Osaka Castle backdrop for brain-melting 3D light show【Photos and Video】

If you happen to be in Osaka in the next month and feel up to braving the chilly nights, there is an interesting event taking place at Osaka Castle as part of the Art Festival of Light. In addition to the castle gardens being decorated with thousands of twinkling bulbs and a giant cube of swirling light constructed with LEDs, the castle itself will be the canvas for a 3D mapping projection guaranteed to confuse your brain.

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Japan’s coolest New Year 2014 greeting cards

New Year in Japan means food, visiting temples, food, getting money, food, and, of course, New Years postcards. Like the many people all over the world, Japanese folks make a habit of sending cards to nearly everyone they know to mark the start of another year. The average card often features a family photo or some traditional illustration connected to the new year.

That’s the average card–some people, though, take the opportunity to send cards with a bit more pizzazz using everything from illustrations of Attack on Titan characters to an actual pack of Pokémon cards. Check out some of the best nengajo (Japanese New Years cards) we’ve found below!

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It’s the year of the horse, so let’s… eat a horse!?

2014 is the year of the horse, according to the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese zodiac animals play an important role in Japanese new year traditions, even though they no longer follow the Chinese lunar calendar. Themed goods featuring the zodiac animal of the year can be seen almost everywhere you go when the new year comes around. Yokohama originated bakery Pompadour created this adorable horse character bun for the occasion!

Wait, what? There’s real horse meat in it?!

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Hang in there, Baby!: Cat clinging to wall in Tokyo caught on Google Maps

Here’s a real-life motivational poster for you. Spotted in the Katsushika ward of Tokyo, this little kitty was precariously clinging to a small wall just as those crazy Google cameras came rolling by. Now he is forever immortalized on Google Maps, able to be seen by billions of people around the world.

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Ugoita fashions musical umbrellas and game cartridges for your low-fi pleasure

A white Christmas in Osaka is a rare thing and this year was no exception. All week has been back-to-back rainy days – par for the course in this neck of the world. If you happen to live in a similar climate, then these cold and damp days might have you feeling a little bummed out.

To help turn your mood around is a cute little invention by Ugoita. This umbrella has sensors attached that convert the impact of raindrops into tones. However, that’s just one of many unique electronic creations that worked.

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Test your might with our weekly quiz of weird and wonderful news from Japan and Asia

So, you think you know your quirky Asia news, huh? Visit our site every single day, do ya? (Thank you!) Well let’s see how closely you’ve been paying attention! Starting this week, we’ll be running a multiple choice quiz each weekend, based on 10 of our writers’ favourite articles from the week, asking you one question about each of them.

Do you know your Japanese cultural traditions? Have you been paying close attention to the adventures of our beloved Mr. Sato? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if he had the required paperwork for the job? Take our quiz and find out!

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Fly in a pink whale shark to Okinawa!

The Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa is renown for its massive whale sharks. Now tourists can enjoy riding inside a whale shark on their way to seeing a whale shark thanks to the decorated JAL planes. What’s more, the company has just announced the addition of a pink plane featuring the huge fish. Let’s take a closer look!

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Mind-blowing customized PC impossible to use, beautiful to behold

In modding communities of all kinds, there has always been the age-old debate of whether form or function carries more importance. There are plenty of car enthusiasts, for example, who are happy to mod their ride with dozens of cosmetic upgrades that do nothing for performance.

PC modder and artist Hirohito Ikeuchi is happy, apparently, to ignore function altogether, as this steampunk military-themed customized PC proves. The attention to detail in the modded PC is astounding, with life-like figures in fighting poses among steampunk mechs, tanks and even palm trees.

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Meet the $1,200 Attack on Titan figure that sold out in two hours in Japan

It wasn’t long ago we brought you news of an amazing DOLK doll loved by manga artists for its unprecedented 80 moveable parts and surprising elegance and beauty. Now, the company has teamed up with respected manufacturer I.O.S (Immortality of Soul) to bring joy to another legion of fans, this time with a 60-centimetre figurine based on a popular character from the hit anime series Attack on Titan.

As fans will know, this young man’s name is Levi, and his following is so huge that pre-sale orders for his doll were filled within just two hours of opening, despite a hefty US$1,200 price tag. We take a closer look at the awesome figure and find out what makes it so special.

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How much should we give in a New Year’s otoshidama without looking like a jerk?

A lot of Japanese people complain about the tipping culture in the US and Canada. Although parting with more money than necessary is a big part of the complaint, a lot of people in Japan dislike the mental anguish of figuring out how much is appropriate.

However, the New Year’s traditional cash presents of otoshidama, while great for kids, are just as riddled with anxiety for adults. Rather than the ambiguous sentimental value of presents, an envelope filled with cash is instantly quantifiable and wide open to judgment.

To avoid looking like a cheapskate or breaking your own bank account, our reporter surveyed those around her to figure out what the going rates for otoshidama are these days.

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Tokyo woman mugged for 3,000 yen, haggles mugger down to 1,000

At about 6:00am on 26 December, a young woman was walking down a street in Nakano, Tokyo. Suddenly, she was confronted by a man brandishing a knife and threatening, “Get out all your money and nothing will happen.”

