Bar with all-you-can drink beer and sake + no time limit = limitless bliss

In my time in Japan, I’ve been asked to leave numerous drinking establishments. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. It wasn’t because I was causing a disturbance (well, except for that one time in college), or because I was charming all the women and not leaving any for the other male customers (well, except for….wait, no, that really didn’t ever happen).

The polite requests for me to exit bars come from the wonderful system called nomi hodai, where you pay a flat fee and are served as much booze as you like. The standard time limit is two hours, although some places have budget priced 90-minute plans, and others are more generous with three-hour deals. It’s always a downer when the wait staff tells you your time’s up, but after all, they have to cut the customers off at some point, right?

Not at a new bar in Tokyo, where paying the entrance fee gets you an unlimited amount of sake and beer with no time limit.

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Kendama master takes the game to a whole new level 【Video】

Almost everyone in Japan has played kendama at some point in their lives. Most people learn how to play it as a pastime during their childhood, then eventually move on to other activities after they get the hang of it and become bored. A select few, however, go on to hone their skills to perfection and actually compete in organized competitions similar to yo-yo tournaments. Enter 22-year-old Hiroki Iijima, who has not only mastered all the regular tricks in the book but has also combined his love for street dancing to create a new freestyle activity: “kendama street dancing,” if you will.

Skeptical? We’ve got video proof of Hiroki’s awesome skills right here. Prepare to be dazzled!

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Manga encourages kids to eat healthy

Study shows that manga can be used to promote good eating habits.

There’s an unwritten rule that seeing food in anime makes seem even more appealing than it would in real life. Now it seems that there may actually be some scientific evidence supporting that idea. A pilot study conducted recently in Brooklyn, New York found that manga can be used as a tool to encourage children and teenagers to increase their fruit intake.

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Why do Japanese people wear surgical masks? It’s not always for health reasons

Like kimono and T-shirts with English writing (sometimes vulgar, sometimes comical, always unintelligible), the number of people you’ll see in Japan wearing surgical masks is pretty surprising. Sure, Japan is a hard working society, and the spread of productivity-sapping sickness is always a concern at schools and workplaces, but that doesn’t seem like reason enough for the proliferation of facial coverings that sometimes has Tokyo offices looking more like an operating room.

Health concerns are only part of the equation, though, as recent studies have revealed multiple reasons people in Japan wear masks that have nothing to do with hygiene.

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10 surprising things about America (according to this crazy Japanese travel pamphlet)

Visitors to Japan are often perplexed or amused by some of its weird and wonderful customs: endless bowing and kneeling, slapping a face mask on at the first sign of a sniffle, the seemingly never-ending cycle of obligation-based gift giving. Then there are the differences between Japanese homes and those in other countries (I for one am sitting on the floor as I write this, eating potato chips with chopsticks to keep my keyboard clean). But how do Japanese tourists feel about the customs and habits of countries they visit?

A Japanese pamphlet offering advice to people travelling to America has surfaced on the internet, and it’s now been translated into English for you. Let’s take a look at some of the things Japanese people thought were weird about America, starting with … some crazy thing called “dinner plates”!

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Report on lousy schools in Japan spurs debate on who’s to blame

A report last week from the Japanese Ministry of Education about the sorry state of some low-ranked universities, lovingly called “F-rank,” sent ripples through the country and reignited a debate about how to properly prepare students for “life in the real world.” While the Japanese government’s announcement sparked renewed interest in higher education reform, these low-level schools (and their terrible textbooks) have been the butt of jokes on the Internet for years. F-rank universities are notorious for their extremely lax entrance requirements, high student-to-teacher ratio and producing graduates who simply aren’t ready to enter the real world and join a company. Education advocates and people tired of dealing with incompetent co-workers all wanted to share their ideas about how to change the system to avoid a generation of poorly trained workers.

