culture

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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Photo collection shows Chinese families with everything they own

Photo collection shows Chinese families with everything they own

If you’ve ever travelled light for an extended amount of time, you’ve probably been surprised at just how little we really need to get by. While it’s easy to get carried away on the waves of consumerism and caught up in the throes of the technological age, it’s just clothes, some food and a roof over our head that’s really on our list of basic needs for survival.

One photographer in China has been challenging people to consider their own lifestyles and necessities with a thought-provoking series of photos of Chinese households. By photographing people surrounded by their belongings, these pictures seem to ask the question, “What do you need to survive?” and “What makes for a happier household: some company and the basic essentials or a modern lifestyle full of slick and shiny extras?”

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Japanese women share 10 reasons why they take so (so, so) long in the bathroom

Japanese women share 10 reasons why they take so (so, so) long in the bathroom

It’s a question that has tormented men for generations. As we wait outside the bathroom dying for a pee or needing to shower, shave, or brush our teeth; as we sit alone in restaurants busying ourselves with our mobile phones, worried that people will think our dates have simply given up on us and gone home; as we stand around shopping malls holding shopping bags while our wives, girlfriends, or female friends “run to the restroom for a second” and are nowhere to be seen for what seems like aeons, the question on our minds is always the same: What, in the name of sweet baby Jesus and his shepherd pals, are women doing in the bathroom that could possibly take so, so long?

Finally, we have some answers in the form of a series of 10 surprisingly frank quotes direct from the women of Japan, as gathered by popular Japanese website Naver Matome. If you’ve ever wondered why girls spend so long in the bathroom, this may prove to be enlightening reading.

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Karate dojo students practice under freezing waterfall… in the middle of winter

Karate dojo students practice under freezing waterfall… in the middle of winter

Karate has always been one of those martial arts forms that never really had much appeal to me. The idea of repeating the same kata routines – with names like “Black Dragon Karate Chops 20 Weasels at Midnight” or whatever – to commit the moves to muscle memory always seemed kind of boring and counter-intuitive to me.

And now, upon learning that at least one school has students train half naked, in freezing water, in the dead of winter, I’m even less inclined to try the sport. I’d rather go four rounds in the Octagon with Brock Lesnar.

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The differences between people in Kansai’s most famous cities, as told by Buddhist Gods

The differences between people in Kansai’s most famous cities, as told by Buddhist Gods

As in most countries, the Japanese tend to generalize the personalities of people who come from certain regions. Just like you can easily tell the difference between a Californian and a New Yorker, not just by accent but by general attitude and overall vibe, the Japanese have long held that you can spot an Osaka native in Tokyo from a mile away and vice versa.

Tokyoites, according to Japanese in other regions, are kind enough but are always busy and therefore have little time to spare for passing strangers. The people of Kansai, on the other hand, are said to be a lively bunch – more openly friendly if cantankerous than the rest of their countrymen.

But did you know that, in Kansai especially, overall personality changes city to city? Don’t take our word for it, just ask these Buddhist Gods:

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Ironically, this video of a typical Japanese breakfast doesn’t show one

Ironically, this video of a typical Japanese breakfast doesn’t show one

There’s a certain mystery about what different countries have for breakfast. Most people’s contact with the eating habits of other nations comes from dining out, so as long as you’ve got a Japanese restaurant near where you live, you don’t necessarily need to fly to Tokyo to see what a typical lunch or dinner looks like.

Unless you grew up in a culture, though, you might not have had the chance to see what the locals eat for their first meal of the day though. We recently came across a video that aims to shed a little light on the subject, and while we’re intrigued by the premise, they sort of dropped the ball on what Japan eats at breakfast.

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Things to put on your resume: college attended, previous work experience, favorite pop idol

Things to put on your resume: college attended, previous work experience, favorite pop idol

Job hunting is a concentrated, intense process in Japan. In general, major companies all do their recruiting during the same, single stretch of the year, which runs through winter and early spring. Most college students try to line up a job roughly a year before graduation, and those who fail to have a doubly difficult road ahead, as not only will they have to wait a year to try again, being a year or more older than other candidates is considered a black mark against an individual.

With so much pressure on them, job hunters should be happy to learn of what may be a new secret weapon they can implement in trying to land their dream job: make it completely clear that they love idol singers.

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Japan’s top 20 flowery names for baby girls: love, hearts, and dreams

Japan’s top 20 flowery names for baby girls: love, hearts, and dreams

In many English-speaking countries, it’s common to name children after a parent or relative. My dad, oldest brother, and nephew all share the same first name, for example, which provides a link through the generations, plus makes it easy for my mom to simultaneously call them for dinner.

This isn’t really done in Japan, though, and not being tethered to the past means that baby name trends can gather or lose momentum quickly. Recently, Japan is seeing more and more kirakira names. Kirakira literally means “sparkly,” and usually either the combination of kanji characters used to write the name, or the pronunciation itself, is flowery and unique.

But as a list of the top 20 for girls shows, kirakira names aren’t always just flashy, sometimes they’re downright sweet.

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55-foot tall statue of Buddhist goddess of mercy could be yours for just 10 bucks

55-foot tall statue of Buddhist goddess of mercy could be yours for just 10 bucks

For the most part, Japan isn’t really sold on the idea that bigger is better. Sure, you can find giant parfaits and monstrous sashimi bowls, but that’s to be expected, since saying you’d rather have less of either is a sure-fire way to blow your cover to the human resistance that you’re secretly one of their killbot overlords in disguise.

Artistically speaking, though, the generally preferred aesthetic is graceful understatement, which doesn’t really necessitate ostentatious scale. The one major exception to this, however, is images of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion.

Giant-sized statues of Kannon can be found at a number of locations in Japan, and now, if you’re lucky enough, you could own one for less than 1,000 yen.

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