This is the most technologically-advanced cat feeder you’ll ever find

Like it or not, cats are pretty much in the fast lane to world domination. They’ve already invaded our homes, taken over the internet, and have even got us going to extreme lengths to give them the very best. Take this new, high-tech cat feeder for example, which not only weighs your cat and keeps track of how much they eat and drink, but, if you have multiple cats, can even recognize each one’s face and allows you to watch them eat in real-time from your phone.

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Häagen-Dazs releases new mochi ice cream, and it’s amazing! 【Taste test】

There are a ton of different ways to eat mochi, with roasting it or dropping it into soup or hot pots being some of the more common. Outside of Japan, though, many people’s first encounter with mochi is in the form of ice cream-filled mochi spheres sold at specialty grocers.

But while they make a tasty treat, what would happen if you reversed the process, and instead of putting ice cream in mochi, put mochi into ice cream? That’s the question posed by Häagen-Dazs new kinako kuromitsu mochi ice cream, and we’re here with the answer.

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Our Japanese staff members pick the top places in Japan they’d like to visit again someday

Figuring out where to go during your stay in Japan can seem like an insurmountable task. For first-time visitors to the country, there are so many famous places to visit that the task of deciding becomes overwhelming. On the other hand, if you’ve been living in Japan for a while, you’re probably tired of all the crowded, touristy places and would like to go somewhere off-the-beaten path.

To help out our readers who are struggling with this internal dilemma, we’ve asked three reporters from our Japanese-language RocketNews24 team to share with us the top three places in Japan they’d definitely like to visit again someday. These three have had ample opportunities to travel to various places around the country and experience the local scenes in the name of eclectic journalism, so you can think of them as seasoned experts on the matter. Let’s see what little-known travel recommendations they have waiting for us!

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We try one ekiben shop’s three most popular bento boxes- out of a selection of 170 kinds

On March 14, the new extension of the Nagano Shinkansen line will open, connecting Toyama and Ishikawa Prefectures to Tokyo. This is exciting news for Chubu region locals and Tokyoites alike, as the trip from the northern central prefectures to Tokyo will take a mere 2.5 hours, so everyone is preparing for some fun day trips!

What’s the best part of Shinkansen day trips (other than effortlessly speeding through beautiful Japanese countryside)? Ekiben! Ekiben are lunch boxes sold in train stations, specifically to be taken on long train rides. One of our Tokyo-based writers visited a famous ekiben shop, which sells over 170 bento box options and ate the top three kinds. Do they deserve their rankings at the top?

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Ingenious sloths engineer home theater systems ideal for tiny Japanese homes

Sure, a glass table can be used as a convenient, hands-free holder when you want to view your smartphone while lying down, but that sort of creative laziness brings issues with it. Isn’t putting an extra layer glass between you and your phone going to result in less-than-optimal viewing experience? How are you going to get at the touchscreen to operate the phone? And what about the sound?

That’s why we’re glad to bring you a real DIY smartphone home theater solution. You’re going to have put a bit of effort into it than just lying underneath a glass table, but it’s totally worth it – the Internet tells us so!

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North Korean officials, Gaddafi and more get the heavy metal treatment from talented guitarist

A while back, Japanese politician Ryutaro Nonomura captured the world’s attention after a surreal outburst at a press conference regarding his alleged misuse of taxpayers’ money. No doubt seeing fertile ground for comedy, one creative musician then made Nonomura the stuff of Internet legend by setting the man’s sobs to a guitar track.

Guitarist Felix Martin and his talented collaborators operate under a similar concept, setting guitar, drums, and bass to speeches from North Korean officials, Hugo Chavez, and others. This project isn’t for laughs, though. With an ear for the rhythm and pitch of the spoken word, not to mention masterful heavy metal stylings, Martin and company elevate the aptly named Human Transcription project to the realm of art. Politics and propaganda have never sounded so good.

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Here’s what Kyoto’s subway looks like plastered with anime girls

As we recently reported, the bigwigs at the Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau got together a while back and had a little brainstorming session regarding how to convince more people to use the subway. So what did they come up with?

Super-kawaii moe anime girls plastered all over the place! All part of the “Let’s ride the subway” advertising campaign, which hopes to bring in an extra 50,000 passengers a day. So how are people reacting to the sudden plethora of brightly colored cuteness all over their train platforms and carriages?

