culture

Super-enthusiastic convenience store clerk fights the man, continues serving the people

Super-enthusiastic convenience store clerk fights the man, continues serving the people

I’m not sure which is more surprising, the fact that Japan has convenience stores everywhere, or that every clerk working at them seems to be polite and attentive. Even with those high standards, though, occasionally you’ll come across a real standout employee, such as Family Mart’s Kato.

As we reported in June, Kato throws himself into his work with more energy and enthusiasm than any manager has a right to expect of front-line customer service workers. But while Kato’s unbridled passion for his job has made him something of a minor Internet celebrity, it’s also attracted the attention of Family Mart headquarters, which has asked the animated clerk to consider toning his act down.

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A six-year-old smashed the previous limbo skating record, in case you wanted to know

A six-year-old smashed the previous limbo skating record, in case you wanted to know

Who would have thought the world of limbo skating would be so competitive? Also, who would have thought limbo skating was a thing that exists?

Limbo skating is the sport of using old-school roller skates – we presume there’s some kind of rule about them having to be in pastel colors – to project yourself across the ground while staying as low as possible. Sometimes, limbo skaters can squish their bodies down to about the same height as a Coke bottle while bending their ankles at seemingly impossible angles to keep the roller skate’s wheels on the pavement.

So, since we went ahead and told you that limbo skating is a thing, we might as well also tell you that a 6-year-old just broke the previous limbo skating world record by limbo skating under 39 cars like it was nothing.

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What’s that emoji? Let’s take a look at Japanese culture with these texting emoticons!【Part 2】

What’s that emoji? Let’s take a look at Japanese culture with these texting emoticons!【Part 2】

In Part 1 of this article, we learned some fun facts about three iconic foods so beloved by the Japanese that they, yup, became icons—how an old lady and a samurai gave birth to the first rice cracker; what it means to be called a pudding-head in Japan; and how a classic 1960s manga cemented the way oden would be illustrated for decades to come.

So get ready for Part 2, in which I’ll attempt to sift through millennia of history and get you further acquainted with three more emoticons!

First we’ll look at the mythical tengu, a complex, multifaceted creature that in modern times pops up in things like Digimon and the Mega Man series. Then we’ll check out a New Year’s decoration that may have originated from taketaba, a shield made from bundled bamboo that became necessary once firearms were introduced. To close, we’ll explore the customs and lore surrounding the Tanabata festival, including the romantic legend of Orihime and Hikoboshi, who are both star-crossed lovers and actual stars in the sky.

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Blogger offers her top four tips for Japanese women dating foreign guys

Blogger offers her top four tips for Japanese women dating foreign guys

A while back, we dissected a list from blogger and internationalist Madame Riri about three things Japanese women do that scare off foreign guys. Love is a two-way street though, which means the romantic roadblocks run in both directions.

Today, we’re taking a peek at Madame Riri’s latest batch of bullet-pointed suggestions, which focuses on her top four tips for Japanese women looking for a successful relationship with a man from overseas.

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Unagi pastries contain no eel, tons of cuteness

Unagi pastries contain no eel, tons of cuteness

Even though I was an extremely finicky eater growing up, my palate has broadened quite a bit since moving to Japan. In the years I’ve spent living in Tokyo and Yokohama, I’ve become convinced that cooking a cut of tuna is the quickest way to ruin its flavor, spicy cod roe makes an excellent pasta sauce, and that chicken cartilage isn’t just something you can eat, but should.

Still, I’m not entirely sold on unagi, or freshwater eel. Honestly, the flavor is surprisingly mild and not unpleasant, but I still have a hard time getting past the mental image of the snake-like appearance for something that, in my opinion, tastes just OK and is a little on the expensive side.

On the other hand, unagi-shaped chocolate pastries make a much more compelling argument.

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London’s Sumo Run has Japanese confused, kind of offended

London’s Sumo Run has Japanese confused, kind of offended

This week the annual charity event known as the Sumo Run took place in London’s Battersea Park. To raise money for education in sub-Saharan Africa, participants don inflatable sumo suits and run the 5km course around the park, no doubt delighting passersby in the country that gave us Monty Python.

But when media outlets in Japan reported on the event, the audience here was not universally pleased, with some people calling it racist cultural appropriation.

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Ryokan etiquette: What not to do when staying at a traditional Japanese inn

Ryokan etiquette: What not to do when staying at a traditional Japanese inn

Ryokan are traditional Japanese hotels whose roots can be traced back to the Edo Period (1603–1868). Although nowhere near as ubiquitous as they once were, there still exist thousands of such establishments, which are most often associated with relaxation, hot spas and, of course, good Japanese food and drink. Even those who would ordinarily choose a bed over a futon would be wise to experience staying at a ryokan at least once during a visit to Japan, but there are a number of dos and don’ts that visitors – both Japanese and otherwise – really ought to know before setting foot inside one.

