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

If real animals were Pokémon, the world would be a much weirder place

If real animals were Pokémon, the world would be a much weirder place

The creators of Pokémon were nothing if not brilliant when they decided to make the collectible creatures cute and cuddly fantastical cryptid-like animals influenced by – yet sufficiently removed from – the designs of real-world critters. This allows the player/collector to suspend their disbelief enough that they don’t feel too bad about enslaving a living, breathing thing to battle other living, breathing things for their amusement.

But when you make it the other way around – real-world animals made to look like pokémon – things get a little more disturbing. Are you or your kids willing to capture, for example, an actual fox with nine tails and make it battle a giant frog with a flower on its back for bragging rights? That scenario isn’t too far removed from real-life cockfighting and dog fights.

This wasn’t a question we had to ask ourselves in the early days of Pokémon. But then, of course, the Internet happened, and the Internet is uniquely capable of making us feel bad about almost anything. So, for your amusement/guilt, we present to you real-world animals if they were pokémon:

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Okinawa restaurant’s amazing shaved ice belongs in a (sufficiently air-conditioned) museum

Okinawa restaurant’s amazing shaved ice belongs in a (sufficiently air-conditioned) museum

Of all the art-you-can-eat creations that seem to be trending in Japan these days, most use easily manipulated and relatively sturdy substances such as rice and grated daikon radish, plus obvious stuff like cake and marzipan. So if these trendy edible canvases rank an eight or a nine on a 1-to-10 food art skill rating, we’d have to wager that ice-based food art is cranking it up to 11. And with ice melting in a matter of minutes, you’d think somebody would have to be crazy to try and make an edible sculpture out of it.

We can picture it now: The poor, young shaved ice art prodigy ridiculed and shunned by the food art community, forced to take his craft to far-off Okinawa and a decrepit-looking shop on an unassuming corner to carry out his trade in relative anonymity.

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Chiba craft brewery releases unfortunately named “Immigrant Pilsner” for sale nationwide

Chiba craft brewery releases unfortunately named “Immigrant Pilsner” for sale nationwide

As a two-party democracy, the United States can be a fickle place for marketers. Republicans and Democrats are so different ideologically that certain words and phrases on your product label or in your ad campaign are practically guaranteed to alienate half of the market; or, if you’re especially unlucky, all of it. Take the word “immigrant,” for example – it’s a loaded word that will make Republicans shun your product believing that it advocates rights for immigrants (Remember, this is the same party whose leaders sometimes suggest in all seriousness building a moat – complete with cartoonish man-eating alligators – around the US to keep illegals out), while Democrats might see the word “immigrant” on a product and suspect some type of labor exploitation going on.

Luckily, Americans – and Japanese – of all stripes are united in their love of beer, so Chiba, Japan’s Loco Beer brewery’s rendition of an old American beer recipe, originally brewed by German immigrants, gets a pass from American expats and Japanese consumers alike on the unfortunate naming of its new Immigrant Pilsner craft beer.

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Bonkers lifehack products are the perfect combination of brilliant and stupid

Bonkers lifehack products are the perfect combination of brilliant and stupid

“Lifehack” is a word we only just started seeing in the English lexicon, thanks to the mighty power of the Internet to bring out the most brilliant and most stupid parts of humanity.

Many are eager to show their “lifehacking” inventions to the world at large or even sell them as lucrative products in the post-shopping channel age where consumers yearn for goods that will save them time, make their lives easier, and make them look awesome/incredibly ridiculous at parties.

We’ve decided to compile some of the most compelling and utterly ridiculous inventions that fall (sometimes vaguely) into the lifehack category, so you can try your hand at making them yourself:

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Extremely well-behaved Chinese dogs “say Grace” before daily meal

Extremely well-behaved Chinese dogs “say Grace” before daily meal

I can’t even remember the last time I “said Grace” before a meal. It must have been before my teens, when my parents realized I was a Godless, hopeless heathen that shoveled food into my mouth so fast I couldn’t even taste it.

Which, I guess, puts my manners one level below four Chinese dogs that dutifully bow and lower their heads as their owner/trainer says a few words of thanks for their meal.

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Japanese people most like to drink green tea with their chips, incredibly dull survey finds

Japanese people most like to drink green tea with their chips, incredibly dull survey finds

As a hardcore carnivore (not omnivore - I literally only eat meat), I’m not big on potato chips personally, but Japan is a surprisingly junk food-obsessed country and potato chips are as ubiquitous as the Pocky and Koala March candies that otaku across the globe are familiar with.

There are a huge variety of flavors, thicknesses, textures, shapes and designs to Japanese potato chips, and the industry is apparently so lucrative that consulting firm My Voice Communications – which has absolutely no affiliation with the potato chip industry – put together an insanely exhaustive and, frankly, thoroughly boring survey about Japanese potato chip preferences.

