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

Aussie/Kiwi ATMs come out of the closet as fabulous GayTMs

It’s nice when something invisibly quotidian is tweaked in a way that grabs your full attention. Previously we’ve talked about slightly altered street signs and artistic renderings of subway maps, and now the humble cash machine gets an eye-grabbing makeover in the interest of LGBTQ inclusivity.

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Sushi restaurant brings all the feels with commercial about dementia 【Video】

You wouldn’t think that bringing up the struggle of caring for a parent with severe dementia would be an effective sales technique, but sushi chain Gin no Sara has decided to go that route with this touching spot about what Alzheimer’s patients do remember.

I’m not sure if it will increase sushi sales, but boxes of tissues will definitely be flying off the shelves.

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Get a haircut, a manicure and an eyeful at this saucy salon in Vietnam

You generally don’t have to look too hard to find a business capitalizing on the appeal of scantily clad women, but recently there seem to be more and more places using half-naked dudes too. Hooray for gender equality, I guess?

Earlier this week, we told you about the upcoming Macho Cafe in Tokyo and the handsome dentist who cradles patients in his lap while doing a cleaning, but neither of those places have anything on this hair and nail salon in Da Nang, where your beauty comes with a side of beefcake.

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Photohoku: helping northeastern Japan rebuild, one picture at a time 【Photos】

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, Tokyo-based photographers Brian Scott Peterson and Yuko Yoshikawa were frustrated by the limited impact of volunteer options close to home, so they decided to head up to Tohoku with the vague idea that people in temporary housing might be interested in having family portraits taken.

Clearly, that tapped into an unmet need, because four years later that one-off trip has become Photohoku, a ballooning volunteer organization that takes monthly trips to Tohoku, has gifted over 10,000 instant family portraits, and has even inspired similar groups overseas.

Today, as we remember those who lost their lives in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami four years ago, we take a brief look at how this truly inspired project continues to bring a little bit of extra sunshine into the lives of those who survived one of Japan’s greatest natural disasters.

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Forget the dress, how many shades of blue do you see here?

The internet was all aflame last week with debates over the color of a certain dress, so we should know by now that our eyes are damn, dirty liars. In case you want more proof of that, take a look at the picture above. How many shades of blue do you see? Are you sure about that?

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Toho Cinemas desperately seeking customers accidentally served non-diet soda

We’ve spoken many times about the insanely good customer service here in Japan. The latest example comes to us from the branch of  Toho Cinemas in Umeda, Osaka. If you visit their webpage right now, you are immediately greeted with an urgent message and fervent apology from the management regarding a terrible mistake: Some customers were given the wrong soda!

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Is this the world’s most spoiled cat?【Video】

It’s already Tuesday here in the Big J, but even though we’ve survived the day whose name shall not be spoken and which many of you are still enduring, the weekend still seems awfully far away. So for all you hardworking salarymen (and women!), here’s a super cute kitty cat to help you ease into the week. Watch him enjoy his prime heater-front real estate and dream of your own warm happy place.

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Coffee wizard performs snack alchemy in not-so-secret lair

Last week, we gave you a recipe for the tasty caffeinated treat called coffee jelly. This week, we’d like to introduce a coffee shop that is taking that quotidian treat to the next level of taste and presentation. Behold Coffee Suzuki, where the coffee jelly forms right before your very eyes!

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We try black rice sushi rolls in Australia

On my first trip to Australia, I expected to have lots of new culinary experiences, but to be honest, I expected them to be along the lines of kangaroo sausage and lamingtons. I certainly didn’t expect to come all the way from Japan and discover a new kind of sushi roll, but in the food court of the Cairns airport, there they were: black rice sushi rolls.

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Make your mark: Personalize gift bags, notebooks and more with free Muji stamp station

Here in Japan, most shops will do gift wrapping for free. It’s a very thoughtful and convenient service, but although they usually do a very nice job of it, it lacks a certain personal touch.

Popular lifestyle goods shop Muji may have the answer: gift bags that you can customize with a set of free and easy-to-use stamps. And the fun doesn’t stop there. Let’s take a look!

