Hand-made animal-shaped buns a steaming hit among students in China

Hand-made animal-shaped buns a steaming hit among students in China

We have written a handful of articles about cute character-shaped doughnuts and cakes that can be found in Japan. Adorable food is probably something that would sell in any country, but what if such Western snacks are not a common choice among the locals, like in China, for example? The creative canteen ladies at the Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin recently cooked up their own version of animal-shaped snacks, in the form of Chinese steamed buns, and they’re selling like, well, hotcakes.

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Evangelion? Cool. Katana? Cool. Evangelion and katana? Very cool!

Evangelion? Cool. Katana? Cool. Evangelion and katana? Very cool!

Evangelion, known to its fans simply as Eva, has already earned itself a spot in history as one of Japan’s most popular anime ever. The franchise has such wide appeal that its characters have been used to promote everything from lingerie to cheeseburgers.

Now, Eva’s cast of teenage protagonists is helping to drum up interest in something a little more traditional than the high-tech robots they usually pilot with their newest promotional crossover, the Evangelion and Japanese Sword Exhibition.

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Popular Japanese travel guide for East Africa is filled with thrilling tales of danger

Popular Japanese travel guide for East Africa is filled with thrilling tales of danger

Japan is, by almost any criteria, an extremely safe country. You can wander most back alleys of Tokyo in the dead of night without any sense of danger, and calmly carry huge amounts of cash secure in the knowledge that you’re about as likely to come across a mugger in downtown as a man riding a horse.

While this bubble of safety is definitely a plus when you’re inside it, the flipside is that Japanese travelers, unaccustomed to street crime, violent or otherwise, tend to be extremely risk averse when going abroad. Driving this point home is the East Africa edition of a popular series of Japanese guidebooks, which is filled with warnings of danger that seem more like something out of a pulp action novel than a travel reference.

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Lonely or in need of female assistance? Try a rental friend in Tokyo!

Lonely or in need of female assistance? Try a rental friend in Tokyo!

It can be difficult to get along without female friends.

In Japan, work ethic and subsequent exhaustion tends to tie many men to their work places beyond the call of duty, and gender roles can be highly restrictive. If you’re a single man who is not socially confident, how do you get enough positive human interaction? We all need to tell someone about our troubles, and yarn about the day-to-day minutiae that friends and family share.

Maybe you want to go out to a nice restaurant… but how can you go alone? Maybe you have relationship difficulties and want to confide in someone. Maybe you need help with your computer, or organizing your stuff, or careers counselling. Everyone needs a female friend… and in eastern Japan, Client Partners KK is one company which offers a rent-a-friend service. Billed as “women-only odd-jobbers” (josei dake no benriya), the services they offer do not include anything untoward. In the commodification of today’s world, “rental friend” should come as no surprise. What is surprising is just how much this kind of human contact benefits lonely people.

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South Korean netizens fume over president’s footwear faux pas

South Korean netizens fume over president’s footwear faux pas

South Korean netizens are apparently up in arms over their president’s choice of shoes that she wore when throwing the opening pitch of the third game of the Korean Series baseball tournament in Seoul on October 27. Her fashion crime? President Park Guen Hye had the “audacity” to show up wearing a Japanese brand of sneakers!

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Eight fun fall origami designs!

Eight fun fall origami designs!

Fall is in full swing and that means we’re all able to enjoy what this chilly season has to offer. Red and golden leaves, chestnuts, apples…all the things that remind us of autumn! For those with a little patience and some artistic ability, you can even create origami versions of these seasonal favorites. Take a look at the following eight origami designs and learn how to make them yourself!

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Six incredibly interesting items inspired by origami

Six incredibly interesting items inspired by origami

The art of origami is one of Japan’s most widely recognized cultural contributions to the international world. Although the practice of paper-folding has many possible roots, the Japanese approach to sculpting three-dimensional shapes from flat squares has had a large impact on many people’s approach to not just art, but also packaging and product design. Here are six very special items, designed both in and out of Japan, which claim inspiration from the practice of origami.

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Visiting Alcázar of Segovia, the real Disney castle

Visiting Alcázar of Segovia, the real Disney castle

As you may have heard, Disney’s movies and theme parks are incredibly popular in Japan. While Hello Kitty is the reigning queen of cute, she can never rest easy knowing that Minnie is just one step behind, ready to take the throne. And with the immense popularity of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, it’s hardly any wonder that one of the most popular destinations for Japanese folks traveling abroad is Alcázar of Segovia, a Spanish castle which served as the inspiration for the nearly universally-known Cinderella castle.

And when you see the pictures we’ve found of the castle, you’ll want to visit it too!

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Rising J-POP star is talented, good-looking and certainly not your typical Japanese musician!

Rising J-POP star is talented, good-looking and certainly not your typical Japanese musician!

I just happened to be watching TV the other day when a young man’s singing performance suddenly and utterly grabbed my attention. Having been a member of the Glee Club during junior high and high school (an experience which, by the way, was no where near as crazy as the TV series), I have to say that hearing talented people sing is a huge source of pleasure for me, and a pleasure it was indeed to listen to this man perform a well-known Japanese pop song, his voice ringing clear and true.

I soon found out that the man I saw performing on TV had just released his debut single from a major Japanese music label a few months ago. His star seems to have been rising quickly, which wasn’t surprising considering his amazing voice and striking looks. Plus, there was also something else that made him stand out in the Japanese music scene. Ladies and gentlemen, meet 21-year-old Nicholas Edwards, the blond J-POP singer from Oregon, U.S.A.

