culture

Oh no, osechi! Why don’t young people in Japan like eating traditional New Year’s dishes?

During the year of college I spent doing homestay in Tokyo, for New Year’s, my host family and I ate a traditional osechi meal. Served in a multi-layered box, almost each of the dozen or so dishes had some sort of auspicious meaning behind it, and the presentation and cultural significance of the whole affair was a memorable experience.

That said, I’ve never found myself craving osechi again, and it turns out my lack of enthusiasm isn’t a result of my foreign background. More and more young people born and raised in Japan are deciding they can do without osechi at New Year’s, and they’ve actually got some pretty sound reasons why.

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Can you spot the problem that led to the recall of this otherwise cute Japanese New Year’s card?

While people in Japan don’t send Christmas cards to each other, it’s customary to send New Year’s cards to relatives, friends, and work associates. Called nengajo, these are delivered on New Year’s Day, and typically feature whatever the Chinese zodiac animal for the year is.

However, since the end of the year is a busy time for most people, it’s not hard to imagine that some of the artists, distributors, and even buyers of these cards are too busy to really stop and scrutinize them, which is how one nengajo ended up with a very unusual ram on it.

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Artist combines terracotta warriors from ancient China with some familiar modern faces

In 1974, some farmers in Xi’an, China, stumbled upon a funerary army buried with the first Qin emperor comprised of more than 8,000 terracotta soldiers. Their fierce, noble faces belied their intent to protect the emperor even in death, while their military dress and kit, all recreated in detail, gave them the means to do so.

Now an artist in San Francisco is herself recreating some of these World Heritage statues, but there’s something just a bit off about the faces…

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Japanese baseball fans disappointed by filthy conditions visiting Major Leaguers left dugout in

Every year, Major League Baseball sends a delegation of players to Japan for a series of games against a team of Japanese all-stars. Since the contests are held after the conclusion of both the World and Japan Series, the players are all technically in their off-seasons, but there’s still some impressive skill on display.

The teams and fans all seem to come away with good memories of the games, but the Major Leaguers also left something behind: a ton of trash in their dugout at Tokyo Dome.

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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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Osaka man imprisoned on rape conviction released in exceptional reversal of charges

An Osaka man convicted of rape three and a half years ago and sentenced to a 12-year prison sentence has been released after new evidence revealed the man’s accuser had provided false testimony.

The man – whom Japanese news outlets are not naming – was accused of raping the same woman in both 2004 and 2008, and sexually assaulting her once again later in 2008. The guilty verdict was apparently based largely on the woman’s testimony and that of at least one eyewitness, but the trial seems to have lacked any physical evidence provided by prosecutors.

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Mountain monks meditate in ice-cold waterfalls, are completely badass【Video】

In the mountains of Nikko, just a short train trip from the modern, glittering megacity of Tokyo, a handful of monks still practice a millennia-old tradition known as shugendo, a form of meditation via endurance-testing communion with nature.

These are the yamabushi, mountain monks for whom a dip in a thundering, ice-cold waterfall and a sopping-wet stroll up a mountain are just another day’s work.

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Sharp’s new Japanese-inspired refrigerator is very cool (no pun intended)

Most people spend far more time looking into their refrigerator, hoping they somehow missed a plate of tasty snacks, than looking at their refrigerator. Even when the door is properly closed, we’re more likely to be reading the notes stuck there than admiring the design of the appliance itself.

But that’s just because most of us don’t have as eye-catching of a fridge as this tasteful Japanese beauty.

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Giant statue built into station in northern Japan is historical, terrifying, and awesome

The major train stations in urban Japan almost seem like small cities, packed with restaurants, hotels, and shopping space. Things are usually pretty different out in the countryside, though, where many rail stops are little more than an awning with a short bench to sit on while you wait for the trains to roll in.

We say rural stations are “usually” simple, though, because in one town up north in Aomori Prefecture, you’ll find a station guarded by what looks like a massive alien.

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Shima City needs your help in naming its tastefully swimsuit-clad anime mascot

When creating a local mascot in Japan, there are basically three styles to choose from. You can go the traditionally cute route, like Gunma Prefecture did with its adorable horse, national popularity contest champion, and confectionary model Gunma-chan. Option two is to make something so weird it puts a smile on peoples’ faces, like Funabashi City’s unofficial spokepear Funasshi.

Or, you can just draw a picture of an anime girl, like the town of Shima did. Yes, she of course has a nice smile and attractive proportions, and so far every picture that’s been released of the tourism ambassador has her posing in a swimsuit. But before you go blasting the designers for making that wardrobe choice before ever giving her a name, bear in mind there’s a good reason for her attire.

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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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Survey of Japanese men’s bra unclasping skills suggests they need to up their game

For a young, hormone-addled teenage boy, the art of the one-handed bra-unclasp is a sacred rite of passage that, along with shaving and, you know, like, actually having had sex, is one of the telltale markers of having transitioned from being a “loser” (or, worse yet, a “weenie”) to being one of the “cool” kids.

