Jessica Kozuka

Jessica Kozuka is a freelance writer and editor living in the exciting, interesting and sometimes perplexing city of Tokyo. Her work has appeared in Wine Spectator, CNN Travel, and The Japan Times, as well as numerous other print and online media outlets. She writes a column on NPO/NGOs and volunteer work for Metropolis, the largest English-language magazine in Japan, and specializes in EFL educational materials and travel writing. Kozuka is rarely to be found without a book or two within arm’s reach, though there's no telling if they will be serious literature or frivolous guilty pleasures, and she runs a monthly book club for other bibliophiles in the Tokyo area. She's also an enthusiastic if mediocre cook and daily laments the smallness of Japanese kitchens.

All Stories by Jessica

“We hear the cries of sushi”: Teaser for mysterious 3DCG anime Sushi Police released【Video】

Since winning the Poster Award at the 2015 Cannes Film Market, people have been wondering what the heck CG anime Sushi Police is about. Now we know. Kind of.

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Chinese artisans use traditional foot-powered lathe to craft beautiful wooden bowls【Video】

At one time, nearly all of the 270 households in the village of Shawo would have been engaged in woodcraft, but today just six elderly men know the old techniques. Luckily, a younger generation is taking steps to ensure that the craft does not die out.

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Japanese man shares photo of near-perfect ‘poop emoji’ in hand cream, Twitter goes nuts

When Japanese Twitter user @nasuiro posted this picture of a blob of hand cream last week, he probably had no idea that it would end up being retweeted over 41,000 times

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Japan’s “escape room” games go foreigner-friendly, into the underground

I’m slightly claustrophobic. So you might wonder why I would volunteer to have myself locked into a small room with a bunch of strangers. The truth is that I can’t resist a puzzle.

This is an escape room, an immersive puzzle-solving experience that will test your lateral thinking skills and problem-solving, and for the first time in Japan, it’s being offered in English and Chinese.

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“Macho” yakiniku restaurant offers beef with a side of beefcake【Photos】

Korean barbecue, or yakiniku as it’s known here is Japan, is a popular among all diners, but particularly men seem drawn to the primal enjoyment of roasting gobs of raw meat over flames. Or maybe they just like meat. Either way, the customer base skews male.

However, this month a pop-up yakiniku restaurant in Tokyo’s Ebisu neighborhood seemed to be taking particular aim at the ladies. Let’s see if you can spot their unique approach.

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Art collective POW! WOW! completes series of murals in Tokyo’s Tennozu Isle【Photos】

If you happen to have been wandering around Tennozu Isle this past week, you may have noticed a big change. The somewhat drab little island of office buildings and factories has been distinctly enlivened by a series of large public murals courtesy of an international group of artists known as POW! WOW!

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Designer makes daruma good enough to eat with sushi, parfait and fried pork

Japan is a country that really values tradition, but that doesn’t mean that traditional culture is completely sacrosanct either. Giving something old and iconic a tongue-in-cheek modern twist is a popular approach in art and commerce, with results at once familiar and jarring enough to be eye catching.

Like these daruma, spotted at Tokyo Design Week, with outrageous paint jobs and wearing some rather tasty-looking headgear.

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Spooky wasanbon sugar skulls will make your Halloween coffee creepier

It’s almost Halloween, and even here in Japan, where the holiday is still but a shadow of the American take on the creep fest, an avalanche of orange and black gewgaws and processed sugar confections is pouring off retail shelves.

But if you’re looking for Halloween sweets with a little more culture and class, check out the awesome skulls made from wasanbon, a premium fine-grain sugar from Shikoku!

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Japanese candy maker announces new “hot cola gum” to meet demand that probably doesn’t exist

Anyone who has tried salty watermelon Pepsi, yogurt-flavored water or whitebait ice cream can tell you that the Japanese love weird flavors. If it’s new and outlandish, the Japanese market wants to get a taste.

I can only assume that’s what confectioner Lotte was banking on with their newest creation, because there surely couldn’t have been that many voices clamoring for hot cola chewing gum!

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Sawai: the “budget Maldives” where you can sleep above a reef【Photos】

One of the great things about travel is that sometimes the best laid plans completely fall apart and then you discover something unexpected and even more amazing than the thing or place you originally intended to visit.

That was the case on a recent trip to Indonesia when our plans to go to the Banda Islands, some of the famed spice islands, fell through and instead we found ourselves sleeping above a coral reef, hanging out with sea turtles and stuffing ourselves silly on fish and spicy chollo chollo in the tiny town of Sawai.

