culture

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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People from around the world share surprising quirks of their country in enlightening video

Did you know that in the United States, you can buy an apple, literally eat it all the way down to the core, and then return the core for a refund? It’s like free apples every day.

Okay, so that’s a little far-fetched; pretty much everybody in the US would go out of business if you could just return everything when you were done using it. But it’s true that, comparatively speaking, return policies stateside can heavily favor the consumer. With the exception of certain goods, you can return most things still in decent condition as long as you remembered to keep the receipt.

And that’s just one of the quirks about various countries of the world revealed in this adorably peppy Taiwanese video:

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Historical Japanese swords turn into hot and battle-hardened Blade Boys in new mobile game

These days, one of the quickest and most popular methods for stocking a video game with a cast of attractive anime-style characters is to pick a class of item and anthropomorphize the heck out of it. There’s currently no hotter mobile game than Kantai Collection, in which players command a fleet of pretty girls who’re all modeled after World War II-era Japanese warships. If naval history isn’t your thing, you can also find titles featuring comely cars and moe mushrooms.

There’s a new entry in the subgenre though, and judging from its all-pretty boy roster of characters, it’s been designed with female otaku gamers in mind. As such, it’s no surprise that the men of Touken Ranbu are all based on something long and hard…plus sharp, as they’re all anthropomorphized swords.

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Burn baby burn! The Shinto inferno of Japan’s Dondo Yaki ceremony

When entering the grounds of a Shinto shrine in Japan, it’s customary to first stop by the water basin near the gate and rinse your hands, and sometimes your mouth, in order to cleanse them. Water isn’t the only classical element held to have purifying properties in Shintoism, though, since the same can be said about fire.

Obviously, worshippers aren’t called upon to put fire on their palms or inside their mouths. Instead, Shinto priests light pyres of charms and decorations during the Dondo Yaki ceremony, with the towering blazes regularly reaching 15 meters (49.2 feet) into the air.

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Expat’s video says “Welcome to My Japan,” and you ought to take him up on the awesome invitation

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who moved to Japan and stayed for exactly two years. Most of the study and work opportunities that initially bring people here are 12-month programs, and while plenty of people decide that’s enough Japan for them, most people who manage to adapt and thrive during that first year reup for an even longer stay.

One such example is Canadian Thomas Simmons, who’s now been in Japan for four and a half years and counting. Given the country’s relatively small geographic size, you might think that’s enough time to see everything, but as the powerful video Simmons created about his experiences so far shows, he’s just getting started with his life in Japan.

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Chibatman speaks! Costumed superhero addresses crowd at Chiba’s Coming of Age Ceremony【Video】

Last Monday in Japan was Coming of Age Day, the national holiday which celebrates everyone who’s reached the age of 20, and thus legal adulthood, during the past 12 months. 20 is also the drinking age in Japan, and while safeguards against minors getting boozed up are pretty lax in the country, many people decide to exercise their newly acquired legal right to get as tanked up as humanly possible, which probably had something to do with the childishly inconsiderate behavior and scuffles with the police that broke out during some of the festivities in Okinawa.

Not every part of Japan was marked with lawlessness that day, though. As a matter of fact, a coming of age ceremony in Chiba Prefecture featured a special appearance by Chibatman, who showed that he speaks Japanese in the same extra gravely voice heard in the English versions of his most recent movies.

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Want more fish in your sushi roll? Japanese restaurant will give you a Whole Sardine Roll

Even if you don’t speak Japanese, if you’re a sushi lover, you’ve probably heard some of the language’s fish-based vocabulary. Maguro is pretty readily understood as “tuna” among foodies with a palate for Japanese cuisine, and many people who can’t put together a complete sentence in Japanese still know that uni is sea urchin, for example.

Not as many non-Japanese speaking diners are as familiar with the word iwashi, or sardine, though. Although sardine sushi isn’t unheard of, it definitely trails in popularity behind less fishy-tasting fare, and its relatively low price and humble image mean it doesn’t have the same level of pizazz as a seaweed-wrapped pile of ikura (salmon roe) or a glistening cut of otoro (extra fatty tuna belly).

