Freak hailstorms hit Tokyo in June as winter rises from its icy grave

The weather in Tokyo can be a little unpredictable in June. Spring still wasn’t that long ago, and sometimes we’ll get a day with a cool breeze or nighttime temperatures low enough that you’ll want a windbreaker, or at least a long-sleeved shirt.

On the other hand, midsummer is just around the corner, and steamy, sweltering days with high humidity and temperatures aren’t at all unusual. On just about any day the cloud layer has the potential to turn into a squall, too.

One thing Tokyo usually doesn’t see at this time of the year, though, is hailstorms.

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Frozen’s songs in regional Japanese dialects somehow work amazingly well【Videos】

It all started with the Japanese version of “Let it Go”, the hit song from Disney’s latest animated movie Frozen. But that wasn’t the only song to be localized, and now amateur singers are getting even more local with creative versions of Frozen’s songs in their own regional dialects. Join us after the jump for two of the best.

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Faithful pooch in Akita saves 5-year-old owner from attacking bear

We recently had a good chuckle at the dog that got itself comically trapped in its backyard in urban Japan. As silly as that Shiba inu may have looked though, the breed isn’t all poorly-thought-out curiosity and exploration-related hijinks. Recently, a Shiba in Akita Prefecture earned some positive publicity for its kin by saving its young owner from a bear.

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Moroccan recipe leads to awesome stop-motion animation with 1:48-scale figure and iPhone backdrop

Back in April, we ran an article on mind-bogglingly tiny kitchens in a bottle. Now, Japanese beverage giant Kirin has gone a step further in another animated short that promotes their soft-drink line, “Sekai no Kitchen Kara” (“From the World’s Kitchens”). Though the multi-brand company is best known for their beers, this yummy non-alcoholic collection emerged after test-kitchen staff visited numerous countries’ bustling kitchens, which are undoubtedly a treasure trove of family traditions and culinary wisdom.

So before you write this off as mere marketing, check out the company’s imaginative stop-motion creation, which amazingly combines 1:48-scale miniature figures with video footage playing on a smartphone screen! Along the way, learn a bit more about this line of libations and the Moroccan tradition that inspired Kirin’s latest drink, “Sparkling Water.”

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Amazon Japan adds regulations for deliveries to prisons, the internet wonders why

You no longer have to bake a file in a cake to get something to your buddy in prison; it seems Amazon Japan will do the delivering for you. Sharp-eyed netizens noticed a peculiar addition to the Help Page on the popular home shopping site titled “About shipping to prisons” and it has us all wondering what events transpired to warrant the new information.

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We went to the Ozashiki Cafe to see professional geisha perform — and we had an amazing time!

Last month, we ran a story about the Ozashiki Cafe, a one day event that would offer a unique opportunity for the Japanese public to take a look into the usually exclusive world of geisha and the traditional Japanese restaurants known as ryotei, where they perform. Much to our delight, we received comments from readers encouraging us to sign up and attend the event, so that’s exactly what we decided to do! And we were quite excited to do so too, since the average person in Japan usually doesn’t have the chance to interact with professional geisha. So, here’s our report on what we experienced at the Ozashiki Cafe, which took place at the ryotei Miyakodori in the Asakusa district of Tokyo — and we have to say, it was quite a treat to be entertained by professional geisha, even it was for just one fleeting hour!

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This Japanese university is just asking to trigger the rise of the machines

With all the updates in the field of robotics, it becomes more and more a possibility that one day they will rise up and overthrow their human creators. After years of washing our hair or serving our food, once their AI reaches the point where they realize we’re a bunch of jerks to them the human race will be in a bit of a pickle. And it’s images like the one above taken at an unnamed Japanese university that are sure to make the machines come to such realization.

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Colombia beats Japan, still picks up a few Japanese supporters for its inspiring sportsmanship

The international nature of professional soccer makes for some uniquely compelling individual matchups at the World Cup. Since the event is only held once every four years, during the time between tournaments the members of each country’s national teams go back to playing for their respective, privately owned clubs.

It’s easy to imagine how this could make things awkward for a player who has a club teammate who’s on the roster of a different national team. One day you’re doing everything you can to beat him at the World Cup, but a few weeks later, you’re going to have to go back to working together, no matter how bitterly contested your match in Brazil was.

Sometimes, though, the opposite happens, and these personal connections bring a little extra sportsmanship to the World Cup, like what happened between Japanese defender Yuto Nagatomo and Colombian midfielder Fredy Guarin.

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Guess what’s back, back again. Isopod case is back, tell your friends! Comes in gold…!

What’s popular in Japan? You probably wouldn’t be able to guess. Take Nameko for example. They are mushroom characters that are actually quite cute, but you end up not being able to look at real mushrooms the same again. There are also Mameshiba which are a series of bean characters meant to look like dogs. One of the biggest crazes sweeping the nation right now is Funassyi: a mascot character based on a pear that jumps, wiggles and screams. The Japanese love it!

So it’s really no surprise that a giant isopod cell phone case was made, completely sold out, gained a cult following and people demanded more of them. The prayers of those die-hard fans have been answered and the giant isopod iPhone case has returned and better yet, it now comes in a stunning gold color!

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Japanese hostel’s visitor board reveals surprisingly deep cultural differences

We’ve always been told that stereotypes are bad, but there are certain cultural phenom that can be measured so widely that it’s safe to say that people from certain countries at least have a tendency to behave in certain ways.

