culture

Eight Japanese words we’d love to import into English

Eight Japanese words we’d love to import into English

Recently, we talked about how Japanese, while a tough language to learn, isn’t quite as difficult as some horror stories make it out to be. Still, if English is your native language, certain Japanese grammar rules, like saying “wa” and “o” to mark the subject and object of your sentences, can seem like a major hassle.

With practice, though, these things start to become automatic. Even better, the Japanese language is filled with incredibly handy phrases that we’d love to import into English.

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Five reasons nerds make great boyfriends: Japan’s geeky otaku list their pros

Five reasons nerds make great boyfriends: Japan’s geeky otaku list their pros

As cultural attitudes continue to evolve in Japan, some groups that have spent decades being socially ostracized are finally seeing the tides turn in their favor. For example, while the covers of most men’s fashion magazines are still plastered with photos of incredibly slender guys, the country has recently been showing some love for heavyset males as well.

One demographic that still tends to have a hard time landing a date, though, are the otaku, Japan’s catch-all term for obsessive fans of anime, video games, computers, and anything traditionally geeky. But could the popular image of otaku as the bottom feeders of the dating pool be a case of women overlooking their hidden merits as boyfriend material?

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Beautiful woman doing things: Unsettling art created by unexpected artist

Beautiful woman doing things: Unsettling art created by unexpected artist

Some of the best-yet-unsettling art in the world has often been created by male artists: be it Hemingway’s subtly disturbing short story, “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn,” the dark and surreal yarns of Cormac McCarthy (We hear reading Blood Meridian automatically qualifies you as suffering from PTSD), or the insidiously impossible physics of Dalí paintings, whenever we view somewhat disturbing artistic works, we tend to assume the author is a man.

So, you’d be forgiven for thinking the drawing below comes from a male artist with a particularly tormented past:

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7 things that surprise a visitor to Laos 【Photos】

7 things that surprise a visitor to Laos 【Photos】

If you are visiting Laos, this is probably not your first rodeo in Asia, so I’ll skip the squat toilets and fleets of bicycles and get to seven things that this little SE Asian gem has to surprise even seasoned travelers.

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Divine prevention – Japan using Shinto symbols to combat litter and public peeing

Divine prevention – Japan using Shinto symbols to combat litter and public peeing

One of the trickier questions to answer about Japan is whether or not it’s a religious society. On one hand, the ideas of daily prayer, weekly visits to a temple, or consulting religious texts or advisors in times of personal crisis are about as foreign to most Japanese people as playing a game of cricket or eating a plate of grits and gravy.

Still, spiritualism is a big part of life in Japan. Most visitors to a shrine might not spend more than a few seconds reflecting on their place in the universe, but they’ll still toss a coin into the collection box in hope of pleasing the deity said to make its home there. Even as many Japanese people claim to have no religion, most homes include an alter with a place to hang photos of deceased relatives and offer incense.

The vagaries of theology in Japan are now being turned to in an effort to curb a growing problem in many neighborhoods, as people are putting up small versions of the torii gates that mark Shinto shrines to prevent people from illegally dumping waste, whether produced by their lifestyles or bodies.

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You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…

You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…

So you’ve been living, lounging, working, or studying in Japan for a while now. The feelings of homesickness you first experienced are but a distant memory, and whenever you Skype with your family, you unconsciously use the word “home” to refer to your place in Japan rather than your home country. Not only that, you can finally navigate the Tokyo Metro without getting flustered, barely even notice when a girl dressed in kimono passes you in the street, and you think nothing of visiting a convenience store two or three times a day, sometimes just to flick through the magazines.

But what about all of the things you do unconsciously or that seem so normal to you now but would make you stop and stare back home? Today, we bring you a list of 10 moments that, if and when they happen to you, you can safely say, “Wow, I’ve been in Japan too long.”

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Four ways Japanese isn’t the hardest language to learn

Four ways Japanese isn’t the hardest language to learn

It seems whenever a list of the most difficult languages to learn is released, Japanese sits near or at the top. We can see why, as the language does have quirks and peculiarities that can occasionally make you wonder how anyone, even native speakers, manage to communicate with each other in Japanese.

If we’re being completely honest, we’d love to use one hand to pat ourselves on the back for our Japanese/English bilingual capabilities, while using the other to pat ourselves for surviving in what some are calling the most dangerous country on earth. But that would tie up both hands and we’d be unable to write this article. So instead, today we’re going to explain four ways learning Japanese isn’t nearly as bad as some other languages.

