awesome

Photos from 140 years ago show Tokyo’s skyline was amazing long before the Skytree was ever built

In 1853, the rulers of Japan ended the country’s more than two centuries of isolation from the rest of the world. But while foreigners could now get into Japan for trade and commerce, it would take more than 10 years until Japanese citizens could leave the country, meaning that outside cultural influences were still slow to find their way into the half-opened nation.

As such, there’s a brief, time capsule-like period in which Japan’s culture was still almost entirely of indigenous origins, but foreign visitors had the technology to visually document it, as shown in these beautiful photographs of 19th century Japan.

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Full-size Godzilla head to terrorize moviegoers and hotel guests in Tokyo starting next spring

When it comes to skyscrapers, Godzilla has a lot more experience tearing them down than building them up. Honestly, we can’t think of a single notable example from his six decade-long body of work in which the King of the Monsters drafts and submits a successful architectural design.

Nevertheless, the world’s most famous kaiju is about to dip his toes in the construction world, by rearing his head, in full-size, above a new building going up in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood.

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Pepsi reboots Japan’s Peach Boy with 3 action and monster-filled ads that’re 8 kinds of badass

The story of Momotaro is one of Japan’s oldest folktales, but a lot of its elements seem a little silly. For starters, the hero’s name translates as “Peach Boy.” His companions are a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant, who he wins over by giving them some sweet dumplings in exchange for their help against the story’s villains, who all have outie bellybuttons.

Goofy as these details may sound, though, the core of the tale is absolutely epic. A young hero who harnesses the power of wild beasts, then sails into the heart of demon territory to rumble with them on their island fortress? In a world where every literary and comic character is a candidate to become a darkly stylish action hero (heck, even Batman’s gritty reboot is getting its own gritty reboot), why hasn’t someone revamped Peach Boy into something closer to Peach Man?

Actually, someone already has, but you won’t find the new Momotaro in theatres, and while you might catch him flipping through the channels on TV, you can’t find his adventures scheduled in the program guide. That’s because this amazingly awesome version of Momortaro is actually a series of commercials from Pepsi.

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Japanese convenience store’s registers play Final Fantasy victory theme for special items 【Video】

Although video game developer Square Enix had dabbled in a few direct follow-ups here and there, whenever the counter for its Final Fantasy role-playing franchise rolls over to a new numbered sequel, the company completely ditches the old cast of heroes and villains, and even the previous game’s world.

But even if the narrative is starting from scratch each time, that doesn’t mean the games aren’t connected. For example, every Final Fantasy has scenes where the player rides on airships or horse-sized flightless birds called chocobos. The cursor is always a white glove with a pointing index finger, and major victories in battle are marked by the sounds of the series’ instantly recognizable “Victory Fanfare.”

Gamers have already heard the short but sweet melody played by the NES, Super NES, and PlayStations 1 through 3, and this month, they can look forward to hearing it someplace new: at the register of Lawson convenience stores when they purchase special items.

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Japan’s awesome drinkable cookies in a can mean there’s no need to pour yourself a glass of milk

For the most part, cookies in Japan are crunchy little things. One very notable exception, though, is confectioner Fujiya’s Country Ma’am line, which are soft, chewy, and also absolutely delicious.

What makes Country Ma’am cookies so good is how moist they are, and now confectioner Fujiya is taking that one step further by turning them into a drink! We got our hands on a few cans of this miraculous beverage, and while it’s still early in our relationship, we think we may be in love.

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No time to cook? Here’s how to make fried shrimp in just three seconds (with the right equipment)

One of Japan’s most popular cooking shows is Three-Minute Cooking. Broadcast by Nippon TV and sponsored by condiment maker Kewpie, the program does exactly what it promises, teaching people to make quick, tasty meals that take just three minutes of cooking.

Three-Minute Cooking started in 1963, though. In the busy 21st century, who can afford the luxury of spending that much time in the kitchen? It’s time for a faster, more modern way to cook dinner, which is where this video comes in with its demonstration of how to cook fried shrimp in just three seconds.

