Proceeds from gourmet New Year’s meals to be donated to help feed undernourished children

As a nation of die-hard foodies, Japan is always on the lookout for a memorable meal. We’re just a couple of months away from New Year’s, when Japan dines on some of its most opulent dishes of all as part of the multi-dish osechi meals that are traditionally eaten at the beginning of the year.

Recently, more and more families have begun purchasing their osechi rather than making their own, and we imagine quite a few have been tempted by the Mickey Mouse and Frozen versions we talked about last month. If you’re willing to hold off on satisfying your inner child for the sake of the world’s less fortunate actual kids, though, you might be interested in an osechi set that helps raise funds for charity group Table for Two.

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All insolvent idol group “The Margarines” to debut, total debt of all members: 127 million yen

Debt is a major problem facing people of all ages today. Many young graduates head out into the world already handicapped by a shrinking job market and crippling student loans while their parents have to deal with drying pensions and stagnant real-estate market. It’s a heavy burden that requires a combination of luck and hard work to pull oneself out of, but with some sensible fiscal planning it is possible.

Or, you could do what the nine young women in The Margarines did and pursue a career in the pop idol industry. Their mission is to sing and dance their way out of a combined 127.7M yen (US$1.17M) of debt in an already heavily over-saturated entertainment industry. How could it possibly fail?

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Universal Studios Japan has a “Horror Night,” and it’s apparently pretty horrific

In recent years, Japan seems to have been catching on to the whole Halloween thing in a big way. Halloween celebrations and festivals grow and grow year after year and they’re starting earlier in the year than ever before.

Case in point: Universal Studios Japan’s “Horror Night” program starts over a month before Halloween, which is earlier than even some of my more overzealous Halloween buff friends in America were asking for costume ideas on Facebook. Of course, getting started early on the Halloween spirit is never a bad thing; everybody loves the family-friendly adrenaline kick you get from being “soft scared” by horror events you know are just pretend.

The problem, apparently, is that Universal Studios – according to Japanese media – might be taking things a little too far.

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This Japanese Febreze ad looks a bit like the start of a kaiju movie 【Video】

Before moving to Japan, I always liked to imagine that Japanese TV shows would be a cross between Takeshi’s Castle and Iron Chef. In reality, television here is far less entertaining, and seems to consist predominantly of carefully orchestrated panel shows and broadcasts which are so plastered with gaudy graphics and subtitles that I often feel as if I’m reading more than I’m watching when I sit in front of my TV set.

Thankfully, Japan’s primetime ads are usually far more quirky and entertaining. Take this recent commercial for odour-removal spray Febreze, for example, which features a giant, gurning sun dual-wielding bottles of the stuff.

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The ugly truth of goukon, Japan’s group blind dates

Japanese goukon (organized group dates) are a mixed bag – sometimes they’re a whole lot of fun, and other times they’re a downright uncomfortable experience. For Japanese women wanting to reduce their risk of having a terrible time, one magazine has put together a list of the top companies to avoid when it comes to lecherous guys at their drinking parties.

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Japanese women reveal their methods of raising a guy’s bedroom technique

While common values and shared intellectual interests are crucial for a successful romantic relationship, you can’t downplay the importance of a mutually enjoyable meeting of the bodies to go along with that of the hearts and minds. But just like not everyone is born with perfect pitch or the ability to curl their tongue, some people aren’t naturals when it comes to greatness in the sack.

Recently, Japanese website Modelpress asked for Japanese women’s methods for helping their boyfriends raise their game, and today we take a look at their top five picks.

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【TBT】This blue beer looks like it came from alcoholic Willy Wonka’s factory

The Abashiri Brewery in Hokkaido which, judging by its website, really is some kind of beer-themed Willy Wonka side project, boasts what may be the world’s first naturally blue beer.

Always ready to get drunk for the sake of our readers, RocketNews24 took it upon ourselves to investigate this mystifying beer anomaly, appropriately named the Ryuhyou Draft (“Ice Floe Draft”), at a beachside pub.

