Philip Kendall

Editor

Hailing from Liverpool in the UK, Philip Kendall made Japan his second home in the summer of 2006 after dolefully abandoning his childhood dream of becoming a ghost buster. Setting up camp in beautiful Fukushima prefecture, he brought joy to literally hundreds of junior high school children as ‘that tall, handsome teacher’ or more often ‘the one with the big nose,’ before relocating to Tokyo at the end of 2011.

Writer, foodie, gamer and eternal student of the Japanese language, Philip now works as a freelance writer and translator, submitting to Tokyo Weekender magazine and website and Learn Japanese Pod, as well as co-running Suds, Grub & Joe- a website dedicated to all things beer, food and coffee-related in Tokyo. Follow his ramblings on his personal blog or on twitter.

All Stories by Philip Kendall

Shut up and take my money: Awesome handmade Lego video game art on sale now

Shut up and take my money: Awesome handmade Lego video game art on sale now

If you like old-school video games and loving fiddling around with bits of Lego, then this is something that you absolutely need to see.

These scenes from Super Mario Bros 3, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid and even action platformer Mega Man are all made out of Lego, placed carefully, brick by brick, onto a backboard to create startlingly accurate 8-bit graphic art. Needless to say we’re sold already, and haven’t even asked their maker how much he wants for them yet.

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Kinoko Girly: the weirdest time-waster you’ll play all day

Kinoko Girly: the weirdest time-waster you’ll play all day

If you’re struggling with the fact that it’s still only Tuesday and the weekend is but a dot on the horizon, Kinoko Girly (‘Mushroom Girly’), a free mobile game currently generating a lot of buzz here in Japan, might be just the thing to keep you going at least until Hump Day is over.

Featuring illustrations by popular fashion designer Hajime Yoshio, Kinoko Girly is one of the simplest smartphone games you’ll ever play. Asking you, the person in charge of feeding a bevy of frighteningly shaped mushrooms to a woman with a penchant for fungi, to choose which of the two ‘shrooms offered up at any one time is delicious and which is poisonous, it’s simply a case of guesswork for the sake of it, but it’s surprisingly addictive. And altogether weird.

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Tokyo’s new rentable bikes are a great start, but the city is still far from bike-friendly…

Tokyo’s new rentable bikes are a great start, but the city is still far from bike-friendly…

Close your eyes and throw a stick in pretty much any Tokyo neighbourhood, and there’s a good chance that you’ll hit someone riding a bicycle. With roughly 72 million bikes on the streets of Japan, they’re an essential part of daily life for many, especially in urban areas where space for motor vehicle parking is both limited and expensive.

Last weekend, though, we stumbled upon a fleet of sparkling new bicycles that couldn’t be more different to the typical mamachari shopping bikes that everyone from junior high schoolers to worryingly wobbly grandmothers pedal around town. Sleek, compact, and with”Suicle” stamped on their crossbars, these lime-green lightweights are available for anyone with a prepaid IC bus or rail card and a half-decent sense of balance to rent.

Eager to know if the ride, and the process of renting and returning, was as smooth as a nearby sign purported it to be, we took a couple of the mini bikes out for a spin.

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Fighter discovers Japanese giant hornet in his apartment, hilarity ensues 【Video】

Fighter discovers Japanese giant hornet in his apartment, hilarity ensues 【Video】

When people talk about Japan, they usually talk about its beautiful landscapes, rich culture, and delicious food. They talk about the cherry blossom in spring, the soft, powder snow in winter, the deep red autumn leaves, and the summers that, while swelteringly hot, go perfectly with a big glass of cold Japanese beer.

What they don’t talk about are the bugs.