Trip Advisor Japan has helpfully published a list of tips, designed to look like set of cards teaching the characters from the Japanese syllabary, which instructs visitors on the right way to enjoy a Japanese inn. Some are as obvious as telling guests not to take stuff home with them, but there are others that really ought to be given your full attention.

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Internet survey sheds light on how Japanese women deal with the hair ‘down there’

Internet survey sheds light on how Japanese women deal with the hair ‘down there’

Different cultures have different norms regarding the acceptability of body hair. For example, in many countries of the world, women are largely expected to shave their legs and underarm hair when going out in public. But what about that other, far less public patch of hair?

The latest edition of Shogakukan’s News Post Seven teamed up with an online research agency to check up on the status quo of what Japanese women nowadays do with the ‘hair down there,’ especially now that attitudes in Japan are becoming increasingly similar to those in the West. Do they shave it? Tidy it up every so often? Leave it as is? The internet survey disclosed some revealing results.

If you’re a woman and visited a Japanese hot spring before, you may be able to guess that things are about to get a little hairy…

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Pikachu’s dramatic decline in popularity captured in photos

Pikachu’s dramatic decline in popularity captured in photos

Back in the day, Pikachu was just the best. He was cute, bold and dangerous all at the same time, had a cute voice and said nothing but his own name. People the world over loved him. Then Pokemon got like 5,000 other collectible monsters and Pikachu kind of took a backseat to the cooler new kids in class.

For a while, Pikachu clung to his fame like an aging Hollywood star exhibiting a little too much potbelly and affinity for sub sandwiches, but now, like a DJ part-timing as a kid’s birthday party clown, he’s stooped to new lows – showing up for any random appearance with five to ten audience members and the promise of some Tauros meat.

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Beautiful 400-year-old garden in Okayama about to be replaced with condominium complex

Beautiful 400-year-old garden in Okayama about to be replaced with condominium complex

Japan loves to devise top three lists, and Okayama City’s Korakuen is held to be one of the country’s three best gardens. Anyone who’s visited will tell you that it’s indeed beautiful, but Korakuen isn’t the city’s only garden, or even its oldest.

Okayama is also where you’ll find Tokoen, a garden with a history that stretches back to the early days of Japan’s feudal Edo era. Tranquil and easily accessed by public transportation, Tokoen would make an ideal spot for history buffs and nature lovers looking for a less crowded, quieter urban oasis than Korakuen.

Sadly, though, after roughly four centuries, Tokoen has closed down, and is soon likely to be demolished and replaced with a condominium complex.

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Personality test-obsessed Japan devises “Frozen” princess personality test for women

Personality test-obsessed Japan devises “Frozen” princess personality test for women

If there’s anybody in the world that loves a good non-scientifically supported personality or psychological measurement, it’s the Japanese. You’ve got the thoroughly debunked blood type indicator, Western-imported horoscopes, the “which way do you fold your arms?” test, the “how you like your meat cooked says a lot about you” test, and, of course, if you have sword-shaped fingernails, you’re a complete and utter psychopath.

Well, given Japan’s propensity for personality indicators as well as Japan’s affinity for adorable Disney princesses, it was only a matter of time before somebody mashed the two together to create a Frozen princess personality test. Jeez, why can’t they take all this superstition and just LET IT GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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【TBT】It’s the little things: One more reason why we love Japan

【TBT】It’s the little things: One more reason why we love Japan

After a long week at the office, our Japanese writer Yoshio was in dire need of a pick-me-up. After stretching and clicking his back, he stood up at his desk, tucked his wallet into his back pocket and announced in unusually glum tones that he was popping out to the convenience store to grab a few things.

A few minutes later, Yoshio walked back into office and placed his little white plastic bag down on his desk with a tired sigh. But then he stopped. Looking down at his purchases inside the bag, he suddenly began beaming with a level of happiness that we hadn’t seen in quite some time.

“Oo! Sugoi!” (“Oh! That’s awesome!”) he softly exclaimed.

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The tricky game of wits that sometimes lurks behind a Kyoto granny’s compliment

The tricky game of wits that sometimes lurks behind a Kyoto granny’s compliment

One of the most characteristic parts of communication in Japan is the frequency with which people dish out compliments. Travelers and expats, for example, quickly become accustomed to being praised when displaying even the most basic skills with chopsticks or the local language.

Japanese people don’t just have kind words for foreigners, though, but for each other, too. Modesty and empathy are considered virtues of the highest order, so when someone shows any sort of ability, good manners dictate that you should notice and appreciate whatever small trace of talent can be found, as well as the effort that went into acquiring it while leading what, courtesy says you should assume, is a busy life.

Of course, sometimes these compliments aren’t triggered by the speaker being genuinely impressed, but rather just polite, or in some extreme cases, irritated.

