Japan

Travel back in time to see the neon nightscape and Glico sign of 1937 Osaka

Travel back in time to see the neon nightscape and Glico sign of 1937 Osaka

Osaka’s famous Glico “running man” sign, which has been a landmark for almost 80 years, is facing yet another upgrade—this time from neon lights to LED. This will be the sixth generation of the sign, and aside from the change in lighting technology, which Ezaki Glico Co. says is due to the increasing difficulty in finding neon tubes, will still feature an image of a runner crossing a finish line.

It turns out, though, while the first sign wasn’t as colorful as it is today, it still had plenty of character. In this early 1937 film stored at the Kobe City Museum, the “running man” can be seen in vivid red and white, although deterioration of the film over time has rendered the white to appear more green.

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Visit Elsa’s Frozen world at the Snow Crystal Museum in Hokkaido

Visit Elsa’s Frozen world at the Snow Crystal Museum in Hokkaido

Frozen has taken Japan and the world by storm, smashing through sales records and bringing a flurry of promotional items. One of the most iconic scenes in the film is Elsa singing Let it Go while giving rise to a beautiful ice castle. It’s too bad we can’t visit her frigid fortress in real life, but we can go to the next best thing: Hokkaido’s Snow Crystal Museum.

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12 beautiful Japanese train stations by the sea

12 beautiful Japanese train stations by the sea

Being an island nation, there is no shortages of beaches in Japan–though if you live in Tokyo, there are times when the only thing resembling the ocean to be seen is a sea of people. After a weekday morning commute spent sloshing around in a packed train car, it’s easy to find yourself wishing for a more relaxed environment like the beach. And with summer in full swing, there are plenty of beaches we’d rather be lounging on than just about anything.

But it’s a busy world and who has time to sit on the beach and just relax? Well, we sure don’t! But for those of us always on the go, there are a few train stations that at least will give you a view of the ocean on your way to whatever business you may have. Think of it like a vacation that lasts as long as the train stops!

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We travel to Shizuoka to come face to face with the real-life Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive!

We travel to Shizuoka to come face to face with the real-life Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive!

Well, it looks like train fans in Japan have something to be excited about — the real-life Thomas the Tank Engine, which has already attracted considerable attention on the Internet and media, is now in service! The Thomas steam locomotive, designed with a large face in the front to quite accurately recreate the well-known children’s character, started on its very first journey on July 12 with about 560 passengers on board. And since we knew this was a ride that would be sure to delight kids as well as adult train fans, one of the reporters from our Japanese site traveled to Shizuoka Prefecture in the center of Honshu, the main island, to see the “real Thomas” on his very first day in operation!

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Why French tourists are flocking to a tiny island of 230 people in Japan’s Inland Sea

Why French tourists are flocking to a tiny island of 230 people in Japan’s Inland Sea

When people think of international travelers visiting an island in the Seto Inland Sea, they may think of Naoshima, where the International Art Festival is located, or perhaps Shiraishi Island, with its international villa for foreign guests. But French tourists are heading somewhere else–to a tiny island of just 230 people. Although the place is known as one of Japan’s cat islands, that’s not why French tourists go to this island. And even though Ken Watanabe, Masako Natsume and Hiromi Go have been there, the French go for a completely different reason than they did. Our floating reporter takes a ferry to the remote island to find out what makes it so popular with French tourists.

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Sailor Moon gashapon hang out on your books and drinking glasses

Sailor Moon gashapon hang out on your books and drinking glasses

Bandai is getting cutesy with its new Sailor Moon gashapon toys, offering miniature Sailor Senshi that perch or lean happily on the rims of glasses, books, and other desktop items.

The toys are already stocked in capsule figure vending machines around Japan, and are selling for 300 yen (about US$2.96) each.

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Can I have some more fries? For the next 60 minutes, you can have as many as you want!

Can I have some more fries? For the next 60 minutes, you can have as many as you want!

Japan is home to some of the strangest collaborative promotions you will ever find. There’s been everything from Mountain Dew combining powers with a chip company to convenience store teaming up with a menstruation website. Many times the promotions are endless and maybe even seem pointless! But the new collaboration between Docomo, the cell phone company, and Lotteria, the burger shop, is a month of blood clot-forming, salt-coma inducing greatness. This campaign is going to make people who like to talk on their phones and also people who like to stuff their face with French fries very, very happy!!!