The woman in her 20s complied and passed over 3,000 yen (US$30). You’d think the crime would be nearly complete, but in a truly Columbo-like moment the woman had just one more thing to ask the mugger.

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Offstage: Take a peek into the real lives of cosplayers! 【Photos】

Cosplay is arguably the most popular subculture in Japan. While the costume play community has seen an explosive growth across the globe in recent years, many “normal” people still tend to look at those engaging in the activity with judging eyes; some even think that they’re “weird” for wanting to dress up like their heroes. But the truth is, beneath the elaborate costumes, cosplayers are just as normal as any one of us.

We’ve seen cosplayers without their costumes, but photographer Ching Yee Tan takes a step further by showing us a glimpse of their private lives. If you’ve ever wondered what a hardcore cosplayer’s room looks like, this is your chance to take a peek into one!

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Otoshidama: How kids in Japan get rich once a year

With Christmas being just a regular day and the exchanging of gifts something of a rarity, we often feel that kids in Japan are missing out somewhat. Of course, not every Westerner is fortunate enough to know the joy of waking up on December 25 and finding presents–brought by a benevolent bearded man, no less–under the Christmas tree or at the foot of their bed, but those who are would most likely agree that it’s a pretty spectacular feeling for a kid to have.

But while the rest of the world is coming to realise that the toys they asked for aren’t quite as cool as they’d expected and dreading going back to school or work, kids in Japan are making out like bandits and getting not presents but cold, hard cash on New Year’s Day in the form of otoshidama.

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The top 10 manga to live-action adaptations【Ranking】

Sometimes fans groan when they hear that their beloved book is going to be made into a movie. Manga fans often have the same reaction when they learn that their favorite manga will be turned into a live-action film or drama adaptation. But not all of these adaptations turn out to be cringeworthy. Readers on one Japanese website chose the best live-action adaptations of popular manga. Do you agree with their ranking?

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Train enthusiasts gone wild! Are Japan’s train photographers losing their social graces?

Back in the day you might have called them “train otaku” but they would have preferred “tetsudo fan” a Japanese translation of the British “railfan” label for those who enjoy riding, viewing, and appreciating everything about railway transportation.

Around the turn of the millennium a new Japanese term for train buffs arose: tetsu (iron).  The name also has many derivatives such as “tetsuko” for a female train enthusiast, and “hitetsu” (non-ferrous) for people who are train laymen. Two main groups of tetsu are noritetsu (iron riders) and toritetsu (iron filmers).

The latter of these two are the focus now, as there has been an increasingly troubling trend of rude and dangerous behavior from what many would assume to be the tranquil hobby of train photography. The following are five examples.

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Japan Post assembles motorcycle gang to deliver New Year’s cards

As you might expect, people in Japan don’t send out Christmas cards. When you’re spending the month of December preparing for the 25th, the most romantic day of the year in Japan, who has the time to write cards for a foreign holiday? Instead, people from Sapporo to Naha send nengajyo, traditional New Year’s postcards. When every single card is guaranteed to be delivered on the first of the year (if sent out by December 25), the post office has to get serious. What better way than with an army of motorcycle-riding postal workers?

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Romance tips for the guys: 10 reasons why ladies love a Ghibli gent

Ghibli’s influence on both Japanese and global culture is hard to understate. The animation studio’s films are loved by young and old, male and female, and nearly anyone who’s ever even heard of anime. So, is it any surprise that women love the gentlemen that appear in Ghibli movies? Not really.

And if you’re feeling unlucky in love, there’s nothing better than some advice from women themselves. So read on, guys, for some Ghibli-inspired tips on impressing the ladies!

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Study reveals too much Internet and video games is bad for your grades

How much time do you spend on the Internet every day? An hour? Less? If so, great for you! For the rest of us Internet addicts, there’s a little bit of bad news: The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, or more briefly the Monbusho or MEXT, and the National Institute for Educational Policy, or NIER, have released their results of a study into the impact of Internet use on scholastic performance. The results were not particularly surprising, unfortunately.

If you’re thinking all your hours spent looking at doge memes (“Wow! Such tests! Much knowledge! So smarts!”) and pictures of Taiwanese McDonald’s employees were hurting your grades, well, unfortunately, there’s a very good chance that you’re right!

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Celebrate the Year of the Horse with a creepy horse mask

It’s 2014, which means it’s time to say “sayonara” to the snake and holler a great big “hello” to the horse. The year’s been off to a pretty boring start, so we’re hoping to liven up the first few days of January with a photo gallery featuring animals and humans wearing horse masks…it is the Year of the Horse afterall.

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Handsome Comiket newbie inspires other fans to clean up their act

Another winter Comiket has come and, unfortunately, gone. Though we have to say that fans probably welcome a break after a few days of hustling from booth to booth, and the convenience stores are most definitely glad for some respite. On the other hand, we can only imagine how overwhelmed the cleaning crews must be right now.

If only more fans were more like this sexy, young gentleman; the cleaning crews’ work would be cut by half!

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