Mike

With nothing better to do in his native Ohio, Mike took a leave of absence from all responsibilities in life and came to Japan for the first time in 2006. After several years of what amounted to an extended vacation with occasional Japanese lessons, circumstances led Mike to finally settle down in Tokyo and get serious about life in 2009. He’s worked at magazines, a Japanese ad agency, and currently works in the entertainment industry. He also co-founded and writes for the humorous Japan news website Tokyodesu.com.

All Stories by Mike

This amazing sand sculpture museum is tiny Tottori Prefecture’s hidden tourist gem

Remember when Tottori Prefecture finally got a Starbucks after all these years of being one of the few places in the world without one? Oh man, that was crazy.

Tottori is just one of those places. The kind of area that’s so quiet and uneventful that not even Starbucks, the corporate giant that’s more than happy to smother historic cultural heritage sites with their over-roasted beans and pricey lattes for a quick buck, spent decades more or less pretending it didn’t even exist. The Prefecture’s population of just over half a million is shockingly small by densely-populated Japan’s standards, and it’s just generally ignored by the rest of Japan as a place that, well… doesn’t have much to see, to put it kindly.

But wait a second! What’s this?! Tottori has been sitting on an amazing tourist draw in the form of a sand sculpture museum that features mind-boggling, award-winning and massive sand sculptures and they basically haven’t even really told anybody about it.

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What sorcery is this?! New toy aquarium is populated with your own hand-drawn fish 【Video】

Certainly, it is the dream of every kid and a not-insignificant number of adults for their crude doodles of space monsters, stick figures and whatnot to suddenly spring to life. Imagine how much fun you would have if you could actually hang out with that stick figure you drew in third grade!

Let’s ignore the reality that said stick figure would probably just stare at you, handless arm extended towards you in silent accusation at how you gave it such terrible, unholy life. It would be pretty cool to just draw up a new friend to hang out with, or triceratops to ride or something just whenever, right?

Well, Takara Tomy Arts has kind of, sort of figured out a way to make dreams of bringing your drawings to life a reality, with Picturerium, an aquarium that you populate with your own doodles!

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Popular manga artist’s shockingly great doodles from school prove he’s always had talent

I’m sure we all remember that one kid from our grade school days that was scarily good at drawing. The kid that would hastily – and incorrectly – finish up his math problems so he could back to sketching in his notebook. The one that could caricature Mr. Goetz’s sort of goofily small head from memory on request (no offense, Mr. Goetz).

If you were to dip back in to your long-forgotten box of grade school stuff – you know, the one mom keeps around specifically to embarrass you when you bring a new woman home to meet the family – and found one of that kid’s sketches, though, they probably aren’t going to look as good as you remember them. Hell, that kid’s probably not even a Disney animator like he always said he’d be, either. He probably works in the cafeteria at your old middle school because he never paid attention in math class.

On the other hand, there’s at least one insanely talented manga artist whose grade school/high school doodles hold up just as well today. In fact, they might even be better than the stuff he’s drawing now.

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“Too Cute” Tokyo City councilwoman has Japanese Netizens swooning

Judging by the sheer volume of these kinds of posts we do, one does get the impression that, while bored westerners are inclined to seek out cute cat videos on the Internet, Japanese Netizens with nothing better to do apparently like to scour the web for pictures of very attractive women working in jobs where being cute isn’t a prerequisite. While you’d think this would be a relatively niche interest when there’s perfectly good adult material available around the corner, “Beautiful Woman Doing Things” posts are everywhere on the Japanese net.

So, without further ado, here’s the latest Beautiful Woman Doing Things from Japan: Hachioji City councilwoman Azusa Sato.

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Comedian suggests using Japanese with American accent to stealthily broach uncomfortable topics

Have you ever run into someone, on the subway, perhaps, or in line at a Starbucks, and noticed they’d forgotten to close up the zipper on their jeans or had their skirt tucked into their underwear? Inner conflict follows as you weigh the pros and cons of telling them about it. On the one hand, that person is almost certainly going to think you’re a jerk for pointing out their social faux pax, but on the other hand, you’d be saving them the untold awkwardness of interacting with everyone all day with their underwear half sticking out of their open fly.

There may be a good middle-ground solution though, according to one Japanese comedian: Just tell them what you want to say with such a thick accent that it sounds like a totally foreign language. Sure, the person on the receiving end will think you’re a huge weirdo, but at least they won’t think you’re an A-hole, and being confronted with a bunch of unintelligable jibber jabber from some random will probably cause the person to take a quick inventory of their surroundings, hopefully prompting them to realize their zipper is down or underwear on display.

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Japanese highway rest stop to get world’s largest Evangelion Unit-01 replica

For Evangelion fans who are tired of Gundam hogging the spotlight when it comes to large-scale, replica robot statues, the wait for your vindication will be at an end in under a month, according to Japanese media.

That’s because the beloved anime franchise will finally boast its very own replica robot of series hero Shinji’s iconic mech, the Evangelion Unit-01. And while the famous 1:1-scale Gundam that looms over Odaiba stands outdoors, the Evangelion Unit-01 replica will be housed in its very own badass mech hangar!

