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

Endangered critters in China get health check, diagnosed with acute cuteness 【Photos】

Remember when you were in school and had to do that dreaded health and fitness check in PE class? Turns out those trials aren’t just for little homo sapiens.

A few days ago, workers at the Pu’er Sun River national park were checking the health of their endangered charges ahead of some research projects and got some pretty adorable snaps in the process.

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Artist combines terracotta warriors from ancient China with some familiar modern faces

In 1974, some farmers in Xi’an, China, stumbled upon a funerary army buried with the first Qin emperor comprised of more than 8,000 terracotta soldiers. Their fierce, noble faces belied their intent to protect the emperor even in death, while their military dress and kit, all recreated in detail, gave them the means to do so.

Now an artist in San Francisco is herself recreating some of these World Heritage statues, but there’s something just a bit off about the faces…

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Check out these amazing Ghibli-inspired tattoos

It’s no secret that most of us here at RocketNews24 are big fans of Hayao Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli movies, though to my knowledge, none of us have yet inked that adoration on our skin. That might be about to change, though, with these amazing Ghibli tattoos to inspire us!

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Self-defense tip: Dealing with unwanted kabe-don

With the aggressive pick-up tactics of Julien “the most hated man in the world” Blanc all over the news this week, it only makes sense that we here at RocketNews24 do our part in educating readers about self-defense. And being as this is Japan, we thought we should start with a method for dealing with that particularly Japanese act of violence-infused wooing: the kabe-don.

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Mountain monks meditate in ice-cold waterfalls, are completely badass【Video】

In the mountains of Nikko, just a short train trip from the modern, glittering megacity of Tokyo, a handful of monks still practice a millennia-old tradition known as shugendo, a form of meditation via endurance-testing communion with nature.

These are the yamabushi, mountain monks for whom a dip in a thundering, ice-cold waterfall and a sopping-wet stroll up a mountain are just another day’s work.

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Cute cat warms harbles, achieves Nirvana in front of heater

We posted earlier this week about how Japanese cats survive the cold winter months by bogarting the sweet, sweet warmth of the space heater, but this cold little fellow is lucky enough not to have to share his oasis of warmth with any other felines or even a pesky human. How happy does that make him? Photos of kitty bliss after the jump.

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Mount Aso: I heard you like volcanoes, so I put some volcanoes in your volcano【Photos】

Japan is a country with a whole lot of volcanoes of all shapes, sizes and persuasions. From the iconic Mt. Fuji to the recently erupted Mt. Ontake, you really can’t swing a koto around here without hitting a geological pressure cooker. And nowhere is that truer than the Aso-Kuju National Park in Kyushu, where they literally have volcanoes on top of volcanoes.

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We try roasted salamander so you don’t have to

Part of the excitement of traveling is trying foods that you have never seen, heard of, or even contemplated before. So when our lodging in the wilds of Nikko offered roasted salamander for dinner, I had to give it a try. Not just to satisfy my curiosity and my pride, but to report back to you, dear reader, about what amphibi-lizard on a stick tastes like.

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Go to hell: Unzen Hot Springs invites visitors to take an infernal stroll through a field of deadly hell-mouths

Welcome to Unzen, Kyushu, a sulphurous field of geothermal activity so inhospitable to life that its boiling hot springs and gas jets go by the name of jigoku or hells. This Halloween, allow us to be your Virgil and guide you through this strange world where eerie noises drift from hellish craters, clouds of foul-smelling gas confuse the mind and Christian martyrs were once boiled to death!

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Rice-flavored ice cream: You knew it had to be in Japan somewhere

You probably know from reading this site that people in Japan love ice cream. And it goes without saying that they love rice! So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to find that rice-flavored ice cream is a thing.

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Ultra-realistic cat latte art blows us away, puts us off our coffee

Latte art is all the rage in Japan right now, and as you might expect, it tends heavily towards the super-kawaii. But today, we spotted some super realistic-looking latte art from Twitter user @dongurinekobei and it looks both amazing and undrinkable.

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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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