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

Sharp’s awesome new display tech licensed to Nintendo… who may not even use it for games

When you picture the evolution of TVs and other electronic displays, it’s hard not to be in awe at just how far they’ve come, getting thinner, more lightweight and portable than ever, with higher definition and brightness to the point that real-life basically looks pretty dull in comparison. But they’ve never really been able to shake that same boring shape: a flat rectangle.

So when Sharp announced it had developed a “Free-Form Display” that could be manufactured in virtually any shape, a lot of people more technically oriented than I am – and thus able to more easily imagine the many uses of a display shaped like a shoe or something – instantly proclaimed it a game-changer.

And when Sharp boasted about the technology, among those companies listening was Nintendo, who promptly snapped up a license for the tech and became the first company to officially announce it would use it for a future product.

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Mayonnaise and takuan sandwich proves disgusting food combinations are big business in Japan

If you’ve lived in Japan a while or even just visited, you may recognize the word “takuan” – a type of Japanese pickle made from radishes and served as a side dish – and you’ll almost certainly recognize mayonnaise as that thing that is incongruously glopped on just about everything in Japan.

You’ll probably also recognize that these two items have absolutely no business together, especially if just stuffed unceremoniously into a loaf of bread, but, you see, this combination was almost inevitable because, as we’ve proven time and time again, gross food combinations are just the bee’s knees when it comes to prepackaged foods in Japan.

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Flipping the kanji for “husband” upside-down reveals slightly worrying double meaning

The common stereotype about women among sexually frustrated, mostly parents’ basement-dwelling, men is that girls only go for attractive, rich guys, and never the nice, tender guys with warm hearts and chic fedoras.

Well, when it comes to one of those observations, anyway, there appears to be at least one cultural precedent of a diabolical hidden message that seemingly proves the stereotype right in one of the very words that defines men and women’s relationship in Japan…

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Pokémon fans’ heads exploding over guy’s classic Game Boy makeover video

There was a time not too long ago when smartphones didn’t exist and the best and only way to game on-the-go and/or avoid actual social interaction with your peers was to lug around a slightly clunky, black-and-white-only Game Boy that sucked down ungodly amounts of batteries and played just-below-NES-standard games.

Of course, the Game Boy remains a fond memory for most gamers that grew up on it, despite the fact that the device itself looked ancient even back in its heyday and had a massive library of games, many of which were really bad. But for fans of Pokémon – one of the few franchises spawned on the console – the Game Boy is like some kind of holy relic.

So imagine the head-explosions that must be happening all across Pokémon fandom following a netizen’s brilliant video of his Pokémon Game Boy makeover.

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Our hero Ladybeard shows us and the world how to properly wear the much-talked about boob shirt

The last we heard from local hero and generally awesome person Ladybeard, he was promoting English classes from a language school in conjunction with the always pleasant and surprisingly proficient-English-speaker Sailor Suit Old Man. Since then, it seems Ladybeard has seriously upped his fashion game, currently sporting the much-talked about boob window shirt that has taken Japanese social media by storm.

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Street Fighter II creator Yoshiki Okamoto talks games and his new project, Monster Strike 【Interview】

When Street Fighter II creator and retro gaming legend Yoshiki Okamoto announced two years ago that he was leaving console games forever to pursue mobile gaming projects, many probably thought he was joking. A lifelong arcade and console game creator abandoning ship to work in the much loathed and parodied mobile platform? This must be some kind of pre-retirement prank, surely?

As it happens, Okamoto was dead serious, and – far from having retired – has made good on his promise to focus on mobile games, working with a protege to crank out one of the most successful mobile games of all time: Monster Strike.

Monster Strike has reached over 16 million players in Japan and Taiwan, exceeding all expectations and becoming a cultural institution in the game’s native Japan. Sensing it was time to strike out into other territories, Okamoto, game producer Koki Kimura and his team are now working to expand the game into the west and beyond. We caught up with Okamoto and Kimura in San Francisco at Monster Strike’s North American launch party to talk about the game and the industry in general:

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One Piece New Year’s Eve Special apparently set to make series fans cry big, fat tears of pirate joy

Fans of the increasingly wacky and complex pirate world of One Piece will surely be either thrilled or horrified to know that there will be an all-new, super extra special New Year’s Eve broadcast of a One Piece animated film in Japan. As a fan, whether you fall into the thrilled or horrified category will probably depend on whether or not you currently reside in Japan, as the special is apparently set for just one single broadcast in the anime’s native country only.

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Restaurant refuses to serve couples on Dec. 24 so singles won’t be reminded of their loneliness

Ah, December 24, Christmas Eve. The time to spend with parents, siblings, drunken aunts and that one crazy uncle that’s always telling you about chemtrails after four or five eggnogs. Or, the time for romantic dinner dates, proposals and convenience store chicken, if you’re in Japan.

The holiday has long been the bane of Tokyo singles, who are forced to watch thousands of happy couples marching all over town Christmas Eve, hand-in-hand, checking out the Christmas “illumination” shows that have become so popular over the years. That it’s one of the few times public displays of affection are relatively accepted in polite Japanese society just makes it all the more difficult for lonely guys and gals to bear.

But, this year, one Tokyo restaurant has a plan to give all those Forever Alones out there a safe haven to dine in peace on Christmas Eve and, who knows, maybe even find a potential partner.

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We desperately want to hire these adorable Indian freelance “idols”

We’ve already seen a lot of “boyfriend for hire” stuff around Asia, which seems to be really into the idea of paying for romantic encounters, but until now we’ve never seen someone offering their boyish good looks and charming company for free.

Meet Dev and San, two kindhearted Indian models working as freelance “idols” – a popular term in Asia for models you can hire for a variety of situations – for the low, low price of absolutely nothing.

