Okinawa restaurant’s amazing shaved ice belongs in a (sufficiently air-conditioned) museum

Okinawa restaurant’s amazing shaved ice belongs in a (sufficiently air-conditioned) museum

Of all the art-you-can-eat creations that seem to be trending in Japan these days, most use easily manipulated and relatively sturdy substances such as rice and grated daikon radish, plus obvious stuff like cake and marzipan. So if these trendy edible canvases rank an eight or a nine on a 1-to-10 food art skill rating, we’d have to wager that ice-based food art is cranking it up to 11. And with ice melting in a matter of minutes, you’d think somebody would have to be crazy to try and make an edible sculpture out of it.

We can picture it now: The poor, young shaved ice art prodigy ridiculed and shunned by the food art community, forced to take his craft to far-off Okinawa and a decrepit-looking shop on an unassuming corner to carry out his trade in relative anonymity.

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Kim Jong-un’s haircut takes over the world

Kim Jong-un’s haircut takes over the world

Recently, rumors abound that Kim Jong-un has been forcing all male university students to get his haircut. Whether that’s true or not (and it’s probably the latter!), the prospect of thousands of men adopting the tubby leader’s ‘do has prompted quite a lot of discussion about his haircut.

Fluffy on top and buzzed in the back, it’s like a reverse mullet—and every bit as cool! They say that fashion is cyclical, but this trend may have done a figure 8…

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She goes wobble, but she don’t fall down: Chinese leafleter’s kooky way of getting attention

She goes wobble, but she don’t fall down: Chinese leafleter’s kooky way of getting attention

As consumers, we are surrounded by adverts and marketing, and as we get better at tuning them out, companies come up with ever more ingenious methods of making us pay attention to what they have to say.

Plenty of marketing involves attractive young women, but one Chinese advertiser has taken the idea to a new level – literally – by hiring a girl to bob around 3 meters above the ground on a giant bendy pole. Instead of standing on the street trying to convince people to take her flyers, she floats above the crowd and chucks leaflets at people from above. Why didn’t we think of that already?

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Tear-jerker: Brain tumor patient’s “final wish” is to find her husband a new girlfriend

Tear-jerker: Brain tumor patient’s “final wish” is to find her husband a new girlfriend

Recent reports of popular celebrities embroiled in illicit love affairs may have caused many Chinese netizens to lose hope in love, but a devoted couple on “iDream of China”, a television program that gives common people a chance to fulfil their wildest dreams, touched the nation with their heart-wrenching story and rekindled the people’s hope in true love.

Get your tissues ready because the story of Ying Feng, a 23-year-old diagnosed with a fourth-degree brain tumor, and her loving husband is likely to bring a tear to your eye.

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Local thugs forced to fight pro Muay Thai fighters as punishment during Thai New Year festival

Local thugs forced to fight pro Muay Thai fighters as punishment during Thai New Year festival

Songkran, or the Thai New Year, is held annually between April 13-15. It is also known as the water-throwing festival because the tradition of washing Buddhist statues for good fortune has evolved into a tradition of throwing water on other people as well. In other words, it’s like a giant free-for-all water fight throughout the country!

Naturally, by human nature not all of the citizens are well-behaved, and the festival always leads to some fights and drunken brawls between irresponsible revelers. This year, however, it looks like the ingenious idea of one politician in Buriram City may stop local gang members from stirring up more trouble at future festivals…and it might just shock you. 

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Kinoko Girly: the weirdest time-waster you’ll play all day

Kinoko Girly: the weirdest time-waster you’ll play all day

If you’re struggling with the fact that it’s still only Tuesday and the weekend is but a dot on the horizon, Kinoko Girly (‘Mushroom Girly’), a free mobile game currently generating a lot of buzz here in Japan, might be just the thing to keep you going at least until Hump Day is over.

Featuring illustrations by popular fashion designer Hajime Yoshio, Kinoko Girly is one of the simplest smartphone games you’ll ever play. Asking you, the person in charge of feeding a bevy of frighteningly shaped mushrooms to a woman with a penchant for fungi, to choose which of the two ‘shrooms offered up at any one time is delicious and which is poisonous, it’s simply a case of guesswork for the sake of it, but it’s surprisingly addictive. And altogether weird.

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Starbucks Japan releases yet another drool-worthy Frappuccino flavor for summer

Starbucks Japan releases yet another drool-worthy Frappuccino flavor for summer

Starbucks Japan does it again with another seasonal item: the Crunchy Cookie Frappuccino. It’s like milk and cookies in a cup, but it’ll also keep you cool this summer. With a vanilla base, chocolate chunk cookie clusters, and even almonds, it sounds like it’ll be another tempting option on their menu…with an entire cookie crumbled up and blended in!