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Sony Japan to release Destiny and The Last of Us Remastered bundles

Sony Japan to release Destiny and The Last of Us Remastered bundles

Sony has just announced the release of two new PlayStation 4 consoles featuring designs from soon-to-be-released games Destiny and The Last of Us Remastered.

We’re not going to lie, they look pretty sweet.

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Mixed martial artist shoots to fame by combining victory pose and epic gurning skills

Mixed martial artist shoots to fame by combining victory pose and epic gurning skills

The world of martial arts tends to be a serious one. Even though fights are bound by a set of rules, one wrong move can lead to serious injuries. For that reason alone fighters must take a highly disciplined approach to training both their bodies and minds.

Japan’s Pancrase mixed martial arts is one of the stages where these dangerous confrontations unfolds. However, at Pancrase 259 in Tokyo’s Differ Ariake Arena, a fight involving flyweight Takuya Eizumi took a turn for the surreal when his winning pose drew more attention that any fight that took place that evening.

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Cornman spotted cleaning up street outside Ikebukuro Station

Cornman spotted cleaning up street outside Ikebukuro Station

On 17 June a tweet went out reporting a well-dressed man picking up garbage on the street while pulling around a stuffed turtle and scrub brush on leashes. Fans of Kanto area eccentrics should recognize this guy as Cornman or Tawashi Ojisan as he often calls himself.

Although lacking the ear of corn on a leash that we came to know him as having, he certainly still seems to be showing the same level of civic pride and duty as always.

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Natural sounds: Stunning Kyoto-made speakers are made from 30-year-old Japanese cedar

Natural sounds: Stunning Kyoto-made speakers are made from 30-year-old Japanese cedar

If you’re the kind of person who appreciates traditional craftsmanship and doesn’t mind paying a little more to get it, we have a product for you today that you really have to see.

On sale from tomorrow, these stunning mini speakers are made by master craftsmen in Kyoto and use specially grown Japanese cedar, taking an incredible 30 years to go from planting to finished product.

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Here’s that “vagina kayak” Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi made with the help of crowdfunding

Here’s that “vagina kayak” Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi made with the help of crowdfunding

Remember Megumi Igarashi, the Japanese artist who shot to infamy after being arrested for sharing “obscene” 3-D data of her genitals online? Of course you do! Well today as a special treat we thought we’d share some photos of her enjoying the kayak she originally used that self-same data to make.

Well, it’s Friday isn’t it?

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Japan’s kids love game series Yo-Kai Watch, and one fan says it’s because grownups don’t

Japan’s kids love game series Yo-Kai Watch, and one fan says it’s because grownups don’t

As someone who never completely outgrew his love of animation and video games, I try to at least keep up with what’s popular with kids in Japan. I can identify Pikachu, Squirtle, and a handful more of the cute cockfighting stand-ins from Pokémon. If I visit my in-laws and my nieces are watching an episode of PreCure, I know that it’s about a team of friends who fight evil with their magical powers (even if I have no idea how one of the girls got stuck with “The bursting scent of lemons!” as her special ability).

Still, until recently I hadn’t heard a single thing about Yo-Kai Watch, Japan’s current megahit among the elementary school set. At first I thought this was weird, but as it turns out Yo-Kai Watch’s popularity isn’t in spite of people in my age group not knowing about it, but because of it.

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Soccer star Atsuto Uchida lends voice to Pokémon film

Soccer star Atsuto Uchida lends voice to Pokémon film

The latest cinematic addition to the Pokémon franchise is due to come out later this month, only this time it will be bringing along a little extra team spirit with it. One of the things that will make the latest Pokémon movie, Pocket Monster XY: Hakai no Mayu (Pokémon XY : Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction), special is the fact that it will be the first Pokémon movie to feature the voice of a popular athlete.