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The top 10 most common shojo manga scenarios, as picked by Japanese girls’ comic fans

In broad terms, the two largest categories of Japanese comics are shonen manga (“boys’ comics”) and shojo manga (“girls comics”). Among many fans, shonen manga have a stigma of relying on the same hackneyed storytelling patterns, over and over again. There’s generally a young male protagonist who sets out to become the strongest…something (ninja, mecha pilot, and even baker have all been done to great success). Along the way, he faces off against a series of powerful rivals, many of whom become the hero’s allies after he defeats them through a combination of newly discovered techniques and the power of determination.

Shojo series, the popular logic goes, are more sophisticated, with an emphasis on interpersonal conflict and dynamics in a setting closer to the real world. That’s not to say girls’ comics in Japan can’t be just as formulaic as their shonen counterparts, though, as emphasized by a poll of the top recurring tropes in shojo manga.

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Three-year-old girl perfectly recites martial arts school’s student creed, wields tiny fists of death

Don’t be fooled by this tiny martial artist’s chubby little fists and small stature – she is almost certainly destined to be kicking ass as some kind of martial arts-themed crime fighter (maybe as, “The Taekwon-Do-Gooder”) years from now. We’re guessing she’ll probably get started with all the ass-kicking right around the age of seven.

We’re certain of all of this because we recently saw the girl – who is not named because it would interfere with her keeping a secret identity later on – absolutely destroy her martial arts school’s student creed, reciting it word-for-word in her adorable little gi and punching the air with her tiny fists with the conviction we’re only able to muster when the peanut butter jar is just slightly out of reach and we really want a sandwich.

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Students at new online high school in Japan make anime-style avatars for virtual campus

As society and education changes, Japan is slowly opening up to the idea of online high school courses. But while modern technology makes video lessons and email correspondence easy to implement, some things are still lost in the transition to a virtual classroom setting. One major issue is the lack of ability to affirm your own individuality, as well as the increased difficulty of building bonds with other students without any sort of visual representation of their identities.

Hoping to alleviate these problems is a new online high school in Japan that requires students to create anime-style online avatars, and even provides a simulated school campus for them to mingle in.

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Netizens awed, charmed by company’s insanely detailed culinary miniatures 【Pics】

Japan clearly has no shortage of incredibly realistic miniatures. Only recently, we’ve covered Ginji, the wise hamster behind the world’s smallest izakaya (may he rest in peace), as well as the creator of some remarkable small-scale hangars.

Which brings us to the newest development in this saga: miniature food sets. Many have taken to Twitter to express their love for the ant-sized creations of company Re-ment, a maker of toys and other miscellaneous goods. With names like “Dad, eat the bitter part for me!” and “”Grandma’s House,” these sets recreate each scene with uncanny accuracy, but at a fraction of the size.

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A simple paint trick to make your anime robot models look extra sexy

Although the RX-78 Gundam is the most famous mobile suit from the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime TV series, it’s not the only giant robot the Earth Federation has at its disposal. As a matter of fact, debuting in the very same premiere episode as the Gundam is the RX-77 Guncannon.

Still, there’s a reason the series, and franchise, is called Gundam and not Guncannon. Aside from being slower and less powerful, the Guncannon can’t compete in the looks department with the dashing Gundam. Simply put, it’s just not sexy enough…at least not without this subtle variation to its paint job with a hidden significance.

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Japanese people share their family mottos, from “Eat first, think later” to “New Year, new pants”

Kakun (家訓) literally means “family precept”, and refers to the principles that an individual Japanese family lives by.

These might consist of a list of rules for children to follow – run-of-the-mill stuff like “treat others as you would like to be treated”, “don’t tell lies”, and “respect your elders” – or, a family’s kakun might be a single defining motto that applies to all family life. Kakun might be written on parchment and framed on the wall; or it might just be a phrase your mother (or father!) yells at you when you forget to put your socks in the wash again.

Japanese site Naver Matome recently put together a collection of Japanese Twitter users’ interesting and unusual family mottos. Here’s our pick of the bunch!

