Tokyo’s Rikugien garden: Beautiful for 300 years, but especially in autumn after dark

They’re often overshadowed by the sakura, but Japan’s fall colors make the country a beautiful place to be at this time of year. Maples and gingkos even have a few advantages over cherry trees. They tend to hold their color a little longer, and the cooler weather is less conducive to large outdoor parties, meaning your appreciation of the beauty of nature is less likely to be disturbed by the carousing of drunks.

In contrast to Tokyo’s many cherry tree-lined parks and boulevards, though, getting a good view of crimson and yellow leaves often means having to head out of the city and up into the mountains. That’s not always the case, though. Historic Rikugien Garden has plenty of fall color, is located right in the middle of Tokyo, and right now is so beautiful it’s staying open after dark.

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More adorable photos from Japan’s fox village

Earlier this year we introduced our readers to Japan’s fox village, an open-range zoo home to dozens of adorable foxes so tame that they’ll walk right up to you to say hi. This year, too, Japanese sightseers have stopped by to see the foxes playing in the autumn leaves, and one Twitter user uploaded a pair of simply adorable photos that we just had to share with you.

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Oh no, osechi! Why don’t young people in Japan like eating traditional New Year’s dishes?

During the year of college I spent doing homestay in Tokyo, for New Year’s, my host family and I ate a traditional osechi meal. Served in a multi-layered box, almost each of the dozen or so dishes had some sort of auspicious meaning behind it, and the presentation and cultural significance of the whole affair was a memorable experience.

That said, I’ve never found myself craving osechi again, and it turns out my lack of enthusiasm isn’t a result of my foreign background. More and more young people born and raised in Japan are deciding they can do without osechi at New Year’s, and they’ve actually got some pretty sound reasons why.

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Got a beef with Japan’s Christmas shortcakes? Then try one made out of chicken

I like Christmas. I get that some people feel it’s over-commercialized, but for me, I’m happy to see some nice decorations and have an excuse to get together with family and friends. Really, the only complaint I’ve got is the cake.

See, in Japan, you can’t celebrate Christmas without a cake. Ordinarily, adding cake to just about anything makes it better, with “a mug of beer” being the sole exception I’ve found so far. But almost every Christmas party here features the exact same “Christmas cake.” It’s basically a strawberry shortcake, which, by my criteria, is sorely lacking in the three most important ingredients of a really good cake, which are, in no particular order, chocolate frosting, chocolate sponge, and chocolate filling.

So if you’ve also got a beef with the standard Christmas cake, maybe you’d prefer one that’s made out of chicken.

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Casual cosplay: for those who want to dress the part 365 days a year【Photos】

With the recent release of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, people around the world are settling in for long gaming sessions of collecting and trading their favorite Pokémon. Playing the game on the Nintendo 3DS sometimes isn’t enough though, you want to live and breathe it wherever you are. But with Halloween and most of the convention circuit closing down for the year, how else do we cosplay our favorite characters and Pokémon?

Introducing casual cosplay!

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【TBT】Sampling strawberry ice cream panda bean curry

Café Latino sits in the quiet residential area of Asakusa, and seems to be your average urban curry restaurant with cozy, modern decor. Certainly, one wouldn’t expect to find something like ‘Strawberry Curry’ on the menu.

Part of Café Latino’s spring-only menu, Strawberry Curry is available from late December to mid-March and requires a reservation for customers who wish to order it. We put in ours, and made our way to the restaurant to see how this unlikely combination holds up.

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“Hello Kitty Park” in China is set to open on New Year’s Day!

The various Disney-operated theme parks scattered throughout the world have brought joy to children (and grown-ups!) for decades. Disney’s major character contribution is none other than Mickey Mouse, who has grown to become one of the most recognizable cultural icons on the world scene. But how about a famous cultural export from Japan? Why, that would be Hello Kitty, of course!

Sanrio’s darling may be celebrating her 40th birthday this month, but she’s showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, her birthday celebration comes along with a recent announcement that a new “Hello Kitty Park” will open in China early next year! Along with plans for the upcoming Shanghai Disneyland, China sure seems to be on a roll these days making children’s dreams come true. More details about the park after the jump.

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Store employee uses barcode scanner to defeat knife-wielding robber

Being a big city, Osaka falls victim to criminal activity more frequently than the rest of the sleepy countryside surrounding it. But still, the criminals they do have in this “big bad” city, seem to be lacking in… experience? Guts? Commitment?

Back in May we saw the convenience store robber who got outsmarted by a clerk after a series of unfortunate decisions on his part. The other day, another wannabe convenience store robber started his raid out well, but gave up pretty easily after some quick thinking and scolding by the store attendant.

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Japanese model builder wins at Gundam, makes a 3D model look like a flat drawing

The hobby of building plastic models of mobile suits from the various Gundam series is huge in Japan. With countless sizes and difficulties to choose from any Gundam plastic model (Gunpla) enthusiast can stay busy for a long, long time.

And for aspiring model builders, there may be no better hero than a Japanese artist using the handle Mumumuno53. Don’t just take our word for it though, and take another look at the image above. As indicated, this is not a drawing, animation cel, or computer-generated image; it’s a three-dimensional plastic model that was built and painted by Mumumuno.

You may still not believe it, which is understandable, so here are some making-of shots they posted on their blog.

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Drinkable Hi-Chew coming to a Japanese convenience store near you!

Now you can drink your candy and eat it, too! In just a few days, everyone’s favorite Japanese candy, Hi-Chew, will be available as a (probably) delicious drink!

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Mr. Hanko is here! Bringing life to your name stamp and joy to your office

Hanko are little name stamps used in Japan in place of a signature when receiving a parcel, authorising a document or filling in just about any kind of form. Being official identity markers, most hanko stamps are pretty boring – just your last name written in kanji.

