culture

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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Why doesn’t Japan like first-person shooters? Old characters and World War II, says Sega exec

Why doesn’t Japan like first-person shooters? Old characters and World War II, says Sega exec

Not so long ago, Japanese developers absolutely dominated the console video game market. As time went on, though, developers from other nations started chipping away at that massive market share, particularly as consoles and PCs become more similar to each other in performance profiles.

In particular, Japanese studios haven’t responded to consumer demand for first-person shooters. Franchises such as Electronic Arts’ Battlefield and Activion’s Call of Duty are practically a license to print money, with incremental, near-annual updates that open the floodgates on huge revenue streams for their publishers.

But could the reason Japanese video game makers haven’t embraced the first-person shooter have something to do with Japan’s history?

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The power of the Japanese schoolgirl outfit is so miraculous it can create food

The power of the Japanese schoolgirl outfit is so miraculous it can create food

On a recent trip back home to Los Angeles, I was going through the closet in my old room when I came across the jersey I wore back when I played football. While I don’t expect to have a chance to play the sport anytime soon, I still couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. It’s one of the few mementos from my student days, and even if I’m never going to wear it again, there’s too much sentimental value for me to just get rid of it.

Many Japanese adults feel the same way about their school uniforms, hanging onto the clothes they wore day in and day out long after graduation. The outfit can serve as a humble reminder of where you came from, or a nostalgic pick-me-up when you’re feeling down.

Or, if you’re a woman, your old school uniform can also be your ticket to a free meal.

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Gargling to prevent colds – Just an old Japanese wives’ tale?

Gargling to prevent colds – Just an old Japanese wives’ tale?

When I was a college student doing homestay in Tokyo, I mentioned to my host mother one day that some if my classmates had been passing a cold around, and I hoped I wouldn’t catch it too. “Oh, you should gargle,” she told me.

I was a little skeptic, and not just because she had previously told me that there was a pressure point in my ring finger that would make me feel warm during the winter, which she demonstrated by squeezing it with all her might (it worked in the sense that pain produces a sensation similar to heat). I’d never heard of the theory that just gargling, even with ordinary tap water, would keep you from catching a cold, but it turns out this is a pretty common belief in Japan, which some researchers say is scientifically sound.

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5 reasons foreigners find it hard to become friends with Japanese people

5 reasons foreigners find it hard to become friends with Japanese people

With all the controversy surrounding a recent “racist” All Nippon Airlines ad, the Japanese and Western media have both been abuzz with the question of whether foreign people can ever truly become respected Japanese citizens – accepted by their community and deemed worthy of the right to not be the recipient of extraordinary treatment.

But this conversation has been going on a long, long time in the expat community in Japan, with a lot of otherwise Japanophile foreigners finding it hard to befriend the Japanese on a higher-than-acquaintance level. Why? Well, frequent source of opinion and cultural commentary Madame Riri has compiled a few of the reasons:

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Which manga heroines do Japanese comic fans wish they could be?

Which manga heroines do Japanese comic fans wish they could be?

A complaint commonly lobbed against manga made for young men is that the main character is just a blank slate for the reader to project himself onto, allowing him to vicariously live out his fantasies. That may be oversimplifying things quite a bit, but it’s also hard to deny that many male Japanese comic heroes possess three traits that men almost universally aspire to, namely being strong, cool, and surrounded by women in incredibly short skirts.

But what about women who are manga fans? If given the chance, which female character would they like to be?

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New ultra-stylish, extra-traditional Shinkansen has tatami floors, foot baths

New ultra-stylish, extra-traditional Shinkansen has tatami floors, foot baths

The Shinkansen is already a pretty cool way to get around Japan, as it whisks travelers from the country’s cosmopolitan urban centers to its more traditional rural locales.

But what if you want to experience a bit of authentic Japanese culture while you’re zipping across Japan at 200 miles per hour? Fear not, Japan Railway has just the thing: a bullet train with tatami reed flooring and a Japanese-style foot bath.

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Japanese Netizens ask: Would you move into an “accident site” apartment for cheaper rent?

Japanese Netizens ask: Would you move into an “accident site” apartment for cheaper rent?

Tokyo’s astronomical rent costs mean people will go to great lengths to find a cheaper deal. For many, this means living up to a 30-minute walk from their apartment’s nearest train station. Others might choose to live in extremely small or narrow rooms or may opt for what amounts to a cardboard box on an apartment building’s roof.