The Japanese, for instance, are said to be orderly and conformist, while Americans are said to be cowboys that like to do things their own way, even if to the detriment of others.

While this survey sticker board from a Japanese hostel – which asks where visitors hail from – may actually prove the opposite about Americans, it pretty readily confirms that the Japanese are very organized.

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A Dragon Quest slime glass draws near! What will you drink?

Even though Dragon Quest has been one of Japan’s most popular video game franchises since its start in 1986, it doesn’t really have an iconic hero. Like many long-running role-playing game series, each installment brings in a fresh cast of characters, and despite the name, Dragon Quest doesn’t have an instantly recognizable recurring dragon, either.

Instead, the face of the franchise is the lowly slime, ordinarily the very first enemy the player encounters. The monster shows up in each and every Dragon Quest game, and now, it’s ready to show up in your kitchen, too, with this wobbling slime drinking glass.

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Retired soldier and his wife finally get their wedding photos taken after 68 years!

These days, many engaged couples usually choose their gowns and suits, and take a beautiful set of pre-wedding photos before solemnizing their marriage during their wedding ceremonies. In the past, however, not many couples had the privilege of having lavish weddings.

An elderly couple in Hunan Province, China, have been married since 1946, but it is only now, 68 years later, that they put on their wedding dress and tuxedo for the first time!

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16 photos that show why Singapore has the world’s best airline

Singapore Airlines took the top spot on our list of the Best Airlines In The World.

The list ranked the best major international airlines for flying economy class, based on two categories: the quality of the in-flight experience and the on-time delays.

Last year, I flew economy class from New York City to Singapore (with a stop in Frankfurt) on Singapore Airlines, and saw for myself why the airline gets rave reviews.

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Life-size Thomas the Tank Engine begins running on Japanese railroad

Japan is a country that loves its trains. For many rail enthusiasts, there’s nothing better than a getaway to one of the rural parts of the country to ride on and snap pictures of unique trains running through beautiful countryside scenery.

Some localities even drum up tourism by keeping old-fashioned steam locomotives in service, which are always a big draw. This summer, though, Shizuoka Prefecture’s Oigawa Line is going a step further by dressing up one of its trains as Thomas the Tank Engine.

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We test our iPhone’s new protective sheet against the legendary sword Excalibur

The touchscreen is both the greatest and most annoying part of a smartphone. On the plus side, you’ve got clear images, vibrant colors, and the simplicity that comes from bypassing a bunch of buttons and menus. At the same time, though, you’ve also got to deal with unsightly scratches and cracks.

We recently heard about a new protective sheet that’s supposed to be able to withstand almost any kid of abuse, so we put it to the test against a variety of damaging instruments including what one shopkeeper told us was the legendary sword Excalibur.

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Japanese girls are not just skinny any more!? Chubby girls are in!

Naomi Watanabe, a famous female comedian, has started a fashion brand for plus-sized girls named “PUNYUS”. PUNYUS has been in the spotlight since the brand launched this spring, because it is part of a new trend to focus on chubby girls, and also it is remarkable for a comedian to produce a fashion brand compared to the many slender fashion models that have their own brands.

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Need a change of scenery? 3 Japanese cities now rank in list of world’s most livable cities

Everything has been coming up Tokyo lately. Recently ranked no. 1 on a Trip Advisor survey, Japan’s capital city has now come in at No. 2 on Monocle’s list of most livable cities for 2014. That’s two positions up from their ranking last year!

Cities across the world were ranked based on criteria such as economics, society, functionality, as well as ease of everyday living and happiness of people. But it’s not just Tokyo that’s feeling the love recently – two more Japanese cities made it onto the list of great places to live!

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“Be a blank slate”: The way to get hired in Japan?

As far as things not to say in an interview go, you’d think it’d be pretty high up on the list. But the young Japanese university student, rejected by all the other companies he’d applied to, was prepared to take the risk. “This company is the only option I have left,” he pleaded with the interviewer. “I’ll do anything!” An unusual strategy, certainly. But he got the job.

Japanese site Niconico News reports that the man is now entering his ninth year of employment with the company, so it seems the gamble paid off. But is the company’s positive reaction so unusual? Some Japanese employability experts are arguing that, for many companies, the ideal graduate recruit is a “hakushi” – a blank page that the company can do what they want with. When companies train new recruits extensively, an across-the-board willingness to learn is valued more than previous experience.

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Lucky #18! Japan gets another UNESCO World Heritage site

Japanese people love visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites. Good thing there are plenty of sites in Japan for people to pilgrimage to–17 before this week started. With the addition of Mt. Fuji in 2013, World Heritage site “completionists” finally had a new location to travel to after two years of waiting.

Well, the list just got a little bit longer, as another site has officially been added to bring Japan’s UNESCO sites to a total of 18. Pack your bags, we’re heading to Gunma!

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Poll reveals fans’ top ranking Gundam series

One of the most legendary and enduring anime franchises of all time is the quintessential mechafranchise Mobile Suit Gundam. But which entry to the franchise is really the greatest of all? Fan informational site Akiba Souken recently ran a two week poll from June 6 to June 18, gathering votes from 3,025 participants to decide once and for all which series, OVA, or movie is really the fan-favorite Gundam work, the top of which are as follow:

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