Automesse 2017

Automesse 2017

Automesse is an annual auto show that is held in Osaka every February at INTEX, Osaka’s international expo complex (near Nakafuto station). Automesse occupies all six of the buildings at INTEX. There are some large manufacturers who occupy large spaces at Automesse but most of the event is for customizations.

Car Manufacturers-

Honda- The Honda NSX was this year’s main attraction from the big car makers. The Honda NSX (New Sports eXperience) is known in America as the Acura NSX. Production of the first generation NSX series ran 1990-2005, halting due to the slow economy. The second generation of NSX came back in 2016 with a new sporty vehicle with a mid-sized had usually had a 40 minute line for visitors who wanted a chance to chance to sit behind the wheel and pose for photos. The new model is made from some innovative new lightweight materials and is powered by a 600 hp engine. Only 201 units of the Acura NSX were sold in America in 2016.

Daihatsu – Daihatsu is now owned by Toyota. Daihatsu is relatively unknown outside of Japan as the company specializes in the kei car. “Kei car,” or kei jidousha ( 軽自動車 ), means “light automobile” and they are designed for Japan with their small frames and engines. Japan has special regulations for parking, taxes and insurance which favor kei cars. Kei cars receive special license plates that reflect these privileges but there are technical limitations for kei cars as defined by 1998 regulations:

Length: 3.4 m (11.2 ft)

Height: 2 m height (6.6 ft)

660cc engine (63 horsepower max.)

Daihatsu was displaying their “Sport” model alongside their box shaped family/commuter vehicles.

Suzuki- Suzuki was showing off the 4th generation of their subcompact Swift series hatchbacks.

Pagani- Car dealers had a Pagani Huayra on display. Showing off it’s gull-wing doors.

Custom Cars & Parts

A huge number of vendors were present to show off customizations, car parts and audio equipment.
The long, color anodized lugnuts were popular again this year and can now take the shape of shape ammunition rounds for a menacing look. Together on the wheel of the cars they look like something from a Ben-Hurr chariot.
Elaborate body customizations and paint-jobs were popular. Some of the bizarre examples of fiberglass bodywork include enormous rear spoilers which seem peculiar to Japan’s yankii or boso-zoku sub-cultures. These spoilers seem to negate the use of a central rearview mirror.

Race Cars

As in the past, a variety of modern and vintage race cars were on display at Automesse including F-1 (which is very popular in Japan) and offroad rally vehicles (notably Subaru). A number of talk-show style speaking panels featured industry experts and professional race drivers.


Bosozoku Culture- The bosozoku subculture is associated with noisy rides and extensive stylistic modifications such as elaborate paint jobs and high-backed seats. The display models of these bikes even include the characteristically bent up license plates (which make it harder for authorities and potential plaintiffs to identify).

“Dekotora” is a subculture of truckers who drive decorated trucks. These trucks feature elaborate decorations with lights, chrome exterior parts, backlit art panels and trailers that are covered with huge works of art, usually depicting some motif that is very traditional such as mythical creatures or nature; the styles and motifs are similar to traditional Japanese tattoos, which is intimidating because of the association with Japanese gangsters. The dekotora fashion began in northern fishing ports where parts from military vehicles and tour buses assembled to make garish vehicles. The style was popularized by the 1975 movie Torakku Yarou (トラック野郎 / “Truck Guys”), which popularized the dekotora culture similar to the way that 1969’s Easy Rider popularized biker culture in America. The exhibitor at Automesse had copies of movie poster for Torakku Yarou. There is even a specialized dekotora festival that is held in Tokushima.

Remote Controlled Cars

Tamiya, a maker of remote controlled cars had a race for hobbyists on a special, miniature track. There were also remote controlled car drivers giving demonstrations at a booth in among the car parts and merchandise vendors. The remote controlled cars had very evolved, complex controls ands the “drivers” had very impressive skills at manipulating the machines.
Race Queens and Models

The car show models are the real draw for Automesse. Some exhibitors bring their own models to their show with specialized outfits that reflect the company’s brand; this approach is the “race queen” model and these types of models are often seen at auto races. Smaller vendors will hire freelance models to attract attention; these models don’t have branded costumes and they often appear at multiple booths.

