Michelle Lynn Dinh

Editor/ Writer

Michelle always seems to find her way back to Japan, having been there for vacation, study abroad, and work. During her time on the JET Programme, she lived on the island of Chiburi in Shimane, Japan’s “least popular prefecture.” In her heart, she will always be a member of that sleepy little fishing village she once called home. When she’s not swearing like a sailor while playing video games, Michelle enjoys playing soccer and “studying” Japanese.

All Stories by Michelle Lynn Dinh

Darth Vader to be featured in large-scale snow sculpture at the 2015 Sapporo Snow Festival

The annual Sapporo Snow Festival held in Japan’s northernmost prefecture has been delighting tourists and locals for over six decades. Each year, artists from around the world are invited to show off their talents constructing enormous structures out of ice and snow.

To commemorate the release of the seventh installment of the Star Wars series, The Walt Disney Company has collaborated with festival officials to design what looks to be the most epic large-scale snow sculpture yet, featuring enormous snow versions of Darth Vader, three Storm Troopers, a TIE fighter, and the Death Star.

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Six non-traditional osechi New Year’s meals in Japan

New Year’s in Japan is usually celebrated with family huddled under the kotatsu while munching on mikans, and sharing a dinner of traditional food, called osechi. Each component of the meal retains an auspicious meaning, granting the eater with good fortune, health, or fertility, among other things, during the coming year.

However, in recent years, an increasingly large population of Japan’s youth have chosen to forgo eating osechi. There are many reasons osechi has been disappearing from Japanese homes during New Year’s, but these changing tastes have given rise to a smorgasbord of strange, unique, and, frankly, comparatively tastier pre-made osechi meals. From cooked isopods to a box full of meat, let’s take a closer look at six modern day osechi.

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Commercial reminds Japan’s tired commuters about the drawbacks of living far away from work

Mouth agape, eyes rolled back, head bobbing – when home is an hour or more away and work continues late into the night, the only place for many Japanese office workers to lay their weary head is against a train car window. This phenomenon is not unique to Japan, but the combination of overwork and limited affordable housing in big cities like Tokyo give rise to crowds of sleepy commuters just trying to get to their futon. If you have never witness the varied sleeping positions of Japan’s overworked commuters, take a look at the following video created by real estate website HOME’S.

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Artist creates stunning Chinese-style paintings using cosmetics

“Red” Hong Yi is a Malaysian artist-architect who creates brilliant and unconventional works of art. Known as “the artist who loves to paint, but not with a paintbrush,” she uses mascara, foundation, and other cosmetics to give rise to misty mountainsides, vibrant fire crackers, and shimmering ponds.

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This map shows the probability of a white Christmas for each of Japan’s prefectures

If the popularity of Bing Crosby’s famous holiday song is any indication, many people all over the world are dreaming of a white Christmas. But according to the past 30 years of snowfall data, several prefectures in Japan will almost surely be unable to hear sleigh bells in the snow.

Take a look at the following map created by Japanese weather site Tenki.jp to find out if the area of Japan you live in will have a white Christmas!

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A funny thing happened at the game center: 10 strange crane game tweets from Japan

Game centers in Japan promise a treasure trove of riches for those skilled at coaxing small prizes from their crane game glass housings, but endless frustration for anyone who hasn’t had plenty of practice. If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ve probably played a crane game or two yourself, but we have a feeling you’ve never seen something like the following Twitter users captured. Let’s take a look at 10 strange happenings at game centers across Japan.

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It seems like everyone in Japan wants this pillow featuring a famous sumo wrestler’s butt

In the past year, sumo wrestler Endō Shōta has been busy outside the ring, showing up in special edition photo booths and using his muscular arms to carry contest winners like a princess. Now, this 24-year-old rising star has been making his way into Japanese homes in the form of a pillow. Featuring Endo in his work attire, this limited release pillow was only given out to five thousand lucky winners, who weren’t shy about showing off their love for this young man’s backside.

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Sheep-flavored ice cream from Baskin Robbins Japan tastes like dreams

In celebration of 2015, Baskin Robbins Japan has created a special flavor inspired by sheep, this year’s animal according to the Chinese zodiac. And while it may not actually taste like lamb, it has enough imagery inspired by the woolen animal to make you say, “BAA!”

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Young man’s clever use of an umbrella saves injured kitten

We love a good rescue story, especially when it involves cute kitties! Find out who this rescuer is and why the kitten found himself stuck in a ditch after the jump!

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Drinkable Hi-Chew coming to a Japanese convenience store near you!

Now you can drink your candy and eat it, too! In just a few days, everyone’s favorite Japanese candy, Hi-Chew, will be available as a (probably) delicious drink!