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“Sausage bread boys” – The heavy-set men set to become Japan’s most eligible bachelors

“Sausage bread boys” – The heavy-set men set to become Japan’s most eligible bachelors

For the past several years, the three most fashionably ideal body types in Japan have been ‘slim,’ ‘slender,’ and ‘easily tossed about by a light spring breeze.’ And while like most societies, Japan generally casts a sterner eye on women than men with a higher than average body-fat percentage, this “skinny is best” mentality has largely applied to males as well, as any guy who’s tried on a pair of pants at a fashionable Tokyo retailer can attest to.

Recently, though, a shift seems to be occurring, with a rise in popularity of heavier women who have been dubbed “marshmallow girls,” who’ve even formed an idol singer unit now and won legions of fans.

Next, it seems like Japan might be poised to show some big love for big guys, with one magazine heralding the upcoming age of what it’s calling “sausage bread boys.”

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The top overpriced products in Japan

The top overpriced products in Japan

Tokyo and its big city cousin to the south, Osaka, are consistently voted among the most expensive places in the world in international polls. Japan in general is notorious for its high prices, prompting many potential visitors to choose a different, more cost-effective destination. Sure, from an outside perspective, prices in Japan are more than most are used to, but what do those who actually live there think? Japanese website, Ameba News, asked 570 working Japanese adults to name any products they felt weren’t priced correctly, whether too expensive or too cheap. The results may surprised you.

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“Business Nail” – the latest trend among young Japanese businessmen looking to get ahead

“Business Nail” – the latest trend among young Japanese businessmen looking to get ahead

In a country where concepts like uniformity and social cohesion are praised from kindergarten to retirement, and where those who seek out their own paths are considered quirky at best and troublesome renegades at worst, it is difficult for young professionals in Japan to stand out and make a name for themselves. For men especially, who more often than not must don the same black suit, white shirt and neutral-coloured necktie combo as their millions of peers, it’s easy to become just another face in the commuter crowd.

But a new generation of young businessmen has recently started bucking social trends in order to do precisely what they were always discouraged from: stand out and get noticed. Known as bijinesu neiru (“business nail”), thousands of men working in industries from pharmaceuticals to video game design are now paying hundreds of dollars a week to have their fingernails prettied up with gemstones, pastel-pinks, hearts and even company logos, with many claiming that, since getting their nails done, they have been rewarded with pay rises and promotions, and now have more friends and lovers than they could ever have dreamed.

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Step aside, Hachiko! Yamaguchi’s Cat Temple offers a samurai tale of feline fealty

Step aside, Hachiko! Yamaguchi’s Cat Temple offers a samurai tale of feline fealty

Nearly every guide book for Japan mentions Hachiko, the dog who patiently waited every day for nine years in the 1920s and ‘30s in front of Shibuya Station for his master to come home, never knowing that the man had passed away at the office. It’s a touching story of devotion, and one so well-known Hachiko now has his own statue near his waiting spot.

However, some argue that Hachiko didn’t come to the station every day because he was hoping for his master to return, but because of the free handouts of food he got once he became a local celebrity. Could it be that the friendly pooch actually isn’t the epitome of animal-human loyalty?

Maybe that title would be a better fit for a cat that lived hundreds of years before Hachiko was even born, and displayed such fealty to its samurai master that its entire species is honored at their own Cat Temple.

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Japan’s convenience stores adapt to their traditional surroundings like cultural chameleons

Japan’s convenience stores adapt to their traditional surroundings like cultural chameleons

When I lived in America, I bought something in a convenience store maybe once a month. There just wasn’t much I needed there, since the selection of beer was usually small and expensive, and no matter how hungry I was, letting my body break down its own tissues for sustenance was always a more appealing option than the greasy hot dogs and congealed nachos sold there.

In Japan, though, I can’t keep track of how often I stop into a 7-11 or Family Mart. The fact that most people do their shopping on foot means convenience stores here are more like miniature supermarkets, supplying basic groceries, tasty prepared foods, and other necessities.

Of course, the high demand for convenience stores in Japan means that sometimes they get built in areas of historical or cultural significance, in which case they have to be redesigned to fit in with the historical ambiance.

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Samurai grooming tips that kept Japan’s warriors looking their bushido best

Samurai grooming tips that kept Japan’s warriors looking their bushido best

A couple of weeks ago, we shared some historical photos of Japan’s most attractive samurai. Sure, with the arsenal of specialized soaps, lotions, and multi-bladed, razors available these days, it’s not unusual to find handsome models, movies stars, and Internet writers. But how did these guys manage to look so good without all these modern luxuries?

It turns out that along with sword fighting and horseback archery, a strict grooming routine has long been part of the samurai tradition.

