Float like Kiki, sting like a bee: Adorable photos from the Mino City Witch Contest

The Warner Brothers Studio Tour London, or as everyone I know stubbornly insists on calling it, “Harry Potter Land”, has one attraction that pulls in even the most cynical visitor. Apart from the butterbeer tent, the place with the longest queue in the studios is the green screen zone, where you can don quidditch robes and take a broomstick ride around Hogwarts and beyond. As I discovered when I visited there last month, after pratting around on a broom for five minutes you are led into the shop selling commemorative DVDs (or USB sticks, or whatever) of your flight. Thankfully, I resisted the urge to part with any more of my hard-earned pounds, and the footage of me waving to legions of adoring quidditch fans will (hopefully) be lost forever.

You might be forgiven, in a world of technological wizardry, for thinking that these shots of broomstick-riding witches had been made in a similar way – with a green screen or even some snazzy Photoshopping. But no. In the photos, taken at a local event in Gifu, Japan, last month, there aren’t even any wires being used! Just happy jumping witches and some clever camera angles.

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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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Movies vs Reality: Can duct tape really be used to shut someone up? Korean YouTuber finds out

Some people say life is like a movie. Well, that’s certainly true in some respects, since there are many movies and dramas that are inspired by real-life events. But we all know some scenes and plots in movies are blown out of proportion to achieve a more dramatic expression on-screen, and sometimes movie plots are too exaggerated to ever be thought of as anything more than works of fiction.

One Korean YouTuber has seemingly been pondering such issues as well, particularly why kidnap victims in movies and dramas can’t scream for help simply because they have a piece of duct tape over their mouths. And to prove her point, she tries it herself.

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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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Just a typical day in Australia watching kangaroos fight in the middle of the street

Move over cats–you’re not needed anymore. The internet’s got a new animal to obsess over–kangaroos!

You’ve probably never spent an entire afternoon watching YouTube videos of marsupials, but now’s the perfect time to start. What happens when two male kangaroos meet each other in the middle of the street in a typical suburban neighborhood? Keep reading after the jump to find out!

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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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Filipino actor transforms into celebrity women with a little help from his friends

We’ve demonstrated the power of makeup before, so it’s fair to say that we’re believers in its mystical ability to transform wearers. That said not every makeup experiment will work perfectly–or at all–but we do still enjoy seeing the attempts. While it can be used to help people change their appearance almost entirely, makeup can only stretch reality so far. But just what are the limits?

Well, if you’re Paolo Ballesteros, an actor and comedian popular in the Philippines, not many! Check out his numerous transformations into popular female celebrities using only makeup, wigs, and contact lenses below and see what can be done with some well-placed blush.

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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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Brave Chinese boy demonstrates how NOT to go down a waterslide

Who doesn’t love going to the water park during the hot summer months? Between splashing in the water and goofing around with your friends, it might be the best way to spend a sizzling Saturday afternoon. And, of course, the waterslides are probably the best part! They’re as much fun as a slip’n’slide without the worry of zipping off into mom’s rose bushes. Though they can present dangers of their own, as one boy in China learned this year…

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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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