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Do actually useful prizes suck all the frustrating fun out of those UFO catcher crane games?

Do actually useful prizes suck all the frustrating fun out of those UFO catcher crane games?

Japanese UFO catchers give the best prizes – if you’re talented or lucky enough to grab them. (Personally, I think it’s all about luck because after many hours and probably hundreds of yen down the drain, I’m still not any better at winning.) But the euphoria of a win is usually quickly forgotten, and you’re left with one more piece of tat to cram into your room. So what about if UFO catchers actually dished out useful goodies? Wouldn’t that be a real win-win situation?!

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The baffling reason three men spent 30 minutes in an Akihabara restroom together

The baffling reason three men spent 30 minutes in an Akihabara restroom together

As the world’s biggest video game and anime merchandise district, it’s easy for enthusiasts to lose track of time in Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood. For hard-core fans, an initial plan to pop into the ground floor of one of its multi-level shopping complexes, just for a second in order to check out the newest releases, can easily metamorphose into a two-hour survey of all the goodies the store has in stock.

Still, there are some things that shouldn’t take very long, even for the biggest anime nut or gaming enthusiast. So when one man heard the call of nature then spent 30 fruitless minutes waiting for even one person to come out of the three stalls in the public restroom he’d entered, he became suspicious, and with good cause, since it turns out the three individuals holed up in there were doing more than clearing out their digestive tracks.

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Judge sets new line for adultery in landmark case, and it doesn’t involve intercourse

Judge sets new line for adultery in landmark case, and it doesn’t involve intercourse

Cheating and adultery are one of the leading causes of divorces and break-ups. No one wants to be cheated on, and for those who do the cheating, the thrill of sneaking around and trying not to get caught is sure to spur some adulterers on. However, at what point is what you are doing considered cheating? For most people, sex is certainly cheating, and kissing someone other than your partner is crossing the line. But is having dinner with someone cheating? Is having lunch? Is spending significant time with someone cheating?

An Osaka judge has drawn a new line in the sand for what is considered adultery in Japan, with one woman suing not her husband but his “mistress”, despite the fact that there was no intercourse involved.

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Disney cakes are adorable, artistic, and only available for a limited time

Disney cakes are adorable, artistic, and only available for a limited time

With the string of holidays known as Golden Week coming up in early May, all of Japan is looking forward to a couple of days off to spend with friends and family. Whether you’re visiting a friend’s apartment or going back to your hometown for a couple of days, Japanese manners dictate that you should bring a gift, with food being the most popular choice.

If you’re stumped for what kind of food to bring, here’s an easy way to play the percentages. Almost everyone likes cake, and almost everyone in Japan likes Disney characters, so odds are this set of Disney cakes will make just about everyone happy.

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Classic Japanese painting “Picture Scroll of a Fart Battle” is exactly what it sounds like

Classic Japanese painting “Picture Scroll of a Fart Battle” is exactly what it sounds like

The earliest weapon associated with the samurai was the longbow, and many were also proficient with polearms. Neither is what first springs to mind for most people when they think of Japan’s warrior class, though. To many, the image of two opposing samurai grasping their swords, ready to duel, is by far the more iconic image.

But while the bow is technically the most traditional, the polearm arguably the most practical, and the katana certainly the most dramatic, none of these are anywhere near as funny as the depiction in this centuries-old scroll of samurai battling each other with their farts.

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Pokémon XY episode about sunken passenger ship delayed

Pokémon XY episode about sunken passenger ship delayed

The official website for the Pokémon XY television series announced on Monday that the previously scheduled episode for Thursday, April 24, “Kaitei no Shiro! Kuzumō to Doramidoro!!” (Castle at the Bottom of the Ocean! Skrelp and Dragalge!!), has been delayed indefinitely “due to circumstances.”

A South Korean ferry sank off the southern coast of South Korea on Wednesday. Of the 462 passengers, including 325 high school students, 87 have been confirmed dead and 215 remain missing.

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Japanese pig farmer shows the world how pigs should be treated

Japanese pig farmer shows the world how pigs should be treated

A pig farmer in Japan is warming hearts around the world, thanks to a photo collection that documents his life with some 1,200 pigs. Whether he’s tending to the little piglets, sleeping with the sows, or serenading them all with tunes on his guitar, this is a farmer who loves spending time in the pen surrounded by his animals.

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We visit Tokyo’s rabbit café to celebrate Easter in the cutest way possible 【Photos】

We visit Tokyo’s rabbit café to celebrate Easter in the cutest way possible 【Photos】

My wife, who’s always interested in learning more about foreign culture (no doubt in an effort to better understand her insufferably baffling husband), recently asked me how Easter is celebrated in America. “We usually hunt for Easter eggs and eat chocolate rabbits,” I told her, which quickly presented us with two problems. First, our apartment isn’t nearly large enough for a proper Easter egg hunt, and while you can get special Easter donuts in Japan, bunny-shaped candies are surprisingly nonexistent.

