Magazine

May 16, 2017

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes

A new generation of Japanese inventors is drawing on the country's rich history of comics and video game culture to create sports with a 21st-century twist - helping players feel "superhuman" through technology or other special equipment.

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
1

Members of Superhuman Sports Society demonstrate "Rock Hand Battle" sport in Tokyo, Japan, April 13, 2017. In "Rock Hand Battle" each player wears an oversized arm and tries to knock off small rocks attached to an opponent's "rock hand". KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
2

Isao Uebayashi, 38, a sports science researcher and an inventor of "Slide Lift", demonstrates with a motor-assisted wheelchair in Tokyo, Japan, April 13, 2017. Equipped with special wheels, the motor-assisted wheelchair can be moved by "Slide Lift" racers in any direction, including in racing car-like drifts.Ê"Technology can improve and supplement human ability," said Uebayashi. "Anyone can do 'drift racing' with this wheelchair." KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
3

Members of Superhuman Sports Society pose with "rock hands" for "Rock Hand Battle" sport in Tokyo, Japan, April 9, 2017. In "Rock Hand Battle" each player wears an oversized arm and tries to knock off small rocks attached to an opponent's "rock hand". KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
4

Kosuke Sato, 25, a Ph.D. student in human informatics and an inventor of "Carry Otto", demonstrates in Tokyo, Japan, April 13, 2017. Sato said he wanted to create a sport anyone could enjoy regardless of age, gender or disability. "Carry Otto" is a motorised wheel device with reins that pull a rider seated on a dolly. Riders race each other. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
5

Hirohiko Hayakawa, 26, a Ph.D. student in media design and an inventor of "ToriTori", poses as he controls a drone in front of a goal net as he demonstrates the sport in Tokyo, Japan, March 18, 2017. Players controlling the small drones score a point by putting them in the goal net and opponent controlling the big drone acquires a point by capturing the small drone. Hayakawa said: "The drone in the air is a part of the player's body and this sport integrating human and machine makes me experience the feeling of flying." He said he was inspired by the bird catchers ("tori tori" in Japanese) in Kenji Miyazawa's classic 1934 fantasy novel "Night on the Galactic Railroad". KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
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Ryoichi Ando (R), 27, a virtual-reality researcher and an inventor of "Bubble Jumper", competes with his opponent as they demonstrate the sport in Tokyo, Japan, April 13, 2017. Ando said he felt as if he were wearing the kind of augmented body suit found in science-fiction movies that boosts the wearer's strength. In "Bubble Jumper", players walking on stilts and wearing inflatable bubble protectors crash into each other like sumo wrestlers. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
7

A passer-by looks at a "Hado Kart" player during the sport's demonstration, in Tokyo, Japan, March 18, 2017. In "HADO Kart", players in head-mounted augmented-reality displays and armband sensors dodge waves of light as they fire energy balls at each other by moving around with riding a Kart in a virtual arena. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
8

Ryoichi Ando, 27, a virtual-reality researcher and an inventor of "Bubble Jumper" sport, wears an inflatable bubble protector as he poses during a demonstration in Tokyo, Japan, April 9, 2017. Ando said he felt as if he were wearing the kind of augmented body suit found in science-fiction movies that boosts the wearer's strength. In "Bubble Jumper", players walking on stilts and wearing inflatable bubble protectors crash into each other like sumo wrestlers. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
9

Tomohiro Hamamura, 25, who works in IT sales and is a "HADO Kart" player, poses for a photograph wearing a head-mount display and an armband sensor in Tokyo, Japan, March 18, 2017. In "HADO Kart", players in head-mounted augmented-reality displays and armband sensors dodge waves of light as they fire energy balls at each other by moving around with riding a Kart in a virtual arena. Hamamura said: "When I play this sport, I don't need to think seriously. I just feel the existence of another world which is different from my real world." KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
10

Piyohina, an Internet idol and singer of animation songs, poses wearing a head-mount display and an armband sensor for playing "HADO" in Tokyo, Japan, March 18, 2017. In "HADO", players in head-mounted augmented-reality displays and armband sensors dodge waves of light as they fire energy balls at each other in a virtual arena. "When I play HADO, I always simulate in my head the best way to fire an energy ball," Piyohina said. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
11

Piyohina, Junpei Sasaki, Rimiko Sakihama (L-R), members of HADO team "Slamdiva", pose for a photograph wearing head-mount displays and armband sensors in Tokyo, Japan, March 18, 2017. In "HADO", players in head-mounted augmented-reality displays and armband sensors dodge waves of light as they fire energy balls at each other in a virtual arena. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
12

Noriya Kazami, 25, a cartoonist and an inventor of "Rock Hand Battle" sport, poses for a photograph wearing a mask and a "rock hand", in Tokyo, Japan, April 13, 2017. In "Rock Hand Battle" each player wears an oversized arm and tries to knock off small rocks attached to an opponent's "rock hand". Kazami said she took inspiration from the legend of Mitsuishi (Three Rocks) and the Demon's Handprint. She also created a comic book series based on the legend, in which a devil was tied to rocks and made to stop harassing the local people. The devil left a handprint on one of the rocks, making a "rock hand". KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
13

Junpei Sasaki, a singer and "HADO" player, poses for a photograph in Tokyo, Japan, March 18, 2017. In "HADO", players in head-mounted augmented-reality displays and armband sensors dodge waves of light as they fire energy balls at each other in a virtual arena. "Sometimes I can feel the sensation of the energy ball leaving my hand when I play HADO. It makes playing the sport really exciting," Sasaki said. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
14

Isao Uebayashi, 38, a sports science researcher and an inventor of "Slide Lift" sport, poses in a motor-assisted wheelchair in Tokyo, Japan, April 13, 2017. Equipped with special wheels, the motor-assisted wheelchair can be moved by "Slide Lift" racers in any direction, including in racing car-like drifts."Technology can improve and supplement human ability," said Uebayashi. "Anyone can do 'drift racing' with this wheelchair." KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Japan’s ‘superhuman’ athletes
15

Isao Uebayashi, 38, a sports science researcher and an inventor of "Slide Lift" sport, demonstrates with a motor-assisted wheelchair in Tokyo, Japan, April 9, 2017. Equipped with special wheels, the motor-assisted wheelchair can be moved by "Slide Lift" racers in any direction, including in racing car-like drifts."Technology can improve and supplement human ability," said KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

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