Japan

Japan overwhelmingly favors CDs to digital music

Japan overwhelmingly favors CDs to digital music

There’s no doubt that many people think Japan is a technologically advanced wonderland that has robots awaiting at every turn. Most people have their images crushed when they step outside any of the main cities and realize just how many rice fields and open spaces there still are. So when it was reported this week that Japan still significantly favors CDs to digital downloads, we weren’t that surprised. Find out the reasons why after the jump.

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McDonald’s Japan is now adding to my giant pile of home delivery junk mail

McDonald’s Japan is now adding to my giant pile of home delivery junk mail

In our modern digital age, it can be somewhat jarring to see Japan clinging so doggedly to its analogue roots. Despite being considered by many to be the home of technology, Japan is also a place where the fax machine is still considered a vital piece of office equipment, flip-phones are holding their own against smartphones, and without actual, physical cash, it is sometimes impossible to make a payment in a store or restaurant.

Like so many people these days, on the rare occasion that I order food in, I’m far more inclined to reach for my laptop than my phone, and a kitchen drawer stuffed with fast food menus is now something that I associate only with my childhood and university days. Even so, I receive anywhere between 10 and 15 fast food delivery menus through my door each week living here in Tokyo, with Pizza Hut and pals feeling the need to constantly remind me of their existence by showing me brightly coloured pictures of their food and telling me that they’re just a phone call away.

And now, it would seem, McDonald’s Japan has joined the ranks of companies employing shifty-looking dudes on scooters to push junk mail through my mail slot.

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It’s the simple things in life: Kitty chooses cardboard box over expensive cat furniture

It’s the simple things in life: Kitty chooses cardboard box over expensive cat furniture

This photo of a beautiful blue-eyed cat makes us realize that good things don’t always come in fancy packages…and sometimes the package is actually the best gift. But isn’t that always the case when it comes to cats? No matter how many fancy toys and luxury cat trees you buy them, they always seem to prefer the things they already have…including the sofa, curtains, and chairs.

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We just gotta have this 1/1 scale plush Pikachu!

We just gotta have this 1/1 scale plush Pikachu!

There is no one – we repeat, no one – who has called themselves a Pokemon fan and hasn’t wished they could have their own Pikachu; his cute quotient is just too high. Well, Pocket Monster devotees, you’re in luck, because this 1/1 scale Pikachu plush is the closest you’re ever going to come to actually catching the franchise’s most popular character. BEAMS, the creators of almost-real-life-Pikachu, have even made him true-to-weight. Coming in at a hefty 6 kg (13 lbs), this cuddly Pikachu weighs more than the average cat!

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Invoice puts Japanese company in running for greenest in Japan, at least as far as names go

Invoice puts Japanese company in running for greenest in Japan, at least as far as names go

Whereas a lot of last names in English come from professions, such as Smith, Hunter, and Baker, you don’t find a lot of work-related ones in Japan. Generally, Japanese family names have some sort of connection to the natural environment, such as Ogawa (“Small River”), Yamada (“Mountain Field”), or Takeoka (“Bamboo Hill”).

You could debate whether or not this is the result of a deep-rooted Japanese respect for nature, or simply that for centuries the feudal system forced the vast majority of the population into agriculture. Regardless of the reason, there’s no denying the linguistic phenomenon, as proven by the signatures on this invoice from what appears to be the most ecologically oriented company in Japan, at least in terms of names.

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Japanese company creates ball-balancing cheerleader robots

Japanese company creates ball-balancing cheerleader robots

Japan has an infatuation with robots; after all, you don’t see beautiful cyborg women hanging out in restaurants in the US or 24-fingered hair washing bots in the UK. That’s why we weren’t surprised at all to find that Japan has just produced a gang of cheerleading robots that dance in sync while balancing on a ball.

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Belly photos from underneath are the next big trend in hamster cuteness

Belly photos from underneath are the next big trend in hamster cuteness

It seems that hamster trends come and go on the ‘Net: earlier this year hamster butts were totally in, and before that flat hamsters were all the rage. Now the hot new thing is hamster bellies! And not just their fluffy bellies, but specifically their underside seen from below.

