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

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

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】

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

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

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

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 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】

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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