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The Japan Self-Defense Forces have their own kind of Coming-of-Age ceremony and it’s pretty cool

If you haven’t heard yet, last week 20-year-olds all over Japan dressed up and gathered together on January 12 for their government official Coming-of-Age ceremonies. The event takes place every year for any young adult who turned 20 in the previous year. It’s an event that signifies their entry into adulthood and ability to legally drink alcohol.

However, there are some 20-year-olds who don’t get to celebrate the same way as their peers: those who joined the Japan Self-Defense Forces after high school and are off on duty somewhere. The forgotten few were not so forgotten this year, as some pictures of them were posted on Twitter. And you thought the guys in Okinawa were badass? Check out these soldiers.

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Struggling with Japanese? Let Tako lend you a hand…or five

Yes, I know octopi have eight tentacles not six, but Tako of Takos Japanese has five. It’s the same cartoon logic that makes the Simpson family all have eight fingers. And yes, I know the name should probably read “Tako’s Japanese.” Really though, let’s not get bogged down in talk of appendages and apostrophes right now.

Today we’re here to look at a new Japanese study app released by Spain-based Giant Soul Interactive. A lot of Japanese study apps found online are either fun but limited in content or deep but boring and stodgy. Learn Japanese with Tako (recently changed from “Takos Japanese”) aims to strike a happy balance of a fun way to learn the language that’s also rich in content. Let’s find out if they succeed.

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The 6 volcanoes most likely to destroy, like, everything (guess which country has the most)

If volcanoes were comic or fantasy villains, they’d be more akin to Marvel’s cosmic entities or Lovecraftian horrors than the puny likes of Magneto or, uh… The Slug (I don’t know many Marvel villains). They strike only every few thousand years before slipping back into a long slumber, lurking for centuries as humanity slowly forgets the horrors they can inflict, inching closer to the looming mountains with each passing year, setting up cities at their very feet. Then, when mankind least expects it – just chillin’ ‘n shit as Dave Chappelle might say – the volcano strikes again, blasting molten rock and ash over miles and miles, smothering out whole cities in the (cosmically speaking) blink of an eye.

Yet, even as we know intellectually that volcanoes are kind of a big deal, we tend to look up at them less with abject horror and awe and more with shouts of, “Hey, check out that big-ass rock!”

Well people, we’ve got news for you: There are at least six big-ass rocks capable of blotting out not just entire cities, but entire civilizations and possibly humanity itself and you’ll never guess which disaster-prone island nation has the most.

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It sounds like HTC’s new phone is going to have an incredible camera

HTC is planning to announce a new smartphone and smartwatch at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona on March 1, according to a report from Bloomberg.

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Islamic State militants demand $200m for release of Japanese nationals, threaten their execution

A video purported to have been made by Islamic State militants showing a man dressed in black standing over two Japanese hostages has been released online. The video addresses both the Japanese government and Japanese public directly and demands a ransom of US$200 million, to be paid in less than 72 hours.

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Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya nominated for Academy Award

We’re just about a month away from the 87th Academy Awards presentation, and if you’re a general cinema fan, odds are you’ve been looking forward to the event. However, if the only thing that can make you take a trip to the theater is a screening of a Studio Ghibli anime, you might not have been expecting too much from the gala to be held at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater.

Ghibli’s newest film, When Marnie Was There, hasn’t been getting the sort of rave reviews of a Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. Six months after its Japanese release, Marnie is mostly forgotten in its home country and still unreleased in North America, making it ineligible for this year’s Oscar race.

Thanks to the time lag caused by international distribution, though, Ghibli does have one film eligible for the upcoming academy awards, and it just cleared the first hurdle with the Academy announcing The Tale of Princess Kaguya as a nominee in the Best Animated Feature Category.

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Swiss man visits Japan, returns home an internet sensation 【Photos】

Lovers of Japan and Japanese pop culture the world over plan for their dream trip to the motherland of anime, delicious food, and all things cute, to experience first-hand all that this fantastic country has to offer. For those finally living the dream, social media makes it easy to share your adventures with friends, family, and others interested in Japanese culture too.

