In Japanese, the word for snowman is yuki daruma. While many language learners and even native-born Japanese themselves might not think to question why a snowman in English is known as a snow daruma in Japanese, these paintings from the Edo period (1603-1807) reveal the secret history of the word and a fascinating tradition of snow-making that was somehow lost along the way.
All Stories by Oona McGee
Travel website Expedia recently conducted a poll to find out what women were most surprised by when they came to Japan. The top ten results revealed that ladies were fascinated with aspects of everyday culture, but none more so than when it came to bathroom habits. With three of the top ten responses relating directly to bathroom life, it seems there’s a lot going on in the ladies’ rooms of Japan.
If you’ve ever yearned for an authentic potato chip in Tokyo, then it’s time to get excited because specialist french fry shop, “And the Friet”, is set to open in the Hiroo district today!
The Belgian-style stand will offer six types of cut, half a dozen potato varieties including a Belgian variety flown in especially, and a choice of seasonal dips and sauces. It’s time to get your friet on!
Clubs are a big part of student life in Japan. From junior high school all the way through to university, students spend hours away from home with their classmates, immersed in an extra-curricular endeavour of choice. While sporting clubs, music clubs, and culture clubs are common, it’s not everyday you come across a JK club. So when a group of university students posted their pamphlet for new recruits online, even Japanese netizens were left scratching their heads. Could this be a group of JK Rowling enthusiasts? A Japan/Korea appreciation society? The real answer turned out to be just as perturbing, with Japanese commenters still wondering why.
Hotel and restaurant bathrooms have really done a number on us by introducing a new level of hospitality through toilet paper etiquette. When the next sheet of paper on the roll is folded into a neat triangular point, we’re made to feel that extra bit special, safe in the knowledge that the area has recently been attended to, as if the place was just done up in anticipation of our arrival.
One lady in the United States has taken the triangular toilet paper fold to a whole new level, incorporating traditional Japanese origami concepts to produce a book of cute, funny and surprisingly beautiful designs to dress up the toilet roll in your bathroom. From swans to candles, who knew toilet paper could be so adorable?
As the year draws to a close and 2014 pokes its head over the horizon, Harry Potter fans in Japan are finding it harder to contain their excitement over the summer opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Osaka. Fan photos on Twitter show how the progress is going, with an awesome train service and a near-complete replica of Hogwarts Castle that looks exactly like the one on film.
Protecting your privacy can be a difficult task in today’s world of information technology. With surveillance cameras on every corner and a recording device on every smartphone, there’s a good chance your image has been captured somewhere without you even knowing it. Safeguarding your mug in the future is set to become even more difficult with advancements in facial recognition technologies and wearable computers like Google Glass.
So what can you do to ensure your identity remains intact? In Western countries the answer would be simple: put on a pair of sunglasses. In Japan, however, sunglasses are a much less common sight, and many consider them to be worn only by those trying a little too hard to look cool, and in more extreme cases associate them with the yakuza lifestyle. Researchers at the National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo have addressed this issue by designing a non-threatening pair of white shades to protect both your identity and your public image, dubbing them the “Privacy Visor”.
Starbucks has a policy of seamlessly blending their coffee outlets into remote tourist locations around the world. So when two brothers in Bangkok set up their street-side coffee cart business under a familiar looking green logo, Starbucks was quick to assert that this was not one of their operations.
Damrong and Damras Maslae are now in hot water as the global coffee franchise is coming down hard and suing them for copyright infringement.
As we’ve seen, Japanese people are enamoured with the idea of Halloween. From limited edition sweets to pumpkin-orange accessories, the holiday in Japan is centred around all things cute, and very occasionally creepy. So what do you do if you’re a foreigner in Japan who wants to give the locals a taste of the prankster spirit that usually lurks around the corner on a traditional Halloween night?
Japan is known for its dichotomy of unique tradition and state-of-the-art technology, so tatami mat floors that light up during a traditional tea ceremony should really come as no surprise. Although the photo above might look like an illusion or a Photoshopped image, it’s actually a real tea ceremony room in Yokohama, Japan. The eerie yet peaceful glow is thanks to a company that uses LED lighting to illuminate traditional Japanese flooring. And the results are absolutely stunning.
Pictures can say a thousand words but when they’re this amusing, their stories cross international timelines and make thousands giggle around the world. This set of photos is storming its way through Japan, with people commenting and sharing and adding a few of their own contributions along the way. Proving that advertising can be hilarious when put into the context of the real world, these are some of the funniest, unintentional product placements we’ve ever seen!
There’s no denying that the world looks a whole lot cuter when it’s scaled down to miniature form, and even ordinary train stations are no exception to the rule. Hamamatsu station, in Shizuoka Prefecture, has been given the mini-me treatment, thanks to one of its renowned residents, award-winning modeler Takuji Yamada. On display in the city centre, people from all over Japan are gushing at the model’s remarkable quality and it’s amazing likeness to the original.
There’s a five-frame comic doing the rounds on Twitter that’s got all the ladies talking. Called “The day of period pain”, it’s being praised for authentically depicting that dreaded time of the month and proves that, in Japan, there really is a comic about everything.
We all know the power of listening to music when it comes to lifting our mood and helping us get over a bad day, but in Japan many people turn to their favourite comic book characters for inspiration. Showing courage, perseverance and optimism, these characters often share insights and wise words that can be a tremendous source of support for us all. Here are some words of wisdom from 15 famous manga characters. Pick a favourite and use it as your mantra to get you through the day.
In the West, we have eBay. But here in Japan, it’s all about Yahoo! Auctions. By far the most popular auction site in the the country, it’s the one-stop shop for picking up a great deal on anything and everything under the sun. We took a look at some of the items up for bids and came away dizzy from the weird and wonderful possibilities in store. We bring you 40 of the stand-out auction items for you to enjoy.
This is Tobi and Miya. Together they make up the music duo, Les Romanesques, whose intriguing stage performances have made them a huge hit in France. Their appearance on France’s Got Talent became the most watched YouTube video in all of France, and the 4th most watched video worldwide. Since then, they’ve appeared in French TV commercials for Mazda, and even helped promote the Paris International Film Festival with Jane Fonda and the Mayor of Paris. Their entertaining performances and music videos have just the right mix of talent and zany Japanese appeal that’s got audiences around the world asking for more.
Rubber ducks invoke a sense of bath-time fun and childhood wonder no matter how old we get. Their bright colours and kind expressions are so pleasing that one artist has super-sized the fun by creating giant, inflatable versions that travel around the world.
One of these has recently taken up temporary residence in Nakanoshima, Osaka, where it will be appearing for one week only. To add to the excitement, a local hotel is serving up limited numbers of ‘rubber duck plates’ featuring the cutest rice creation you’ve ever seen!
This bath mat is so popular that it’s sold out on many of its retail websites. The reason for its popularity? It’s said to feel so good and absorb moisture so well that it surpasses anything that’s come before it. Oh, and it’s made entirely from soil.
Obachan are a powerful force in Japan. While the term literally means aunt, it commonly refers to middle-aged women who have done their time in the lower ranks of the female order and are finally at an age where they can do and say as they please. Stories of strong-willed obachan are not uncommon in the news, with some forming their own political party and others even starting their own rock groups. Proving that nothing is out of their reach, one group of obachan in Hokkaido have now done something that no one ever imagined they would: They raised over 54 million yen (US$548, 000) and bought a giraffe for their local zoo.
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- 10 things Japan gets awesomely right
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