Japan

Is this 1,300-year-old dish found in Nara actually cursed?

Though the current capital of Japan is Tokyo, many would argue that its traditional capital, Kyoto, is the real heart of Japan–at least culturally speaking. That said, if you you’re looking for the original capital of Japan, you’d probably be better heading south from Kyoto to Nara Prefecture. But while you should definitely stop and see Heijo-kyo in Nara City, you’ll have to keep heading south to Asuka Village to find the “real” original capital of Japan: Asuka-kyo. Of course, in the 1,300 years since the end of the Asuka Period, the capital has essentially been lost to time–all that’s left are stony remnants like those pictured above.

But that’s not the only patch of old ruins to be found in Asuka area–there are so many, they can actually get in the way of building a house! But with the news of the discovery of a piece of “cursed” earthenware, we have to wonder if maybe it’s just time for everyone to pack up and head for a slightly less historically significant area!

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Rare Catbus-esque worm takes its name after Ghibli’s Totoro

Researchers from Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Vietnam-Russia Tropical Centresurprised the scientific community last year when they published their findings regarding a rare velvet worm found only in Vietnam’s Cát Tiên National Park. They named him Eoperipatus totoro.

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South Korean design company turns subway maps into beautiful artwork you can hang on your wall

The first time I went to Tokyo alone, I got lost within the first five minutes of arriving at Shinjuku Station, unable to comprehend why there were so many transfers to different lines going in different directions. Without mobile data on my phone, I was basically one of the ‘internet-less lost gaijin’ crippled by the lack of Google Maps who ended up befriending the station master at every transfer station because, without them, I would probably have had to spend the night hanging out with the buskers on the streets.

The maps in Japanese subway stations are not only confusing, they also look like multi-colored spaghetti or weird roller coasters, and I can clearly recall thinking how nice it would be to have a better-looking representation of the city’s train lines. Thankfully, it looks like South Korean design company Zero per Zero has fulfilled my wish with their subway map designs, which are becoming a hot topic on Reddit.

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Obama appears in small Kyushu town, possibly seeking treatment for aggressive skin disease

You really never know who you are going to meet when traveling. That’s one of the things that makes it so enjoyable. But imagine our surprise when we ran into the leader of the free world in an isolated hot spring town in Kyushu! It might have something to do with the name of the place though…

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Hacka Doll: “Otaku” news beamed right to your phone like anime magic! 【Review】

Say you’re a Japanese otaku who loves the new Destiny game, light novels, and giant robot anime. But how would you keep up with the latest news for each one of them? Obviously, you’d have a few of your favorite sites bookmarked and you’d visit them a few times a day–if you were living in the Stone Age! Even if you’ve evolved enough to create your own RSS feed, you’d still only be in the 20th century–and far behind the times. For shame!

Now, if you were are a real 21st century geek, you’d get all your nerdy news through one “AI-enabled” app complete with adorable moe mascots and personalized news recommendations. Obviously.

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Tokyo court rules that hotels must pay NHK fees according to the number of rooms with TVs

Last year, we brought you news of a court ruling in Yokohama which stipulated that anyone who owns a device capable of receiving a TV signal, regardless of whether they’ve entered into a contract with NHK (Japan’s public broadcasting station) or not, is legally obligated to pay the NHK licensing fee. An important point to note is that the fees are only paid once per household, and not according to the number of TV sets or devices capable of receiving a signal in the house.

However, a recent court decision seems to be taking the issue of NHK licensing fees in a whole new direction. On October 9, Tokyo District Court ruled in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that the management company behind three Tokyo hotels must first enter into a contract with the public broadcaster. Furthermore, the hotels, all three of which had refused to enter into contracts despite repeated requests from NHK, must also pay their overdue licensing fees in proportion to the number of hotel rooms with TVs.

Just wait til you read how much money that all comes out to be…

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Is the New Nintendo 3DS worth the purchase? Early adopters in Japan share their thoughts

As its super-cutesy ad foretold, Nintendo launched its new and improved version of the 3DS here in Japan on October 11. Boasting features like a bigger, improved 3-D screen and extra buttons, yet retaining much its predecessor’s form factor, the portable appears to be more of an evolution than a revolution, but that didn’t mean people weren’t excited and looking forward to getting their hands on the new hardware.

