Still a ways to go, but animal welfare in Japan is improving by leaps and bounds

We’ve covered some stories in recent months about the distressing state of animal welfare in Japan and shocking cases of animal abuse, but I wanted to let our readers know that isn’t the whole story. Granted, in comparison with many other developed nations, Japan lags behind in this area, but that doesn’t mean it’s stuck in the Stone Age either. Over the last couple of decades, through the hard work of their human advocates, the situation for dogs and cats in Japan has been improving.

In the interest of acknowledging those efforts, recognizing where Japan is getting things right, and just generally bringing some good news to the table, we wanted to share with you some of the positive changes happening in Nihon.

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Producer clarifies Studio Ghibli’s future, mentions that Miyazaki “would like to make an anime”

In a recent discussion about the future of the Studio Ghibli’s production division, veteran producer Toshio Suzuki recently shocked and confused anime fans worldwide. But hey, what do you expect when you’re talking about the most respected studio in the history of anime, and you bandy about talk of “dismantling,” “restructuring,” and “taking a temporary hiatus,” despite the very different implications each of those entails.

With so many people looking for clarification, Suzuki recently appeared on Japanese television to talk a little more about where Studio Ghibli is going from here, plus to tease and entice the audience with talk of legendary director Hayao Miyazaki’s potential next anime project.

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We try Japan’s most exclusive beer at the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka【Taste test】

In recent years, Japan’s gotten pretty into craft brewing. A few of the more prominent brands can be tracked down at specialty liquor stores in major cities like Tokyo, but many smaller outfits don’t have anything close to a national distribution network. For example, if you’re in the mood for a nice Doppo or Miyajima Beer, you’re looking at a trip out to Okayama or Hiroshima, respectively.

Still, most Japanese microbrews aren’t too hard to get your hands on, as long as you’re in the city, or at least the prefecture, where they’re made. Recently, though, we tried what might be the most exclusive beer in Japan, which is served in one place only, inside the U.S. naval base in the city of Yokosuka.

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From samurai to waterfalls: Some of the best places online to check out old photos of Japan

If you’re anything like us, you love old stuff from Japan. The temples, shrines, centuries-old festivals, and museums are some of our favorite things to check out when we have free time. There’s just something absolutely captivating about all the relics of the past that live on in Japan–but they’re just not quite as good as time travel! Come on, scientists, we want to hang out with Nobunaga! Well, while we’re waiting for Doc Brown to get back with the DeLorean, we can still at least look at old photos of Japan.

Though you might think there aren’t many–after all, it wasn’t like the samurai were running around with smartphones, snapping selfies–it turns out that there may be quite a few more than we realized! After a few hours clicking around the Internet, we’ve come up with our six favorite sites for finding old photos of Japan. Be sure to check them out and see what life was like over a hundred years ago!

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Finally! Street Fighter II’s Dhalsim shares his favorite curry with the world!

Nothing beats a tiring day more than a home cooked meal after fighting the best and the strongest at the World Warrior tournament. The characters of Street Fighter II all need that crucial pick me up and no one gets it better than Dhalsim! His wife, Sally, is always there to supply him with the best homemade curry in the Street Fighter world! His yoga would never be as strong without a bowl of spicy goodness.

Now is your chance to obtain yoga powers in the same way Dhalsim originally did, with curry! From GEEK LIFE, comes Dhalsim’s Home Curry, a perfectly replicated home cooked curry, right down to that special touch from Sally!

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Realistic stag beetle bread repulses and fascinates us

For a country where rice is eaten at almost every meal, Japan has a surprising number of bakeries and pâtisseries. One stroll down the street of any city and eventually you’re likely to pass by the drifting aroma of freshly-baked bread and other sweet treats. Japanese bakeries aren’t afraid to have a little fun with their pan, either–just check out this Hello Kitty bread, Suica penguin bread, and these, well, rather unfortunate but hilarious attempts at capturing the essence of Doraemon, Totoro, and other popular characters!

Of course, you may want to stay clear of the bread in the above picture unless you’re an aspiring coleopterist (yes, that’s a word) or looking to gross out your younger siblings!