There is, however, another option that almost seems too good to be true: So-called “Accident Site” apartments. These are rooms in which a previous tenant has died inside, usually from non-natural causes. Some rental agencies specifically advertise rooms as “accident site,” while some agencies just list a room that’s mysteriously low-priced and let people figure it out for themselves.

Certain bargain hunting types with extreme mental fortitude and who don’t mind the occasional bleeding wall or mysterious, warm puff of breath on their cheek while they sleep, actually seek out these deals, but the large majority of Japan avoid them.

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Japan’s curious obsession with blood type and personality illustrated in one photo

Japan’s curious obsession with blood type and personality illustrated in one photo

In a number of East Asian countries, but perhaps most strongly in Japan, it is believed that one’s blood type, or ketsuekigata (血液型), determines a lot about one’s character and how we relate to others and the world around us. Although comparatively few Westerners who have never donated blood or had the misfortune of being seriously ill know their blood type, it is rare to meet a Japanese person who does not know theirs, and it’s considered perfectly normal for people to try to guess someone’s blood type when first getting to know them or working together closely.

It’s easy for non-Japanese to forget the character traits that blood types supposedly denote, however, so here’s a handy image – which is currently doing the rounds online in Japan and being suitably nodded at and chuckled over –  to save on your computer or smartphone for the next time someone says, “Oh, that’s typical A-gata behaviour!” when you fold up your napkin or straighten a crooked picture frame.

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How to get free healthcare in Japan without insurance

How to get free healthcare in Japan without insurance

Brace yourselves, Republicans and Libertarians: it turns out Japan’s social safety net provides free healthcare to people that need medical attention but have no money or insurance. It’s like Obamacare’s angry, ‘roided-up samurai cousin.

That’s because there’s a somewhat vaguely-worded provision in Japanese law that states the government is obligated to provide care for those with “troubled livelihoods,” at low or no cost, regardless of insurance coverage. “Troubled livelihood” is kind of a broad definition, which ensures that those without the means to pay for medical treatment - even if they aren’t necessarily poor, homeless or unable to work - can still see a doctor.

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Joshi or josei? Japanese netizens discuss the age at which a “girl” becomes a “woman”

Joshi or josei? Japanese netizens discuss the age at which a “girl” becomes a “woman”

Back when I was an irksome, irritable teenager, I used to take issue with the fact that my mother would talk about “the girls at work” when in fact most of them were approaching 50. To me, a 14-year-old with copies of FHM stashed under his bed and enough testosterone and sexual frustration to make his eyes water, a “girl” was either someone my friends and I would whisper about at school or whichever scantily clad celebrity happened to be on the cover of said cheeky magazine each month.

Thankfully, now 31 and my hormones having settled down a bit, I’m able to appreciate that whether or not we label someone a “girl” really depends on the person in question, and dare I say it some of my mother’s (slightly younger) colleagues would no doubt get the nod of approval from both me and my old school friends if we had the pleasure of meeting them. But a recent question posted on Japan’s Oshiete! goo, a Q&A site not unlike Yahoo! Answers, asking where we draw the line between “girl” and “woman”, or rather “joshi” and “josei” in Japanese, has sparked quite the debate online, with some proposing that age 40 is the cut-off point while others believe “joshi” ends at 20.

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“Awesome cooks who love money”: 10 things Americans (probably don’t) believe about Chinese people

“Awesome cooks who love money”: 10 things Americans (probably don’t) believe about Chinese people

A snappy little list is currently doing the rounds in Chinese and Japanese media, claiming to detail 10 things Americans think about Chinese people. Did you know that all Chinese people are good at cooking? That China’s men love money more than they love their wives? Or that they all want to wear the same clothes? Neither did we… But in amongst the humdrum negative stereotyping, though, there are some compliments being paid too!

Join us after the jump for 10 things that some Chinese people think Americans think about them!

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“January in Japan” reminds us just how special a place The Land of the Rising Sun really is

“January in Japan” reminds us just how special a place The Land of the Rising Sun really is

Having lived here for around eight years now, I sometimes forget how uniquely beautifully Japan can be. This stunning video, simply titled “January in Japan” from director and photographer Scott Gold, however, has just given me a wonderful reminder. If you have any interest in Japan whatsoever, be sure not to miss this one.