The large crowds of aggressive photographers swarm around the booths when the models appear. I suspect that most of them go to Automesse specifically for the car show girls. Fights have been known to break out among the photographers as the jostling ensues, despite the typically polite and tolerant nature of Japanese people. It is actually the older and more impatient cameramen who are prone to lashing out as they quickly take offense to perceived slights from their juniors in society. The men with cameras often seem excessively prurient; you can usually survey a crowd and see only breasts and butts in their digital viewfinders. They even record long segments of video with only that view! It seems like most of the material they must capture in this way would have little artistic or even erotic merit. It was rare to see wedding rings or female companions with these hentai cameramen. This year, you could even see one man who brought some sort of “real-doll”/silicone mannequin in a wheelchair so “she” could pose in front of the cars for him; however that guy actually had a human wife with him and she seemed supportive!(?).
The mobs of photographers sometimes became the real human spectacle, especially at the “Car Sense” booth which, every year, has a reputation for featuring sexy models in the most blatantly raunchy costumes.
Performers- In addition to the models, dancing groups took the stage. Other years, Automesse has featured singers, DJs and even (clothed) pole dancers.


Boats – In the spirit of motorsports the local boat racing course had a display featuring videos and a chance to get on one of the boats, which is basically an enhanced jet ski.

Exoskeletons – In the broader spirit of mechanical engineering, Automesse also exhibits some other technologies that are outside the world of cars or motor sports. A good example of this is Yaskawa Electronics, Assistive Robotics exoskeleton project; ReWalk. ReWalk is based on the designs of Israeli ARGO Medical Technologies. The device straps to a person’s legs and uses motorized joints, powered by battery-backpack, to assist paraplegics, or people with other difficulties walking. Users still need to use the canes to hold up their torsos and direct the “legs” of the exoskeleton



Fire Emblem: Heroes

Fire Emblem: Heroes
Price: Free

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars on iTunes

Platform: iOS and Android
Getting starting
Differences from the series-

You will find the Heroes is a simplified edition of the Fire Emblem series. Here are some of the areas where you will notice the difference:

You have unlock your characters latent skills and weapons by acquiring SP points.

You can not swap weapons and equipment between characters. Each character has to earn their weapon enhancement by following a skill tree with their XP.

You do not have to worry about weapons breaking.

You do not have the option of sending unit into battle with no weapons, so you can forget using high defense characters as walls for building up the XP of weaker ranged units.

You do not need to worry about weapons breaking, so once your character unlocks great equipment you can use it as much as you like, no more saving those “Brave~” weapons for special challenges.

The “Brave~” weapons only double your attack if you are on the offensive. If you are being attacked they are the weakest weapons, less likely to pierce defenses than even the “Iron~” weapons.


This game does not support the support mechanic. In other games you could build a relationship between compatible characters by which you unlock dialog and and stat boosts.

This game a variety of specific support skills which you can use to support your teams, but usually they are very specific and you need to spend that character’s turn to generate these support bonuses for your teammates; typical support skills will boost your opponent resistance and/or defense a point a few points.
XP- there are quite a few considerations for leveling up your characters:

Your characters each earn experience points by damaging opponents or healing allies. So you can’t gain any experience by inflicting 0 damage on over-powered opponents.

Overpowered units do not gain any experience by beating weak foes, so you are wasting potential XP by using them to dispatch enemies. This is a problem for characters that are over level 20.

The key to leveling is setting pursuing doable challenges with a balanced team, so you will probable want to create an array of teams. Before you go into battle the stage icons will give you a hint as to how many opponents you will face and what their weapons will be so you can take advantage of the rock-paper-scissors weapons triangles to minimize risk and maximize rewards.

