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

We order a bag of cicadas from China and eat them, because summer 【Taste Test】

Some things are inseparable from a Japanese summer: fireworks festivals, face-melting heat and humidity, young men and women awkwardly courting in yukata, and of course the deafening roar of cicadas. Here, the vociferous critters just provide the soundtrack to summer, but did you know that in some places, they are on the summer menu too?

Our intrepid Japanese reporter Ponkotsu did and he sent off to the cicada-producing center of Lishui in China’s Zhejiang Province for a bag of bugs to taste test.

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10 cats are back, beating the summer heat with a big ball of ice【Video】

Last week, we introduced you to the amazing Japanese YouTuber 10 Cats, who, as you may have guessed, has 10 cats. In last week’s episode, you got to experience the relaxing ambient sounds of 10 cats munching and crunching. This week, get ready for some Benny Hill-style antics as 10 cats go at a winking, twirling ball of ice.

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We visit Tokuyama’s Cockroach Fest to take on the “Cockroach Encounter”【Photos】

Late last week, we told you about an event being held by Tokuyama Zoo this summer: the Cockroach Fest. One of the attractions listed was the horrific sounding “cockroach encounter,” but we didn’t have any details about just what kind of encounter it was. Being a naturally curious bunch with a masochistic streak a mile wide, we decided to dispatch a reporter to find out. 

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Japanese teens discover trick to look years younger, may cause back problems 【Video】

People have long sought any invention or procedure that could make them appear younger. From beauty products to invasive surgeries, many will pay mountains of money and undertake any risk for something that promises to shave a few years off their appearance.

A group of teens in Japan has come up with a simple trick that has them looking years younger in an instant, but might not exactly be the panacea you have in mind.

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New Tokyo hotel lets you sleep in a bookstore

Bookstores are really relaxing places, particularly since many Japanese ones have responded to the rise of digital publishing by merging with cafes and creating inviting places to hang out and peruse the goods. With the quiet babble of background noise and a squishy chair to sink into, you may find your eyelids drooping over the new Murakami. However, a comfy chair is not a bed and the stores are generally not open 24 hours, so if you give in to sleep, you’ll probably find yourself turfed out at closing time with a crick in your neck.

If this has been a problem for you in the past, you’ll want to reserve a spot at Book and Bed, a new hotel in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood that invites bibliophiles to sleep in the stacks.

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Conan the Barbarian’s “Wheel of Pain” now available for Japanese toddlers

You might not recognize the name Wheel of Pain, but it’s a TV trope so common you’ve certainly seen it: struggling slaves push a giant capstan around and around under the watchful eye of the slavemaster, who is clearly a capital-b Bad Guy for using such a brutal method of… well, of doing something.

You expect to see the Wheel of Pain in pretty much any historical or fantasy movie with human chattel. You don’t expect to see it in a children’s toy catalog.

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Sushi dreamer now hankering for hamburger – Most nonsensical gacha toy yet?

Back in January, we introduced you to a series of gachapon toys that featured a young lady so smitten with sushi she wanted to be completely wrapped up in it. It seems she has moved on from that culinary fixation. Now she wants to soak in a carbonated beverage jacuzzi and be slathered in catsup at a fast food burger joint.

Allow me to present Moso Oneesan Hamburger Shop, or The Daydreaming Girl’s Hamburger Shop.

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Tokuyama Zoo celebrates summer with Cockroach Fest!

The Tokuyama Zoo in Yamaguchi Prefecture has come up with a novel way to attract visitors this summer. And by novel, I mean probably insane. Would you buy tickets for a Cockroach Fest?

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Sea bunnies? Japanese netizens going nuts for super cute sea slug

If you polled people on marine life they thought was cute, sea slugs would probably rate somewhere near the bottom if they made the list at all. That’s a shame, though, as the amusingly named nudibranch group is full of vivid color, out-there shapes, and even downright adorableness.

But maybe the sea slug’s image is about to change because the Japanese Net, purveyors of all things cute, have just discovered Jorunna parva, the fluffy little bunnies of the sea.

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“Urgent news bulletin: Pikachu has been kidnapped!”

Earlier, we introduced a new game that shows what Pikachu will look like as an old man, but now it’s not clear if he is ever going to reach that ripe old age. Everyone’s favorite Pokémon has been kidnapped, you guys!

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10 times Shiro and friends balanced Japanese culture on their heads

If you are like most of our readers, you love both Japanese culture and cats. So do you know the Kagoneko blog? If not, you’re in for a treat today!

