culture

Why does Japan have so many overhead power lines?

Why does Japan have so many overhead power lines?

Something many visitors to Japan notice is the abundance of overhead power lines. Whether you’re in the suburbs, city center, or even rural communities, it’s rare to look up at the sky or towards the horizon without the view being crisscrossed by thick, black cables.

So why does Japan have so many above-ground power grids when so many other countries have gone subterranean? The easy answer is cost, but there’re also some purported advantages to stringing cables up on poles, and the country hasn’t quite reached a consensus on which is the better option.

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【TBT】The Lowdown on Japan’s Cosplay Industry

【TBT】The Lowdown on Japan’s Cosplay Industry

These days, cosplay functions as a 40 billion yen (US$390 million) industry and has a large impact on Japan’s economy. Now, before moving on, please allow me to clarify that ‘cosplay’ to Japan does not only refer to people dressing up as anime and video game characters, but includes all manner of live action, Western, original characters, nurses, maids, and so on. Virtually any costume worn for fun is considered cosplay over here. So what kinds of special services are available to avid cosplayers in Japan? And how are cosplayers themselves making the most out of this bountiful, infinitely tolerant environment? Read More

Survey reveals chance of marrying your first love in Japan, other romantic probabilities

Survey reveals chance of marrying your first love in Japan, other romantic probabilities

In a lot of ways, romance is a toss of the dice. There’s a long checklist of items you want to be compatible on before making a relationship permanent and tying the knot, but you’ll cross the threshold for the initial spark long before that. The only way to know if the person you’re attracted to is legitimate marriage material is by going on dates and spending time together, and sometimes the potential we see early on doesn’t pan out, which is why so few people end up married to their junior high school sweetheart.

Of course, sometimes luck is on your side when you roll the bones, and for some people their first love is also their true one. A recent survey revealed just how often this happens in Japan, as well as a few other statistics about Japanese chances for love.

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Ordinarily-looking van gets transformed into amazing Japanese-style living room 【Video】

Ordinarily-looking van gets transformed into amazing Japanese-style living room 【Video】

There are two paradigms you can aim for in designing a car. One is a great vehicle, accelerating, turning, and braking with speed and precision. The other is a great living or hotel room, with stylish interior appointments and spacious seating.

The owner of this van is obviously in the second camp, and has modified his ride so that it doesn’t look anything like a car on the inside, but rather a Japanese inn on wheels.

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Kamikiri, the amazing Japanese art of paper cutting mastered by Akira Nagaya【Photos】

Kamikiri, the amazing Japanese art of paper cutting mastered by Akira Nagaya【Photos】

Earlier this month, we talked about Japanese artist Akira Nagaya. An expert in kamikiri, the art of crafting intricate paper cutouts, Nagaya first caught our eye with his takes on classic anime icons such as Totoro, Son Goku, and Pikachu.

Japanese animation isn’t Nagaya’s only inspiration, as we can see in his other creations that capture the delicate beauty of nature and the changing of the seasons.

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Invasion of the moon rabbits: the delicious tradition of otsukimi 【Photos】

Invasion of the moon rabbits: the delicious tradition of otsukimi 【Photos】

If you happened to be in Japan this week, you may have noticed rather a lot of rabbit-themed goods, particularly sweets. Not to worry, the Japanese haven’t gotten their dates for Easter spectacularly wrong, these lapine lovelies are part of otsukimi, a tradition celebrating the harvest moon.

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You can rest your chopsticks on a lot of different things in Japan

You can rest your chopsticks on a lot of different things in Japan

Sitting down to a traditional Japanese meal is made even more special by those little sticks you’ll have to manipulate to get the food to your mouth. However, for fork-loving westerners, using chopsticks, or hashi as they’re called in Japanese, can be downright frustrating when all you want to do is sample the local cuisine, not wear it on your shirt. But while you’re skewering your tempura and twirling your udon (PS – don’t do that), be sure to take a few seconds to appreciate that little tool propping up your hashi. From simple to completely bizarre, there’s a chopstick rest to suit any style in Japan.

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Reddit user claims common Tokyo chain has “best ramen ever” for just US$6, we investigate

Reddit user claims common Tokyo chain has “best ramen ever” for just US$6, we investigate

A decade or two ago, the big Japanese food export that everybody raved about was sushi. Sushi joints cropped up all over the place, with the more authentic places employing highly skilled Japanese chefs slinging expertly crafted sushi at exorbitant prices. In places like New York City, sushi was the go-to food if you wanted to eat out but keep it at least a little on the healthy side.

Then, Westerners apparently took a look at all the diet food in their grocery stores and bland sandwich wraps in their food trucks and decided to revolt. Suddenly, wraps, sushi and other healthy foods were replaced with cronuts, cupcakes, “all the bacon and eggs you have,” and, of course, ramen. Delicious, fatty, greasy ramen quickly replaced sushi as the hip Japanese food and Westerners are willing to pay top dollar for it.

