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

New Japanese fragrance apparently smells like the bath towel of a woman straight out of the shower

Maybe you’ve heard about the legendary used panty vending machines of Japan. With all the “weird Japan” news floating around out there, it’s hard to miss the exaggerated stories of hidden vending machines selling used undergarments so that shy pervs can indulge in the, erm…unique fragrance without actually having to go out and interact with a real live woman.

Of course, the used pantie vending machines are kind of a myth; sure, one or two of them exist, but it’s not like they’re on every other block like breathless news coverage suggests.

However, lonely weirdos shouldn’t give up hope just yet, because it turns out we’ve reached a technological point in time in which Japanese companies are able to recreate the fragrance of a woman’s bath towel fresh from the shower, which is maybe, we guess, the next best thing to used panties.

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We check out the spooky snacks of the ghost-themed GeGeGe no Kitaro cafe

Maybe you’re familiar with the popular video game and anime franchise Yokai Watch. It’s a series that combines the addictive qualities of Pokemon with the traditional ghostly lore of Japanese yokai monster stories.

But maybe you didn’t realize the “real OG,” if you will, when it comes to cutesy renditions of traditional Japanese ghosts is the manga and anime franchise GeGeGe no KitaroGoing strong since the 1960s, Kitaro is a beloved series in Japan that tells the tale of a ghostly boy fighting for peace between humans and ghouls, like a Japanese ghost-flavored X-Men.

The series is especially cherished in the author’s hometown in Tottori, but Kitaro mania extends as far as Tokyo proper, where a Kitaro-themed cafe exists. Of course, our ghost-obsessed Japanese writer felt compelled to make a pilgrimage recently.

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Photos reveal Yamaha and Suzuki’s startlingly different approaches to scooter storage space

In the US, you don’t see a whole lot of people putting around on tiny scooters very often. The long highway commutes and high speed limits make your standard Vespa types pretty impractical for all but the most dedicated of Williamsburg hipsters.

It’s another story in Japan, though, where road commutes are comparatively shorter and speed limits within the city are only a little faster than a light jog anyway. Scooters are a common sight and come in tons of varieties, with two of Japan’s two-wheeled vehicle heavyweights, Suzuki and Yamaha, neck and neck for market share.

But it turns out that the two companies’ nearly identical scooter designs take a remarkably different tack when it comes to storage space. Tennis enthusiasts, especially, may want to take note:

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Chocolate thief writes adorable apology note to sister after failed attempt to cover up his crime

A cautionary tale as old as time unfolded into an epic saga of crime and redemption in the Japanese Twitterverse recently, when a young boy’s inability to control himself around his sister’s chocolate stash ended in the kid embarking on a heist-like caper to replace the chocolate bar he couldn’t help but munch on before his sister noticed.

When the boy’s less-than-masterful plan failed, though, he resorted to writing this adorable apology letter.

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We check out Sushi Bar Yoshihachi, a taste of American sushi in Okinawa

As a nearly 10-year resident of Japan, whenever I’m back to visit the States I love taking friends and acquaintances out to a nearby sushi bar and being easily the most knowledgeable sushi snob in the whole place. While my buddies are pouring over the weird fusion sushi – inevitably featuring fried shrimp sticking out at crazy angles like that spider-head monster in The Thing – I’m busy cramming the more delicately-flavored and exotic nigiri cuts into my gullet, rolling my eyes around in the back of my head and making exaggerated, mmmm, ohhh man, noises and sometimes giving the side-eye to the guy reluctantly prodding his uni nigiri like it’s going to come to life and slither off the table.

I’ve developed a taste for Japanese style-sushi, in other words, and I’m not afraid to be a jerk about it. But, back here in Japan, I’ll be damned if I don’t sometimes get intense cravings for a good ol’ California roll. Luckily, there’s a great place serving authentic American California rolls and other “Americanized” sushi in Okinawa, just a (relatively) short hop from Tokyo, and you can bet we went to try it out!

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Furikake rice toppings gaining popularity in US, but are Americans doing it wrong?

Until recently, rice-loving Americans looking to add a little zing to their favorite grain would need to trek out to the nearest Asian grocery store to pick up a pack of furikake rice topping. But now, according to Japanese media, the toppings are gaining traction on the US west coast and is becoming more widely available.

