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Examining Tokyo's Media Immersion Pods 123

the terminal of geoff goodfellow writes "The New York Times has an article on the Bagus Gran Cyber Café in Tokyo, where customers rent so-called media immersion pods. From the article: 'At first glance the spread looks officelike, but be warned: these places are drug dens for Internet addicts outfitted with VHS and DVD players, satellite and regular television on a Toshiba set, PlayStation 2, Lineage II and a Compaq computer loaded with software, all the relevant downloads and hyperspeedy Internet. In the nearby library were thousands of comic books, magazines and novels.'"
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Examining Tokyo's Media Immersion Pods

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  • But wait.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Deal-a-Neil ( 166508 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @01:27AM (#15328207) Homepage Journal
    I think that they're missing the mandatory catheter. I mean, who in hell wants to actually get up and take a whiz once you're immersed? Or maybe that's part of the "immersion" experience.
    • I mean, who in hell wants to actually get up and take a whiz once you're immersed?

      Alan Shepard solved that problem.

      When ya gotta go, well, ya gotta go.

  • Novel idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cdogbert ( 964753 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @01:28AM (#15328211)
    So why aren't these in the US yet?
  • by UfoZ ( 680310 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @01:29AM (#15328214) Homepage
    What a fancy and pretentious name for a manga cafe.

    These are all over the place, nothing special, and a good cheap way to spend the night if you missed the last train or don't have a hotel. You get your own cubicle with internet access or a console, you can read manga or watch a movie or surf the net, whatever. Plus free refills for soft drinks.

    It's nice but I don't see what the big deal is.
    • I went to one of these to check my email while finishing up visa paperwork for my wife. They're quite convenient and comfortable, and the rates are reasonable. US companies would probably be afraid that some people would just try to live there, given the exact same setup. I'm pretty sure a few of the people in the one I visited were spending enough time there to change their address.
    • Yep, you can get all of these things at the local Internet cafe in GIFU for $4 an hour (Gifu is a prefecture in Japan which is so rural that I was suprised we had running water, to say nothing of gigabit ethernet -- although my apartment doesn't have a shower or heated water, curses...)
    • Those were exactly my thoughts when I read the article. It seems some reporter was on a slow afternoon, and decided to write about "exotic japan" to make up for not coming up with any really interesting news.

      And the first picture in the article is of a CD shop in Tokyo, not a cybercafe.
    • by davidsyes ( 765062 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @04:53PM (#15330804) Homepage Journal
      It's MORE than a Manga Cafe. I've been to TWO of them. They also have Play Station, I think X box IIRC, and VCR/DVD combos. If you go in there with the right gear, you could **probably** bootleg the hell out of DVDs and other media. Not that I support/condone that.

      But, if those existed in the US, you'd have some form of illegal sex, human fluids, spilt drinks, and maybe even drug activity. But, aside from THAT, the MPAA? and RIAA and BSA would demand copying of license or IDs and installation of anti-piracy tools.

      The anti-porn legislation types would demand installation of video cameras to deter sex and abuse of children.

      Cities hard up for tax revenues would impose harsh and draconian "arcade" permit requirement upon each machine. I suppose Internet cafes already pay these. IN Stockton, California, any such business would have to pay these arcade fees via the police department.

      They places would lose money, and go out of business. All because of church groups, drug dealers, sex addicts, and the RIAA/others complaining about piracy and loss of revenues.

      But, yeh, most of all, here in the US, we don't have the "crowd effect" of 10 million to 20 million (I forget the exact number, but the pop and density are high...) people in the size of Tokyo pushing to get out of the house and stay out as long as possible. The main Shinjuku station probably moves more people in a week than NYC might in a month or two. The per-square foot of utilization by shops, eateries, jewelers, and more is mind-boggling. Not a space is wasted, and most of the shops and such all seem new, abuzz, and entrepreneurial, tho there are some larger chains or big-budget stores present. There is a certain "energy" in the air I felt in Tokyo, and I NEVER feel that here in the US except on occasions of HUGE parades, shows or concerts., and THAT is mostly all due to "herd mentality", not a daily occurrence.
      • No, it's JUST A MANGA CAFE. I've been to FAR MORE THAN TWO OF THEM. It's cool, sure -- but what the poster was trying to get across was that it is patently stupid to give something a fancy title for the purpose of writing some inflated tech-porn bullshit. Just call it a Cyber-Awesome Orgazmo Fanboy LogonDeck Capsulon 4000 if you really need to keep your nipples hard.
        • OK. I defer. I've only been to TWO of them, and was only there barely 3 months. I wish I could have had more time and money and a European/Asian passport of preference so I could stay AND work **180** days instead of 90 and NO working. Damned politicians.

