culture

To say kawaii or not to say kawaii? Almost half of Japanese guys don’t want to be “cute”

To say kawaii or not to say kawaii? Almost half of Japanese guys don’t want to be “cute”

It’s no secret that Japan is seriously into cuteness. Accordingly, in most situations, deeming something kawaii, or cute, is seen as high praise.

This is especially true when it comes to women. Whereas in English-speaking countries some may take issue with what they perceive as a diminutive or demeaning connotation to the word “cute,” in Japan, calling a girl kawaii is almost universally considered a compliment. Even actresses and models who would ordinarily be described as “beautiful” by English speakers earn kawaii cred if they have a kind smile, or any other sort of soft warmth to the aura they project.

But while just about any Japanese woman is happy to be called kawaii, things aren’t quite so simple for men.

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Beautiful new luxury train for Ishikawa dazzles with gold leaf and lacquer interior

Beautiful new luxury train for Ishikawa dazzles with gold leaf and lacquer interior

For the past few decades, getting around Japan has been a snap using the extremely efficient rail network that crisscrosses the country. Even better, in just a few years, not only will you be able to go anywhere on the main island of Honshu by train, but you’ll be able to do it in style, thanks to luxurious new trains servicing the Chugoku, Kanto, and Tohoku regions.

Hokuriku, the part of Japan running along the central northern coast of Honshu, isn’t about to be left out though, and its upcoming train may be the most opulent of all, with an interior decorated with traditional lacquer and gold leaf.

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Does the way you cross your arms say anything about your personality? Japan thinks so

Does the way you cross your arms say anything about your personality? Japan thinks so

Everybody, go ahead and cross your arms right now. Done? Alright. Now, try to cross them the other way. If you’re currently crossed with right forearm on top, try to switch position so that your left forearm is on top. Feels incredibly awkward and unnatural, doesn’t it?

It turns out most people have a natural bias for arm-crossing direction, with slightly more than half of most global populations preferring the left-forearm-on-top approach, although the two preferences are basically 50-50. Some people apparently cross their arms either way without even thinking about it, although this population is exceedingly small.

So why do we humans find one way so natural and the other way so incredibly weird-feeling? It may have something to do with your psychological composition, according to the (admittedly somewhat unreliable) Japanese Internet.

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All-black chicken is the second most metal bird you’ll ever see

All-black chicken is the second most metal bird you’ll ever see

There’s something about the color black that gets people all kinds of excited. In many countries, it’s associated with bad omens, mystery, the supernatural, and even magic. But in the West, it’s most commonly associated with one thing only: METAL.

And so it is that in the eyes of Indonesians, the Ayam Cemani is a prized breed of pitch-black chicken that probably portends good luck or something, but to the Western eye, it’s the second most metal bird we’ve ever seen.

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Wouldn’t you know! There’s another “beautiful woman doing things” going viral in Asia

Wouldn’t you know! There’s another “beautiful woman doing things” going viral in Asia

I’ve written (somewhat facetiously) so many times about the whole “beautiful woman doing things” trend that’s been going on in Asia since probably the invention of the Internet that just seeing beautiful women in Asian media is starting to give me headaches.

This time around, the trend has apparently jumped the shark to a degree that it’s starting to repeat itself, as we’re now treated to the second “beautiful woman being a newscaster” in under a year. This time it’s Taiwan’s Junze Zhuo, a Fox News Taiwan representative and, by all means, overall lovely lady who is drawing such tasteful comments from the Japanese Internet as, “I wish she’d grab my mic.”

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Celebrate the Tanabata star festival with beautiful Milky Way red bean gelatin

Celebrate the Tanabata star festival with beautiful Milky Way red bean gelatin

Recently we talked about a shop in Kanagawa Prefecture that sells styish kamaboko fish cakes decorated to look like the beautiful hydrangeas that bloom during Japan’s rainy season. But what if your palate runs more towards the sweet than the fishy, or your ideal of natural beauty isn’t the flowers growing from the soil, but the stars above?

In that case, one Kyoto confectioner has just the thing: sweet bean gelatin modeled after the Milky Way.

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Pokeberu, Mr. Legs, and cho beri ba: Eight Japanese words young people can’t understand

Pokeberu, Mr. Legs, and cho beri ba: Eight Japanese words young people can’t understand

After spending a year in college studying in Tokyo, I moved back to Los Angeles for about two years before coming back to Japan for work. Having always prided myself on my familiarity with Japanese slang (partly to distract myself from my terrible penmanship when writing kanji characters), I was surprised to find out how many new terms had sprung up in just the 22 months I’d been away.

