Karen Bremer Masuda

Translation Writer/Literary Fiction Writer

I have always been a writer of literary fiction, doing translation writing on the side. Now that I have started translation writing for RocketNews24, those two jobs have switched places! I live in Shizuoka city, with my family, and part of my job is to help look after an aging father-in-law. I love taking pictures of Mt. Fuji in all her different moods, and I also love shooting clouds which create such beautiful canvases across the sky. I am KaBooM on Blogspot, a blog that has been archived, but opens up with one of my published short stories. I am ChaChuMas on Twitter and Karen Masuda on Facebook. I regularly post my pictures there.

All Stories by Karen Bremer Masuda

Business Law of Nature: 20% of Employees Sink, 20% Swim, 60% Kinda Just Float Along

In Japan, it’s said that 20% of a company’s employees are high performers, 60% are average, and 20% are near worthless. This 2-6-2 paradigm is a force of nature; it doesn’t matter if we are talking about the most elite company in Japan or the most insignificant one.

So explains Musashi Suga, business management consultant and representative of Suga Office in Yokohama. Suga specializes in human resource system design and came up with this ratio after analyzing in-depth, organizational changes in business management in the Japanese corporate workplace. Read More

The World of Japanese Ornamental Hairpins: Breathtakingly Beautiful Flowers and Butterflys Caught in Time

Kanzashi have been used to adorn the hair of Japanese women throughout the ages. These ornamental hairpins are still considered a form of art and are crafted with pride even today, even though Japanese women wear traditional kimono less than ever before.

Our sister site YouPouch recently featured the incredible work of kanzashi artist Sakae, who uses flower blossoms and butterflies as the main motif of her work. We think you’ll agree that each piece is a work of beauty caught in time, so check the gallery below and be prepared to have your breath taken away.

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Delicious Food and Sleuthing for Women, Provided by “Closed Restaurant”

If you think “Closed Restaurant: Jewels of the Lady” sounds more like a mystery novel than an eating establishment, you’d actually be half right.

Early next year, the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo will be offering patrons the chance to participate in a unique dining experience that mixes good food with a riddle-solving treasure hunt. The event is aimed at young women and requires participants to apply in teams of two, with one of the members a female.

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Peep Into the Enchanted Worlds of Snow White and a Christmas Wonderland With These Books That Open to 360 Degrees of Charm!

Peek through the pages of either of these two wonderful “360° Books” from any angle and you get treated to an intricate view of a fantasy world like you’ve never seen.  All you have to do is keep opening the pages until you’ve created a circle and the scene inside has taken shape. Read More

Finally, an Udon Museum Where You Can Taste the Difference Between Over 45 Kinds of Udon Noodle Dishes From all Over Japan!

This Udon Museum will open on December 22nd from 11:00 in the Gion area of Kyoto. Udon is a thick noodle made from wheat flour.  With all the variations out there – over 45, including noodle shape, thickness, soup varieties, ways to be eaten, included ingredients and cooking procedures – it makes perfect sense to have a ‘Udon museum’!

One of the best things about Japan is its vast and comprehensive food culture where a wide variety of culinary dishes can be enjoyed. Japanese people take great pride in their ‘washoku‘ (Japanese food), with multiple varieties of the same dish according to geographical location. Different areas have their own version of country cooking, sweet or savory, which becomes that area’s ‘meibutsu or speciality, often times giving that area a name which they become famous for. So it is with Udon. Read More

Glimpse at the Darkness in Your Lover’s Heart by the Way They Brew Coffee

Pop psychology is popular in Japan.  If you’ve lived long enough in this country you will most certainly have had a conversation about which blood type you are and whether you match the personality type for it. There are books and more books written on what it means to be a certain blood type.

Along the same lines, Japanese psychology councilor Toshikazu Asano believes there is deep meaning in the way men chose to brew their morning cup of Joe.

Niconico news sat down with Mr. Asano and asked him to explain how the darkness of the coffee we brew can reflect the very darkness brewing in our hearts (figuratively speaking, of course).

Just a little bit curious? Read on and see what he has to say about how telling brewing coffee really is. Read More

Since the late 1970s, the Japanese word otaku has gradually spread to become known the world over. The term generally refers to a person so obsessed with their hobby—usually anime, manga, or video games—that it adversely affects their health and/or social skills, though it carries different connotations in different parts of the world.

Among those outside of Japan who are well-versed in otaku culture, there are many who proudly admit to being otaku themselves; like a cooler spin on the Japanese otaku, shipped abroad.

On the other hand, the word caries a more sad, perverse tone here in Japan,  something that lends itself to the image of a “creepy geeky guy”, with “guy” being the key word. While there are no comparative figures on gender ratios, you could probably say overseas otaku women are much more forthcoming about their self-imposed label than their Japanese counterparts.