Stumped as to how to spend the holiday, my wife offered a suggestion. “Why don’t we go to the rabbit café?”

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Tokyo’s new rentable bikes are a great start, but the city is still far from bike-friendly…

Tokyo’s new rentable bikes are a great start, but the city is still far from bike-friendly…

Close your eyes and throw a stick in pretty much any Tokyo neighbourhood, and there’s a good chance that you’ll hit someone riding a bicycle. With roughly 72 million bikes on the streets of Japan, they’re an essential part of daily life for many, especially in urban areas where space for motor vehicle parking is both limited and expensive.

Last weekend, though, we stumbled upon a fleet of sparkling new bicycles that couldn’t be more different to the typical mamachari shopping bikes that everyone from junior high schoolers to worryingly wobbly grandmothers pedal around town. Sleek, compact, and with”Suicle” stamped on their crossbars, these lime-green lightweights are available for anyone with a prepaid IC bus or rail card and a half-decent sense of balance to rent.

Eager to know if the ride, and the process of renting and returning, was as smooth as a nearby sign purported it to be, we took a couple of the mini bikes out for a spin.

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The pillows fans rejoice! You could win a contest to meet the band in Tokyo【Videos】

The pillows fans rejoice! You could win a contest to meet the band in Tokyo【Videos】

2014 marks 25 years as a band for the pillows. They are celebrating with a song entitled “Happy Birthday,” and also by announcing a cover and dance contest. For those with the misfortune of not knowing who the pillows are, they are a Japanese rock band whose style has changed over the last 25 years from pop to jazz experimentation to alternative rock.

Many of the band’s fans outside of Japan became acquainted with them through the six-episode animated series, FLCL, for which the pillows provided the music. The caffeinated, crunchy soundtrack is the perfect complement to the nonsensical but purely fun plot that includes a robot that emerges from a boy’s head wound, the spirit of a powerful pirate king and the sexy maniac who hunts him down riding a Vespa with an electric bass as a weapon.

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Chiba craft brewery releases unfortunately named “Immigrant Pilsner” for sale nationwide

Chiba craft brewery releases unfortunately named “Immigrant Pilsner” for sale nationwide

As a two-party democracy, the United States can be a fickle place for marketers. Republicans and Democrats are so different ideologically that certain words and phrases on your product label or in your ad campaign are practically guaranteed to alienate half of the market; or, if you’re especially unlucky, all of it. Take the word “immigrant,” for example – it’s a loaded word that will make Republicans shun your product believing that it advocates rights for immigrants (Remember, this is the same party whose leaders sometimes suggest in all seriousness building a moat – complete with cartoonish man-eating alligators – around the US to keep illegals out), while Democrats might see the word “immigrant” on a product and suspect some type of labor exploitation going on.

Luckily, Americans – and Japanese – of all stripes are united in their love of beer, so Chiba, Japan’s Loco Beer brewery’s rendition of an old American beer recipe, originally brewed by German immigrants, gets a pass from American expats and Japanese consumers alike on the unfortunate naming of its new Immigrant Pilsner craft beer.

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How Microsoft created a virtual assistant that could blow Siri away

How Microsoft created a virtual assistant that could blow Siri away

YouTube/calloftreyarch

Windows Phone is still a distant third to Apple and Android in the smartphone market, but Microsoft is hoping to change that with the introduction of Windows Phone 8.1— and more importantly its personal digital assistant Cortana.

Microsoft claims that Cortana isn’t like your average virtual assistant. She’s supposed to be a little wittier, more personable, and capable of learning more about you than Siri or Google Now.

After using Cortana for a week and speaking with Microsoft’s Marcus Ash, Partner Group program manager, it’s clear that the company’s got a lot riding on the success of its new virtual assistant.

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Enjoy a view of Mt Fuji from anywhere in the world with these new ice souvenirs

Enjoy a view of Mt Fuji from anywhere in the world with these new ice souvenirs

Ever since Mt Fuji earned World Heritage status in 2013, designers and artists have been marking the occasion with a flurry of creative merchandise featuring the famous landmark. The latest product to hit shelves shows the celebrations are continuing well into 2014, this time with moulded ice mountains that sit perfectly in your favourite drink! The attention to detail is particularly impressive, with the concentrated tip of ice perfectly resembling the famous snow-covered peak of Mt Fuji.

We take a look at the unique mould that makes them and see why this is one of Japan’s latest must-have souvenirs.

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