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“Denki Anma”: The Japanese traditional torment that you’ll be glad stays in Japan

“Denki Anma”: The Japanese traditional torment that you’ll be glad stays in Japan

Kids find all kinds of ways to playfully bully each other that adults might shake their heads at. In the West, this might manifest as little mean-spirited pranks like nipple twisters, convincing a kid to eat a whole tube of toothpaste, or to run up and touch the creepy cat lady’s house in the middle of the night.

But Japanese kids tend to take a more sexually charged approach. We’ve already talked about the intricacies of the infamous kancho – that mighty, two-handed violation of someone’s hind quarters that happens to every westerner at least once and lingers in their psyche for decades, yet the Japanese shrug it off as just another schoolhouse (or workplace) prank.

But one you may not have heard about is the long-standing tradition of the “Denki Anma.”

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Find your Finnish name with the Finn generator

Find your Finnish name with the Finn generator

When it comes to Finland, there’s no shortage of opportunities for getting acquainted in Japan’s capital of Tokyo. From cafes where you can chow down with cute, stuffed Moomin characters created by a famous Swede-Finn, to Finland’s top doughnut chain, Arnold’s, and Karhhu, Finland’s number one beer, it’s easy for Tokyoites to take their taste buds for a dip in Nordic cuisine.

Now, people in Japan have found a new way to get acquainted with Finnish culture with the introduction of a clever little name generator from VisitFinland.com. Simply enter your name and within seconds you’re bestowed with the Finnish version, complete with a full explanation of the meaning behind your new name. We translated some well-known names and found they were connected to the wild nature of Lapland and mysterious tales of forest kings. 

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Chinese census finds hard facts about the differences between Chinese, Japanese and Koreans

Chinese census finds hard facts about the differences between Chinese, Japanese and Koreans

Despite tons of cultural similarities, the people of East Asia’s top three superpowers – Japan, China and Korea – are a wildly different bunch. Not only on a superficial level like clothing choices and which David Bowie song they prefer to sing at karaoke, but also on a deeper and more fundamental level; people in all three countries vary wildly in things like height, education levels and even sexual satisfaction.

According to a new census conducted by a Chinese newsgroup recently, anyway. Here are some of their findings:

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Japan now has so many 30-year-old virgins its language needs a new slang term for them

Japan now has so many 30-year-old virgins its language needs a new slang term for them

Japan’s birth rate has been dropping for decades now, and while it’s possible the demographic shift is a result of couples just getting that much better at using contraceptives, you have to allow for the possibility that fewer babies is due to fewer couples doing the deed.

Lending further credibility to this explanation is the fact that the proportion of Japanese men in their 30s who still have their virginity has gotten so high that society has coined a new slang term to describe them: yaramiso.

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Indian restaurant’s unique interior appointment: corpse-containing coffins 【Video】

Indian restaurant’s unique interior appointment: corpse-containing coffins 【Video】

As with any business venture, the key to running a successful restaurant is to differentiate your establishment from its competitors. Earlier this month, for example, we talked about a pub in Kyushu called Sacrifice that accomplished this by filling its interior with creepy mannequins and props that would be right at home in any horror movie.

But for those of you who take issue with the inauthenticity of Sacrifice’s fake corpses and skeletons, might we offer this alternative: a restaurant in India where diners sit among coffins with centuries-old bodies inside.

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Japanese schoolgirls celebrate birthdays like the Three Stooges with confectionaries to the face

Japanese schoolgirls celebrate birthdays like the Three Stooges with confectionaries to the face

Some of my cousins have a tradition where on their kids’ first birthday, they have two cakes. There’s a normal-sized one the whole family shares, but also a mini cake that they put in front of the tyke in his highchair for him to eat with his hands.

Cake being one of the few universally loved foods, the kid enjoys it, and the adults get a cute photo, plus a chuckle and a smile from the infant’s inherent innocence. But I always wondered, wouldn’t it be more fun to do that when you’re at an age where you can remember it?

Of course, most people old enough to not need diapers anymore would feel too self-conscious to celebrate their birthday with this kind of bare-handed confectionary decadence. So recently some Japanese high school girls, are taking it upon themselves to forcefully cram some sweets into their friends’ faces.

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Top Asian delicacies that many consider kind of gross

Top Asian delicacies that many consider kind of gross

One of the top tourism draws around much of Asia is all the adventurous eating. East Asian countries in particular all seem to have a plethora of extreme foods that you’d never be able to get back home. These dishes run the gamut from super spicy to super sweet, may have gooey but oddly pleasant textures, or may come from some animal you’ve never heard of.

Most of the time, while exotic and possibly a little off-putting in appearance, these quirky dishes taste great. But then there are other so-called “delicacies” that a lot of locals won’t even go near, let alone doe-eyed tourists. So put down that burrito; you won’t be needing (or wanting) it, because here’s a list of stomach-churning delicacies from around East Asia:

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