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

Japanese farmer uses terrifying scarecrow, traumatizes children

Japanese farmer uses terrifying scarecrow, traumatizes children

Twitter user @amatou320 posted a photo online of a rather, ah, innovative scarecrow on a Japanese farm. If you ask us, it’s far more terrifying than your standard straw-stuffed shirt and it probably elicits some tears from passing children too, but we’re not sure if it will really work on crows…

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London’s Sumo Run has Japanese confused, kind of offended

London’s Sumo Run has Japanese confused, kind of offended

This week the annual charity event known as the Sumo Run took place in London’s Battersea Park. To raise money for education in sub-Saharan Africa, participants don inflatable sumo suits and run the 5km course around the park, no doubt delighting passersby in the country that gave us Monty Python.

But when media outlets in Japan reported on the event, the audience here was not universally pleased, with some people calling it racist cultural appropriation.

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Get the most out of your visit to Japan with these tourist-only deals 【Ninja Life Skills】

Get the most out of your visit to Japan with these tourist-only deals 【Ninja Life Skills】

Japan has a reputation as a very expensive place to travel, but it is trying to raise its profile as an international destination with some deals available just for foreign visitors. We here at RocketNews24 have gathered all the information together in one place for your travel-planning pleasure, so now you have no excuse not to visit us!

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5 ways to nap at the office, according to a Japanese wage slave

5 ways to nap at the office, according to a Japanese wage slave

We’ve all been there. Maybe it was an ill-advised night out the day before or a colicky newborn that wouldn’t sleep or just the shitty weather, we’ve all had days at the office when we wanted nothing more than to curl up and take a nap. In fact, it’s more of a need than a want as you sit there, staring blankly at your computer screen, unable to put a coherent thought together. But sadly, napping at your desk can be seriously uncomfortable, not to mention grounds for termination.

If you absolutely must grab a few winks and are willing to take the risk, though, Twitter user @sui_gin has helpfully illustrated some possible sleeping positions in manga style.

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Actress/sexpert Aya Sugimoto founds organization for animal welfare in Japan

Actress/sexpert Aya Sugimoto founds organization for animal welfare in Japan

Former J-pop star, erotic novelist and television sex guru Aya Sugimoto is already well-known in the Japanese animal welfare community for her strong anti-fur stance, but this year she has taken aim at the abominable state of Japan’s pet industry by founding her own animal welfare organization, Eva.

Last week, she sat down with members of the media to talk about why 170,000 cats and dogs are inhumanely gassed every year in Japan and what we can do about it.

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Man questioned by police after building “girl” out of plastic bottles, taking her out on a date

Man questioned by police after building “girl” out of plastic bottles, taking her out on a date

Inventor and performance artist Showta Mori has been getting a taste of internet fame recently for his videos featuring his quick-draw, arm-mounted iPhone sleeve gun, but that’s far from his only creation or even his weirdest creation. That honor goes, in my opinion, to Lisako, his so-called “PET bottle lover,” his date on a series of adventures that would have David Lynch scratching his head and saying, “Now, that’s just weird.”

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Man kidnaps, imprisons 11-year-old to raise her to be his “ideal girl”

Man kidnaps, imprisons 11-year-old to raise her to be his “ideal girl”

If you’ve been in Japan over the last week, you’ve no doubt heard about the young girl in Okayama Prefecture who disappeared on her way home from school on the 14th. While a story like this all too often ends in tragedy, in this case, the girl was found unharmed five days later, confined at the home of a 49-year-old local man, Takeshi Fujiwara.

Fujiwara was arrested on charges of kidnapping and illegal confinement and now details are beginning to emerge from the questioning about his creepy, creepy motives.

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Rainy season commuter must-have: a dry case for wet umbrellas

Rainy season commuter must-have: a dry case for wet umbrellas

The rainy season is upon us in Tokyo, which means the smart commuter always has a fold-up umbrella in his or her bag. Their small size and portability makes them great for just-in-case days of dubious weather forecasts, but then there’s always the issue of what to do with them after you’ve used them. You can’t just fold them up and pop them dripping back into your bag, holding them by the strap usually means they end up dripping down your legs, and tossing them on the luggage rack means ta shower for the passengers below.

Until now that is. Someone has finally invented a workable solution! Introducing the Susu microfiber dry case for wet brollies!

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Osaka welfare clerk denies application, suggests woman seek work in the sex industry

Osaka welfare clerk denies application, suggests woman seek work in the sex industry

Even the most conscientious planners can be smacked upside the head by life sometimes. Whether from a medical situation, accident, or family tragedy, you could find yourself in need of financial assistance just to make ends meet. Luckily, social safety nets exist for just this reason.

Still, it can be hard to swallow one’s pride and ask for help, which is why staff at the welfare office should be especially sensitive to the feelings of applicants, but a recent investigation into practices at the Osaka welfare bureau have uncovered that many applicants encountered shocking insensitivity, sometimes so callous it crossed into sexual harassment.

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Japanese photographer shrink-wraps strangers to capture love in Tokyo 【Photos】

Japanese photographer shrink-wraps strangers to capture love in Tokyo 【Photos】

Most couples would jump at the chance to have a free professional portrait taken, but what if the price for the picture was being put in a vacuum-sealed bag by someone you just met in a bar?

Seems like that would be a hard sell, but apparently Haruhiko Kawaguchi, otherwise known as Photographer Hal, has a way with words, because he’s photographed hundreds of strangers sealed in plastic on his search to capture the greatest theme in human life: love.