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If you love sushi so much, why don’t you marry it with these sushi rings and pendants?

I love sushi. I really can’t overstate that fact, and it’s to the point that I’d totally understand if you asked, “If you love sushi so much, why don’t you marry it?”

First, I’m already married, and there are several ways in which my lovely and human wife is a superior spouse compared to a slice of raw fish, no matter how delicious the latter may be. Second, even if I were single and ready to take my relationship with Japanese cuisine’s most famous discipline to the next level, what kind of ring would I use to propose?

Here with the answer is American designer Carolyn Tillie, who’s crafted a whole line of sushi-themed accessories.

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We troll a scammer online, make him wish he’d never tried to take our money

When the son of the deposed king of Nigeria emails you directly, asking for help, you help, right? Well if you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, you know emails from a far away member of any royal family will obviously lead to some kind of scam. Unfortunately, those types of emails seem to pop up in our inboxes every other month. Don’t you just wish there was a way to get back at these people for trying to leech off of us honest, hard working folks?

Well, we’re happy to report that our Japanese reporter, GO, found a way to get sweet, sweet revenge on one scammer he encountered online, trolling so hard that the scammer gave up in a fit of rage. This is his story.

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Smartphone GPS system lets you bring your favorite anime voices along for the ride

Almost none of the streets in Japan have names, and even when they do, civil planners are pretty haphazard about putting up signs to let you know what they are. As a result, it’s hard to get anywhere in a car without a GPS system guiding you.

But after enough time behind the wheel, you might find yourself getting bored of the default voice chirping out you to “make a right turn in 30 meters.” So if you’re feeling a little burned out on your navigation system, or nabi as it’s known in Japan, now might be the time to update it with the voice of Evangelion’s Asuka, Attack on Titan’s Arumin, or one of dozens of other available anime characters.

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Kansai and Kanto prove again that they are each distinct regions when it comes to food

Tokyo and Osaka are only about 2.5 hours away by bullet train, so perhaps you wouldn’t think they’d be that different. But while Kanto (Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba) holds the image of a glittering metropolis, Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara) is full of the old, historical aspects of Japan. The most commonly cited difference is the dialects of the two regions. For example, dame in Kanto-ben is akan in Kansai-ben, both meaning something like “wrong, no good.”

So when Japanese people were polled about their food habits, it wasn’t so surprising that the two regions answered very differently.

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On living in Japan: Five essential essays from the internet, the greatest library on earth

Ten years ago, I used to read a lot of books. Now, I read a lot of content, which is to say, blogs and online articles. But when I read something that sticks with me, even for a fleeting moment, I still want to reach for a highlighter and shade the words fluorescent yellow, so I can find that part again later. And I’m not alone in my instinctive response to treat the digital word in the same way I do printed material. There’s a reason browsers still call it a “bookmark” when we save a webpage.

There are all kinds of great English-language blogs about Japan out there. But there are also a number of stand-alone articles that, over the years, I’ve read again and again – and they still make me want to grab my highlighter and start collecting quotes. I’ve put them together into this short list, which we may think of as a small (highly subjective) foreigners-living-in-Japan canon: seminal pieces of writing from around the internet.

Some of these are very long. Some are controversial. All of them have stayed with me for some reason or another, and maybe they’ll stick with you too.

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The 30 most ‘romantic’ lines that women want to hear (well, according to the Japanese internet)

OK, ladies: imagine you’re taking a moonlit walk with the object of your affections. Or maybe you’re dining at a fancy restaurant with your dream date, or cuddling together on a blanket in a field with no one else in sight. All of a sudden, your crush leans in close, looks deeply into your eyes, and whispers, “You’re mine.” What do you do?