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Zelda hero Link’s other blade, the Fierce Deity Sword, brought to life in awesome video

While every game in Nintendo’s long-running Zelda franchise stars an elfish boy named Link who goes on a quest to save the world, each installment puts its own signature wrinkle on the formula. Wind Waker is the one with cel-shaded, storybook-like visuals. Twilight Princess is the one where Link can turn into a wolf.

And Majora’s Mask is the weird, dark one that would give little kids nightmares.

That’s not the sole distinction for title, though. Majora’s Mask is also the only place where you can see the awesome Fierce Deity Sword. Well, more accurately, it was the only place, since the awesome blade now exists in real life, too.

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Stand back, kids! 64-year-old enka singer Aki Yashiro completely nails cover of Evangelion theme

The musical style enka usually gets referred to as Japan’s equivalent of country western music. The two do have a lot in common thematically, as the biggest hits of both genres are often centered on blue-collar hardships, melancholy nostalgia, and heavy drinking (one famous enka hit is “Sake Wo,” or, “Bring Me Booze”).

But while there are young country listeners, it’s a lot harder to find fresh-faced enka fans, since the lyrics of many enka ballads are so world-weary it’s hard to appreciate them without a few decades of failed romances and stalled career paths under your belt. So to reach out to a new demographic, one enka legend is recording her version of the theme song of hit anime Evangelion.

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Amazing nighttime video shows Osaka, Tokyo’s rival, has a skyline that’s second to none

Tokyo is so massive and bustling that sometimes it’s hard to remember that it doesn’t have a monopoly on urban splendor in Japan. Take Osaka, for example. Long Tokyo’s rival, in everything from business to baseball to samurai warfare, Osaka is known for its economic ambitiousness, comedic sensibilities, and tasty grub, but there’s one thing that’s often overlooked in media coverage of Osaka.

It looks absolutely beautiful at night.

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Want to see right through your car? Amazing video projection system lets drivers do just that

Almost all of my time behind the wheel has been in a small, two-seat convertible. This has really spoiled me, in that whenever I find myself in the driver’s seat of a fixed-top, full-sized car, I can’t help but wish for better visibility because of how many lines of sight get cut off by the car’s structure itself.

A team of Japanese researchers has solved this problem, though, with a clever system that allows the driver to see right through a car’s side panels and back seat.

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Who needs room service? All-night haunted hotel event’s amenities include ghosts and zombies

I used to work in online hotel marketing, and sometimes properties in Japan didn’t mesh up smoothly with our database. The system allowed us to easily trumpet amenities such as sofas and Jacuzzi bathtubs by just pasting in a line of code, but if we wanted to tout things like provided yukata cotton kimonos or onsite natural hot springs, both of which were popular with our users, that took some extra fiddling around.

Since we were a global company, we had to accept that those “only in Japan” features weren’t going to get a spot on the standard, easy-to-use checklist. Still, I sympathize with the difficulties this sort of thing presents for boutique hotel operators, and that’s why today we’re spreading the word about a hotel in Japan with two incredibly unique amenities: zombies and ghosts.

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Don’t have enough time to see Japan? You do now, with this amazing time-lapse video

With so much to see and do in Japan, it’s easy to forget that sometimes one of the most rewarding things to do is to take a few moments and do nothing at all. Whether you’re looking at people moving about some of the most bustling cities on the planet, witnessing the burst of light and color as the sun goes down and the neon lights come on, or watching as the fog rolls over a sacred mountain, Japan never lacks for amazing ambiance to soak up.

But with so many flavors of atmosphere to enjoy, it can be hard to find the time for all of them, especially if you’re tied up with work or trying to visit as many destinations as you can on a whirlwind tour. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, though, this awesome time-lapse video of sights across Japan will show you all those cool things we talked about and more.

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Spider-Man vs. Attack on Titan?! Marvel announces crossover with anime/manga megahit

While U.S.-produced comics lag far beyond domestic titles in popularity in Japan, the recent string of high-profile live-action Marvel movies seem to be slowly building a fan base for their American icons. At this year’s Kawasaki Halloween festivities, for example, you could spot Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Loki, and multiple Spider-Men marching in the same costume parade as characters from Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, and Attack on Titan.

