Adorable Ili pika photographed for the first time in 20 years

Earlier this week, we introduced you to a number of adorable furry critters native to Hokkaido, Japan. Just when you thought we here at RocketNews24 couldn’t possibly find anything to top the cuteness of the Ezo Momonga, a type of flying squirrel so fluffy it’s almost criminal, we’re following up with a close contender: the Ili pika.

Conservationist Li Weidong managed to photograph the creature, which resembles a cross between a bunny and a hamster, for the first time in 20 years back in July. With the Ili pika currently in danger of extinction due to climate change and other factors, Li is calling for China to do more to protect the endangered species.

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A new yuru-kyara from Kyoto you have to see to believe

When you think about Japan’s obsession with the yuru-kyara, you will notice a few pretty common characteristics between the mascots, especially when looking at the past grand prix winners. Kumamon, Sanomaru, Gunma-chan, and Bary-san are all large, cute, fuzzy and somewhat aloof. Which is why it’s so strange to see one of the newest yuru-kyaras to debut.

Warabi Maiko-chan doesn’t seem that cute or fuzzy. In fact, whatever characteristics this new mascot is supposed to have, we can clearly say, we can see right through her.

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J-pop unit Perfume’s innovative projection mapping at US performance creates worldwide buzz

Perfume, the three-member electro-pop group from Hiroshima, Japan, took to the stage for a special performance at the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. The annual event, held this year from March 13-22, always includes a unique lineup of musical artists, independent films, conference panels, and technological exhibitions, all carefully selected to showcase the highest levels of creativity in the current industry.

Even in that environment, Perfume’s musical and dance performance seems to have blown away the crowd with its ground-breaking use of projected visuals. Is their performance really happening in the physical world? Folks from around the world who’ve seen the video online say it’s enough to give them goosebumps!

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We bought 21 packs of roasted shellfish to try to find a pearl – but did we get lucky?

Did you know that FamilyMart sells 108 yen (US$0.90) packets of “roasted shellfish strings?” They’re made from Hokkaido-raised scallops, and just like clams and oysters, scallops can produce pearls underwater. Even the packages come with this warning: “please be careful not to swallow any pearls that the shellfish may have produced while you eat them.”

Well that’s a challenge if we ever heard one! We bought 21 packets of roasted shellfish strings and went on a pearl diving adventure. Did we end up finding one? Read on to find out!

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Awesome new electric motorcycle looks like something out of “Akira”‘s Neo Tokyo

Despite working a boring office job and having lived in Tokyo for long enough that not even schoolgirl uniforms, random cosplayers or the neon wash of Kabukicho really give me pause anymore, there are still moments when I look around at all the futuristic bizarreness and think, Is this real life? Or am I living in the dystopian anime world of Akira?

Maybe it’s the abnormally tall buildings, the dingy arcades that look like they’re right out of that early Akira scene. Maybe it’s the male hosts with their impeccable dress and gravity-defying hair, or the life-size, moving Gundam of Odaiba. Or maybe it’s because every once in a while a vehicle like this new electric motorcycle will come roaring down the street like its giving chase to an escaped Replicant or something.

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How do deep-fried frog burgers taste? We find out at Yokohama cafe 【Taste test】

Having lived in Yokohama for the past decade, I try to grab as many assignments as I can that are related to the city, as well as Kanagawa, the prefecture it’s located in. Also, as someone who gets hungry at least three times a day, I try to volunteer for as many RocketNews24 taste tests as my schedule will allow.

However, I graciously let one of my coworkers handle today’s project: heading to a cafe in Yokohama to chow down on a frog burger.

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Ever tried to catch pudding in your mouth after it’s dropped from a fourth-floor balcony? 【Video】

When was the last time you were asked to catch purin, Japanese-style pudding, in your mouth after it was dropped from the fourth floor of a building?

The skill of pudding-catching is probably a useful one for comedians, entertainers, and just plain wacky people in general, but if you’re of a more mainstream mentality, you’ve probably not tried this sort of thing before. But no worries, because a trio of Japanese YouTube personalities who delight in all manner of ridiculous antics have got you covered! Even if you can’t understand Japanese, you’ll still be amused by their infectious enthusiasm and amateur filming techniques.

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Satisfy all your slicing and dicing needs with this incredibly kawaii kitty kitchen knife

Do you like cute kitties? Do you like chopping things up? Of course you do! And now you can combine both of those passions (in a nice way!) at the same time with this adorable laser-cut stainless steel kitty knife. It’s just purrfect for all your culinary needs, especially if you’re of the opinion that even the most mundane of tasks can be rendered instantly more enjoyable with the inclusion of a little touch of cuteness.

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Japan government hard at work trying to prevent Shibuya Ward approving same-sex marriages

There is less than a week to go before Shibuya Ward in Tokyo will begin issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples. If all goes as planned, April 1 will be a major milestone for LGBT rights in Japan.

However, in the days leading up to it, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has established the “Special Committee to Protect Family Ties” which has just finished a meeting on 25 March to try to find any legal reason not to allow Shibuya’s version of same-sex marriages to go forward.

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Used sumo loin cloth: One of the grossest items ever sold on the Internet

Over the years we’ve seen some weird things pop up on Japan’s Yahoo! Auctions, but we’ve probably just found the top prize for the foulest item ever. We, along with the rest of Japan, are shocked that someone actually bought it, and even more so that the seller made bank.

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Fan-made TIE Fighter short film: For people who love Star Wars, anime, or just plain awesomeness

It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan. This year, the franchise’s seventh film, The Force Awakens, hits theaters, and the global fan community is so excited about it there was even a cool Star Wars sculpture at this year’s Sapporo Snow Festival.