When Twitter user Swiss Ambassador Rayun (@yuzu_rayun) documented his most recent trip to the Land of the Rising Sun – posting pictures of his travels, delicious eats, and his haul of eroge (erotic game) goods – we doubt he expected the amount of fame he was about to receive, as his Twitter follower tally has grown by the thousands over the past few days.

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Artist gives the finger to famous characters from fiction and real life

Our fingers are each a special snowflake, the ridges and whorls on the pads creating a unique pattern that sets us apart from anyone else. Criminals go to great lengths to make sure not so much as a pinky touches the scene to leave incriminating evidence, but if they get careless and leave a print behind perhaps they could give some of the following disguises a try.

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Supaida-Man is here to save the day with sub-machine guns and giant robots!

Spider-Man is one of the most recognizable comic book characters of all time. However, unless you grew up in Japan in the 1970s, you probably aren’t familiar with this version of your friendly neighborhood wallcrawler. Here’s your chance to witness some historical web-slinging action as Marvel has re-released the live-action Japanese Spider-Man on their website. Grab some popcorn, you will want to watch this.

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An Italian take on a Japanese classic, but do people in Japan consider it sushi?

For years Japan has been toying around with combining its signature flavors with the many different cuisines of the world. Japan even has its own take on pasta that they call Japanese-style pasta (和風パスタ). Wouldn’t it be fair for Italian chefs to experiment with Japanese cuisine? Two chefs in Italy have been putting their personal touches to the idea of sushi, and their pasta sushi creation is now starting to make some noise in the US and on the Internet.

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Slightly less sweet Coca-Cola Life has potential to do well in Japan, if it ever makes it there

This may be old news to any British, Swedish or South American readers, but most of North America and Asia have yet to experience Coca-Cola’s newest creation: Coca-Cola Life.

In the face of the all-natural health trend, last fall Coca-Cola released a green-labeled, Stevia-sweetened cola in select areas around the world as a kind of test run. Unfortunately, Japan was not one of those testing places, despite their predilection for weird-flavored sodas and possession of palates less accommodating to the super-sweet.

Rose Yokoyama, a writer from RocketNews24’s partner website Pouch, got her hands on some Coke Life in order to try to it before it makes its debut in Japan (if it ever does). Here’s what she thought of the green cola!

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Tony Stark will have a see-through Samsung phone in ‘The Avengers’ sequel

Earth’s mightiest heroes will rely on a bunch of Samsung gear in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” this summer.

Samsung is showing off a bunch tech developed for the sequel at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) currently taking place in Las Vegas.

CNET’s Shara Tibken snapped a few shots of the devices ranging from a see-through phone for Tony Stark to smartwatches that will be worn by the Avengers team.

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It’s the year of the sheep-dog! Introducing new clothes for your dog’s wardrobe

We have bid farewell to the year of the horse, and welcomed in the Year of the Sheep. New Year’s decorations, greeting cards, and the like are all adorned with more sweet, fluffy little lambs than you could shake one of their tails at. It almost makes you want to get an adorable little baby fleecey bundle for your own. I mean, sheep are allowed in apartments, right? Right!?

Or maybe it would just be easier to transform your dog into a sheep for the New Year instead!

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Is Mario’s Birdo a boy or a girl? Years after her first appearance, the debate rages on

It’s already kind of old news that one of gaming’s few potentially transgender characters has been hiding in plain sight since the late ’80s in the form of the adorable and misunderstood Mario villain, Birdo.

But that hasn’t stopped the Internet from debating all kinds of aspects about the character’s gender identity, from whether the whole “boy who thinks he’s a girl” thing is Mario canon or whether the character is pre- or post-op. While the Western web was shocked by this stunning news a while back, it seemed Japan was politely giving poor Birdo her privacy and staying out of it, until a recent Twitter post…

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Variety: Scarlett Johansson signs on to Hollywood’s Ghost in the Shell

Entertainment news source Variety reported on Monday that Scarlett Johansson has signed on to star in Dreamworks‘ adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. Deadline reported in October that the actress was offered the role, but she was still undecided at the time.

The film has not yet been greenlit for production, but Variety notes that Johansson’s involvement should make production more likely.

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Happy New Year and thank you from RocketNews24!

