Shima City needs your help in naming its tastefully swimsuit-clad anime mascot

When creating a local mascot in Japan, there are basically three styles to choose from. You can go the traditionally cute route, like Gunma Prefecture did with its adorable horse, national popularity contest champion, and confectionary model Gunma-chan. Option two is to make something so weird it puts a smile on peoples’ faces, like Funabashi City’s unofficial spokepear Funasshi.

Or, you can just draw a picture of an anime girl, like the town of Shima did. Yes, she of course has a nice smile and attractive proportions, and so far every picture that’s been released of the tourism ambassador has her posing in a swimsuit. But before you go blasting the designers for making that wardrobe choice before ever giving her a name, bear in mind there’s a good reason for her attire.

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Public baths in Japan add some extra fun with hundreds of rubber duckies

Rubber duckies make any bathtime lots of fun, but what does a tub full of one thousand tiny yellow quackers have the power to do?

We’ve found three public baths that provide guests with the unique experience of bathing in a sea of rubber duckies. Check out the surreal photos after the jump!

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What happens when you mistake the brake for the accelerator in Japan

Parking can be tricky sometimes, but when you’re trying to manoeuvre a large vehicle around tight spaces in a Japanese carpark, things can get a little scary.

Thankfully nobody was hurt in the accident pictured above, yet after the photo was posted on Twitter there was one thing everyone wanted to know: how come the rear wheels were hanging in mid-air?

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Japan’s “cat island” Aoshima is being overwhelmed by tourists

Aoshima (青島), which is incorporated into Ozu City, Ehime Prefecture, is a small, unpretentious island in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan (which one of our English-language correspondents has covered extensively). However, the 0.5 km² island does have one unique claim to fame–it’s known as a paradise for cats and cat lovers.

We actually featured Aoshima on our list of the 11 top cat islands in Japan back in April. After one Japanese Twitter user shared photos of the island’s hordes of cats online, Aoshima has experienced an unprecedented influx of tourists, leaving the local residents baffled and unprepared to deal with the flood of people streaming in.

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Mario Kart’s Mercedes-Benz collaboration enters the real world with TV spot

Car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz had previously collaborated with Nintendo on in-game car models for the company’s Mario Kart 8 video game. However, now Nintendo is helping out Mercedes-Benz by lending its characters and themes for the company’s latest commercial, “GO!GLA.” This week, the company posted the Peach and Luigi versions of the commercial:

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The originator of the strawberry daifuku, Tamaya continues to be a step ahead of competition

Daifuku is a widely popular type of Japanese confection consisting mainly of an outer layer of mochi (gelatinous rice paste) with an anko (sweet bean paste) filling. The result is a mildly sweet treat with a comfortably smooth texture.

There are many variations of daifuku including ichigo daifuku containing a whole strawberry inside of the mochi and anko, which have become hugely popular all around Japan. However, do you know where this trend started?

Our hungry reporter Mr. Sato does, and he went down to the first store ever to sell ichigo daifuku, Tamaya, to try their wares himself. He found that not only are they the original, but they may just make best ichigo daifuku in all of Japan.

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First Hello Kitty cafe to open in California!

North American fans of the mouth-less Sanrio feline can now rejoice as the first ever Hello Kitty Cafe will finally land on their continent!

Announced in the form of a bright pink food truck at the Hello Kitty Convention held in Los Angeles, fans were elated to learn that Hello Kitty will finally get her own cafe in California! Judging by the extreme cuteness of the pictures released so far, it seems like this cafe will take kawaii to a whole new level!

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Happy Pocky Day! Japan celebrates with huge towers and crazy art featuring the beloved snack

The vagaries of reading in Japanese mean that often the same text or numbers can be said a variety of ways. For example, some of the many readings for 2 and 9 and “ni” and “ku,” which combine to form niku, the Japanese word for “meat,” which is how November 29 became known in some circles as Meat Day. Going from the carnivorous to the carnal, 8 can be read as “hai,” making both November 28 and February 8 observed as Knee-High Socks Days.

Sometimes, though, you don’t need pun-filled pronunciations for an excuse to start a pseudo-holiday. Writing November 11 all in numerals gets you 11-11, and all those vertical lines look to some like a handful of enticing Pocky sticks. And so, this week Japan celebrated Pocky Day by not only devouring boxes of the stuff, but by turning the chocolate-covered treats into works of physical and photographic art.

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Clever Japanese pet owners find perfect cat beds…at IKEA! 【Photos】

One of the great things about IKEA is the broad appeal of its furnishings. With understated styling, reasonable prices, and adequate quality, the Swedish-based megastore is the perfect place to find sofas for recent college graduates, dishes for newlyweds, and work desks for telecommuters.

And also, as clever Japanese pet owners have learned, adorable beds for cats.

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Things to pick up at 7-Eleven: Milk, melon bread, Evangelion sports car

Last summer, we thought the heat might have been getting to the executives at 7-Eleven. Sure, offering two-meter (six-foot, seven-inch) tall Evangelion statues as special promotional prizes was a cool idea and all, but did they really expect anyone to pony up the 1,836,000 yen (US$16,000) they were asking for the 25 more giant figures they was selling outright?

Well, not only did all 25 of those Eva statues find homes, they sold out in just two minutes. Emboldened by that success, 7-Eleven has teamed up once again with the hit anime franchise to release the most expensive item the convenience store has ever sold: the Evangelion car.

