Japan

Forget panty vending machines – BOGOF canned coffee is all the excitement we need!

If you’ve been to Japan or just watched Japanese movies and TV, you’re bound to have noticed that they have vending machines coming out the wazoo. Seriously, those things are everywhere! Head out to the deepest inaka (countryside) and you’re still bound to run across a random vending machine nestled in the greenery as though it’s been waiting its whole life just to slake your thirst. But with so many vending machines all over the place, drinks companies have had to get competitive, and reports from Twitter speak of a mythical machine that dispenses two for the price of one canned coffee! But just what sort of wizardry is this?

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Japanese man invites neighbor in for a few beers immediately after being shanked by him

A story out of Saitama Prefecture almost sounds like the script to a heartwarming movie. In an apartment house in Kawaguchi City, until a few days ago, two senior citizens were living next door to each other. The men shared a love of beer, and since they were both living alone, would even sometimes pass off their excess food to one another if they happened to buy too much at the grocery store.

Sure, 64-year-old Shingo Tsutsui didn’t like the noise his 70-year-old neighbor made walking around the hardwood floors of his thin-walled apartment, but that little bit of cantankerousness just adds to the Odd Couple-like appeal of the story, doesn’t it? Or at least it would, if Tsutsui had responded by contorting his face into comically frustrated expressions instead of what he actually did, which was to attack his neighbor with a kitchen knife.

As shocking as that is, though, it’s not nearly as unexpected as the victim’s reaction: inviting his attacker in to have a couple of beers together.

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Low crime in Japan means police officers create ridiculous snow sculptures instead

It snows a lot in Hokkaido. Like, a lot. No seriously, they have a hotel made out of ice and snow and just take a look at this poor Lawson convenience store that was devoured by snowfall.

So with all that snow around you can either grumble as you shovel your driveway for the third time that day, or you can make the best of it. One police officer in Hokkaido did just that, creating an amazing snow-sculpture of a Japanese police car right outside the station.

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Japanese sixth-grader calls out smartphone-loving parents over anti-video game lectures

I understand that an important part of parenting is setting boundaries for children. Until they reach a certain age, kids just don’t have the kind of foresight necessary to fully understand the consequences of all their actions, and letting preteens eat as many cookies as they want or stay up as late as they like probably isn’t the best idea.

That said, another important part of parenting is setting a good example. Fail to do that, and your kids are likely to just tune out everything you’re saying. Actually, that might be the best case scenario, since if you’re flagrantly guilty of not practicing what you preach, your kids might call you out for it, like one Japanese elementary school girl who pointed out her parents’ logical inconsistency in lecturing about keeping her video game playing to a minimum, even as they were glued to their own electronic devices.

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These placid penguins really love taking a ride on this seal’s silky back【Photos】

The holiday period is well and truly over, and it’s cold, grey and generally blah outside. If this sounds like your life, then you could do with a penguin pick-me-up to perk you right up, courtesy of RocketNews24! We’ll even throw in a free seal to seal the deal! Join us after the jump for some adorable photos of a beautiful interspecies friendship!

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Anime figurines rejoice as fully working miniature locker appears on gacha market

What would you put in a tiny miniature locker? That’s the question you’ll be asking if you get your hands on one of the newest gacha capsule toys, set to hit the market in April.

While most of us would have no use for a locker the size of a thumb, spare a thought for the anime figures of the world, who have spent years searching for a secure place to store their valuable accessories before setting out on their exciting adventures.

The only hurdle they’ll have to overcome now though, is finding a way to insert a coin that’s bigger than the size of their head.

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Pet Bird Exhibit at Tokyu Hands Ikebukuro offers adorable Parakeet cakes and much more!

If you like cute little pet birds and happen to be in the Tokyo area, we have some good news for you! There’s now a special exhibit going on at the Tokyu Hands Ikebukuro shop until January 22 titled the “Parakeets and their Friends Exhibit (Inko to Nakama-tachi Ten)”.

Yes, pet birds seem to have quite a following in Japan, enough at least for a unique product like “pet bird flavored ice cream” to have come out in the past. Now, at this Tokyu Hands exhibit featuring pet bird-themed items from various artists and creators, you can apparently enjoy a set of “parakeet cakes,” and judging from the pictures we’ve seen, the cakes certainly look almost too cute to eat!