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Distinctive Japanese Häagen-Dazs lids proving unusually versatile

Ice cream manufacturer Häagen-Dazs is pretty popular in Japan. The company has a large enough market share to run near-constant ads inside subway and above-ground train cars; usually a pretty good indicator of market success since ads on JR trains cost, approximately, all the dollars that ever were or ever will be.

One reason for the brand’s popularity in Japan – other than, you know, it tastes good – is the fancy, sturdy packaging used for individually-portioned cups. Now, most people just like them because it contributes to the brand’s premium mystique, but it turns out a lot of Japanese Twitter users are finding recently that the sturdy, distinctive plastic lids have a huge variety of neat, bonus utility and decorative uses even after all the ice cream inside is gone.

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Our 7 best conveyor-belt sushi restaurants in Sapporo

When you think of the Hokkaido city of Sapporo, you probably think of winter. After all, this is the city that hosts the annual Yuki Matsuri snow festival where massive ice sculptures line its bustling streets, and millions of people stop by the city every year while en route to Niseko for some ski or snowboarding fun.

But when Japanese people think of Sapporo, they tend to think summer, when the far-north metropolis boasts cool, mild weather and abundant nature in a season where much of Honshu is blanketed in oppressive heat and humidity; the kind that makes you physically angry every time you step out the door.

Anticipating an influx of Japanese tourists to the area, our Japanese sister site recently put together its top picks for the best conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Sapporo, and we thought we’d share, since, honestly, Sapporo is a really, really nice place to visit this time of year and their seafood is to die for.

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Is this studly tofu maker really all he seems?

Making tofu, believe it or not, actually requires enough physical labor that, even if you’re just making enough for yourself, you’re liable to at least break a sweat (although, honestly, why on earth would you make just a single serving of tofu?). There’s a lot of pressing and carrying heavy things around and grunting involved in tofu creation, is what we’re saying.

But is it hard enough that making a lot of it over time can turn your average tofu maker into a rippled, muscular Adonis? The short answer is, uh…maybe. Your results may vary (and you probably ought to hit the gym, anyway) but Taiwanese media claims to have found at least one particularly fit local tofu maker.

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Niece of famous Taiwanese 80s singer capturing hearts in Japan

If you’re one of the, I don’t know…two? three?… people who both read our humble site regularly and who are also really into Japanese Bubble Era love ballads – we’re talking mid-80s here – you might be familiar with a Taiwan-born singer named Fēifēi Ōuyáng. She appeared regularly on Japanese television back in the 80s to sing her outrageously popular-at-the-time hit, “Love is Over.”

Ōuyáng was apparently so popular that the song can still be heard occasionally on TV and as background music in shopping malls and stores. So popular, in fact, that one of our female writers on our Japanese sister site is a huge fan of the singer despite probably only having only just been born around the time Ōuyáng was reaching peak popularity. Imagine her delight, then, when she learned that Ōuyáng’s equally talented and gorgeous niece was becoming quite the topic of conversation on Japanese Internet circles.

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This cat and old guy pair go motorcycling together, are incredibly adorable

Listen guys, it’s only Wednesday and many of you may be having a rough week. Maybe your boss yelled at you for using the wrong PowerPoint template at your lame office job. Maybe your boyfriend or girlfriend made you sleep on the couch because you forgot your anniversary. Maybe you’re disappointed in yourself because you gave up your dreams of becoming the world’s greatest bassoonist to work a more lucrative but soul-sucking job as an insurance salesman and why didn’t you just stick with the bassoon you could have been somebody you coward why.

But don’t fret, down-on-your-luck readers. We’ve got the perfect thing to bring a smile to your face and get you through to the weekend: Presenting Ryunosuke, the house cat that loves to go motorcycle riding on his owner’s shoulders!

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Boredom might be behind brilliant Dyson fan loop spotted in Japanese electronics store

James Dyson is kind of the mad scientist/rockstar celebrity of the admittedly probably not very exciting world of vacuum cleaner and fan design. The Dyson company’s innovations have more or less revolutionized the world of electronic devices that primarily, uh… suck and blow.

But it looks like Dyson’s genius designs are so innovative that with the right amount of boredom and free time, just being in the mere presence of Dyson products can apparently inspire creative epiphany, as this infinitely looping Dyson fan layout – spotted at a Japanese electronics store – seems to prove.

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Chinese women proudly show off natural look for “2015 Armpit Hair Competition”

Believe it or not, the practice of women shaving their armpit hair in the United States is only about a century old. Before, apparently, around 1915, society didn’t really expect women to shave their underarm hair at all. This had a lot to do with the fact that razor companies weren’t shaming women into doing it yet, but also because, according to sources, back in 1915, even the mere mention of female underarm was enough to give men of the time an extreme case of the vapors.

Perhaps even more surprising, though, is the fact that the shaving of armpit hair among women didn’t catch on in China until the 1990s – a mere two decades ago! And despite, or perhaps because of, the practice’s relative newness, Chinese women are taking to the Internet in droves to proudly post photos of their armpit hair as a show of gender empowerment in the 2015 Armpit Hair Competition!