          Also, yeh, they do tend to favor 8-12 word descriptions for some things, huh.

          Boy, I'd love to revisit Funenokagakukan a 3rd, 4th, and 5th time...
    • Popeye's Media One rocks, baby.

      However, on a recent trip to Korea, I discovered that theirs are *way* cooler, not to mention cheaper(!) Except for the truly funky smell in the stairwell leading up to it, which is probably caused precisely by those who live there all the time.
    • Agreed. I read this and as I was getting to the artical, I was planning when to check this out. Oh. It's a manga/internet cafe. Ah well.

      Still, if you haven't been to one, they are kind of interesting places. The customers are the kind of otaku who you'd find in Akiba most days (and 'otaku', now there's a loaded word...).

      I used to go to one in my old haunt of Kameari in downtown east Tokyo because it was cheap, had coffee, games, manga and air conditioning (summer paradise) and if I was studying Japanese, th
  • a.k.a. (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Clockwork Troll ( 655321 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @01:35AM (#15328232) Journal
    Locally these are known as "" which translates literally to "birth control parlor".
  • If only they lived up to their names. Still the ability to rent a quiet space in a busy city + drinks would be nice, although I would personally put it to more serious uses than reading comics or surfing. Gernerally a quiet enviroment is most important when you are working hard, but personally I feel like I can goof off and read a novel anywhere. Kant on the other hand requires absolute silence.
  • by sparkydevil ( 261897 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @02:13AM (#15328340)
    Japanese people do not use these spaces because they are actively seeking out media, but because they are using the space as a refuge from long commutes and cramped, shared, homes. Japanese people often work very late and live over one hour from the city, making it almost impossible to visit each others homes. To have any privacy, couples have to meet outide the home, and places such as Bagus, karaoke boxes and love hotels are all geared to this market.
    • Tell me more about these "love hotels"
      • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @03:26AM (#15328479) Homepage
        Hotels renting rooms over night or by the hour, often with some kind of theme setting. It's not for prostitution, as many westerners assume at first, but a popular way for people to get together, especially since the expensive rents mean you often live at home until you marry.

        My favourite around here in Osaka is "Chapel Christmas", which, as you may guess, is Christmas-themed, complete with a huge Santa and grinning happy elves all over the facade. I have a few pictures here:

        Chapel Christmas []
      • They've tried to re-brand them a couple of times as "boutique hotels", but the love hotel name seems to stick. They're fantastic places to visit. Often they have much larger rooms than you would find in the average Japanese hotel, and they're spotlessly clean. They often have videogame consoles, big plasma widescreen tvs, karaoke machines and multiple free movie and porn channels.

        They exist for a number of reasons-one being that Japanese salarymen often have a number of girlfriends on the go in additio

    • Also, these internet and manga cafés are usually open around the clock, and have lately begun to offer amenities like showers, so quite a few people use them as a cheap place to crash if they've been partying and missed the last train home.

    • Actually, this thing about not being able to meet other people because their (Japanese people's) houses are so microscopic, is starting to grate. The biggest difference between a Japanese house and an American house (that I've noticed) is a house in the US tends to be noisy, lawless, and untidy. Making it difficult to have people round. A Japanese house (yes probably through necessity) is, in comparison, polite quiet and tidy. And the home made food infinitely more apatising. So the pods being a refuge idea
      • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @10:45AM (#15329474) Homepage
        A Japanese house (yes probably through necessity) is, in comparison, polite quiet and tidy. And the home made food infinitely more apatising. So the pods being a refuge idea is a US construct I think.

