Japan

【TBT】It’s the little things: One more reason why we love Japan

【TBT】It’s the little things: One more reason why we love Japan

After a long week at the office, our Japanese writer Yoshio was in dire need of a pick-me-up. After stretching and clicking his back, he stood up at his desk, tucked his wallet into his back pocket and announced in unusually glum tones that he was popping out to the convenience store to grab a few things.

A few minutes later, Yoshio walked back into office and placed his little white plastic bag down on his desk with a tired sigh. But then he stopped. Looking down at his purchases inside the bag, he suddenly began beaming with a level of happiness that we hadn’t seen in quite some time.

“Oo! Sugoi!” (“Oh! That’s awesome!”) he softly exclaimed.

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Stylish web anime from Yamaha reminds us of an important truth: motorcycles are cool

Stylish web anime from Yamaha reminds us of an important truth: motorcycles are cool

In the beginning, motorized vehicles were designed to be the prefect horse. They’d get you from A to B while allowing you to bypass the bowleggedness and poop shoveling that were inherent parts of equestrian transportation. With time, though, things changed. Cars got bigger and comfier. Plush, roomy interiors designed to isolate passengers from outside sounds and elements moved the design target from the perfect horse to the perfect living room.

So how do you communicate the appeal of a motorcycle to younger people who’ve grown up in these conditions? How do you get them excited about something that sacrifices all of those creature comforts and doesn’t insolate the connection between you, the machine, and the road, but enhances it?

If you’re Yamaha, you create a stylish anime series, and put it on YouTube for all to see.

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Now trending in Japan: Duct-taped hug pillows

Now trending in Japan: Duct-taped hug pillows

Back in my teaching days, some of my more hormonally afflicted students would take great pleasure in asking me whatever inappropriate or perverted questions popped into their heads, often wrongly assuming that I wouldn’t understand what they were saying. Sometimes they’d even break out some crude English with questions like (pointing to my crotch) “Sensei, are you long boy?”, “Do you play sex?”, or “How about Japanese adult video?”

One question that came up curiously often, though, was whether I was “esu” or “emu“, or in English: “Are you a sadist or a masochist?”

I’ve never really thought of myself as either, but chats with a few of my Japanese coworkers soon led me to believe that a surprising number of people here consider themselves to be one or the other. Can you guess which group the owners of these gagged dakimakura belong to?

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Unleash your Super Saiyan with motion-activated Dragon Ball Z toys

Unleash your Super Saiyan with motion-activated Dragon Ball Z toys

Bandai updated its line of Dragon Ball Z goods with motion-activated toys for every aspiring Z Fighter. The company is streaming a video demonstrating how to best use its new wrist toy to perform Goku, Vegeta, and Piccolo’s iconic attacks. Just look how excited the kid in the video gets to mimic some of his favorite heros!

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Amazing highschool ninja ad has nothing to do with the product, everything to do with awesomeness

Amazing highschool ninja ad has nothing to do with the product, everything to do with awesomeness

We’ve no doubt all experienced that feeling of frustration when, right when things are getting good, our favorite TV show is interrupted by an ad break. We kick ourselves for getting suckered in, knowing full well that both the show’s makers and the networks that host it put the ads in where they did for good reason – to keep us glued to our sets that little bit longer.

But there are times when even the ads are so well made that they’re as entertaining as the shows we were watching. This new commercial for a Japanese soft drink, for example, is so cleverly shot that for the first few seconds we genuinely thought it was footage taken by a couple of high school girls tooling around in their classroom. Until, of course, they started back-flipping off buildings, sprinting across roofs and pulling every trick in the ninja book.

Sure, it has almost nothing to do with the product, but we think you’ll agree this is one of the coolest ads around.

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World’s first One Piece theme park teased for 2015

World’s first One Piece theme park teased for 2015

Anime fan? Disneyland to sickly sweet for you? Then you may want to plan a trip to Tokyo early next year…

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Talented and beautiful singer covers Western pop hits in Japanese

Talented and beautiful singer covers Western pop hits in Japanese

Japanese audiences love to hear their favourite foreign tunes in their own language, as evidenced by the huge popularity of the Japanese version of Let It Go. But it’s not only Disney songs that are getting Japan-ized. One up-and-c0ming singer has been gaining popularity on YouTube thanks to her self-penned interpretations of English pop hits from the likes of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and more.

