Report on lousy schools in Japan spurs debate on who’s to blame

Report on lousy schools in Japan spurs debate on who’s to blame

A report last week from the Japanese Ministry of Education about the sorry state of some low-ranked universities, lovingly called “F-rank,” sent ripples through the country and reignited a debate about how to properly prepare students for “life in the real world.” While the Japanese government’s announcement sparked renewed interest in higher education reform, these low-level schools (and their terrible textbooks) have been the butt of jokes on the Internet for years. F-rank universities are notorious for their extremely lax entrance requirements, high student-to-teacher ratio and producing graduates who simply aren’t ready to enter the real world and join a company. Education advocates and people tired of dealing with incompetent co-workers all wanted to share their ideas about how to change the system to avoid a generation of poorly trained workers.

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What’s the fastest-sounding Japanese word? (Hint: it’s the noise a bullet train makes)

What’s the fastest-sounding Japanese word? (Hint: it’s the noise a bullet train makes)

The Japanese language is peppered with zippy onomatopoeia that allow you to express the sound of just about anything. Website Netallica recently surveyed readers to find the fastest-sounding words in the Japanese language. As you’d expect, WHIZZ, BANG and SHWOOP are nowhere to be seen!

We explore the top five fastest words, what exactly is so speedy about them, and what kind of images they conjure up for Japanese people.

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Centuries-old Japanese cookbooks give a peek at the dinner tables of the samurai

Centuries-old Japanese cookbooks give a peek at the dinner tables of the samurai

One thing that surprises many recent arrivals to Japan is that chefs put as much effort into the presentation of their food as they do the flavor. This has got to be a recent development though, right? Being able to take the time to delicately craft your meal into a feast for the eyes is a luxury that must be born out of the ease and convenience of a stable, technologically advanced, modern society.

It turns out, though, that Japan’s appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of cooking stretch back hundreds of years, as proven by these dishes made from centuries-old cookbooks.

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Mao Asada’s flawed program met with support from fellow skaters, criticized by Japanese official

Mao Asada’s flawed program met with support from fellow skaters, criticized by Japanese official

Silver medalist, Mao Asada, is the ice skating sweetheart of Japan. Loved by millions across the tiny island nation, she was expected to do great things at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. However, an unfortunate fall during her triple axel took Mao out of the running for the podium and the skating beauty finished 16th in the ladies short program. Witnessing a world-class skater make a huge mistake at such a crucial moment on the world stage was nothing short of heartbreaking. But Mao’s fellow skaters, including Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi, took to Twitter to show their support of the young skater. Unfortunately, Mao didn’t receive the same outpouring of sympathy from one prominent Japanese official.

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Some of China’s top leaders are apparently obsessed with ‘House Of Cards’

Some of China’s top leaders are apparently obsessed with ‘House Of Cards’

The country of China, including some of its top leaders, can’t get enough of the Netflix drama “House of Cards,” The Washington Post’s William Wan reports.

On Sohu, the Chinese equivalent of Netflix, “House of Cards” has been the No. 1-streamed show since the debut of Season 2 last Friday. Streams of both seasons top Sohu’s rankings, ahead of “The Big Bang Theory.”

And according to Sohu (via the Post), most of China’s 24.5 million views of Season 1 of House of Cards came from government-sector employees and residents of Beijing. The state-run Xinhua News Agency wrote last week that “a large number of government and enterprise executives and opinion leaders also strongly recommend” the show.

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Countdown to PlayStation 4 in Japan – Mr. Sato heads to the Sony Building to join the fun

Countdown to PlayStation 4 in Japan – Mr. Sato heads to the Sony Building to join the fun

The day thousands of Japanese gamers have been waiting for has almost arrived. It’s now February 21 in Japan, and that can mean only one thing: PlayStation 4 is less than 24 hours away!

Earlier tonight, our reporter extraordinaire Mr. Sato headed over to Sony’s flagship store in Tokyo’s Ginza District to join the gamers who just couldn’t wait any longer to get their hands on the console and to document the special launch event Sony would be laying on in honour of PlayStation 4′s decidedly late arrival.

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Russian figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya is a firecracker both on and off the ice

Russian figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya is a firecracker both on and off the ice

Earlier this week, 19-year-old Sendai-native Yuzuru Hanyu overcame a slightly flawed program to grab the first-ever men’s Olympic gold medal in figure skating for Japan. Japanese fans celebrated the victory with a plethora of fanart dedicated to Yuzuru by both professional manga artists and amateurs.