We yawned through the full survey so that you don’t have to. Here are the major takeaways, with all most of the dull stuff cut out:

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Scrapped original Dragon Ball designs bordered on plagiarism

Scrapped original Dragon Ball designs bordered on plagiarism

To the common Dragon Ball fan or student of historical Chinese literature, it’s probably not a big secret that the original Dragon Ball and the more popular spinoff, Dragon Ball Z, heavily borrow elements from one of the great Chinese novels, Journey to the West. 

Three recurring characters of the original run of the Dragon Ball series, Goku (the main protagonist), Bulma and Oolong, were all meant from the beginning to resemble important characters from Journey to the West, with each character being – even in the final forms of the manga and anime – a basic facsimile of their respective inspirations.

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Bizarre Tokyo shop sells retro sunglasses by the literal bowlful

Bizarre Tokyo shop sells retro sunglasses by the literal bowlful

Before you jump directly to the comments section to scold me about the proper usage of “literal” and the dangers of hyperbole, just know first off that the long-running Ikebukuro institution Rougan Megane Hakubutsukan (老眼メガネ博物館, or literally, “Aging Glasses Museum”) actually sells bowls full of retro sunglasses. And for just 280 yen (US$2.80) at that.

And, besides enabling writers like me to use the phrase “literal bowlful” in relation to something that isn’t a food item, Rougan Megane Hakubutsukan defies expectations in a lot of other ways, too.

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Up-and-coming band combines traditional Japanese instruments with pop metal and awesomeness

Up-and-coming band combines traditional Japanese instruments with pop metal and awesomeness

These tattooed badasses are not, in fact, extras from that bafflingly misguided 47 Ronin movie. They’re the members of the newly-signed Wagakki Band, which combines the chunky guitar chords and shredding of pop metal with traditional Japanese instruments for a totally awesome sound.

While the name Wagakki Band (Literally, “Traditional Japanese Instrument Band”) isn’t going to win any awards for creativity, the group’s head banging videos are a spectacle to behold; Sure to please fans of J-Pop, metal and old-timey Japanese imagery at once.

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More JSDF recruitment posters get a moe makeover in Ibaraki

More JSDF recruitment posters get a moe makeover in Ibaraki

It would seem that marketing in Japan is a far cry from the complicated psychological manipulation employed by the ad geniuses of Mad Men. Things, it would seem, are a lot simpler than that for advertising and promotions executives at Japanese firms, ever since someone came upon the brilliant idea of using cutesy anime girls to promote damn near everything.

The huge, innocent eyes and adolescent proportions of the common anime girl apparently trigger something deep in the dark recesses of the brain that makes people lose all rational control, buying up “moe”-promoted goods by the truckload and even making potentially life-endangering decisions like joining the Japan Self Defense Forces.

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Japanese casual steak joint set to debut in New York

Japanese casual steak joint set to debut in New York

When one thinks of exported Japanese food, one tends to imagine sushi, miso, and other dishes that have become so ingrained in the English lexicon that they no longer warrant italics.

One thing you almost definitely don’t consider when thinking about Japanese food is steak. Why would you? Steak is the territory of Western food, often associated specifically with American diners; Which is what makes the New York debut of Ikinari Steak – a Ginza-area chain – so much more surprising.

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What does “Konnichiwa” really mean? Understanding Japanese greetings

What does “Konnichiwa” really mean? Understanding Japanese greetings

Well, good afternoon/evening/morning/day everyone! Today we’re going to talk about Japanese greetings and what they really mean.

Just as in English, “Konnichiwa” or “Good day” is a greeting that is technically an idiom with a complex and near-forgotten past. Just as English language greetings tend to stem from bastardizations of foreign loan words and/or full sentences that have been gradually shortened over the years, “konnichiwa” is actually a shortened version of a full and meaningful greeting, because, if anything, human beings are a lazy sort with a bad habit of cutting corners whenever possible.

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Beautiful woman doing things: Unsettling art created by unexpected artist

Beautiful woman doing things: Unsettling art created by unexpected artist

Some of the best-yet-unsettling art in the world has often been created by male artists: be it Hemingway’s subtly disturbing short story, “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn,” the dark and surreal yarns of Cormac McCarthy (We hear reading Blood Meridian automatically qualifies you as suffering from PTSD), or the insidiously impossible physics of Dalí paintings, whenever we view somewhat disturbing artistic works, we tend to assume the author is a man.

So, you’d be forgiven for thinking the drawing below comes from a male artist with a particularly tormented past:

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Champion competitive eater Kobayashi goes undercover to punk soccer team in wing eating contest

Champion competitive eater Kobayashi goes undercover to punk soccer team in wing eating contest

Our loyal readers are probably more aware of who Takeru Kobayashi – the infamously voracious Japanese competitive eater – is than the New York Cosmos professional soccer team, but it looks like the Cosmos players weren’t so familiar with the diminutive athlete… Until now.

As part of an elaborate April Fool’s joke, New York Cosmos managers put together a stunt that saw Kobayashi posing as an employee at the frankly quite delicious Buffalo Wild Wings chicken wing chain as the Cosmos team filtered into the restaurant for a meal.