Kagoneko is a long-running photo blog about a very squinty-eyed cat named Shiro and his four feline friends in rural Kagoshima. Mostly it involves pictures of them with stuff balanced on their heads or paws and it is amazing, not just because the pictures are incredibly cute but because it provides a unique insight into Japanese culture and daily life.

Here are 10 of our favorite examples.

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“Needlessly cool” Evangelion-esque typhoon forecast from Taiwan amuses Net

If you’ve seen a weather report in the last couple of days, you probably know that the Pacific is currently chock-a-block with typhoons. Across Asia, people are watching the forecasts to see whether a monster storm is going to come swirling their way, and the news stations are doing their best to give them up-to-date and easy-to-understand information.

In Taiwan, the Next TV presentation led one viewer to wonder if the graphics team weren’t perhaps Evangelion fans.

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Japanese team discovers 24 new geoglyphs at Nazca, including llamas

A team of researchers from Yamagata University in Japan announced this week that they have identified 24 new geoglyphs in Nazca, Peru, site of the UNESCO World Heritage Nazca lines.

The newly found geoglyphs are smaller than their famous peers, but estimated to be several centuries older.

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All-you-can-eat stinky fermented soybeans come to Ginza, if that’s your thing

Spend a while in Japan, and at some point you’ll no doubt encounter natto, sticky, stinky fermented soybeans that often get served over rice for breakfast. This polarizing food has its superfans and impassioned detractors among Japanese and foreigners alike, but if you happen to be in the former camp, you should know there is an all-you-can-eat premium natto pop-up bar in Tokyo’s Ginza this weekend.

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Mama cat’s breastfeeding pose perfectly encapsulates stress of new motherhood

I don’t have kids myself, but I’m at an age when a lot of people around me are having their first child. Boy, does it look stressful!

Even something as natural as breastfeeding brings up a whole host of worries. Am I making enough milk? Is he latching on correctly? Am I nursing too much? Not enough? Am I eating the right foods? Why won’t he stop crying?!

It’s enough to make a new mother want to cry herself, but perhaps they can find comfort in the idea that maybe other species get overwhelmed too.

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Hanoi man lets dog drive motorbike, police say “Bad boy!”【Video】

The SPCA has taught me that dogs can technically drive. But that doesn’t mean we should be handing them the keys and making them designated driver for Katy’s hen do. I mean, besides the fact they don’t even have thumbs, lovably distractable dogs are likely to veer off the road in pursuit of squirrels, other dogs’ butts, a weird shadow and pretty much anything they can put in their mouths. They’re clearly a hazard to other drivers.

And that’s why the police in Hanoi are looking for a man filmed speeding down the road at night letting his dog steer the bike.

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Kumamon and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day【Video】

Kumamon is the official mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan. Since his debut in 2010, he’s become wildly popular, appearing in all kinds of media and lending his face to uncountable products. By some estimates, he’s pulling down hundreds of billions of yen a year. He’s given a guest lecture at Harvard, despite being mute, and has even met the imperial couple.

But despite this blessed existence, even mascots have bad days. And being in the public eye, those bad days are immortalized on film.

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Forget tech or medicine, invention most Japanese are proud of is instant ramen

Japan’s best minds have contributed quite a few important inventions to the world over the years. Did you know that the portable ECG machine was invented in Japan, for example? So were electric rice cookers, DSLR cameras, CD players, Blu-ray discs, and gaming systems. Really, the list of Japanese tech that has become integral to our daily lives goes on and on.

However, if you ask Japanese people which invention their country should be proud of, it turns out a far humbler product jumps to mind for most: instant noodles.

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Cute hamster Haru’s nap comes to surprising (and funny) conclusion【Video】

I think we can all agree that hamsters are pretty darn cute. From their tiny little schnozzles to their fluffy bums, you just gotta love these roly-poly little critters. But did you know that this very rotundness puts hamsters ask risk?

Consider the case of Haru, whose relaxing afternoon snooze ended in disaster!

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Kumamoto preschool designed to become a giant puddle when it rains

Kids will be kids. And being kids, one of the things they are inevitably going to do is play in rain puddles. No matter how they might be scolded later, the sheer joy of splish-splashing through some nice big puddles exerts an irresistible magnetic force on little feet.

Rather than trying to reign in that youthful inclination, one preschool in Japan is embracing it through a central courtyard designed to collect water when it rains.

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