Switching to manner mode: The importance of social etiquette in urban Japan

Switching to manner mode: The importance of social etiquette in urban Japan

Ask someone to describe the Japanese people in ten words or fewer and more often than not ‘polite’ or ‘reserved’ will appear somewhere in the mix. Japan is known the world over as a safe, pleasant place to live where people are on the whole helpful and courteous; few people visit Japan and return home with tales of rude airport staff or inattentive waitresses.

When I first came to Japan, I had the pleasure of living for five years in a pretty little town in Fukushima Prefecture, surrounded by rice fields, rivers and some of the deepest greens I have ever seen. Of course, I experienced the warmth of locals’ hospitality and kindness first-hand, but it was only in when I moved south to Tokyo in 2011 that I came to understand the real meaning of the word manā (‘manner’), and began to appreciate how much more important it is in urban living.

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Why’s Prime Minister Abe so healthy? It’s all the food from Fukushima!

Why’s Prime Minister Abe so healthy? It’s all the food from Fukushima!

Ah, election season in Japan! While for other countries this might mean a deluge of angry black-and-white TV commercials, in Japan it mostly means street-side speeches.

Last week, Prime Minister Abe swung by Fukushima City in Fukushima Prefecture to support local candidate Masako Mori, who’s the current minister of the Consumer Affairs Agency. And what did he talk about?

How great Fukushima-produced food is, of course!

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Is Photoshop powerful enough to transform this ugly guy into a beautiful woman?

Is Photoshop powerful enough to transform this ugly guy into a beautiful woman?

All over the internet we often see examples of the wonders that can be done with Photoshop and a little artistic talent. It’s enough to make you wonder what the limits of this photo processing software are.

The zebra and lego brick-hiding Twitter experimenters at Japanese website Omocoro believe they have found the ultimate test of Photoshop’s abilities. In this challenge they dare a Photoshop professional to turn one of their writers, named “Mankind’s All-time Foulest Beast”, into the epitome of female beauty using his software.

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China’s ancient oasis: The beautiful crescent lake of Yueyaquan

China’s ancient oasis: The beautiful crescent lake of Yueyaquan

Just a nine days into the month of July and the majority of Japan is in the grip of a heat wave. With highs of 35 C (95 F) and stifling humidity, city workers are already wiping themselves down with deodorizing body paper at every opportunity and dodging from one area of shade to the next while outdoors. It’s at times like these that many of us dream of escaping to a hidden oasis of our own, enjoying an icy cold beer and listening to soft music as we doze in the shade of a tree. For those of us working in the city, though, a trip to a cheap izakaya or beer garden is about as close as we’re likely to come to making our daydream a reality.

Today, though, we’d like to invite you to come with us to Gansu Province, China, which is home to a natural oasis known as the Crescent Lake, where the thought of padding across its lush grass and dipping our feet in the pure springwater is already helping us feel cooler. Welcome to Yueyaquan.

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Enjoy a 1,000-yen burger and feel like the King of McDonaldland with this embarrassing special seating

Enjoy a 1,000-yen burger and feel like the King of McDonaldland with this embarrassing special seating

McDonald’s Japan last weekend introduced the first in its limited-time lineup of luxury quarter pounders with the 1,000 yen (US$10) “Black Diamond,” which features truffle shavings and thick-cut bacon.

Some McDonald’s locations, apparently unconvinced their usual clientele would spring for the exorbitantly-priced burger, decided to go above and beyond by offering a special seat for anyone who ordered the menu item.

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Classic Ghibli anime impresses with its story, makes some viewers want to kill themselves

Classic Ghibli anime impresses with its story, makes some viewers want to kill themselves

Sometimes, it’s only after the fact that you realize just how close you came to dying.

After eating dinner a few nights ago, my wife was flipping through the channels on TV. “Oh, that’s right, Whisper of the Heart is on. Do you want to watch it?” she asked.

Now ordinarily a cute girl asking me if I’d like to watch anime with her gets an automatic “Why yes, I would.” But at that point there were just 20 minutes left before the end, and I said I’d rather just rent it from the video store down the street some other time, so we could watch it from the beginning.

That decision may have saved our lives.