Or, is it a terrible time to be a Star Wars fan? We’re well into March, so that snow sculpture is long gone, and Episode VII doesn’t come out until December. Are there no awesome Star Wars projects that can be enjoyed right now?

Actually, there is, in the form of this amazing fan-made short film that combines Star Wars military hardware with the animation style of anime’s golden age of science fiction.

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We love wagyu! We spend an evening learning about (and eating) Japanese beef

Japanese beef, or wagyu, as it’s also known, is certainly something the people of Japan delight in and cherish. Quality wagyu is a special (and pricey) treat, even for those of us living in Japan. WAGYU DIRECT,  an online service operated by retail company VIVA JAPAN and dedicated to exporting wagyu and bringing its lovely taste to the rest of the world, held a seminar and cooking/tasting session on wagyu earlier this month at the Shinjuku Isetan Department Store.

The seminar was open to just 10 people, and as fond of beef as we are, we promptly entered the draw to participate in the session, which promised to be both informative and delicious. Well, we were in luck, as we were one of the fortunate ten selected to attend the seminar. Join us as we spend an evening learning a little about wagyu and enjoy a feast as well!

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Clipping your nails at night may cause death, according to a Japanese superstition

When in Japan, if you open an umbrella indoors, no one will bat an eye, but if you start whistling at night or kill a spider during the morning hours, you’ll probably be stopped in your tracks and lectured about some Japanese superstitions.

One of the most common, yet seemingly nonsensical, Japanese superstitions suggests that you should not clip your nails at night (yonaka ni tsume wo kitte ha ikenai). Why? Because if you do, you won’t be with your parents when they die (oya no shinime ni aenai). Uh… okay.

Don’t worry, we have some logical and not-so-logical reasonings behind this age-old superstition after the jump.

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Tokyo Boys Collection teams up with Japan Self-Defense Force to parade their fine men in uniform

Everybody loves a man in a uniform – a fact that was clearly evident at the Tokyo Boys Collection fashion and entertainment event held on March 12 when members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) took to the catwalk to support relief efforts for the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The JSDF have already played a significant role in the recovery process, with search and rescue teams scouring areas most affected in 2011 and cleanup crews working tirelessly to bring the region back to a semblance of normalcy. But with the theme of “The Japanese Spirit that Enchants the World” to guide them, they were given a chance to get a little recognition for their handsome good looks.

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Six anime songs people are sick of hearing at karaoke, according to new poll

As much as I like singing karaoke, it’s probably for the best that I don’t get a chance to go very often. By my own estimation, there are really only about a half-dozen songs that I can sing passably well, which means that, by everyone else’s estimation, the number is probably closer to two.

It seems I’m not the only amateur vocalist with a limited set list, though, as evidenced by this list of anime songs people are sick of hearing at karaoke, with an overwhelming top pick that accounted for nearly half of all votes.

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Tokyo chain puts french fries on soba noodles, proves dreams really can come true

Ramen burgers. Bulgogi tacos. Cronuts. Sometimes the stars align and the gods see fit to bless the world with visionary new dishes–the kind that make people say, “Is that even possible?” Eventually, those same people end up wondering why no one came up with the concept sooner.

One of our Japanese writers was able to experience the joy of culinary experimentation firsthand during a recent trip to Tokyo’s Nadai Fuji Soba, which is now serving… wait for it… French fry soba! Though at first glance you might think someone spilled their Happy Meal over a plate of noodles, the tasty result is sure to make you a believer.

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Breaking: An increasing number of cats sitting weirdly

We now interrupt our regular stream of parliamentary coverage to bring word of a troubling development among cats in Japan. Although it has occurred before, in recent months there has been a trend among cats to sit in positions unbecoming the felis catus species.

Either that or recently there is a trend among cat owners to post pictures of them sitting strangely on Twitter. Whatever the case, it’s here and it’s happening, so get an eyeful of all this late-breaking cuteness. Your life may depend on it.

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Have ridiculously expensive tastes? Set your wallet on fire with these Andy Warhol candy tins

Sometimes Japan produces things that are totally worth the high asking price if you really want them: like the US$16,000 wood-carved dragon guitar, or the $1.4 million golden Godzilla. But then there are the things that make you laugh out loud when you see the price: like $18 per cup Geisha Starbucks coffee or $100 rainbow-colored tissues.

A set of 30 newly-released candy tins based on the artwork of Andy Warhol definitely falls into the “excuse me what?!” category. Sure they’re beautifully made and come inside lacquered medicine boxes, but you won’t believe how much they asking for them.

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Cup no Fuchiko’s “little sister” Gurimi-chan is all kinds of awkward…

It’s no secret that here at RocketNews24 we are pretty big fans of vending machine toys. One the few capsule toys that’s broken out of the vending machine is Cup no Fuchiko. The adorable, demure little plastic lady who sits on the edge of your cup took Japan by storm two years ago, and can now be found in department and gift stores across the country.

You might be forgiven for thinking that this new little-girl version, named Cup no Kado no Gurimi-chan, was an official product from the makers of Fuchiko. Until you notice their tagline: “Don’t sue us!!”…

Yep, Gurimi-chan is pretty weird, in all kinds of ways.

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Japanese tourist injured in Tunisian terrorist attack also attacked by Japanese media in hospital

On March 18, three terrorists attacked and took hostage patrons at the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia, killing 21 people and injuring about 50 others. Among those injured was Noriko Yuki, a Japanese tourist visiting Tunisia with her mother.

Ms. Yuki sustained a gunshot wound in the attack and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. There, shortly after her surgery, she was immediately bombarded by Japanese media looking to interview her, with some members of the press apparently going so far as to tell the Japanese ambassador watching over her that he did “not have the authority to stop us from interviewing her.”

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