You will be able to level up your healers quickly because there is more often a chance for them to use their skill and you can deploy them in higher level battles alongside strong allies as long as you can prevent enemies from reaching them. You can let enemies attack your units and end turns without attacking as a tactic to earn more experience for your healers without using your game stamina or minimizing your risks. This makes rolling a healer more useful than the rarity stars may indicate.

In other Fire Emblem installments you receive experience for absorbing damage or evading attacks, but not in Heroes.

You can also use the yellow crystals which you receive as gifts/rewards to level up your characters. Use these crystals to help jumpstart your level 1 recruits to fighting shape. You can also sacrifice a duplicate characters to enhance its twin, similar to the Puzzle & Dragons game.

Earlier iterations of the game had a progressive evolution of classes for characters. In The Sacred Stones game, for example, myrmidons became swordmasters or assassins, but either class could only use swords. Other starting classes gave you options for movement types and weapon use when they were promoted; such as archers who could become snipers (infantry) or rangers (cavalry that could use swords in addition to bows). Heroes has a star system for each character. You can upgrade a character beyond their starting star level after you reach level 20 but you will need to collect matching color badges from special training events and huge numbers of hero feathers: 200 to upgrade to 3 stars, 2,000 for 4 stars and 20,000 feathers for 5 stars. This takes unreasonable amounts of effort, so hopefully Nintendo will be give out large bundles of these feathers in future promotions (as of 2/9 it appears we can count on an occasional 10,000 gift 🙂


Your characters can not carry/use as they did in earlier Fire Emblem games. You receive items which go into an inventory menu but these are to be used for extending your gameplay stamina (potions), competitive online arena play (dueling swords).

The battle system is simplified: Accuracy, weight, constitution, luck and bio-rhythms are not a consideration.

You can not rescue other units. Some characters have specific position swapping skills.

Every attack is a hit; you won’t ever miss your opponent but you will never dodge anything either. So you won’t have the thrill of missing a 99% accurate attack or the frustration of getting hit by a attacker who is 1% accurate.

Feathers; you need these to upgrade the star level of your characters. You only receive a small quantities of these for ordinary tasks such as connecting with ingame friends (5 feathers) and clearing levels. This is reasonable for upgrading low level characters, as it only takes 200 to upgrade from 2-stars to 3-stars. Upgrading the more powerful characters is extremely prohibitive; requiring 2,000 feathers which would translate to hundreds of bonus completions. So watch for bonus gifts from game developers for a chance to get 10,000 feathers.


You can not re-equip during battle. You can change some of your abilities and weapons before battle in the menus.

When a character’s HP drops to zero, they are not perma-dead like in other Fire Emblem games. They are simply removed from that play in that stage and lose the XP they accumulated from that stage.

The stages are small (6×8 tiles) are you can only employ four units per stage but you will sometimes face as few as three opponents or as many as 5(?). This shortens the gameplay and makes it ideal for for situations in which you are probably playing mobile games.

Art and Animation

The chibi-style battle animations are tiresome. You will probably want to turn off the animation after your first day of playing.

The are also artistic representations of each character that represent a status pose, attacking pose, special attack pose and damage pose. The female damage art have a lot of fan-service in the form of ripped clothing and removed armor.

The artistic stylings vary quite a bit as they were created by many different artists. You can see the artistic attributions for each on the character’s status pages.

The Himukai Yuji artwork (Raigh, Fae…) is colorful and cartoonish with a cell-shaded look while artists pikomaro and Yamada Akiro have more realistic sketch and pastel styles. Others have different styling with different sense of realism and color vibrancy, texture and fan-service. If you have the animation turned on then these different styles being constantly cycled across your creates a greater sense of contrast if you don’t mind inconsistency.

Nintendo Link Account- Signing up will give you 10 crystals (that equates to two character rolls or half of a 5-character roll). You can also get bonus points by playing other Nintendo apps like Marion Run. The account settings reveal user ID information and and a user’s QR code which can be used for a “check in at select Nintendo events and locations.” No news yet as to what that means.
Building a team-

You can get characters from special event dungeons, but these will only be one a two star characters. The good news is that you can “merge” these together in the “Advanced Growth” menu for experience and SP boost for the stronger specimen. The character dungeons are also useful as an occasional source of two new orbs.