But the female Japanese otaku does exist. There are Japanese women who forsake sleep and, with bloodshot eyes, play erotic PC games deep into the night, oblivious to their own deteriorating health.  In fact, there might even be more women otaku than men—maybe they’re just better at hiding it.

Numbers aside, what are some of the behavioral differences between Japanese otaku of different sexes? Is there any discrepancy between how deeply a male and female can obsess over anime, manga, or video games?

Wakako Takou over at Excite! Japan spoke with an otaku merchandise industry representative to tackle these questions.

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Videos of Two Animal Mimicers From Different Sides of the Globe

Close your eyes and find yourself in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by the cries of tropical birds and laughter of monkeys in the treetops. But wait! Suddenly you’ve jumped to the barnyard, the clucking of chickens and neighing of horses filling the air. Now open your eyes because you’ll miss the great facial expressions it takes for these two master mimicers, one from India and one from New Zealand (kinda), to produce these animal sounds. Read More

China and Ukraine Offer Coffin Therapy: Climb in, Close the Lid, Five Minutes Later a New You!

Did you think coffins were only for the dead, haunted house managers, and vampires? Well apparently not! Climbing into a coffin for a few minutes is supposedly therapeutic, too! An artificial near-death experience is allegedly good for the soul, a great stress reliever and growing in popularity in China.

Karapaia Livedoor.biz, a Japanese news blog that reports oddities and adventures from around the world, decided to take a look at this special psychological therapy which is taking off in Shenyang China. Read More

Heightened Sensibilities Regarding Child Safety Get a Man Written up for Asking Directions

An elementary school-aged girl in Aichi prefecture is believed to have reported a man to the police late last week when he stopped her to ask for directions to the station.

Most elementary aged children in Japan make their way to and from school on foot, with each’s child’s route kept on file at the school office to ensure their safety. Children are also arranged into small groups or have walking buddies who take the same route, and local Parent Teacher Associations ensure that there is always someone manning busy intersections each morning to help the children cross the street and keep any eye open for anything suspicious.

Kids are taught the safety rules of not only the road, but also how to prevent becoming victims of crime. Of course, talking to strangers is out of the question, but they are also encouraged to report anything ‘out of the ordinary’. On occasions such as these, the ‘suspicious characters’ are reported, and a letter goes out informing parents about the time and place of the sighting, as well as the physical description of the shifty-looking individual.

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Four Tokyo “Nap Cafes” Where You Can Go for a few Winks (So You Aren’t Caught Falling Asleep at Work)

Did you know that a nap during your work day is a good thing? A power nap does wonders for productivity!

But it’s not like you can just sleep on the job. Luckily for those of us in Tokyo, there are quite a few cafes you can go to where sleeping is OK—in fact, it’s encouraged!

Naver Matome has put together a list of these “Nap Cafes”, places in the metropolis where worn-out salarymen can go to catch a few Z’s without having to resort to such drastic measures as setting up a bunk on the file cabinets at work.

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Country Mouse vs City Mouse in Japan: What Shocks Japanese Country Folk About the City Life

The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse is one of Aesop’s Fables and tells the story of country bumpkin mouse who visits his urban-dwelling cousin for a taste of the luxurious life. The country mouse is at first captivated by the fine food of the city, but is thrown into panic and forced to run and hide after someone throws open the door while he and his cousin are eating. There are numerous retellings of the story, but the moral is that it’s better to live with little in safety, than to live in abundance surrounded by danger.

This may be how many Japanese people feel after leaving their peaceful and secure life in the countryside for the city. Every year thousands of Japanese move to big cities like Tokyo and Osaka from outlying country areas, for work or for school, experiencing all kinds of culture shock as they adjust to new lives.  Even moving from one big city to another is an adjustment, as the character of the people and the way things are done differs by region.

Naver Matome has put together the voices of people from different regions of Japan who experienced what the Country Mouse experienced: that the city life isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

See what surprised these Japanese “Country Mice” about the big city below:

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Which is Considered Worse, Holding Your Chopsticks the Wrong Way, or Eating Noisily?

In Japanese eating culture, holding chopsticks improperly might be frowned upon (see: Proper Way to Hold Chopsticks), but how does it compare to that other notorious dinner table offense, chomping down on your food with your mouth open?

According to denizens of Japanese message board site 2channel, who recently discussed the matter in depth, noisily eating your food is a far graver crime than poor chopstick handling.  Let’s take a close look at their discussion below. Read More

“End of the World” Survival Kit Selling Well in Russia

It has been revealed by Russia Now, a news blog that reports ‘beyond the headlines in Russia’, that people in the city of Tomsk, Western Siberia, are preparing for the end of the world.