It’s too bad then, that according to a recent Japanese survey, the majority of Japanese men apparently never progressed into the realm of the cool kids because they still can’t unhook a bra one-handed.

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11 things Japanese women want men to know about their breasts

Let’s say you love looking at the moon. You’re enchanted by its beautifully full and round shape, and sometimes you find it so enticing you’d like to reach out and touch it (with its permission, of course).

But all that ardent admiration still doesn’t mean you actually know anything about the moon, does it?

That’s not too far from the relationship some men have with women’s breasts, according to this list of 11 things Japanese women wish more men understood about their chests.

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Examining 10 of Japan’s unwritten social rules, from cheese to paid holidays

By nature, humans can’t help constructing rules to live by even in the most innocuous situations like choosing the passenger seat of a car (rock-paper-scissors: best of three). Without any official governing body over how many times you should let a phone ring before hanging up (seven), we are left to establish unwritten social rules naturally agreed upon and often followed to the letter.

A survey by MyNavi recently asked Japanese people which of these tacit rules should be called into question. As we will soon see, although these laws are mysterious in their origin, many of them tend to be quite practical and worth sticking to.

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The Four Lows: Many Japanese women’s new image of the ideal man

When the subject of how men can attract women in Japan comes up, there are some pretty dubious sources of advice out there. Rather than apply twisted logic to gain twisted insights on how to pull women closer to them, guys have a better chance of success by putting their efforts into becoming the kind of people women are drawn to without any special prodding.

But what exactly do women want? Well, that’s an answer that of course varies from person to person, but if you’re interested in playing the percentages, a recent poll of women in Japan indicates four things to strive for.

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Imoni-kai: A hidden, delicious cultural gem of northern Japan

Hop on a train to off-the-beaten-path Yamagata Prefecture any weekend from September through November, and you’re bound to see crowds of people congregating and cooking pots of something delicious by the local river. Yup, imoni-kai season is in full swing!

Imoni (芋煮) is the name given to a taro root stew native to the Tohoku region of northern Japan. Apart from its delicious taste, imoni is also famous for the social aspects of its creation. Families traditionally congregate on a riverbank (the practice of which is known as imoni-kai, literally, “imoni gathering”) and cook the stew from scratch over a fire pit. In that sense, you can think of it a bit like an autumn version of o-hanami, the popular Japanese tradition of viewing cherry blossoms in the spring.

Join us after the jump for a glimpse at a unique cultural tradition of northern Japan which many Japanese people in other parts of the country have never even heard of!

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Beautiful video of master Japanese doll craftsman is equal parts inspiring and relaxing

There’s something deeply satisfying about watching someone do their job incredibly well. Whether it’s a master chef putting together a mouth-watering meal, a talented musician making an instrument come to life, or a pro athlete performing at the highest level of the sport, you find yourself unable to look away, both because of how soothing watching things go perfectly is, and also for fear of missing whatever amazing feat they’re going to pull off next.

So if you’re craving that special mixture of relaxation and inspiration, take a few minutes to watch this video of a master craftsman transforming two hunks of wood into a beautiful kokeshi doll with a literally unique twist.

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Do you dress like Tokyo or Osaka? Study creates one outfit for every Japanese prefecture

Japan isn’t that big geographically, but it’s still divided up into 47 different prefectures. Even though it’ll usually only take you a couple of hours to pass from one into the other (and even less if you’re on the Shinkansen), each has its own unique feel to it. Depending on where you are, people eat different foods, celebrate holidays in different ways, and even like different clothes, as shown by a study that reveals how Japanese women like to dress by prefecture.

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Volunteers clean up Tokyo after huge Halloween party, get called hypocrites for their service

This year, Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood made a major push to establish itself as the place to celebrate Halloween in Japan’s capital. Things got off to a pretty low-key but still impressively creative start with a costume contest on one of the local train lines, but that was nothing compared to how jumping Shibuya was on the night of October 31.

Unfortunately, when you funnel that many people into one place, some of them are going to exhibit some pretty poor manners, as evidenced by the mounds of litter some revelers left behind. In response, volunteers sprang into action cleaning up the trash, but instead of a pat on the back for their hard work, some Twitter users decided to take them to task for what they felt was a shameless play for attention.

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Don’t have enough time to see Japan? You do now, with this amazing time-lapse video

With so much to see and do in Japan, it’s easy to forget that sometimes one of the most rewarding things to do is to take a few moments and do nothing at all. Whether you’re looking at people moving about some of the most bustling cities on the planet, witnessing the burst of light and color as the sun goes down and the neon lights come on, or watching as the fog rolls over a sacred mountain, Japan never lacks for amazing ambiance to soak up.

But with so many flavors of atmosphere to enjoy, it can be hard to find the time for all of them, especially if you’re tied up with work or trying to visit as many destinations as you can on a whirlwind tour. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, though, this awesome time-lapse video of sights across Japan will show you all those cool things we talked about and more.

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