Soccer star Atsuto Uchida will be playing the part Usshi, a hotel porter, who was based directly off of Uchida himself. On top of their shared physical appearance, the all-star also serves as his character’s namesake, as “Usshi” is actually the nickname that Uchida holds in Germany, where he currently plays for the German association soccer club, FC Schalke 04.

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Aliens scheduled to land in Fukuoka at the end of July!

Aliens scheduled to land in Fukuoka at the end of July!

Aliens. We’ve always speculated on their existence. Do they already live among us or are they waiting in space to make their appearance suddenly and violently known to us? We recently believed that they might be real with their sudden attendance at a baseball game earlier this year, but those aliens were ejected from the stadium and locked away before we could get their story.

Perhaps, we will now ascertain the truth! Five cousins of the aliens from Independence Day have crashed their brown, corrugated spaceship in Japan and finally we have the proof we’ve always longed for. More about why they’re here, how long they’ll be staying, and how we can learn more about them after the jump.

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Get a little Harry Potter-esque owl action at a bird cafe in Asakusa

Get a little Harry Potter-esque owl action at a bird cafe in Asakusa

With the highly anticipated Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios Japan having just opened this week to great fanfare, owls seem to be the hot “animal of the hour” at the moment in Japan. (Plus, we think owls are pretty cool-looking birds to begin with even without the Harry Potter factor!) In that spirit, one of the reporters from our sister site Pouch recently visited a bird cafe in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, where you can interact with numerous species of owls, yes, but also parakeets and even some falcons as well! Since we’d already had such an awesome time at the owl cafe in Tsukishima, we knew we were going to thoroughly enjoy this visit too. And you can’t really blame us for wanting to share our photos of all the cute owls with you, can you? If you’ve ever been fascinated by owls, we think you’ll be impressed at how up-close and personal you can get with the birds once you’ve seen the pictures!

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Personality test-obsessed Japan devises “Frozen” princess personality test for women

Personality test-obsessed Japan devises “Frozen” princess personality test for women

If there’s anybody in the world that loves a good non-scientifically supported personality or psychological measurement, it’s the Japanese. You’ve got the thoroughly debunked blood type indicator, Western-imported horoscopes, the “which way do you fold your arms?” test, the “how you like your meat cooked says a lot about you” test, and, of course, if you have sword-shaped fingernails, you’re a complete and utter psychopath.

Well, given Japan’s propensity for personality indicators as well as Japan’s affinity for adorable Disney princesses, it was only a matter of time before somebody mashed the two together to create a Frozen princess personality test. Jeez, why can’t they take all this superstition and just LET IT GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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Tiny town in northern Japan creates gorgeous, gigantic artwork out of rice paddies 【Video】

Tiny town in northern Japan creates gorgeous, gigantic artwork out of rice paddies 【Video】

For most of the year, the tiny town of Inakadate in Aomori Prefecture doesn’t get a lot of visitors. With only some 8,000 residents, most of whom make their living through agriculture, there’s not much to do there, unless you feel like staring at the farmers’ fields.

Every summer, though, droves of visitors come to do just that, as Inakadate’s rice paddies transform into gigantic works of art. And this year is no exception.

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See Toyota’s cute and compact i-ROAD in action on Tokyo’s streets

See Toyota’s cute and compact i-ROAD in action on Tokyo’s streets

Toyota Motor Corporation’s sleek and compact vehicle shows off its moves in a new promotional video after successful public trials in Tokyo. Watch these cute and colorful little vehicles whizz past the city’s landmarks and glide around corners while leaning at an incredible angle.

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Fans lined up to get a mouthful of Exile singer’s tasty chocolate banana

Fans lined up to get a mouthful of Exile singer’s tasty chocolate banana

Starting 19 July Fuji TV will be holding the “Odaiba Shintairiku” event featuring live performances from various artists along with other attractions.

Among these attractions is Izakaya Eguzairu, a bar and grill featuring dishes designed by the members of the top pop group Exile. While much of the menu is standard fare such as Hiro’s spaghetti or Aran Shirahama’s chicken and rice, it’s the dish dreamt up by vocalist Takahiro that has everyone saying “I want to eat Takahiro’s banana” online.

We sent our reporter Nakano-san in to get to the bottom of Takahiro’s Chocolate Banana.

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