        I live in Japan, and it's not altogether "a US construct". Consider: you're 20-something, and you're of course living at home, since the rent on even a small apartment is absolutely ruinous for a single person. You do have a job, though, and since - if you're a very consentious child - you're sharing the living expenses with your parents, you have a quite comfortable level of disposeable income even with a pretty low entry-level position (and if your parents are indulgent, you aren't paying anything at all, making that income all the more significant). The same goes for your current SO.

        In fact, if you save for a few years, together you could in fact afford that apartment in a Tokyo suburb or somewhere in southern Osaka. But until your relationship becomes long-term and serious enough, there's of course no way you're goi9ng to risk something like that. So for the time being you're relegated to whatever resources you have. And seriously, with money burning in your pocket, are you going to spend an hour on the local train to go to your or your SO:s parent's house, endure socializing, knowing winks (not to mention the ever-present risk of baby pictures) to retire to a small bedroom all of a couple of meters away from the living room where the old folk are laughing at the latest lame Osaka burlesque on the TV?

        Or are you going to a dinner out on the town, followed by a short walk to a clean, fresh hotel in any kind of style you wish (with no shortage of "special" styles whenever you want to spice things up a bit (there famously is a Hello Kitty Dungeon in one hotel here in Osaka)), with no interruptions, thin walls, kid brothers or parents, and with attentive, affordable room service at the touch of a button?

        I absolutely, totally, unconditionally agree on the state of Japanese living - it really is neater, cleaner and more friendly than anywhere I've been. But for those times you want to be alone together, it's really not optimal.

  • I call it "my bedroom."
  • a japanese tv show called "Maid in Akihabara". The main character, a former bar girl working in a maid cafe, can't afford a place to live so she checks into an internet cafe each night. I was wondering if people in Japan actually did this, but the article makes it look very possible.

    I still have another question, totally outside the scope of the article. In the movie Koi no Mon (aka Otakus in Love), there is a cosplay brothel. Anybody know if these exist or did the movie make that up ?
    • Oh, they exist, and have done for at least a decade. They're known as "ime-kura" short for "image club" -- which is a very very very nice way of saying "role-playing brothel". Most of them, in an effort to skirt under the law, don't allow "SEX" but allow everything but... meaning, no outright penetration, but anything else goes. Even "labiel" sex. Most imekura stick to normal fettishes like nurses and airline stewardesses, but many take on anime and video game characters as well.
      • These types of places are also known as "sekku-hara" (a Japanese abbreviation meaning "sexual harassment"). Basically you go into a themed room (office, hospital ward, subway train) and act out your fantasy of sticking your had up a schoolgirls skirt, or whatever turns you on.

        There's a certain school of thought that suggests doing this kind of thing in a club with professional working girls cuts the amount of genuine sexual abuse in society, but I don't know of any empirical data to back this up.

    • INDEED!

      I had to use the toilet in one (in Japan, in English, one asks for "the toilet", not the "bathroom") and there were all sorts of meticulous posters explaining not to shower in the toilet room. Instead, rent the shower...

      I think the shower was priced around Y300 or Y500 (roughly US$3.30 or US $5.50 at the time. For that, and a $10 movie, though, about every 2 hours, it could be pricey. So, I think some people just used the desk area, where some "overnight" spaces were dedicated. I don't think overnigh
  • FTA:

    I went to mine too, hit the button that changed the keyboard from Chinese characters to QWERTY, and answered some e-mail.

    The author doesn't even know the Japanese have their own alphabet (3 actually). This guy reminds me of the characters in extras []
    • The typical setup I saw gives you hiragana by default (one of two phonetic syllableries) and lets you convert them to the traditional (pre-simplified) Chinese characters adopted many years ago by the Japanese. There are a few keys which allow you to modify the input method to input "romaji" as well as the various Japanese writing systems.

      Actually, the Kanji are Chinese characters (called Hanzi, roughly "people's writing" in China IIRC) which were adopted in Japan long before Katakana and Hiragana were creat
      • As a Japanologist I can say you're completely wrong about some points.