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Poseable North American Mega Man figure lets you admire the character’s belly in three dimensions

Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, it wasn’t unusual for Japanese video games to be released internationally with box art different from that which was used at home. Many overseas publishers worried that the original versions were too cutesy, concluding that the covers needed an extra dose of testosterone in order to appeal to machismo-seeking non-Japanese gamers.

The logic itself is sort of shaky, but what made things worse was how most of the new box art bore little resemblance to the in-game designs, plus rarely looked appealing even when judged solely on its own non-existent merits. While much of this lazily produced art has been fittingly forgotten, there are some things you just can’t unsee. Like discovering a dead pigeon inside your bag of fast food takeout, the North American cover of the very first Mega Man has been burned into the memories of older gamers, and the pudgy sci-fi hero has now made the jump into three-dimensional space with his own figure.

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Latte art comes to life in this amazing stop-motion video

I recently spent five bucks for a latte at a zoo just because it had a panda stenciled on it. The chocolate powdered cartoon panda was gone the moment I stirred in my sugar and really, all I wanted was to Instagram it. The allure of the Latte Art boom constantly appeals to fascinated casual drinkers and caffeine addicts alike, and the art has evolved from elaborate manga drawings to adorable 3-D pop-ups. Japanese coffee maker AFG, however, recently took the art to a whole new level when it released a stop animation in which each frame is created with cups of latte art! Now that is some serious dedication!

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Mr. Sato goes to Tokyo Auto Salon 2015, forgets to take photos of the cars…

While Japan makes some rather unique cars, itasha aren’t the only custom cars in the country. From oni-kyan wheels for drifting to Chibatman, it sometimes seems like half of the vehicles in the country have been modified to extremes. But to get an idea of just how popular custom cars are in Japan, you’d need to head to Tokyo Auto Salon, which saw nearly 300,000 attendees last year!

This year, not wanting to miss out on all the fun, our brave Mr. Sato donned his most garish, chinpira outfit and headed down to look at some cars…and the women who get paid to stand next to them.

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Name Game: Finding the origin and prevalence of Japanese surnames just got easier

I love business cards, because I’ll admit it, I am not good with names. First names, last names, if you tell me, I will probably forget it. (Kirakira names are usually easier to remember though!) The good thing about living in Japan, however, is that despite there being over 100,000 different surnames, a really high percentage of people use only a few really common names.

To make it even easier for me, different areas of Japan often have higher densities of certain names. For instance, there are about 4,700 people in Japan with surname Maru (丸), but more than 50 percent of them live in southern Chiba. So, if you forget someone’s name in southern Chiba, Maru might be a safe guess.

A website and smartphone application called Myoji-Yurai Net allows you to find out the prevalence, origin and other fun information about the top 3,000 surnames in Japan. It’s actually quite fun!

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“Help, there’s no TP!” Japan’s emergency services plagued by nonsense calls

Back when I was working in city hall at a small rural town in Kyoto prefecture, one of my duties involved heading to the fire station a few times a month to “role play” with the firemen. (Hey, it beat pushing papers.) To help them gain some experience with handling potential emergency calls from foreign residents, I would play the part of the panicking gaijin, often trying to come up with weird and wacky scenarios for the emergency services guys to handle. The object was to train the (almost completely non-English speaking) EMTs to pick out essential keywords such as “fire”, “car accident”, “unconscious”, etc from a barrage of English, but mostly I just had a blast inventing crazy scenarios like “my Playstation 3 just blew up and set fire to my neighbour’s poodle!”

It’s not all fun and games, however. Time-wasting calls to Japan’s emergency services numbers 119 and 110 have been a serious problem recently, with increasing numbers of people abusing the service to ask for help with a range of ridiculous scenarios, ranging from running out of toilet paper to forgetting their smartphone password…

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Japanese Twitter trend of the week: Outfitting your cat with a regal boot-cover mane

What could be a better way to stave off boredom the cold than by dressing your kitty up with a regal lion-like mane?