Visual impact isn’t a problem, though, for one Japanese restaurant chain’s latest creation: the Whole Sardine Sushi Roll.

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Is Mario’s Birdo a boy or a girl? Years after her first appearance, the debate rages on

It’s already kind of old news that one of gaming’s few potentially transgender characters has been hiding in plain sight since the late ’80s in the form of the adorable and misunderstood Mario villain, Birdo.

But that hasn’t stopped the Internet from debating all kinds of aspects about the character’s gender identity, from whether the whole “boy who thinks he’s a girl” thing is Mario canon or whether the character is pre- or post-op. While the Western web was shocked by this stunning news a while back, it seemed Japan was politely giving poor Birdo her privacy and staying out of it, until a recent Twitter post…

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Stinky train tracks, expensive imports and no weekends: netizens remember Showa-era Japan

The Showa period (1926-1989) was a time of immense change for Japan when the country went from being an imperial power to a poverty-stricken post-war nation and then becoming an economic powerhouse that dominated automotive and electronic industries around the world. Twenty-seven years since that era ended and the current Heisei era began, fond memories of “Showa Japan” still flood many Japanese minds.

But a recent online poll asked netizens to take off their rose-tinted glasses and consider the aspects of daily Showa-period life that, while seeming completely normal back then, would be unthinkable now. Join us after the jump for a look at the slightly grim feedback.

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10 things we love about living in Asia

If you have friends who moved to Asia and you can’t figure out why, this article is for you. If you’re the one who moved to an Asian country and you have a hard time explaining why to people back home, then this article is for you too. If you’ve visited Asia and absolutely loved it, then we think we know why, so please read on. And lastly, if you’ve never visited Asia, then you should read this article to find out why you should get your butt over here without delay!

A little while back, we listed 10 things we love about Japan. But we realized that many Asian countries have similar awesome traits. So today, we’re going to expand our love and share 10 things we absolutely adore about Asia!

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The pets of Japan wish you a happy new year (some are happier about it than others)【Photos】

Just like how families in the west put lights on their homes and ornaments on trees for Christmas, Japan has its own traditional decorations for New Year’s. One of the most common is kagami mochi, a stack of two or three rice cakes topped with a mikan or daidai, both orange-like citrus fruits.

No one’s exactly sure why it’s called kagami mochi though, since even though the name literally means “mirror rice cake,” there’s no mirror included in the display. As a matter of fact, in the minds of some animal lovers in Japan, the design options for kagami mochi are wide open, as shown by this collection of photos where adorable pets take the place of the rice cakes.

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One Piece becoming a kabuki play with the Straw Hat Pirates taking the stage in Tokyo

Between the huge success the One Piece franchise has found in comics, animation, video games, and associated merchandising, you wouldn’t think there’d be too many more avenues for it to expand into. And honestly, it doesn’t have to, as Eiichiro Oda’s manga, the starting point of the tales of pirates, treasure hunting, and friendship, is still going strong, with its 76th collected volume being released later this month.

But just like the Straw Hat Pirates don’t have to embark on grand adventures, but choose to do so anyway, One Piece is about to head into uncharted waters, as the anime and manga franchise is set to become a kabuki play.

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Flipping the kanji for “husband” upside-down reveals slightly worrying double meaning

The common stereotype about women among sexually frustrated, mostly parents’ basement-dwelling, men is that girls only go for attractive, rich guys, and never the nice, tender guys with warm hearts and chic fedoras.

