culture

Pirates, poems, and cows all appear on Japanese parents’ top 10 manga picks for kids

Pirates, poems, and cows all appear on Japanese parents’ top 10 manga picks for kids

The common logic is that children shouldn’t waste their time reading comic books, but it’s a little hard for parents to lay down that blanket rule when mom and dad used to be, or maybe still are, avid manga comic fans themselves. After all, how can you tell your kids they can’t read Bleach when you’ve got a trip to the bookstore penciled in on your schedule whenever a new volume of Attack on Titan gets released?

As more and more adults hang on to their love of comics, the question seems to have shifted from “Is it OK for your kids to read manga?” to “Which manga do you want your kids to read?” with a recent poll providing some interesting and informative answers.

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Japanese archery: The coolest school club ever?

Japanese archery: The coolest school club ever?

Bukatsu, or club activities, are a big part of school life in Japan. In the majority of schools, all kids are required to become a member of a club, be it track and field, judo, or even computer club, and have to attend every session regardless of the time of year and the weather (yes, athletics club kids jog up and down the hallways when it’s raining heavily). Naturally, there are distinct levels of coolness that students are more than aware of when they sign up, with clubs like baseball generally considered to be for the jocks, and soccer-bu for those who want to look good while sharpening their shooting skills.

Japanese archery, or kyūdō to use its native moniker, may not be considered the coolest club to belong to by kids in Japan, but as this video from Japanese culture blogger Danny Choo shows, as far as non-Japanese are concerned, it’s pretty epic, and if we were somehow reincarnated as a Japanese high schooler it’s definitely the club we’d sign up for.

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Does Avril Lavigne’s Tokyo music video really have anything to do with Japan?

Does Avril Lavigne’s Tokyo music video really have anything to do with Japan?

The lack of both L and V sounds in Japan’s language hasn’t kept Canadian musician Avril Lavigne from achieving widespread popularity here. As a matter of fact, given the country’s affinity for female solo acts, and its decades-long ready acceptance of “girls’ rock” music, you could make the argument that Lavigne has an even broader fan base in Japan, or at least one that’s split more evenly across the gender line.

So when Lavigne recently revealed she’d filmed her latest music video in Japan, maybe it wasn’t so surprising, even if a few of her choices for representing Japan were.

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Who loves revolving sushi? Only families, couples, and solo diners (so, just about everyone)

Who loves revolving sushi? Only families, couples, and solo diners (so, just about everyone)

While most of the professors I encountered during my time studying abroad were relaxed and open-minded, I can clearly remember one blue-blooded educator I met who insisted that the food served at kaitenzushi restaurants, the eateries where customers pluck pre-prepared plates of sushi off of a revolving conveyer belt, wasn’t “real sushi.”

True sushi, she said, wasn’t something that you ate to satisfy your hunger, but a flavorful accent to stimulate your taste buds. It had to be prepared painstakingly in an intimate establishment with a proper pedigree, and was certainly not the sort of thing that could be prepared in any quantity similar to the vulgar amounts pumped out by inexpensive kaitenzushi restaurants.

I listened politely, consulted my wallet, and promptly went to a kaitenzushi restaurant. Vindicating my choice are the results of a new survey which shows that revolving sushi restaurants are loved by diners all over Japan, whether they’re out for dinner with the family, on a date, or even just stopping in for a bite alone.

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What do Japanese people think of when they hear the word “otaku?”

What do Japanese people think of when they hear the word “otaku?”

Like with any language, the meanings of certain Japanese words change over time. Take the word “otaku,” which is originally a polite way of saying “you.” It’s so polite that overusing it can make a person sound a little wishy-washy, giving the impression that he’s not really comfortable with interpersonal relationships in general. Of course, if someone isn’t spending his time interacting with other people, then what does he fill his days with? Presumably, his solitary, or at least niche, hobbies such as watching anime. And so otaku picked up a second meaning of “obsessive nerd.” That was 30 years ago though, so a recent survey sought to answer this question: What do Japanese people imagine when they hear “otaku?”

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Stunning 22-year-old HD footage brings Tokyo of the ‘90s back to life

Stunning 22-year-old HD footage brings Tokyo of the ‘90s back to life

When looking at old photographs and video, there’s a strange phenomenon that sometimes occurs. Between the visual grain and the way colors bleed together, sometimes those images don’t seem like they’re just from another time, but from another world, one somehow less defined and concrete then the one in which we now live.

Of course, that’s all just outdated technology playing tricks on you. While camera and monitors have certainly gotten better over the years, the resolution of real life hasn’t gone through any upgrades, and the physical world has always been as sharp and vibrant as what we see today. As proof, take a look of these amazing HD videos of Tokyo taken over two decades ago.