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Here’s a magic frame that can warp a cat’s butt through your wall

Here’s a magic frame that can warp a cat’s butt through your wall

If you’re a cat lover, you must love cats’ butts too! Of course, their fluffy expressive tails too! Maybe you love them so much you just wanna hang their perky posterior on the wall of your room… all right, that sounded a bit weird. We’re not talking about hanging real cat butts on your wall. No way, that’s just creepy.

We’re talking about these adorable felted cat bums! More pictures after the jump!

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LIGHT UP NIPPON 2014 pays tribute to the Great East Japan Earthquake with a booming spectacle

LIGHT UP NIPPON 2014 pays tribute to the Great East Japan Earthquake with a booming spectacle

For those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, three and a half years still might not be enough time separating the event from the present day. Each slight tremble in the earth, any loud alarm can be a painful reminder of all that was lost that afternoon. While the saying goes “time heals all wounds”, a bit of light-hearted fun always helps the process along. On August 11, 2014, on the 3 ½ year mark of the disastrous event, the LIGHT UP NIPPON event will be celebrating in remembrance, as it has for the past four years.

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A radical solution to baseball’s All-Star game problem: MLB Vs. Japan

A radical solution to baseball’s All-Star game problem: MLB Vs. Japan

If baseball wants to increase interest in the All-Star Game for both the fans and the players, there is a radical yet simple solution, but it requires Bud Selig to look across the ocean.

MLB All-Stars vs. Japanese League All-Stars.

While the NFL and its players continue to mull the cancellation of their Pro Bowl due to the lack of interest, Major League Baseball has taken the opposite approach and has gone to great lengths in an attempt to return their mid-summer classic to prominence.

In 2006, Selig tried to artificially increase interest by giving the winner home-field advantage in the World Series. It was a solution that was only slightly less arbitrary than the “alternating years” system that served as the previous method.

Importing All-Stars from Japan’s Nippon Professional League would create genuine interest from both fans and the players.

Here’s how it works:

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The tricky game of wits that sometimes lurks behind a Kyoto granny’s compliment

The tricky game of wits that sometimes lurks behind a Kyoto granny’s compliment

One of the most characteristic parts of communication in Japan is the frequency with which people dish out compliments. Travelers and expats, for example, quickly become accustomed to being praised when displaying even the most basic skills with chopsticks or the local language.

Japanese people don’t just have kind words for foreigners, though, but for each other, too. Modesty and empathy are considered virtues of the highest order, so when someone shows any sort of ability, good manners dictate that you should notice and appreciate whatever small trace of talent can be found, as well as the effort that went into acquiring it while leading what, courtesy says you should assume, is a busy life.

Of course, sometimes these compliments aren’t triggered by the speaker being genuinely impressed, but rather just polite, or in some extreme cases, irritated.

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New onsen facility in the heart of Tokyo’s business district to be ready for Olympics

New onsen facility in the heart of Tokyo’s business district to be ready for Olympics

When you think of an onsen, what springs to mind? Tranquil steaming pools surrounded by misty mountains and bamboo groves? This is probably the the ideal image of a hot springs getaway, but there are actually over 200 onsen facilities to be found amidst the high-rise office blocks and busy roads of central Tokyo. And there’s soon to be one more to enjoy in Otemachi, right in the heart of Tokyo’s business district.

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Watermelon bagels arrive in Japan, then in our bellies【Taste test】

Watermelon bagels arrive in Japan, then in our bellies【Taste test】

There’s a lot that I love about summer. The additional hours of daylight, awesome fireworks festivals, and the chance to wear a summer kimono are all big plusses in my book.

Still, even I have to admit Japan can get uncomfortably hot at this time of year. A cold beer or cup of sake are both refreshing ways of beating the heat, but there are times when chilled alcohol isn’t an option, such as when I have non-drinking related work to do and/or am already hung-over.