These new Hanko-san (Mr. Hanko) stamps are designed to be used together with your existing hanko, allowing you to turn your seal into a little message that will bring a bit of spark to the drudgery of your working day. And they’re coming soon to a gashapon machine near you!

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This old Nintendo game quadrupled in price in just a week

Earlier this month, a hacker discovered that an old Nintendo game from 2011, called “Cubic Ninja,” could be used to hack into the company’s 3DS handheld game system.

Using the game, hackers could install “homebrew” software onto the 3DS. Nintendo quickly pulled it from the digital download store, according to VentureBeat. That made the game hard — but not impossible — to find.

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Love curry? Why not wear it around your neck? Plastic food neckpieces get netizens talking

Japan sure loves its plastic replica food. It’s a handy way for restaurants to demonstrate the dishes on offer, and it’s an absolute godsend for tourists who don’t read Japanese. Instead of grappling with menus written in complicated characters, they can simply point at the tasty plastic versions. In recent years, however, plastic food has found its way toward decorating all sorts of objects, from phone cases to accessories. We think that things might have gotten a bit out of hand, however, because now you can apparently wear a serving of plastic food around your neck. Join us after the jump to see the whole range!

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Super generous Japanese megastore keeps boxes of change at register for you to use

I’ve never really understood the rationale behind the name of the Japanese discount megastore chain Don Quijote. Tweaked spelling aside, it’s clearly supposed to be a reference to the character from the 16th century Miguel de Cervantes novel, but what does a mentally imbalanced would-be knight errant have to do with rock bottom prices, chaotic store layouts with hand-drawn signs everywhere, and a corporate mascot who’s a penguin wearing a Santa cap?

Maybe it’s got something to do with the word “quixotic,” which describes a humorously strong commitment to lofty ideals and helpfulness. Actually, that would be a pretty apt description of one of the store’s most unique policies: keeping a box of change at the register for customers to grab coins out of and use when paying for their purchases.

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Jibanyan, Japan chooses you! Pikachu trampled beneath paws of Youkai Watch mascot

Recently, we’ve brought you several articles detailing the meteoric rise of new franchise Youkai Watch as it continues to steal fans and attention away from the much-loved institution that is Pokémon. Die-hard Pokémon fans out there may feel safe in the assumption that Youkai Watch, being more traditionally “Japanese” in feel, will never match the success of Pokémon in the West. Be that as it may, we now have conclusive evidence that Pikachu’s time in the Japanese sun is well and truly over as new champion Jibanyan ascends his throne. Join us after the jump for proof!

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Scope out which love hotel to take your next date to right now in Google Street View

Love hotels in Japan provide a service that is very unique in the world. They play a convenient role for those passionate one-night stands, which is exactly the sort of business you’d expect at a place called a “love hotel”. But they are also a place where married couples can go who are being pressured from their parents to give them some grandchildren. That’s kind of hard to do with mom and dad in the room next door. One quick glance in any city shows that these love hotels are a dime a dozen, which is probably why there are so many random and fun hotels with different styles of rooms and designs.

And now, with the convenience of the Internet, choosing a love hotel is easier than ever. Why should we settle with those “flattering” pictures they provide when we can take a tour of it ourselves with the help of Google Street View!

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Artist creates “PokeMonstrosities” that are the stuff of nightmares

Artist JR Coffron III has finally answered the question of what happens if you leave a Pokémon in its pokeball too long: they come out as undead ravening monsters.

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Add Magic Knight Rayearth boots to your stealth cosplay wardrobe

The designers at the mail order fashion site SuperGroupies are at it again with some Magic Knight Rayearth short boots for the wet, wintry season.

Each design is modeled after one of the main heroines from Clamp’s manga and anime series. Hikaru Shidou, Fuu Hououji, and Umi Ryuuzaki are represented in their respective red, green, and blue colors. The pairs are now available for pre-order for 21,384 yen (about US$181) and are made from genuine leather.

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Press as hard as you like, these new mechanical pencils just refuse to break

I have a tiny, slightly embarrassing confession to make. I positively loathe mechanical pencils. In fact, they scare me a little bit.

No, this isn’t some peculiar of act of Luddism on my part, nor was a member of my family ever murdered by a deranged graphic designer. Rather, it’s because every single time–every single time–I use a mechanical pencil, its lead breaks on me within seconds of being touched to the page. And that, dear reader, always gives me a tiny but not insignificant fright. I have enough terror in my life as it is – I don’t need my writing implements keeping me on edge too.

Thankfully, the Japanese arm of stationery company Zebra knows my pain, and has designed a mechanical pencil whose leads simply cannot be broken, no matter how hard you scribble.

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Creepy or cute? Feel the Panda Train’s intense gaze before sightseeing in resort town Shirahama

Though the “Panda Train” that runs between Kyōto and the beach resort town of Shirahama in Wakayama Prefecture has been around for a few years, Japanese netizens recently have been making quite the hubbub over photos of its panda seats. Online reactions range from “Kawaiiii!” to “It looks like it’ll hug me to death!”, but most agree that they’re simply confused by the presence of polyurethane pandas on a train heading to a former honeymoon Mecca.

While Shirahama (lit. “White Beach”) is famous for its beautiful sand, hot springs, and remarkable rock formations, many in Japan are surprisingly unaware of its other claim to fame: pandas. Read on to learn more about the crowd-pleasing train and a theme park complex called Adventure World, which has a panda-breeding and research facility with an impressive track record that’s second only to mainland China. If you’re already tired of the cold this winter, this article may give you some ideas for next summer!

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