Chocolate-covered squid, wasabi Kit Kat, and other anomalies of the Japanese snack food scene

Chocolate-covered squid, wasabi Kit Kat, and other anomalies of the Japanese snack food scene

Japan is a crowded country, and that goes for just about everything. Even store shelves are crowded. Most people do their shopping on foot, which means supermarkets and convenience stores tend to be on the small size, and shelf space is always at a premium.

As such, companies have to do something to make their products stand out. This is why so many Japanese beverages and snack foods have seasonal flavors that are only available for a limited time. Of course, taste engineers in Japan can only come up with so many normal flavors, and when they run out, the only thing to do is go on to the abnormal flavors.

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It may look like a panda, but this baby at the Hangzhou Zoo is a wooly animal

It may look like a panda, but this baby at the Hangzhou Zoo is a wooly animal

Pandas by themselves are adorable, but when you find a different animal that resembles those black and white creatures, it’s cuteness overload! First, we found Pandagators, which may or may not be categorized as “cute” for some people, but we’d say they’re far less terrifying than the original and teetering towards the cuteness realm. But this next panda-like animal is undeniably delightful. Can you guess what it is?

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Bring your child’s imagination to life: 3-D printed figures of children’s drawings are awesome!

Bring your child’s imagination to life: 3-D printed figures of children’s drawings are awesome!

3-D printing is bringing us a whole new world of possibilities, from fetus replicas to Link’s adventuring weapons, and while the technology is still in development, it often seems like there’s nothing a MakerBot can’t make out of thin air.

But here’s something you probably had no idea a 3-D printer could do: Bring children’s imaginations to life.

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Experience history and culture with a cup of green tea in these beautiful Kamakura temple gardens

Experience history and culture with a cup of green tea in these beautiful Kamakura temple gardens

Although Kyoto served as Japan’s capital before the imperial residence was moved to Tokyo in the 19th century, for roughly 150 years the real seat of power was located in the city of Kamakura.

Many of the samurai living in Kamakura at the time were devout followers of Buddhism, and their dedication to their faith is reflected in the numerous historic temples located in Kamakura. Of course, visiting them all is bound to tire out your feet, and when that happens, there’s no better way to refresh yourself than by relaxing in one of Kamakura’s beautiful temple gardens while sipping from a cup of freshly brewed green tea.

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Hugvie, the blobular doll that combines hugs and phone calls, might actually help reduce stress

Hugvie, the blobular doll that combines hugs and phone calls, might actually help reduce stress

Regular readers will no doubt recall the Telenoid R1, the tactile doll shaped like a giant human foetus that when controlled via remote computer almost appears to be alive. Using this intriguing yet somewhat disturbing technology, creator and Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro went on to produce Hugvie, a soft, pared-down version of the doll that has a slot for a smartphone in its head, enabling users to cuddle and chat at once while the doll’s internal vibrators simulate the caller’s heartbeat based on their tone and the volume of their voice.

As fun and quirky as the pillow was, few ever thought it could be beneficial to users’ health, but recent research suggests that cuddling up with one of these blobs while chatting on the phone could actually help reduce stress and make us feel more content.

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Uber-complicated foreigner-friendly guide to conveyor belt sushi will make your eyes pop out

Uber-complicated foreigner-friendly guide to conveyor belt sushi will make your eyes pop out

Oh boy, look at that thing. Just, wow. What is even happening here? There are so many colors, and this Escher-esque perspective trick where you’re looking down at the sushi conveyor belt but seeing the customers head-on all at the same time…

As the title of this bizarro infographic suggests, this is ostensibly a guide to using a kaiten conveyor belt sushi establishment. We’re actually very appreciative someone took the effort to make this since it’s pretty easy to accidentally commit a crime if you don’t follow the kaiten sushi rules perfectly.

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Prison Culture Festival: All the fun of incarceration, none of the crime!

Prison Culture Festival: All the fun of incarceration, none of the crime!

The first weekend in November, Japan’s largest prison facility, Fuchu Prison, will be holding its annual culture festival! Everyone’s invited to visit the grounds and experience all the fun, food, and friendly atmosphere – things that are not often attributed to prison life. It’s just like the cultural festivals run by high school students, but imagine that the students are all convicts dressed in grey pajamas and locked up in their classrooms. Flyers for the event list educational exhibitions, musical guests, and even a “prison adventure” bus tour behind the heavily guarded walls!

