Stray animals, trash cans and national dress: 10 things you probably never realised about Japan

Last summer, I was riding the subway with some friends from home who were visiting me here in Nagoya, Japan. Suddenly, my friend pointed at a sticker on the window behind us. “What’s that?” he asked, staring wide-eyed at the image of a smiling cartoon golden dragon wearing a train conductor’s uniform. “That’s the mascot of the Nagoya Transportation Bureau,” I replied, happy to be imparting local knowledge. “Oh,” he said. “And why does the Transportation Bureau need a mascot?” 

You see, it’s the little things that can be most surprising about a culture that’s not your own. Today, we bring you a list of 10 quirky things that you probably didn’t know – or may not have realised – about everyday life in Japan.

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Mr. Sato sacrifices his hands on the altar of all-you-can-eat shrimp

We all have foods that we love perhaps a little more than we should, but for Mr. Sato, a man whose love of food in general has taken him on many a colorful, abdomen-abusing adventure risking his health and even his sanity, the gustatory passion that tops all others is shellfish. So when he headed off to report on an all-you-can-eat shrimp restaurant for us, we feared for his life.

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Rapping Vegeta is over 9,000 levels of awesomeness

Dragon Ball fans are truly hardcore. Some fans express their love for the series by creating homemade animation videos complete with animated family members. Others perform elaborate raps while cosplaying as their favorite characters, as in the YouTube video “Battleful Days.” Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see Vegeta, Frieza, Piccolo, and Yamcha rap? Now’s your chance! For your ease of comprehension, we have compiled a full translation of the lyrics to the rap featured in this video. Enjoy!

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Video proves 19th century samurai and Japanese ladies have elegance all wrapped up

Have you ever looked at the current crop of Johnny’s and female idol groups streaming out of Japan and thought that their high energy hair styles and in-your-face costumes were a little genki for your tastes? Have you ever wondered, “what would they look like as samurai or geisha?” Look no further than this video showcasing the style and class of the 19th century!

Take a look at the video after the jump and see what the rest of the world thinks of Japan’s stoic idols.

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Sanrio’s Gudetama 1st anime short streamed

Sanrio began streaming the first animated short for its new character Gudetama on Monday. The anime aired with an accompanying game segment as part of the weekday family news program Asa Chan (Morning Chance), which debuted on TBS at 6:54 a.m.

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Osaka man stabbed after argument over boiling crabs leads to bizarre attempted murder

On 29 March a basement level restaurant in the bustling Dotombori area of Osaka became the scene of a grisly stabbing, when a part-time cook stabbed his co-worker over an altercation while boiling crabs.

The suspect’s remark of “I don’t get why I’m under arrest” to police as his fellow cook was rushed to hospital for a lacerated abdomen has led readers to call for immigration reforms. Others worried that this and events like this are contributing to more ultra-right-wing sentiment in the land.

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Infant cosplay: It’s-a me, Mario-bambino! 【Photos】

For any parent that’s ever thought, “My child is super cute, but I wish he looked a bit more like an Italian-American plumber,” do we have news for you.

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Japan ratifies child abduction treaty, but some parents may still be left behind

This week, Japan became the 91st signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides protection for children under 16 from being taken from their country of residence by one parent against the wishes of the other. However, the convention does not work retroactively, so parents whose children have already been taken are urging the Japanese government to stand by provisions of the treaty in their cases as well.

A group of left-behind parents organized a march in Washington, D.C., on Monday to hand-deliver 28 applications for assistance reuniting with their children to the U.S. Department of State and to submit a petition for the return of abducted children to the Japanese embassy.

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Kiki & Lala Cafe in Tokyo now serving up star shaped burgers and more!【Photos】

Last year, Japan’s most successful creator of cute characters, Sanrio, melted our hearts with the whimsical My Melody pop-up cafe. This spring, they’re working their cute-making magic once again to bring us a limited-time Kiki & Lala (Little Twin Stars) Cafe in the newly opened Shibuya Parco Part 1 mall in Toyko! Twin power for double the cuteness!

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Miso soup could help protect against cancer, research suggests

Miso soup is a staple of the traditional Japanese diet and has long been anecdotally connected with Japanese people’s famously long life expectancy. Now, research has linked consumption of miso soup with a reduced risk of stomach and breast cancer.

Japan’s cancer rates are low compared to western countries, but the country’s relatively high rates of stomach cancer have often been blamed on the high sodium content of the traditional Japanese diet. However, research suggests that miso, the fermented soybean paste which makes the base of miso soup and many other Japanese dishes, could actually counter-act the harmful effects of sodium consumption and even smoking.