The sight of so many different heroes together was enough to set the mind racing at the storytelling possibilities. But while the Sailor Scouts won’t be coordinating operations with the Avengers anytime soon, and the question of “Could Wolverine beat up Goku?” is going to have to remain a debate for our planet’s brightest intellectual luminaries, the worlds of American and Japanese are indeed set to collide, with an official crossover between Marvel Comics and Attack on Titan.

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Amazing schoolgirl drummer nails anime theme, and her music career is just getting started

Compared to a lot of other anime, the premise of K-On! is decidedly down-to-earth. It’s about a group of high school girls who form an after-school rock/pop band, and none of them are reincarnated princesses or commute to school in a giant transforming robot built by their brilliant but aloof father. They just hang out and play music together.

Still, there’s one big break with reality that comes at the start of each episode, when instruments are obviously played by studio musicians, and not actually a bunch of teenagers, for the theme song. You really can’t fault the producers for this decision, though. After all, where are you supposed to find an actual high school girl to perform the manic drum beats used in the anime’s second opening?

Ah, we see Kawaguchi-san is raising her hand.

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Play Mario Kart on your living room floor (using robots!) with this awesome motion camera system

It’s unlikely Nintendo knew what a hit they had on their hands when releasing the very first Mario Kart title back in 1992. Since then, the series has gone on to be one of the company’s most consistently popular and best-selling properties.

In the 22 years the series has been around, fans have played it on the Super NES, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, DS, 3DS, Wii, and Wii U. And now, Mario Kart is serving as inspiration for a couple of inventors who’re making a similar game that you can play with robots on your living room floor, complete with weapons and power-ups.

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Crimson-covered Hitachi Seaside Park: Beautiful, awesome, and easy to get to from Tokyo【Photos】

Last year, we sat amazed as we looked at pictures of Hitachi Seaside Park, where every autumn a hill covered in kochia shrubs turns a dazzling shade of crimson.

Then we sat crying as a storm on the day we’d planned to visit the park washed out our travel plans.

After 12 long months of moping, this week we finally got a second chance, and this time the weather was perfect. Interested in making the trip for yourself? Read on and we’ll tell you how.

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Three’s a crowd as multiple waterspouts form above Chinese lake in awesome video

As the largest lake in a very large country, you’d probably imagine that China’s Qinghai Lake is pretty big, and with a surface area of over 4,100 square kilometers (1,583 square miles), you’d be right. But when numbers start getting that huge, it can be hard to really grasp their scale.

So just how big is Qinghai Lake? Well, you could say it’s twice the size of the 23 wards of central Tokyo. Or, to put it in more dramatic terms, it’s big enough to easily hold three gigantic water spouts at the same time.

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Rising star of Japanese horse racing is as ridiculously fast as he is comically scatterbrained

There are two different ways “handicap” usually gets used in horse racing. One is to refer to the process of calculating which horse is likely to win, and how to profit from that intuition (also known as “being good at betting on horses”). The other is a system in which horses that have proven to be faster than the rest of the field carry extra weight in a race.

Today, though, we’re using it to refer to a horse that recently raced in Tokyo, who’s ridiculously fast but seemed to do everything he could to let his opponents pass him for the win.

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Want your own Attack on Titan 3-D maneuver gear? You can order a life-size replica now!

Last January, fans got hit with a mix of awe and envy at an Attack on Titan event in Osaka where the heroes’ 3-D maneuver gear was on display. Looking over the intricate harness and paired swords, it was hard not to find yourself wanting a set of your very own.

Soon enough, that anime daydream can come true, as preorders have now started for life-size replicas of Attack on Titan’s iconic giant-killing battlefield technology.

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Awesome Air Umbrella from China keeps you dry with blasts of air

It’s raining in Yokohama right now. I’m about to go pick up lunch, though, which means that when I head out the door I’ll need to take my umbrella, which is a cheap collapsible model I bought for 500 yen (US$4.60).

But should I decide to upgrade, a team of engineers in China is developing an umbrella that shields you from the rain not with a sheet of flimsy nylon, but with blasts of air, in the form of the aptly named Air Umbrella.

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