At the same time, it turned out that a few of the vocabulary words I’d picked up while studying abroad had since passed their expiration dates and become obsolete. This wasn’t a one-time transition, either, as language is constantly evolving, and today we bring you a list of eight words that’ll at best make you sound like a senior citizen, and at worst simply won’t be understood by anyone under the age of 25.

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Japanese tradition and technology combine to beat the heat with USB uchiwa

Japanese tradition and technology combine to beat the heat with USB uchiwa

One of the essential items for getting through Japan’s hot and humid summer is an uchiwa, or paper fan. With its large surface area and long handle, you can work up more of a breeze with an uchiwa than a dainty folding fan.

Unfortunately, you might work up a bit of a sweat as you furiously fan yourself, which kind of negates the whole purpose of using a fan to begin with. Thankfully, there’s now a way to get around all that manual labor with a USB-powered uchiwa.

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Philippine transgender group fights for rights with handsome posterboy

Philippine transgender group fights for rights with handsome posterboy

Even as the gay and lesbian communities experience something of a global revolution in terms of being granted more rights and protection from discrimination, transgender people may be facing a significantly steeper uphill battle. While many of even the most conservative people have come to accept that they may have to share intimate spaces like locker rooms and bathrooms with gays and lesbians, we’re all still squabbling over which bathrooms transgender people should use and which pronoun to call them by.

Discrimination against transgender individuals is particularly fierce in devoutly Catholic Philippines, where hormones – and presumably also surgeries – that are essential to the transgender “transformation” process are routinely denied to those who want them. But the transgender rights group Pinoy Female-to-Male (Pinoy MTF) – composed of naturally born women who identify as male – may have found an ideal spokesmen to help in their fight.

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Japanese hostel’s visitor board reveals surprisingly deep cultural differences

Japanese hostel’s visitor board reveals surprisingly deep cultural differences

We’ve always been told that stereotypes are bad, but there are certain cultural phenom that can be measured so widely that it’s safe to say that people from certain countries at least have a tendency to behave in certain ways.

The Japanese, for instance, are said to be orderly and conformist, while Americans are said to be cowboys that like to do things their own way, even if to the detriment of others.

While this survey sticker board from a Japanese hostel – which asks where visitors hail from – may actually prove the opposite about Americans, it pretty readily confirms that the Japanese are very organized.

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Seriously a lot of people want to marry this Paraguay soccer supporter

Seriously a lot of people want to marry this Paraguay soccer supporter

You know you’re pretty famous when you have your own Wikipedia page. Sure, some people just take the shortcut of writing their own Wiki and acting like they’re a big deal (I’m looking at you, weird Dungeons and Dragons extra with suspiciously specific and in-depth Wikipedia entry), but when other people write a page all about you of their own accord, you kind of know you’re a big deal.

That’s what happened with Paraguayan model and actress Larissa Riquelme when, in 2010, a photographer caught her celebrating a Paraguay team goal at the 2010 South Africa World Cup and the globe collectively paused, sucked in their breath, and shifted awkwardly in their chairs.

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Cheaters beware – 30 percent of Japanese women have checked their boyfriend’s cell phone

Cheaters beware – 30 percent of Japanese women have checked their boyfriend’s cell phone

What are the requirements of a happy romantic relationship? A set of shared values is important if you’re looking for anything more substantial than a fun fling. On the other end of the scale, common interests are good to have too, for those lighter dates when you and your partner want to do something other than discuss your life philosophies.

Many people would say the most critical element, though, is trust. After all, no matter how attracted you might be to a person, without the ability to trust one another, your collective jealousy and insecurity will eventually poison any potential you have to be happy together. Of course, building that trust can be a long, difficult, and sometimes scary process, but it’s something you eventually have to do, right?

Not if you’re one of the roughly 30 percent of Japanese women who’ve secretly checked the messages on their boyfriends’ cell phones.

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30 common characteristics of people who fall in love with Japan

30 common characteristics of people who fall in love with Japan

Chances are since you’re visiting our site, you probably already have an interest in Japan or other Asian countries. But have you ever had a friend who knows next to nothing about Japan, but you just have a feeling that they would come to love the island country given the right incentive?

If so, you may recognize some characteristic qualities of that friend in the following list written by Japanese blogger and all-around-life expert Madame Riri. This time, she’s come up with some common traits of foreigners who grow to love Japan based on her own observations from time spent abroad. 

Do you find yourself conforming to any of the following patterns?

