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

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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The Steeds of the Gods: The Shinto horses that no mortal may ride

Somewhere around the 500th step on the long approach to Kompira-san shrine in Kagawa Prefecture, you’ll find a small stable housing two special horses. They are pretty as a picture, but don’t get any ideas about hopping on for a ride, feeding them a little carrot, or even giving them a friendly pat.

These thoroughbreds are shinme, the steeds of the gods, and they are not for mere mortals like us.

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Valley of the (creepy) dolls: Nagoro has hundreds of scarecrows but almost no people

On a recent trip to Shikoku, we heard about a small town tucked away in the Iya Valley called Nagoro. Like many small rural towns in Japan, the human population has dwindled to almost nothing in recent years. Unlike other towns, though, Nagoro doesn’t look empty. That’s because it’s populated by hundreds of scarecrows.

Of course we had to go check it out.

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“Pop” daruma dolls so popular you’ll have to wait three years to get one

Daruma are a kind of roly-poly wishing doll in Japanese Buddhism. You draw one eye in while making a wish, and then fill in the other when your wish comes true. Given their sweet purpose and blob-like shape, traditional daruma are already pretty charming, but a woodcarving shop in Kagawa Prefecture has found a pop makeover makes them even more attractive, so much so that there is a 3-year waiting list to get one!

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“Supreme Court Beef” and other translation fails from the new Taco Bell Japan website

Media in Japan, us included, have been all over Taco Bell’s return to the country this week, but talk hasn’t been entirely of tacos. The Taco Bell Japan website was also making news when Japanese speakers noticed it had some pretty terrible and funny English-to-Japanese translations.

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Peace Kitchen: promoting Japanese food (and maybe something more) across the world

As RocketNews24 readers, you are probably a bit more savvy than most about what Japanese food is, but for many, the concept doesn’t extend far beyond sushi. Despite its recent elevation to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status and its potential for international popularity, washoku still lacks global recognition and understanding.

That’s about to change, however, if newly launched project Peace Kitchen has their way, and we might all be better off for it.

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Something in the DNA? Japanese cat loves rice cooker

Look at that face. Just look at it. OK, now for the story.

This cutie is Pakuchi (Cilantro), a kitten adopted from Tokyo Cat Guardian by a foreign resident who noticed her Japanese cat had a very Japanese fondness for rice.

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Hirakawa Zoo’s Twitter feed packed with baby otters, extreme levels of cuteness

Ahh, the internet. It used to be that if you wanted snorgle-worthy pictures of baby animals, you had to go out and take them yourself, risking skinned knees, mozzie bites, and the occasional head cold to do so. Now, we can sit back in the comfort of our own beanbag chairs and have the cute come to us.

The latest digital goldmine to be discovered? The Twitter feed of the Hirakawa Zoo in Kyushu, where a pair of baby Asian small-clawed otters have been bringing the cute in a big way.

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Japan’s wildest nail art: sushi, pirates, scissors and more 【Photos】

Nail art is pretty big in Japan. For a lot of women (and some men?), getting their nails not just colored, but decorated with gems, 3D flowers and mini-paintings is a monthly routine and fashion must. Usually it’s fairly subtle, but some nail art aficionados think bigger and bolder is better, no matter how hard it makes typing a mail or wiping your bum.

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Japanese celebricat Maru becomes fashion icon with fetching Starbucks frock【Video】

His Royal Roundness, Maru, is one of the most famous cats in Japan, a country with no shortage of beloved feline stars, in part because of his extensive oeuvre. We’ve seen his majestic jumping, his moving efforts to squeeze his girth into tiny boxes, his awe-inspiring agility, and even his benevolent patience with lesser beings. Now Maru has taken the fashion world by storm with an upcycled frock and some serious attitude.

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Glassware for dining at the V? Panty-clad cups selling fast 【Photos】

Sometimes a story comes across your desk that is so wacko, you just sit and stare at it for ages trying to wrap your brain around it. That happened to me this morning when I saw that an unusual item at the built-to-order site Dwango.jp was selling fast. That item? Hand-blown panty-wearing drinking glasses at a whopping 8,640 yen (US$72.12) a pop.

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New McDonald’s commercial grosses out Japan 【Video】

McDonald’s Japan recently launched a limited time menu option called the teriyaki chicken and egg with Seto lemon sauce. The Seto Inland Sea is famous in Japan for its warm climate and top-notch citrus, so you would think a Seto lemon sauce would put the already popular teriyaki chicken and egg into stratospheric levels of demand.

That doesn’t seem to be the case, though, and the culprit may be McDonald’s own commercial, which viewers are calling “dirty” and “gross”.

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Japanese netizens traumatized by creepy Pooh calendar

Who doesn’t love a cute desk calendar? An adorable picture of a kitten or your favorite cartoon character can really brighten up the place. Plus, lots of companies in Japan give them away as free gifts to customers, so you don’t even need to buy one most of the time.

Of course, if you get it for free, you can’t really complain about the quality, as one net user discovered when he flipped to April earlier this week. Notice anything strange about the illustration of Pooh above?

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Modern take on Japanese fan dance has naked men, international appeal

Ah, the Japanese fan dance. In popular culture, its staid connections to Noh and Kabuki theater are put aside in favor of something more risque. Usually it’s a coy geisha slowly using her fans to seductively cover and reveal her face and body. But just as more businesses are capitalizing on male sex appeal these days, the modern Japanese fan dance has a hot, sweaty man version too.

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Aussie/Kiwi ATMs come out of the closet as fabulous GayTMs

It’s nice when something invisibly quotidian is tweaked in a way that grabs your full attention. Previously we’ve talked about slightly altered street signs and artistic renderings of subway maps, and now the humble cash machine gets an eye-grabbing makeover in the interest of LGBTQ inclusivity.

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Sushi restaurant brings all the feels with commercial about dementia 【Video】

You wouldn’t think that bringing up the struggle of caring for a parent with severe dementia would be an effective sales technique, but sushi chain Gin no Sara has decided to go that route with this touching spot about what Alzheimer’s patients do remember.

I’m not sure if it will increase sushi sales, but boxes of tissues will definitely be flying off the shelves.

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Get a haircut, a manicure and an eyeful at this saucy salon in Vietnam

You generally don’t have to look too hard to find a business capitalizing on the appeal of scantily clad women, but recently there seem to be more and more places using half-naked dudes too. Hooray for gender equality, I guess?

Earlier this week, we told you about the upcoming Macho Cafe in Tokyo and the handsome dentist who cradles patients in his lap while doing a cleaning, but neither of those places have anything on this hair and nail salon in Da Nang, where your beauty comes with a side of beefcake.

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Photohoku: helping northeastern Japan rebuild, one picture at a time 【Photos】

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, Tokyo-based photographers Brian Scott Peterson and Yuko Yoshikawa were frustrated by the limited impact of volunteer options close to home, so they decided to head up to Tohoku with the vague idea that people in temporary housing might be interested in having family portraits taken.

Clearly, that tapped into an unmet need, because four years later that one-off trip has become Photohoku, a ballooning volunteer organization that takes monthly trips to Tohoku, has gifted over 10,000 instant family portraits, and has even inspired similar groups overseas.

Today, as we remember those who lost their lives in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami four years ago, we take a brief look at how this truly inspired project continues to bring a little bit of extra sunshine into the lives of those who survived one of Japan’s greatest natural disasters.

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