Although Japan has nothing on “Don’t Touch That, It’ll Probably Kill You” Australia, it nevertheless has its fair share of creepy-crawlies, and the oosuzumebachi, or Japanese Giant Hornet is perhaps the worst of the bunch. It’s still only April, but it would seem that the Japanese branch of Satan’s striped servants are already out and about, and getting into people’s apartments, no less…

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Aerith from Final Fantasy VII’s home valued at nearly $2 million, “Nicest house in sector 5″

Aerith from Final Fantasy VII’s home valued at nearly $2 million, “Nicest house in sector 5″

Movoto, one of America’s biggest real estate agents, doesn’t just list property, it also has a blog and, more importantly, a very good sense of humour. A few months ago, the site treated manga and anime fans to a tour of Naruto Uzumaki’s house (on the market for just $100,000), but this week they have something special for gamers – the house that used to belong to Aerith from Final Fantasy VII.

If you’re interested in buying the property, though, we hope you’re feeling flush. With 1,176 square feet of floor space and the honour of being “the nicest house in Sector 5″, Aerith’s house is listed for nearly US$2 million, or 37,726,080 Gil to be exact.

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One filmmaker’s mission to show the world the real Fukushima, and how you can help

One filmmaker’s mission to show the world the real Fukushima, and how you can help

“Forget the reactor. Forget all the bull$#!^ Facebook posts about how radiation is melting the starfish and mutating our sushi. Forget about what it means to be a disaster, and discover what it means to be Fukushima.”

Filmmaker Cameron Anderson is on a mission to show the world the real Fukushima. Having spend months exploring the region, he – an outsider arriving long after Fukushima became known the world over as the centre of a tragic nuclear accident – has come to learn what Japan’s third-largest prefecture is really all about. Cameron has also seen how the news, careless comments shared via social networks, and a general fear of the unknown have caused people around the globe to label this land as a giant, black spot on the map of Japan, with stories popping up online every few weeks about tides of non-existent radioactive seawater and the prefecture’s potentially hazardous exports.

Hoping to obtain a special filmmaking grant, it is Cameron’s plan to put together a 10-minute documentary that explores this vast, rich part of Japan and introduce some of its genuinely remarkable residents–both Japanese and foreign. But he needs your help.

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McDonald’s Japan’s new Avocado Beef, Chicken, and Shrimp burgers look surprisingly good

McDonald’s Japan’s new Avocado Beef, Chicken, and Shrimp burgers look surprisingly good

Regular readers will know that we at RocketNews24 are no strangers to fast food. When you’re based in one of the biggest, most convenient cities in the world and spend the majority of your day online with instant access to more information than your ancestors probably had in their entire lifetimes, you tend to lose the ability to concentrate long enough to prepare a real meal, and it’s easy to give in to the greasy and syrup-topped temptations that wink at you from the branches of McDonald’s and Starbucks located on every other street corner.

We’re not exactly proud of the amount of junk food we shovel into our faces under the pretences of journalism and science, and certainly don’t recommend that any of our dear readers attempt to replicate our own Mr. Sato’s adventures in Cholesterol Land, but we have to admit that McDonald’s Japan’s new Avocado Beef, Avocado Chicken, and Avocado Shrimp burgers actually look pretty good.

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“Racist” Air France geisha poster prompts satirical home-made fixes

“Racist” Air France geisha poster prompts satirical home-made fixes

Air France has come under fire this week after its latest promotional ad campaign, which consists of a series of 18 photos featuring mostly caucasian women dressed and made up to represent countries the airline serves, depicts Japan as the land of giant-haired geisha.

It’s hardly the most offensive ad ever – and it’s certainly better than ANA’s big-nosed white men commercial from earlier this year – but critics are calling for it to be pulled, with many suggesting that it is “stereotypically racist” and in poor taste. Fortunately, net users were on hand to “fix” Air France’s photos, and make them that little bit more Japanese…

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Kid trampling, surly schoolgirls, and dancing grains of rice: Cup rice ad is classic crazy Japan

Kid trampling, surly schoolgirls, and dancing grains of rice: Cup rice ad is classic crazy Japan

Last September, we brought you news that Japanese cup noodle maker Nissin was about to launch a new product, Kare Meshi curry rice in a cup. Hoping to do for rice what it did for noodles and ensure that a new generation of Japanese never give in to the urge to cook a real meal for themselves, the idea is that lazy diners simply add water to the pre-cooked curry and rice, heat it in the microwave and get stuck in. All the taste with minimal washing up and none of the fuss of cooking rice the regular way.

