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Beautiful faces and floors – Five great ways to reuse the water from rinsing rice

While out shopping the other day, I picked up a bag of prewashed rice. The grocery store was having a sale, so it was just as cheap as the unwashed kinds, and I figured, “Hey, there’s no advantage to having to rinse it myself is there?”

But as it turns out, the water left over after you wash the rice, called togijiru in Japanese, is actually pretty useful, as shown by these five ways you can reuse it instead of just dumping it down the sink.

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Check out these cool ways to enjoy hot springs in Oita, including eating and breathing them

Oita, on the eastern coast of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, has taken to billing itself as Onsen-ken. And while that title loses a bit of its rhyming appeal once it’s translated into English, it’s hard to deny that it really is the Hot Spring Prefecture, as Oita boasts more hot springs than anywhere else in Japan.

As a matter of fact, Oita has so much geothermal water that it can get creative with its most attractive and relaxing natural resource, as shown by these unique ways locals and tourists can enjoy the prefecture’s hot springs.

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A vision of the future? We can’t take our eyes off Shimizu Corporation’s “Ocean Spiral” design

On Tuesday, engineering company Shimizu Corporation announced the third entry in its “Shimizu Dream Series”–an idea for a futuristic deep sea underwater city named “Ocean Spiral.” The concept was developed over a period of two years through collaboration with Tokyo University, Saga University, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology [JAMSTEC], and other leading research partners.

Although the project has a hefty price tag, officials also say that the proposed colony has the potential to become a reality in the not so distant future. Science fiction fan or not, you’ve got to take a look at these conceptual designs–this may be what’s in store for the future of our species!

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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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How long does Kagoshima need to convince us to visit? With this video, just two minutes

A little over a year ago, one of my good friends in Tokyo got a job teaching philosophy at a university in Kagoshima, the prefecture at the southernmost tip of the island of Kyushu. Being that he’s now a seven-hour series of train rides, or a two-and-a-half-hour flight, away, we don’t get together so often anymore, but on the plus side, now I have a reason to take a trip to Kagoshima.

Well, actually, I’ve got about a dozen reasons to take a trip there, if you add in all of the nature trails, hot springs, scenic coastline, and more shown in this video of some of Kagoshima’s most achingly beautiful travel destinations.

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Cats are ready to burst out of your smartphone with these cool suction-cup stands

If you’re a proud cat owner, odds are you’ve got pictures of your favorite feline on your smartphone. We also know that plenty of people like to keep up on the latest developments on cat-related cuteness by surfing the Internet with said devices.

But if that’s still not enough, now you can keep your electronics upright with an adorable cat coming out of your smartphone.

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1,200 Japanese workers convert above-ground train to subway line in a matter of hours

On March 15, 2013, the Shibuya Station Toyoko Line above-ground train quietly shut down for good, to be replaced with a new section of subway track connecting Shibuya Station and the nearby Daikanyama Station. Converting the line from above-ground to underground was a massive operation, requiring a grand total of 1,200 engineers and countless man-hours.

But, even if you’d been living in Tokyo at the time, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the construction, because it all occurred during the train line’s off-hours… over the course of one single night.

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Cat got your tongue? 10 unusual Japanese phrases that use the word ‘cat’

Cats. Where to begin? They’re cute, cunning, easily offended, happy with or without us and we could never imagine our lives without them. They are rich in mystery and surprise and it’s no wonder the Internet is flooded with pictures and videos of them.

Japan also has a long history of interactions with cats, from believing they can foresee natural disasters to being creatures of vengeance, out to kill humans. Because of this, there are some great Japanese words that use “neko” (猫), the word for “cat,” in combination with another character. Learn some Japanese, and fall even more in love with cats through our list of 10 “catty” Japanese words.

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Fans on the floor create awesome anime and Disney carpet art in Japan【Photos】

Very few Japanese homes have installed carpeting. Older houses and apartments often have tatami reed mats, and in newer places you’ll usually find tile, wood, or rubberized flooring.

That’s not to say people in Japan can’t appreciate a nice bit of soft fuzziness between their toes, though. Even without permanent carpeting, many people will toss a carpeted mat on the floor to make their living or bedroom extra comfy, especially during the colder part of the year.

Of course, cold weather also means spending more time indoors, with extra time on your hands, and sometimes that patch of carpeting becomes a canvas for some seriously cool fan art.

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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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Japan discovers awesome cheese snack that takes just one ingredient and two minutes to make

It’s amazingly easy to find good food in Japan, which is largely due to how hard many food industry professionals work when choosing ingredients are and preparing their dishes. Every now and then, though, the country stumbles across some new delectable that, by any logical standard, has no right tasting as good as it does while being so quick and simple to make.

For example, this week Japan discovered a delicious cheese snack with just one ingredient that you could be enjoying in literally two minutes.

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Spritz soy on your sushi with handy and delicious Sushi Spray

When eating sushi, it’s customary to dip each morsel into a small dish of soy sauce before popping it into your mouth. True connoisseurs hold that the proper way to do this is to first turn each piece over so that just the fish, and not the rice, comes into contact with the soy.