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“Poke” your favorite anime characters on LINE mobile chat app!【Instructions】

Remember when “poking” your friends on Facebook was a trendy thing to do? I feel old now just by recalling how my schoolmates and I could spend the entire evening “poking” each other online, refreshing the browser page every few seconds in attempt to return a “poke” at the fastest timing possible. Well, the younger generation who only got on Facebook in the recent year or two probably wouldn’t have an idea what I’m talking about since the trend has died down.

But you know how trends are revived every once in a while? “Poking” is now back with a new force, this time on the globally popular free messaging mobile app, LINE. Sorry to dash your hopes if you were looking forward to giving your LINE friends a cyber poke because LINE users are “poking” their favorite (or least favorite) anime characters and celebrities instead!

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Yamaha releases engine-to-Japanese translation app, we peer into the minds of celebrity cars

Translation apps are very popular for people visiting foreign lands. With only internet access and a tap of the finger you can convey “I swallowed a june bug” in any number of languages like Spanish (Me tragué un error junio) and Hatian Creole (Mwen vale yon ensèk mwa Jen). I’m pretty sure those are both wrong, but still better than I could do by myself with no knowledge of either language.

Now Yamaha has brought the translation app beyond the boundaries of humanity and into the realm of the machine with their engine revving translation app, RevTranslator. As the name suggests, this app will listen to an engine and deliver its message in Japanese.

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We drown and freeze our troubles at the same time with alcoholic shochu shaved ice

We were feeling a little blue yesterday. You see, the RocketNews24 office is just a short walk away from the Isetan department store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku. Earlier in the week, we’d stopped by to see the ferociously cuddly stuffed Godzilla that had been on display, but sadly, August 5 was his last day at Isetan.

It was sad to be parted from the King of the Plush Monsters, but as the saying goes, God never closes a door without opening a window. Or in this case, a bottle, because Isetan also has something that can drown the sorrow in our hearts while cooling us off in the oppressive summer heat: alcoholic shaved ice with shochu.

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A losing South Korean baseball team filled 3 rows of seats with robots that cheer for them

Watch the video below and tell us that robots aren’t going to change everything.

The Hanwha Eagles, a South Korean professional baseball team, recently filled three rows of its stadium with robots designed to cheer in the stead of real fans watching the game at home, reports CTV News.

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This is what happens when you give a Ghibli character a typical anime haircut

With all the recent rumors about Studio Ghibli possibly shutting down or being bought out by another media company – which, thankfully, turned out to be a hoax – we’ve  been taking a lot of time out to take stock of what it is that makes Studio Ghibli and studio founder Hayao Miyazaki so special.

Certainly, Miyazaki’s films are at least a cut or two above other critically acclaimed anime films and are far and away higher in both visual and narrative quality than most of the anime you’ll see on TV.

But one Japanese Twitter user with a copy of Photoshop thought most anime does at least one thing better than Ghibli: anime hair.

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Udon Museums set to bring oodles of noodles to Tokyo and Osaka this year

Compared to ramen, udon has a decidedly low-key image. Ramen is actually a comparative newcomer to the Japanese dining scene, and so it’s generally the more likely candidate for crazy experimentation. Udon, on the other hand, is simpler, and in its most basic form, the thick white flour noodles, floating in a basic salty broth, can seem almost austere by comparison.

At least, that’s the impression eating udon only in train station noodle joints and school cafeterias would leave you with. The truth is, in the several centuries Japan has been eating udon, it’s come up with dozens of different takes on the dish, and later this year, you’ll be able to sample dozens all in the same place, with the opening of two Udon Museums in Tokyo and Osaka.

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Animal rights groups unhappy as “hamster fishing” game spotted at summer festival

Summer festivals all have one thing in common: there’s always a ton of people at them. That also means there are plenty of exciting booths to spend your money at. Besides food stalls, there are some popular carnival-type games that you’ll find at festivals in Japan, most of which are classic games of skill and luck which reward you with a variety of prizes. Perhaps one of the most famous festival games is a goldfish scooping game called kingyo sukui.

This year, however a slightly different “fishing” game was spotted at a summer festival held in Osaka. As you might imagine from a game requiring participants to “fish” for live hamsters, it is certainly generating a wide range of reactions.

