Japan’s biggest Obon dance festival makes its international debut in Paris

There are many different reasons to visit Japan, but something that should be on everyone’s bucket list are the matsuri, or festivals. Summer is a big time for festivals, especially in August when the Obon festival is held, during which many people travel back to their hometowns in order to honor their family and ancestors. With so many families together in their hometowns, it is the perfect time for a matsuri full of songs, dancing, and long-standing traditions.

One of the biggest Obon celebrtions in all of Japan is the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima Prefecture, which over a million people attend each year. The dancers who are dressed in their traditional clothing and musicians that pound out the beat in tune with your heart are truly a sight to behold, but if you can’t experience the traditional festival in Japan, why not try to bring it to your country as one French journalist did?

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Japanese artisan keeps traditional culture of yabumi alive with this adorable arrow letter set

From carrier pigeons to messages in bottles, there’s something uniquely appealing about using the forces of nature to carry a passage of prose between two human beings. With Japan’s long history of archery, messages once travelled through the air in the form of yabumi (lit. arrow text), a folded letter attached to an arrow that acted as a speedy delivery service between individuals or warring clans.

Sadly, the culture of yabumi dwindled and gradually disappeared as we moved slowly towards the world of much less dangerous (though sometimes just as impactful) emails and instant messaging. One traditional artisan is keeping the culture alive though, with a new letter set that contains everything you need to create your own yabumi, this time with adorable, user-friendly arrows.

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Japanese man’s parents present Notice of Expiration of Child-Rearing Services on 20th birthday

Unlike in the U.S., legal adulthood in Japan doesn’t begin until the age of 20. But while that means an extra two years to enjoy the benefits and protection society affords to minors, everyone has to grow up sometime, and for one Japanese Twitter user the transition was especially abrupt.

On his 20th birthday as his parents presented him with a written notice congratulating him on graduating from childhood and celebrating his newfound freedoms, while spelling out exactly what they, and the world, now expected of him as an adult.

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Open stall indicators, fresh flowers, and the superb cleanliness of a Japanese highway restroom

On long car trips in the U.S., I didn’t really find the prospect of using a highway rest stop bathroom significantly more appealing than just holding it until I got to my destination, whether that meant waiting until the next city or the next state. Honestly, given how filthy a lot of the public toilets were, I was generally happier with a deserted stretch of road or a grove of trees I could pull over near.

In Japan, though, it’s a different story, as this video of a rest stop bathroom shows it to be cleaner and classier than the one in many people’s homes.

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In Japanese elementary schools, lunchtime means serving classmates, cleaning the school 【Video】

Last month, we took a look at how in Japan many children are expected to commute to school without their parents’ help starting in elementary school. That’s not the only amazing display of responsibility that’s part of everyday life for Japanese kids, though.

Not only do Japanese schools not have school busses, they also don’t have food-serving or cleaning staff. That means it’s the students themselves who’re responsible for distributing school lunches and keeping the building clean, and the diligence with which they go about their tasks would put many full-blown adults to shame, as shown in this video of all the things Japanese grade schoolers are expected to do during a typical school day in addition to studying.

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How do people in Japan feel about eating whale? We asked five people for their opinions

If you hail from one of the many developed nations that comprehensively frowns on the practice of whaling, you may have the image that an appalling number of people in Japan eat whale meat. And while that may be true in relative terms compared to extremely low number of people who regularly eat whale meat in several parts of North America and Europe, whaling can be a divisive topic even within Japan. Some Japanese have no problem with dining on whale from time to time, treating it like just a meatier, gamier fish. Others think eating whale is a custom that’s long past its time and needs to be rethought.

To get a preliminary understanding of some of the many different opinions on the issue that exist in the country, we interviewed a number of Japanese people and asked them whether they were in favor of or opposed to whaling and eating whale meat.

