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

Mutant parrot-banana hybrids appearing across Japan 【Photos】

Mutant parrot-banana hybrids appearing across Japan 【Photos】

That’s right, mutant parrot-banana hybrids! But before you freak out and start boarding up your windows (or perhaps grabbing a napkin and a large net), we should be clear that we are talking about gachapon, the little toys sold in plastic bubbles out of vending machines.

While these fruit and fauna combo toys are hardly the weirdest or even the most nonsensical toy to hit the gachapon scene, they seem to be selling well, with collectors posting pictures on social media of the cute critters interacting with a variety of action figures and other tiny toys.

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Popular tourist spot Kegon Falls turned up to MAX after recent typhoon

Popular tourist spot Kegon Falls turned up to MAX after recent typhoon

The photo above is the popular sightseeing destination of Kegon Falls in Nikko. At 97 meters high (318 ft), it is one of the three highest falls in Japan and also one of the so-called “Eight Views”, said to exemplify Japan and its culture. But the photo above is Kegon on a normal day.

With Japan recently taking a beating and a whole lotta rain from the slow-moving Typhoon Halong, Kegon looks a little different now.

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The world of the future, according to North Korean architect

The world of the future, according to North Korean architect

The interconnectedness of today’s world has been a real boon to artists, scientists, designers, futurists, and pretty much anyone who thrives on the free exchange of ideas. If you asked a kid from South Africa to draw the city of the future, it would be equally likely and unsurprising for her to design futuristic skyscrapers reminiscent of the Burj Khalifa or hobbit hole-like underground eco-houses.

But what if you were from North Korea? What if you didn’t have Internet and had never left your own country? What would the city of the future look like to you?

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Fighting like cats and dogs? Not these cute little guys! 【Photos】

Fighting like cats and dogs? Not these cute little guys! 【Photos】

Sometimes just keeping up with the news makes you despair for humanity. Between all the war, racially motivated killings, ethnic strife, and general meanness, you have to wonder if we will ever be able to get along.

It’s been one of those days and I needed a pick-me-up, so here is a collection of photos of dogs and cats getting along. Because if they can manage to overcome their differences, maybe we can too.

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Geopolitical dictionary: Japanese net users turn countries into verbs

Geopolitical dictionary: Japanese net users turn countries into verbs

You know how in English you can take pretty much any noun and make it a verbderivation for the cunning linguists out thereby adding to to the front? For example, how the search engine Google has become to google, as in, “Why the hell are you asking me? Go google it, you twit!”

Well, you can do the same thing in Japanese by adding -ru or a handful of other suffixes to the end of a word, and some Japanese net users recently had some fun with this by turning country names into some very non-PC verbs.

Have a look at our geopolitical dictionary and see how your country fared.

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Still a ways to go, but animal welfare in Japan is improving by leaps and bounds

Still a ways to go, but animal welfare in Japan is improving by leaps and bounds

We’ve covered some stories in recent months about the distressing state of animal welfare in Japan and shocking cases of animal abuse, but I wanted to let our readers know that isn’t the whole story. Granted, in comparison with many other developed nations, Japan lags behind in this area, but that doesn’t mean it’s stuck in the Stone Age either. Over the last couple of decades, through the hard work of their human advocates, the situation for dogs and cats in Japan has been improving.

In the interest of acknowledging those efforts, recognizing where Japan is getting things right, and just generally bringing some good news to the table, we wanted to share with you some of the positive changes happening in Nihon.

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Cigarette-selling shiba becomes internet sensation, leverages fame for cucumbers

Cigarette-selling shiba becomes internet sensation, leverages fame for cucumbers

If you’ve been on the internet this week, you’ve probably seen this smiling face already. This shiba inu, cleverly named Shiba, manser, dogs?the counter at a little cigarette shop in the Musashi-Koganei neighborhood of Tokyo. Last week a video of Shiba at work went viral and now hordes of net surfers around the world are so charmed by the pooch’s customer service, they’re considering taking up smoking.

Since we know our readers love teh cute, we’ve got all the info about this clever spokesdog and photos for your enjoyment.

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New app will find you a bath on-the-go in Tokyo

New app will find you a bath on-the-go in Tokyo

With blistering temperatures over the past week and record cases of heat stroke, just getting around Tokyo for business or pleasure can leave you dripping with sweat and a littleokay, A LOTstinky. It’s enough to make you want to bathe several times a day.

But what if you are dying to clean up but don’t want to go all the way back to your home or hotel? That’s when a cheap Japanese bathhouse, or sentou, can come in very handy. For a few hundred yen, you have a place to take a bath, grab a snooze on a bit of tatami, and put your game face on again. These little places used to be hard to locate, but as with most things these days, now there’s an app for that.

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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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