At the time of this writing, the ladies short program is just underway in Sochi. Japan’s Mao Asada is back, and looks to claim gold after falling short to her longtime rival, reigning “Queen” Yuna Kim of South Korea, in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Although the field is filled with several seasoned veterans, 15-year old overnight celebrity Julia Lipnitskaya of Russia in particular promises to put up a good fight. Yulia dominated the competition last week, helping her country claim gold in the new Olympic team figure skating event held for the first time at these games. If you recall, Tara Lipinski was only 15 when she won the 1998 Nagano Olympics…

One thing that sets Yulia apart is her incredible composure and focus despite participating on the world stage at such a young age. And she’s certainly not afraid to speak her mind, as some reporters recently found out the hard way…

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Tokyo confectioners create delicious sweets that look good enough to….wear?!

Tokyo confectioners create delicious sweets that look good enough to….wear?!

In some ways, stylish accessories and desserts aren’t so different. Just as no one actually needs more sugar and frosting in their diet, jewelry and brand-name bags don’t really perform any practical function.

Still, one can’t live by bread alone, and the occasional indulgence isn’t likely to ruin your health or bank balance. Choosing which way to reward yourself can be a tricky endeavor, however, which is why today we’re sharing four Tokyo confectioners where you can get sweets that look like high fashion.

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Kind-hearted yet cautious driver takes photo of fallen motorist before helping her up

Kind-hearted yet cautious driver takes photo of fallen motorist before helping her up

In recent years, the things to watch out for while driving on the road aren’t just green and red lights, reckless drivers in the next lane, or traffic police on your tail. Drivers now have to look out for con men who stage fraud accidents in order to rip a few big bucks off of you. Thankfully, we have technology on our side! In-vehicle cameras and the cameras on our mobile phones are great tools that could protect us from such “accidents”. A Chinese driver shows us how!

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Ancient Chinese instrument can mimic Super Mario Bros. music with startling fidelity

Ancient Chinese instrument can mimic Super Mario Bros. music with startling fidelity

Searching “Super Mario Theme” on YouTube will yield many unique renditions on a range of instruments including guitars, pianos, church organs, ukuleles, wine glasses, flutes, and 11-string basses. And while they’re all special and unique in their own way, no non-electric instrument can truly replicate that distinct 8-bit sound of the original game.

…Or can it? The sheng (shou in Japanese) is a Chinese musical instrument whose origins date back to 1,100 BC, and in a YouTube video that has recently taken Japan by storm we can see that this traditional instrument was way, way ahead of its time as it perfectly imitates the background music and sound effects of the original Super Mario Bros.

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Intel’s surprising new commercial hits us right in the feels – we dare you not to cry

Intel’s surprising new commercial hits us right in the feels – we dare you not to cry

For a company that deals solely with all things cold, technical and inorganic, it turns out that computer chip maker Intel actually has a surprisingly soft, feeling heart. In what we can only describe as a genuine tear-jerker of a commercial, Intel Japan tells the tale of a young boy dealing with the loss not of his favourite laptop, tablet or gaming rig, but of his best friend–to cancer.

You might want to get the tissues ready for this one!

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【TBT】Kyoto noodle house serves one big, long noodle

【TBT】Kyoto noodle house serves one big, long noodle

Udon is one of Japan’s most well-loved noodles dishes, ranking in line with soba and ramen. Everyone has an opinion over which is the tastiest, but those who like a bit of girth in their noodles will probably go for udon, which are traditionally rolled thicker than other Japanese noodles.

If you really want something to chew on, Tawaraya, an established noodle house in Kyoto, makes udon noodles so thick that only one fits inside the bowl.

Our resident foodie, Kuzo, recently took a train out to the ancient capital to try Tawaraya’s udon for himself. Check out his report below!

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How epic is PlayStation 4? The specs of Sony’s newest console explained through Dragon Ball

How epic is PlayStation 4? The specs of Sony’s newest console explained through Dragon Ball

Readers in North America, Europe and Australia, where the PlayStation 4 was released back in November, might be surprised to learn that Japanese gamers are still waiting for Sony’s next-gen console. But this Saturday February 22, the PS4 is finally unleashed on the video game capital of the world!

As we’ve discovered before, Dragon Ball can be used to explain just about anything, and this clever infographic shows how the PS4 compares to its predecessor – with specs converted into battle strength! So if Frieza was a PS4, just how powerful would he be?

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Japanese zipper maker and British artist team up to create futuristic headwear/terror

Japanese zipper maker and British artist team up to create futuristic headwear/terror

On the surface, Japanese zipper manufacturer YKK occupies an enviable position. The company’s global market share is estimated at as high as 90 percent, and until technology finally makes good on Back to the Future II’s promise of self-attaching apparel, future demand for the company’s products is likely to remain strong.