The survival kit pictured above was put together by none other than a wedding planning company. Seems a bit morbid for a company that makes money on helping people plan their special day, but perhaps it’s intended to encourage couples to tie the knot before it’s too late?

The reason a survival kit is necessary in the first place is because of the rumour and Internet scaremongering surrounding the ancient Mayan calendar, which some allege puts the date of the end of the world at December 21st, 2012. On paper it does look kinda scary, all those ones and twos lining up like that, but really? That is just around the corner!

The president of the wedding planning company, Yurianna Shichogorewa, leapt at the chance to implement a new marketing strategy with this prophecy, coming up with the idea for a survival kit. Borrowing tips from a Mexican acquaintance, she was able to produce a kit in just two weeks.  Read More

Electronics aren’t the only things coming out of Akihabara these days! If you’re a pudding lover, you’ll be thrilled with this tasty custard dessert, something that karaoke and leisure company Pasela has on their menu at their newest venture, bakery Honey Toast Cafe. 

And that’s not all! The custard dessrt is served in the cutest little pottery honey pot which you can take home with you!

With the entire first floor of the giant leisure site being a bakery, you can enjoy a variety of bread and sweet treats- this pudding included- before heading up to the seventh floor to scream into a microphone.  Or, if you don’t need to let off steam with a little karaoke, you can remain downstairs and go straight to the pudding!  Read More

The Top 10 Things Middle-Aged Japanese Men Say While Out Drinking That Make Their Coworkers Hate Them

After a hard day at work, many middle-aged Japanese salarymen love to go out for drinks at the local bar or izakaya. “But it’s no fun to go alone!” thinks the 45-year-old section chief. “Why not invite those young hotshots that entered the company earlier this year? Surely they’d love the chance to loosen neckties and enjoy some laid-back conversation with one of their seniors outside the workplace!”

Meanwhile, the young hotshots are thinking about how they can’t wait to go home and relax after another consecutive day of (unpaid) overtime—but oh wait, section chief wants to go out drinking again and turning his invitation down would show that I’m not a team player.

Such are the troubles of 20 and 30-year-old working men and women who are roped out to drinking with their middle-aged colleagues time and time again.

This generation gap was a popular enough topic for Nikkan Spa to conduct a survey of 200 20 and 30-year-old men and women as to what they found most irritating about drinking with their superiors in their 40s. 

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Japanese Husband and Nissan Go All Out to Give Wife Anniversary Surprise of a Lifetime

We all know about wedding anniversaries like the 50th year ‘Golden Anniversary’ and the 25th year ‘Silver Anniversary.’ Some people even may make a point of celebrating every year with something special, others may surprise their partner on an unplanned year.

One Japanese man teamed up with Nissan (yes, the car company) to give his wife the surprise of a lifetime for their 11th anniversary.

Check the video below!

 

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New Information and Communication Technology ‘SteganoSonic’: Uses Supersonic Waves to Send Soundless Digital Information

SteganoSonic, a new technology that’s being developed by researches at Keio University which transmits digital information with supersonic waves was exhibited last week at the university’s Open Research Forum 2012 (ORF 2012).

By setting a terminal in the vicinity of a speaker, information can be sent from the directional speakers to the screen where it is displayed. The speaker is completely silent as it sends information to the display.

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Experience 3D Space Travel in Tokyo at the Star Cruise Planetarium!

 

From November 23rd 2012 until February 11th 2013, you can experience interstellar travel right here in Tokyo!

With the opening of Star Cruise Planetarium in Roppongi Hills, you can travel to a station on Saturn and see the Earth 137 light years into the future thanks to a wide-screen 3D display and a moving model of the solar system.  It all happens at the Mori Arts Center Gallery, in the Mori Tower on the 52nd floor of Roppongi Hills. Read More

Curry Udon Topped With Whipped Cream!? It’s Better than You Think!

The dish in the photo above looks like a dessert, something sweet to eat after a meal. But wait!  It is the meal!  It’s udon noodles in curry sauce and topped with whipped cream, to be exact, and it is absolutely delicious!

According to our trusty reporter Mr. Sato (Food Queen Sato, as he calls himself on Twitter), that is, who went to the noodle shop Shodai in Ebisu, Tokyo to taste this revolutionary spin on curry udon.

Curry udon is a standard noodle dish that can be found at just about any udon shop in Japan. It mixes the flavor of udon and curried rice by ladling curry sauce over a bowl of udon noodles. Simple, yet effective.

Throwing whipped cream into the mix doesn’t sound like it would end well.  Usually these kind of things don’t. But what did Mr. Sato think about this unlikely combination?

Check his full report below! Read More

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