culture

Itami-kawaii: Cute gets depressing, inspires Japanese Twitter users

Perhaps one of the first words Japanese language-learners pick up is “kawaii,” which makes sense considering how often you’ll hear it in everything from TV shows and anime to a stroll down Takeshita-dōri. However, “kawaii” isn’t just “kawaii” anymore–there’s also kimo-kawaii (“gross but cute”), among others.

And now there’s a new kawaii that’s spreading through the Japanese Twitterverse: Itami-kawaii, or “painful but cute.” It might be hard to visualize, so check out some pictures below and get ready to groan “kawaiiiiiii” in agony.

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“Wotagei” otaku dance style made “cool” with choreographed dance remix of pop song

If you’ve been reading RocketNews24 for a while – or are yourself a mega otaku – you probably already know that “Wotagei” (or sometimes “Otagei”) is a type of dance style performed almost exclusively by “Idol Otaku,” or otaku who are specifically really into girl idol bands.

It’s generally seen as a niche oddity by the Japanese public and even less-hardcore otaku, as evidenced by the fact that even I only understood about half of the above paragraph even as I typed it and I write about this stuff for a living.

But, take heart, all you idol otaku – your time in the limelight may have come, as a cool choreographed Wotagei performance is making the rounds and entrancing the Japanese Interwebs.

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The top 10 rural regions of Japan that Tokyo residents would like to move to

There’s a widespread belief in Japan that if you want to achieve educational or economic success, you come to Tokyo. As a matter of fact, it’s such a common move that Japanese even has a verb for it, joukyou, or to “move on up to the capital.”

But for some people, always-lively Tokyo is just too bustling. It’s not just the elderly who feel the appeal of a rustic lifestyle, either. Even some residents in their 20s find themselves wanting to move away from the constant hum of the big city, and a recent survey reveals the top 10 rural regions of Japan that Tokyoites would like to move to.

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Competitive zen garden-building board game looks awesome, despite conflicting themes

The Zen garden is probably just as important a Japanese cultural export as geisha and sumo. While Zen gardens are certainly less conspicuous than the other two – the whole point of them being to encourage relaxation and personal reflection and all – they’ve arguably had a bigger cultural impact abroad. A lot of major cities, like Chicago, feature carefully curated Zen gardens, after all, but when’s the last time you saw the local sumo club practicing in Central Park?

Westerners appreciate the more subdued, meditative qualities of “old Japan” culture, even though they wish they could find some way to appreciate it while also earning bragging rights by kicking their friends asses’ in a game of wits. That’s why we can’t wait to get our hands on this strange but awesome-looking competitive Zen garden-building board game.

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Cats in places they shouldn’t be, humans and spirits just have to deal【Photos】

If it’s worth saying once, it’s worth repeating hundreds of times over, cats own everything. It doesn’t matter what an object’s original purpose was, or who it was built for, because according to the cat, it was built for them.

It’s said that cats are also spiritual animals, that they can see spirits and beings that we humans can’t. Which is why, when you think about it, a cat moving into a shrine set up specifically for spirits, doesn’t makes a lot of sense. Because if cats can communicate with the other world, wouldn’t the two of them have a debate over who is the main tenant?

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Expats give their opinions on Chinglish, China’s garbled English translations 【Photos】

We’ve talked before about Engrish, the often humorously garbled form of English that peppers products and signage in Japan. The phenomenon isn’t unique to Japan, though, as the expat community in China also often comes across similar blunders, which the local community sometimes refers to as Chinglish.

But are these botched translations a sign of callous disrespect, or the end result of earnest effort coupled with sub-par linguistic skills? That was the question put to users of China Daily’s Internet forum, and here’s what a few had to say.

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Tokyo art museum to hold exhibition on the links between anime, video games, and Japanese society

Over the past quarter century, manga, anime, and video games have surpassed their former status as nice hobbies. Not only have all three become extremely lucrative industries, they’ve now been such integrated parts of popular youth culture for long enough to have had a significant influence on a large portion of Japan’s adult population, too.

With that in mind, one of Tokyo’s most prestigious art museums has announced an upcoming exhibition that examines the way comics, animation, and games have been affected by, and in turn have affected, Japanese society over the past 25 years.