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10 Cats have a fancy dinner with salad and kimonos【Video】

With a public holiday coming up on Monday, it’s a three-day weekend here in Japan. As you might imagine, some of us—ahem—are having a little trouble applying our fidgety brains to the task of bringing you the latest Nippon news. There’s been a lot of interesting and important developments this week that we should cover, like the shuffling of Prime Minister Abe’s cabinet and two Nobel Prizes going to Japanese researchers andOH LOOK, “10 CATS” HAS A NEW VIDEO!!!1!

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Bali style: Is that a penjor or are you just happy to see me?

Penjor were pretty much the first thing I noticed about Bali. As soon as we left the airport, they began towering over our car from both sides of the street: long-necked, graceful swoops of bamboo arching and bobbing over the road, their strips of paper and coconut leaves fluttering in the air.

But what were these charming decorations? What was their significance? That took a little longer to find out. And to be honest, I’m still not sure I know.

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We try civet poop coffee【Taste Test】

Human beings are endlessly inventive when it comes to food. From curried cicadas to snake soup to lemon and mint Pepsi, we never stop inventing new ways to follow the evolutionary imperative to stuff our faces with calories. And while I’m generally a cultural relativist when it comes to “weird” foods, sometimes there is a concept so out-there, you can’t help but say it’s bizarre.

Like kopi luwak, coffee made from beans that have been through the poop shoot of a tree cat. We’ve all heard of it, and it sounds revolting, but have any of us ever actually tried it? Why, yes, actually…

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We order a bag of cicadas from China and eat them, because summer 【Taste Test】

Some things are inseparable from a Japanese summer: fireworks festivals, face-melting heat and humidity, young men and women awkwardly courting in yukata, and of course the deafening roar of cicadas. Here, the vociferous critters just provide the soundtrack to summer, but did you know that in some places, they are on the summer menu too?

Our intrepid Japanese reporter Ponkotsu did and he sent off to the cicada-producing center of Lishui in China’s Zhejiang Province for a bag of bugs to taste test.

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10 cats are back, beating the summer heat with a big ball of ice【Video】

Last week, we introduced you to the amazing Japanese YouTuber 10 Cats, who, as you may have guessed, has 10 cats. In last week’s episode, you got to experience the relaxing ambient sounds of 10 cats munching and crunching. This week, get ready for some Benny Hill-style antics as 10 cats go at a winking, twirling ball of ice.

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We visit Tokuyama’s Cockroach Fest to take on the “Cockroach Encounter”【Photos】

Late last week, we told you about an event being held by Tokuyama Zoo this summer: the Cockroach Fest. One of the attractions listed was the horrific sounding “cockroach encounter,” but we didn’t have any details about just what kind of encounter it was. Being a naturally curious bunch with a masochistic streak a mile wide, we decided to dispatch a reporter to find out. 

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Japanese teens discover trick to look years younger, may cause back problems 【Video】

People have long sought any invention or procedure that could make them appear younger. From beauty products to invasive surgeries, many will pay mountains of money and undertake any risk for something that promises to shave a few years off their appearance.

A group of teens in Japan has come up with a simple trick that has them looking years younger in an instant, but might not exactly be the panacea you have in mind.

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New Tokyo hotel lets you sleep in a bookstore

Bookstores are really relaxing places, particularly since many Japanese ones have responded to the rise of digital publishing by merging with cafes and creating inviting places to hang out and peruse the goods. With the quiet babble of background noise and a squishy chair to sink into, you may find your eyelids drooping over the new Murakami. However, a comfy chair is not a bed and the stores are generally not open 24 hours, so if you give in to sleep, you’ll probably find yourself turfed out at closing time with a crick in your neck.

If this has been a problem for you in the past, you’ll want to reserve a spot at Book and Bed, a new hotel in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood that invites bibliophiles to sleep in the stacks.

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Conan the Barbarian’s “Wheel of Pain” now available for Japanese toddlers

You might not recognize the name Wheel of Pain, but it’s a TV trope so common you’ve certainly seen it: struggling slaves push a giant capstan around and around under the watchful eye of the slavemaster, who is clearly a capital-b Bad Guy for using such a brutal method of… well, of doing something.

You expect to see the Wheel of Pain in pretty much any historical or fantasy movie with human chattel. You don’t expect to see it in a children’s toy catalog.

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Sushi dreamer now hankering for hamburger – Most nonsensical gacha toy yet?

Back in January, we introduced you to a series of gachapon toys that featured a young lady so smitten with sushi she wanted to be completely wrapped up in it. It seems she has moved on from that culinary fixation. Now she wants to soak in a carbonated beverage jacuzzi and be slathered in catsup at a fast food burger joint.

Allow me to present Moso Oneesan Hamburger Shop, or The Daydreaming Girl’s Hamburger Shop.

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