Oona McGee

All Stories by Oona McGee

Scheveningen or Sukebeningen? Dutch town sounds like “pervert” when pronounced in Japanese

A beautiful Dutch seaside resort has become well-known to Japanese people over the years and unfortunately it’s not due to any special campaigns or travel commercials.

It’s all due to the unfortunate way it’s written and pronounced, according to Japanese language conventions. The town is called Scheveningen, which seems innocent enough to western ears, but in Japan, the way it’s transliterated means it’s pronounced “Sukebeningen,” which happens to mean “lecherous people” in Japanese.

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Tiramisu soil and a moss parfait: We dig into bonsai treats at Tokyu Hands Cafe

Tokyu Hands is known for its amazing array of goods. From bicycles to Kabuki face masks and everything in between, this is a company that’s built their brand with a focus on providing unique and innovative Japanese products to the local and international market.

Now, the cafe on the top floor of their Shibuya store is also showcasing its creative credibility, by transforming its space into a pop-up Bonsai Cafe, in collaboration with the Omiya Bonsai Museum in Saitama. With miniature trees and special goods on display, here it’s the unusual menu that’s really taking centre stage.

After seeing photos of their special matcha latte, an unusual tiramisu and a parfait served in a bonsai pot, we pulled on our gumboots and headed out on a rainy afternoon to give these treats a try. Come with us as we treat our taste buds to an enchanted walk through a delicious miniature garden.

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Marshmallow chocolate Brooklyn pizzas now available at Mister Donut!

Mister Donut stores across Japan have been transporting customers to Brooklyn since the beginning of the year, with a special line-up of hybrid sweets and beverages and even dedicated outlets featuring fittings inspired by the borough’s cool, hip eateries.

Now, a sweet slice of Brooklyn has just landed in stores, in the form of miniature, palm-sized pizzas topped with chocolate, marshmallows and even strawberry sauce. We stopped by for takeout and the results were more delicious than we could have imagined. Check out our photos for the cutest, tiniest slices of pizza you’ve ever seen!

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Starbucks sakura series 2015: Caramel, chocolate and a flowery chiffon cake

With Valentine’s Day out of the way, and plum blossoms still in bloom, it’s time for early spring marketing to burst onto the scene in Japan. Leading the pack, as it does every year, is popular coffee chain Starbucks, with the nation’s other favourite flower, the cherry blossom, taking centre stage in their annual line-up of sakura menu items and merchandise.

This year, the humble cherry blossom meets caramel and chocolate in latte and Frappucino forms, and also finds itself in a beautiful pink and white chiffon cake. Curious to know what sakura tastes like when blended with such sweet partners? Join us as we bring you all the photos and flavours from our recent visit.

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7 surprising images of Tokyo without its billboards and neon signs 【GIFs】

If you’ve ever walked the streets of Tokyo, you’ll know how the buzz of people, street signs and giant screens can heighten all your senses and fill you with a rush of excitement that stays with you well after you’ve returned back home. While travel brochure photos can never truly prepare you for the dense onslaught of visual and aural stimuli that envelop you when you visit the megalopolis, one creative photographer has come up with a clever way of highlighting the main features of the city by showing us just how bare the city landscape looks without them there.

Come with us as we take a walk through day and night in Tokyo and see just how different the place looks when the neon signs and billboards are taken away. You’ll never see Tokyo in quite the same way again.

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Cute animals in powered exoskeletons: 6 wondrous items from the 2015 Wonder Festival

The latest edition of Japan’s bi-annual Wonder Festival brought out both male and female cosplayers, plus Sailor Moon figurines, which are well-known stalwarts of any good event celebrating anime and the creative arts. But what about the actual handmade models that put the wonder into the festival?

Amateur hobbyists converge at the event to display and sell unique goods, resulting in an array of never-before-seen models and items that can’t be found anywhere else. From ramen kewpie dolls to seductive vegetables, we’ve got photos of the most imaginative and eye-popping goods you’ll see this season.

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El Bulli-trained Japanese chef serves edible origami at gastro cafe Celaravird 【Pics & Video】

Molecular gastronomy, the science-based art of cooking, has brought us some mind-blowing edible concoctions over recent years. Rose water balloons, vinegar gels and fruit caviar are some of the dishes pioneered by leaders of the movement, including Ferran Adrià, chef of the famed El Bulli Restaurant, and René Redzepi from Noma, whose restaurants have been named best in the world.

Koichi Hashimoto has worked with both these chefs and is now bringing what he’s learnt from the greats to a 16-seater dining room near Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. His nine-course dinner menu, priced at 6,800 yen, is an absolute bargain in the molecular meal world, and reflects his aim to bring creative gastronomy to casual dining. Come with us as we take you through the menu at Celaravird, with all the delicious photos from our recent visit.

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How to make delicious tofu chocolates: all the taste with half the calories 【RocketKitchen】

Leading up to Valentine’s Day in Japan, there’s one thing that’s impossible to escape – and it’s not swarthy, rose-touting Lotharios. It’s chocolate. In pretty packaging and delicious displays, store counters come alive with the sweet stuff at this time of year, and one of the more luxurious and decadent types is the rich, creamy nama choco (fresh chocolates).

The only problem with this type of chocolate is the fact that it blends an already creamy chocolate with even more cream and butter, making it heavy on the calories. Net users in Japan, though, have discovered an unusual way to cut out the extra fat – by replacing it with tofu! Using just three ingredients, we’ll let you in on the latest diet tip from Japan and show you how to make delicious, creamy nama choco with only half the calories.