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World’s largest internet hub in Aomori?

Twitter user @rairacp_62 spotted this building in Aomori and something about it seemed very familiar…

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Cross-dressing talent Matsuko Deluxe: AKB opening the Tokyo Olympics “would embarrass Japan”

Larger-than-life columnist and talent Matsuko Deluxe is well-known for her sharp tongue, particularly where pretty ladies are concerned. This week the target of her ire is idol groups like AKB48.

On a radio show Monday, she slammed the idea of them performing for the Tokyo Olympics as “embarrassing.”

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Out of this world Valentine’s chocolates are (almost) too gorgeous to eat

Chilly January is drawing to a close and that means that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Here in Japan, Valentine chocolates are big business, which means shops pull out all the stops to create delicacies as easy on the eyes as they are sweet in your mouth. We’ve picked our favorites for this year, so whether you are buying for your lover or yourself, check out these dainty nibbles!

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Nikko beyond Toshogu: What to see once you’ve seen it all

The city of Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture, home to the impressive Toshogu Shrine and its famous evil-averse monkeys, is a popular choice for day trips from Tokyo, what with its World Heritage sites and easy train connections. But if all you’re doing is popping in for an afternoon of temple hopping, you are missing out on a lot of what Nikko has to offer. Take our advice and take a couple of days to check out what everybody else is missing.

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Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”

In 2014, Dr. Shuji Nakamura, along with two other scientists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in creating bright blue LEDs. In 1993, Nakamura held only a master’s degree and worked with just one lab assistant for a small manufacturer in rural Japan, yet he was able to find a solution that had eluded some the highest paid, best-educated researchers in the world.

If his story ended there, he would no doubt be the poster boy for Japanese innovation and never-say-die spirit, but in the years since his discovery, he has instigated a landmark patent case, emigrated to the US, given up his Japanese citizenship and become a vocal critic of his native country. Last week, the prickly professor gave his first Japanese press conference since picking up his Nobel and he had some very succinct advice for young Japanese: Leave.

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5 places in Japan to visit in 2015

Although we just told you about why Japan is an unpopular tourist destination, if you are planning on visiting in 2015and we really recommend you do!there are some landmark events going on that you might want to consider as you make your plans. Here’s our list of five places you’ll want to visit in Japan in 2015.

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Travel Japan without leaving the capital at Tokyo’s best prefectural satellite shops

When it comes to regional cuisines, Japan has a lot to offer. But what if you are short on time and can’t make it to far-flung parts of the archipelago to sample artisan cheeses or gut-burning awamori? Not to worry, you can get a taste of most prefectures in the heart of Tokyo at so-called satellite shops, supermarkets which specialize in food and products from a particular region.

We’ve picked out five of our favorites for you to enjoy, with a not-to-be-missed item from each.

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French artist alters Japanese street signs to make people “more observant”, police not impressed

Some rather peculiar, sticker-altered street signs have been popping up in Osaka or Kyoto over the last month. The eye-catching addendums are the work of French guerrilla artist Clet Abraham, who has done similar projects around the globe. While local residents are largely bemused, the police are not at all amused and are investigating whether charges can be filed.

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Burger chain Lotteria trolls McDonald’s Japan’s potato shortage with pithy sign

Earlier this week, we reported that McDonald’s Japan is in the middle of a potato shortage, causing them to halt sales of medium and large-size fries. Even the meal sets will come with a measly small fries, though thankfully at a discounted price.

Rival chain Lotteria is happily pouring salt in the wound by using McDonald’s hardships to market their own fried spuds. See if you can spot the recent addition to their menu after the jump.

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3-D color printer used to bring Hokusai’s masterpiece to life for visually impaired

If you are a sighted person with an internet connection, chances are you have seen Katsushika Hokusai’s famous painting Mount Fuji Seen Below a Wave at Kanagawa at some point. Despite the clunky title, it is one of the most recognized pieces of Japanese art ever.

Now, thanks to 3-D printing, a company called K’s Design Lab, and Tsutaya’s bookstore-cum-lounge property T-Site, visually impaired art lovers too will soon be able to see this work by literally getting their hands on it.

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