Happy 2,674 birthday, Japan! Now blow out all those candles!

Happy 2,674 birthday, Japan! Now blow out all those candles!

“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear Jaaapaaaan! Happy birthday to you!!! Yah! Now, blow out your candles! All 2,674 of them!”

Today is a national holiday here in Japan: It’s Kenkoku Kinenbi, or National Foundation Day in English. The day is a celebration of the foundation of Japan, which occurred on February 11 in 660 BCE.

Or was it?!

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So like us – Monkey takes dip in hot spring, brings iPhone

So like us – Monkey takes dip in hot spring, brings iPhone

Along with Mt. Fuji and the Shibuya scramble intersection, a snapshot of a woman chatting on a cell phone while dressed in a kimono is one of the must-have photos from any extensive stay in Japan. That seamless blending of the traditional and high-tech is a perfect encapsulation of just what makes Japan such a compelling society.

Hmm, you know what? We forgot to include a picture of a monkey in a hot spring on our photography checklist. That’s another one of those “Only in Japan” scenes, right? But what if you’re running short on time? Is there any way to multitask and combine our subjects?

Sure there is, with this picture of a primate taking a dip in a hot spring with his very own smartphone.

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“Diet with Your Girlfriend” app lets you do the exact opposite of that

“Diet with Your Girlfriend” app lets you do the exact opposite of that

So Japanese dudes dating digital anime girls has been a big thing in the western media lately because “OMG weird Japan!!,” but if there’s one thing the news stories get right it’s that there are a whole lot of “digital girlfriend” apps available for a very specific type of person.

One such app hopes to encourage users to slim down by dieting with their digital girlfriend – the idea being that the more you diet, the more she diets, and the slimmer and more attractive she gets. Never mind that some people don’t actually adhere to those cliched classical standards of beauty and might actually prefer a girlfriend that isn’t horrifically skinny (and may, themselves, not actually want to be horrifically skinny); the developers made a far more glaring error in coding the game to allow players to do the exact opposite of what the game’s title suggests.

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Mr. Cup Noodle forced to shovel snow in front of his own museum

Mr. Cup Noodle forced to shovel snow in front of his own museum

As you may know, Japan, specifically the Kanto Region, has been hit by the largest snowstorm in over a decade. Netizens in the area haven’t been shy about sharing the wonderfully bizarre and beautiful sights the several inches of snow has brought, but there’s one photo in particular that has us tickled. Showing Mr. Cup Noodle himself shoveling snow on one of the whitest days in Yokohama, this picture has been making the rounds on the Internet and delighting those who aren’t quite used to this much of the cold stuff.

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Scout Corps now accepting recruits for upcoming Attack on Titan Real Escape Games

Scout Corps now accepting recruits for upcoming Attack on Titan Real Escape Games

As its popularity continues to grow, Attack on Titan seems to be seeping into the real world more and more, whether with figurines (in both hyper-realistic and, well, potato versions) or replicas of the heroes’ 3-D maneuver gear. Soon, though, fans will have a chance to reverse the trend and experience the world of the hit anime first-hand at a series of Attack on Titan-themed escape games.

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Marriage advice on the internet: Not always as bad an idea as you’d think

Marriage advice on the internet: Not always as bad an idea as you’d think

The internet isn’t all trolls and memes. Sometimes, out there in the wilds, there is genuine human connection and empathy to be found. And in this case it’s surfaced on Japan’s own version of Yahoo! Answers, of all places. Read on for one man’s saddening plea for help with his struggling marriage, and the moving advice he received online.

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We knew elephants could paint, but we didn’t expect them to be so good at it!【Video】

We knew elephants could paint, but we didn’t expect them to be so good at it!【Video】

We’re all talented in ways that others aren’t; some of us are born artists, while some can barely draw anything more complex than a stick man. It seems that would be the case with elephants too. It is said that in every 200 elephants trained to paint, only about four manage to master the skill.

Of course, in the case of elephants, painting is skill they are trained to remember, not an inborn talent. Even with that said, some of the drawings they make are so impressive, we can’t help but wonder if some natural talent is involved!