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Well, we didn’t ask for it, anyway. But it’s here, so somebody probably did. Was it you? It was you, wasn’t it?  You and your bizarrely specific fetishes, you big weirdo. Now you’ve gone and opened the Pandora’s box of erotic manga parody, sexy Crayon Shin-chan‘s arrival is only a matter of time.

Nozoemon is a new manga series which replaces Nobita-kun with a horny high school kid and Doraemon with a cyborg from the future who takes the form of a very young girl. Just wait until you read about the hijinks they get up to.

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Police dogs in China better at lining up for chow than we are

Dogs are already known for their discipline. At least when humans are around to make sure they don’t eat garbage and lick their genitals all day long, they’re pretty good about following the rules their human masters set out before them – Marmaduke notwithstanding.

But perhaps no other type of dog is as disciplined and well-trained as the police dog. Police forces and militaries all over the world utilize these highly trained pups, not only for drug, bomb and suspicious butt sniffing, but also for search-and-rescue operations and even mine clearing. This type of highly specialized work unsurprisingly requires highly trained dogs, and police dog training is a fair bit more rigorous than getting Fido to roll over on command.

We had no idea, though, that this rigorous training regimen apparently even extends to doggy mealtime…

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Kyary Pamyu Pamyu goes to Tokyo DisneySea dressed like a total creeper

Perhaps it’s not to the extent that celebrities have it in the United States, but Japanese celebs – especially pop idols of the female persuasion – are regularly accosted in public if they’re recognized. And while most stereotypically meek Japanese might be content with taking surreptitious photos from afar in the event of an idol sighting, the possibility of running across an unhinged fan or aggressive paparazzi on the streets means most Japanese pop stars will conceal their faces somehow when strolling around in public on their own.

For the typical celeb, this generally means wearing dark shades or even just wearing a fashion they’re not normally seen wearing on TV, while others still will walk around with their faces totally uncovered like the rest of the unwashed masses. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, on the other hand, wasn’t taking chances on a recent trip to Tokyo DisneySea, choosing to conceal her face entirely and looking like a total creeper in doing so.

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New Japanese biking laws say no more earphones in ears…but what about other orifices?

A few days ago, we brought you a list of 14 things never to do on a bicycle in Japan in light of new cycling traffic laws that went into effect on June 1. Of course, the new, stricter laws are intended to promote bicycle safety and reduce accidents, but they mean a lot of cyclists in Japan are going to have to give up on some of their old bad habits, like riding while listening to music.

There’s a little speculation that riding with headphones in but no music on, and riding with just one earpiece in (although that sounds to us like a recipe for disaster when the other dangling earbud inevitably gets caught in your spokes) are probably not going to get you jail time or anything, but we like to play it safe here at RocketNews24, at least until happy hour rolls around.

So, when one of our Japanese writers – a noted music lover – was pondering other ways to get his music fix while commuting by bike, he stumbled on what seemed like an easy solution: If the law says you can’t ride with earbuds in your ears, well, just shove those suckers right up your schnoz. It’s so simple it just has to work!

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Rare Tokyo public works failure leaves crowded Tokyo street flooded with dirty water

Tokyo’s public infrastructure is widely considered to be one of the best in the world, with impeccably paved roads and sidewalks, perfectly operating energy grids, and clean drinking water, delivered with just the right amount of water pressure unless you really blast it up to high, in which case you’re basically guaranteed to flood your entire apartment with a biblical cascade of H20.

And, other than those types of user accidents, catastrophic power outages, water and gas leaks and other public works disasters are practically unheard of. But it looks like even Tokyo’s public works aren’t entirely foolproof, as a number of drivers, bystanders and local businesses learned when a water pipe burst near a street in the Takadanobaba District, flooding the street and plunging the area into (mild) chaos.

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The legs of the model with the world’s longest legs are just hilariously long

20-year-old model Dong Lei was apparently declared to have the longest legs in the (modeling) world recently, measuring in at an incredible 45 inches, meaning her legs alone are, like, we don’t know, the height of a very large dog or maybe a very small horse or something. We’re not very good at comparisons like this.

Anyway, over on our Japanese sister site, this caught the attention of a female writer who, in her shock at Lei’s gorgeous but startlingly long legs, declared that she’d like to be kicked by them and then went to investigate more about this amazing model (disclaimer: our Japanese writers are kind of weird).

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Shia LeBeouf’s weird “TED Talk” rant reminds Netizens of Japanese celebrity’s similar pep talk

It’s easy to look at (former?) actor Shia LeBeouf‘s weird transition from child actor to adult superstar everyone assumed would be “the next Tom Hanks,” to an aspiring performance artist who wears bags on his head, stares at journalists in silence for hours and gives frightening “motivational speeches” in front of a green screen, and assume that we’re watching yet another celebrity slowly break down and lose his sanity under the public’s constant gaze.

It turns out, though, that weird green screen one – which was later turned into a TED Talk parody by the Internet – actually seemed bizarrely similar to a different motivational speech given on camera by widely loved Japanese celebrity and retired tennis player Shuzo Matsuoka.

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