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You call that sushi? Ukraine’s take on the Japanese classic

You call that sushi? Ukraine’s take on the Japanese classic

Whenever foods specific to a certain culture make appearances in foreign restaurants, something almost always gets altered along the way. For example, I’ve been living in Japan for years, and yet I still shake my head whenever I see an “American-style” pizza topped with eggplant, potato and mayonnaise. It’d be one thing if everyday consumers realized that the “Western” food they eat is actually unique to Japan, but as far as they are concerned, all of us Americans put taters and mayo on our pizzas!

But of course, Japan is in no way the only country to confuse traditional ingredients for those suited to their local tastes. Recently, one of our RocketNews24 correspondents, Natasha from Ukraine, wrote up a fine report on the sad state of sushi in her country. Here’s the gist of what she had to say.

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Anime-loving teachers spice up finals for their students

Anime-loving teachers spice up finals for their students

It’s the end of the first semester of the Japanese school year, and you know what that means: party time!

No, wait, sorry, it means kimatsu shiken, the end of semester tests. Man, what a drag.

Fortunately, some teachers at least have a sense of humor about it. Here are nine examples of anime-inspired attempts to spice up tests!

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Business is booming for yakiniku restaurants, but are customers chemically dependent on meat?

Business is booming for yakiniku restaurants, but are customers chemically dependent on meat?

Yakiniku (Korean barbecue) restaurants have been popular in Japan for a long time now. People around here can’t seem to get enough of managing their own grill and eating copious amounts of pure meat. However, in recent years Japan seems to really be getting into red meat what with romantic meat themed video games and classily stacked Quarter Pounders for a king’s ransom.

Particularly around the summer season Japanese people appear to be craving red meat extra hard. News Post Seven reports that of all types of restaurants in Japan, the yakiniku sector has grown a hearty 14 percent compared to the previous year. It was the only type to grow over 10 percent – an impressive feat in this sluggish economy. As a result we are seeing other restaurants and bars adopting charcoal grills to tap into this success.

To answer the million dollar question of why Korean barbecue is going so strong, News Post Seven‘s Tatsuya Matsura came up with an interesting theory. Let’s see if it holds water and maybe a little BBQ sauce too.

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69-year-old woman drives off 3rd floor of parking garage, escapes with only minor injuries

69-year-old woman drives off 3rd floor of parking garage, escapes with only minor injuries

What do you get when an elderly woman and her car for a nice shopping trip? A boring drive? A lazy trip there and back? A speeding flight off the third floor?

Strap in, because this one is a doozy!

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Disused schools across Japan transformed into stylish accommodation

Disused schools across Japan transformed into stylish accommodation

With a declining birth rate and depopulation in many rural areas, Japan is seeing an increase in the number of schools that are being forced to close. While this is undoubtedly all rather saddening, we’re getting reports that some of the elementary and junior high schools that have met their demise so far are being turned into a variety of new facilities. Find out how after the break.

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Losing your Japanese host club virginity: a guide for the ladies

Losing your Japanese host club virginity: a guide for the ladies

Every woman deserves to be treated like a princess sometimes. Plied with champagne, pampered, flattered and adored. What if you could go to a luxurious bar and receive this kind of attention, from the man (or men) of your choice, selected at whim from a “menu” of attractive males?

This is one extracurricular activity you can get up to in Tokyo. It helps if you speak Japanese, but you might even find a host who’s fluent in English. This actually happened to my mother when we visited Shinjuku together. A good-looking, very well-groomed young man in a suit approached us and propositioned us in a strong Australian accent. I tried to explain to her what a visit would entail—it’s not a brothel, women go there to enjoy male company and attention. We didn’t end up going to a host club that night, but recently one intrepid RocketNews24 reporter took one for the team and visited one of these fine establishments, along with three friends. She spills the beans on her first time!

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Rest in ero-peace: Photo of erotic gamers’ ideal coffin appears online

Rest in ero-peace: Photo of erotic gamers’ ideal coffin appears online

He was a good man; a perverted man; a man who liked games in which female characters’ unfeasibly large breasts bounce around with every tiny movement of their body, and clothes dissolve into pixel dust with every well-timed button press or click. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we mourn an ero-gamer.