Furikake consists of a mish-mash of ingredients that have been dried and powdered and, in Japan, is intended specifically and only to be sprinkled atop a steaming hot bowl of sticky Japanese rice; which explains why many Japanese people are reacting with shock at how the Americans are choosing to deploy the condiment.

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This Japanese actress showed off some cleavage in a photoshoot, and Japanese media went nuts

Maybe Japanese-Philippine actress Elaiza Ikeda isn’t yet a household name in Japan or abroad, but if the Japanese media’s reaction to her debut as a “gravure” model is any indication, that may be changing very soon.

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Which anime fighting techniques would win in real life? Fans give their answer with comedic video

A couple of American anime fans (well, at least one of them is anyway…) recently released a YouTube video that imagines a super obsessive anime enthusiast trying out his favorite techniques from the anime worlds he’s grown up watching.

Most of the techniques provide less-than-stellar results (spoiler: writing a person’s name in a “Death Note” doesn’t work), but a surprise last-ditch attempt proves much more successful. Let’s watch:

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Check out Chinese media giant’s weird, passive-aggressive video assault on America 【Video】

It’s probably safe to say that China’s relationship with a number of countries is a little bit strained at this exact moment. The massive East Asian country has been enjoying something of a renaissance recently, but with that has come myriad international political issues as the country—and those interdependent with it for trade—grapple with China’s newfound status as an economic superpower.

But is China overstepping its bounds with this passive-aggressive, thinly veiled threat against the United States?

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Red Bull unveils new Japan-exclusive grape flavor

Red Bull has long been the official drink of all things EXTREME!™

But, if you’re anything like us, you’ve occasionally found yourself in the middle of a sick skydiving 360-degree kickflip while firing an assault rifle and been underwhelmed by the ability of the chemical, vaguely fruit-like taste of standard Red Bull to whet your whistle.

“If only there was grape-flavored Red Bull so I could be EXTREME without compromising taste,” you maybe thought to yourself. Luckily, in Japan anyway, Red Bull’s got your covered.

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Final Fantasy XV team’s “location hunt” video looks suspiciously like awesome adventure vacation

As the graphics in video games have become increasingly sophisticated, a new and unexpected expense has surfaced for design teams hoping to make their game’s environments as realistic as possible: the so-called “location hunt.”

While in the good ol’ days of pixel graphics, design teams could just look at some photographs or even paintings of real-world locations for inspiration, modern gaming’s open, 3-D worlds demand level and object design so advanced that it becomes a near-necessity for teams to travel to locales that closely resemble the digital worlds they’re hoping to create,  getting actual eyes on, say, that volcanic mountain they plan to have the player venture through, or checking out the minute curves and angles of some military hardware they plan on dropping into the game.

Ironically, though, while the “location hunt” is still considered work, outside of the unlucky design team that has to go inside of a volcano for that epic RPG boss fight or something, these excursions can actually end up looking suspiciously like a vacation. Just ask the Final Fantasy XV design team, who recently posted a YouTube video of their location hunt.

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A CD of Buddhist monks reciting sutras is one of Japan’s best selling albums

Man, remember CDs? For a time, they were the best and essentially only way to get your music fix, before digital distribution basically steamrolled CD sales worldwide. Now everybody uses those CD spindles—which once held dozens of CDs containing hundreds of hours of music—to keep their bagels from going stale or whatever.

Unsurprisingly, though, in change-averse Japan, CDs still do a brisk business, although sales are certainly waning and it’s only a matter of time before the Japanese, too, decide to collectively microwave their CD collections once and for all (this being the most fun way to dispose of your CDs). And one interesting side-effect of Japan’s CD business entering its twilight years is that some rather unexpected, and sometimes downright odd, albums have been stealthily cracking the top 10 charts.

For example, this CD containing a soothing collection of Buddhist monks reciting sutras.

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300 yen gets you all-you-can-apply Chanel makeup at unusual Tokyo lounge for women

Makeup is big business in Japan, where there’s almost a cultural obsession with the stuff. But the demand for makeup and beauty products also means, through the magic of capitalism, that it also tends to be a lot more expensive out here than in, say, the US. I’ve personally never purchased or used makeup, outside of, obviously, those Halloween Rocky Horror Picture Show events, so I couldn’t tell you exactly how much the average woman in Japan spends on makeup, but it’s gotta be somewhere in the ballpark of, hmm, approximately their entire paycheck every month.

