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

Ads for JR’s “Seishun 18″ rail pass celebrate the isolated beauty of Japan’s most far-flung stations

It seems so easy to plan an entire Japan vacation around a single tour of the Tokyo metropolitan area. The mega city has just about everything a tourist could possibly want to see, from Akihabara’s blinding neon to the breathtaking skyline of Yokohama, to the quiet, old-world charm (and weird poop sculpture) of Asakusa.

But to not venture away from Tokyo, to Japan’s more far-flung and lesser-known destinations is to rob yourself of the grander Japan experience, and Japan Rail (JR) has long sought to encourage visitors, both domestic and foreign, to wander off the beaten path with the Seishun 18 unlimited rail pass. And, if the idea of unlimited access to JR’s vast and far-reaching network of tracks isn’t enough to inspire your sense of adventure on your next Japan visit, perhaps these ads for the Seishun 18 rail pass, which depict the isolated beauty of some of Japan’s most remote train stations, will be.

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Is the world ready for Japan’s new Lemon & Mint Pepsi? 【Taste test】

So, mint is an extraordinarily versatile, exceedingly summer-appropriate ingredient. It can add a refreshing bite to savory dishes, is the essential main ingredient in basically all of the world’s best ice cream flavors, and is the star of the show in that most refreshing of summer beverages, the mojito (without which would basically just be watery rum).

Mint is the miracle substance that makes Asia’s hellish, your-buddy-just-spontaneously-combusted-hot summers just the slightest bit tolerable; a fact that beverage and snack makers in Japan are finally catching onto, with each passing year seeing better and more diverse mint-infused offerings.

But lemon and mint? That’s the new flavor combo Pepsi is banking on to be the next big thing with its new “Pepsi Special Lemon Mint” drink offering, and we’re just the slightest bit wary.

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Taiwanese illustrator gives Dragon Ball characters bizarre, gender-swapped erotic novel cover makeover

While you may be inclined to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon curled up on the couch, binge-watching Game of Thrones and consuming eight entire pints of Chunky Monkey ice cream (just us?), a certain demographic in Japan would much rather stretch out on the tatami with a nice, wholesome… erotic novel.

See, while the romance novel section of a western bookstore is a lonely wasteland, tucked away in the far corner, illuminated by nothing but a single bulb swinging lazily from the ceiling, erotic novels and manga are comparatively more accepted and, dare we say it, widely read in Japan and a handful of other Asian countries, such that the formulaic cover illustration template that near every publisher of the books seems to use has evolved into a kind of cultural shorthand for cheesy, kinky escapades.

So, let’s keep that in mind as we take a look at this Taiwanese illustrator’s collection of cool, gender-swapped Dragon Ball character book covers. You’re welcome to appreciate the raw talent and attention to detail here, just, uh… remember which section of the bookstore you’d be finding these in if they were real.

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The ingenious (and ridiculous) ways the Vietnamese are fending off the crippling summer sun

The summer is seriously no time to be in any part of Asia, really. While you might exaggeratedly fan yourself with your hand and joke about frying eggs on the sidewalk when thermometers in your hometown start creeping past the upper-20s (Celsius) come late July, society in Asia is basically devolving into Lord of the Flies, with people in China retreating into caves, those in Japan sweating buckets and people in Vietnam desperately scrambling for whatever random object they can find to fend off the violent rays of the sun, lest they literally burst into flames.

That last one, we suppose, is good for us, as at least it’s resulted in a few photos for us to chuckle over as we write this from our ice-filled summer cave bunker.

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Square Enix to release Dragon Quest game exclusive to smartphones

Game developer Square Enix, renowned for its number of long-running Japanese RPG series, announced yesterday that a new, smartphone-only entry in the fabled Dragon Quest franchise will hit online stores sometime this year.

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Pursue romance with a gorilla in new dating sim “I Fell in Love Gorilla”

If you’ve ever looked at all the vanilla dating sims coming out of Japan and thought, “Man, I’d really like to give one of those dating sims a try. But my true romantic interests lie with gorillas,” then we have great news for you!

Gorilla Kareshi (oradorably, I Fell in Love Gorilla, in English, it seems) is just the dating sim for you! Not only does it feature a gorilla love interest, the gorilla is the only possible love interest in the game.

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Japanese Netizens go crazy (again) for this gorgeous Taiwanese woman

Japan has long had a saying that Taiwan has a disproportionate ratio of incredibly beautiful women.