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What’s the fastest-sounding Japanese word? (Hint: it’s the noise a bullet train makes)

The Japanese language is peppered with zippy onomatopoeia that allow you to express the sound of just about anything. Website Netallica recently surveyed readers to find the fastest-sounding words in the Japanese language. As you’d expect, WHIZZ, BANG and SHWOOP are nowhere to be seen!

We explore the top five fastest words, what exactly is so speedy about them, and what kind of images they conjure up for Japanese people.

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Centuries-old Japanese cookbooks give a peek at the dinner tables of the samurai

One thing that surprises many recent arrivals to Japan is that chefs put as much effort into the presentation of their food as they do the flavor. This has got to be a recent development though, right? Being able to take the time to delicately craft your meal into a feast for the eyes is a luxury that must be born out of the ease and convenience of a stable, technologically advanced, modern society.

It turns out, though, that Japan’s appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of cooking stretch back hundreds of years, as proven by these dishes made from centuries-old cookbooks.

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Mao Asada’s flawed program met with support from fellow skaters, criticized by Japanese official

Silver medalist, Mao Asada, is the ice skating sweetheart of Japan. Loved by millions across the tiny island nation, she was expected to do great things at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. However, an unfortunate fall during her triple axel took Mao out of the running for the podium and the skating beauty finished 16th in the ladies short program. Witnessing a world-class skater make a huge mistake at such a crucial moment on the world stage was nothing short of heartbreaking. But Mao’s fellow skaters, including Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi, took to Twitter to show their support of the young skater. Unfortunately, Mao didn’t receive the same outpouring of sympathy from one prominent Japanese official.

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Some of China’s top leaders are apparently obsessed with ‘House Of Cards’

The country of China, including some of its top leaders, can’t get enough of the Netflix drama “House of Cards,” The Washington Post’s William Wan reports.

On Sohu, the Chinese equivalent of Netflix, “House of Cards” has been the No. 1-streamed show since the debut of Season 2 last Friday. Streams of both seasons top Sohu’s rankings, ahead of “The Big Bang Theory.”

And according to Sohu (via the Post), most of China’s 24.5 million views of Season 1 of House of Cards came from government-sector employees and residents of Beijing. The state-run Xinhua News Agency wrote last week that “a large number of government and enterprise executives and opinion leaders also strongly recommend” the show.

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Countdown to PlayStation 4 in Japan – Mr. Sato heads to the Sony Building to join the fun

The day thousands of Japanese gamers have been waiting for has almost arrived. It’s now February 21 in Japan, and that can mean only one thing: PlayStation 4 is less than 24 hours away!

Earlier tonight, our reporter extraordinaire Mr. Sato headed over to Sony’s flagship store in Tokyo’s Ginza District to join the gamers who just couldn’t wait any longer to get their hands on the console and to document the special launch event Sony would be laying on in honour of PlayStation 4’s decidedly late arrival.

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Russian figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya is a firecracker both on and off the ice

Earlier this week, 19-year-old Sendai-native Yuzuru Hanyu overcame a slightly flawed program to grab the first-ever men’s Olympic gold medal in figure skating for Japan. Japanese fans celebrated the victory with a plethora of fanart dedicated to Yuzuru by both professional manga artists and amateurs.

At the time of this writing, the ladies short program is just underway in Sochi. Japan’s Mao Asada is back, and looks to claim gold after falling short to her longtime rival, reigning “Queen” Yuna Kim of South Korea, in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Although the field is filled with several seasoned veterans, 15-year old overnight celebrity Julia Lipnitskaya of Russia in particular promises to put up a good fight. Yulia dominated the competition last week, helping her country claim gold in the new Olympic team figure skating event held for the first time at these games. If you recall, Tara Lipinski was only 15 when she won the 1998 Nagano Olympics…

One thing that sets Yulia apart is her incredible composure and focus despite participating on the world stage at such a young age. And she’s certainly not afraid to speak her mind, as some reporters recently found out the hard way…

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Tokyo confectioners create delicious sweets that look good enough to….wear?!

In some ways, stylish accessories and desserts aren’t so different. Just as no one actually needs more sugar and frosting in their diet, jewelry and brand-name bags don’t really perform any practical function.