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We’re not sure whether to laugh or cry at this soul-crushing English textbook segment

We’re not sure whether to laugh or cry at this soul-crushing English textbook segment

The doctor-patient exchange has always been a crucial segment in basic language textbooks, because it’s one of those situations you’ll want to know how to navigate if you plan on going to a foreign country for an extended period of time.

This Japanese English textbook goes the extra mile by also reminding you that doctors don’t have time for your namby pamby psychological problems like, um, seemingly legitimate depression and loneliness…

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The happiest airline story ever: Man and smartphone reunited by awesome customer service

The happiest airline story ever: Man and smartphone reunited by awesome customer service

Airports and airlines frequently get a bad rap. The internet alone has more complaints about air travel than and episode of Evening at the Improv. However, buried deep among the stories of security gropings, crushed luggage and delayed flights lie some uplifting stories to restore your faith in humanity.

A while back we reported on JAL’s kind move to provide specialized guitar cases free of charge. That’s swell, but this story about what happened to our reporter Kuzo on his return flight on ANA after eating some dancing squid will brighten your day and remind you what customer service is all about.

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What’s the excuse for China’s bizarre painted-on apartment windows?

What’s the excuse for China’s bizarre painted-on apartment windows?

There’s something to be said for keeping up appearances and making good impressions, but what underlying defect is this string of apartment buildings trying to hide by painting on pretend windows?! These high-rise housing complexes in China’s Shandong Province aren’t fooling any prospective tenants with their fake windows, so really, what’s the point?

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Next Pokémon game to star “Sexual Deviant Pikachu”?

Next Pokémon game to star “Sexual Deviant Pikachu”?

Just look at that face. That’s the kind of face you wouldn’t want to see grinning at you from the other end of a dark alley.

And yes, in case you’re in doubt, that’s Pikachu putting on his best “sexual deviant planning something untoward” face. What on earth could have spawned this unholy creation?

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From Hepburn to Gaga, Hong Kong artist carves tiny works of art in expensive lipstick

From Hepburn to Gaga, Hong Kong artist carves tiny works of art in expensive lipstick

Interesting media can make for especially interesting art, as the pencil-tip carvings, hairy apples and damaged banana art we’ve covered before should attest, but when you go carving up some perfectly good brand-name lipsticks to celebrate strong women and fashion icons, you are bound to cause your intended audience a little heartache.

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Russia thinks China is launching cyber attacks via microchipped irons and kettles, releases photo

Russia thinks China is launching cyber attacks via microchipped irons and kettles, releases photo

In one of the strangest stories we’ve come across so far this week – yes, stranger than exploding yogurt and ramen cake – reports are coming in of a number of Chinese-made irons that contain “mini microphones” and chips that can plant viruses in nearby computer equipment via home Wi-Fi networks.

We always knew ironing sucked, but this is ridiculous.

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Researchers in Osaka develop hands-free, breath-controlled PC mouse

Researchers in Osaka develop hands-free, breath-controlled PC mouse

Despite having a name that induces chuckles in many English speakers, Kinki University (Kinki being the name of the region around Osaka) is a well-respected school, with roots stretching back to 1925 when it came into existence as Osaka Technical College.

In keeping with the school’s long history of pursuing technological advancement, a team at Kinki University has recently developed a mouse that allows users to operate their PC with nothing more than their breath.

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This Chinese tongue twister will melt your brain

This Chinese tongue twister will melt your brain

Everyone loves a good tongue twister, especially when getting to grips with a new language. I’ve had fun being challenged by Japanese coworkers at drinking parties to get my mouth around phrases like basu gasu bakuhatsu (“the bus gas explodes”) five times in a row, or aka-makigami ao-makigami ki-makigami (“red paper roll, blue paper roll, yellow paper roll”) on many occasions, but this Chinese tongue twister blows them all out of the water.

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Akita musician and illustrator do everything they can to convince us their eel characters are actually dongs

Akita musician and illustrator do everything they can to convince us their eel characters are actually dongs

Japan cranks out a huge number of corporate and regional mascot characters, and each one is required to be cute, right down to its name. Unfortunately, sometimes a moniker that sounds perfectly fine in Japanese doesn’t have quite the same inoffensive ring to it in English.

Of course, naming choices can have unfortunate implications for Japanese speakers as well, like with Akita Prefecture’s cute little garden eel character called Chinanabo. In Chinanabo’s case, however, there’s enough evidence to make us think his creators are in on the joke.

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My Melody and friends featured at pop-up cafe in Tokyo

My Melody and friends featured at pop-up cafe in Tokyo

Hello Kitty has always taken center stage when it comes to Sanrio characters. But now My Melody is getting her shot at an extremely popular limited-time only pop-up cafe in Tokyo. Even My Melody’s rival, Kuromi is making an appearance at this cute cafe, which features lattes, cakes, and light snacks with the faces of My Melody and friends.

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Ryu-chan and Chun-kun? Welcome to the weird world of genderswapped Street Fighter 【Video】

Ryu-chan and Chun-kun? Welcome to the weird world of genderswapped Street Fighter 【Video】

Imagine if the characters from Street Fighter, Capcom’s classic fighting game, were born as members of the opposite sex, with the same amount of physical strength and fighting spirit but a decidedly different physiques. Thanks to a fan-made short movie by Really Clever Androids, we don’t have to wonder what to expect from a world like that. This awesome three-minute clip gives us a pretty good idea of the conflict and copious cleavage we might encounter. Let’s just say that these genderswapped Street Fighter folks really know how to bring it!

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