Well, folks, we’ve done it again. We’ve somehow survived yet another year without being wiped off the face of the planet or the interwebs, and I’m happy to report that our humble shrine to news, entertainment and general weirdness from Japan and Asia is now bigger, busier, and – dare I say it – slightly better looking than ever before.

Last year went by in a flash for us. Our team grew from 15 to 22, and we put out roughly twice the amount of content that we did in 2013. In return, we saw our readership positively explode, and now almost 190,000 of you kind souls allow our quirky news nuggets to appear alongside your friends’ tedious selfies and photos of their hideous children in your Facebook feed. It may sound like a bit of a cliché, but we really wouldn’t be here without you, and it’s only thanks to our readers that we’re able to keep on growing and can keep Mr Sato stocked with the Cuban cigars and exotic silk underwear he so voraciously consumes each day.

Despite our recent growth spurt, RocketNews24 is still staffed by a very close-knit team. Unlike some faceless media machine operated by corporate giants, we still get fuzzies when you like us and feel genuinely disappointed when you don’t. We read every single one of your comments (yes, even the long, ranting ones that make us want to double-check that the front door’s locked before heading to bed) and we take what you say to heart. We aim to make RocketNews24 a place that people like to come to for everything from commentary on recent news events and Japanese internet chatter to cooking tips and the latest from our Asian feline overlords, and it’s through your feedback that we know where and how we need to improve. So thank you. Your clicks and comments mean a lot.

Lest you worry that, what with all this back-patting and uncharacteristic seasonal cheer, we’re about to start slacking off, let me assure you that we have big plans for 2015. I won’t spoil any surprises, but I can say that we’ve already started work on a couple of projects that we think you’ll really like, and which – should the Internet gods be so kind as to shine their rays of benevolent fibre optic light on us – will soon become a regular part of RocketNews24. We’ll also be aiming to increase our output even further and will be striving to bring you not just better quality news and original content but to deliver it faster than ever before.

Once again, a genuine thank you from everyone here at RocketNews24 for all your support throughout 2014. No matter what your friends and colleagues may say behind your back, to us you are a vision of loveliness, and we don’t think you smell like turnips or wet suede shoes in the slightest.

Happy 2015! Here’s to a great Year of the Sheep!

Japanese scientists debunk popular belief about the “old-person smell”

What do you dread the most about growing old? Is it the aching muscles after what used to be an easy exercise routine? The need to get up and pee multiple times during the night? Or how about that distinctive “old-person smell” that sneaks into the air whenever a senior citizen is around?

Speaking of that last one, have you ever wondered where that particular odor comes from? Although many people believe that the source of the smell is behind the ears, a team of Japanese researchers have recently disproved this theory after what must have been an excruciatingly odoriferous ordeal. You might want to plug your nose for this one, folks–things are about to smell more than a little fishy around here…

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Merry Christmas from RocketNews24!

We’re taking a little break today to spend some quality time with our two favorite men: Santa and Mr. Sato. But while we’re stuffing our faces with Christmas cake and taking selfies with Colonel Sanders, we’ll be sure to pause, raise a glass of whatever questionable liquor Mr. Sato brought along, and toast you, our dedicated reader. Thank you for making 2014 our most successful year yet! And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, we hope your day is filled with glad tidings and all the fried chicken you can stomach.

Around the world in 22 upside-down houses 【Photos】

Especially during this hectic holiday season it sure would be nice to get away from it all. Everyone needs a chance to refresh and get a new perspective on things. And what better way to get a new perspective than to visit an upside down house?

You might be thinking “What, are you high? There are no upside down houses where I live.” Well, you might be right about the high part, but couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to upside down houses because they can be found all over the world it seems. Here is just a small sampling of these dizzying monuments, perhaps one of them is in your very own backyard – or over it.

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“Sushi Chic” is the new style trend we could really sink our teeth into

When your average Westerner thinks of Japan, what’s most likely to spring to the forefront of their minds? We’re betting that sushi, samurai, anime and geisha are up there in the top ten, with sushi being the best-known incarnation of Japanese food abroad. But it seems that stylish overseas consumers aren’t satisfied with simply eating their sushi – they want to wear it on their bodies, too, so everyone can see how cool and cutting-edge they really are. Join us as we take a look at some of the weird and wonderful sushi fashion items available for purchase right now.

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