While there may or may not be truth to that (science is surprisingly light on “hot girl ratio” studies), one Taiwanese teen came to be known as the poster girl who proved the saying right among Japanese Netizens back in the mid-2000s.

And now, thanks to social media, Taiwanese beauty Chen Xiaoyu is back in the Japanese spotlight – all grown up now and making the rounds again now that hungry Japanese Netizens have found her Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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Slow news day special: Pigeons who think they’re people spotted in Japanese McDondald’s

Another slow news day, another bird-themed Japanese Twitter picture making the rounds.

To put it lightly, Japan’s major cities have a bit of a pigeon problem. According to Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies, the pigeon (or, holy crap, technically the “feral rock dove”), is an invasive species to the Japanese mainland that now inhabits essentially every speck of land, including, even, some distant islands belonging to Japan.

As with invasive pigeons in other cities throughout the world, Japanese pigeons have largely adapted to an urban environment, losing their instinctive fear of humans, nesting in and among buildings and, apparently, even frequenting McDonald’s.

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“Wait for the locksmith” – Woman refuses help from fire department as kid roasts inside luxury car

A woman in China is being skewered on the Interwebs worldwide for her decision to refuse help from the fire department in rescuing her three-year-old child, who was trapped inside her luxury BMW on an exceptionally hot summer’s day.

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Popular cosplayer’s school photos reveal amazing transformative powers of cosplay

Over the past just half decade or so, cosplay has gone from being a niche hobby that some people found intolerably nerdy at best (and a sign of social dysfunction at worst), to being not only accepted by most, but even celebrated, with some of the best and most frequent cosplayers even enjoying a sort of minor celebrity status.

Cosplay’s growing popularity no doubt has a lot to do with the ongoing explosion of superhero films and the growing mainstream acceptance of other “nerdy” hobbies like video games, comic books and even anime and manga. Suddenly, the idea of using cosplay to escape your own skin and explore other identities on a regular basis is nearly as socially accepted as donning your Robo Pope costume for Halloween.

And some masterful cosplayers have used the medium to explore such drastically different identities that seeing them sans costume can be a shock, as Japanese Netizens learned recently when a popular cosplayer revealed some old yearbook photos.

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This wedding hall in Japan will provide an alpaca to witness you exchange your vows

Weddings are a sacred ritual that take place across all cultures and lifestyles. They are typically extravagant, expensive affairs, with many in attendance. They often adhere to strict observance of certain religious and/or traditional rituals, whether it be the reading of certain Christian Bible passages, the breaking of a wine glass at Jewish weddings, or the ubiquitous “kissing of the bride.”

These ceremonies are held for myriad purposes, but primarily, weddings are held to see two individuals come together as a family unit in the eyes of the law and the participants’ chosen religion.

And, in Tochigi Prefecture, also in the eyes of this alpaca.

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Artist depicts kill count of major Dragon Ball heroes in cool illustrations

Insofar as you can say that a character in the Dragon Ball  universe can really “die” (Krillin has supposedly “died” so many times we’re suspicious he’s actually a Terminator) there have been a lot of major deaths in the franchise, and the large majority of those kills are, unsurprisingly, at the hands of the series’ primary protagonists.

Even though the series is ostensibly a kids’ show, the weighty subject matter, with battles often fought to determine whether or not entire worlds and/or solar systems will be blown up, basically demands that somebody’s gotta give up the ghost once in a while. But it’s hard to get a handle on the true extent of the carnage, given that every major death is typically punctuated by nine episodes of people yelling and grunting.

Now, though, we can finally get an at-a-glance picture of how many kills each hero in the series has racked up, thanks to these neat illustrations by DeviantArtist, Alberto Cubatas.

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We scarf down all-you-can-eat fried chicken at a Tokyo pub

Let it never again be said that America is the only country that has an unhealthy relationship with fried foods.

While you may not find such cynically, blatantly unhealthy fare as fried butter and fried Oreos  here in Japan, you will find that many square meals consumed in Japan are going to come with some kind of fried food. A lot of times the default is karaage, a dish that is basically the Japanese analogue to American fried chicken, and an item that Japanophiles the world over desperately, vainly argue is somehow healthier than American fried chicken by virtue of its, uh… Japanese-ness or something?

The truth is, karaage is every bit as unhealthy as fried chicken from anywhere else and the Japanese are just as prone to gorging on it to the point of discomfort. Don’t believe us? Exhibit A: This all-you-can-eat fried chicken restaurant we went to for, uh… “research purposes.”

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Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has died

It’s a very sad day for gaming.