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JR East putting on love-handles for Valentine’s Day

JR East putting on love-handles for Valentine’s Day

Imagine getting on a train after slogging through the slush-filled streets of Tokyo under a grey cloud-filled sky. With the usual packed row of seats, you’re forced to stand while you manipulate your Twitter feed with only one hand.

Then you begin to notice and odd sensation in the hand you’re using to keep your footing as the train jerks and rattles along. The strap you had unwittingly chosen feels a little different to normal. Looking up, you discover that it is in fact in the shape of a heart, and next to it is another heart-shaped hand strap being held into by another. Then your two eyes meet and you’re both struck by what Michael Corleone referred to as a “lightning bolt.”

This is exactly the kind of scene Japan Rail East hoped will play out in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day when they installed a single pair of heart-shaped hand straps on trains running along the Keiyo Line.

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We have a winner! Bicycle-riding snow cat gets full marks for awesomeness

We have a winner! Bicycle-riding snow cat gets full marks for awesomeness

After bringing you photos of stunning sculptures at this year’s Sapporo Snow Festival, awesome amateur creations spotted in Tokyo, and possibly this winter’s most grotesque snow monster, we thought we’d seen more than enough of the white stuff for one year and were happy to see it melt away and Tokyo get back to normal. But then this epic creation appeared online and we just had to share it with you. Say hello to the bicycle-stealing badass that is the snownyan!

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Final Fantasy Chocolates: The gift your gaming Valentine actually wants

Final Fantasy Chocolates: The gift your gaming Valentine actually wants

Last weekend I was at a department store in Tokyo, and since Valentine’s Day is coming up, the confectionary section was packed with candy makers hawking limited-edition chocolates for the romantic holiday. As I looked at all the sweetness on display, though, something struck me.

In Japan, women give chocolate to the special guy in their life, but the aesthetics are still entirely feminine. I saw dozens of candies shaped like hearts, ribbons, and even teddy bears and other cute woodland animals.

While the craftsmanship was impressive, none of the designs were the sort of things men actually want for themselves, especially when they could have these awesome Final Fantasy chocolates instead.

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Beautiful gym babe impresses Chinese netizens with her incredible fitness!【Pics & GIFs】

Beautiful gym babe impresses Chinese netizens with her incredible fitness!【Pics & GIFs】

Skinny is out, fit is in! Gone are the days of envying models for their stick thin figures, girls these days are seeking to look slender and beautiful in a healthy way.

Last month, a marathon-running beauty was making waves on China’s forums and social websites. This month, however, it’s a super-fit gym babe who is catching the attention of Chinese netizens! Regular workouts like jogging on the treadmill and doing crunches are nothing to her; this girl is working her muscles with a thorough fitness training that could even put male gym lovers to shame.

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Thinking of ordering a pizza on a snow day? “Screw you!” tweets Japanese delivery driver

Thinking of ordering a pizza on a snow day? “Screw you!” tweets Japanese delivery driver

With record snowfall this weekend, not many people were keen to get out of their houses to do anything but buy emergency supplies and make snowmen. Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s no money to be made–after all, crappy weather is the perfect time to order a pizza, isn’t it? Really, is there anything better than curling up under the kotatsu with a giant steamy pizza, some hot chocolate, and a few DVDs from Tsutaya?

Well, unless you’re the delivery driver, I suppose. Then you might have a very different take on the matter, as one Japanese Twitter user pointed out.

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How to punch like a ninja【Video】

How to punch like a ninja【Video】

Woosh! Wiiish! Swooosh! Kiiii-yah!

The sounds of martial arts movies are immediately recognizable, particularly those of old kung-fu and ninja films, to anyone with even a passing interest in action movies. From speedy punches tearing through the air to powerful kicks pummeling opponents, there’s a certain cheesy beauty to them. But have you ever wondered how they were made? Surely no one actually punches that fast, right? Watch the video below to find out!

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“Sexist” pro-nuclear politician elected as Tokyo’s newest governor

“Sexist” pro-nuclear politician elected as Tokyo’s newest governor

Yoichi Masuzoe, the politician who once publicly stated that women “are not normal” during their period and “couldn’t possibly” be relied upon to run the country because of it, has been elected as governor of Tokyo, it has been announced.

