“You will need courage!”: We try a sweetfish hot dog

Salt fish hot dog! If you think a word (or two) needs dropping from that sentence, think again.

For a limited time only, a crisp, salty whole sweetfish – in a bun! – can be yours to enjoy at Kyoto Aquarium. Yep. At the aquarium. I don’t know about you, but after looking at aquatic creatures all day I’m not really in the mood for fish…

Not so our reporter Yuuichiro, who was so excited to hear about the fish dog that he headed down to the aquarium cafe and put together this photo review for us! This is his report, eyeballs and all.

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KanColle crossplayer is the best-dressed at this half-marathon

If you’ve been to any recreational running events in your lifetime, you know that they’re a great place to show off your personal style, whether it’s tutus, turkey hats, crazy tights, or Santa outfits. For those who love KanColle, it can also be a good place to channel your inner Shimakaze.

This year’s Maizuru Kanko Half Marathon faced some bad weather, but it certainly didn’t deter one man from trying to set a personal best as his favorite destroyer. Known as Micchan, he frequently participates in running events and triathlons in cosplay.

Here are some photos and videos of Micchan as Shimakaze:

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Awesome Air Umbrella from China keeps you dry with blasts of air

It’s raining in Yokohama right now. I’m about to go pick up lunch, though, which means that when I head out the door I’ll need to take my umbrella, which is a cheap collapsible model I bought for 500 yen (US$4.60).

But should I decide to upgrade, a team of engineers in China is developing an umbrella that shields you from the rain not with a sheet of flimsy nylon, but with blasts of air, in the form of the aptly named Air Umbrella.

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Crimea’s Natalia Poklonskaya goes brunette, net users ponder the existence of natural blondes

Despite being prosecutor general of a country more than eight thousand miles away and not, in fact, a scantily clad pop star desperately seeking fame, Crimea’s Natalia Poklonskaya has achieved near-celebrity status here in Japan. Since rocketing to fame in March this year, legions of admirers have dedicated hours to studying the young lawyer’s “angel-like” face, creating anime-style drawings of her and day-dreaming about being interrogated by her in a room with no windows.

Late last week, however, the formerly blonde Poklonskaya appeared at a State Council meeting with her hair tied back and noticeably darker. As you might imagine, this minor cosmetic change caused quite a stir here in Japan and quickly resulted in a debate over which look suited Poklonskaya best, with some online commenters seemingly confused not just about which of the two is her natural colour, but whether a natural blonde would ever go darker of their own volition.

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Gudetama the lazy egg now being served as actual dish, looks absolutely adorable!

Remember Gudetama, the apathetic anthropomorphized egg character from Sanrio with no desire whatsoever to do anything at all? Well, it seems the most unmotivated character we’ve ever seen from Sanrio has actually gotten down to business, if only for a limited time. That’s right, Gudetama now has his very own cafe at the Village Vanguard Diner at the Yokohama Lumine, and he appears in the menu as an edible ingredient, which we guess isn’t so improbable, since he is an egg, after all.  And boy, does he look adorable as part of a dish — definitely good enough to eat!

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Potato Chip Rice may be our easiest rice cooker recipe yet!

We’re suckers for a good rice cooker recipe and get even more excited when all you have to do is plop a few ingredients into the machine. So we were really happy when we found this super easy rice cooker recipe for “potato chip rice” from successful Japanese chef, Masahiro Kasahara, in his self-titled book, Masahiro Kasahara’s 30-minute Japanese Meals. With only three ingredients (four if you count the water), we were equally parts intrigued and wary as we set out to recreate his bizarre dish.

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McDonald’s “Build a Burger” experiment expands to Australia… Next, the world?

So, usually when it comes to burgers in Japan, we prefer to let the talented burger artists at famous fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King and especially Lotteria do their thing – because it usually results in crazy squid ink burgers, nine-patty monstrosities, and other 6th grade science experiment-esque monstrosities.

But McDonald’s has slowly been unveiling a tech- and customer-savvy new way of dealing burgers with its limited run of “Create a Burger” options at select stores.

