Beautiful hydrangea pattern adds a touch of elegance to traditional Japanese fish cake

Certain types of Japanese food, like tempura or grilled yakitori chicken skewers, are pretty agreeable to Western palates. In recent years, sushi has made inroads into the international dining scene, too.

Many non-Japanese diners, though, still feel a little hesitant about kamaboko, or fish cake. Despite its mild flavor, there’s just something incongruous about it in many people’s minds. It’s actually pretty tasty stuff, though, and if you’re on the fence about trying it, we should point out that it has a surprisingly mild flavor.

Or, perhaps we could entice you with this special variety of kamaboko that, when cut, reveals an elegant hydrangea pattern.

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What’s in a name? Weird Super Mario World block prompts discussion among Japanese netizens

Regular readers will no doubt already know that I consider myself kind of a big gamer. Since a very young age, I wasted spent countless hours with my various computers and consoles finding pretty much every secret in every game I owned, and to this day my favourite topic of conversation remains video games.

I’d be the first to admit that amount of random game-related trivia in my head borders on the obsessive, but even I blanked when one Japanese netizen casually asked what the object pictured above, from 16-bit classic Super Mario World, was officially called.

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Who shall I be today? The amazing makeup skills of Zawachin

“Through makeup I want to become unbelievably cute!” Hasn’t every girl had this thought at some point? In Japan there are words like “seikeikyuu meiku (cosmetic surgery-level makeup)” and countless features on makeup techniques designed to conceal problem areas. But now, the queen of makeup techniques, “Zawachin” has hit the big time.

Almost overnight, Zawachin was showered with attention for her monomane meiku (imitation makeup) which made her look exactly like popular former AKB48 member Tomomi Itano. Currently, there isn’t a day when one cannot see her on television or in magazines. Zawachin’s makeup techniques not only easily cross over the borders of “cute transformation”, but also those of ethnicity and gender, allowing her to become completely different people.

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How not to choose a kanji tattoo: A guide for World Cup footballers

Are you a professional footballer? Are you thinking about getting an exotic-looking tattoo in Japanese or Chinese script? With this year’s World Cup players the most inked in history, it’s no wonder the players keep taking their shirts off to show off their skin. Today, we bring you a guide to getting inked as a World Cup footballer – or to be more accurate, a guide to what not to do.

Greek footballer Theofanis “Fanis” Gekas, who has been attracting online attention in Japan recently for his unusual Chinese(ish) tattoo, isn’t the only World Cup player with some not-entirely-accurate ink on his arms. Join us after the jump for photographic evidence of what your mother (should’ve) told you: “If you can’t read it, don’t get it permanently etched onto your skin.”

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Game-winning Greek penalty kick wrongly awarded because a guy tripped? 【Updated】

Controversial calls during the World Cup are about as unexpected as Kanye West hysterically ranting on Twitter; that is to say, it happens a lot.  But when it comes to contested fouls in this year’s tournament, here’s one where the argument that it was bogus may just have some… legs! Get it?

At first glance, there didn’t seem to be anything fishy about the stoppage time foul against Greek striker Giorgos Samaras that gave up a penalty kick to the Greeks and sealed their win over Ivory Coast. Most early coverage of the game seems to make no mention of the controversial call, but when fans – who appear to oftentimes be more attentive than game officials – started posting replay footage online, some started to wonder whether Samaras actually tripped over his own feet and wasn’t fouled at all.

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Yamagata politicians say thank you to… air

When life is going even reasonably well, we often forget to show our appreciation for that which we have. It’s easy to become complacent and fixated on more and better, and it’s only when we suddenly lose the things that have become commonplace – running water; free Wi-Fi; a Starbucks on every other corner – that we miss them.

One thing we’d probably all notice is missing even faster than 24-hour Facebook access, though, is the air we breathe.

With that in mind, assemblymen in Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture recently took a moment out of their day to pay tribute to the very air around them, throwing their arms up and taking in a tasty lungful.

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Freak hailstorms hit Tokyo in June as winter rises from its icy grave

The weather in Tokyo can be a little unpredictable in June. Spring still wasn’t that long ago, and sometimes we’ll get a day with a cool breeze or nighttime temperatures low enough that you’ll want a windbreaker, or at least a long-sleeved shirt.

On the other hand, midsummer is just around the corner, and steamy, sweltering days with high humidity and temperatures aren’t at all unusual. On just about any day the cloud layer has the potential to turn into a squall, too.

One thing Tokyo usually doesn’t see at this time of the year, though, is hailstorms.

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Frozen’s songs in regional Japanese dialects somehow work amazingly well【Videos】

It all started with the Japanese version of “Let it Go”, the hit song from Disney’s latest animated movie Frozen. But that wasn’t the only song to be localized, and now amateur singers are getting even more local with creative versions of Frozen’s songs in their own regional dialects. Join us after the jump for two of the best.

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Faithful pooch in Akita saves 5-year-old owner from attacking bear

We recently had a good chuckle at the dog that got itself comically trapped in its backyard in urban Japan. As silly as that Shiba inu may have looked though, the breed isn’t all poorly-thought-out curiosity and exploration-related hijinks. Recently, a Shiba in Akita Prefecture earned some positive publicity for its kin by saving its young owner from a bear.

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Moroccan recipe leads to awesome stop-motion animation with 1:48-scale figure and iPhone backdrop

Back in April, we ran an article on mind-bogglingly tiny kitchens in a bottle. Now, Japanese beverage giant Kirin has gone a step further in another animated short that promotes their soft-drink line, “Sekai no Kitchen Kara” (“From the World’s Kitchens”). Though the multi-brand company is best known for their beers, this yummy non-alcoholic collection emerged after test-kitchen staff visited numerous countries’ bustling kitchens, which are undoubtedly a treasure trove of family traditions and culinary wisdom.

