Japan

Kennin-ji Temple Masters Project: craftsmen make ornate watch inspired by Kyoto temple

Kennin-ji is one of Japan’s most historic landmarks. Founded in 1202, it’s the oldest Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto and its founding monk, Eisai, is credited with introducing the philosophy of zen to Japan. To celebrate the temple’s 800th anniversary in 2002, a pair of dragons were painted inside the Dharma Hall, with instructions from the Abbott that they be “rampaging across the ceiling”.

The beauty and power of these dragons has inspired an experienced collector to commission a timepiece featuring the very same artwork, calling on the expertise of four of the very best master craftsmen in the business to come together in what’s being called the “Kennin-ji Master’s Project”. Helmed by acclaimed English watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin, experts are saying this is one of the most exquisite and ornate watches ever made in the history of the craft.

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Are Japanese rice cookers really better than Chinese ones? We test it out and get some surprises

Whether rightfully or not, Chinese products are much maligned for their supposed lack of quality. Even the Chinese people themselves are often critical of their own country’s products, criticizing everything from Chinese news to rice cookers.

But are they really that bad? Our Japanese reporter Meg recently went on a trip to China and brought back a Chinese rice cooker to test it out. She had a couple of surprises along the way, involving everything from getting the rice cooker to even work, to the taste of the final product, so read on to see how it all turned out!

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New citrus-yuzu-salt-flavored Jagariko potato sticks are delicious, cheap, and ultra-limited

Calbee’s Jagariko is among the tastiest snacks in Japan, if you ask us. The little cups of potato sticks come in a variety of flavors, including cheese, butter, and salad. There are also some seasonal flavors, like yuzu-shio, or yuzu and salt, available now! If you haven’t tried Jagariko yet, this is definitely a great introduction to one of the best snacks in Japan!

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Can you actually taste someone’s burp? We use rice and science to find the answer 【Video】

What do you like to put on your rice when you eat it? Do you go for Western-style with butter and salt, or maybe Japanese-style with an egg or some natto? How about flavoring your rice with… a burp?

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Supposedly if you smell someone’s burp while you’re eating, you can flavor your own food with a dash of whatever they ate. This sounded just bizarre enough to be true, so we gave it a try here at RocketNews24 headquarters. We have the extremely appetizing videos to prove it, so prepare to watch and be amazed!

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Game carts that plug into your phone – We took a peek at Pico Cassette at Tokyo Game Show

Not too long ago, we reported on Pico Cassette, a new device which will allow you to play retro video games on your smartphone via a cartridge which you plug into the headphone jack.

Since we absolutely love all kinds of gadgetry here at RocketNews24, and since we’re also big retro gaming nerds, we made a point to visit Pico Cassette’s booth at this year’s Tokyo Game Show in order to try it out for ourselves!

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Pepper the robot is coming to America with an upgrade in snark!

SoftBank’s emotional robot Pepper could be considered a hit in Japan ,with the first wave of 1,000 bots selling out in a minute and another 1,000 ready to move at the end of this month. But is Pepper’s popularity peculiar to purely people in one part of the Pacific? Perhaps.

We may soon find out according to a report in MIT Technology Review. One of their writers visited Aldebaran Robotics, the company which made Pepper along with SoftBank, and learned that an American Pepper is already well into development and has been given a significant attitude adjustment of the smart-ass kind to better fit in there.

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Nine treats you can only get (and should get!) at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport

In Japan, going on a trip often means you’ll be coming back with about twice as much luggage as you left with, as you are almost always expected to bring back souvenirs for your friends, family, coworkers, teachers, neighbors…pretty much everyone you’ll run into at some point after returning from your trip, even if it’s just a weekend getaway.

The plus side of this? Pretty much anywhere you go in the country, you can find local treats available only in that specific area, and sometimes also limited to the seasons as well. Tokyo is no exception, and today we’re going to be taking a look at some rare, special eats that you’ll only find within the terminals of Haneda Airport.