Of course, some Japanese (primarily the slightly feral citizens of 2chan) argue that, for all the money they’re shelling out, Westerners couldn’t pick out a truly great bowl of ramen to save their lives. So, 2chan was unsurprisingly amused when Reddit user lemonpls posted to a foodie subreddit that he’d found the greatest bowl of ramen he’d ever had in his life… at a common fast food chain in Tokyo.

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Japanese actor’s unfortunate choice of t-shirt has net users amused, doubting his English ability

Japanese actor’s unfortunate choice of t-shirt has net users amused, doubting his English ability

Osamu Mukai is a well-known drama and commercial actor in Japan, best known for playing heart-throb types on prime time TV. He also apparently does not speak English or pay much attention to his fashion choices, as a recent appearance on what seems to be a typical Japanese evening talk show proves.

While the majority of the Japanese audience probably had no idea what the English on the actor’s drab green T-shirt meant, one eagle-eyed Twitter user seems to have noticed, and thus immortalized, Mukai’s unfortunate fashion choice for the world to see.

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Are Women-Only train cars illegal in Japan?

Are Women-Only train cars illegal in Japan?

File this one under things we hope don’t fall into the wrong hands: Those Women Only train cars in Japan aren’t actually enforceable under the law.

All foreign men in Japan can recount their first harrowing experience of obliviously stepping onto a train, only to find that literally every single other passenger was a woman. There’s a moment of confusion and, if you’re lucky, a good Samaritan politely explaining that wieners don’t belong here, followed by the terrible realization that you’ve broken not only an official rule set forth by the train company but also an unwritten social rule, which is kind of almost worse. But, from here on out, you can rest assured that even though you’re committing a social taboo, you’re not breaking any laws!

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Talented high school baseball player steals 11 bases in one game, fans furious?

Talented high school baseball player steals 11 bases in one game, fans furious?

If you are a brain surgeon trying to get a side job flipping burgers at a fast food joint, you’re more than likely to be called “overqualified” and sent packing; yes, even if you really have a passion for perfecting the ultimate burger flip. Your services are clearly required elsewhere, despite your dreams of being Employee of the Month. But being overqualified for sports isn’t something most athletes generally have to worry about blowing back on them.

Unless, apparently, your sport is Japanese high school baseball, as one especially talented and furiously base-stealing Gunma Prefecture player learned recently.

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Fancy a change? Magazine survey picks Japan’s 10 best towns to live in

Fancy a change? Magazine survey picks Japan’s 10 best towns to live in

The idea of living in a high-rise condo in downtown Tokyo makes for a nice daydream. Between the high cost of housing and the inescapable hustle and bustle of Japan’s capital, though, when it comes time to actually pick a home, many people decide they’d rather live in one of Japan’s other cities, or one of Tokyo’s suburbs at least.

Underlining this trend are the results of a survey by newly formed magazine Aene which asked Japanese housewives which town they’d be happiest living in. Central Tokyo failed to crack the top 10, although the number-one pick isn’t too far away from the capital.

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Why do so many anime characters have non-Japanese names?

Why do so many anime characters have non-Japanese names?

There are a lot of things that surprise newcomers to anime. Why are the characters’ eyes so big? How come everyone has funky hair colors? What’s up with all the panty shots?

A lot of those have simple answers. The giant eyes are an influence from legendary manga artist Osamu Tezuka, who was in turn inspired by classic Disney designs. Anime artwork uses a relatively small number of lines in drawing faces, and a large palette of hair colors is a quick and easy way to differentiate otherwise similar-looking characters. Male anime fans in Japan are extraordinarily open about their love of undies.

With those questions out of the way, let’s take a look at something a bit less cut-and-dried: Why are there so many anime characters with non-Japanese names?

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The clever way Japanese drivers thank each other without saying a word【Video】

The clever way Japanese drivers thank each other without saying a word【Video】

Japanese culture places a lot of importance on taking care of yourself and not inconveniencing others. Sooner or later we all end up needing a little help, though, which is why the Japanese language has a half-dozen regularly used phrases that all mean “thank you.”

But while having that arsenal of expressions with which to show your gratitude comes in handy, it won’t do you much good if you want to thank someone who’s not in earshot, such as a fellow motorist who let you into their lane on the expressway. That’s why Japanese drivers follow a bit of automotive protocol that lets them deliver a message of thanks with the push of a button.

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Last night, a fast food delivery guy gave me 10 yen and it made my day

Last night, a fast food delivery guy gave me 10 yen and it made my day

After living here for any decent length of time, it’s easy to grow tired of the seemingly endless slew of blogs either singing Japan’s praises or celebrating its weirdness. But the thing is, there’s a reason so many of them exist. While many of the claims bloggers in Japan make are somewhat exaggerated or simply rehashes of the same experiences foreigners arriving in the country decades earlier had, there are nevertheless times when living in Japan can make you realise that the country is actually quite special.