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We try ramen from a can on the backstreets of Tokyo【Taste Test】

We try ramen from a can on the backstreets of Tokyo【Taste Test】

Akihabara has a well-deserved reputation as having Japan’s highest concentration of anime and video game shops, not to mentioned maid cafes. There’s one other thing it’s known for, though, and that’s weird vending machines.

And no, we’re not talking about Japan’s fabled panty vending machines, but rather automated sales of odd canned food. A few years back, Akihabara came to be known as the place to score canned bread. Next came the canned oden craze.

On a recent trip to the Tokyo neighborhood, however, we stumbled across something we’d never seen before when we spotted a vending machine that spits out hot cans of pre-cooked ramen.

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Tokyo’s moe temple is now selling Buddhist goddess anime figures

Tokyo’s moe temple is now selling Buddhist goddess anime figures

A few years ago, a temple called Ryohoji in Tokyo’s Hachioji district started to use moe girls – cute-sexy adolescent anime characters – to promote the temple. They put up a new sign at the entrance with moe girls explaining the temple grounds. The temple has become a minor tourist destination for pilgrimaging otaku, and is commonly known as moe-dera (“moe temple”).

Until the moe temple came along, people interested in both Buddhist iconography and youthful cartoon girls had to enjoy their two hobbies separately. But now, the clever people at Ryohoji have come up with this official moe figure of Benzaiten. Maybe they thought the goddess needed a little anime improvement…

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This is your final boarding call for a once-in-a-decade chance to ride Japan’s fastest train

This is your final boarding call for a once-in-a-decade chance to ride Japan’s fastest train

The Superconducting Magnetic Levitation Train (SCMaglev) has been in development by Japan Railways for decades and has already broken various world speed records for railed vehicles during test runs. However, it won’t begin operation in Japan until 2027.

That is unless you are one of the lucky few chosen for a series of test runs being conducted in November and December of this year. If you apply by midnight on 30 September you’ll get a chance to ride the train of the future today! What are you waiting for?! Go!

Actually, wait! There’s some useful information you should probably read here first. Then go!

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Cat Sushi figures return to Japanese vending machines! Our collection (and lives) are complete

Cat Sushi figures return to Japanese vending machines! Our collection (and lives) are complete

We recently added to our collection of weird Japanese toys by buying a couple of Doggy Bread Figures. But while the canine fans in the RocketNews24 office were happy, our resident cat lovers couldn’t help but sigh in sad reminiscence of the good old days when they could decorate their shelves with cat sushi.

Well, the worlds of Japanese cuisine and cute kitties have once again collided, as there’s a new batch of really (and surreally) cute sushi cat figures on the market, and we’ve already compiled a complete set.

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Holes in your paper door? Use colorful cloth to brighten up your shoji!

Holes in your paper door? Use colorful cloth to brighten up your shoji!

Sliding paper doors give a subtle elegance to any room, but unfortunately for homeowners in Japan who like to keep things nice, are extremely fragile. Even the slightest finger poke can damage the thin paper, leaving you with the task of trying to cover up the imperfections. But those with shoji are in luck! Crafty netizens have come up with an easy and eye-catching way to fix those holes, using their favorite patterned fabric to add a splash of color to the traditionally white doors.

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ZOMG! ICE CREAM! Taste-testing the best autumn-flavored ice cream in Japan

ZOMG! ICE CREAM! Taste-testing the best autumn-flavored ice cream in Japan

It’s no secret that we love ice cream around here. In fact, we’ve often thought about petitioning someone to get it added to the food pyramid as a new, essential group unto itself. So far, no one has taken up our cause, but maybe they will after they see this list of delicious autumn-themed ice cream from Japan.

There are plenty of…unusual ice cream flavors, but chestnut might be the strangest we’ve seen. Here’s the real question though: Is it as tasty as it is bizarre?

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Check out these amazing miniature dioramas from Tokyo artist Satoshi Araki【Photos】

Check out these amazing miniature dioramas from Tokyo artist Satoshi Araki【Photos】

Satoshi Araki is an artist who creates miniature dioramas. In one of his brilliantly imagined worlds, a mysterious figure stands in a dark alleyway. In another, a car with smashed-out windows sprawls in front of a bombed-out house in a destroyed city.