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Japanese magazine’s checklist for the ideal girl has a whopping 23 points

Japanese magazine’s checklist for the ideal girl has a whopping 23 points

Japanese society prides itself on its high level of tact in dealing with delicate matters, and indeed, quite often in communication not offending the other party is given priority well above getting your point across. That said, when the system discretion breaks down, it really breaks down, and sometimes you’re faced with the linguistic paradox of candor that’s so cutting because the choice of words is so blunt.

Recently, a bit of a firestorm was set off in Japan by a male-oriented magazine spitting straight talk on what makes the ideal girl in extremely intricate detail.

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Five Japanese customs even some Japanese people think are a pain

Five Japanese customs even some Japanese people think are a pain

One of the trickier aspects of adapting to life in Japan is getting the hang of the numerous seasonal customs. While your acquaintances aren’t likely to get that bent out of shape if you miss a day or two, completely adhering to proper etiquette involves managing a year-round schedule of sending gifts and written salutations to friends, family, and business associates.

The sentiment is definitely admirable, but don’t Japanese people don’t find this all to be a huge hassle? Actually, it turns out some of them do, as shown in a poll of the top five seasonal traditions people in Japan would like to do away with.

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Why do Japanese people wear surgical masks? Part 2: Men’s edition

Why do Japanese people wear surgical masks? Part 2: Men’s edition

We recently ran down a number of reasons why so many people in Japan will strap on a surgical mask even if they aren’t feeling sick. One of the most common reasons is that for women, slipping on a mask is less of a hassle then carefully applying makeup, but the cultural phenomena of perfectly healthy Japanese wearing masks isn’t strictly a female thing.

Today, we present the testosterone-packed follow-up to our previous report, as we explore why healthy Japanese men wear masks.

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Square Enix announces new Romancing Saga project! Don’t fire up your PS4 just yet though

Square Enix announces new Romancing Saga project! Don’t fire up your PS4 just yet though

Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest may be video game developer Square Enix’s two biggest series, but the Saga franchise could make a solid case for the company’s third-most important intellectual property. While the initial title in the series was the Game Boy’s Makai Toshi Saga, or Devil World Tower Saga, the more eloquently named Super NES follow-up, Romancing Saga, is where the series really took off, and 10 games are now counted as part of the Saga saga.

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Saga franchise, and in celebration Square Enix is collaborating with a partner that’s at once completely unexpected and totally obvious: Saga Prefecture.

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AFP explores Japan’s love hotels, teaches you all you need to know 【Video】

AFP explores Japan’s love hotels, teaches you all you need to know 【Video】

In a recent video shared via YouTube, the AFP News Agency takes a look at the weird and wonderful world of Japan’s love hotels. Around for more than 100 years now, these curious and undeniably Japanese locations are used by everyone from sex-starved couples who live with their families to cheeky travellers looking for a cheap place to crash.

Check out the video for info on everything from how to check in to what you can find inside your room.

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Why do Japanese people wear surgical masks? It’s not always for health reasons

Why do Japanese people wear surgical masks? It’s not always for health reasons

Like kimono and T-shirts with English writing (sometimes vulgar, sometimes comical, always unintelligible), the number of people you’ll see in Japan wearing surgical masks is pretty surprising. Sure, Japan is a hard working society, and the spread of productivity-sapping sickness is always a concern at schools and workplaces, but that doesn’t seem like reason enough for the proliferation of facial coverings that sometimes has Tokyo offices looking more like an operating room.

Health concerns are only part of the equation, though, as recent studies have revealed multiple reasons people in Japan wear masks that have nothing to do with hygiene.

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Centuries-old Japanese cookbooks give a peek at the dinner tables of the samurai

Centuries-old Japanese cookbooks give a peek at the dinner tables of the samurai

One thing that surprises many recent arrivals to Japan is that chefs put as much effort into the presentation of their food as they do the flavor. This has got to be a recent development though, right? Being able to take the time to delicately craft your meal into a feast for the eyes is a luxury that must be born out of the ease and convenience of a stable, technologically advanced, modern society.

It turns out, though, that Japan’s appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of cooking stretch back hundreds of years, as proven by these dishes made from centuries-old cookbooks.

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