Room to swing a hamster: This share house in Roppongi is the cheapest and teeniest we’ve seen

Don’t believe people when they tell you that everyone in Tokyo lives in expensive shoeboxes. Compared to, say, London, where you could literally find yourself living on a pull-out bed in some stranger’s kitchen for £700 (US$1,000) a month, Japan’s accommodation isn’t TOO bad. In fact, if you don’t mind a little bit of a commute, it can be downright comfy.

Having said that, we were totally shocked when we discovered a room in a Roppongi share house going for only 29,000 yen ($235) a month. Wow, that’s cheap! So, what’s the catch? Oh, nothing… as long as you’re under 5’5″ and don’t suffer from claustrophobia

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Clever textbook for learners of Japanese teaches with drama, romance, and twist endings

Even as a guy who’s spent all of his adult life, and before that a good chunk of his juvenile one, studying Japanese, I’ve never been completely sold on the concept that the process of learning a foreign language has to be made “fun” at each and every stage. While you can break high-level linguistic concepts into intermediate ones, when you get down to a language’s most fundamental components, they’re really just a collection of arbitrary sounds that a group of people implicitly decided to use in the same way in order to give them meaning.

As such, there’s always going to be a certain amount of rote memorization involved with becoming actually proficient with a foreign language. But once those core concepts are introduced, they’re definitely going to stick in your memory better if they’re presented and demonstrated in a colorful way, which might be the logic behind this textbook for learners of Japanese that contains dramatic tales of romance, disease, and devotion.

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Looking for a neat summer treat? Why not make some beautiful, edible jewels? 【Recipe】

When the perfect summer treats come to mind, most people probably think of frozen treats like ice cream or popsicles. These icy sweets are perfect for a hot sweltering day, but if you’re looking for something a bit different, perhaps something a little less melty that you can take with you without having to eat right away, why not try your hand at making these cool-looking Japanese amber sweets? They’re super simple to make, and only require a few ingredients.

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Neko rail! Wakayama’s Tama Train is covered in cats both inside and out

Japan has many celebricats, and Wakayama Prefecture’s fuzzy train station master Tama is one of them. Tama serves as a station master together with her apprentice Nitama at Kishi Station along Wakayama Dentetsu’s Kishigawa Line.

Not only does Ultra Station Master Tama have an idol-like presence in Wakayama, she also has her own themed cafe, and a train created in her name, the Tama-densha (Tama Train). More pictures of the cat train after the jump!

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This little tyke taking on a sumo wrestler is the cutest thing you’ll see today 【Video】

Sumo wrestlers. They’re big, strong, and pretty intimidating. Even though they might be quick to smile and friendlier than your average bear, we definitely would not want to step in the ring with them.

But this little kid doesn’t know the meaning of intimidation! Which is fair, because he’s only four, but it turns out he’s also fearless, and takes on this mountain of a sumo wrestler with the enthusiasm of a hungry wolverine!

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Niece of famous Taiwanese 80s singer capturing hearts in Japan

If you’re one of the, I don’t know…two? three?… people who both read our humble site regularly and who are also really into Japanese Bubble Era love ballads – we’re talking mid-80s here – you might be familiar with a Taiwan-born singer named Fēifēi Ōuyáng. She appeared regularly on Japanese television back in the 80s to sing her outrageously popular-at-the-time hit, “Love is Over.”

Ōuyáng was apparently so popular that the song can still be heard occasionally on TV and as background music in shopping malls and stores. So popular, in fact, that one of our female writers on our Japanese sister site is a huge fan of the singer despite probably only having only just been born around the time Ōuyáng was reaching peak popularity. Imagine her delight, then, when she learned that Ōuyáng’s equally talented and gorgeous niece was becoming quite the topic of conversation on Japanese Internet circles.

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The joy of pancakes, and why they might kill you

Although hardly new, Japan has been undergoing something of a boom in pancake consumption in recent years. With several trendy new restaurants opening up around the country, there has also been a significant rise in the popularity of homemade pancakes as well. Yes, with its warm and fluffy texture and mildly sweet flavor it’s certainly hard to turn down a hotcake, isn’t it?