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The 2,900 km/h train: China could soon have maglev faster than commercial jet

The 2,900 km/h train: China could soon have maglev faster than commercial jet

Scientists at Southwest Jiaotong University in China have built a prototype testing platform for a near-vacuum high-speed maglev train that is theoretically capable of reaching speeds up to 2900 km/h or about 1,800 mph. Currently, the fastest commercially operated maglev reaches just 431 km/h and even the world record is just 581 km/hr.

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Darth Vader makes Japanese pro baseball debut with killer home run 【Video】

Darth Vader makes Japanese pro baseball debut with killer home run 【Video】

Darth Vader is a multi-talented guy. From choking subordinates with an invisible force to performing impromptu amputations on members of his family, he can perform all kinds of amazing feats. But did you know he’s also a major league slugger?

It’s true! As part of a collaboration between Lucasfilm and Japan pro-baseball’s Pacific League, Vader stepped up to the plate to show how the game should be played: with light-saber bats!

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Neat idea turns fast food tray and smartphone into functional football game

Neat idea turns fast food tray and smartphone into functional football game

With the World Cup fast approaching, football fever (that’s soccer mania, for our American readers) is taking over fans everywhere, but perhaps nowhere more so than in already football-manic host country Brazil.

One fast food chain there has hit on a football-related promotion far more fun than the usual athlete endorsement: allowing customers to turn their food trays into a 3-D video game and shoot penalty kicks at a smartphone-sized goalie.

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Check out these super-ultra-teeny-tiny bonsai! 【Photos】

Check out these super-ultra-teeny-tiny bonsai! 【Photos】

We’ve showcased some pretty impressive photos of bonsai here recently, but this new batch takes the tiny proverbial cake. You probably know that bonsai is the traditional art form of sculpting miniature trees in pots, but these photos raise the question, “Just how miniature can you get?

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Fallen cherry blossoms make gorgeous “sakura carpet” at Hirosaki Park 【Photos】

Fallen cherry blossoms make gorgeous “sakura carpet” at Hirosaki Park 【Photos】

Seeing a park full of cherry trees in full bloom is remarkable, much like walking through a cotton candy wonderland, but even after the delicate pink petals begin to fall, they continue to offer new perspectives, many so beloved they’ve got their own word in Japanese. There’s hanafubuki, or the blizzard of petals that engulfs you when the wind picks up. There’s hazakura, the young leaves of the tree revealed once the blossoms have fallen. And there’s hanaigata or flower raft, a gathering of fallen petals on water.

At one of the most famous sakura-viewing spots in Aomori, Hirosaki Park, the little pink petals from the park’s 2,600 cherry trees gather so thick and fast on the waterways that they’ve stopped resembling rafts and completely covered the surface of the water, leading to the coining of a new phrase: sakura no juutan or the cherry blossom carpet.

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Photo captures epic lightning strike to Tokyo Skytree

Photo captures epic lightning strike to Tokyo Skytree

At 634 meters (2,080 ft), Tokyo Skytree is not only the tallest building in Japan, but also the tallest broadcasting tower in the world and second only to the Burj Khalifa in tallest structures. With all that height and no small amount of metal, a building is bound to get some serious love from lightning strikes, but catching that moment on film is easier said than done as a strike usually lasts between 1-2 microseconds.

This week, Twitter user @KAGAYA_11949 managed to get a great shot nonetheless.

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Kim Jong-Unhealthy? Media reports North Korean leader stress eating, “getting fat”

Kim Jong-Unhealthy? Media reports North Korean leader stress eating, “getting fat”

Usually it’s the Hollywood starlets and sea monsters that get scrutinized for every centimeter their waist expands, but this week, it’s North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un who is under the fat-o-scope.

Free North Korea Radio is reporting the diminutive dictator has ballooned by about 20 kilos (44 pounds) since he became top dog, lending credence to rumors that he has been gorging himself on food and booze to deal with the stress of running his country and executing family and friends.

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Go fly a (humongous) kite: Zama’s Odako Matsuri【Photos】

Go fly a (humongous) kite: Zama’s Odako Matsuri【Photos】

If someone in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, tells you to go fly a kite, don’t be hurt. They are probably just inviting you to the Odako Matsuri or Giant Kite Festival! And with hundreds of years of history, 13-meter paper and bamboo kites, and a bonfire using said kite as the finale, you’ll be glad you were invited.

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YouTuber combines original and latest Godzilla in cool mashup trailer

YouTuber combines original and latest Godzilla in cool mashup trailer

With the release date of Gareth Edwards’ new take on Godzilla fast approaching, there’s been a lot of chatter on the Net comparing the original kaiju with his latest incarnation in terms of his size, his abilities, and even the amount of pee he would produce.

YouTuber Broad Strokes wasn’t interested in comparing the two, though. He wanted to combine them, and the result is a mashup trailer for a Godzilla movie we would very much like to see.

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Tohoku man honors brother killed in tsunami with hundreds of blue carp streamers

Tohoku man honors brother killed in tsunami with hundreds of blue carp streamers

In an empty field in Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, where many homes stood before a tsunami swept them away, there are hundreds of blue carp streamers floating in the breeze. Kento Itoh, 21 years old, has collected them from all over the country in honor of his brother Ritsu, killed in the March 11 disaster when he was just five years old.

On that day, Kento was in Sendai, his middle brother was at school and his father was in the hospital, so none of them were at home when the tsunami struck their small town. Ritsu, his mother and his grandparents were carried off by the surging waters. Only Ritsu’s body was ever found. The rest are still officially missing.

With his father ill, it fell to Kento as the oldest son to identify his brother’s corpse at the morgue and to search among the ruins for his missing family. He did not find them, but among the mud and muck, he did find something: Ritsu’s beloved blue carp streamer.

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