Food stall-like McDonald’s that only serves drinks and ice cream

Food stall-like McDonald’s that only serves drinks and ice cream

If you were asked to think of the most loved fast food restaurant in the world, surely it would have to be the big M. After all, it is a place that, regardless of age and status, anyone can relax in the laid back atmosphere and indulge themselves in guilty fast-food pleasures.

In the Philippines there is one style of McDonald’s that arguably defies all traditional views of what a Mickey D’s represents. Its unique point lies in the fact that it is just like a food stall you’re likely to come across walking down your local street, and you won’t find a single hamburger or carton of fries on the menu.

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Bullet train beer: the tastiest way to drink responsibly while moving at 186 miles per hour

Bullet train beer: the tastiest way to drink responsibly while moving at 186 miles per hour

Many visitors to Japan land in Tokyo, spend a few days in the capital, then hop aboard the shinkansen bullet train to see the sights in other regions of the country. The most common route is head west to Kyoto, but travelers shouldn’t overlook the northern prefecture of Akita.

With verdant forests, unique folklore, Japan’s deepest lake, and plenty of regional delicacies, Akita is well worth a trip, especially with the new Super Komachi shinkansen that makes the trip from Tokyo to Akita Station in just under four hours. Plus, to make the time fly by, the Super Komachi serves up its own microbrew.

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Green men pitching trouser tents and hat-wearing horses: the mascots of Japan

Green men pitching trouser tents and hat-wearing horses: the mascots of Japan

Japan’s mascot obsession is known by those even marginally familiar with the country’s culture. Characters like Hello Kitty and her signature silhouette are recognized in countries across the globe, and thanks to the wonders of the internet we’re able to learn more about other cultures than ever before. But something I find that many people don’t realize about Japan is the sheer breadth of things that get their own mascots. Take, for instance, Japanese prefectures.

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Japanese website lists cases of food-related scandals in China

Japanese website lists cases of food-related scandals in China

With the country growing at an unprecedented rate and many still living below the poverty line, it is inevitable that China should struggle to control the quality of the foodstuffs it manufactures. With a reputation for being cheap and of inferior quality, Chinese exports are often unfairly labelled as potentially harmful or unappetising, and many in neighboring countries will snub Chinese-produced consumables found on supermarket shelves purely because of where they come from. But when developed countries rely so much on cheap Chinese labor and exports, one sometimes has to wonder whether this is partly a problem of our own making.

Of course, Japan rarely sees eye-to-eye with China, so it is perhaps unsurprising that it should focus on the negative when it comes to news of this kind. This week in fact, website Madame Riri published an article outlining 10 cases of food products from China that have caused scandal in recent years. After reading their list, though, even we can’t help but feel a little concerned for the wellbeing of the world’s next superpower.

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We go fishing for scallops 30 seconds after stepping out of Aomori Station

We go fishing for scallops 30 seconds after stepping out of Aomori Station

Located on the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu, Aomori Prefecture is known for its great seafood. Aomori scallops are especially prized, and any shellfish fan visiting the area should definitely make time to have a few.

But how can you be sure you’re eating the freshest scallops possible? Easy: catch them yourself. Even if you don’t have the time to venture out onto the open seas, there’s a restaurant right across the street from Aomori Station that lets you do just that.

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We go to shake hands with an otter, it’s like that scene in E.T. but way cuter!

We go to shake hands with an otter, it’s like that scene in E.T. but way cuter!

About a week ago we announced the opening of an otter touching experience at Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park, and the response was huge. From Japan and all around the country people’s hearts melted at the sight of those gentle round eyes and long whiskers.

Managing to get a spot in the quickly filling reservations, one of our reported headed down to the Miura Peninsula to get all touchy-feely with a quartet of Asian small-clawed otters.  She came back with this report and a slew of adorable pictures.