REROLLING- When you start a new game you should want to uninstall the game and start over if you don’t get a good group on your first attempt at redeeming orbs for characters. You get a discount for summoning multiple characters in a single session. The first character is 5 orbs, next two are 4 each and the last two are only 3 each; so the most efficient way to use orbs is to wait until you have 20 then roll far many characters.

When you install a new copy of the game you get 15 orbs after passing the tutorial, then there are two orbs for the launch bonus. After three story levels you will have 20 orbs having spent a minimal amount of time on the easiest levels.

5 star characters are extremely rare (3.5%), but you will want to keep rerolling for at least some 4 star characters (35%). Kotaku recently reported in a player who spent $1,000 on rolls but never got the powerful and elusive Hector.

You will also want a healer from your roll, they will prevent you from losing characters in stages and the XP that those characters accumulated in that stage.

I rolled five times for a team that I was satisfied with: three 4-star characters, a healer and an unfortunate 3-star character.

Osaka World Hobby Fair 2017

World Hobby Fair – Osaka

The World Hobby Fair (WHF) is held in various locations around Japan; Osaka, Tokyo, Fukuoka and Nagoya.  Osaka’s Kyocera Dome which is usually a venue for baseball games and large concerts and every February thousands of people come for the one-day event.

Entry is free and kids can receive gift bags upon entry, the event also gives out promotional clear file folders at the exit. The event is very much geared toward kids with costumed stage shows, some workshops, had on product demonstrations and game competitions.

The Competitions:

The 2017 WHF had a Beyblade competition which drew in some very serious kids who were hauling large tackle boxes filled with the fighting tops, launchers, gloves, etc. The competition had 25 of the bowl shaped BeyBlade arenas. Beyblade referees check the competitor’s equipment with official-looking sets of weights and measures; is there some sort of cheating that they are looking for?

There were tables for the Pokemon Card Game with staff members in costumes playing opposite of visitors.

The hallways and empty spaces of the convention floor were filled with people (kids and adults) using mats to place collectible card games (Pokemon, YuGiOh, etc.).

Photo Ops:

Every year there are performers wearing mascot costumes; the year you could see Tamadra (Puzzle & Dragon) while previous events featured Pikachu, Yokkai Watch characters etc.). The booth also feature large fiberglass and inflatable figures of games characters; this year you could see Link, Mario, Alolan Exeggutor, Conan and more.

Demos and exhibits:

The large Nintendo booth formed the core of the convention floor. Alongside the fiberglass statues there were window displays featuring the hardware for the Nintendo Switch and monitors playing video demos of launch software; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey.

Long lines formed to get into small booths that provide access to a 10 minute, two-player demonstration hosted by Nintendo staffers. All of the demonstrations seemed to be the same mini-game featured in the stage demonstration.

This mini-game was a sword catching game which employed two motion capture controllers. The game had a very forgiving window of time for players to react to each others actions; so the game would register catchers 67% of the time even when the person catching the sword had slow reflexes. There were also promotions for what appeared to be a wild west quick draw mini-game.

Japan has a lot of game center (arcade) machines for Pokemon and a bank of these machines was set to free-play for visitors. This machines employ thick plastic cards which have a QR code label, these plastic Cards are placed into a slot on the control panel with a QR scanner.

Stage Shows:

The Nintendo booth had some technical difficulties with controller connections but the audience seemed to enjoy the brief demonstrations of a mini-game.

The Gung Ho booth offered a demonstration of their Nintendo 3DS game, Puzzle and Dragons (but nothing about the mobile freemium version of the game).

Google Translate gets a Japanese upgrade

Google translate is adding new camera functionality.

This option has been seen for other languages, allowing the app to translate text captured by the camera. For Japanese, however, you had to capture a still image and manually highlight the text which you wanted to translate.