Araki sometimes puts a single finger into the frame to show the scale of the tiny scenes, which are sculpted in painstaking detail. His coke cans are smaller than a fingernail; his Vespa model is tiny enough to rest on your thumb.

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You can eat a polar bear in Kagoshima

You can eat a polar bear in Kagoshima

That’s right, you can eat a polar bear in Japan. But before you start freaking out about animal cruelty or endangered species, we are actually talking about the funky dessert in picture above, not the big furry mammal. Meet the shirokuma or polar bear, a delicious treat of shaved ice, sweet milk syrup and fruit from Kagoshima.

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Thirsty? How about some cider made with Japanese cat nip?

Thirsty? How about some cider made with Japanese cat nip?

Even though you can find Coca-Cola in every convenience store in Japan, for the most part the country isn’t all that into carbonated soft drinks. So if you’re selling a fizzy, non-alcoholic beverage, you need some kind of unique hook.

Pepsi has made a habit of periodically releasing unusual flavors such as chestnut or cucumber-flavored sodas, but we’ve also seen smaller, regional producers put out some creative concoctions such as cider that tastes like tomatoes, tea, or olives. Even still, beverage makers haven’t exhausted every possible taste, as right now in Yokohama and Osaka you can get your hands on cider made with silver vine, or Japanese catnip.

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Kyoto mascot bridges the gap between weirdly cute and just plain weird

Kyoto mascot bridges the gap between weirdly cute and just plain weird

As one of the most scenic sections of one of Japan’s most beautiful cities, Kyoto’s Arashiyama isn’t exactly hurting for tourists. Still, the neighborhood is looking to attract even more visitors, and in doing so has decided to employ Japan’s current favorite travel marketing technique by creating a yuru-kyara, or local mascot.

Designers actually had multiple ways they could have gone with this, such as playing up the area’s historic temples or beautiful bamboo groves. In the end, they drew their inspiration from the Togetsukyou Bridge, which was first constructed in the early 9th century.

But while that’s a fine choice, we can’t help but question the final design for the character, in which a portion of the bridge is dumped on the back of the vaguely humanoid creature called Wataru Tsukihashi.

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Welcome to Wonderland: The most barely functioning place on Earth!

Welcome to Wonderland: The most barely functioning place on Earth!

Although Japan is a place of widespread religious ambiguity, there is an underlying belief in a place between the land of the living and the world of the dead. It’s an entirely different world in itself, a temporal zone where you can’t be sure what exists and what doesn’t.

This place is Wonderland amusement park in Fukui Prefecture. The park boasts four remaining attractions that haven’t been closed down due to safety reasons and a distinct lack of guests. Nevertheless, Wonderland assures you they are open… especially if you want to buy the place.

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Proceeds from gourmet New Year’s meals to be donated to help feed undernourished children

Proceeds from gourmet New Year’s meals to be donated to help feed undernourished children

As a nation of die-hard foodies, Japan is always on the lookout for a memorable meal. We’re just a couple of months away from New Year’s, when Japan dines on some of its most opulent dishes of all as part of the multi-dish osechi meals that are traditionally eaten at the beginning of the year.

Recently, more and more families have begun purchasing their osechi rather than making their own, and we imagine quite a few have been tempted by the Mickey Mouse and Frozen versions we talked about last month. If you’re willing to hold off on satisfying your inner child for the sake of the world’s less fortunate actual kids, though, you might be interested in an osechi set that helps raise funds for charity group Table for Two.

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All insolvent idol group “The Margarines” to debut, total debt of all members: 127 million yen

All insolvent idol group “The Margarines” to debut, total debt of all members: 127 million yen

Debt is a major problem facing people of all ages today. Many young graduates head out into the world already handicapped by a shrinking job market and crippling student loans while their parents have to deal with drying pensions and stagnant real-estate market. It’s a heavy burden that requires a combination of luck and hard work to pull oneself out of, but with some sensible fiscal planning it is possible.

Or, you could do what the nine young women in The Margarines did and pursue a career in the pop idol industry. Their mission is to sing and dance their way out of a combined 127.7M yen (US$1.17M) of debt in an already heavily over-saturated entertainment industry. How could it possibly fail?

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