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This 300-meter water slide is set to unfold in Japan this Golden Week

Many of you might have fond memories of summers spent cooling off on a backyard water slide (and possibly not-so-fond memories of friction burns). But surely a few daredevils were always left wondering, “Is that it?” as they landed in the splash pool. Enter Slide the City, the ultimate in childhood wish-fulfillment. The people of Japan will soon have a chance to experience the enormous water slide for themselves when it opens on Golden Week, a run of consecutive public holidays which this year begins on April 29.

As seen in the screenshot above, the slide spans at least a couple of blocks, measuring a whopping 300 meters, and makes good on its name by running through the heart of various urban locations. As such, it’s not hard to see why the July 2014 unveiling in Salt Lake City was such a success, with some 6,000 people participating in the event.

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The most annoying people you’ll meet at a Japanese fitness gym, illustrated (badly) 【Pics】

Before we even get into this, there’s something I have to say in the interest of full disclosure: I’m a bit of a gym rat and I have more than a little bit of a bone to pick with Japanese gym etiquette, so apologies if I sound a little harsh or gripe-y, and/or you feel the strong wind of me chucking dumbbells in frustration throughout this article.

Having experienced the joy and wonder of numerous American gyms – often 24 hours, never too crowded, always sprawling and well-equipped, cheap and usually never exceeding more than two elderly men gleefully prancing naked through the locker room at any one time – you can imagine the soul crushing disappointment I felt upon coming to Japan and realizing that even the best gyms routinely exceed US$150 a month to use, rarely stock all the equipment you’ll need, and are generally populated exclusively by old dudes who spend 10 minutes chatting up their buddies while sitting on the only bench in the place, and the rest of their “workout” enthusiastically blow-drying their testicles in the locker room.

The only small consolation I have is that, apparently, one of the gym-frequenting writers at Japanese sister site is similarly miffed by the myriad annoyances of Japanese gyms… and he’s even been kind enough to sit down and badly sketch out all the craziest folks who’re likely to ruin your workout:

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“Dogs out! Luck In!” These cosplaying pooches are the cutest Setsubun “oni” you’ll ever see

While North America has its silly Groundhog’s Day festivities on February 2, Japan counters with even sillier Setsubun celebrations on February 3. 

Festivities take place at temples, shrines and family homes. Usually the oldest male in the house puts on an oni (ogre or demon) mask and the rest of the people throw fukumame, literally “fortune beans” but really just dried soy beans, at them, then slam the door in the oni‘s big red face, while shouting “Demons out! Luck in!” to ceremonially expel demons from their homes and welcome good fortune for the coming year.

Some Japanese dog owners altered the celebrations a little this year, making their dogs the oni and thus creating the cutest little “demons” you’ll ever see. 

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Russian beauty talks about troubles foreigners face when first moving to Japan 【Video】

Japan attracts foreigners of all kinds and people decide to come here for all sorts of different reasons. But, as with any culture different from one’s own, there can be some aspects of Japanese culture that are hard for foreigners to wrap their heads around or get used to, such as deciding if you should help a crying girl.

Ashiya, a beautiful Russian expat, recently shared some of her difficulties upon coming to Japan on her YouTube channel*. We have a feeling that these will strike a chord with many other expats and internationalists interested in Japan as well, Russian or not.

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Beautiful works by French street artist disappear from Shanghai demolition site

Street art, whether it draws criticism or praise, is widely ephemeral in nature. After appearing overnight on a blank wall or beside a forgotten drainpipe, once it makes its début in a public space, street art belongs to the community and the elements, where it’s free to be defaced, altered or torn away at any given moment.

The fleeting beauty of the art form was seen in Shanghai recently, where a number of large-scale murals by French street artist Julien Malland were destroyed almost as soon as they were discovered. Join us as we take a look at the before and after photos of some of his beautiful works, now gone but captured forever on camera.

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Yoro shisetsu: Japan’s progressive joint care centers where kids and seniors interact

Not so long ago, the norm in Japanese society was for the husband to work and the mother to stay at home to take care of the children. After retirement, should the couple become too old to care for themselves, they would generally move in with their youngest son, whose wife would take on the responsibility of looking after them along with her own children.

These days, though, families are getting smaller, and more mothers are working outside the home. As such, the numbers of both senior centers and daycare providers are on the rise. But rather than keep their two groups of charges separate, some facilities are giving them opportunities to mingle in something called yoro shisetsu, institutions where the very young and elderly interact and share experiences that let them both see that the beauty of life has neither a minimum age nor an expiration date.