While everyone is having a good time with their pancakes, some researchers and medical professionals would like to remind us all that pancakes and similar flour based foods have the potential to not only make us very ill, but in some cases may lead to death.

But before you go cursing out these wet blankets of science for ruining yet another beloved food with their health warnings, there’s actually an incredibly easy way to not die from eating flapjacks as well.

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Yes, Cloud will still wear a dress in the Final Fantasy VII remake

With the recent announcement of a Final Fantasy VII remake, gamers are already starting to imagine which parts from the RPG classic will be making the trip to the PlayStation 4. While they haven’t been officially announced, we’ll probably once again see the scene where Sephiroth flashes video gaming’s most memorable stink eye in front of a fiery backdrop, the moment when Cloud and childhood friend Tifa share a heart-to-heart talk in a starlit playground, and also that one part where the spikey-haired hero wades into the water holding Aerith (I think he was trying to teach her to swim or something, but I don’t remember exactly).

But while none of those have been officially confirmed for the new game, there is one thing director Tetsuya Nomura has made clear. The part where the main character dresses up as a woman to infiltrate a brothel? Totally going to be in the new Final Fantasy VII.

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Japan’s really into toasting marshmallows… on a takoyaki maker!

Mmm, marshmellers (as I like to call ’em.) Those squidgy little puffs of delicious goo. Bad for your teeth, bad for your waistline, but oh-so-yummy, especially when toasted. The outside goes all crispy and the inside melts juuuuust a little bit. In fact, they’re the perfect treat for toasting around the campfire.

But in Japan, they prefer to toast their marshmallows in a slightly more “Japanese” way – by which we mean they toast them over a takoyaki grilling machine!

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Steve Jobs…manga hero???

To many, comic books are strictly for far-fetched make-believe. Quite often, that holds true for Japanese comics, too, since at any given time many of the top-selling manga feature transforming robots and magical powers, not to mention women with larger breasts and men with more finely delicate faces than any you’ll find in the real world.

Not every popular manga is a flight of fancy, though, as there’s also an audience that likes reading about such down-to-earth topics as starting and running a successful business. Oftentimes the companies and executives portrayed are fictional, but not always. That’s why a thorough list of today’s popular manga protagonists doesn’t just include One Piece’s Luffy and The Seven Deadly Sins’ Meliodas, but also Apple founder Steve Jobs.

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Have you found the third Square Enix character hiding in the Final Fantasy VII remake video?

The announcement at this year’s E3 that video game developer Square Enix is finally remaking Final Fantasy VII thrilled gamers old enough to fondly remember completing the RPG classic and those young enough to have never tried it alike. Fans around the world have been repeatedly watching the short preview video that gives us a glimpse at the newly rendered city of Midgar and returning characters Cloud and Barret.

Actually, though, there’s one more famous Square Enix character who can be seen in the video, as sharp-eyed viewers have pointed out.

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We get lost in a world of steamy boy-on-boy fantasies at Ikebukuro’s BL cafe

Boys’ Love (BL) is a genre of fiction in Japan, usually taking the form of manga and anime, that depicts men in romantic relationships with one another. These homosexual stories are generally produced by and for women who want to fangirl over impossibly beautiful men getting frisky with each other.

Like with the maid cafes that cater to male otaku in Akihabara, it was only a matter of time until fictional fantasies started spilling over into the real world. My fellow reporter, Evie, and I went to visit a BL cafe near Otome Road in Ikebukuro, an area filled with stores catering to female otaku and fujoshi.

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Move over, Ghostbusters! Help Luigi suck up the supernatural in Luigi’s Mansion Arcade 【Trailer】

As you made have already heard, this year marks the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., and although we’ve seen all sorts of cool Mario collaborations, it was starting to look like Luigi was getting left out of all the action.

