Oona McGee

All Stories by Oona McGee

Meet Les Romanesques: The most famous Japanese people in France

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.

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Giant rubber duck arrives in Osaka!

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!

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Japanese customers are raving about a bath mat made from soil

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.

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Obachan power strikes again as middle-aged women buy giraffe for local zoo

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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11 unique experiences for tourists to Japan

If you’ve been scouring the net looking for ways to experience the most unique things Japan has to offer, then dock your wireless device and hang up those bunny ears because we’ve found the list for you. These 11 experiences are so unique you’ll be amazed they even exist. From crazy, subculture adventures to mystical, secret classes, now you can fill up on a unique blend of pop and tradition thanks to the activities on offer from new travel website Voyagin. We’ve picked the best courses for you to enjoy.

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Meet the new model set to make manga artists’ lives a whole lot easier

When it comes to replicating human poses and natural movement, artists often look to anatomical models. Traditional figures do have their limitations, though, with the lack of details making it difficult to recreate the lines of a raised shoulder or a clasped fist. But things are set to change, with a new figure on the market called the S.F.B.T-3, (Special Full-action Body Type v.3). Ten years in the making, this girl has 80 moveable parts in her body, allowing for an unprecedented number of poses and anatomical designs. We take a look at the doll’s amazing details and see how it performs in some popular anime poses for the illustrator’s eye.

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These doughnuts from Hokkaido are unbear-ably cute!

A long time ago, in a place quite far, far away, there was an area of Japan so remote that the indigenous people called it sir etok; literally the end of the earth. Known today as Shiretoko, the peninsula at the northeastern tip of Hokkaido remains a place of untouched beauty, traversed by a unique population of brown bears.

So what does a visitor to the end of the earth bring back to the rest of civilisation as a reminder of the beauty and the bear? Given that live bears don’t act kindly to being captured, a cute alternative has popped up in miniature, edible form. Wrapped in a cosy doughnut ball, these little cubs are flying off the shelves like hotcakes. We bought a variety pack to take a closer look at what makes these adorable souvenirs so popular.

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Meet Snoopybabe, the cute cat from China taking the Internet by storm

Photo sharing sites started off as a great way to share pictures of friends and family with loved ones from all corners of the world. But then someone, one day, shared a photo of a cat. Slowly but surely, felines started taking over our domains until they had pages dedicated to them, legions of followers, and adoring comments in different languages from people all around the world. Now it seems every person and their dog has a favourite Instagram cat. But the one that’s topping them all is a kitty from China that goes by the name Snoopybabe. Creepy or cute, you be the judge, but with over 190,000 followers to date, this is definitely one cat to keep your eye on.

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10 common phrases that stump Japanese students of English

Learning a second language is never easy, especially when there are so many things like context, nuance, and cultural connotations standing in the way. The key to conquering these hurdles, though, usually lies outside the pages of a textbook, and the Japanese Government addresses this issue by employing thousands of foreigners to assist English teachers in its education system every year.

So where would a foreigner start when correcting a student on the finer points of English as a second language? One of the easiest ways would be to take a look at this collection of commonly misused phrases and their simple fixes, put together by David Thayne, the head of AtoZ English.

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From Sarah Brightman to Queen: Watch nine western artists sing in Japanese

If you’ve been in Japan long enough, you’ve probably seen western actors and celebrities visit the country, showing enthusiasm for the language by throwing out an “arigatou” here and a “konnichi wa” there, leaving fans and interviewers gasping in astonishment. But did you know that big-name western musicians have been showing their Japanese prowess through song for decades? We have the video proof, with all nine artists above singing phrases, and sometimes even entire songs, in Japanese. The performances are surprisingly impressive.

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Onigiri taste test: Which convenience store will win?

Walk into any convenience store in Japan and you’ll see the staples: magazines, drinks, snacks, and the ubiquitous onigiri. And when it comes to onigiri, the world-famous rice ball wrapped in seaweed, one of the hands-down most popular is the salmon variety, with salty, sweet, succulent flakes of orange salmon at its centre.

So which convenience store sells the best salmon onigiri? We decided to conduct a taste test in our offices to declare a winner, pitting the top three – 7-Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart – against each other in a battle befitting the rice ball’s feudal origins. With a set of scales, the slice of a knife and a merchant tester, we begin.