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3-D green tea latte art adds a splash of whimsy and color to your cup

While browsing around Twitter the other day, one of our Japanese reporters came across some adorable 3-D matcha latte art on the Matcha Fan Club (抹茶同好会) official account.

According to the tweet, the photos came from a sweet shop at the Karasuma Oike Station in Nakagyō-ku, Kyoto called Saryo Suisen. Our reporter just had to see more, so she headed over to their official Twitter page and was treated to some beautiful latte art designs created by the shop barista, Sudo-san.

Of course, we just had to share them with you!

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This man’s first hand-drawn maze took seven years to complete, now he’s working on a second one

We love viewing the work of dedicated artists, just like the realistic Naruto illustrations of Sakimi chan or the beautiful Ghibli backgrounds by Naohisa Inoue. So you can bet we enjoyed seeing the unbelievably intricate maze that one Japanese Twitter user’s father is currently crafting.

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Visit Japan without ever leaving home with these eight beautiful videos

It’s no secret that we love Japan. We haven’t quite figured out why, but it might have something to do with the juxtaposition of the sleepless lights and sounds of the big city and the harmony of human and nature in the countryside that we just can’t get enough of. If you’ve ever wanted to visit Japan, but haven’t yet, sit back and watch the following eight videos showcasing some of the most breathtaking and interesting sights this country has to offer.

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How to cook miso soup (the right way) in a few simple steps【RocketKitchen】

Miso is a fermented mixture of soybeans, barley, and rice that’s high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. The salty condiment is eaten daily by many people in Japan, leading some to believe that it is the secret behind their longevity. Others have dubbed it “one of the healthiest foods in the world.” It’s also extremely delicious (as if you needed another reason to add miso to your diet), and the easiest way to cook with this wonder food is by making miso soup.

Contrary to what I had originally assumed, the Japanese classic does not consist of only miso paste and hot water (please tell me I’m not the only one who thought this). After trying my original “recipe” for miso soup, I could tell something was off and enlisted the help of a 15-year-old high school student who laughed at my naivety. She was gracious enough to teach me the recipe her grandmother taught her and was happy to share it with all of you lovely RocketNews24 readers. So without further ado, here are a few simple steps to making delicious, authentic miso soup.

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Cosplay, art, and power-ups: A look at the Dragon Ball 30th anniversary gallery in Little Tokyo

It’s hard to believe that Dragon Ball is nearly 30 years old considering the extensive fanbase Akira Toriyama still commands after three decades. But the lines of dedicated fans at the Dragon Ball 30th Anniversary / Akira Toriyama Tribute show in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo proved that Goku and the gang are still going strong to this day. Check out all the cosplay, art, and power-ups after the break!

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Public baths in Japan add some extra fun with hundreds of rubber duckies

Rubber duckies make any bathtime lots of fun, but what does a tub full of one thousand tiny yellow quackers have the power to do?

We’ve found three public baths that provide guests with the unique experience of bathing in a sea of rubber duckies. Check out the surreal photos after the jump!

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Just a bunch of adorable cats riding on trains in Japan

Sometimes, after a long day of napping and begging for treats, a cat’s just gotta get out of the house. And what better way to get around than by Japan’s famously on-time and impeccably clean railway? If you’re still walking or taking taxis to your desired destination, take a lesson from these street-smart felines and hop on a train!

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Nikon repairs deceased Mount Ontake hiker’s broken camera, returns photos to family

The unexpected eruption of Mount Ontake on September 27 claimed the lives of 56 hikers, leaving family members to try to understand why their loved ones had been taken so suddenly. But out of this tragedy comes a heartwarming gesture, giving the family of one victim the chance to get back a small piece of their father who never made it down the mountain that day.

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Japan gets a taste of Coca Cola Orange

Why should Pepsi Japan and their wacky flavors like Pink Strawberry Milk and Salty Watermelon have all the fun? Coca Cola Japan decided to shake things up in the flavor department and released Coca Cola Orange. Sure, it’s not as exciting as the crazy concoctions thought up by Coke’s competitors, but Japanese consumers sure seem to love it.

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Japanese student draws functional QR code on school chalkboard, you’ll never guess where it leads

QR codes, with their seemingly arbitrary jumble of black and white squares, are popping up on all sorts of packaging and advertisements, allowing consumers to quickly and easily access a specific website on their smartphone. As common as they have become, we’ve never seen a QR code completely hand drawn on a chalkboard, but here we have one, carefully created by a student in Japan. The best part? The website it leads to is just as random as the decision to recreate a QR code using chalk.

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