isn't a proper blog or anything i just think it's neat.
The other day while i was browsing the internet i came across an interesting diorama speaker. The speaker was made by Bandai (band-eye), and depicts the Ginza district. Bandai is one of the largest toy manufactering companies in the world and we are sceduled to go to the Ginza shopping district on our thirteenth day of the trip.

The Process

This is my 6 panel comic assignment illustrating me going through my process for assembling a model. I realize this one only has 5 panels. I'm working w/ a 600 year old scanner back home so once i get over tech issues I'll update the post.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

When it comes to motorcycles, Japan is pretty well known for their Yamaha series. Well check this sweet ride. This is the Yamaha MAXAM 3000. It looks like a torpedo...anyway this thing is said to be 10 feet long! Seriously...that's just nuts! That is about 3000mm in length! Wonder if that's why they slapped the "3000" label on it? Either way, it is awsome looking piece of work.

- Daniel Lemke

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I'm not smart, brave, or trusted enough to be an architect, but if I were I would probably go out of my way to accomplish in-your-face feats such as Toyo Ito's Tama Art University Library. Most impressive is that each arch in this structure is of a different measurement. I'm sure there's reason with in the concept of the building (based on caves) but at surface value it seems like a show off move. I support. Sometimes sleek beauty just isn't enough gush over. 

-Ate Teen

Pickled Daikon and a whole lot more...

'scuse my rough and horrible Japanese.
Ever wonder what that bright yellow squishy thing is on your plate at a Japanese restaurant?

No? Well, if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you'll certainly be wondering when you see it on your plate in Japan. Daikon (だいこん、大根), a massive radish, is essential to Japanese cuisine. Originally the radish itself is white, over a foot long, and topped with leafy greens. The leaves find themselves in salads and are sometimes sauteed. The radishes become a host of delicious ingredients in food and adorable garnishes aside classic dishes (or... plush toys...).
Being the complete and utter Japanophile that I find myself to be, I have fallen in love with pickled daikon and took it upon myself tonight to make たくわん or yellow pickled daikon. Pickling is an excellent way of preserving food, obviously found in many cultures. When I told my family I had the intention of making pickles, they informed me that we were out of cucumbers. In Japan, pickles are not usually cucumbers. They come in almost any vegetable that can be brined and tubbed. Some of the more famous pickles include pickled plums (ume, うめぼし, the pinkish thing on the image above), mushrooms, cucumbers(usually in a soy sauce brine), and cabbage(often fermented, pictured behind the bright yellow in the photo above). たくわん is often used as a garnish on plates of sushi, served with other pickles in a plate of おしんこ(which just means pickles, as shown above), or in larger ふとまき rolls shown here.

Takuan has been made in Japan the same way for centuries. It's manufacture is primitive, but effective. One takes the crop of daikon for that spring, leaves it out to dry in the sun for a few days until it's shriveled up a little and then tosses it in a giant vat with rice bran, salt, a little bit of sugar, konbu (dried kelp, also used to make udon broth), and sometimes a sliver of tumeric root for color. This method of pickling is not the only one found in Japan. Pickles can also be made with a mixture of soy sauce, mirin (a cooking sake), sake, sugar, or just plain rice vinegar. Often daikon and carrots are shredded and lightly pickled with rice vinegar for a light side salad. A good takuan is prized in Japan and often up for sale in expensive Yahoo!Japan auctions.
When food was hard to come by in World War II, Japan had quite a few pickles to fall back on. Families kept large vats of ume or takuan in their cellars and other places that helped the family cope with food shortages (pickles are a known appetite supressor) and add a little bit of flavor to their meals. The daily ration of rice could be spiced up with a couple pieces of hidden takuan in the center of an rice ball, おにぎり. In the film Grave of the Fireflies the main characters make a point to hide a large vat of ume in their cellar during the constant airraids in their area. The plums stay with them for most of the movie. They provide nutrition for the two boys and the family that takes them in, although the tasty plums are quickly eaten.
I'm off to make my own set of pickled daikon! I hope I manage to master the tangy crisp tenderness that a true rice bran takuan from 日本 has!
Holy Text Wall, Batman! There's your crash course in Japanese pickles. Eat 'em with pride!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Epic fail: Baggage get sucked into and Stuck in plane engine

Found this funny news video on a plane that was originally going from Los Angeles to Tokyo, but experienced and odd problem that prevented the plane from taking off. The planes engine somehow managed to suck in a huge 5x5x4 case that just mangaged to get logged in there. God knows how it did, but thankfully no one was hurt. Hopfully this wont happen to us when we take off for Japan.

Here is the link to the video. I dont know how to up load it via a blog post, so enjoy!

-Daniel Lemke

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Our first dinner in Japan

Our first group dinner in Japan was delicious and surprisingly jet-lag free! We sampled traditional dishes like vegetable tempura, tekka don, seaweed salad, sukiyaki, and plenty of fresh sushi.

Okay, okay... so we haven't actually left Chicago yet, but the unofficial pre-trip group dinner at Ginza restaurant was a great test run and a good time for those who managed to make it out. Looking forward to the real deal with the whole group soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


The Sound of Finals

The Sound of Finals
By: Kloie Leslie
Pre-trip comic using moment to moment, aspect to aspect, and scene to scene.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Japan's Energy Crisis... solution?

I happened to peek through Ode Magazine and discovered this really interesting article about what Japan is doing about it's energy crisis. How can the consumer in his own home manage the cost of his energy bill? Simple, get a hydrogen fuel cell placed in your backyard.

Yasushi Kawamori shows off his new cogeneration unit.

"Yasushi Kawamori has a power plant in his backyard. Not the kind that belches clouds of CO2 into the atmosphere, but the kind that’s small (about the size of a refrigerator and a suitcase placed side by side), quiet (a faint thumping is just audible) and emits a fraction of the carbon dioxide a coal-fired plant would. The system uses a hydrogen fuel cell to convert natural gas into electricity; heat from the reaction generates hot water for himself, his wife and their two children. It’s called a fuel cell cogeneration system, and Kawamori is more than happy to have it in his backyard. 'We’re making electricity at our own home, and the heat from that electricity gets used, so it’s really efficient,” he says. “I like that it’s cost-effective and good for the environment.'"

A video of the cell in action

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Japanese mother seeks boxing record" (George Foreman style, not Bento style)

When people talk about Japanese women and "boxing" it might be thought of in the context of creating interesting bento boxes for children and husbands to take with them during the day. In the case of Kazumi Izaki, however, they would be mistaken - at least in part.

No doubt she makes such lunches for her two kids, but she is also keen to hit an opponent in the head, in the ring, round 1. Yes, she is not only a boxer, but one going for the record of the oldest to win a world title in boxing.

Read about her and listen to a recent interview by the BBC. Unusual to say the least, but also interesting to consider in light of all the Hawaiian and Mongolian athletes taking the Japanese Sumo world by storm in the past years. Of course, there is also Japanese women's wrestling, WWF style.