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Pre-fame videos of pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu reveal she once looked like an ordinary teenager

Pre-fame videos of pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu reveal she once looked like an ordinary teenager

So let’s say you’re a high school girl growing up in Tokyo, the undisputed mecca of fashion and pop music in Japan. You want to break into the industry, but what can you do to make yourself stand out from all the other teens with the same ambitions, especially if you’ve got a fairly pedestrian name like Kiriko Takemura?

Simple: you slip on an outfit that’s as colorful as it is outlandish, adopt the stage name Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, and bask in the adoration of fans both in Japan and abroad.

Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. Kyary’s success is the result of several years spent developing her persona and image, as we can see in a pair of pre-fame videos showing her as a high-schooler still at the midpoint of her path to stardom.

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The amazing skills of World Karate Kata Champion Rika Usami 【Videos】

The amazing skills of World Karate Kata Champion Rika Usami 【Videos】

Tokyo-born Rika Usami began her karate career at just 10 years old when she joined a local dojo. Progressing through a number of minor competitions during her teenage years, she soon began winning medals in tournaments in multiple countries, ultimately becoming one of the most well-known female karateka in the world and officially recognised as female kata world champion.

When it comes to kata - the performance of choreographed routines intended to demonstrate proficiency in the execution of learned movements – Rika is simply unmatched, and is admired the world over for her dazzling skills. As you can see in the following video taken during her performance at the 21st WKF World Karate Championships in France last year, her movements are fast, powerful and starlingly accurate.

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These one-eyed manga comic heroines are totally safe for work, slightly less so for your sanity

These one-eyed manga comic heroines are totally safe for work, slightly less so for your sanity

One of the most distinctive aspects of Japanese comics and animation is the size of the characters’ eyes. From a design standpoint, larger eyes make are easier to emote with, and some of anime and manga’s most expressive, and thus memorable, characters have had some of the biggest eyes. As the eyes became bigger, anime artists were left with less and less space to draw the nose and mouth, both of which are often tiny compared to those of Western cartoon characters.

But there’s only so much room on the face, and now we’re seeing the twistedly logical conclusion to the big-eyed trend in the growing popularity of otherwise cute female manga characters with only one eye.

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634 tiny eels in Tokyo aquarium to be broadcasted live online

634 tiny eels in Tokyo aquarium to be broadcasted live online

Care to watch hundreds of wriggling creatures squirming around in an underwater sand pit? Definitely not as cute as the puppy cam, but still pretty cool, 634 spotted garden eels in the Sumida Aquarium at the Tokyo Skytree will be broadcasted live on video streaming site, Nico Nico Douga.

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Japanese blog titled “God’s Defective Goods” sparks debate over Down syndrome babies

Japanese blog titled “God’s Defective Goods” sparks debate over Down syndrome babies

Every loving parent wants what’s best for their children. For the parents of those born with a mental disability, it must be so difficult to come to terms with the knowledge that their offspring will struggle to keep up with their peers. One such mother decided to cope with her feelings by documenting her experience raising an infant with Down syndrome in an online blog. However, in recent weeks the title of this personal report has become the topic of some nasty dispute on Japanese public forums. For better or worse, the woman calls her blog God’s Defective Goods.

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Adorable miniature doughnuts from Mister Donut Japan!

Adorable miniature doughnuts from Mister Donut Japan!

Look at those little guys! They’re so small, you have to carry them all together in a bucket!

If you’re looking for a miniature treat, look no further than Mister Donut’s winter offering of bite-sized doughnuts. With six new flavors and three shareable container sizes, they’re perfect for snacking with friends and family while snuggling up under the kotatsu…or eat them all yourself, we won’t judge.

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Tribute to Nausicaä: Ohm-rice of the Valley of the Wind

Tribute to Nausicaä: Ohm-rice of the Valley of the Wind

The post-apocalyptic Japanese fantasy film Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind (Kaze no Tani no Naushika) came out in 1984. If you watched it as a kid, the odds are that your life was changed in some drastic way. Maybe you decided you wanted to be just like princess Nausicaä when you grew up, and learned how to fly. Or, you might have secretly decided to move to Japan, where those amazing creatures might live. Or, like one Niconico contributor, you were inspired to create an incredible replica of the king of the giant insects… the gigantic, trilobite-like Ohm… in the form of a rice omelette.

