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

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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Japanese pets find ways to keep warm despite the cold snap 【Photos】

It’s been unseasonably cold around Japan this week, sending most of us scurrying for those wooly mittens and knit caps in the back of the closet lest we lose a finger or ear to frostbite.

You’d think with the layers of fur and feathers they are already schlepping around, pets wouldn’t feel the falling temps quite as much, but if Twitter photos are any indication, they are looking just as hard as we are for ways to ward off Old Man Winter.

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Historic Kyoto temple first in Japan to offer gay weddings

Gay marriage is still not legal in Japan, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options for LGBT couples dreaming of tying the knot in Nippon. Joining big venues like Tokyo Disneyland, an ancient Zen temple in the picturesque city of Kyoto is offering gay weddings in traditional Japanese style.

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Cute dog turns traditional fish pond into personal swimming pool【Photos】

If you’ve ever been to Thailand, you know that it can get really hot. It’s enough to make anyone look longingly at the nearest fountain, pond or puddle. Well, add a fur coat to that equation and I get why this Thai dog decided he wasn’t going to let a few guppies get in the way of a quick, cooling dip!

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Self-taught Singaporean artist creates unbelievably realistic art on plywood

Look at the two Starbucks cups above. Can you tell which one is real and which one is a creation of colored pencils, pastels and ink? If not for a tiny bit hanging off the edge of the wood, we’d have been hard-pressed to choose.

This is the incredibly realistic work of Singaporean artist Ivan Hoo.

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Most popular pet names in Japan for 2014 suggest owners obsessed with food

Earlier this week, we looked at popular baby names making the rounds this year in Japan and now we’ve discovered some data on what Japanese named their pets in 2014. The little guy above may be right to look concerned because almost every name on the list is food-related

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Looking for baby names? The most popular ones in Japan this year are…

You may think choosing a name for your kid is hard, but in the West, we have it easy. All we have to choose is the name. Here in Japan, parents-to-be also have to choose what characters they want to write it with, a decision that has to take into account the relative auspiciousness of the number of strokes it takes to write, how well-known a particular reading is, and even if the government will accept the name they finally settle on!

Like trends for particular names, there are trends in the use of particular kanji or Chinese characters, too. Insurer Meiji Yasuda has just published the most common names this year and the kanji used for them, so read on to see what the hippest babies are sporting.

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Play with fire at an old-fashioned “irori” hearth restaurant

Temperatures are dropping here in Japan and that means it’s prime time for one of my favorite Japanese foods. Sure, I love sushi and a nice hot bowl of udon sure doesn’t go amiss come December, but in winter nothing holds a candle to the old-fashioned Japanese communal cooking experience called irori. It’s like cooking ’round a campfire from the comfort of your home!

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Artist creates “PokeMonstrosities” that are the stuff of nightmares

Artist JR Coffron III has finally answered the question of what happens if you leave a Pokémon in its pokeball too long: they come out as undead ravening monsters.

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Pretty Russian sports fan lets loose animal roar to support her team, terrify humanity 【Video】

I think most Japanese are completely fascinated by the nexus of beauty and horror. How else can you explain something like Kyari Pyamu Pyamu?

This week, that particular itch is being scratched by a YouTube video making the media rounds. In it, a pretty Russian spectator cheers her handball team by unleashing what can only be described as bestial hell yowling. Or the vocals for Gwar.

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Bonsai treehouses look like something out of Howl’s Moving Castle 【Photos】

Even without adornment, a well-done bonsai is a sight to see. It’s amazing how something as massive and powerful as a tree can be hemmed and trimmed to create a delicate, miniature version of itself. But for some, that level of artistry doesn’t go far enough.

Now bonsai artists are adding fantastical tree houses and other structures around their vegetative creations, resulting in multi-level, gravity-defying feats of architecture that still fit under a garden cloche.

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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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