Fortunately Luigi fans will have something to look forward to as Capcom and Sega have teamed up create the first arcade version of the Luigi’s Mansion series, simply titled Luigi’s Mansion Arcade.
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New model of flying machine from Studio Ghibli’s Laputa looks stunning, flaps its wings 【Video】

Just about anyone can appreciate the timelessly beautiful design work of Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky Laputa, whether you’re a true-blue otaku, general animation fan, or genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist Tony Stark. But what if you’re already the proud owner of a voice-activated replica of the film’s magic pendant and a high-quality figurine of its ancient robot? What should be next on your Ghibli memorabilia shopping list?

How about this beautiful scale-recreation of its iconic Flaptter flying machine, with wings that actually move and attention to detail given to everything down to its control switches?

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Bandai to launch online capsule machines controlled by smartphone

Last week Bandai hinted that they would be announcing something big in their line of Gashapon capsule toy machines. Thinking I’ve seen it all in the capsule toy world I didn’t give it much attention. I figured it was probably just another series of sushi-cat hybrids or sausages shaped like giant isopods, same old same old.

It would seem I was wrong. Actually, Bandai did have something big up their sleeve and will be soon offering their line of capsule toys for random purchase from anywhere you happen to be holding your smartphone. That’s because next month they’ll be doing test runs on the sophisticatedly named Net de Capsule: remote operated Gashapon machines accessible over the internet.

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Korean anime fans express surprise at learning childhood favorites were actually made in Japan

These days people from the west tend to think of Japan when then they think of animation from Asia, and there’s no doubt that Japan produces a large percentage of the animation that comes out of the region today. But several decades ago, especially before the Internet put every bit of information at our fingertips, it was easy to get the wrong idea about where a particular show might have come from, with viewers being surprised to learn that what they thought were home-made productions actually came from foreign lands.

And, in this case, it’s particularly easy to understand why these Korean Internet users might have been confused — the anime in question include titles like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer! Read on to see what other animated classics caused confusion.

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Disney meets classic Japan — see your favorite characters reborn as traditional Japanese crafts!

It’s no secret that Disney has been hugely successful in Japan. The Japanese anime industry may have cultivated a unique style over the years that’s quite different from that of the international entertainment giant, but the public here in Japan definitely seems to love all things Disney, from beautiful lingerie to adorable mini-cakes.

So we guess it’s not too surprising that Disney characters have now been recreated using traditional Japanese crafts, which is the concept behind the Disney Japan Classic Series of merchandise. Join us for a look at what delightful forms the familiar Disney characters have taken at the hands of traditional Japanese artisans!  Read More

Red is the new black (burger) as Burger King rolls out sandwiches with crimson buns and cheese

When Burger King first rolled out its black hamburgers in Japan in 2012, we thought the company had gone insane. It turns out Burger King really is crazy…crazy like a fox. And not just any fox, but some sort of super-intelligent fox with an advanced degree in marketing, since the black burgers caught the attention of media outlets around the world and were such a hit that they’ve been brought back in multiple updated forms.

The black burgers will once again be returning to Japanese Burger King locations in 2015, but before they do, this summer the chain is debuting a line of bright red burgers with crimson cheese and something called “Angry Sauce.”

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Patrick Schwarzenegger comes under fire in Japan after pranking stranger at Kyoto temple

Twenty-one-year-old Patrick Schwarzenegger is currently visiting Japan with his famous mother Maria Shriver, and has so far enjoyed a dip in a traditional hot spring, faced off with a sumo wrestler and eaten enormous amounts of sushi. So far, so fun.

But he’s also come in for some heavy criticism after uploading a video of himself pranking an unsuspecting visitor to a Kyoto temple.

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Local tourism center in northern Japan makes visitors feel like they’ve crossed over into Korea

“Roadside stations,” or michi no eki, are centers in Japan where you can find local agricultural products and restaurants serving up regional fare. For Japanese drivers, these areas serve as both a local tourism spot and a place to relax.

You can find michi no eki all across the country that provide a peek into local Japanese culture, but one center located in Yamagata Prefecture is rumored to make visitors feel right at home in Korea.

Not knowing if the rumor was true or why, one of our Japanese reporters felt compelled to see the center for himself and embarked on a trip up north that led him to Tozawa Village.

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