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Japanese bloggers review Comic-Con cosplayers

Japanese bloggers review Comic-Con cosplayers

Just last weekend was the long-awaited event of the year for fans everywhere: San Diego’s Comic-Con International 2013. From July 18 to July 21, participants young and old congregated at the San Diego Convention Center for four days of panels, official announcements, and other fan-focused, concentrated excitement.

Even Japanese bloggers had their eye on the west coast of America over the weekend. Unsurprisingly, the costumes and cosplay aspect of Comic-Con got lots of comments on Japanese sites, too.

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Honda recreates legendary F1 lap with light and sound in awesome video

Honda recreates legendary F1 lap with light and sound in awesome video

Some of our readers may be too young to remember, but in his heyday, Ayrton Senna was the biggest thing in racing. The Brazilian racer took home the F1 driver’s championship in 1988, 1990, and 1991 before his life was cut short when his car collided with a retaining wall at over 230 kilometers (143) miles per hour during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Japanese motorsport fans have a particular fondness for Senna. Aside from having some of his most memorable races at Japan’s Suzuka Circuit, Senna won all three of his championships in cars powered by Honda engines, and was also involved in the production of the company’s flagship NSX sports car.

Using telemetric data Honda has recreated Senna’s record-breaking 1989 lap of Suzuka in light and sound as part of an incredible video posted on the company’s website.

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Suica Penguin now a cake — See his face transform as you eat!

Suica Penguin now a cake — See his face transform as you eat!

You may recall we reported a while ago on JR East’s Suica penguin mascot character being turned into a totally yummy-licious looking cream-filled bread. Now, Suica Penguin, as the mascot is known, has become a beautiful cake that’s attracted a fair bit of attention on the Japanese Internet recently. Of course, we couldn’t ignore such buzz involving a confection that’s bound to look adorable as well as taste delectably sweet, so we sent one of our reporters off on a mission to try the penguin cake everyone seemed to be talking about and provide our readers with a first-hand account. So, was the cake as cute and tasty as we expected?

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Road trip! All-you-can-eat tempura for just 700 yen in Kumamoto Prefecture

Road trip! All-you-can-eat tempura for just 700 yen in Kumamoto Prefecture

Over the last few years, more and more restaurants have been offering what people in Japan call “one coin meals,” costing less than 500 yen (US $5), the highest denomination coin here.

We recently found a restaurant in Kumamoto Prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu, that just barely misses the cut with its 700 yen tempura set. That extra 200 yen is totally worth it though, because it gets you all-you-can-eat tempura. And when we say all-you-can-eat, we mean that literally; there’s no time limit for how long your meal can last.

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What do kids love more than porn? Facebook and 2channel!

What do kids love more than porn? Facebook and 2channel!

Kaspersky Lab, the Russian computer security company, has recently released detailed statistics about what kids are attempting to access on their parents’ computers.

Surprisingly enough, the number one thing kids worldwide were looking for wasn’t pornography!

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KFC Japan serving One Piece ice cream makers with two pieces of Original and Extra Crispy

KFC Japan serving One Piece ice cream makers with two pieces of Original and Extra Crispy

Laozi is often credited with saying, “Rather than give a man a fish, teach him to fish.” These wise words would appear to have spurred on KFC Japan’s newest promotion in conjunction with the One Piece series. Rather than give you an ice cream, KFC and the Straw Hat Pirates are going to teach you how to make ice cream and give you a maker to do it.

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Counterfeit cash: Chinese ATMs distributing bootleg bucks?

Counterfeit cash: Chinese ATMs distributing bootleg bucks?

Of the many things that China is known for, one of them is most certainly bootlegging. Sometimes it works to our smalltime benefit by introducing us to almost familiar films and imitation iPhones, but only trouble can be bought when China’s system begins circulating bootleg bills.

Recently, counterfeit money in China has reached a point where not only are people being fooled by fake cash, money-checking machines are too, as Chinese ATMs appear to be distributing bogus bills to honest civilians.

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A simple guide to petting cats: Now in English!

A simple guide to petting cats: Now in English!

