culture

Nintendo fan’s Super Mario kimono is an awesome mix of retro gaming and historical fashion

You could make the argument that Nintendo is the most “Japanese” of the major video game companies. Obviously that’s a label you can’t apply to Microsoft, but even compared to internationally focused Sony, with design studios and production teams all over the world, more of Nintendo’s products are developed domestically, and many in Kyoto, the quintessential Japanese city.

So it’s kind of ironic that the company’s best-known character, Mario, is Italian. Still, the video game hero is one of the best choices for a symbol of Japanese pop culture, and now he’s been combined with Japanese traditional culture in an awesome Mario kimono.

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Japanese mothers react to being called by their first names after years of just being “Mama”

It might sound strange, but in a lot of Japanese households, the use of first names tends to become increasingly rare after the arrival of children and grandchildren. Although plenty of parents in the western world will also refer to each other as “Mommy” or “Daddy” in an effort to help their newborn or toddler pick up the words, or sometimes just to be cute, a man calling his wife “Mama” or “Okaasan” even after their kids have long flown the nest is perfectly common in Japan.

But what happens when a husband suddenly starts calling his wife by her first name, just like when they first started dating or had not long been married? Japanese cosmetics company Pola recently conducted an experiment to find out how simply being called by their first name can affect the health and physical appearance of young women who have over the years come to be known simply as “Mama”.

Promo or not, the effect was surprisingly powerful.

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Travel back in time to the Sengoku Era at Sekigahara War Land

On October 21, 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu won the famous Battle of Sekigahara which secured his way to rule the shogunate of Japan.

Today, the battlefield where more than 200,000 people perished is but a remnant of ancient history. It is an ordinary town, and only the most maniacal of history buffs would show up to trace the roots of Sekigahara. However, in the center of that town, there is actually a ‘theme park’ where you can learn about history and the famous battle right where it took place, known as the somewhat awkwardly named “Learn! Play! The Immersive War Museum – Sekigahara War Land”.

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Popular old-school Japanese anime gets its own restaurant for adoring Chinese fans

Despite the increasingly obvious and alarm-inducing deterioration of the political relationship between Japan and China, it appears there’s one Japanese export the Chinese just can’t possibly bring themselves to boycott: Manga and anime.

Even at a time when the Chinese are openly fist-fighting other Chinese in the streets for the crime of choosing a Japanese car, manga and anime – especially, it seems, of the old-school variety – have pervaded Chinese pop culture to the point that it’s not only accepted to read it regularly, some Chinese business owners are going to great lengths to cash in on the popularity of Japan’s biggest pop cultural export.

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Of course Japan wants you to use the Oculus Rift to look up girls’ skirts

Today in the most unsurprising non-news possibly ever: Yes, Japan is working on yet another creepy, borderline pedophilic virtual reality “game” where you interact in new, sleazy ways with a possibly underage girl.

This time, the new program in question is an Oculus Rift (the newer DK2, of course) game where the goal is to blow into a microphone and upturn virtual reality hottie Hatsune Miku’s skirt with your comically powerful virtual breath.

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Soup not soap: Japanese public bathhouses surviving by converting into retro-chic cafés

Japan has been going through something of a hot spring renaissance over the past decade, but at the same time, things are tough for Japan’s other traditional venues for communal bathing, sento, or public bathhouses. Despite a recent uptick in their number of foreign customers, most Japanese have a pretty lukewarm reaction to the prospect of taking a soak with others if the water isn’t heated by geothermal sources.

For the current generation, a hot bath drawn from the tap is no longer a luxury nor something that necessitates leaving home for, and so sento have been shutting down around the country. But rather than close their doors for good, a few have converted their bathing facilities into dining spaces and been reborn as stylishly retro sento cafes.

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Expat’s video “Our Japan” beautifully captures why we love it here

What’s great about Japan? Glad you asked, since we’ve got the answer in long form right here.