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Sleepy? PC program dispatches anime girl to wake you up with encouragement, angry outbursts

I don’t know if it was because of the layout of the surrounding skyscrapers, the beat-up old boom box we had in the lobby, or just a weak signal from the local broadcaster, but at one of my old jobs, we could never get a clear radio signal. This didn’t mean we had no musical accompaniment while we worked though, just that we had to use CDs. Unfortunately, on many days that meant a constant repeat of the Enya CD my boss would stick in the player.

She may be an award-winning artist, but a selection you could describe as “soothing and ethereal” wasn’t exactly the best choice to help power the staff through our shift. Sometimes I’d see one of my coworkers nodding off in front of his PC monitor, and I’d give him a quick, “Hey, wake up dude,” before our boss noticed.

I’m sure he appreciated the favor, but now technology can perform that same service for you, with a program that’ll send a cute anime girl onto your screen to wake you up if you doze off.

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Fireworks, seaweed, and sake-The unique regional aspects of visiting a grave in Japan

Every year, almost every company in Japan takes about a week off in August. And while some people use this time to travel, attend firework festivals, or just hang out at the beach, the real purpose is Obon, the Japanese holiday during which people go back to their hometown to visit their family grave and offer a prayer to their ancestors, whether distant or recently deceased.

In general, relatives pay their respects all together at the same time, and the associated family reunion keeps the atmosphere from being too somber. Still, in general, the tone is retrained and reserved, as the family prays silently, lights some incense, and leaves a bouquet of flowers.

Unless, that is, they’re in one of the parts of Japan where Obon means bringing a supply of fireworks or seaweed to the grave.

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The fantastic feast of festival food in Japan

During the year of college I spent studying at Waseda University, I lived with a Japanese family in the suburbs of Tokyo. They were extremely hospitable and took great care of me, guiding me around the neighborhood and helping me improve my language skills.

Still, looking back, there’s one thing they did that I still can’t wrap my head around. One night we were headed to a local festival, and before we left, my host mom prepared a huge dinner, so that we wouldn’t get hungry and have to buy anything at the food stalls there.

Honestly, in my mind, buying munchies on-site was half the fun of going to those kinds of events. An additional decade of living in Japan has only strengthened my opinion on the matter, and as proof, here are 18 of Japan’s best festival foods.

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What’s this little green dinosaur’s name? If you said “Yoshi” we’ve got news for you…

Nicknames can be confusing things, especially when they’re the only name by which you’ve ever known someone. I can clearly remember the moment when my friend’s Japanese wife looked at me with a mixture of surprise and betrayal, for example, when she found out that Phil (or “Firu” as it’s awkwardly pronounced in Japanese) is in fact short for Philip.

But after learning that the same green dinosaur that I’ve traversed hundreds of levels, raced go-karts and carried baby Mario back to his parents with since I was about 10 years old isn’t actually called Yoshi, I can kind of understand why she was so shocked.

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Real-life Barbie swears she’s all-natural, reveals childhood photos as proof【Photos】

To be honest, we’ve lost count of the number of real-life Barbies this website has seen, and the fact that we can barely tell them apart under all that makeup doesn’t make things any easier. Well, that probably goes to imply that they’ve done a great job at achieving their motives of looking like a mass-produced plastic doll.

Long hair, dainty pointy noses, big eyes, full lips, exaggerated body proportions and porcelain-like skin are a couple of things that these girls have in common, which often brings netizens to the conclusion that they’re “fake” or “plastic”. However, one of these living Barbies, Alina Kovalevskaya from Ukraine, has been claiming that she’s all-natural, and to prove that, she has posted childhood photos of herself online. Could she be the real deal? We’ve got the photos for your scrutiny after the break!

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The top 10 anime that people in Japan never tire of watching

Stuck inside due to the blistering Japanese summer heat? Why not kick back under your aircon and watch something on TV? If you’ve already seen all the hit shows and don’t want to take a chance on something new, how about watching some of Japan’s favorite anime of all time?

A new survey polled Japanese anime fans and asked them to name the anime they can watch over and over again and never get bored. Click on through to find out which one tops the list!

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Sony’s summer PlayStation Vita ads are all about growing up【Video】

We’re already well into the school summer holidays here in Japan, and Sony is taking the opportunity to entice younger gamers over to its decidedly more grown-up portable console, the PlayStation Vita. Join us after the jump for a closer look at these cheeky ads from Sony’s summer campaign.

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