If you’re the type who would immediately blush and feel your heart beating at a quickened pace, you’ll probably enjoy the following list of 30 things women want to be told. The list has recently been circulating around Japanese social media sites recently, leaving sparkly, flower petal-filled puddles of shojo manga sappiness oozing in its wake. If, however, you’re of a slightly more cynical disposition, you should also enjoy the compilation, but instead for its value to induce a good chortle.

Don’t worry, because whichever type you are, we promise not to judge!

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New Nintendo 3DS ad flaunts the incoming console’s spiffy new features 【Video】

With just a few weeks to go until its launch in Japan, Nintendo has begun streaming an introductory ad for its new, analogue nub-toting 3DS.

Check out the video in full after the jump.

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Small hands? Japanese Twitterer gets creative and makes handy case for the wider iPhone 6

We are well aware of the lengths Apple fanatics go to for their devices, and while waiting in line for 48 hours may make for some precious memories, one fan’s devotion gave rise to something quite tangible and utilitarian. Whether you have small hands or inherited stubby fingers like Lisa Simpson, check out the clever case Japanese Twitterer and sound engineer Gusoh came up with so that he could still easily manipulate the larger iPhone 6 with one hand! That leaves the other five digits free for, say, coffee or an iPod Touch? (I’m sure you’ve seen these busy people on the train, right?)

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Kamishibai — the precursor to manga and anime?

When I first came to Japan, I noticed students using story boards frequently at school. They drew pictures on cardboard with crayon or marker, to assist in skits, plays and telling Japanese folktales. Story boards were especially helpful in English classes because the illustrations helped the audience understand the less-than-perfect translations from Japanese to English. Furthermore, the students could write their translations on the back of each board and narrate rather than memorizing it in English first.

Little did I know that what these students were doing was performing an updated version of a traditional Japanese storytelling format called kamishibai, believed to be the precursor to Japan’s manga and anime.

Find out where Japan’s first superheroes came from and which manga and anime started with from this original, unassuming art form called kamishibai.

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Rice cooker oden: Quick, cheap, and delicious

Between rising sales tax and the dropping value of the yen, prices are on the rise for food in Japan. That puts us in a bit of a bind, since food is one of our favorite things to buy, along with swell stuff like shelter and clothing (although if you’re a work-from-home Internet writer, you can sometimes get away without that last one).

Thankfully, we recently found a way to make a delicious, hot meal that’s also dirt cheap, by tossing the stewed vegetable contents of a pack of oden from 7-Eleven into our rice cooker.

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Sad 3DS user wants Gamecube peripheral for Smash Brothers, genius tinkerer provides

There are few things in life more competitive than Super Smash Brothers (and, like, hot dog eating contests with hamsters). So, even though you can now Smash Brothers on the go with the new 3DS version, truly competitive players don’t want to settle for the 3DS’s inferior, cramped D-pad and button layout.

A clever Japanese Twitter user recently openly dreamed of a better way to Smash Brothers on his 3DS by connecting an old-school Gamecube controller to the portable handheld and, shockingly, another even more genius Twitter user responded with a real-life prototype he made with plentiful engineering skills, his own two hands, and what appears to be a bunch of fresh spaghetti.

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The morning after: The trash-ridden aftermath of the iPhone 6 release in Hong Kong

The insane queues for the release of Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus were reported by media outlets around the world, but what fewer of them have picked up on is the aftermath of the hype, and what was left behind once Apple fans had got their mitts on the latest slinky gadgets.

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Swimsuit idols that you can date and marry

Pop idols exist in this strange space between reality and fantasy. While they are living, breathing individuals, they are set on a pedestal and rarely get to interact with people one on one. While groups like AKB48 may be tied to a certain location to serve as a symbol of pride for one area’s people, outside of meet and greet events, fans cannot really get to know them. Of course, the biggest taboo of all is for a pop idol and a fan to begin dating. But one brave group has decided to step forth from the binds of their image. Meet the members of the idol group Happening Girls. These four lovely ladies depicted here are unique in the idol community because they are allowed to foster relationships, date, and even marry their fans.

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