But if you’re pressed for time, this amazing video, in a little under four and a half minutes, will give you a beautifully condensed version of what makes Japan so special.

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Fans take love of a certain anime character to creepy heights with real life birthday cakes, etc.

I remember one time I had a pet frog (I named it Cyrax because Mortal Kombat was big at the time. Also, robots are cool), and I went to great lengths to pamper it even though I knew, even in my tiny child brain, that my frog was a barely sentient creature that was only vaguely aware at best of some otherworldly giant hand reaching out to annoy it from time to time.

I’m able to relate this story to people without shame because a) I was a kid, and b) the frog was at least a real, tangible creature of some measurable amount of intelligence.

These super committed anime geeks, however, have no such excuse.

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Miyako-jima’s Paantu Festival: Traumatizing small children to bring them good luck

Say hello to your newest recurring nightmare, kids!

Held in Miyako-jima, one of the smallest of the Okinawa Islands, Paantu is a centuries-old festival which takes place during the ninth month of the Chinese calendar each year. During the festival, groups of men are elected to dress as the paantu, evil spirits covered from head to toe with mud and foliage, and are given the task of driving out demons and cleansing the island of bad luck.

Of course, like any good festival involving involving mud-covered monsters, this also means scaring the life out of small children…
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Tokyo’s sushi spirit shrine, where the souls of seafood slumber

The other day, I woke up and immediately had a craving for sushi. In and of itself, that’s not really anything remarkable, since “Man, I could really go for some good sushi,” is one of my first fully formed thoughts on just about any given morning.

Not one to deny my heart its truest desires, I headed to Tokyo’s Tsukiji, home of the world’s biggest seafood market and some of Japan’s best sushi restaurants. I ducked into one and polished off a bowl of sliced tuna and salmon, and, still wrapped in the lingering effects of my food coma, went for a rambling stroll around the neighborhood.

Since I wasn’t looking for food anymore, my eyes ended up being drawn to a shrine I’d never noticed before. I stepped onto the grounds, where I found a monument to the souls of all the fish whose lives supply Japan with sushi.

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Wow, literature is cute! Hiroshima library designs anime mascots for decimal classifications

Nowadays, whenever we want to access to the vast wealth of knowledge humanity has amassed, all we have to do check Google, Wikipedia, or the RocketNews24 search box. But long ago, you had to go to a place called a library.

With an Internet search engine you can just type in what you’re looking for, but simply scrawling, say, “history of feudal Japan” on the wall of the library will not only fail to provide you with the information you seek, it’ll probably get you thrown out of the building. Instead, you’ve got to utilize a system of numbers used to organize written works. While the U.S. has the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress Classifications, Japan has its own framework, called the Nippon Decimal Classification.

For modern youths, though, having to look up books by a numeric code feels extremely cumbersome and inefficient. So how do you get young readers excited about using the Nippon Decimal Classification? By anthropomorphizing it as a team of cute anime characters. , of course!

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Oh Boy, That’s Pretty Racist (Part Two): Japanese woman explains why Taiwanese girls suck

Earlier in our thankfully extremely sporadic series, “Oh Boy, That’s Pretty Racist,” we covered a Japanese “comedian” (I use this term loosely) who posted Vine videos as a poorly acclimated Indian guy living in Japan, complete with racist accent and affinity for curry, of course.

For our second installment, we have a Japanese woman living in Taiwan explaining the reasons people should choose Japanese women over Taiwanese women using broad cultural stereotypes that at best unfairly pigeonhole Taiwanese ladies, and at worst are outright false. Let’s take a look:

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Chinese man cleans up after his countrymen, single-handedly repairs Japan-China relations

If you’re an Apple fanboy living in Japan, you may have noticed – while waiting in a ridiculously long line for your latest gadget – that there was a huge number of Chinese nationals waiting in line along with you.

That’s because, for the last couple of years, heading out to other countries to buy up the latest Apple products and sell them for a profit back in China has become a popular pastime for China’s more enterprising scalpers.