Just last night, for example, I found myself the recipient of a tiny but powerful gesture that made me feel – after more than eight years of living here – that Japan is pretty damn cool sometimes.

Last night, dear reader, a fast food company gave me 10 yen. That’s about US$0.09.

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It’s that time of year again; when people in Japan make eggplant tanks

It’s that time of year again; when people in Japan make eggplant tanks

For many parts of Japan, this week is the Obon season. This is the time when several generations of family members all come together in one house for a visit. Luckily for the hosts, the vast majority of these relatives are ghosts so don’t take up a lot of space.

But even though they’re ghosts it’d be rude not to lay out some food for them, and so it’s not uncommon to place some snacks or beverages on graves or family altars in the home. Among these you might find shoryo uma, little animals made of cucumber and eggplant meant symbolize animals which carry the spirits to and from the otherworld.

Traditionally these tiny animals are made by jabbing four sticks into the vegetable for legs. The result is quaint but kind of looks like something I’d slap together for my third grade art project so I could get back to playing Dragon Warrior - hardly something fit for the people who paved the way for your existence to ride in on! As such some people in Japan have begun pimping their shoryo uma to make sure their ancestors’ rides are safe, comfy, and in some cases kind of epic.

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Carbonated sake is selling like gangbusters, just in time to rescue the drink from its demise

Carbonated sake is selling like gangbusters, just in time to rescue the drink from its demise

While I like to think of myself as one of the more cynical and irreverent – as well as dashingly handsome and sharply dressed – writers here at RocketNews24, I occasionally do come across a subject I’d rather approach with a more measured, sober point of view. Like, for example, the subject of sweet, sweet booze!

It might come as a shock to people whose primary brushes with Japanese culture come from visits to their local, non-Japan-based Japanese teppan restaurant or izakaya, but sake – the country’s national alcoholic beverage – is kind of in dire straights nowadays. The traditional, rice-based drink basically has been getting steamrolled by imported drinks like beer and wine, which have less of a “learning curve” to fully enjoy and thus appeal more to young people in Japan.

Since the 1970s, when the drink still faced stiff competition from domestic beers and imported wines but was doing pretty well for itself, domestic sake sales have hit a wall, with the number of brewers falling from nearly 5,000 in that period to just 1,000 or so now. Some have turned to foreign markets, even looking into new ways to pair sake with western food, while others have tried to innovate with sparkling sake – which is kicking ass in sales numbers and might just prove to be the drink’s savior.

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To sit or not to sit? Linguistic and societal debate on Japanese train seats for the elderly

To sit or not to sit? Linguistic and societal debate on Japanese train seats for the elderly

With how crowded trains get during rush hour in Japan, finding an open seat can be like discovering an oasis in the desert, or a cold can of Ebisu beer in the fridge nestled behind a group of lesser brews. Oftentimes, though, you’ll step into the train and find every seat occupied.

While no one really likes standing for a 30- or 60-minute ride, for some elderly, pregnant, infant-accompanying, or handicapped passengers, that’s not just an unpleasant situation, but a painful, or even impossible, task. Those groups of people still have as much need for mobility as anyone else, though, so rail companies put up signs directing those passengers to special seats for them along the corner benches of each car.

It seems that able-bodied passengers in different parts of Japan react differently to these suggestions, though. Not only that, not everyone believes keeping those seats open is the right thing to do, and a lot of it has to deal with a subtle difference in the wording used in Tokyo and Sapporo.

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Singing, ticking timebombs – 5 facts about the special significance of cicadas in Japan

Singing, ticking timebombs – 5 facts about the special significance of cicadas in Japan

Coming from the UK where the largest insect you’re likely to encounter is a slightly overweight bumblebee, I was quite taken aback the first time I saw a semi, or cicada in English, in Japan. Having arrived in the middle of summer, at first the ear-piercing racket coming from the tree outside my window drove me to distraction, but over the years I came to enjoy the sound these little bugs made, even if their appearance still gives me the creeps.

As it happens, I’m not the only one who appreciates these little bugs’ songs. Cicadas hold special significance here in Japan, and are considered to be almost synonymous with summer, so join us after the jump for five quick-fire facts about Japan’s summer bug.

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Genius Chinese college students use indoor inflatable pools to beat summer heat

Genius Chinese college students use indoor inflatable pools to beat summer heat

I thought summers in America were hot, until I moved to Asia and learned firsthand what a hot summer is really like. In Japan, China and other parts of East Asia, the summer can be brutal to the point that people flock to public pools by the thousands, risking other people’s disgusting mud butt and possible drowning by crowd crush just to enjoy a few moments in the tepid water.

But a number of enterprising Chinese college students have apparently figured out a genius workaround: Just put a pool in your own dorm room.

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