That’s exactly how Japanese Twitter users have been entertaining themselves this past week–only the “mane” is actually made from the fluffy material of a boot covering purchased at one of Japan’s favorite 100 yen stores, Daiso. Whether the cats themselves are amused or not is a different story…

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Nonsensical conbini crime: Incapable clerk vs. drunk guy’s money

When you get change after paying for something in cash, do you ever actually count it to make sure you received the right amount? I sure don’t. Maybe I’m just too used to Japan, where the person working the register will count out each bill and the coins in front of you before handing the change over. It’s just a simple measure taken to double-check that the person at the register isn’t short-changing the customer.

Thorough as it may be, it’s not a flawless method, leaving room for human error, like not being able to tell the difference between a 1,000 yen bill and 10,000 yen bill. But really, who would make that mistake?

Apparently a teenager working the register at a convenience store in Nara recently managed to make that very mistake, but instead of short-changing the customer, he ended up giving 46,000 yen (US$390) in change for a 13,000 yen (US$110) purchase. Fishy! Oh and then, the customer got arrested. Fishier!

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A brief history of shorthand in Japan

The video pictured above was posted on YouTube about five years ago and resulted in several comments wondering what the woman was scribbling onto papers at a furious rate. Some suspected it might have been Arabic or really sloppy Japanese when actually it was a demonstration of Waseda shorthand.

Even with English’s relatively simple letters, shorthand was in big demand before the digital era in order to take down information quickly. It shouldn’t be a big leap to assume Japanese with multiple character sets and kanji would welcome a faster writing system. Thus several styles of Japanese shorthand were developed over the 20th century. Let’s take a look at a few.

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Net user recreates Japan’s islands and prefectures in this twist on a winter tradition

New Year’s in Japan is a quiet affair. While the holiday period is usually spent with family, enjoying traditional food and activities, there’s one particular pastime that brings the family together in a special way every winter. To indulge in this very Japanese affair, you’ll need two of the items pictured in the image above. Can you guess what they are?

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Can you figure it out? Japanese man creates puzzling perpetual motion machine from paper【Video】

Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought, “I’m going to achieve the impossible today and build a perpetual motion machine!”? Well, Niconico user LupinIII didn’t exactly think that, but earlier this month he uploaded a video of what seems to be an impossible object on a Japanese video-sharing site: a deceivingly simple, Escher-esque structure with four slopes, upon which a marble continuously rolls. The video quickly garnered over 250,000 views, reaching number one in the science and technology category.

Read on to watch the mystifying video at the end of the article and learn a bit more about how the crafty paper structure was designed and built!

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Track the stylistic evolution of Eiichiro Oda’s most famous One Piece characters

It’s hard to believe that One Piece, Japan’s best-selling manga series in history, will be celebrating its 18th anniversary this July. With 76 collected volumes of manga, a mega-popular anime television adaptation, an upcoming theme park, and hordes of international fans, the series is stronger than ever after almost two decades.

A recent post by a Japanese internet forum user showed the evolution of series’ creator Eiichiro Oda’s artwork by comparing older pictures of the Straw Hat Pirates with more recent ones side-by-side. While most of the changes are fairly subtle, the slight differences were still enough to spark an online debate about which of the two drawing styles is better. Which is your personal preference?

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Giant maguro donated to shrine of fishing-god Ebisu

The start of a new year means it’s time for hatsumōde, the year’s first visit to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. You pray for good luck in the new year, throw some spare yen into the saisenbako (big offering box), get some omamori (good luck charms), and hope that the omikuji (fortune) you get is dai-kichi (great luck) and not dai-kyō (you’re screwed).

While most people are satisfied donating a few yen coins in the donation box when they visit their shrine, the Nishinomiya shrine in Hyogo Prefecture does things a little differently. They want to make sure the gods hear them loud and clear, so they lug a massive frozen maguro onto the donation box and leave it there for three days.

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How do Japanese cats stay warm and accessorize during winter? With tail scarves, of course!

Though spring is only a few months away, Tokyo is still downright cold these days. Of course, if you’re from a colder climate, you probably annoy your friends by running around in shorts asking why they’re shivering, but for many people here, it’s still pretty cold. Whether it’s the sea breeze zipping through the streets or some sort of reverse heat island effect, we’re not sure, but it is enough to make mornings downright brutal.

And people aren’t the only ones cursing the cold–our furry feline friends are none too fond of winter either! But unlike humans, they come with built-in scarves. Check out some of Japan’s cutest cats wrapping themselves up nice and warm with their tails.

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