But this year, when Apple stores unexpectedly sold out of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 + before lines could dissipate, things got a little out of hand with the remaining Chinese customers, who reportedly stormed at least one Tokyo-based Apple store and wrecked the place – in addition to leaving piles of garbage out on the streets. Which would not have gone down well had it not been for the actions of one man.

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Why does Japan have so many overhead power lines?

Something many visitors to Japan notice is the abundance of overhead power lines. Whether you’re in the suburbs, city center, or even rural communities, it’s rare to look up at the sky or towards the horizon without the view being crisscrossed by thick, black cables.

So why does Japan have so many above-ground power grids when so many other countries have gone subterranean? The easy answer is cost, but there’re also some purported advantages to stringing cables up on poles, and the country hasn’t quite reached a consensus on which is the better option.

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【TBT】The Lowdown on Japan’s Cosplay Industry

These days, cosplay functions as a 40 billion yen (US$390 million) industry and has a large impact on Japan’s economy. Now, before moving on, please allow me to clarify that ‘cosplay’ to Japan does not only refer to people dressing up as anime and video game characters, but includes all manner of live action, Western, original characters, nurses, maids, and so on. Virtually any costume worn for fun is considered cosplay over here. So what kinds of special services are available to avid cosplayers in Japan? And how are cosplayers themselves making the most out of this bountiful, infinitely tolerant environment? Read More

Survey reveals chance of marrying your first love in Japan, other romantic probabilities

In a lot of ways, romance is a toss of the dice. There’s a long checklist of items you want to be compatible on before making a relationship permanent and tying the knot, but you’ll cross the threshold for the initial spark long before that. The only way to know if the person you’re attracted to is legitimate marriage material is by going on dates and spending time together, and sometimes the potential we see early on doesn’t pan out, which is why so few people end up married to their junior high school sweetheart.

Of course, sometimes luck is on your side when you roll the bones, and for some people their first love is also their true one. A recent survey revealed just how often this happens in Japan, as well as a few other statistics about Japanese chances for love.

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Ordinarily-looking van gets transformed into amazing Japanese-style living room 【Video】

There are two paradigms you can aim for in designing a car. One is a great vehicle, accelerating, turning, and braking with speed and precision. The other is a great living or hotel room, with stylish interior appointments and spacious seating.

The owner of this van is obviously in the second camp, and has modified his ride so that it doesn’t look anything like a car on the inside, but rather a Japanese inn on wheels.

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Kamikiri, the amazing Japanese art of paper cutting mastered by Akira Nagaya【Photos】

Earlier this month, we talked about Japanese artist Akira Nagaya. An expert in kamikiri, the art of crafting intricate paper cutouts, Nagaya first caught our eye with his takes on classic anime icons such as Totoro, Son Goku, and Pikachu.

Japanese animation isn’t Nagaya’s only inspiration, as we can see in his other creations that capture the delicate beauty of nature and the changing of the seasons.

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Invasion of the moon rabbits: the delicious tradition of otsukimi 【Photos】

If you happened to be in Japan this week, you may have noticed rather a lot of rabbit-themed goods, particularly sweets. Not to worry, the Japanese haven’t gotten their dates for Easter spectacularly wrong, these lapine lovelies are part of otsukimi, a tradition celebrating the harvest moon.

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You can rest your chopsticks on a lot of different things in Japan

Sitting down to a traditional Japanese meal is made even more special by those little sticks you’ll have to manipulate to get the food to your mouth. However, for fork-loving westerners, using chopsticks, or hashi as they’re called in Japanese, can be downright frustrating when all you want to do is sample the local cuisine, not wear it on your shirt. But while you’re skewering your tempura and twirling your udon (PS – don’t do that), be sure to take a few seconds to appreciate that little tool propping up your hashi. From simple to completely bizarre, there’s a chopstick rest to suit any style in Japan.

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