However, gripping the piece firmly enough to pick it up, yet gently as to not crush the rice, rotating it 180 degrees for the dip, then spinning it back again to eat can be tricky, especially if you’re not used to chopsticks (or if you’re not used to the sake you’ve paired with your sushi). So if you’ve got a cultured palate but lack manual dexterity, this special sushi soy sauce spray is seemingly the solution.

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Who needs scissors? Stylist in Vietnam slices customers’ hair with samurai sword

About a month after I moved to Japan in college, my hair was getting pretty shaggy, so I asked my host dad where I could get a trim. The place he took me to was an old-school barbershop, and I remember being surprised when instead of using electric clippers on the back of my neck, the barber used a straight razor.

Still, that wasn’t nearly as big as the shock some customers get when they walk into this hairdresser’s in Vietnam and see the stylist slicing people’s hair with a Japanese sword.

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Anime’s Tetsuwan Atom/Astro Boy shows up on a pedestrian walk signal in Japan

For many newcomers to anime and manga, it can be hard to tell characters drawn by the same artist apart. In general, Japanese designs use fewer lines, especially in the faces, than those of Western comic books, and even some artists themselves, such as Touch creator Mitsuru Adachi, have been known to get their own cast members mixed up.

That’s not a problem with Atom, though. Also known as Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka’s beloved mighty robot is instantly recognizable, whether in the pages of the manga where he debuted, onscreen in one of his many anime adaptations, or, in his most recent appearance, a pedestrian walk signal in Kanagawa Prefecture.

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Three kotatsu-boosting items to turn your home into a toasty fort against winter’s cold

Even though Japan is a great place to live, not everyone likes every aspect of life in the country. Dishes like grilled eel and organ skewers are pretty polarizing, as is the public transportation system, which is clean and punctual, but crowded and shuts down early.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone, though, who doesn’t love Japan’s heated tables, called kotatsu, so more than a few people will be happy about these three ways to get even more out of Japan’s coziest piece of furniture.

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Happy Pocky Day! Japan celebrates with huge towers and crazy art featuring the beloved snack

The vagaries of reading in Japanese mean that often the same text or numbers can be said a variety of ways. For example, some of the many readings for 2 and 9 and “ni” and “ku,” which combine to form niku, the Japanese word for “meat,” which is how November 29 became known in some circles as Meat Day. Going from the carnivorous to the carnal, 8 can be read as “hai,” making both November 28 and February 8 observed as Knee-High Socks Days.

Sometimes, though, you don’t need pun-filled pronunciations for an excuse to start a pseudo-holiday. Writing November 11 all in numerals gets you 11-11, and all those vertical lines look to some like a handful of enticing Pocky sticks. And so, this week Japan celebrated Pocky Day by not only devouring boxes of the stuff, but by turning the chocolate-covered treats into works of physical and photographic art.

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Clever Japanese pet owners find perfect cat beds…at IKEA! 【Photos】

One of the great things about IKEA is the broad appeal of its furnishings. With understated styling, reasonable prices, and adequate quality, the Swedish-based megastore is the perfect place to find sofas for recent college graduates, dishes for newlyweds, and work desks for telecommuters.

And also, as clever Japanese pet owners have learned, adorable beds for cats.

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Japanese couple celebrates wedding with cake shaped like a sliced-up, possibly bloody tuna

When it came time for my wife and me to put together a menu for our wedding reception, I tried to sound out her opinions before jumping in with my own. That is, until we got to the cake selections, and I immediately blurted out, “Let’s get the triple chocolate one!”

Thankfully, by that point she’d already made her peace with my many flaws which extend far beyond my cake preferences, and she smiled and acquiesced to the non-traditional, pitch-black (and completely delicious) choice.

Somehow, though, I don’t think things would have gone so smoothly if I’d done like the recently married man in Japan who suggested serving a wedding cake shaped like a sliced up, possibly bleeding tuna.

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Japanese nerds pick the feudal warlord they’d most like to be their boss

Sometimes you just have to take a survey for the sake of taking a survey, no matter how seemingly random or inconsequential the contents of the survey may be.

For example, we now have the results of this survey, which we’re pretty sure no one asked for, that gauges which feudal warlord Japanese geeks would rather be working under. We presume this means in an office setting and not, like, on an old-timey Japanese Warring States-era battlefield.

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Should we call this snoring, talking Totoro plush toy cute or awesome? Either way, we want one

While in Los Angeles to accept an honorary award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, famed director Hayao Miyazaki mentioned that he has a new anime in the works, giving his fans around the globe huge smiles and racing pulses.

With no production timetable yet in place, though, we’re in for a bit of a wait until we can see the new anime. No one’s sure exactly how long that wait is going to be, but it’s probably going to be long enough that maintaining the level of excitement caused by Miyazaki’s comment isn’t going to be good for your heart. So if a few deep breaths aren’t enough to calm you down, we recommend taking a few moments to relax with this adorable Totoro stuffed animal that naps and murmurs in its sleep, just like the anime film original.

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