As owners of the existing models of 3DS and 3DSLL, we aren’t really in the market for the new system quite yet, but were curious to hear what new adopters thought of the upgraded portable. Join us after the jump to find out whether the New Nintendo 3DS will be worth picking up when it launches in your country.

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Want to change your look? Try this unique hairband that lets you grow instant bangs

Okay, let’s admit it, hair can be a big deal for girls. How long or short should our hair be? Should we wear it up or down? And another seriously important question is, “Should we have bangs or not?” Yes, that can be a biggie, since it can change your look considerably, and once you cut your hair to get bangs, it can take a long time for it to grow back again. Well, if you’re having a hard time deciding about your bangs, then this could be an item you may want to try. It’s a hairband … with built-in bangs!

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Thai schoolgirl uniforms poised to edge out traditional Japanese ones in Japan?

It looks like Japanese girls can’t get enough of schoolgirl uniforms these days. Once loathed by their wearers as stuffy, boring and a symbol of conformity (pretty much kryptonite to teenagers), Japanese girls have – over the last few decades – come to embrace the schoolgirl uniform as a sexy, fashionable and customizable wardrobe choice in and out of the classroom.

The problem, though: It looks like it isn’t Japanese schoolgirl uniforms that girls really want nowadays. What they really want are Thai schoolgirl uniforms.

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Biker assaulted by iron bar-wielding Nara innkeeper, not the other way around

The are many pleasant sights and sounds to be found around Japan. One of the most famous is the exaggerated revving of groups of motorbike engines at all hours of the day and night. They’re often referred to as bosozoku which although often translated as “biker gangs” can be misleading as that would imply the use of at least somewhat cool bikes. Bosozoku kids, contrastingly, often ride scooters customized for peak annoyance of all those around, and some of them don’t actually ride their bikes at all.

Despite efforts by law enforcement, this trend continues all over Japan. So it comes as no surprise when people take the law into their own hands. In the case of one Nara resident, “the law” came in the form of an iron bar which he used to break the knee of an allegedly noisy biker.

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Child’s Mobile Cute Gundam entertains parent and moves Japan

When you think of plastic models based on the giant weaponized robots of the Gundam universe, “cute” isn’t a word that often comes to mind. But it’s hard to not give a big, gushy “aww” at one homemade Gundam model gifted to Twitter user Chal by their daughter.

The story as outlined by Chal on their Twitter account and retweeted thousands of times begins with a mysterious paper package with something written on it in crude Japanese. Mini… Gasodam? Mini Garidamu? No. This was a “Mini Gundam” and Chal, an experienced model hobbyist, was up for the challenge.

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Cat man from Kyushu walks nine cats in a stroller, draws crowds in Tokyo

Japan is known for having a unique culture that perfectly balances two extreme worlds of tradition and fun. From cat cafes to cosplay-clad posers in Harajuku, it’s the light-hearted, anything-goes attitude on the streets of Tokyo that brightens the serious, traditional side of society which likes to rein in anything different and out of the norm.

It’s little surprise then, that people have been drawn to one of the newcomers to the street scene in Tokyo, a recently retired man who goes by the name “Kyushu Neko Ojisan” (lit. The Cat Man from Kyushu). Retirement for this gent means he’s now free to walk his nine adorable cats in a baby buggy around Tokyo. And his crowds of admirers are growing with every stroll he takes.

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What? Pokémon Breeder Girl is evolving! Congratulations! She has evolved into a…

Since the release of Pokémon X and Y a year ago, players in Japan were enamored by the comely pokémon breeder Tsuzumi. Her sparkling brown eyes, bright smile, and huge bucket of what appears to be crap had melted the hearts of many an aspiring pokémon master.

However, in an appearance in the anime version of Pokémon: XY Tsuzumi seems to have undergone an evolution of sorts. If the Twitter users who pointed this out are correct I’d have to tip my hat to the producers for adding a gritty touch of reality to an otherwise out-there plot.