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Beautiful works by French street artist disappear from Shanghai demolition site

Street art, whether it draws criticism or praise, is widely ephemeral in nature. After appearing overnight on a blank wall or beside a forgotten drainpipe, once it makes its début in a public space, street art belongs to the community and the elements, where it’s free to be defaced, altered or torn away at any given moment.

The fleeting beauty of the art form was seen in Shanghai recently, where a number of large-scale murals by French street artist Julien Malland were destroyed almost as soon as they were discovered. Join us as we take a look at the before and after photos of some of his beautiful works, now gone but captured forever on camera.

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8 photos of Hana-chan chillaxing will make you as happy as a hedgehog on spa day

We all need pampering now and then. Whether it’s a good massage or a mani-pedi at the nail salon, a little me-time goes a long way towards helping you smile and unwind after a long week at work.

If it’s been a while since you last spoilt yourself with a relaxing spa visit, these photos are sure to remind you of what you’re missing. Meet Hana-chan the hedgehog, a girl who enjoys a regular grooming ritual so relaxing it makes her fall asleep with a satisfied smile. This is the most chillaxed animal you’ll see all day!

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We try the new 1,500-yen Kobe beef burger from Lotteria 【Taste Test】

Japanese hamburger chain Lotteria‘s newest luxury burger has finally landed, and it features legendary Kobe beef made from special livestock reared on pure water and premium feed. Kobe beef is of such renown that there are even rumours that cattle from the area are allowed to sip on beer, listen to fine music and enjoy a good massage so that their meat tastes simply divine.

So what would the fast food version of this luxury beef taste like? We were so curious we had to swing by Lotteria to pick up one of the new Kobe beef burgers as soon as they were released. Check out all the delicious details after the jump!

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What do sumo wrestlers have in common with Tinker Bell?

Sumo wrestlers and Disney fairy Tinker Bell are not two things you would think have much in common. Yet their uncanny similarity is exactly what netizens in Japan have noticed, following a series of photos published recently on the Internet.

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Dattebayo! 12 awesome cast photos from the upcoming Naruto live spectacular

Fans of Naruto, the hit manga series that graced the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump magazine every week, were dealt a heavy blow back in November 2014 when the epic series ended after 15 years.

While they may have closed the book on the manga series, thankfully it’s not the last chapter in the Naruto franchise, as all our favourite characters will be returning, this time on stage in a live action spectacular set to tour Japan from 21 March 2015.

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PS4 20th Anniversary edition console sells at auction for jaw-dropping price

When Sony released a special 20th Anniversary edition of the PlayStation 4, online pre-order slots were filled in minutes. Limited to a run of 12,300 consoles, gamers had to move quickly to secure a piece of gaming history.

The one thing missing from the December 2014 release, however, was the most important and prized possession of all: console number 00001/12300. That particular machine made its grand appearance at an online auction last weekend and sold for a price that is, frankly, jaw-dropping.

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Meet the girl who’s wrapped up in dreams of sushi

If you’ve been captivated by a bizarre breed of sushi cats or fallen in love with a cup-clinging girl called Fuchiko, chances are you’ll soon be swooning over a young lady who likes to hang out inside pieces of sushi.

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Cute anime railway girls keep passengers company on Tokyo Skytree train

Japan is no stranger to weird and wonderful product collaborations between companies. We’ve seen Mos burger x Mister Donut creations, a Hello Kitty invasion of The Very Hungry Caterpillar books and even Sailor Moon girls teeing up with sanitary pads.

So when the ten-year anniversary of the Tetsudou Musume (Railway Girls) anime rolled around this year, their new collaboration could have taken them anywhere. Thankfully, the girls have gone the more conventional route – by tying up with an actual train and riding together with you in 2-D form inside the carriages.

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Buddha vs Eva, Ultraman, Gundam and Lady Liberty: How the otherworldly measure up

If you’re a fan of mecha anime, you’ll know all about towering robots and the impressive displays of power they show during large-scale, epic battles. One of the titans of the mecha world, Gundam, is so revered in Japan he’s been recreated to scale and stands looking out over Tokyo Bay, wowing crowds with his strength and height.

Gundam might not be so happy, however, to learn that a picture doing the rounds on the internet is making him look tiny when compared with his peaceful brother from another otherworldly realm. To be fair though, not much can compete with Ushiku Daibutsu, the tallest Buddha statue in the world, who lives just a 90-minute train ride from Narita Station.

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Anime figurines rejoice as fully working miniature locker appears on gacha market

What would you put in a tiny miniature locker? That’s the question you’ll be asking if you get your hands on one of the newest gacha capsule toys, set to hit the market in April.

While most of us would have no use for a locker the size of a thumb, spare a thought for the anime figures of the world, who have spent years searching for a secure place to store their valuable accessories before setting out on their exciting adventures.

The only hurdle they’ll have to overcome now though, is finding a way to insert a coin that’s bigger than the size of their head.

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Net user recreates Japan’s islands and prefectures in this twist on a winter tradition

New Year’s in Japan is a quiet affair. While the holiday period is usually spent with family, enjoying traditional food and activities, there’s one particular pastime that brings the family together in a special way every winter. To indulge in this very Japanese affair, you’ll need two of the items pictured in the image above. Can you guess what they are?

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Scandal as hospital staff take selfies, play games & hold parties while patients lie unconscious

If you’ve been reading up on our international medical news recently, you may have stumbled upon the shocking story of staff posing for photos during surgery on a patient at a hospital in China. While the news was disturbing to say the least, it seems they’re not the only ones fooling around in the operating room, with a new set of images from a clinic in South Korea showing medical staff enjoying birthday cake, games and unabashed selfies, even with the patient lying unconscious in the medical chair.

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