culture

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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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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