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Italians taste test Japanese canned coffee and tell us what they think【Video】

You can find canned coffee almost anywhere in Japan. First invented and introduced to the Japanese market in 1969, canned coffee sales really started taking off in the 1980s. Admittedly my first canned coffee experience left me wondering what all the hype was about, but now, perhaps as a result of better production methods or acquiring a taste for it after living here so long, I have to admit nothing beats the satisfaction you feel sipping on a warm can of coffee from the vending machine just as the weather starts getting chilly.

Of course, when it comes to coffee, many people think of Italy. Along with pasta and pizza, coffee is a huge part of Italian food culture. In fact, the country has over 160,000 small cafes serving coffee, drinks, and light eats from morning to evening. So how exactly would Japanese canned coffee fare with Italian locals with a refined taste for excellent coffee? RocketNews24 decided it was worth making the trip over to ask.

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Keep yourself entertained during long loo breaks with poo-themed mobile game【TGS 2015】

While sniffing out the most interesting things on offer at this year’s Tokyo Game Show 2015, we came across one game that was making quite a splash with its bizarre theme and crazy advertising. How could RocketNews24 resist talking to the guy in a bright yellow bodysuit with a poo hat on his head?!

I took the opportunity to talk with Dice Creative, the developers of new poo-themed mobile game PooPride, and I was impressed by just how much passion and excitement they have for excrement.

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Idol ordered to pay management company 650,000 yen after going to hotel with male fan

Idol singers exist in an extremely specialized, and often contradictory, corner of the already specialized Japanese pop music industry. Successful idols are expected to walk the fine line between having a polished, attractive appearance and an approachable, unassuming aura. Even more ironic is that while their songs’ lyrics are often focused on love and devotion, it’s practically unheard of for an active idol to openly be in a romantic relationship.

Every now and again, though, word gets out that an idol secretly has a boyfriend, or had an illicit liaison with a guy. The revelation is usually followed by a solemn apology to fans, and often the offending member being removed from the group. But this time the story of an idol’s amorous activities coming to light has something we’ve never heard about before: a court-ordered fine equivalent to several thousand dollars for breach of contract.

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Japan’s magic umbrellas reveal cute patterns in the rain

September in Japan is the bridge between summer and autumn, with warm humid days mixed in with cool nights and passing typhoons dumping some of the year’s highest amounts of rainfall around the country.

With the rain set to continue, umbrella sales are in full swing at the moment, and some of the best ones here are simply magic. They won’t send you flying through the air like Mary Poppins, but they will reveal hidden secrets when the rain begins to fall!

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Afro Buddha, usually only displayed one day a year,  gets rare extended viewing until mid-October

The Buddhist statues of Japan come in a wide variety of forms, representing the various manifestations and aspects of Buddhism and its many sects. Of all the iconic figures that can be found around the country, perhaps the grooviest are the statues of Amida with a giant afro!

Dubbed the “Afro Buddha,” this statue stored at Todaiji in Nara is also rarely available public viewing — it’s usually only on display for one day a year! But thanks to special circumstances, it is on display from now until October 18. If you’re looking for the funkiest Buddha in Japan, now’s your chance to see him!

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Dress up your smartphone for battle with these cool Evangelion phone covers!

We all need cool smartphone covers, right? Well, these might be the perfect phone accessory if you’re a fan of the hugely popular Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. Yes, these futuristic-looking items are smartphone cases made in the image of Evangelion machines, and what fan wouldn’t want a bit of Eva armor protecting their phone?

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Final Fantasy XV team’s “location hunt” video looks suspiciously like awesome adventure vacation

As the graphics in video games have become increasingly sophisticated, a new and unexpected expense has surfaced for design teams hoping to make their game’s environments as realistic as possible: the so-called “location hunt.”