Osaka Olympics

The Olympics in Osaka?
Japan is preparing to host the Summer Olympics for the second time. Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964 and will do so again for the 2020 Olympics. Hosting the Summer Olympics twice is an honor which has only been given to the cities of Paris (1900 and 1924), London (1948 and 2012), Los Angeles (1932 and 1984) and Athens (1896 and 2004). If you count the Winter Olympics, Japan has hosted the Olympic games three times already; Tokyo (1964), Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998).

Osaka made a bid to host the 2008 Olympics, along with Paris (France), Istanbul (Turkey), Toronto (Canada) and Beijing (China). Beijing won the bid to host the games for 2008, but Osaka had some interesting plans for the games.

While the country was still preparing for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Osaka began it’s campaign for the Olympics. In 1996 Osaka schools started collecting children’s essays and art on the theme of the Olympics and sending child ambassadors to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics to promote Osaka.

Osaka already had a number of large facilities to host sporting events and gathering but to host the Olympics there were plans for a few new venues to be constructed; such as an Olympic Village (on Yumejima island), Olympic Stadium (on Maishima island) and a new center for wrestling and judo.

Here you can see a Google Map detailing the proposed locations of various events. Most of the events are within 20 kilometers of the Olympic village with the most distant venues being the Lake Biwa rowing location, which is about 70 kilometers to the north, and the Misaki mountain-biking course, which is about 70 kilometers to the south. If you are in Osaka you can still use this map as a guide to finding excellent sports facilities:

Osaka’s Olympic bid was rejected in 2001 but you can still see some “Osaka 2008” promotional stickers on shop shutters, 16 years later. Those shops were another point in Osaka’s Olympic plans; there was a proposed “one shotengai per country campaign” in which the many “shotengai” (shopping streets) in Japan would each represent a different country. This was aimed at revitalizing the aging shopping streets, internationalizing the local communities and generating enthusiasm for the Olympics with Osakans. During the Olympics, Japanese media and audiences are extremely focused on the Japanese athletes and the attention goes into the events in which Japanese athletes are expected to do well (such as judo). Given this strong Japan-first focus it may have been difficult trying to get entire streets of small local businesses behind foreigner promotional themes.

You can look for the Olympic candidate promotional signs, with the five-color Olympic rings reshaped into a cherry blossom emblem, but those signs and stickers are now extremely rare.


The main reason cited for rejecting Osaka as an Olympic host was the fact that the Nagano Olympics had been too recent, only ten years before. Another concern was the transportation system, with crowded trains, narrow streets and concerns for foreigners who were trying to navigate in a system designed with the Japanese language.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave Osaka the following scores (out of 10)

Transportation Infrastructure 7.40

General Infrastructure 7.55

Sports Infrastructure 7.00

Olympic Village 7.00

Accommodation 9.70


Ginger flavored Coca-Cola in Japan

Yesterday (Jan. 24, 2017), the new Coca-Cola with ginger flavoring. I was not impressed with the spicy taste. Coca-Cola has released a number of promotional drinks in Japan.

About two years ago the lemon flavor which appeared for a short time. It’s mild, pleasant taste made it the best of the novelty flavors. While the lemon flavor was nice as a temporary addition to the cola line-up it was not really as good as the regular version.
Just after Coca-Cola lemon was presented in Japan there was also a lime version. During the short time that Coca-Cola lemon was available it shared some shelves with lime but lime had a more limited distribution and was available for an even shorter time. The lemon bottle had a similar yellow label, so I expect that some customers will pick up these ginger bottles expecting that lemon has returned (as I did).
Coca-Cola has also sold some novelty bottles in Japan; a few years ago there were the labels which each bore popular Japanese names, so people would look for familiar [given] names and you would often see people with bottles bearing labels that were marked with their own names. The name labels were also a thing in America (obviously they were marketed with names that were common in America, rather than Japanese names).

Starting around November of last year, Coca-Cola was selling bottles with holiday labels that were designed with a pullable band through a dual layer foil label; when the band was pulled the label scrunched up into gift bow.