This week, in an effort to lodge Kare Meshi more firmly in the minds of consumers, the noodle king has launched a new ad for its cup rice. And it is positively insane.

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Princess Peach-themed Nintendo Wii remote available later this month

Princess Peach-themed Nintendo Wii remote available later this month

If you can’t help feeling that your controller lacks a little regality or that you’d rather squish Goombas in a lighter shade of murder, we’ve got good news for you. From the end of this month, you’ll be able to pick up a special edition Princess Peach-themed Wii remote, Nintendo has announced.

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Sulky Shiba can’t hear you… or can he!? 【Video】

Sulky Shiba can’t hear you… or can he!? 【Video】

Unlike cats, dogs are usually pretty easy to win over. Constantly seeking praise and approval, with a few “good boy”s and a scratch behind the ear they’ll immediately cheer up and want to be friends again. You can praise a cat until you’re blue in the face – it neither wants nor needs your approval, and if it’s not in the mood, you’ll soon know about it.

This little shiba inu, though, looks especially irked, and is making no secret of the fact that he’s cross by ignoring his owner no matter what she says or does. All until…

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Best instruction manual ever? What to do when your washer goes “kiiin”, “shaaa”, or “pokopoko”

Best instruction manual ever? What to do when your washer goes “kiiin”, “shaaa”, or “pokopoko”

Anyone who has spent any length of time in Japan will tell you that onomatopoeia is not just common, but an integral part of the Japanese language. While English speakers might find sentences peppered with additional ‘sound effects’ somewhat inelegant, in Japanese onomatopoeic words are not only considered perfectly normal, but there are mimicking sounds for every possible occasion – including states of being where there is no sound to mimic – and most people know exactly how to write them.

We’d wager than few native Japanese have ever come across an instruction manual that uses mimicking words to explain potential problems with a washing machine, though…

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Japan’s pets approve of Muji bean bags, put on a masterful display of laziness 【Photos】

Japan’s pets approve of Muji bean bags, put on a masterful display of laziness 【Photos】

Last week, we brought you Japanese retail company Muji’s guide to getting nothing done thanks to the comfort and unparalleled lethargy inducing qualities of the mighty bean bag chair. Well, it seems that some of our canine and feline friends have been paying close attention, and no sooner had their owners picked one up, immediately began showing us all how to use Muji’s popular bean bag chairs properly.

Judging by these photos, these little guys are clearly the true relaxation ninjas of the land.

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Drivers spill the beans while saving the planet with Nissan’s two-seater electric vehicle

Drivers spill the beans while saving the planet with Nissan’s two-seater electric vehicle

In October last year, Yokohama City joined forces with Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan for a special project dubbed Choi-Mobi Yokohama. Furnishing the historic port city with a small fleet of rentable, ultra-compact electric vehicles, Nissan set out to examine the feasibility of making such modes of transport commonplace in urban centres. Allowing anyone with a valid license to zip around the city – emission free, of course – for just 20 yen (US$0.19) per minute of use, ultra-compacts like the Choi-Mobi are tipped to be a useful replacement for taxis and private vehicles in urban areas in future years.

The concept alone was enough to have tech-heads and environmentalists alike grinning from ear to ear, but on April 1 this year, Nissan asked a group of Choi-Mobi renters to use their time together inside the vehicle to convey important messages to one another, telling not April Fools but “April Truths”.

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Star Wars “Cos-Me” hangers now on sale in Japan – Turn your coat into Vader’s cloak!

Star Wars “Cos-Me” hangers now on sale in Japan – Turn your coat into Vader’s cloak!