While in the good ol’ days of pixel graphics, design teams could just look at some photographs or even paintings of real-world locations for inspiration, modern gaming’s open, 3-D worlds demand level and object design so advanced that it becomes a near-necessity for teams to travel to locales that closely resemble the digital worlds they’re hoping to create,  getting actual eyes on, say, that volcanic mountain they plan to have the player venture through, or checking out the minute curves and angles of some military hardware they plan on dropping into the game.

Ironically, though, while the “location hunt” is still considered work, outside of the unlucky design team that has to go inside of a volcano for that epic RPG boss fight or something, these excursions can actually end up looking suspiciously like a vacation. Just ask the Final Fantasy XV design team, who recently posted a YouTube video of their location hunt.

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How Japanese universities are trying to help worried parents by babying their students

University means a lot of things to people, but most of us have the same initial thought when we receive that glorious acceptance letter: FREEDOM! You are rid of your parents, can ignore those pesky siblings and finally carve out your own space in the world. You get to experience all sorts of the highs and lows, like living on your own for the first time, cooking for yourself and being the only one who cares if you make it to class.

All the responsibility lies with the student; university is the time for coming of age and shaping the adult that you will be. Recently though, Japanese parents have become increasingly vocal about their concerns for their children and the fact that there are not many support systems in place to give the parents some peace of mind. Well, as it turns out, the universities are listening and bowing to parents’ wishes.

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Single “Hebel Haus” is the only structure to defy the flooding of Japan’s Angry Demon River

Last week, we discussed the possible etymology of Kinugawa (“Angry Demon River”), which has been the scene of intense flooding in eastern Japan this month. While the overflowing river has devastated the surrounding towns and landscapes in its wake, a single building in Joso City, Ibaraki Prefecture has been gaining particular attention for being the only structure within sight to stand firmly in place in the face of a deluge of muddy water.

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Kankolle booth displays moe battleship girls at TGS 2015【Photos】

We’ve written many times before about the phenomenon that is Kantai Collection, or Kancolle. The free-to-play online game featuring battleships anthropomorphized as cute girls has spawned an anime, mountains of merchandise, and limitless sexy fanart, cosplay, and doujinshi.

Since Kancolle is still most famous as a game, with over 3 million registered players, it had a strong presence at this year’s Tokyo Game Show at the DMM.com booth. They had an impressive display of detailed figures available, faithfully recreating the 2D moe battleship girls in glorious 3D. And we got photos of some of the best!

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Sailor Moon girls Pluto and Chibiusa save your lips and your hips with lip balm and chopsticks

Sailor Moon’s 20th Anniversary year has been an absolute boon for fans of the series. We’ve seen everything from sanitary equipment  to lingerie to tiny little miniature versions of the everyday items they use.

What we really can’t get enough of is the bevy of adorable merchandise from Premium Bandai. And now that they’ve added new Sailor Pluto and Chibiusa items to their Miracle Romance line and DX My Chopsticks Collection, we’re heading straight to the online register!

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Kitty high-rise condos now being sold by Japanese pet supply company

Space is scarce In Japan, so it’s becoming more and more common for people to settle down in a condominium tower. Even for those homeowners who can afford a detached house, the price of real estate means that more than a few decide on a three-story design.

So perhaps it’s was inevitable that this shift towards vertical living spaces would eventually apply to pets as well, which is why one company in Japan is selling this multi-level high-rise for cats.

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War and One Piece: How Japan’s constitution was changed

The above scene of Japanese elected officials climbing on top of each other like extras in a Pearl Jam music video made headlines worldwide much to the country’s chagrin. And it was in this way that Japan has officially reinterpreted its constitution to allow military deployment to other parts of the world for the first time since World War II.

Yes, rather than through persuasive speech and the rational debate that government was designed to produce, the future course of Japan had been steered by underhanded tricks, shoving matches, and even a decoy legislation made of a One Piece advert.

But were these uncivilized tactics motivated by honest passion and the sheer intensity of the situation, or were the elite of Japanese society simply showing their true nature of political impotence? To find out, let’s take a look at how the whole fracas started.

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