Omu-rice is an omelette made with fried rice—a popular Japanese dish, commonly served up with ketchup on top in a zigzag or smiley-face. This Ohm-rice tribute to Nausicaä looks a lot more ominous. If you’d like to try making Ohm-rice with squid ink sauce and spinach powder, you can have a go with the rough recipe provided below!

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Super cute Pikachu-plastered blanket, canvas bag to accompany fan mags

Super cute Pikachu-plastered blanket, canvas bag to accompany fan mags

We here at RocketNews24 are big fans of Pikachu and pals, and can think of no other way to celebrate the release of the newest Pokémon games than snuggling up in a fleece blanket featuring everyone’s favorite lightning mouse or toting around groceries in a bag with the adorable critter’s face. Luckily for us, these two items will be available October 31 as a part of a special commemorative magazine set to celebrate the recent release of the newest Pokémon X and Y.

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Nagano legislators propose banning morning practice for middle school athletes

Nagano legislators propose banning morning practice for middle school athletes

There are a few unique things about student athletics in Japan. Team activities continue throughout the year, which makes joining one a major commitment. And instead of playing a season of games with the best teams advancing to a playoff, most sports have a few tournaments throughout the year with relatively few competitions in between.

The result of all this is a huge amount of time spent practicing, as opposed to playing games. What’s more, it’s normal for athletes in middle and high school to have mandatory practices not just after class, but before their lessons start in the morning, too.

On the surface, this seems like it should be helpful not only in producing more talented players, but in helping students learn the value of dedication, effort, and proper time management. But this system may be taking things too far, according to legislators in Nagano who are proposing doing away with athletes practicing in the morning.

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Men, get your notepads ready: Japanese women list the worst gifts they ever received from boyfriends

Men, get your notepads ready: Japanese women list the worst gifts they ever received from boyfriends

Sometimes, the best advice is based on what you shouldn’t do rather than what you should. After all, oftentimes there is only one totally correct way to handle a situation, but there are varying degrees of wrong ways.

Case in point: Buying a gift for your girlfriend. Your girlfriend probably has something very specific in mind and, while it’s not a total disaster if you don’t get the exact right thing, getting her something totally off base can put a serious dampener on the relationship.

So guys, break out your notepads and listen carefully. Japan’s Naver Matome has compiled a list of the very worst gifts Japanese women have received from their boyfriends. It’s safe to say you should strike all of these off your gift shopping list immediately:

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Pokemon smartphones: Why Apple created the colorful iPhone 5c

Pokemon smartphones: Why Apple created the colorful iPhone 5c

We were all skeptical when Apple announced the low-cost iPhone 5c. Nothing from Apple had ever been relatively affordable and there had never been a cheaper version of any of their products; it was a totally new turn for the tech giant. But now we get it, these phones were made for Pokemon.

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Honda’s latest ad packs a lot of cool optical illusions into a single minute

Honda’s latest ad packs a lot of cool optical illusions into a single minute

Everyone loves a good optical illusion – that immediate shock at what you just saw and that feeling of satisfaction when your brain catches up to figure it out. The recent boom of 3D street art like that we saw from China recently has pushed illusions to a new level.

This sense of amazement has been harnessed and crammed into a one-minute commercial for Honda’s new mid-sized SUV, the CR-V. Having been put up on 17 October it’s been well received by viewers who call the ad “Awesome” and the “Best car commercial ever!”

Honda has been known to put out some clever spots before, so this shouldn’t disappoint. Let’s take a look.

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Scallop flavored ice cream: it’s magically delicious!

Scallop flavored ice cream: it’s magically delicious!

Rumor has it that in Aomori Prefecture there exists a soft-served ice cream made with the flavor of hotate (Yesso scallop), a widely eaten shellfish in Japan. While hotate goes great with a little dab of wasabi, it’s hard to image the scallop’s taste blending well with ice cream.

Without hesitating, our reporter and food lover Usagi caught the next northbound train to the Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center ASPM to see what scallop ice cream had to offer.

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