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Clever font sneaks pronunciation guide for English speakers into Japanese katakana characters

Written Japanese uses three kinds of script. At the top of the difficulty curve, you’ve got kanji, the complex characters originally imported from China that can require over a dozen brush strokes to write, with each kanji representing a word or concept.

A little less challenging are hiragana, a set of 50 curving phonetic characters, but if English is your native language, odds are you’ll have the least trouble with angular katakana. Like hiragana, katakana is a phonetic system, so each character corresponds to a syllable. Even better, while often one kanji can have three or four possible readings, each katakana has just one possible pronunciation.

Of course, you still have to memorize how to pronounce all 50 katakana (85 if you’re being really technical) in the first place. One group of graphic designers are aiming to make that task a little easier, though, with a font that combines katakana with phonetics written in English.

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Awash in a sea of sound: The ambient electronic music of Sapporo artist Unii【J-Tunes】

We’ve covered a lot of ground with J-Tunes, from an underground grindcore band to mainstream melodic dubstep, and today is no different! We recently got a chance to check out a show featuring the Sapporo-based electronic artist Unii and were so impressed that we had to share her music with our readers!

Check out our interview with Unii, where we talk about her music, world-wide touring, and the state of experimental electronic in Japan and abroad. We’re sure you’ll enjoy her sweeping, ambient soundscapes and ethereal singing.

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Now, that’s spatial visualization! Indian barber cuts own hair with greatest of ease

I used to cut my own hair before becoming a big-shot RocketNews24 writer who can now go to the local value cuts for a 1,000 yen (US$9) cut every few months. I’m glad those days are behind me, though, because it was a royal pain.

Generally, I’m not a total klutz when it comes to working a pair of scissors. However, every time I got in front of the mirror and raised the blades to my hair, my coordination would suddenly devolve to that of a one-year-old who forgot which way up was.

I’m sure more experience working in a mirror would fix that, and with enough time I might even get as good as this guy from Kerala who is able to give himself a complete lightning-fast haircut. It’s all here in the video Kerala Got Talent; Indian Barbar Cutting His Own Hair recently posted on YouTube.

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Kit Kat’s papercraft train set is so cool we almost don’t need the chocolate it comes with

Living in Japan, we’ve been kind of spoiled by all the special Kit Kat flavors the country gets. We love a sweet snack as much as anyone, but when almost every region of Japan has its own version of the chocolate wafers, it takes something a little more unusual than matcha green tea Kit Kats to really grab our attention (not that those don’t taste delicious, of course).

So Nestlé Japan’s latest plan is to give us not just something to munch on, but a cool papercraft kit too, with this special Kit Kat bundle that also lets you build a model train.

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Bros? Kart? Party? Japanese gamers pick their top 5 Mario series

When asked to think of addicting video games, a good chunk of people around the world are likely to recall Nintendo’s iconic Mario series, which is the best-selling game franchise of all time. But the task becomes much more difficult when faced with the dilemma of choosing the best Mario game series within the incredibly varied franchise. How could anyone possibly choose a favorite from the dozens of Mario games and spin-offs spanning all the way back to the NES?

Fortunately, Japanese portal site MyNavi Woman put out a survey in August to ask its readers to choose their favorite Mario games, so you don’t have to make the difficult decision yourself. But you can make a prediction–which five series do you think topped the list?

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They’re not real?! Exploring the detailed, colorful world of Takuto Shibuya’s mushroom bonsai

Have you ever come across a beautifully colored, picture book-worthy mushroom while walking in the woods or the park? I still remember the flashy fungi I happened upon when I was in seventh grade; I was near a mountain biking course in Rhode Island and amid the grass was a cute yellow mushroom with red dots, much like a Mega Mushroom from New Super Mario Bros. I considered picking it but I was pretty sure my fingers would start to rot off upon contact, and it would have shriveled up soon enough anyway. Oh, I wondered, will the days of ornamental mushrooms never come?

Enter Takuto Shibuya, whose life-long love of toadstools compelled him to find a way to marvel at their variegated beauty at home. His book Kinoko (Mushroom) Bonsai, released back in June, includes photos of his work as well as instructions on how to make your own. But wait—this type of bonsai isn’t about replanting your find in a pot. Because mushrooms are difficult to take care of, Shibuya took a hint from the Japanese traditions of bonsai and figurines and decided to preserve their alluring forms by recreating them in clay. Read on to take a closer look at his creations as well as his process!

