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

Kirishima Geopark: Trekking through a bonsai forest in the clouds 【Photos】

Kirishima Geopark is a spooky place, I thought to myself, separated from my hiking group by a thick, soupy fog that dampened both sound and clothes. Despite the well-marked trails, there was something about the twisty trees and shivery sound of water drops pushed loose by the wind that suggested you might walk around a bend and disappear forever. I loved it.

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Get your paws on this paw-shaped back massager with cat-itude

Cat lovers will tell you there is something deeply satisfying about the soft squishy feel of a cat’s toe pads, particularly as we don’t get to touch them for very long before getting swatted across the face for our presumption. But imagine how nice it would feel to get a back massage from some big kitty toe beans!

Proving that you really can find anything at a Japanese supermarket, we spotted just such a massager on a recent trip.

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Obama appears in small Kyushu town, possibly seeking treatment for aggressive skin disease

You really never know who you are going to meet when traveling. That’s one of the things that makes it so enjoyable. But imagine our surprise when we ran into the leader of the free world in an isolated hot spring town in Kyushu! It might have something to do with the name of the place though…

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Face of Spanish monkey Jesus appears in Japanese roll cake

Usually, Jesus limits his food-based appearances to grilled cheese and Cheetos in certainshall we sayconservative areas of North America, but it seems like he is making inroads to Asian pastries with an appearance in a dessert offered by Japan’s popular Komeda Coffee chain. And not just that, he decided to present as a famous recent incarnation: the monkey-faced botched restoration of Ecce Homo!

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Is your grandpa bad-ass enough for these epic, blade-concealing walking sticks?

Christmas is coming up, and if you are wondering whether you should get gramps another boring old tie pin or golf shirt, may we humbly suggest a skull- or dragon-shaped walking stick of death?!

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New tax exemption system for foreign visitors to Japan starts today!

If you are a regular RocketNews24 reader, you may already know that there have been a lot of changes to Japan’s consumption tax system this year. For those of us who live here, it’s meant an annoying price hike for nearly everything, but for visitors, there is some good news.

Starting today, October 1, new rules regarding consumption tax exemptions for foreign visitors go into effect, and for once, these are actually changes that work in your favor. More details after the jump.

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We try bright blue Dragon Quest slime curry, live to tell the tale

A few weeks ago, we told you about Village Vanguard’s launch of Slime Curry, a rather curious blue foodstuff inspired by the bad-guy blobs of the Dragon Quest series. Not content with just informing you of its existence, one of the Japanese reporters at our sister site Pouch bravely volunteered to try the curry for herself and report back if she survived. Here’s what she had to say.

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Amid ongoing protests in Hong Kong, Chinese officials look for terrorists… in bird rectums

It doesn’t get much weirder than this, folks. Yesterday, the People’s Daily, the largest newspaper group in China, reported on their English Twitter feed that “10,000 pigeons go through anal security check for suspicious objects Tue, ready to be released on National Day on Wed.”

That’s right, kids: avian cavity searches.

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Meet Issie, Japan’s very own Loch Ness Monster

You may have thought that the Loch Ness Monster had cornered the market on fresh-water cryptids, but Japan has one of its own mythical lake beasts. There may be a monster lurking in the depths of Kyushu’s Lake Ikeda, a monster who goes by the terrifying name of… Issie-kun.

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You can eat a polar bear in Kagoshima

That’s right, you can eat a polar bear in Japan. But before you start freaking out about animal cruelty or endangered species, we are actually talking about the funky dessert in picture above, not the big furry mammal. Meet the shirokuma or polar bear, a delicious treat of shaved ice, sweet milk syrup and fruit from Kagoshima.

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Invasion of the moon rabbits: the delicious tradition of otsukimi 【Photos】

If you happened to be in Japan this week, you may have noticed rather a lot of rabbit-themed goods, particularly sweets. Not to worry, the Japanese haven’t gotten their dates for Easter spectacularly wrong, these lapine lovelies are part of otsukimi, a tradition celebrating the harvest moon.

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Japanese celebricat Maru gets a pushcart, gets to work pushing 【Video】

Okay, confession time. I am a little bitsigh, A LOTobsessed with internet cats. From Lil Bub to Little P and with a lot of Princess Monster Truck in between, I follow them all. But perhaps the cutest and most consistently entertaining is chubby, lazy Maru, who happens to live in Japan with his owner known by YouTube handle mugumogu.

Maru is so famous he has his own book and has appeared in both print and TV ads for major brands like Uniqlo. Mostly he likes hanging out at home trying to fit into various boxes, but if the latest video is any indication, he may have a new hobby: pushing a pushcart around the house.

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Creator of plastic-bottle girlfriend has new invention: brainwave-activated inflatable muscles

About a month ago, we brought you the story of artist Showta Mori and Lisako, his plastic-bottle girlfriend. Their forbidden love landed Mori in police custody for “suspicious behavior.”

Well, Mori apparently escaped incarceration because he has just released a new video in collaboration with beverage maker Suntory that promotes his latest invention: the brainwave-controlled muscle suit (ver. 3)!

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New research suggests even low-level radiation in Fukushima negatively impacting wildlife

Dr. Timothy Mousseau, professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina and researcher for the Chernobyl and Fukushima Research Initiative, presented new findings to the International Ornithological Congress in Tokyo last week that suggest radiation contamination around Fukushima Daiichi, even at low levels, is negatively impacting biodiversity and wildlife populations.

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Tohoku aid charity Knit For Japan attempts world record blanket

More than three years on from the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, there are still roughly 260,000 people living in temporary housing facilities. Since Tohoku gets mighty cold in the winter, sending these evacuees some lovely hand-made afghans is a woolly hug that lets them know they are not forgotten.

But that didn’t go far enough for Yokohama-based knitting teacher Bernd Kestler, who wanted to send them the biggest blanket the world has ever seen!

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Wagashi chef crafts amazing edible characters with leftover scraps 【Photos】

Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets usually made from mochi, bean paste, or fruit.  If you’ve been to Japan or a nice Japanese restaurant, perhaps you enjoyed one sculpted to look like a flower, crane or some other very old-fashioned Japanese image.

Like most things in Japan, no matter how venerable, give it enough time and it will be kawaii-ified. Enter sweets shop Kuramoto Hinode, where a veteran wagashi chef has begun crafting anime and pop culture based sweets with leftover bits and bobs.

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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

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 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】

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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