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Fan-made figure of Attack on Titan’s Sasha is full of potato awesomeness

Fan-made figure of Attack on Titan’s Sasha is full of potato awesomeness

Though still a relative new property in the world of anime and manga, Attack on Titan has no shortage of fans, and the dystopic tale seems to be growing faster and faster every day. As it rises in popularity, its fans are also getting more creative, going on dates in costume and making insane live-action adaptions.

Today’s fan-made figure is much smaller in scale than some of the stuff we’ve seen, but it’s no less awesome. And best of all it stars our beloved spud-loving badass: Sasha!

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Tokyoite creates epic snow monster following record snow dump, gets phonecalls from neighbours

Tokyoite creates epic snow monster following record snow dump, gets phonecalls from neighbours

As you probably know, Tokyo had some of its heaviest snow in decades this past weekend, with an estimated 24 cm (9.4 inches) of powder on the ground by Saturday afternoon. While for some this spelled disaster, others were happy to get creative and build some epic snowmen, snow mannequins, and even puyo-puyo in the fluffy white stuff.

For one creative Twitter user, however, that same sculpting clay from the sky allowed him to recreate his nightmares in physical form. And it’s not pretty.

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Twin Tail Day makes Twitter a paradise for guys in Japan【Photos】

Twin Tail Day makes Twitter a paradise for guys in Japan【Photos】

You may not have known, but February 2 was Twin Tail Day in Japan. Silly as it may sound, this day commemorating the pigtail hairstyle is in fact an official day recognized by the Japan Anniversary Association. The date, 2/2, was chosen because the shape presented by hair done up in a twin tail style resembles the number “2”. There are few traditions associated with this strange holiday, but the most common is to post pictures of yourself wearing your hair in pigtails on Twitter. Let’s take a look at just a few of the top trending pictures of girls celebrating Twin Tail Day. You’re welcome.

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Kanto region gripped in the grip of a couple inches of snow: “I have to change my underwear!”

Kanto region gripped in the grip of a couple inches of snow: “I have to change my underwear!”

On 8 February, the skies over Tokyo and much of the Kanto region darkened. Ominous clouds suddenly began to steadily sprinkle the urban center with fluffy flakes of snow. However, in an area not used to such weather conditions, chaos ensued. Residents urged loved ones to stay indoors if possible while others flocked to supermarkets to load up on supplies. Our own Kuzo – who’s no stranger to reporting from dangerous environments such as North Korea and the spa-resort town of Évian-les-Bains, France – took to the streets of Tokyo to see how everyone was coping with the nearly three inches of snow that had strickened them.

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All the awesome cuteness of a cat’s paw harnessed in one pastry, on sale now in Osaka

All the awesome cuteness of a cat’s paw harnessed in one pastry, on sale now in Osaka

From now until 31 March you can get your hands on a Kuro Neko No Te (Black Cat Paw) pastry at a bakery in the Hotel New Hankyu Osaka. This is the second installation of the Neko No Te (Cat Paw) series of delectable pastries that started last year to celebrate the hotel’s 50th anniversary.

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Artists use SD cards and Febreeze to create Japanese crests for the modern age

Artists use SD cards and Febreeze to create Japanese crests for the modern age

There’s a lot of art enmeshed in everyday Japanese life. From the pictographs of the kanji writing system to the aesthetics of traditional practices, it’s easy to take for granted the visual symbolism on which a lot of the culture is based. One of the most striking examples of Japanese design is the kamon, or family crest, used for centuries to signify a family name or clan and often seen on the sleeves of formal kimonos and ceramic roof tiles of traditional homes. It’s estimated that there are as many as 30,000 family crests in Japan, and while many Japanese would struggle to identify a large number of them, some crests, such as the chrysanthemum Imperial crest and the Tokugawa shogunate hollyhock design, are easy to identify.

Artists are now using the digital medium to create a number of new kamon to the delight of netizens nationwide. What makes these unique is the fact that the images inside the crest are not flowers or scenes of nature but more modern logos and tools familiar to us through advertising and the digital age. The crest above, for example, might look like a cross design made up of four stylised rectangles, but if you look closely you’ll see something more commonly used in digital cameras: SD memory cards. Featuring everything from Twitter logos to Febreeze bottles, these unique crests are perfect for the tribes of today.

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