        1) Hanzi simply means Han Characters, (referring to the Han Dynasty, not the Han Chinese)
        2) Hiragana was derived from cursively written man'yogana (Characters used for phonetic value, not meaning). This was used by women in the beginning, hence it was also known as Onnade ("woman's hand"). These weren't the only kana in use however, they were simply standardized by the goverment from the large pool of "hentaigana".
        3) Katakana are taken fr
        • Everything I've written came from either my Asian History/Japanese instructors in college, or books from the uni's library. My minor was Asian Studies, and although it may have been a decade or so for myself, it's accurate to my recollection.

          1) My Asian Studies instructor mentioned that "Han" origninally referred to "The People". He was Chinese, I'll have to trust him on that. I actually did a paper in his class on the very subject we're discussing, based partially on his input and partially on external res
          • 1) No, your instructor is wrong. It's not because he's Chinese he knows about Chinese history. I know more Japanese history than Japanese people themselves for example. Simply because I study the country at university in more detail than they did in high school. Han refers to the area Hanzhung. The people from Hanzhung simply refered to themselves as Han. Now when the characters came via Paekche to Japan I'm sure they were referred to as "Han characters" or "the writing of the Han", but "people's writing"
            • 1) He's a Chinese history instructor, from China, and was referring to the Han chinese. According to him, "Han" simply means "the people".

              2) You're picking nits and forgetting the original intention. Ignoring this tangent, the kana and kanji came from Chinese characters, and that was my original point.

              3) Yes, but the "Onna-de" was created about two centuries prior to Katakana (7th century vs. 9th century IIRC.) I'd be surprised if the monks who created Katakana had no knowledge of it.

              4) Sure, but they did n
            • I am supporting your role. I haven't stupied japanese history at the University, but what I gathered together I can fully spport the fact how Hiragana and Katakana was created (manga remark: ramnas words are written in Hirgana when he is a girl to support).
              Same with the Katakana. They where created by monks.
          • Hiragana and Katakana developed independently, as the other poster mentioned. The basic reason for both was the need in Japanese to record sound symbolisms (such as verb inflections) not needed in Chinsese; put shortly, Hanzi was a great fit for Chinese, but not all that great for Japanese (as evidenced by the difference in the way "original" Japanese words and chinese loanwords are written). Hiragana and Katakana were developed during different times of close contact, and were in one case a shorthand of Ha
            • I certainly agree with you on both parts. I'm not positing that the kana aren't useful, but rather they could have used one rather than creating two forms. The "Onna-de" was still around when katakana was created. I'm pretty sure Katakana's creation was a case of intellectual "migi-no-te", basically "Let's create our own rather than use a woman's script".
              • But now the two kana forms have separate uses. To me, a native Japanese speaker, removing the contextual clues found in Kanji, katakana and hiragana, and writing everything in hiragana, makes all but the most simple ideas completely unintelligible.
                • I can see the use of Kanji, and maybe one kana system, but using two separate kana syllableries just seems excessive. I'm curious, aside from emphasis, loan words and maybe kids' writing, all of which could be written in hiragana, how much of an impact do you think the lack of katakana would have were it never developed?
                  • That's like saying "I see the requirement for maybe one font weighting, but italics, bold and underline seems a bit excessive".

                    I can't say what my life reading Japanese would be like if certain bits were never developed. That's like asking what my English life would be like without pronouns.
                    • I'm not sure that it's quite the same, as it's a different set of glyphs as opposed to a modified weight, slant or a line under the text. I guess if anything it's more like cursive and print in languages using roman characters, but the "print" form is typically used to ensure legibility since many people's cursive handwriting is sloppy. Since it doesn't modify the spoken form, it's not quite like a pronoun.