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Elderly these days: older Tokyoites are getting very sticky fingers

Elderly these days: older Tokyoites are getting very sticky fingers

Tokyo police announced this week that, for the first time since they started keeping detailed statistics, the number of elderly shoplifters has exceeded the number of juveniles. So much for the “you kids these days” rant, Oba-chan.

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Why doesn’t Japan hate America for dropping the A-bombs?

Why doesn’t Japan hate America for dropping the A-bombs?

History has a way of creating awkward situations for future generations. I can’t think of how many times I’ve attempted friendly conversation by asking a Japanese local where they’re from and been blindsided by the answer, “Hiroshima.” I, with my American perspective, will then fall into this comically long pause as I wonder how appropriate it would be to apologize on behalf of my country for turning their city to dust, but the fact of the matter is that most Japanese people bear absolutely no grudge towards America for the atomic bombings of World War II.

Apparently this is difficult for some Internet users in China to comprehend, as there was recently a thread on one of the country’s most popular bulletin board sites asking “Why doesn’t Japan hate the USA for bombing them with two atomic weapons?” Interestingly, the answers that the thread received probably say more about Chinese people’s lingering disdain for the Japanese than Japan’s view of America.

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Why settle for sand castles when you can make sand Aztec pyramids?

Why settle for sand castles when you can make sand Aztec pyramids?

Sometimes, going to a neighborhood park as an adult allows you to enjoy it in a whole different way than you did as a kid. Grown-ups are much more likely to appreciate how certain flowers blossoming heralds the changing of the seasons, or to be soothed by the chirping of birds nesting in the trees overhead.

On the other hand, past a certain age other aspects are surprisingly depressing. The swings and slides that made you feel like a daredevil are a bit less thrilling once they only go as high as your shoulder, which can really hammer home the point that your childhood is a distant part of your past.

But an anonymous Japanese park visitor has shown us there’s one piece of playground equipment that can grow with you.

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Nanao Bay, Ishikawa Prefecture: 98-percent chance of seeing dolphins in the wild!

Nanao Bay, Ishikawa Prefecture: 98-percent chance of seeing dolphins in the wild!

Some of the smartest and cutest creatures to ever flip in and out of the sea, dolphins have long captured the imagination and hearts of us land-dwellers. Dolphin watching excursions seem to be as popular as whale watching excursions, and there’s hardly anyone who isn’t thrilled by these friendly mammals’ smiles and enthusiastic squeaks.

So, if you happen to be melting in the Japanese heat this summer, why not head out to Ishikawa Prefecture where you can cool off in the ocean—and have a 98-percent chance of seeing some dolphins!

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Tanabata 2013: Lucky Hokkaido residents have front row seats at lovers’ rare meeting

Tanabata 2013: Lucky Hokkaido residents have front row seats at lovers’ rare meeting

Written with the kanji characters 七 and 夕, Tanabata literally means ‘seventh evening’, and according to Japanese legend is the one day of the year that the young couple Orihime and Hikoboshi are permitted to meet, otherwise separated by the great 天の川 (Ama no Gawa, lit. river of the heavens). And it just so happens that some lucky star gazers in Hokkaido were granted front row seats.

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Just when he thought it was safe to go back in the water – a girl’s guide to gettin’ a guy at the beach

Just when he thought it was safe to go back in the water – a girl’s guide to gettin’ a guy at the beach

Summer’s the perfect time for romance. You’ll catch couples snuggling on the train, at the department store, in the corner of the café where they think nobody can see them – newsflash, we can. There’s so much sweaty, bare flesh on show, people just can’t keep their hands off each other. And the absolute worst place for sickening displays of “get a room” is at the beach. What is it about the swelling waves and blazing sun that makes people stick together like sand to your bikini bottoms.

But no matter how much you might have the urge to cling, it’s no good if you don’t have a partner to endure your affections. For anyone looking for some summer lovin’, this guide–penned by our very own sister-site writer and native Japanese, Kanako–is for you.

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Mysterious Twitterbot posts nothing but images of burnt food

Mysterious Twitterbot posts nothing but images of burnt food

A Japanese Twitter bot has surfaced on the microblogging service in recent months which has confused many a follower. Its sole purpose seems to be posting photos depicting food burnt to various degrees.

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