Well, when it comes to one of those observations, anyway, there appears to be at least one cultural precedent of a diabolical hidden message that seemingly proves the stereotype right in one of the very words that defines men and women’s relationship in Japan…

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Man parks over sidewalk guide for the blind, gets lesson in manners from Okinawan fourth-grader

There’s still a lot of room for improvement regarding the availability of elevators in Japan’s train stations and other public facilities, but the country doesn’t have a totally sub-par record in helping the disabled retain their mobility. For example, on the sidewalks of most moderately large streets, you’ll find a row of bumps that operate as a guide for blind pedestrians, indicating not only any curves in the walkway but also warning of intersections and steps ahead.

Obviously, good manners dictate keeping the path clear, but in all that empty space one Japanese motorist saw a perfectly-placed parking spot. And while Japanese culture often errs on the side of not sticking your nose in other people’s business, it looks like one elementary school student couldn’t let this go without giving the driver a piece of his mind, even if the inconsiderate owner wasn’t anywhere to be found right then.

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Blogger offers four pieces of advice for foreign women looking for love with a Japanese guy

Blogger Madame Riri often writes about her experiences as a Japanese woman in an international relationship who’s spent a considerable amount of time living abroad. Recently, though, she took a look at women in the opposite situation.

Sifting through the writings of Grace Buchele Mineta, a Texas-born expat married to a Japanese man and living in Japan since three years ago, Madame Riri pulled out four pieces of advice for non-Japanese women in or looking for a romantic relationship with a Japanese man in Japan.

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Sushi and tempura stamps will spice up your New Year’s cards, probably still taste like glue

With just two weeks to go until the end of the year, people across Japan are scrambling to finish up writing their New Year’s Cards, or nengajo, as they’re called in Japanese. While traditions have softened and it’s becoming a bit more acceptable to send tidings by email, many still choose to send physical cards, since receiving personal mail is something of a rare treat these days.

That means most people need to make a trip to the post office to pick up some stamps, and Japan Post is happy to oblige with special New Year’s varieties. And though the ones for the upcoming Chinese zodiac animal are undeniably cute, the designs that really caught our attention were the sushi and tempura stamps.

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Commercial reminds Japan’s tired commuters about the drawbacks of living far away from work

Mouth agape, eyes rolled back, head bobbing – when home is an hour or more away and work continues late into the night, the only place for many Japanese office workers to lay their weary head is against a train car window. This phenomenon is not unique to Japan, but the combination of overwork and limited affordable housing in big cities like Tokyo give rise to crowds of sleepy commuters just trying to get to their futon. If you have never witness the varied sleeping positions of Japan’s overworked commuters, take a look at the following video created by real estate website HOME’S.

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Why aren’t there more female entrepreneurs in Japan? Pull up a chair… 【Women in Japan Series】

According to the Global Entrepreneur Development Index (GEDI) that measures favorable conditions for women entrepreneurs, the US and Australia are ranked first and second respectively, while Japan places fifteenth, just behind Peru. Yet Japan fulfills many of the requirements to create a successful female entrepreneurial environment such as education, skills and access to capital.

In addition, women in Japan can overcome obstacles such as low salaries, long work hours and scant child-rearing options by owning their own businesses and calling the shots. So, what’s holding Japanese women back? It turns out that a large part of it may be Japanese women themselves.

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Izumo’s Starbucks, a stone’s throw away from the gathering place of Shinto’s eight million gods

Shintoism has such a large pantheon of gods that the religion even has a structured way in which they all keep in touch with each other. Every October, the deities enshrined across the nation are said to gather in Shimane Prefecture’s Izumo Taisha Shrine, where they convene for their annual divine meeting.

We imagine it’s a busy conference, considering that some eight million deities are thought to attend. So we’re sure several of them were happy to find Izumo City now has a Starbucks, with the same tasty beverages the chain serves all over Japan, but with Japanese décor that’s unique to Izumo.

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Bizarre otaku dancing catches on as Wotagei spreads around the world【Videos】

Wotagei, Japan’s unusual form of otaku dancing, is spreading across the seas and capturing the hearts of foreign idol and anime fans, causing them to contort their bodies in strange but rhythmic formations. Read on for more about this unique performance art and watch some videos of afficionados in action.

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