So in order to stay both sober and cool, I eat as much watermelon as I can every summer. And while I don’t think Japanese chain Bagel & Bagel designed their new watermelon bagel just for me, I figured I’m still in the target demographic, and decided to try it out.

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Cool, super-absorbent handkerchief maps keeping Japanese hikers dry and on-course

Cool, super-absorbent handkerchief maps keeping Japanese hikers dry and on-course

There are a few things you’ll want to make sure you have before setting out on a long hike. Proper footwear is a must, for example, as is a sufficient supply of water.

Especially if you’re heading into the mountains of Japan during the summer months, a hand towel is something else you’ll definitely want to have with you. The high humidity means you’ll be working up quite a sweat, and having something to wipe yourself off will go a long way towards making your day outdoors more enjoyable.

Of course, even more so than being drenched in sweat, getting lost is an easy way to ruin your day out. Thankfully there’s now a way to prevent both of those problems with a towel that doubles as a map.

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Japan Post upgrades customer service technology, downgrades it soon after

Japan Post upgrades customer service technology, downgrades it soon after

Although offering up high-tech features and services to their customers seems like an obviously good idea, businesses must always be wary of alienating the less technologically inclined. Such is the case with Japan Post (JP) who once had to come up with a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem.

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Woman arrested for slashing two people in Sapporo

Woman arrested for slashing two people in Sapporo

SAPPORO — Police in Sapporo said Monday they have arrested a 31-year-old woman for slashing two people at random on the street.

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Experience an entire day at Tokyo Disneyland in just 110 seconds of time-lapse video

Experience an entire day at Tokyo Disneyland in just 110 seconds of time-lapse video

Despite having lived in Japan for eight years now, I’ve never actually been to Tokyo Disneyland. I was lucky enough to be taken to Walt Disney World, Florida when I was a kid, but now that I’m older and infinitely more cynical, I don’t think I have the stomach for an entire day of cheery music and giant mice.

One thing people often ask me (after whether McDonald’s is any different here) when they learn that Japan has its own Disneyland, though, is whether the park is anywhere near as good as those in Florida or California. In the past, I’ve only been able to shrug and tell them that “the kids here go nuts over it, so probably,” but now, with this time-lapse video made by the folks at Tokyo Disneyland, I can safely say that it’s pretty much exactly the same.

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Pork skewers, spicy fish cakes, and beer backpacks – We look for baseball grub at Nagoya Dome

Pork skewers, spicy fish cakes, and beer backpacks – We look for baseball grub at Nagoya Dome

Even though she grew up in Nagasaki, when it comes to baseball our Japanese-language correspondent Aya cheers for Nagoya’s Chunichi Dragons. Sure, the Softbank Hawks, who play out of Fukuoka, would be closer to her home town, but ever since Aya’s Dragon-loving friend took her to her first baseball game at Nagoya Dome, she’s been pulling for the serpentine team.

The Dragons have given their fans plenty of memories over the years, with the sweetest being the club’s Japan Series championship in 2007. But do they also provide a tasty meal at their home stadium?

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New in time for summer: Sparkling tomato booze!

New in time for summer: Sparkling tomato booze!

Personally, I can’t stand the taste of tomato juice. Even if I try to be healthy and buy a mixed fruit-and-vegetable drink, if there’s even a hint of tomato going on, the carton gets immediately shoved back in the fridge for my wife to try (read: finish off for me).

But if you’re one of those folks who just can’t get enough of that curious red stuff, there’s a new drink you may want to try this summer: Toma Toma Sparkling. Oh, and it has alcohol in it.

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Keep your iPhone safe and retro-gamer chic with Famicom protective film

Keep your iPhone safe and retro-gamer chic with Famicom protective film

Yesterday, Nintendo’s Famicom, known internationally as the NES, celebrated its 31st birthday. While it may not have been the first video game console, the way Nintendo’s 8-bit system combined, for its time, high-end processing power, pleasing aesthetics, and user-friendliness elevated it to a level above both its predecessors and would-be rivals.

The Famicom was the sort of sweeping, segment-defining success that didn’t come along again until the iPhone took over the smartphone market. Now, you can combine those two iconic pieces of Nintendo and Apple hardware with a Famicom protective film for your iPhone.

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