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Classic Japanese painting “Picture Scroll of a Fart Battle” is exactly what it sounds like

Classic Japanese painting “Picture Scroll of a Fart Battle” is exactly what it sounds like

The earliest weapon associated with the samurai was the longbow, and many were also proficient with polearms. Neither is what first springs to mind for most people when they think of Japan’s warrior class, though. To many, the image of two opposing samurai grasping their swords, ready to duel, is by far the more iconic image.

But while the bow is technically the most traditional, the polearm arguably the most practical, and the katana certainly the most dramatic, none of these are anywhere near as funny as the depiction in this centuries-old scroll of samurai battling each other with their farts.

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Residents of Bangkok neighborhood don’t play by the railroad tracks, they live by them

Residents of Bangkok neighborhood don’t play by the railroad tracks, they live by them

Our recent meal in Bangkok of a five-and-a-half-pound hamburger may make Thailand seem like a wonderland of unparalleled decadence, but it’s only one facet of life in The Land of Smiles. Not everyone in the Thai capital spends their days chowing down on massive piles of beef, as we visited a neighborhood with a train line running right through the middle of it.

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Japanese people most like to drink green tea with their chips, incredibly dull survey finds

Japanese people most like to drink green tea with their chips, incredibly dull survey finds

As a hardcore carnivore (not omnivore - I literally only eat meat), I’m not big on potato chips personally, but Japan is a surprisingly junk food-obsessed country and potato chips are as ubiquitous as the Pocky and Koala March candies that otaku across the globe are familiar with.

There are a huge variety of flavors, thicknesses, textures, shapes and designs to Japanese potato chips, and the industry is apparently so lucrative that consulting firm My Voice Communications – which has absolutely no affiliation with the potato chip industry – put together an insanely exhaustive and, frankly, thoroughly boring survey about Japanese potato chip preferences.

We yawned through the full survey so that you don’t have to. Here are the major takeaways, with all most of the dull stuff cut out:

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Gadgets before flowers – Japanese moms reveal what they really want for Mother’s Day

Gadgets before flowers – Japanese moms reveal what they really want for Mother’s Day

Although the association of carnations with Mother’s Day began in the United States and stretches back over 100 years, I grew up never really being conscious of it (likely due to some combination of being a terrible son and having little interest in historical events that didn’t involve swords).

In Japan, though, most people are aware that carnations are a symbol for Mother’s Day, and a bouquet of the flowers is by far the most common gift given on the holiday. But while mothers across the country appreciate the gesture, one survey says there’s something they want even more: electronics.

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Six ways science-minded and art-minded Japanese people see the world differently

Six ways science-minded and art-minded Japanese people see the world differently

Just as you can broadly divide academic subjects into arts and sciences, in Japan people are often referred to as being “science-type” or “art-type,” with the first describing someone who holds everything up to the light of logic, and the latter for someone who applies more romantic standards.

Recently, Japanese Twitter users have been sharing their theories on the way this difference in fundamental mentality can affect a person’s attitude and feelings about such a wide range of topics such as not being too busy to see their dating partners, what happens when snow melts, or even their reactions to famous anime movie lines.

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So, the Dalai Lama walks into a convenience store in rural Japan… 【Photos】

So, the Dalai Lama walks into a convenience store in rural Japan… 【Photos】

Do you ever wonder what Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite kind of juice was? It’s hard to imagine the 26th President of the United States having to do anything as trivial as deciding between orange and apple, but after a long, hard day of riding moose and judo-tossing William Howard Taft, no amount of influence and respect is going to keep you from getting thirsty, and it’s a choice that has to be made.

But while the late Teddy’s fruit nectar preferences may be lost to antiquity, we can now say for certain which brand of tea the Dalai Lama reaches for when he visits a Japanese convenience store.

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Japanese teacher criticized for attending son’s entrance ceremony instead of her own school’s

Japanese teacher criticized for attending son’s entrance ceremony instead of her own school’s

Each April, as the new academic year starts, it’s customary for schools in Japan to hold an entrance ceremony for incoming students. The new pupils assemble in the auditorium, sit quietly while the principal and teachers make speeches, and often sing the alma mater.

For the students, listening to a bunch of grown-ups drone on about the value of education isn’t exactly riveting, and it’s debatable if the words of wisdom that are imparted really make any difference at all in their academic careers. For parents, though, this is a special day. They can appreciate the ceremony as the rite of passage it is, and it gives them an excuse to snap a picture with their child wearing their brand new uniform, which will quickly become too small for them as they grow up all too soon.

It’s a sentiment any parent can feel, even – or perhaps especially – parents who are educators themselves. However, one high school teacher in Japan is being publicly criticized for skipping her school’s entrance ceremony to attend her son’s, instead.