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Little boy comforts scared girl at school, is manlier than your fully grown adult boyfriend

Little boy comforts scared girl at school, is manlier than your fully grown adult boyfriend

In the annals of history, there have been many men who were so cool, they practically defined the word. The kind of guys that were so naturally cool, they didn’t even seem to notice when they were doing something awesome. We’re talking about guys like James Dean, Sam Jackson, Bruce Willis, the classic crooners like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, and I guess we’ll begrudgingly add newbies like Ryan Gosling (Just kidding! We mean Marky Mark).

Now we can add this incredibly awesome little boy, who seems to be around five years old. We see him here in this video casually comforting a grieving little girl who is upset about being removed from her mother on what we presume is the first day of school. She even does that adorable kid thing where she tries her best not to cry but it’s not really working, and our heroic little boy just sort of nonchalantly tells her he’s got her back – almost like she’s a fiery explosion that he’s casually walking away from without looking at. That’s how cool this kid is.

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Why do Japanese cleaning crews bow at trains? Foreigners and Japanese sound off

Why do Japanese cleaning crews bow at trains? Foreigners and Japanese sound off

The cleaning crews who maintain Japan’s high-speed bullet trains have a mere seven minutes to make the interior of the train spotlessly clean for its next journey. Those seven minutes are carefully divided into different tasks to make sure everything gets done in the allotted time.

Another curious detail people often notice about these cleaners is the way they bow as trains are entering and exiting the station. While this act is generally thought to be a respectful gesture, the intended recipient of the bowing seems to be a matter of great debate, with plenty of conflicting opinions out there, even among the Japanese!

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Watch how traditional Japanese craftsmanship is done in a series of videos from Gucci Japan

Watch how traditional Japanese craftsmanship is done in a series of videos from Gucci Japan

One of the things about Japan that I’m always most curious about is the various traditional buildings and items that can be found, like the mikoshi. These are portable shrines of various sizes that get carried around during festive times. They’re incredibly intricate in their decorations and must require regular maintenance. This always leads me to wondering who makes these things and what is their business model? You don’t see any billboards for mikoshi manufacturers and yet the workshops and craftsmen are out there, somewhere doing their thing.

For another example, take this little mosaic box pictured above. You may have seen a similar one before, but do you know how it’s made? You might be surprised at where the pattern actually comes from and thanks to a series of videos put out on YouTube, we can get a glimpse at how traditional handmade Japanese goods are painstakingly created.

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To say kawaii or not to say kawaii? Almost half of Japanese guys don’t want to be “cute”

To say kawaii or not to say kawaii? Almost half of Japanese guys don’t want to be “cute”

It’s no secret that Japan is seriously into cuteness. Accordingly, in most situations, deeming something kawaii, or cute, is seen as high praise.

This is especially true when it comes to women. Whereas in English-speaking countries some may take issue with what they perceive as a diminutive or demeaning connotation to the word “cute,” in Japan, calling a girl kawaii is almost universally considered a compliment. Even actresses and models who would ordinarily be described as “beautiful” by English speakers earn kawaii cred if they have a kind smile, or any other sort of soft warmth to the aura they project.

But while just about any Japanese woman is happy to be called kawaii, things aren’t quite so simple for men.

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Beautiful new luxury train for Ishikawa dazzles with gold leaf and lacquer interior

Beautiful new luxury train for Ishikawa dazzles with gold leaf and lacquer interior

For the past few decades, getting around Japan has been a snap using the extremely efficient rail network that crisscrosses the country. Even better, in just a few years, not only will you be able to go anywhere on the main island of Honshu by train, but you’ll be able to do it in style, thanks to luxurious new trains servicing the Chugoku, Kanto, and Tohoku regions.

Hokuriku, the part of Japan running along the central northern coast of Honshu, isn’t about to be left out though, and its upcoming train may be the most opulent of all, with an interior decorated with traditional lacquer and gold leaf.

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Does the way you cross your arms say anything about your personality? Japan thinks so

Does the way you cross your arms say anything about your personality? Japan thinks so

Everybody, go ahead and cross your arms right now. Done? Alright. Now, try to cross them the other way. If you’re currently crossed with right forearm on top, try to switch position so that your left forearm is on top. Feels incredibly awkward and unnatural, doesn’t it?

It turns out most people have a natural bias for arm-crossing direction, with slightly more than half of most global populations preferring the left-forearm-on-top approach, although the two preferences are basically 50-50. Some people apparently cross their arms either way without even thinking about it, although this population is exceedingly small.

So why do we humans find one way so natural and the other way so incredibly weird-feeling? It may have something to do with your psychological composition, according to the (admittedly somewhat unreliable) Japanese Internet.

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All-black chicken is the second most metal bird you’ll ever see

All-black chicken is the second most metal bird you’ll ever see

There’s something about the color black that gets people all kinds of excited. In many countries, it’s associated with bad omens, mystery, the supernatural, and even magic. But in the West, it’s most commonly associated with one thing only: METAL.

And so it is that in the eyes of Indonesians, the Ayam Cemani is a prized breed of pitch-black chicken that probably portends good luck or something, but to the Western eye, it’s the second most metal bird we’ve ever seen.

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