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Ultra-enthusiastic Japanese Family Mart employee is the height of customer service

Ultra-enthusiastic Japanese Family Mart employee is the height of customer service

Growing up in the U.S., I had always been pretty jaded with customer service. At best, I’d get a cashier thanking me for my patronage (in response to which I would sometimes awkwardly say, “You too!”), and at worst I’d have to remind the cashier s/he was on the clock just to get them to lazily punch in some numbers and ring up my diet coke.

Things are different in Japan. People in retail and customer service jobs practically fall all over themselves to help the customer – when they aren’t busy taking Twitter photos of themselves in ice boxes, anyway. But this Family Mart employee may put them all to shame; he’s got the whole ringing someone up routine down to superhuman levels, snatching cash out of customer’s hands and tossing it into the register with ease and confidence like he’s some kind of teetotalling flair bartender:

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Disney’s Japanese breakfast in Hawaii probably tastes great, still looks weird

Disney’s Japanese breakfast in Hawaii probably tastes great, still looks weird

For generations, Disneyland and Hawaii have been two of the most popular destinations for Japanese travelers, so it only makes sense that Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii sees visitors from Japan as a key demographic. But while the main appeal of travel is the opportunity to experience something new, Disney realizes that not everyone rolls out of bed at their most adventurous, and so offers a Japanese breakfast for those wanting to start their day with a taste of home.

It’s a considerate service, and for the most part, the resort’s done a great job. True connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine, however, will probably spot three odd quirks to Disney’s (almost) traditional Japanese breakfast.

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Unexpected Japan suicide facts are equal parts depressing and uplifting

Unexpected Japan suicide facts are equal parts depressing and uplifting

Live in urban Japan long enough and, as shocking as it sounds, you’re eventually going to have the distinctly unpleasant experience of riding a train that hits and more than likely kills a human being.

Even if you aren’t experiencing it firsthand, walking into a Tokyo train station only to notice yet another train delay caused by what is euphemistically described as a “bodily accident” (jinshin jiko, or 人身事故) is at least a weekly occurrence. It’s enough to make you think Japan must be wrestling with one hell of a suicide problem.

Which is true. But it’s not quite as bad as the Western media would have you believe. Here are five facts about suicide in Japan that are about as uplifting as we have any right to expect from facts about suicide:

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Western media ranks the toughest women in animation, list unsurprisingly anime-heavy

Western media ranks the toughest women in animation, list unsurprisingly anime-heavy

While TV and movies seem to have a hard time grappling with the evolving role of women in society, animation has been delivering strong female leads for decades.

Sure, some of their empowering swagger is tempered with skimpy clothes and breasts so large they’re almost certain to cause major chiropractic problems, but animation has been surprisingly progressive when it comes to depicting women in comparison to film and live action television.

So it was only a matter of time before someone put together a list of the most badass female characters in animation, and it makes sense that the list is heavy on the anime; Manga and anime artists infamously have a bit of a fetish for strong female leads, after all.

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Hungry for love – 10 dishes Japanese men want their girlfriends to cook for them

Hungry for love – 10 dishes Japanese men want their girlfriends to cook for them

Men are, in many ways, simple creatures. Our two greatest desires in life are, without question, women and food.

While a tasty meal or a good-looking lass with a nice personality are both things to be thankful for on their own, it’s hard to top the bliss that comes from eating a home-cooked meal made by the girl you like. Still, just as guys have preferences in women, they’ve also got preferences in food, as revealed in a poll that asked Japanese men what dish prepared by their girlfriend makes them the happiest.

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Cute Western girl without makeup baffles, fascinates Asian Internet

Cute Western girl without makeup baffles, fascinates Asian Internet

You know you might be running out of things to be outraged about when a girl without makeup makes you lose your mind.

Recently, a ballet dancer from Denmark made waves in China when she appeared on a talent show to perform an interpretation of the classic fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling. So captivating was the girl’s beauty that apparently the cameramen filming the performance just couldn’t help but focus on her from start to finish.

The already-rapt Chinese Interweb users apparently couldn’t get enough of the girl’s beauty, which led to frantic, borderline-stalker web searches for more of her pictures. Eventually, users then stumbled across photos of her sans-makeup on her personal Instagram page and the Chinese Internet promptly exploded.

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Soccer: Made in China?

Soccer: Made in China?

It’s easy to trace the roots of American football and basketball, as they’re both comparatively recently developed sports. Things get a little more difficult with soccer, though.

While the world’s most popular sport got its first set of standardized competition rules in 1863, courtesy of England’s Football Association, the game had existed in various forms for some time before that. Several countries have since claimed to be the birthplace of soccer, but one now has the official recognition of the president of soccer’s international governing body.

According to FIFA President Sepp Blatter, soccer originated in China.

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