                      Having three written forms like Japanese does is relatively unique in the languages I've studied, whic
                    • It is actually kind of like he said. In the beginning typefaces styles like Roman, Gothic, and Italic would be chosen for their aesthetic and practical qualities (how easy to read, how many words to a page, etc), and also depending to a lesser extent on the language used (Greek, Latin, etc). Now, however, we use italic, bold, underline, or capital/small capital to indicate words that should stand out from the sentence--usually, for emphasis or because they are from a different language (scientific names m
                    • Hmm... I've seen kana and kanji in boldface and underline, typically in advertising, although admittedly italic is a rarer sight since it deforms the character. I've seen katakana used for Japanese words as well, to my initial surprise upon first visiting the Yodobashi "camera" (Fry's on steroids) shop at the Yodobashi-Umeda in Osaka. Katakana is definitely used for many reasons, but whether it was necessary devote a separate set of glyphs with slightly different rules specifically for these purposes is wh
        • And to make things even more complicated, China now uses simplified characters, which in many cases have been simplified the same a they have been in Japan (like your example of "study"). But other characters have been simplified differently in Chinese (often times simplified moreso than they have been in Japanese), for example "talk" (seems to be "hua" in Chinese. Has the readings "wa", "kai", and "hanasu" in Japanese). The radical on the left is seven strokes in Japanese, but I believe it's been simpli
    • Completely OT but cheers for that link. Especially liked the Patrick Stewart clip.

      Patrick Stewart: You're not married, you don't have a girlfriend and you've never watched Star Trek?

      Ricky Gervais: No

      PS: Good Lord

    • It's hilarious when someone does a few minutes of Google searching and then, having "researched", crams their big fat foot in their mouth. Thanks for that; I needed a chuckle.

      Did you at all consider that the reporter was in *Japan* when she visited and made interviews?

      Did you think she forgot?

      Did you think?
    • Well, "kanji" translates literally as "chinese characters" so I don't think that the author was too far off-base..
  • The question that came to my mind was how damaging such a pod is to one's spirit or creativity, but I suppose it's not too much different than how things have always been. The difference is we watch movies rather than read pulp magazines and $0.10 novels. It'll be interesting to see how the phenomenon evolves.
  • Check your sources
  • by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @03:40AM (#15328518)
    The more I immerse myself in this media centered world, the more I find myself recalling the fable of the boy who was given the golden ball of thread. Every time he pulled it, he skipped forward in time. While being warned of its power, he began to make regular use of it. He pulled the thread at the beginning of his classes, and when he had to start studying, or when he got put in time out, or whenever he was bored and wanted to get on with the fun things in life. Before he knew it he was on his death bed having skipped the boring and unpleasant parts of his life. The fairy who gave him the ball of yarn was gracious enough to let him live a second chance...and this time he never wished to skip any parts of his life.

    But we don't get a second chance.

    I'm finding the more I spend time NOT doing something digital, the more I enjoy my day. Every time I sit down to watch a movie, play a game, or read Slashdot, I look up and realize I've lost two hours. Where did it go? I never can seem to find those extra 90 minutes that I don't remember having spent.

    Now I ride my bike for fun, or sit on the couch with my pet and call my mother, or hang out with some friends. I'm finding I have all the time in the world now to enjoy myself, and it's all passing at the speed it should. Forget computers, forget movies, forget entertainment centers: I want to live my own life, not watch someone live theirs.

    I think it is better to leave the thread in the box. The fun times wouldn't be fun without the boring ones. Each will come when it comes, and no sooner. Might as well make the most what's inbetween.
    • I'm finding the more I spend time NOT doing something digital, the more I enjoy my day. Every time I sit down to watch a movie, play a game, or read Slashdot, I look up and realize I've lost two hours. Where did it go? I never can seem to find those extra 90 minutes that I don't remember having spent.

      Now I ride my bike for fun, or sit on the couch with my pet and call my mother, or hang out with some friends. I'm finding I have all the time in the world now to enjoy myself, and it's all passing at the speed

    • I've got to agree with you...the more I "unplug", the better balanced life seems to become...
    • > ...and this time he never wished to skip any parts of his life.

      And did he re-live his life doing the same grindingly tedious crap that he skipped over the first time?

      Shit, if I thought about it too much, I'd just yank the whole damn ball of yarn.
  • by BJH ( 11355 )
    Another was "Inu," or "Dog," by Haruko Kashiwagi. It's considered clever, fairly high-toned and mainstream, which is surprising because, in part, it's about a woman who has sex with her dog.