That said, zippers aren’t the most glamorous field to work in. As with any manufactured good, there’s obviously a tremendous amount of engineering and logistics talent at YKK, but it’s not hard to imagine the company wanting a moment in the limelight, something that demands a little more attention.

Well, YKK’s collaboration with British designer Ava Rajcevic is sure to get plenty of attention, at least for as long as people can look at it without the horror warping their minds.

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Korean basketball coach humiliates player live on TV, tapes his mouth shut

Korean basketball coach humiliates player live on TV, tapes his mouth shut

This week saw a bizarre incident in the world of Korean pro basketball, when a coach decided that the usual method of yelling at one of his players just wasn’t enough to get his point across. His novel solution? Tape their mouth shut.

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“Glowing Man” brings smiles to the people of Tokyo while inspiring runners around the world

“Glowing Man” brings smiles to the people of Tokyo while inspiring runners around the world

Early last week we published an article about an unidentified “glowing man” that was spotted on a midnight train in Tokyo. No one knew who he was or where he came from, but everyone on the train that night loved him. After just a few hours, our wonderful readers clued us in to the mystery man’s identity, and what would you know, the very next day we got a friendly email from the glowing man himself.

Joseph Tame is more than just a guy who wears a crazy costume. He’s hoping to unite strangers and break down barriers through the sport of long-distance running. And with the help of over 32 meters of LED lights, plenty of pink pinwheels (which he insists are wind turbines), and a social media rig straight out of a sci-fi flick, Joseph will unite the world this Sunday at the Tokyo Marathon where he’ll be live-streaming the entire race with the help of his homemade gear.

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Angry Manchester United fans’ “Moyes Out” song lands in Japan, surprises football fans

Angry Manchester United fans’ “Moyes Out” song lands in Japan, surprises football fans

Although more hardcore Japanophiles might prefer to think that people in Japan watch sumo every other day and practice kendo or karate on the weekends, without a shadow of a doubt Japan’s most popular spectator sports are football and baseball. With the former becoming increasingly popular since the ’90s, football (or “sakkaa“) fans are as numerous as they are vocal, and yet with football considered a much more family oriented spectator sport in Japan than in some Western countries, entire families with small kids or groups of pretty twenty-something girls are just as common sights at matches as grown men with painted faces holding cups of beer.

This week, fans of the sport have taken to online message boards to express their surprise and amusement at the level of vitriol and anger behind a parody video that appeared on YouTube in December last year calling for David Moyes, the current manager of England’s Manchester United, to resign.

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3-D latte art at its best【Photos】

3-D latte art at its best【Photos】

We’ve already brought you the amazing latte art of Japanese barista Yuuichi Ito of Belcorno, an Italian restaurant in Aichi Prefecture, but we’ve never shown you just what he can do with a little extra foam. Mr. Ito could arguably be the greatest 3-D latte artist in all of Japan, if not the world. And we know you’re probably thinking that you’ve seen 3-D latte art before…But you’ve never seen it like this. With pages of photos depicting his creative coffees dating back to 2011, this is one barista who has undeniably attained the latte artist equivalent of knighthood. Take a look at his awesome 3-D creations.

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We try McDonald’s American Funky BBQ Chicken, smells much nicer than the name implies

We try McDonald’s American Funky BBQ Chicken, smells much nicer than the name implies

On 18 February, McDonald’s Japan began selling its third and final installment of the “American Vintage Series.” Called the American Funky BBQ Chicken and American Funky BBQ Beef respectively, the pair are intended to symbolize the material world of 1980’s America. We’re not really sure how it does that, but meh, when it comes to a new burger flavor the reason for its creation is incidental.

Hungry like the wolf, our material-girl reporter Meg ran, ran so far away to the nearest McDonald’s to take on an American Funky BBQ Chicken for a test taste. Is it worthy to be her brand new lover or will it just be a case of tainted love leaving her doing the reflex over the toilet bowl?

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Oh my! Our brave reporter feeds his face to a group of flesh-eating fish

Oh my! Our brave reporter feeds his face to a group of flesh-eating fish

While the thought of feeding on dead skin cells may not sound particularly appetizing to you or me, it can actually be a treat for some creatures, including the fish Garra rufa, or doctor fish as they’re commonly known. These little aquatic “doctors” are well-known in Japan as a form of skin treatment, and there are many facilities where you can have a whole tank full of the fish nibble on your hands or feet.  Now, it so happens that one of the reporters at our Japanese site came up with a brilliant idea — if the fish can clean and beautify the skin on your hands and feet, then couldn’t they also give you an amazing facial if you stuck your face in the tank? Well, there was only one way to find out, wasn’t there?

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