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Hotel offers guests the chance to experience the 1,000-year-old lifestyle of the Heian Period

Japanese history can be a lot of fun to explore, from the Sengoku era to the modernization of Japan in the Meiji Period. We’re sure everyone has their own favorite time period, but one that doesn’t always get the respect it deserves is the Heian Period. Lasting roughly from 794 to 1185, the period was a relatively peaceful time in Japan that saw a blossoming of culture in everything from literature to music.

Unfortunately, we can’t just hop on a plane and go back in time to see everything for ourselves. But there is a hotel in Shikoku where you can experience a bit of the Heian life for yourself complete with period costumes, games, and architecture! So whether you’re a history buff or just need a major change of scenery, you’ll want to check out Gosho Yashiro no Mori!
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Bali style: Is that a penjor or are you just happy to see me?

Penjor were pretty much the first thing I noticed about Bali. As soon as we left the airport, they began towering over our car from both sides of the street: long-necked, graceful swoops of bamboo arching and bobbing over the road, their strips of paper and coconut leaves fluttering in the air.

But what were these charming decorations? What was their significance? That took a little longer to find out. And to be honest, I’m still not sure I know.

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Samurai Studio: Tokyo’s new photo studio where you can get your picture taken in samurai armor

Even in the modern era, you’ll find plenty of occasions in Japan to dress up in kimono, such as for festivals, fireworks exhibitions, or other special events (and considering how relatively easy it is to do, it’s something you really should try at least once). But as much as Japan may love its traditions and history, there aren’t too many occasions when you get to strap on a set of samurai armor, so when life gives you the opportunity to do so, like at this new photo studio in Tokyo, you won’t want to let it pass you by.

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Top 10 things even Japanese people think they’re too obsessive about

It’s no exaggeration to say that Japan is pretty obsessive when it comes to societal safety and manners. Japanese people often go to ridiculous/disgusting lengths to stay safe and to make sure that visitors are aware of all the unspoken rules that permeate throughout the country.

But sometimes it’s all just too much, even for the native Japanese themselves. So we present to you a list of the top 10 things that even Japanese people think they’re too obsessive over. Are you just as paranoid as they are, or would you be considered a carefree spirit in Japan? Read on to find out!

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Free Zen-like mobile game about broken pots contains the wisdom of ancient Japanese philosophy

Do you think putting together broken bits of pottery sounds like fun? No, me neither. And I’d never imagine something that’s so tedious in real life would make a good basis for a game. However, that’s the theme behind this free Android app which draws upon an ancient Japanese philosophy and, after reading some reviews, I was convinced that I had to give it a go myself.

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Four things to hate about looking for an apartment in Japan as a foreigner

Seeing as how the entire English-language RocketNews24 team is composed of people who at some point moved to Japan, we’re pretty big proponents of living here. One unpleasant part of the package, though, it that since you can’t claim the whole country as your residence, living in Japan means finding an apartment in Japan, which is generally agreed upon as one of the least enjoyable parts of the expat experience.

Why? For the following four reasons.

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The surprising and little-known Japanese art of gyotaku: culinary prints made with real fish

Japan has a fascinating art history. From early cord designs on clay vessels in the Jomon period (c. 11000–c. 300 BC) through to picture scrolls, ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and the distinctive style of animation that exists today, people in Japan have always found unique ways to capture the world around them for the rest of the world to see.

One little-known art technique from the 1800s is now making a comeback, and while its roots are firmly planted in Japan’s traditional history, it’s a method of printing that people all around the world can enjoy. All you need is paper, some paint and a nice-looking fish.

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Furikake rice toppings gaining popularity in US, but are Americans doing it wrong?

Until recently, rice-loving Americans looking to add a little zing to their favorite grain would need to trek out to the nearest Asian grocery store to pick up a pack of furikake rice topping. But now, according to Japanese media, the toppings are gaining traction on the US west coast and is becoming more widely available.

Furikake consists of a mish-mash of ingredients that have been dried and powdered and, in Japan, is intended specifically and only to be sprinkled atop a steaming hot bowl of sticky Japanese rice; which explains why many Japanese people are reacting with shock at how the Americans are choosing to deploy the condiment.