Human-cat relations have been strained recently following the Upper House election results in which Shinzo Abe and his LDP-Komeito coalition have gained greater power in the government.

The generally left-leaning cat community in Japan has reacted accordingly. There has been a marked decrease in cuteness across the country, and shouts of “kawaii!” have plummeted by 46.2 percent.

The cats have also released a statement anonymously onto the internet asking for an improvement in people’s petting techniques. If the proper effort is made by humans in Japan then they promise to lower the sanctions on adorability. We’d now like to translate and share that information with the world in case your nation succumbs to a similar fate.

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Birds know how to read Japanese, put language learners to shame

Birds know how to read Japanese, put language learners to shame

Can you read kanji? It certainly looks like these birds can!

Wait, do these birds know more kanji than some foreigners who’ve lived in Japan for years and never learned to read??

Well, after all the birds were born in Japan and grew up seeing it all around them. It’s only natural for them to pick it up, so perhaps they have an unfair advantage. Anyway, no bird has passed any level of the tough Kanji Kentei tests. Yet…

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Driver charged after man who refused treatment is found dead a month after road traffic accident

Driver charged after man who refused treatment is found dead a month after road traffic accident

A 50-year-old man who refused medical treatment after being knocked down by a car in the town of Tosu, Saga prefecture, was found dead in his apartment a month after the accident occurred, a local newspaper reports.

Why the man refused treatment is unclear, but after a routine postmortem investigation both town and prefectural police came to the conclusion that the man’s death was brought about by injuries received at the time of the road accident a month previous. Despite having immediately called for the medical assistance that the victim flat-out refused, the driver has been reportedly been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

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Feeling parched? How about a nice bottle of fish stock from this vending machine?

Feeling parched? How about a nice bottle of fish stock from this vending machine?

Any well-stocked Japanese kitchen needs a bottle of dashi, a salty cooking stock usually made with dried bonito. Dashi is sometimes combined with soy sauce, and the resulting mixture, called dashi-joyu, is commonly used to prepare soups and season a number of ingredients.

As such a ubiquitous part of Japanese cooking, you can buy dashi-joyu at any supermarket. And if you happen to be at a certain few parking lots in Hiroshima or Okayama Prefectures, now you can get it from a vending machine, too.

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Japanese Internet baffled by culturally confused Hollywood adaptation of 47 Ronin legend

Japanese Internet baffled by culturally confused Hollywood adaptation of 47 Ronin legend

Hollywood is carrying on its tradition of making white people the lead protagonists in movies about samurai with the 2013 47 Ronin, headed by Keanu Reeves.

But while the Japanese didn’t seem to bat an eyelid when it was revealed (spoiler) that Tom Cruise was literally the last samurai, the 47 Ronin trailer is raising eyebrows in Japan for its weird comic book treatment of the famous national legend that is said to be the most revered example of the samurai code of bushido.

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Our furry friend Furby now speaks Japanese!

Our furry friend Furby now speaks Japanese!

Remember Furby, the talking toy that first came out 15 years ago and became a huge hit? Well, if you’re fond of cute and furry talking objects, you may be aware that a new “digital” generation of Furbies that comes equipped with LCD eyes and can be interfaced with a smart phone app was released last year. Unfortunately for some of us in Japan, the new line of Furbies has until now only been available in English, but Japanese-speaking fans of Furby can finally rejoice now that Takara Tomy has come out with the Japanese version of the new Furby, and in cute bright pop colors too! Read More

Junior high teacher arrested twice for vandalizing and burglarizing own school

Junior high teacher arrested twice for vandalizing and burglarizing own school

Being a teacher is tough. In a sincere effort to mold young minds, many educators have to endure strict regulations, tight budgets, and the unreasonable demands of monster parents. It’s too much for some to handle, as we can see in the case of Yusei Yoshikawa, the 26-year-old teacher who has recently been racking up an arrest per month for vandalizing and robbing his own school.

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