    Supercilious prat.
  • I can't believe changing the name of something as old as the Comic Cafe (manga kisa) to "Media Immersion Pods" suddenly makes a 30+ year old thing news.
  • by ofcourseyouare ( 965770 ) on Sunday May 14, 2006 @08:11AM (#15329100)
    "The Japanese system of competition for education, career and social esteem, Dr. Kimura explained, forces young people to obsess over self-presentation, which costs them both fantasy and anonymity, the privileges of childhood... The Gran Cyber Cafés now serve this purpose, he said. "Nobody cares what you do, which enables you to be absorbed in whatever fantasy you want to indulge in through Net surfing, Web games or manga. Yet you can satisfy your timid desire to belong."

    In other words, the basic argument of this article is "the Japanese are sick and manga cafés like this are an interesting symptom of the disease - by comparison with the robust health of Western culture". What nonsense.

    Two key elements...
    * the seamless blending of sexual content and other forms of entertainment
    * the enthusiastic embrace of new forms of culture
    ...I consider to be a symptom of the health of Japanese culture as opposed to US/ UK culture where...
    * sexual content lives in a ghetto in which only those who are talentless or desperate will work, while ultraviolent content is fine
    * new forms of culture are treated with suspicion - even games, for God's sake, after all these years are still disdained.
    So my response is please stop treating this sort of manga café as a kind of boil that reflects some underlying disease, and let's open a chain of these in the west right now.

    But of course, I only think that because I'm sick...
    • So what you're saying is that you believe a culture created by military and corporate America in the last fifty years is, in fact, superior or at least different than what the West has had for millennia?

      How about this one instead: why don't the Japanese enthusiastically embrace Western culture, including all the conservative angles? Not so enthusiastic there, huh? Relativism, in any form, is the most tyrannical form of an ethical system in existence. Every one is supposedly free under it, but as soon as som
      • Wow. You paint with very wide brushes, to the point of oversimplification.

        So what you're saying is that you believe a culture created by military and corporate America in the last fifty years is, in fact, superior or at least different than what the West has had for millennia?

        Westernization was happening well before 1945. I'm sorry, but modern Japanese culture is not just a product of "Corporate America" and "Military". Yes, the GHQ had a lot to do with education "reform", but to portray that no pre-1

    • What we consider wrong is that people actually prefer spending entire days or nights in cubicle-sized pods surfing the Net to the alternatives. There are supposed to be far better alternatives!
  • I have used one... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Sunday May 14, 2006 @10:42AM (#15329464) Homepage Journal
    There are a lot of internet cafe's in Japan, big chains being Gera Gera and Popeye Media Cafe. I have tried out a few.

    They are actually really good. Keep in mind that a lot of people live in small houses in Japan, so go out a lot to eat and for entertainment because of limited space at home. Also, a lot of people live with their families until their late 20s, sometimes with grandparents too. So, privacy and "getting away from the family" are worth paying for.

    For under a fiver (800-900 yen) you can get a private cubicle for three hours. Browse the net, play some games, watch some TV or a DVD. They have libraries of magazines and manga to read too, and free drinks. You can order food too, or get a cubicle where you can lie down on a futon or sit with your girlfriend.

    Many even have showers, blankets and pillows available. You could pretty much live there if you wanted to. In fact, many offer discounts on up to 8 hour blocks, or overnight stays.

    I know it's hard to imagine the appeal for people in the west, but they are good. And not just frequented by men either, women use them too.

    The only issue I had was that they seem to invariably be quite hot, despite air conditioning. The Japanese seem to have a higher tolerance for heat than me - well, I was born in Yorkshire in March so...
  • This is NOT a pod... it's a cubicle... Wake me up when its a pod; then i'll be interested.
  • It was in Japan that I first heard the word "infomania," a 2005 coinage by Hewlett-Packard, whose study last May showed that compulsive e-mailing and text-messaging do more damage to the I.Q. than regular marijuana use.

    Just being a part of today's fast-paced bureaucracy is more damaging to the I.Q. than any controlled substance in existence. Nothing is more destructive than being shoved through the screwed-up consumerist system that's growing ever-further removed from its roots. The fact that I'm kind of

  • Walk around with the sea of people in Tokyo for a while (or even worse drive) and you'll want to lock yourself in a small cubicle with a TV and internet for a few hours. After working in Tokyo I can see why cafe's like this are appealing.
  • Wow, VHS! How come Japan gets all the new technology first?

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.