Still, one can’t live by bread alone, and the occasional indulgence isn’t likely to ruin your health or bank balance. Choosing which way to reward yourself can be a tricky endeavor, however, which is why today we’re sharing four Tokyo confectioners where you can get sweets that look like high fashion.

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Kind-hearted yet cautious driver takes photo of fallen motorist before helping her up

In recent years, the things to watch out for while driving on the road aren’t just green and red lights, reckless drivers in the next lane, or traffic police on your tail. Drivers now have to look out for con men who stage fraud accidents in order to rip a few big bucks off of you. Thankfully, we have technology on our side! In-vehicle cameras and the cameras on our mobile phones are great tools that could protect us from such “accidents”. A Chinese driver shows us how!

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Ancient Chinese instrument can mimic Super Mario Bros. music with startling fidelity

Searching “Super Mario Theme” on YouTube will yield many unique renditions on a range of instruments including guitars, pianos, church organs, ukuleles, wine glasses, flutes, and 11-string basses. And while they’re all special and unique in their own way, no non-electric instrument can truly replicate that distinct 8-bit sound of the original game.

…Or can it? The sheng (shou in Japanese) is a Chinese musical instrument whose origins date back to 1,100 BC, and in a YouTube video that has recently taken Japan by storm we can see that this traditional instrument was way, way ahead of its time as it perfectly imitates the background music and sound effects of the original Super Mario Bros.

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Intel’s surprising new commercial hits us right in the feels – we dare you not to cry

For a company that deals solely with all things cold, technical and inorganic, it turns out that computer chip maker Intel actually has a surprisingly soft, feeling heart. In what we can only describe as a genuine tear-jerker of a commercial, Intel Japan tells the tale of a young boy dealing with the loss not of his favourite laptop, tablet or gaming rig, but of his best friend–to cancer.

You might want to get the tissues ready for this one!

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【TBT】Kyoto noodle house serves one big, long noodle

Udon is one of Japan’s most well-loved noodles dishes, ranking in line with soba and ramen. Everyone has an opinion over which is the tastiest, but those who like a bit of girth in their noodles will probably go for udon, which are traditionally rolled thicker than other Japanese noodles.

If you really want something to chew on, Tawaraya, an established noodle house in Kyoto, makes udon noodles so thick that only one fits inside the bowl.

Our resident foodie, Kuzo, recently took a train out to the ancient capital to try Tawaraya’s udon for himself. Check out his report below!

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How epic is PlayStation 4? The specs of Sony’s newest console explained through Dragon Ball

Readers in North America, Europe and Australia, where the PlayStation 4 was released back in November, might be surprised to learn that Japanese gamers are still waiting for Sony’s next-gen console. But this Saturday February 22, the PS4 is finally unleashed on the video game capital of the world!

As we’ve discovered before, Dragon Ball can be used to explain just about anything, and this clever infographic shows how the PS4 compares to its predecessor – with specs converted into battle strength! So if Frieza was a PS4, just how powerful would he be?

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Japanese zipper maker and British artist team up to create futuristic headwear/terror

On the surface, Japanese zipper manufacturer YKK occupies an enviable position. The company’s global market share is estimated at as high as 90 percent, and until technology finally makes good on Back to the Future II’s promise of self-attaching apparel, future demand for the company’s products is likely to remain strong.

That said, zippers aren’t the most glamorous field to work in. As with any manufactured good, there’s obviously a tremendous amount of engineering and logistics talent at YKK, but it’s not hard to imagine the company wanting a moment in the limelight, something that demands a little more attention.

Well, YKK’s collaboration with British designer Ava Rajcevic is sure to get plenty of attention, at least for as long as people can look at it without the horror warping their minds.

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Korean basketball coach humiliates player live on TV, tapes his mouth shut

This week saw a bizarre incident in the world of Korean pro basketball, when a coach decided that the usual method of yelling at one of his players just wasn’t enough to get his point across. His novel solution? Tape their mouth shut.

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