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Tokyo Disney’s pitch-black Halloween snacks look even weirder in real life

Remember that jet-black hot dog Tokyo Disney Sea announced for Halloween this year? Well, we’ve unearthed some pictures of the actual product, and boy, are they nasty.

What’s more, the Black Sausage has been joined by another, even more distressing item – the Black Gyoza Dog, a hot snack so hellish-looking we can’t believe it made it past the product testing phase. It looked pretty weird in Disney’s promotional shots (above), but it looks even more disturbing in real life!

Join us after the jump for a closer look at the reality of this year’s Halloween Disney food. It’s even more shudder-inducing than we expected!

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23 “postcard photos” of Japan from the late 1800s

Postcards and commemorative photos at modern souvenir shops in Japan usually feature full-color high-res images of Tokyo Tower or Mount Fuji framed by cherry blossoms. At around 50 yen (US$0.50) a piece, they’re an inexpensive way to show off your recent trip or give someone a gift. Flashback nearly 150 years and those same souvenir photos start to look a little different. Let’s take a look at 23 hand-colored albumen silver prints of Meiji Era Japan that were sold abroad and to foreigners visiting Japan.

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Mister Donut becomes … Mister Cupcake? Not quite, but we can’t wait to try their new offering!

All right, we should have seen this coming, especially after Mister Donut Japan came out with original croissant doughnuts earlier this year. But that doesn’t mean we’re any less thrilled with the news — this coming week, Mister Donut will be releasing their very own cupcakes! And hey, even if “Mister Donut” is selling something that’s not a doughnut, we’re definitely not complaining. In fact, we’ll be waiting in line to get a taste of the colorful cupcakes. Let’s see what tempting flavors will be available!

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Always wanted to try a romantic Kabe-don? There’s now a cafe for it!

We previously introduced Kabe-don, the romantic wall pound that has sent Japanese girls swooning. For guys that want to show off their tough love, this is the way to do it. In fact, it became so popular in Japan that even cats were found to have jumped on the Kabe-don bandwagon. Nevertheless, this writer has never experienced Kabe-don nor seen anyone actually do it. If you also long for a Kabe-don moment yourself, there is now a cafe in Harajuku, Tokyo that helps you do just that! The catch is, the Prince Charming of your Kabe-don is in fact a…life-sized figure.

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Stay right on top of Typhoon 19 with beautiful and highly useful online weather services

As of this writing Typhoon 19 is just about right on top of Okinawa. Classified as a “Super Typhoon” by NASA it is far greater in size and power than last week’s storm. The typhoon also goes by the name Vongfong, which we assume is Chinese for “killjoy” because of its incredibly bad timing.

If Typhoon 19 veers East and moves across most of Japan, it will do so right over the long weekend. With all the destruction and at very least wet nuisances brought by typhoons, the one sliver of light had always been that they often brought days off work and school with them too. Not this weekend, however, and many wait to see whether the weather will dash their holiday plans or not.

Luckily there is a plethora of online weather services for us to watch Typhoon 19 in near-real-time that are all both very informative and gorgeous enough to make you want to refer to them even after the storm has passed.

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After a long day of work, Japan wants ice cream…and alcohol!

Nothing welcomes a three day weekend more than an extra glass of wine or an extra scoop of ice cream. Most of us likely enjoy these two things separately, but why not enjoy them together? Japan has taken to sharing their best pairings of alcohol and ice cream, and if you are in the mood for a tasty new combination, you might just find a brilliant suggestion here that you haven’t thought of yet.

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You can buy this huge sunfish at a supermarket in Japan

What looks like an alien laid out for experimentation is actually a sunfish up for sale at a supermarket in Japan. The sign next to it reads, “OK to touch, OK to photograph,” which gives us the impression that dozens of grubby little fingers have been run all up and down the body of that sunfish. That gray blob of a fish needed all the help it could get to appeal to people’s empty stomachs, and the addition of finger germs isn’t doing it any favors.

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