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Japan’s 7 most beautiful views in blue

If you try to think of a natural vista featuring the color blue, chances are the first image to pop to mind is a tropical ocean view or maybe a glacial ice-scape. Despite being somewhere in between those to climate extremes, Japan has some beautiful blues to offer as well. Here are seven of the most impressive blue landscapes in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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It’s all about the money: The best (and worst) paid student jobs in Japan

As Japan’s university students return to start the new academic year this month, many will be looking at their bank balance with trepidation and wondering how exactly they managed to spend all that money during spring break. Over two-thirds of Japanese university students work part time, helping contribute towards the cost of study materials, weird alcohol for drinking games, and buying the same clothes as everyone else.

For students looking for extra funds, or – dare we say it – graduates who’ve been unable to find full-time employment, Japanese site Recruit Jobs has compiled a happy little list of the best-paying part-time jobs in Japan. Let us know how they compare to student jobs in your country!

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Bollywood-style commercial for snack company goes viral in Japan

The latest commercial making a splash in Japan involves the unlikely combination of Bollywood and a Japanese snack! A young boy who recently participated on India’s Got Talent advertises curry-flavored rice crackers while showcasing his incredible dancing skills despite being adorably plump. Just a word of caution: after watching this video, you may be tempted to get up and start dancing!

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Four ways Japanese isn’t the hardest language to learn

It seems whenever a list of the most difficult languages to learn is released, Japanese sits near or at the top. We can see why, as the language does have quirks and peculiarities that can occasionally make you wonder how anyone, even native speakers, manage to communicate with each other in Japanese.

If we’re being completely honest, we’d love to use one hand to pat ourselves on the back for our Japanese/English bilingual capabilities, while using the other to pat ourselves for surviving in what some are calling the most dangerous country on earth. But that would tie up both hands and we’d be unable to write this article. So instead, today we’re going to explain four ways learning Japanese isn’t nearly as bad as some other languages.

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Anime Does April Fools’ Day – Part 1

It’s April Fool’s Day, which means that plenty of anime companies are having a good chuckle with fake announcements, quirky crossovers, and more. Here’s Part 1 of our round-up; check back later in the day for more!

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We’re going bananas over these amazing Attack on Titan…bananas!【Photos】

Did your mom ever tell you not to play with your food? She was probably right, it’s not a nice thing to do when there are thousands of people who are struggling to afford proper meals each day. However, if you’re able to create an art piece out of your food, then we guess you’re in a league of your own. Like these banana tattoo artists, or this banana engraver from Japan who creates stunning replicas of famous characters using bananas!

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After 30 years, mother of Dragon Ball’s Goku finally set to appear in new comic chapter

Goku, the protagonist of smash-hit anime and manga franchise Dragon Ball, is one of Japan’s most iconic fictional characters. Even decades after his 1984 debut, he’s still instantly recognizable and almost universally loved by comic and animation fans.

With 30 years of stories, there’s been plenty of time to flesh out the spiky-haired martial artist’s backstory. Still, Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama has kept one bit of his most popular hero’s life shrouded in mystery until now, as Goku’s mother will appear for the first time in a special one-off manga.

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Build your own smartphone in just 10 years with innovative new kit from au!

You read that right: in just 10 years you can have your very own hand-made smartphone with the brand new weekly make-your-own-smartphone kit from Japanese mobile provider au! For anyone who’s a fan of weekly collect ‘em magazines (who isn’t?), tech, or wasting their money, then this is for you.

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People of the world, brace yourselves: Mr. Sato… has a twin!

You’ve seen his antics on our pages for years now, and he’s always our go-to guy when there’s a mission that the rest of us simply aren’t brave enough to undertake. We’re talking, of course, about our loveable, adventurous, charming, sometimes frightening in-house reporter Mr. Sato.

But did you know, dear reader, that Mr. Sato actually has a twin brother!? Just look at that photo–we bet you’d struggle to say which of the two is our reporter and which is the brother!

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“Sausage bread boys” – The heavy-set men set to become Japan’s most eligible bachelors

For the past several years, the three most fashionably ideal body types in Japan have been ‘slim,’ ‘slender,’ and ‘easily tossed about by a light spring breeze.’ And while like most societies, Japan generally casts a sterner eye on women than men with a higher than average body-fat percentage, this “skinny is best” mentality has largely applied to males as well, as any guy who’s tried on a pair of pants at a fashionable Tokyo retailer can attest to.

Recently, though, a shift seems to be occurring, with a rise in popularity of heavier women who have been dubbed “marshmallow girls,” who’ve even formed an idol singer unit now and won legions of fans.

Next, it seems like Japan might be poised to show some big love for big guys, with one magazine heralding the upcoming age of what it’s calling “sausage bread boys.”

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