Luckily, there appears to be a “lounge” in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood that is sympathetic to the thorough wallet-denting women must endure in the pursuit of beauty, offering all-you-can-apply Chanel makeup at just 300 yen (US$2.50) an hour. A service with “all-you-can-(verb)” in the description? You bet we went to check it out!

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We check out another all-you-can-eat yakiniku deal in Shinjuku, just 1,080 yen!

In short order, it seems we at RocketNews24 have found ourselves not only unwitting experts in fast foodology – what, with our near-constant coverage of McDonald’s new pie flavors and Lotteria’s most recent forays into madness – but we’ve also added quite a few notches into our cheap, all-you-can-eat yakiniku deals belt (which doesn’t even fit us anymore, if we’re being honest).

But, recently, our resident yakiniku fiend, Mr. Sato, reported he may just have found the cheap all-you-can-eat yakiniku restaurant to rule them all.

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Chiba ports become literal sea of garbage following last week’s severe flooding【Pics】

The ports around the Chiba-area city of Choshi were last year honored for the fourth year in a row for having the largest catch of mackerel pike (a very popular fish known as sanma in Japanese) in Japan.

But that’s of little comfort to local fishermen who have this year found their boats stranded in a literal sea of garbage and debris that has been carried into the ports from the Tonegawa River. The heavy flooding of the Kanto region brought about by last week’s relentless rain is believed to be the cause of the sudden influx of waste.

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Twitter users share 16 heartwarming moments of kindness in Japan

It’s far from the happiest place on earth, but Japan certainly has a reputation for kindness and hospitality. Most foreigners that visit the country return home with starry-eyed tales of over-the-top customer service and even random acts of kindness from total strangers.

But, this isn’t just a case of the Japanese putting on a good front for visiting foreigners: heartwarming acts of kindness in Japan are pretty commonplace (although this isn’t a Japan-exclusive thing; let’s be honest). If you’re in need of a Japan-flavored pick-me-up today, check out these stories of people being awesome, via Japanese Twitter users:

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J-Pop group Perfume was (kind of) at that big Apple presentation 【Video】

There seem to be two types of people when it comes to the J-Pop girl band Perfume: those who have never heard of them, and those that have already fainted from excitement upon reading the headline for this story.

Not too long ago, the group took Japan by storm and stole the hearts of J-Pop fans everywhere, although in truth it does seem like their popularity has lost a little steam as of late. But don’t worry, they’re still big enough to make a splash at the Apple presentation that happened Wednesday.

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Now bullet train geeks can ride the rare, top-secret “Doctor Yellow” train

It’s apparently a pretty rare sight, not unlike the majestic (read: ugly as sin) Northern Bald Ibis, the probably made-up Sasquatch, or the sober RocketNews24 writer, but on certain lengths of Shinkansen bullet train track, one can occasionally catch brief glimpses of a completely yellow bullet train as it whizzes past. Japan Rail (JR) doesn’t make the train’s schedule public, it doesn’t stop at stations, and it only runs a few times a month.

And, until a little later this year, no member of the public was ever allowed to ride. Learn how you can ride the special “Doctor Yellow” bullet train after the jump.

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TIL: Table tennis tables are blue because of a Japanese comedian’s random comment

There is no one “official” color that a table tennis table absolutely must be, according to the International Table Tennis Federation handbook. Nevertheless, there was apparently a time, not too long ago —let’s say, at least around the time Rocky was taking on Ivan Dragon—when more or less every table tennis table was an ugly, some might even say “gloomy” or “sinister,” dark green.

Well, that’s how one random Japanese comedian described the green tables in a throwaway comment he made in the late ’80s, which, rumor has it, is the reason most tables you see nowadays are a slightly more cheery blue.

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Takara Tomy’s new “Color Catch Pen” is amazing, but also looks kind of like a vibrator

…There. We said it.

As technologically cool and fun-sounding as the “Mitsukete-miyou! Iro Kyachi Pen” (lit. “Let’s Find it! Color Catch Pen”) appears to be, it also has the unfortunate appearance of a “massager,” which in Japan, is code for…Well, look, it’s code for a vibrator. Literally no one uses a “massager” for their back or any other non-genital area (and anyone who says otherwise is a dirty, filthy liar and probably also says they never pee in the shower, which we all know is a lie, too), so parents be warned: You and your child may have lots of fun playing with this fantastic, educational toy, but you will also never, ever, ever be able to shake the image of your nine-year-old holding something they might as well have found in your secret fun-time drawer out of your head for as long as you live.

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