A few weeks ago, online shopping site Run@Town began selling a series of special edition Star Wars themed notebooks. Although they were basically just a standard-issue school notebooks with jackets featuring images from the original three films, they sold out in the blink of an eye, and there are people still waiting for new stock to arrive. This week, the same online store announced another Star Wars tie-in, this time offering wooden hangers featuring busts of Yoda, C-3PO, a Stormtrooper, and smokes-20-a-day villain Darth Vader.

The best part is, by slipping them over the hanger, you can have the cast of characters wear your clothes, allowing you to create all kinds of weird mash-ups. And would you believe some of them actually look pretty cool? We have a feeling these are going to be Run@Town’s next sell-out item.

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Test your (crude) Japanese slang skills: Why is this sign getting so many laughs online?

Test your (crude) Japanese slang skills: Why is this sign getting so many laughs online?

There are some Japanese words that, no matter how many textbooks you read, you’ll simply never encounter. As we’ve seen, the Japanese love a good pun, and cheesy wordplay on TV and the media in general is far more commonplace than it is in English. So it’s surprising that the owners of this Tokyo-based computer school didn’t choose the name of their establishment – and the wording on their sign, for that matter – a little more carefully.

If you can already see why so many Japanese netizens are chuckling, then congratulations – you’re clearly a Japanese slang master. The rest of you? We’ll see you after the jump.

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Ancient Chinese characters prove that ninja cats once ruled Asia

Ancient Chinese characters prove that ninja cats once ruled Asia

Despite many of us considering them to be pets, with the immense power they wield over humans and their near total domination of the internet, cats are clearly the ones in charge. They appear with such frequency in ancient Egyptian iconography that many have wondered whether the Egyptians knew something about cats that we don’t, and no matter how many treats we give the felines we share our homes with, they just never seem to accept us as equals, let alone their masters.

And now, a photo of an ancient set of Chinese characters has given internet users in China even more reason to believe that cats were once the true rulers of the world. Behold: kanji characters depicting cats with ninja headbands!

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There’s a reason Yoshi dogs don’t exist in the real world: They’d be absolutely terrifying

There’s a reason Yoshi dogs don’t exist in the real world: They’d be absolutely terrifying

If there are any small children in the room, now might be a good time to send them to bed or off on an errand. We can’t guarantee that they’ll sleep a wink tonight after seeing this “Nintendog” poodle with its fur dyed and made up to look like Yoshi from the Super Mario series.

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Six (and a half) essential resources for learning Japanese

Six (and a half) essential resources for learning Japanese

As we’ve said before, Japanese isn’t actually as hard to learn as it’s often made out to be. Unlike English, for example, Japanese follows its own grammatical rules far more rigidly, pronunciation is easy because there is only one variant of each vowel sound to choose from (none of this tomayto/tomahto business), and it’s possible to create entire, perfectly meaningful and valid sentences without uttering a single pronoun or bothering to conjugate a verb.

Nevertheless, the language will not magically seep into you through a desire to speak it alone — you still need to encounter and study it as often as possible. With that in mind, we’d like to present to you the six and a half resources that no dedicated student of the Japanese language should ever be without. Oh, and the good news is some of them are completely free.

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I need gum, milk, and a verse of “Let It Go”: Special karaoke convenience store to open

I need gum, milk, and a verse of “Let It Go”: Special karaoke convenience store to open

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been buying beer, bread, or ice-cream at my local conbini and thought to myself, “If only I could scream a few lines of verse into a microphone without having to leave the building.” In the past, the closest I could ever get to combining convenience store shopping with singing was choosing karaoke booths located immediately next door to a 7-Eleven, but now all that is about to change.

In a special collaboration between Japan’s third-largest convenience store chain FamilyMart and nationwide operator Karaoke Club DAM, a one-of-a-kind conbini x karoke parlour will open its doors on April 17 in Tokyo.

Yes, thanks to Japan you can now shop and sing all in the same place.

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