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Make (lots and lots of) room for this enormous new Taiko no Tatsujin controller from Hori

Drumming game Taiko no Tatsujin has become something of a poster child for Japanese video arcades over the years, with pretty much every piece of movie or TV footage which shows a Japanese game centre including shots of either smiling schoolgirls or wildly flailing pros thumping away on one of the game’s giant plastic taiko drums in time with the cutesy on-screen icons and J-pop beats.

Up until now, diehard fans of the series had to make do with flimsy miniature drum controllers for their phones and games consoles whenever they couldn’t make it to an actual arcade to challenge their top scores, but peripheral maker Hori has just unveiled the ultimate home taiko experience in the form of the Taiko no Tatsujin Controller Proan enormous drum controller being rolled out for the launch of upcoming Wii and Wii U title Taiko no Tatsujin: Tokumori!

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15 years of wonderfully wacky bras from Triumph Japan【Photos】

It is the year 2000. You run the Japanese division of one of the world’s biggest lingerie brands, and are looking for an original way to promote your company – and your country – on the world stage. What do you do? Well, if your company is Triumph International, you begin launching concept bras like last week’s Frozen-inspired sisterhood bra – amazing and ridiculous underwear guaranteed to push the world’s ‘WTF Japan’ buttons.

We can see in Triumph’s creations the Japanese art of ‘chindogu’, inventions that, while they appear to solve a particular problem, are simultaneously useful and useless. Join us as we rifle through the underwear drawer for 21 of the best!

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Mount Aso: I heard you like volcanoes, so I put some volcanoes in your volcano【Photos】

Japan is a country with a whole lot of volcanoes of all shapes, sizes and persuasions. From the iconic Mt. Fuji to the recently erupted Mt. Ontake, you really can’t swing a koto around here without hitting a geological pressure cooker. And nowhere is that truer than the Aso-Kuju National Park in Kyushu, where they literally have volcanoes on top of volcanoes.

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Chinese media tried to censor this moment between Putin and China’s first lady

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, seemed to have a nice time at the official leaders’ dinner at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Beijing.

The two seemed to chat politely before something interesting happened.

“Then Mr. Putin, a former Soviet spymaster who rides horses bare-chested, made his move,” as described by The New York Times. “He whipped a tan coat from beneath the table and slipped it over Ms. Peng’s shoulders as she stood up.”

And here’s how Didi Tang of Associated Press described the scene: “It was a warm gesture on a chilly night when Vladimir Putin wrapped a shawl around the wife of Xi Jinping while the Chinese president chatted with Barack Obama. The only problem: Putin came off looking gallant, the Chinese summit host gauche and inattentive.”

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We go hunting for a fast food venison burger and are not disappointed

Last month, Becker’s, Japan Railway East’s hamburger chain, announced its venison burger, which put us in a bit of a quandary. It’s part of our life’s mission to try every intriguing bun-based sandwich we come across, but could we really bring ourselves to eat something as cute as a deer?

Sure we could!

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Mininja and the future of anime: We talk with an American deep in the heart of Japan’s anime industry

After watching that insanely adorable Mininja short, we decided we had to find out more about it–like when we could watch a full-length film! Fortunately, we were able to track down the tiny “not actually a ninja” alien’s creator–Sean McPhillips, an American who also just happens to be a senior vice president at DLE. In the process of discussing Mininja’s origin, we got the chance to learn about how the Japanese anime industry is growing and just how an American ends up working at a Japanese anime company.

If you’re curious about the future of anime and the origin of our favorite pink ninja, be sure to check this out!

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62-year-old man has stomach pains, then… lays an egg?

Earlier this year we introduced you to “virgin boy eggs,” eggs twice-boiled in little boys’ urine. As it is a Chinese dish, we’re not sure if these delicacies are enjoyed on the islands of Indonesia – but don’t worry, they don’t need “virgin boy eggs” there, they get theirs from the other side of the spectrum.

Today, I introduce you to “old man eggs,” chicken eggs which are “laid” by a 62-year-old Indonesian man.

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Four ways to enjoy delicious strawberry Calpis (other than giggling at its name)

With its startling name, it’s taking time for the yogurt-like beverage Calpis to catch on with non-Japanese consumers, who sometimes know it better by its alternate name, Calpico. For people in Japan, though, Calpis is old hat, so much so that its makers occasionally feel the need to mix up the product line with new versions and special flavors.

This year, that means strawberry Calpis. We just got our hands on a bottle, and if you can get past any hang-ups about the name, here are four ways to enjoy this delicious limited time treat.

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For hire! Paying an agency to be your apologizers, families, best friends, and confessors!

Need a friend? Need someone to complain to? Need family? Service agencies for all your needs, seven days a week! If you’ve got money to spare and want to avoid some simple interactions, there are plenty of places that will attend to all your social needs.

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Taking the joke too far? Bloodied zombie subway prank in Shanghai raises eyebrows

Shanghai prankster group Monkey Kingz is in some hot water after one of their latest stunts created mass chaos inside of a subway train and led several people to call the police. It was supposed to be a Halloween prank featuring a rogue zombie, but the additional touch of having the actor cough up a blood-like substance and stumble around in pain seemed to be crossing the line for some people, especially in light of a recent international medical scare. Take a look at the video for yourself and decide whether the prank was a smashing success or downright inappropriate.

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