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Asada sisters nail it with “Let it Go” figure skating routine

It can’t be overstated just how in love with Disney’s Frozen Japan is. The return to classic “princess tale” Disney form was received especially well by the Japanese – notorious consumers of all things cute that they are.

Of course, this means that you can’t go five minutes in Japan without hearing either the English or popular Japanese version of the film’s hit single, “Let it Go.” It’s long since become grating to hear and we really wish they’d just, er… stop.

But if there’s one way to send the song out with a bang before everyone mercifully, um… gives it up, it’s this awesome figure skating routine by Japan’s Asada sisters.

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Famous Japanese television personality mimics what foreign languages sound like to non-speakers

Kazuyoshi Morita – better known as Tamori-san, the pet name that a loving Japanese public has addressed him by for decades – is one of the longest-running comedians to appear on Japanese TV. He’s been around so long, we assume he got his start doing stand-up before TVs were even invented.

In addition to being the longest-running host of a live television program, having hosted the widely beloved morning variety show Waratteii Tomou, Tamori-san is also famous for his talent in mono mane (doing impressions). While this is common knowledge in Japan, it apparently took a decade-or-so-old clip of a (still very old-looking) younger Tamori-chan doing spot-on impressions of what foreign languages sound like to non-speakers to wake the rest of the world up to his unique skill set.

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You might never eat seafood again after you watch this horrifying lobster molting on land

When we posted a video of an enormous, pulsating, terrifying spider crab slowly escaping the confines of its old shell and setting off in search of new digs and (probably) human souls, we thought that was about the most horrifying the process of molting could really get.

Then we saw this video of a spiny lobster molting on land. We will never be the same.

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“Perfect” Russian model is 8 years old, “arouses” inappropriate interest from Netizens

A while back we wrote about a little girl named Kristina Pimenova – a then-5-or-so year-old Russian model that was just the most adorable thing ever. Posing in over-sized clothes like she’d just raided her older sister’s closet, she was basically the definition of adolescent cuteness.

Well, now she’s grown up and the Internet’s feelings about little Pimenova – now eight – have grown considerably more complicated.

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Popular TV show’s awe-inspiring Mario dance number is geektastically cool

Quick, what is the geekiest thing you can imagine ever possibly happening? Is it four grown adults dressed like Mario characters dancing a Mario-themed, choreographed dance to classic Mario music, on a stage replete with several thousand-dollar Mario-themed props, in front of a crowd that is only passively aware of the Mario franchise at best, plus those guys from Duck Dynasty and some shirtless guy?

Well, if you were thinking of that oddly specific scenario, you are way off base, because one couple on Dancing with the Stars just made Mario-themed dancing about the coolest, most mainstream thing around with a beautifully choreographed routine that is proving a major YouTube hit.

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In Japan, nothing says “Merry Christmas, Baby” like greasy convenience store chicken

We all know that KFC is a big, big deal in Japan around Christmas-time. Families order huge Christmas platters for the holiday and singles celebrate by inviting friends over and bringing home a bucket of Special Recipe.

While it may strike Westerners as a delightfully quirky example of holidays getting lost in translation this side of the Pacific, to the Japanese, it’s a cherished tradition. And, of course, a multi-million dollar cash cow for KFC; one that convenience store chains are always eager to get a piece of.

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Chinese E-cigarettes might be wreaking more havoc on your computer than on your lungs

If you’ve turned to E-cigarettes to reduce the damage of your smoking habit or help you quit, you may want to avoid Chinese brands unless you’re prepared to turn your computer into a smoking, sputtering paperweight as a sacrifice to your improved health.

That’s because there seems to be mounting evidence that some Chinese E-cigarettes can literally infect your computer with viruses and malware.

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Guy asks Twitter to decode late uncle’s encrypted message, gets results in matter of hours

Call us jaded, but usually when we think of the Internet, we think of a cesspit of erotic fan fiction, toxic message boards and comments sections filled with ignorance, anger and bad grammar, punctuated by the very occasional glimmer of the web’s potential for greatness, usually in the form of reddit AMAs.

One of those glimmers came a few days ago when a Japanese Twitter user posted a plea for help from fellow net users in decoding a message left behind in his late uncle’s diary.

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Adorable chicken traveller actually headed to nauseating final destination in series of promo pics

“Go forth, young one,” the adorable fowl’s equally adorable parents probably said. “It is time for you to strike out on your own. You are destined to do great things.”

We picture a bittersweet farewell, tears running down the proud parents’ beaks, each pecking nervously at the ground in turn, their prodigal son equipped with nothing but the knapsack ‘round his neck and a meager meal of two leeks.

If only the proud parents had known their young son’s final destination…

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We don’t know what Vanadium is either, but Asahi put it in a drink for you anyway

On November 18, Asahi released its new Fuji-san Vanadium Natural Water Hot, apparently banking on the idea that regular convenience store-going human beings would both a) know what Vanadium is, and b) actually want to consume just plain hot water out of a bottle.

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Super Federo? Those goofy Mercedes x Mario ads may have had some unexpected celebrity cameos

A lot of ’80s-era kids probably entertained the fantasy of meeting their biggest childhood heroes in the flesh at one point or another. And no, we’re not talking about Michael Jordan or other sports stars of the time. We’re talking about someone far less, uh… athletic: Mario.

Of course, had kids met the real-life Mario and/or Luigi depicted in this goofy and sort of frightening Mario x Mercedes collaboration commercial, they probably would have run for their lives and sworn off Nintendo games forever. But, beneath all the ugly prosthetics and hulking physiques of these game heroes come to life, there may have been, at least according to Japanese netizens, some far more approachable real-life athletes.

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