So before you write this off as mere marketing, check out the company’s imaginative stop-motion creation, which amazingly combines 1:48-scale miniature figures with video footage playing on a smartphone screen! Along the way, learn a bit more about this line of libations and the Moroccan tradition that inspired Kirin’s latest drink, “Sparkling Water.”

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Amazon Japan adds regulations for deliveries to prisons, the internet wonders why

You no longer have to bake a file in a cake to get something to your buddy in prison; it seems Amazon Japan will do the delivering for you. Sharp-eyed netizens noticed a peculiar addition to the Help Page on the popular home shopping site titled “About shipping to prisons” and it has us all wondering what events transpired to warrant the new information.

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We went to the Ozashiki Cafe to see professional geisha perform — and we had an amazing time!

Last month, we ran a story about the Ozashiki Cafe, a one day event that would offer a unique opportunity for the Japanese public to take a look into the usually exclusive world of geisha and the traditional Japanese restaurants known as ryotei, where they perform. Much to our delight, we received comments from readers encouraging us to sign up and attend the event, so that’s exactly what we decided to do! And we were quite excited to do so too, since the average person in Japan usually doesn’t have the chance to interact with professional geisha. So, here’s our report on what we experienced at the Ozashiki Cafe, which took place at the ryotei Miyakodori in the Asakusa district of Tokyo — and we have to say, it was quite a treat to be entertained by professional geisha, even it was for just one fleeting hour!

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This Japanese university is just asking to trigger the rise of the machines

With all the updates in the field of robotics, it becomes more and more a possibility that one day they will rise up and overthrow their human creators. After years of washing our hair or serving our food, once their AI reaches the point where they realize we’re a bunch of jerks to them the human race will be in a bit of a pickle. And it’s images like the one above taken at an unnamed Japanese university that are sure to make the machines come to such realization.

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Colombia beats Japan, still picks up a few Japanese supporters for its inspiring sportsmanship

The international nature of professional soccer makes for some uniquely compelling individual matchups at the World Cup. Since the event is only held once every four years, during the time between tournaments the members of each country’s national teams go back to playing for their respective, privately owned clubs.

It’s easy to imagine how this could make things awkward for a player who has a club teammate who’s on the roster of a different national team. One day you’re doing everything you can to beat him at the World Cup, but a few weeks later, you’re going to have to go back to working together, no matter how bitterly contested your match in Brazil was.

Sometimes, though, the opposite happens, and these personal connections bring a little extra sportsmanship to the World Cup, like what happened between Japanese defender Yuto Nagatomo and Colombian midfielder Fredy Guarin.

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Guess what’s back, back again. Isopod case is back, tell your friends! Comes in gold…!

What’s popular in Japan? You probably wouldn’t be able to guess. Take Nameko for example. They are mushroom characters that are actually quite cute, but you end up not being able to look at real mushrooms the same again. There are also Mameshiba which are a series of bean characters meant to look like dogs. One of the biggest crazes sweeping the nation right now is Funassyi: a mascot character based on a pear that jumps, wiggles and screams. The Japanese love it!

So it’s really no surprise that a giant isopod cell phone case was made, completely sold out, gained a cult following and people demanded more of them. The prayers of those die-hard fans have been answered and the giant isopod iPhone case has returned and better yet, it now comes in a stunning gold color!

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Japanese hostel’s visitor board reveals surprisingly deep cultural differences

We’ve always been told that stereotypes are bad, but there are certain cultural phenom that can be measured so widely that it’s safe to say that people from certain countries at least have a tendency to behave in certain ways.

The Japanese, for instance, are said to be orderly and conformist, while Americans are said to be cowboys that like to do things their own way, even if to the detriment of others.

While this survey sticker board from a Japanese hostel – which asks where visitors hail from – may actually prove the opposite about Americans, it pretty readily confirms that the Japanese are very organized.

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A Dragon Quest slime glass draws near! What will you drink?

Even though Dragon Quest has been one of Japan’s most popular video game franchises since its start in 1986, it doesn’t really have an iconic hero. Like many long-running role-playing game series, each installment brings in a fresh cast of characters, and despite the name, Dragon Quest doesn’t have an instantly recognizable recurring dragon, either.

Instead, the face of the franchise is the lowly slime, ordinarily the very first enemy the player encounters. The monster shows up in each and every Dragon Quest game, and now, it’s ready to show up in your kitchen, too, with this wobbling slime drinking glass.

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Retired soldier and his wife finally get their wedding photos taken after 68 years!

These days, many engaged couples usually choose their gowns and suits, and take a beautiful set of pre-wedding photos before solemnizing their marriage during their wedding ceremonies. In the past, however, not many couples had the privilege of having lavish weddings.

An elderly couple in Hunan Province, China, have been married since 1946, but it is only now, 68 years later, that they put on their wedding dress and tuxedo for the first time!

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16 photos that show why Singapore has the world’s best airline

Singapore Airlines took the top spot on our list of the Best Airlines In The World.

The list ranked the best major international airlines for flying economy class, based on two categories: the quality of the in-flight experience and the on-time delays.

Last year, I flew economy class from New York City to Singapore (with a stop in Frankfurt) on Singapore Airlines, and saw for myself why the airline gets rave reviews.

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Life-size Thomas the Tank Engine begins running on Japanese railroad

Japan is a country that loves its trains. For many rail enthusiasts, there’s nothing better than a getaway to one of the rural parts of the country to ride on and snap pictures of unique trains running through beautiful countryside scenery.

Some localities even drum up tourism by keeping old-fashioned steam locomotives in service, which are always a big draw. This summer, though, Shizuoka Prefecture’s Oigawa Line is going a step further by dressing up one of its trains as Thomas the Tank Engine.

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