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Guy lifehacks his way to flawless “Seven Samurai” wall art

Guy lifehacks his way to flawless “Seven Samurai” wall art

When I was a freshman in university, still meandering aimlessly around campus as a General Education (read: “Future Starbucks Lifer”) major, I spent a brief stint in the art college thinking I’d give drawing or maybe even painting a try. After several months of doodling poorly-drawn machine gun-wielding dinosaurs attacking stick figures while my classmates were effortlessly putting together impressive full canvases, I decided I wasn’t really cut out for fine arts.

If only, like this guy, I’d known I could use clever lifehacks to give me an edge in class. The unnamed do-it-yourselfer used simple tools including a few different sizes of paint brush, a paint roller and an old-school projector hooked up to a computer to transfer an iconic scene from Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai onto a barren dining room wall with stellar results. To top it all off, he claims he has no formal training or innate art talent and that anyone with enough time and just the right amount of crazed dedication to pop culture can do it.

Here’s his step-by-step guide:

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New McDonald’s Japan menu item is lazy, looks suspiciously like dog food, says Japanese Net

New McDonald’s Japan menu item is lazy, looks suspiciously like dog food, says Japanese Net

Not everybody has time to cook a solid, healthy meal on their own every morning for breakfast. We get that. Hell, sometimes we’re forced to drink the leftover grease from last night’s KFC bucket just for some kind of nourishment as we dash out the door, so who are we to judge when someone opts for a fast food breakfast?

But imagine plopping down 619 yen (US$6) for the newest McDonald’s breakfast item you’d been waiting for, only for the cashier to present you with a heaping plate of random food bits that look like they were scraped together from various leftovers they found lying around in the kitchen.

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Japanese convenience stores set to somehow get even more awesome this year

Japanese convenience stores set to somehow get even more awesome this year

Japanese convenience stores are – as we’ve spoken about before – so awesome that if they offered to let you sleep on a cot in the backroom, you could live in one for your whole life and basically never want for anything.

In addition to all the delicious junk food, the endlessly flowing booze, coffee and other drinks, the ready-made meals (that have a sort of “slithery” quality and are one of the few things in a convenience store you should stay away from), and various daily necessities odds and ends, you can also withdraw cash, buy tickets for soccer matches, concerts and events, make copies, print photos, and probably clone your pet or something.

But, starting in 2014, things are about to get even more awesome. Check out the things you’ll soon be able to do at your local combini!

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Guy proves women’s makeup works eerily well on dudes too

Guy proves women’s makeup works eerily well on dudes too

If there’s one thing women are probably consistently jealous of men about, it’s the fact that a girl often feels that she has to go through a whole morning ritual that can last 20 minutes to an hour or two before they feel comfortable showing their faces in public, whereas guys can just hop out of bed, put on some pants (probably the same ones as the day before) and stroll out the door in 30 seconds flat if need be, and no one would be any the wiser.

But, if this Japanese dude is any indication, the fellas may have been doing it wrong the whole time and, just maybe, all that hard work on women’s part is worth the trouble after all. Here are some before/after photos of cosplaying Twitter user Chyaraizumi with and without women’s makeup on:

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“Denki Anma”: The Japanese traditional torment that you’ll be glad stays in Japan

“Denki Anma”: The Japanese traditional torment that you’ll be glad stays in Japan

Kids find all kinds of ways to playfully bully each other that adults might shake their heads at. In the West, this might manifest as little mean-spirited pranks like nipple twisters, convincing a kid to eat a whole tube of toothpaste, or to run up and touch the creepy cat lady’s house in the middle of the night.

But Japanese kids tend to take a more sexually charged approach. We’ve already talked about the intricacies of the infamous kancho – that mighty, two-handed violation of someone’s hind quarters that happens to every westerner at least once and lingers in their psyche for decades, yet the Japanese shrug it off as just another schoolhouse (or workplace) prank.

But one you may not have heard about is the long-standing tradition of the “Denki Anma.”

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We put the internet’s “techniques for emptying your bladder with morning wood” to the test

We put the internet’s “techniques for emptying your bladder with morning wood” to the test

Ladies, you might want to cover your eyes for this one, ’cause this piece is going to get a little, um… messy.

Guys know all too well how awkward it can be to wake up with what is not-so-delicately referred to as “morning wood;” That is, a big honkin’ erection first thing in the morning for no apparent reason. Now, if you’re getting your standard eight hours of sleep, odds are – man or woman – you’re also going to have an urge to pee, but morning wood complicates this significantly: How on earth do you empty your bladder while pitching an underpants tent?

A series of hilarious diagrams outlining the possible methods a man may use to tackle this situation recently appeared online. The Japanese arm of our site thought these were frankly the best thing ever, but wondered whether they could really be applied to real life, so with a willing model and a camera, headed into the bathroom to give the poses – from “the Lunge” to “the Superman” – a try.

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