This morning, Nintendo released a statement that the company’s much-beloved president and CEO, Satoru Iwata, died in hospital on July 11 due to medical complications arising from a bile duct tumor that had been discovered some time before. Iwata was the first person to assume the role of president at the company who was not immediately related to members of the Yamauchi founding family.

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More lifehacks! The easiest way to keep champagne from going flat, tested

There are all kinds of urban legends and so-called old wives’ tales that proclaim the health benefits, or time-saving benefits, borderline magical properties, or terrifying dangers of doing X or Y. We’ve heard them all: Don’t eat within thirty minutes of swimming or you’ll get a cramp and literally die, bundle up when it’s cold outside or you’ll get a cold (by the way, oh my god, people, stop it with this; a cold is a virus, you don’t get it from the weather), an apple a day will keep the doctor away, a watched pot never boils, etc.

It’s almost like these old sayings and legends are the pre-Internet era equivalent of lifehacks! And since we’ve sort of been on a lifehacking streak recently, we decided to give one of these a test for ourselves: Specifically, the rumor that sticking a spoon into the neck of a champagne bottle will keep it from going flat.

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New action manga stars… anthropomorphized blood cells?

If there’s anything we learned from the 1980s sci-fi classic Innerspace, other than that young Dennis Quaid was super dreamy, it’s that there is tons and tons of untold drama taking place amidst the complicated inner workings of our bodies. Also, it taught us that probably you shouldn’t sign up for mysterious medical experiments, lest you end up shrunk down to the size of a microbe and find yourself hurtling around someone’s rectal cavity at breakneck speeds.

Recognizing that there’s a lot of potential for action and adventure in a story set inside the human body, a Japanese manga artist has introduced a new manga series which follows a team of red and white blood cells trying to protect the human body they call home.

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New K-pop video features dance number with hilarious, unintentional Attack on Titan reference

Attack on Titan and K-pop are both making huge cultural waves in Japan right now. Attack on Titan, presumably, because of its inherent badassness (plus its currently screening and upcoming movies), and K-pop because men and women alike find the melodies extremely catchy and, let’s face it, the girls and guys in the videos extremely pleasing to the eye.

So it was, of course, only a matter of time before these two pop cultural, ahem, titans clashed in one way or another. And while we were expecting, eventually, some kind of official collaboration between the anime franchise and, say, KARA – the K-pop band largely credited with kicking off Japan’s current K-pop boom – it turns out the first piece of Internet ephemera to, accidentally, hilariously, combine the two is just so, so much better.

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Soccer star Ronaldo is at it again, now starring in ad for weird Japanese ab device 【Video】

There are a lot of things about Cristiano Ronaldo that we know to be true. He is objectively a very attractive man. He is objectively a fantastic soccer player. He objectively very rich. He is – and we say this without irony – “big in Japan.” He is objectively in great shape.

He will also, objectively, endorse near any damn thing. Like this weird ab device.

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Do old eggs really float? We test this common “lifehack”

Listen guys, unless you have a huge surplus of pants hangers, Q-tips, dental floss and whatever weird detritus that’s often recommended, a lot of so-called “lifehacks” – those hobo techniques for saving money and/or accomplishing some inane task with “readily available” household objects – are a bit impractical, if they even work at all.

But there’s one, at least, that seems like it could perfectly epitomize the intended convenience of the lifehack: Testing the freshness of eggs by just dropping them into a cup of water. We’ve all got water and a cup on hand and, so long as you’re a sentient human being and not, like, a family dog reading this on your owner’s tablet after you taught yourself English.

But does this egg trick really work? Impressed at having actually found a real, potentially useful lifehack, we took it upon ourselves to test it out. Here’s what we found.

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Aomori’s fabled Nebuta Festival 2015 to feature Star Wars floats

Aomori Prefecture’s legendary Nebuta Festival – which takes place in early August every year – has always been one of those big festivals on my Japan bucket list.

Even though the festival is one of the prestigious few festivals to receive the staggeringly long designation of Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan, we’re willing to bet the festival is largely overlooked by Western visitors. This is, probably, largely due to Aomori’s fairly remote location; it’s a real pain to get to from Tokyo, Osaka or any of the other major cities outside of Sapporo.

But then, what if that wasn’t the biggest reason foreigners aren’t totally aware of this great festival? What if the real reason was the festival’s lack of Star Wars characters?

Luckily, whether or not that’s the real case, that sore lack of Star Wars characters at the Aomori Nebuta Festival is going to change this year.

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