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Around Japan in 47 rice balls: Mr. Sato buys each prefecture’s musubi all from one Tokyo shop

Although Japan lacks ethnic diversity, it seems to more than make up for it in diversity of cuisine. Although the overarching recipes of Japanese foods can be found everywhere, you’d be surprised and how diverse the differences can be from region to region. Having your New Year’s soup in Okayama Prefecture may be quite different from Akita Prefecture’s offering. Even purchasing oden from a chain like 7-Eleven will produce different results if it’s from Osaka or Tokyo.

This is also true of another of Japan’s standard foods: rice balls also known as onigiri or musubi. To taste all the unique variations Japan has to offer, one must be a seasoned traveler, or they could just go to Momochi, a shop which offers a taste of all 47 prefectures straight from the counter. Our own Mr. Sato, eager to taste of these deliciously distinct snacks, visited Momochi to sample one of each.

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Power of soybeans turns Bean-Throwing Festival into sexy action flick in awesome commercial

Despite being centuries-old, the core traditions of Setsubun can seem as silly as its common English rendering, The Bean-Throwing Festival. Once a year in early February, households across Japan toss roasted soybeans outside their doors, with folklore saying the practice will ensure prosperity for the next 12 months by driving off the ogre-like creatures called oni.

Perhaps the oddest thing is the way the oni are depicted in illustrations and popular culture. Generally obese and clumsy, they seem to present little if any threat, and the fact that they can be undone by a scattering of legumes doesn’t do anything to help them win street cred, either.

But what if the oni improved their eating habits and started hitting the gym? Would that make them terrifying once again? Maybe, but it also just might make them dead sexy, as shown in this stylish Japanese ad.

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Chinese netizens left reeling after father of slain Japanese hostage apologizes to the public

You’re no doubt aware of the (at time of writing) ongoing hostage crisis that has swept Japan, Jordan and those country’s allies up in a tense political chess match as representatives attempt to negotiate with the fundamentalist Islamic militant group ISIS for the release of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot and a Japanese war journalist Kenji Goto. The crisis has certainly been nerve-wracking and immeasurably scary for those with ties to the hostages.

But, for Chinese netizens, something far scarier happened a few days ago.

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Got a question for Haruki Murakami? Website lets you ask the author directly, and in English, too

Earlier this month, we talked about a piece of not-so-helpful advice celebrated author Haruki Murakami gave to a fan about what makes a great writer. Murakami just his write-in website this month, though, and given that he’s sort of new at dishing out direct advice to his admirers, maybe we should cut him a little slack while he’s still getting the hang of it.

Then again, we’re not sure even the most experienced advice columnists could come up with considerate and helpful responses to some of the oddball questions Murakami has been getting. Thankfully, even if he can’t always help out those who write to him, he can at least give a laugh to everyone else who reads his responses. Even better, if you act quickly, you could ask him a question of your own, even if you don’t speak Japanese.

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“If you are eating chocolate, how do you know where to stop?” – Being Black in China 【Video】

The folks from YouTube channel TMD Shanghai are back with yet another quirky observational video about life in China. After nailing the differences between girls in the north and those in the south and mercilessly sending up both single white and Chinese men, this time they’re here to talk about what it’s like to be black in China with a video titled, well, Being Black in China.

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The City of Angels is now the City of Samurai with Los Angeles museum’s awesome armor exhibition

Like clockwork, every winter I get a serious bout of home-sickness. It’s usually triggered by a call or email from someone back home telling me about taking a drive with the top down, watching football on ordinary broadcast TV, going out for some Vietnamese sandwiches, or one of the other things I miss about life in Los Angeles.

“But,” I remind myself, “Japan has lots of cool things too! Where else can you go to the museum and see massive collections of samurai armor, huh?”

Oh, right now you can do that at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art? Touché, L.A.

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Japanese village converted into gorgeous open-air museum makes an easy day-trip escape from Tokyo

There’s a lot to love about Tokyo. Aside from the sheer energy of being the most bustling metropolis in Japan, it’s home to some amazing modern attractions, like the Skytree, Ebisu Beer Museum, and RocketNews24 offices.

Still, even we can appreciate the occasional longing for a simpler, slower-paced time. Thankfully, even if you don’t have a time machine, as long as you have access to the capital’s outstanding public transportation network, you can catch a glimpse of Japan’s traditional rural lifestyle at this beautiful open-air museum of thatched-roof houses that’s an easy half-day trip from Tokyo.

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