cool

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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Check the weather forecast with a cool gadget that recreates the conditions in your living room

Growing up, I never really bothered with checking the weather report, since living in southern California meant it was sunny almost every day. It’s a different story in Japan, which sees rain in each season. Add in how much walking people do here, plus the fact that everyone hangs their clothes outside, and knowing how the weather’s going to be tomorrow becomes a little more important.

You could get the forecast from the TV news or the Internet, but if you’re looking for a more stylish alternative, a group of inventors have developed a box that’ll recreate the weather of the future, as well as the past and present, right in your living room.

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How to make Ghost Forest Yakisoba and haunt your noodles for Halloween

Japanese cooking can be a little tricky, since many recipes involve a lot of complex prep work. Yakisoba, though, is a snap. The stir-fried noodle dish is quick and easy, and unlike more rigidly traditional Japanese fare, there’s a lot of room for putting your own spin on it by fiddling with the standard ingredient list of pork, carrots, and cabbage.

For example, with a few simple tweaks for Halloween you can whip up an awesome batch of Ghost Forest Yakisoba.

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New smartphone game turns your photos of real-world cats into in-game warriors

When designing a role-playing video game, there’s a tricky balance designers have to maintain. Many of today’s gamers aren’t interested in scouring the world map and non-essential dungeons to recruit new party members, but giving the player too few characters to play with makes the game feel dull and lacking in scale.

So the question is, how do you make the process of searching for new companions fun? If you’re mobile developer GeePlus, you let them take photos of cats on their smartphones, then turn those cute snapshots into in-game warriors.

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Awesome iPhone cases made with traditional Hakata textiles give your device a timeless look

Aside from some of the best tonkotsu (pork stock) ramen in Japan, Fukuoka is famous for Hakata ori textiles. The merchant Mitsuda Yazaemon returned from his travels to China in 1235 with the techniques he would put to use in making the woven patterns, which proved to be so prized that they were even given as tribute to the shogun.

Hakata ori is still popular today, and it can often be seen in the sashes Fukuoka residents use to tie their kimono. If you’re looking for a more modern use, though, you can now order elegant Hakata ori covers for your iPhone, iPad, or Kindle.

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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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Skull-shaped lollipop holders: Because liking candy doesn’t mean you’re not one bad dude

For the most part, we tend to think of candy as being something for kids. Sweet flavors just seem to go with the sweet era of youthful innocence.

But what if you’re an adult who craves a sugar rush, but you still want the world to know that you’re a stone-cold badass? Then you carry your candy inside a skull-shaped lollipop case.

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Considering a tattoo? Take it for a removable test run with these tattoo sleeves

The whole reason tattoos are so cool is that they literally become a part of you after you get one. They can’t be erased – at least not without some expensive laser surgery. There’s a certain cool factor in being confident enough in your feelings about Professor Farnsworth or the Triforce to get them permanently etched into your skin.

On the flip-side, though, it’s all too common for people to get a tattoo that they later very much regret. Whether it’s the name of a college girlfriend you’ve long since broken up with, the name of that emo band you thought was cool in the early 2000s, or a veritable collage of anime characters from the 80s and 90s, some tattoo choices can come back to haunt you.

That may be a thing of the past, though, now that Japanese companies are offering removable tattoo sleeves!

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Somebody turned a Disney Channel cartoon into an anime and it’s pretty awesome

There are a lot of topsy-turvy world “What if…?” scenarios to ponder. Like, “What if I’d invested the money from my crappy summer job as a kid instead of blowing it all on Fruit by the Foot?,” “What if John Candy had lived to make Cool Runnings 2?,” or even, “What if cats ruled the world?” (oh wait, that one’s true…).

But if you were ever wondering what the world would be like if Disney were run entirely by Japanese people, it looks like a particularly talented animator with a love of anime has taken the time to give you a short glimpse of that scenario with this awesome anime tribute titled, “What if Gravity Falls was an anime?”

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Awesome fan art reveals Disney characters’ Instagram accounts

We spend a lot of time looking at our favorite Disney characters. With all the attention we shower upon them, we wouldn’t be surprised if, by this point, they’re all absolutely convinced that we want to know what they’re up to every single moment of the day.

So really, we wouldn’t blame Ariel, Alice, and the rest if they all started snapping selfies and sharing them online, like in this fan art that looks at what we could expect if Disney characters had Instagram accounts.

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English learner’s dictionary you must have, my young Padawan!

The English-language study market in Japan is huge, and alongside the more serious stuff there are also some more oddball publications, which pride themselves on teaching everything from the correct usage of the F-word to the phrase “I just took a dump“.