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Japanese entertainer getting laughs and friends overseas with hilarious English performances

Japan has an incredibly rich history of traditional performing art forms that have lasted through the centuries. It has noh, kabuki and bunraku, all of which provide classical entertainment even if you have no idea what is happening. Another popular form of Japanese entertainment is rakugo, which involves a lone storyteller sitting on a stage, telling comical stories with only two props traditionally: a fan and a small cloth. So while the rest of the world has stand-up comedians, Japan has sit-down comedians. All of these performances though have one small problem for foreigners, though: they’re almost always in Japanese.

That’s where Showko enters the scene. A brilliant entertainer who has traveled the world with her hilarious Rakugo performances and ventriloquist acts has been taking the comedy world by storm. Learn more about some of her performances and where to see her after the jump.

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“Why do I have to study?” Japanese educator’s answer to kids is half kind, half harsh, all wise

Japanese society may greatly value education, but it’s not like every kid in the country is born with an innate attraction to long division or vocabulary lists. Given the choice, even Japanese kids would much rather be playing video games or watching cartoons than doing homework, and given how active the country is in producing content for those two entertainment sectors, steering your children away from such tempting distractions and back towards their studies can be a tough challenge.

So what do you do when your kid declares he’s sick of school, and asks “Why do I have to study?” One Japanese education expert has an answer that’s half kind, half harsh, and entirely wise.

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Domestic culture shock – 30 things people from Hokkaido experience when they move to Tokyo

When foreigners first move to Tokyo, they’re often amazed and overwhelmed by Japan’s biggest bustling metropolis. But sometimes culture shock can be more localized, and just because you haven’t left the country doesn’t mean there aren’t any surprises in store when you move to a new town.

Hokkaido has more than five times the area of any other Japanese prefecture, and the lowest population density in the country to boot. So when someone born and raised on the northern island moves down south to Tokyo, which is more than 90 times as crowded as Hokkaido, he’s sure to be surprised by a lot of things, and here are 30 of them.

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Pepper the robot is coming to America with an upgrade in snark!

SoftBank’s emotional robot Pepper could be considered a hit in Japan ,with the first wave of 1,000 bots selling out in a minute and another 1,000 ready to move at the end of this month. But is Pepper’s popularity peculiar to purely people in one part of the Pacific? Perhaps.

We may soon find out according to a report in MIT Technology Review. One of their writers visited Aldebaran Robotics, the company which made Pepper along with SoftBank, and learned that an American Pepper is already well into development and has been given a significant attitude adjustment of the smart-ass kind to better fit in there.

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Idol ordered to pay management company 650,000 yen after going to hotel with male fan

Idol singers exist in an extremely specialized, and often contradictory, corner of the already specialized Japanese pop music industry. Successful idols are expected to walk the fine line between having a polished, attractive appearance and an approachable, unassuming aura. Even more ironic is that while their songs’ lyrics are often focused on love and devotion, it’s practically unheard of for an active idol to openly be in a romantic relationship.

Every now and again, though, word gets out that an idol secretly has a boyfriend, or had an illicit liaison with a guy. The revelation is usually followed by a solemn apology to fans, and often the offending member being removed from the group. But this time the story of an idol’s amorous activities coming to light has something we’ve never heard about before: a court-ordered fine equivalent to several thousand dollars for breach of contract.

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Poll asks for the top 10 times Japanese men are disappointed in their adult daughters

No matter how much you love your kids, no matter how strongly you want to protect them and guide towards what you believe are the best decisions, at some point they’re going to grow up and lead their own lives. Past a certain age, you just have to face the reality that your while they’ll always be your children, they’re also now adults, and you have to accept them as the people they’ve chosen to become.

Or, alternatively, you could harbor resentment towards them, like the men polled for this survey of the top 10 ways Japanese fathers are disappointed in their daughters.

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