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PS4 gets Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest crossover cover plate in Japan

Sony is holding a contest from February 24 to April 26, with the opportunity to win a special PlayStation 4 cover plate that features art from both the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series. The cover plate’s design features a Slime (a traditional monster from the Dragon Quest series), and a Moogle (a recurring race in the Final Fantasy series). The contest will be a lottery, and Sony will only make 100 copies of the cover plate.

Potential applicants will need to complete three steps to acquire a lottery ticket to win the cover plate.

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Don’t want to pay your NHK TV licence fee? Beat Takeshi doesn’t think you should have to

In Japan, it’s mandatory to pay for a TV licence if you own a television set or device that can receive a broadcast signal. The money goes to NHK, Japan’s national broadcasting service. It’s much the same deal as in the UK, where your television licence funds the BBC.

But what if you don’t even watch any BBC or NHK channels? Should you still have to pay? Actor, director and outspoken comedian Beat Takeshi doesn’t think so – in fact, he’s calling for the option to “opt-out” of accessing Japan’s NHK’s programming for people who don’t want to pay the licence fee.

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Awesome Akihabara restaurant sandwiched by busy train lines offers more thrills than a maid cafe

For a time, shopping for electronics was just about the only thing to do in Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood. In recent years though, the area has gone through a renaissance, and it’s now packed with restaurants and cafes, too.

Of course, just because your feet are tired and your throat is parched doesn’t mean you’re ready for the excitement to stop. So if you’d like to mix some thrills in with your cafe time, how about stopping in for a drink or snack at a restaurant that’s sandwiched between the tracks of one of the busiest train lines in Japan?

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Mini bakeable Kit Kats return — this time in cheesecake flavor! 【Taste Test】

Some of our readers are undoubtedly aware that we here at RocketNews24 are quite fond of Kit Kats. And while we’re used to seeing the popular chocolate snack in an array of interesting flavors, we have to say we were genuinely intrigued when we heard about “bakeable” Kit Kats last year, as were many other Kit Kat fans across Japan, judging from the fact that the unique sweet attracted enough attention to be turned into pizzas.  Now, the bakeabke Kit Kats have returned, and in a new flavor to boot! Of course, we weren’t about to be kept away from such sweetness.  Join us as we try the new “Bake ‘N Tasty Mini Kit Kats Cheesecake Flavor” (Kit Kat Mini Yaite Oishi Cheesecake Aji)!

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Old execution grounds become popular place to tell someone “I love you”

When taking big steps in relationships, like confessing your true feelings to a friend or asking someone to marry you, the setting is important. You want to set the mood, and getting the right atmosphere may mean the difference between delighted acceptance and “Where did that come from??”

Among some high school girls, this statue in Tokyo is considered a great place to take an amorous risk. It might not look like the most romantic place, located on a rather busy intersection and nestled between the NHK Broadcast Center, Shibuya Tax Office, and Amway Japan, and in fact this very spot is actually the memorial of a bloody attempt to overthrow the Japanese government. Nevertheless it is said to have a “supernatural” ability to create strong couples.

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“Do they think we’re stupid?” McDonald’s Japan’s new, unappealing strawberry shortcake and donut

Much like the rest of the world, fast food in Japan is a war of franchises trying to one-up the other. When McDonald’s announced it was getting rid of large-sized fries, Lotteria announced they’d give customers “whatever size they wanted.” When McDonald’s was struggling with the morning crowd, Mos Burger seized the opportunity to strike by offering a traditional Japanese breakfast.

Now that Mister Donut has upped the ante by rolling out a strawberry-chocolate-marshmallow pizza, McDonald’s has answered back with its new strawberry whipped cream donut and shortcake. Who will emerge the victor? Well, so far, it’s looking pretty one-sided.

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Gunma Prefecture automat diner serves surprisingly delicious hamburgers with a side of nostalgia

From corn soup to gold soda cans to stag beetles, you can find almost anything in vending machines situated on approximately every street corner in Japan. And not too long ago in Showa-era Japan, it was pretty common to see restaurants staffed entirely by vending machines serving bland, but hot food at an affordable price. Some savvy business owner decided to cash in on this nostalgia and recently opened up an automat diner where customers can relive a time when “dining out” meant putting coins into a vending machine and waiting for your food to pop out!

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