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New exhibition at Tokyo National Art Museum comes with excavated chocolate souvenirs

There’s so much to love about Japanese customer service. Whether you’re shopping at an expensive department store or perusing the shelves at the local supermarket, you can rest assured that everything has been thought through and tailored to meet your needs and desires.

The same attention to detail will be there for visitors to the upcoming National Treasures of Japan exhibition at the Tokyo National Art Museum in Ueno this month. Clearly aware that visitors will want to dig up a national treasure of their own after viewing the exhibition, the gift shop has some unusual souvenirs for customers to take home – including chocolate artefacts.

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‘Frozen’ gets the 8-bit treatment, and it’s every bit as fun as we imagined!【Video】

The pixellation magicians at CineFlix’s ‘8 Bit Cinema’ have given Frozen a retro video game makeover, retelling Disney’s phenomenally successful fairytale in three minutes of old-school graphics fun, complete with a glorious 8-bit soundtrack.

Yep, the video is cool, but it’s the awesome rendering of the movie’s songs as chiptunes that really impressed us the most.

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Kimono-clad princesses offer their sincere apologies for roadside construction in Kyoto

The fact that the word kawaii has now been accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary says a lot about Japan’s obsession with all things cute. If there’s a manhole cover or a health and safety pamphlet that needs brightening up somehow, you can pretty much guarantee that someone will design a cutesy character or scene to adorn it. That’s just how Japan rolls.

Never, though, have we come across barricades made to look like kneeling kimono-clad princesses before.

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Zzz…zzz…pika…pika – The Pikachu bed is here!

Back in the summer, we spent a day chasing Pikachus around Yokohama as part of the amazing, multi-day Pokémon event held in the bayside city. The smile it put on our faces still hasn’t completely faded, but that year’s supply of cuteness came with a price. While we were there we got a hug from one of the Pocket Monster ambassadors, and we now know only too well just how fluffy a Pikachu is.

It’s thrown our whole baseline off for what constitutes cozy and comfy. Compared to a soft Pikachu coat, our blankets now feel like burlap, and it’s been keeping us up at night. Thankfully, there might be a solution, in the form of this awesome Pikachu bed.

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Korean artist opens a new door to the way we look at Starbucks’ paper cups

To some hardcore coffee fanatics, Starbucks may not serve the best coffee in the world, but they are definitely the most internationally popular coffee brand known to us. Starbucks fans around the world are not just in love with the coffeehouse chain’s signature blends, many of them like the brand as a whole entity, and some artistic individuals have even been inspired to create handicrafts and pieces of art with the brand’s packaging items.

Think you know the brand’s iconic logo well enough? Korean artist Soo Min Kim shows us faces of the infamous siren that we’ve never seen before in his creative renditions of Starbucks cup art!

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New gachapon figures resurrect centuries-old toys for your amusement

No matter how the times change, kids still love toys. Whether it was ancient Egypt or the mid-Edo period, toys have always been a big part of the way children passed their time in play. Even with all our fancy technology today, from 3DSs to Oculus Rifts, kids still make time to run around with their favorite dolls or plastic guns. Of course, Japan is full of figures of all varieties and price tags, but gachapon occupy a position of near invincibility–you can put pretty much anything in those little plastic balls and they’re practically guaranteed to sell.

And, starting soon, you’ll also be able to buy remakes of traditional Japanese toys from the early 18th century. You’ll finally get the opportunity to play like a kid from the Edo Period while waiting for your 3DS to recharge!

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Creepy “Tranquility Chair” may or may not feed on human emotions

Ever felt like you needed a little company or affection but didn’t want to go through the hassle of actually interacting with another human being face-to-face?

You might go for a new pet – a dog, cat, or, in even the creepiest of circumstances, an exotic reptile – or you might head to an online chatroom, some kind of hotline, a mobile app, or maybe even one of those newfangled virtual schoolgirl ogling simulators.

Or, if you’re a misunderstood serial killer, maybe you’d instead go for one of these incredibly disconcerting hugging clown chairs.

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