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

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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Doraemon replaces live cat for Thai rain ritual

In the village of Wang Luang in northern Thailand’s Phrae Province, there is a traditional ritual held to end a drought that involves putting a live cat in a cage, parading it around town and splashing it with water. The cat’s cries were said to call down rain.

As the area is currently in the grips of a severe drought, the villagers held the ritual again this week, but with one key change: robot cat Doraemon stepped in as the caged feline.

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Girls-only karaoke offers songs, foot massages, Japanese take on gender roles

For most of us, the free mixing of men and women in our societies has been around long enough to have become completely ordinary, but in Japan, you may find some unexpected things segregated along gender lines. You’ve probably heard about the women-only train cars and capsule hotels that only allow male customers, for example. Now we have another: a karaoke place that’s just for women.

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“Skeleton” flower turns transparent when wet

They say spending time on social media rots your brain, but today, just because it was making the rounds on Twitter, I discovered a really neat flower native to both Japan, where I live now, and the States, where I was born. See, who needs to leave the house?

Meet diphylleia grayi, sometimes called the skeleton flower, a humble white woodland blossom that turns transparent when it rains!

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Samsung prototype ‘Safety Truck’ uses all-weather screens to make driving safer, maybe

If you’re a driver, chances are at some point you’ve been behind a slow-moving truck or semi-trailer, trying to overtake but unable to see if there is traffic coming in the opposite direction. This can be frustrating, but it can also be deadly if you pull around at the wrong moment.

South Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung may have found a solution to this problem with their prototype Safety Truck, however. It uses a wireless camera and outdoor screens to give drivers following the trucks a view around them.

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Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by Taliban reborn via Chinese couple, projection mapping

The giant stone Buddhas at Bamiyan were the tallest in the world at 55 and 38 meters (180 and 125 feet) in height. From their cliffside alcove, they watched a millennium and a half pass in Afghanistan, resisting the degenerative influence of time and the introduction of Islam, until religious fanaticism in the form of the Taliban and a great deal of explosives finally brought them down.

Their loss was a cultural and artistic tragedy, but this week the Buddhas were reborn through the magic of 3-D projection mapping and the efforts of a civilian Chinese couple.

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Regionally themed cat socks are insanely cute, great souvenirs, even educational

I love socks. Not your boring old gym socks and stockings, though. I like ’em bright and patterned, the more obnoxiously the better. If it doesn’t look like something a child should be wearing, I’ll pass.

Two other things I love are Japan and cats, so you’ll understand why my squees of delight filled the aisles of popular bargain chain 3 Coins when I spotted this huge rack of cat socks with designs inspired by each of Japan’s 42 prefectures and regions. 

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American artist combines ukiyo-e and graffiti art in the coolest way possible

Street art is just cool. Ukiyo-e woodblock prints are also just cool. Put them both together and you get the uber-cool identity-exploring works of Los Angeles artist Gajin Fujita, who fuses Japanese iconography with the U.S. urban vocabulary of graffiti.

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Japan’s tax agency considers protected designation for Japanese sake

Okay, Rocketeers, time for a pop quiz: what is Japanese sake? Turns out the question is actually a little more complicated than it looks on the surface.

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Harry Potter and the Selfie Stick of Douchery

Ah, the selfie stick. No piece of consumer gadgetry in recent history has received quite as much hate as this doodad. It seems to many the embodiment of the narcissism of the digital age, not just because it’s used to take photos of oneself, but because users often manage to heedlessly whack and prod bystanders in their search for the perfect angle.

To witness the corrosive power of the selfie stick, see how all your warm fuzzy memories of Harry Potter are completely ruined when wands are replaced by selfie-sticked iPhones.

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Taiwan’s Ice Monster brings monster shaved ice, monster lines, and monster brain freeze to Tokyo

Popular Taiwanese kakigori (shaved ice) chain Ice Monster opened on Omotesando, the main boulevard of Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku neighborhood, at the end of April to five-hour waits. Even now, waits regularly extend over an hour, but the scuttlebutt was that it was worth it for the mountains of delicious, delicious shaved ice.

We braved the lines and the brain freeze to find out the truth for you, dear readers.

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Miyazaki-inspired prints are gorgeous mashup of pop and traditional Japanese art

According to his online profile, when freelance illustrator Bill Mudron is not working on stuff that pays the bills, he “draws ridiculously nerdy stuff that he wants to hang on his walls but hasn’t been made yet by anyone else.” I don’t know about ridiculously nerdy, but he’s definitely not the only one who’s going to want to decorate with these Hayao Miyazaki-inspired illustrations in Japanese woodblock style.

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Get a soda and good karma with this donation-accepting vending machine

One thing foreign visitors to Japan immediately notice is the ubiquitous vending machines. Particularly in big cities, you can’t swing a tanuki without hitting a machine selling something. Mostly it’s soft drinks, but there are also vending machines for beer, cigarettes, hamburgers, used panties, weird toys, curry, fresh eggs, and pretty much anything under the sun. Now you can even get a good deed done with your canned coffee purchase at this vending machine accepting charitable donations.

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Otter covers itself with dead flesh, is somehow still cute

Usually when someone wants to wear a dead thing’s skin, we call the police or at least make a really creepy movie. But if that someone is an otter, it’s suddenly super cute.

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Japan’s 10 weirdest ice cream flavors

Temperatures are shooting up all around the archipelago and that means soft serve season has come to Japan! For some baffling reason, vanilla remains far and away the most popular flavor for Japanese, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get creative with their frozen treats too. Flavors like green tea and ume plum are easy to find (and delicious), but don’t stop there if you want to try some really out there local flavors.

Here are our choices for the 10 weirdest soft serve flavors Japan has to offer.

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Meiji-era vision of Hell is not at all frightening, actually kind of cute

Depicting the horrors of hell through art is a tradition in Buddhism that goes back at least 1,000 years in Japan. By depicting the suffering in store for sinners, the artworks were supposed to scare people onto the straight and narrow.

But if that’s what this late 19th century scroll was for, it might have had the opposite effect. We’ve never seen such a cute hellscape!

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Limo-bike? Stretch scooter? Whatever you call it, it’s long, pink and has two wheels

No matter what the car, giving it a stretch in the middle makes it a posher ride. I’m pretty sure that’s a rule of some sort. But does it apply to other vehicles? If you stretched a scooter to ridiculous lengths, for example, and then gave it a pink paint job and a bright yellow seat, would that make it cooler?

At least one person clearly thought so.

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KFC Japan adds more breast to their chicken with ‘sexy’ new LINE character

We all know Japan likes to have a character for just about everything, and we also know the country has a long history of sexualizing things that really don’t need to be. So KFC Japan’s new mascot character of a sexy anthropomorphized chicken with huge boobs should surprise no one. And yet, I confess myself surprised. Or maybe creeped out is a better way of putting it.

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Holy crap! Guy caught eating poop in ladies’ toilet

Hold on to your lunch, guys, this story is pretty nauseating. A young man in Guangdong Province was caught in the act of eating feces out of a toilet in a public restroom.

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