From educational publisher Gakken, however, comes an awesome-looking product that, although it’s very much a movie tie-in, takes itself entirely seriously. This is the Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary for Padawan Learners, and we can’t wait to get our hands on a copy! Ever wondered how to say “Vader wants us all dead” in Japanese? Well, now’s your chance.

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Cat Robo: The automated cat toilet that frees you from ever having to sift through kitty litter

A few days ago, we looked at a couple of cats that were mastering the art of pooping in the (people) toilet. When you stop and think about it, though, this is sort of a mixed bag for pet owners. Sure, on one hand, this frees you from the gross task of picking clumps out of the litter box. On the other hand, sharing a toilet with your cat means a lot of hair left on the seat where you put your bare butt.

If you really want an ideal cat pooping situation (and don’t we all?), you might instead want to go with this cool high-tech cat toilet that automatically sorts the litter for you after your cat does its business.

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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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Clever font sneaks pronunciation guide for English speakers into Japanese katakana characters

Written Japanese uses three kinds of script. At the top of the difficulty curve, you’ve got kanji, the complex characters originally imported from China that can require over a dozen brush strokes to write, with each kanji representing a word or concept.

A little less challenging are hiragana, a set of 50 curving phonetic characters, but if English is your native language, odds are you’ll have the least trouble with angular katakana. Like hiragana, katakana is a phonetic system, so each character corresponds to a syllable. Even better, while often one kanji can have three or four possible readings, each katakana has just one possible pronunciation.

Of course, you still have to memorize how to pronounce all 50 katakana (85 if you’re being really technical) in the first place. One group of graphic designers are aiming to make that task a little easier, though, with a font that combines katakana with phonetics written in English.

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Kit Kat’s papercraft train set is so cool we almost don’t need the chocolate it comes with

Living in Japan, we’ve been kind of spoiled by all the special Kit Kat flavors the country gets. We love a sweet snack as much as anyone, but when almost every region of Japan has its own version of the chocolate wafers, it takes something a little more unusual than matcha green tea Kit Kats to really grab our attention (not that those don’t taste delicious, of course).

So Nestlé Japan’s latest plan is to give us not just something to munch on, but a cool papercraft kit too, with this special Kit Kat bundle that also lets you build a model train.

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Zzz…zzz…pika…pika – The Pikachu bed is here!

Back in the summer, we spent a day chasing Pikachus around Yokohama as part of the amazing, multi-day Pokémon event held in the bayside city. The smile it put on our faces still hasn’t completely faded, but that year’s supply of cuteness came with a price. While we were there we got a hug from one of the Pocket Monster ambassadors, and we now know only too well just how fluffy a Pikachu is.

It’s thrown our whole baseline off for what constitutes cozy and comfy. Compared to a soft Pikachu coat, our blankets now feel like burlap, and it’s been keeping us up at night. Thankfully, there might be a solution, in the form of this awesome Pikachu bed.

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Korean artist opens a new door to the way we look at Starbucks’ paper cups

To some hardcore coffee fanatics, Starbucks may not serve the best coffee in the world, but they are definitely the most internationally popular coffee brand known to us. Starbucks fans around the world are not just in love with the coffeehouse chain’s signature blends, many of them like the brand as a whole entity, and some artistic individuals have even been inspired to create handicrafts and pieces of art with the brand’s packaging items.

Think you know the brand’s iconic logo well enough? Korean artist Soo Min Kim shows us faces of the infamous siren that we’ve never seen before in his creative renditions of Starbucks cup art!

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Just bought an iPhone 6? Keep it safe and stylish with a Sailor Moon case

Last month, Japan was part of the first round of the iPhone 6 release, and we were as psyched as anyone. However, now that the excitement has died down, a sobering problem is sinking in for early adopters around the world: Their iPhone 5 cases are suddenly obsolete.

So if you’re on the lookout for a way to keep your iPhone 6 safe, why not hand the task off to a team that’s been protecting the earth for the last 23 years with a Sailor Moon case.

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We spend the night at Zombie Camp! It’s like summer camp…but with zombies!

Summer is the season for ghost stories in Japan, and at the end of August we sent one of our reporters to try out the terrifying haunted house from the horror masters and game fans at Obaken. Amazing as that six-room production is, Obaken has since expanded its scale to something even bigger: Zombie Camp, a two-day excursion that combines the majesty of the great outdoors with the threat of rampaging zombies!

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Wear your love of anime on your stomach with Totoro Tummy hoodies and tees

Although he increasingly dealt with heavy themes and narratives as his career went on, legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro is a film of almost non-stop good vibes, with scene after scene filled with childlike whimsy, wonder, and joy. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from the worries of the workaday world and live inside the 1988 classic for a day?

Of course, if we’re talking animated flights of fancy, why stop at being just any character in the movie, when instead you can become Totoro himself with this lineup of Totoro apparel.

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