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Long-distance kissing now one smooch closer with new silicone lips for your iPhone

Bandai, the third largest producer of toys in the world, has made a name for itself in Japan with a never-ending array of collectable capsule goods. From keychains to stationery to jewellery, and featuring popular characters like Hello Kitty and Gundam, a trip to the supermarket or shopping mall in Japan will inevitably have you passing one of these small machines, stacked up in rows of exciting possibility, enticing you to shell out that last 200 yen for the chance of a lucky score.

You might want to start saving your silver yen now because from mid-October, a new series of capsule toys will be hitting the market. The arrival of silicon lips, designed to sit on the home key on your smartphone, has got everyone talking in Japan.

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5 things you never knew about cat paws

To us, they’re the cute, spongy things you play with like miniature stress balls after a bad day. To cats, they’re essential for getting around. Either way, cat paws are amazing. Functional enough to unlock an iPhone and so adorable they resemble teddy bears. We take a look at some of the little known powers of a cat paw brought to light by astute Japanese cat owners. Do cats know the power they hold in their paws?

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Malaysian mother wows Japan with meals that are too cute to eat!

Kyara-ben, boxed bento lunches featuring cute comic characters, have been around in Japan for some time. Usually created by housewives with a lot of time and skill on their hands, getting to feast on one in person, though, is about as difficult as nailing jelly to a tree. So it’s no surprise that people in Japan were green with envy when they caught sight of these adorable meals. Created by a Malaysian mother of two of the luckiest daughters in the world, these plates of healthy cuteness have earned her a huge fanbase, with more than 250, 000 followers eagerly keeping track of the new creations as they appear on her Instagram account. From Lady Gaga to Batman, no feast is too difficult for this artistic mum!

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Suika Bar vs watermelon: which popsicle will win?

It’s summer in Japan and that means everyone is on the lookout for ways to cool down and cope with the stifling heat. For many Japanese, relief comes in popsicle form, and one of the most popular and refreshing is the Suika Bar, literally “watermelon bar”, which featured in our recent Japanese convenience store ice-cream ranking.

But what happens when you have a craving for the crunchy watermelon treat and the blistering walk to the shops is too much to bear? Our Japanese reporter recently faced this dilemma and tried to recreate the popsicle with just the fruit instead. How will the humble frozen watermelon measure up next to its manufactured cousin? We bring you the answer to this summer’s most pressing question after the break.

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Feline furniture: 21 ideas that make Japanese cat lovers purr

We all know cats rule the roost. If they’re not digging their claws into your couch, then you know they’re probably sprawled out on your bed or peering down at you from a secret hiding place. Well, now you can reclaim your living space with some clever ideas that Japanese netizens have fallen in love with. From unique cat houses to purr-fect beds, we take a look at some of the products from around the world that are inspiring cat lovers in Japan.

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The first photos ever used for Japanese tourism show Japan as it was 100 years ago

A collection of 100-year-old hand-painted photos has been captivating Japanese netizens recently, both for their beauty and their significance. Taken at the beginning of the twentieth century by the well-known photographer, Kōzaburō Tamamura, these were the first pictures ever used to promote Japan to the world. The series reveals some gorgeous scenes of everyday life and places of natural beauty, in a Japan that was previously cut off to the world for centuries.

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The top 10 sightseeing spots in Kyoto Prefecture

With more than a thousand unique temples and countless sites of natural beauty, planning a short trip to Kyoto can be no easy task. Thankfully, there’s a Japanese travel website that’s made things easy with a top ten list of unmissable places in the region. If you’re looking for a way to escape the information overload and simply visit the best that Kyoto Prefecture has to offer, then this list–complied by native Japanese no less–might just be the list for you.

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Mr. Sato shows us how to make a frozen slushie with our favourite sodas

If you’ve ever been to Japan during summer, then you’ll know how the energy-sapping, mind-melting humidity can make you want to do crazy things like wear ice-cream shorts and invest in USB-powered neck coolers. So of course we weren’t surprised when Mr. Sato came into the office insisting everyone shake their carbonated drinks and put them in the freezer. While some of our more sensible staff members made it clear that they wouldn’t be sticking around to clean up any fizzy explosions, our man Mr. Sato managed to convince us all that this would work. And work it did. In fact, this may be one of Mr. Sato’s most sensible ideas yet!

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Enjoy latte art at home with cute marshmallow cats!

From colourful anime designs to awesome 3-D creations, exciting things are going on in the drinkable art world of Japan. Now, there’s a new trend that’s melting our hearts: latte art in adorable take-home designs. Created by a marshmallow company in Nagano Prefecture, the range includes cute cats and fluffy cat paws that gradually dissolve into 2-D latte artworks. The only skill you’ll need for these is an ability to stand the cuteness!

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