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Deconstructing Lolita fashion

Deconstructing Lolita fashion

Since Her Excellency Tomomi Inada, Minister in charge of Japan’s “Cool Japan” strategy, visited New York, JapanCulture•NYC has been trying to define “Cool Japan” as it relates to New Yorkers. The broad range of the term can encompass an overwhelming number of areas: Food, fashion, design, travel, the list goes on.

To focus on one type of fashion, JapanCulture•NYC turns to the expertise of New York-based accessories designer Jen Green, who attended Japan Society’s Lolita fashion discussion on February 5. In this special guest post, Jen deconstructs the Lolita look and phenomenon for the uninitiated.

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Up-and-coming band combines traditional Japanese instruments with pop metal and awesomeness

Up-and-coming band combines traditional Japanese instruments with pop metal and awesomeness

These tattooed badasses are not, in fact, extras from that bafflingly misguided 47 Ronin movie. They’re the members of the newly-signed Wagakki Band, which combines the chunky guitar chords and shredding of pop metal with traditional Japanese instruments for a totally awesome sound.

While the name Wagakki Band (Literally, “Traditional Japanese Instrument Band”) isn’t going to win any awards for creativity, the group’s head banging videos are a spectacle to behold; Sure to please fans of J-Pop, metal and old-timey Japanese imagery at once.

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Ancient Chinese characters prove that ninja cats once ruled Asia

Ancient Chinese characters prove that ninja cats once ruled Asia

Despite many of us considering them to be pets, with the immense power they wield over humans and their near total domination of the internet, cats are clearly the ones in charge. They appear with such frequency in ancient Egyptian iconography that many have wondered whether the Egyptians knew something about cats that we don’t, and no matter how many treats we give the felines we share our homes with, they just never seem to accept us as equals, let alone their masters.

And now, a photo of an ancient set of Chinese characters has given internet users in China even more reason to believe that cats were once the true rulers of the world. Behold: kanji characters depicting cats with ninja headbands!

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Advice for new employees in Japan: Never take your temperature

Advice for new employees in Japan: Never take your temperature

My very first job in Japan was with an established, well-known company that’s one of the top enterprises in its field. The company’s nationwide scale and decades of operations seemed to mark it as sophisticated and experienced enough to appreciate the value of a good employee support system, so I was a little surprised during the training session for new employees when we were told, “If you’re going to take a sick day, you have to tell your manager at least 24 hours in advance.”

The problem is, coming down with the flu isn’t like getting free shipping from Amazon, in that it usually doesn’t take more than a day. Unfortunately, my old employer never taught us how to know we’d be sick two days ahead of time, but another Japanese company has an effective way of sidestepping the issue entirely: never check to see if you have a fever.

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The honesty of children: 3-year-old’s greeting tells father how little time he spends at home

The honesty of children: 3-year-old’s greeting tells father how little time he spends at home

As we’ve talked about before, overtime is pretty common in Japan. At a startling number of companies, it is not considered in the least bit unusual to find staff, who are contracted and only being paid to be there between 8:30 am and 6 pm, still at their desks until 9, 10, or 11 at night. Others may leave the office a little earlier, but are often wrangled into drinking with the boss or entertaining clients until all hours. Others still even work on weekends and, returning home late at night, only see their family while they’re sleeping.

Dutiful partners may grin and bear it when their husband or wife is absent from home for such enormous stretches of time, but kids only speak the truth. Like this little one who, on her father returning home seemingly for the first time in a long time, greeted him like you might a guest or customer to a restaurant…

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Japanese people react to the outrageous behavior of “monster” new company recruits

Japanese people react to the outrageous behavior of “monster” new company recruits

April is upon us again, which means the start of a new school and work year in Japan. So perhaps it’s fitting that Fuji TV’s morning informational show Nonstop! recently aired a segment about new company employees. But its focus wasn’t on just any new recruits to the workplace…it was about monster recruits! Read on to find out what kinds of unthinkable behavior shocked netizens and made them lament the rude ways of the younger generation.

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What does “Konnichiwa” really mean? Understanding Japanese greetings

What does “Konnichiwa” really mean? Understanding Japanese greetings

Well, good afternoon/evening/morning/day everyone! Today we’re going to talk about Japanese greetings and what they really mean.

Just as in English, “Konnichiwa” or “Good day” is a greeting that is technically an idiom with a complex and near-forgotten past. Just as English language greetings tend to stem from bastardizations of foreign loan words and/or full sentences that have been gradually shortened over the years, “konnichiwa” is actually a shortened version of a full and meaningful greeting, because, if anything, human beings are a lazy sort with a bad habit of cutting corners whenever possible.

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