health

Hugvie, the blobular doll that combines hugs and phone calls, might actually help reduce stress

Hugvie, the blobular doll that combines hugs and phone calls, might actually help reduce stress

Regular readers will no doubt recall the Telenoid R1, the tactile doll shaped like a giant human foetus that when controlled via remote computer almost appears to be alive. Using this intriguing yet somewhat disturbing technology, creator and Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro went on to produce Hugvie, a soft, pared-down version of the doll that has a slot for a smartphone in its head, enabling users to cuddle and chat at once while the doll’s internal vibrators simulate the caller’s heartbeat based on their tone and the volume of their voice.

As fun and quirky as the pillow was, few ever thought it could be beneficial to users’ health, but recent research suggests that cuddling up with one of these blobs while chatting on the phone could actually help reduce stress and make us feel more content.

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Japanese blog titled “God’s Defective Goods” sparks debate over Down syndrome babies

Japanese blog titled “God’s Defective Goods” sparks debate over Down syndrome babies

Every loving parent wants what’s best for their children. For the parents of those born with a mental disability, it must be so difficult to come to terms with the knowledge that their offspring will struggle to keep up with their peers. One such mother decided to cope with her feelings by documenting her experience raising an infant with Down syndrome in an online blog. However, in recent weeks the title of this personal report has become the topic of some nasty dispute on Japanese public forums. For better or worse, the woman calls her blog God’s Defective Goods.

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Nagano legislators propose banning morning practice for middle school athletes

Nagano legislators propose banning morning practice for middle school athletes

There are a few unique things about student athletics in Japan. Team activities continue throughout the year, which makes joining one a major commitment. And instead of playing a season of games with the best teams advancing to a playoff, most sports have a few tournaments throughout the year with relatively few competitions in between.

The result of all this is a huge amount of time spent practicing, as opposed to playing games. What’s more, it’s normal for athletes in middle and high school to have mandatory practices not just after class, but before their lessons start in the morning, too.

On the surface, this seems like it should be helpful not only in producing more talented players, but in helping students learn the value of dedication, effort, and proper time management. But this system may be taking things too far, according to legislators in Nagano who are proposing doing away with athletes practicing in the morning.

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A teaspoon of wasabi a day helps keep old age at bay

A teaspoon of wasabi a day helps keep old age at bay

Wasabi, the Japanese condiment which offers a delicious kick to the nasal passages with every bite, has long been embraced in Japan, and more recently other parts of the world. However, aside from accentuating sushi or playing jokes on friends, the pungent plant has been found to provide anti-aging effects in recent years.

For those who turn up their noses at the thought of a daily dose of wasabi, you may reconsider when you realize how easy it is to benefit from the sulfinyl found in it. That’s right: it keeps you pretty for longer!

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We try yogurt which contains euglena… yeah, we had to look it up too

We try yogurt which contains euglena… yeah, we had to look it up too

Euglena is a microorganism, in some ways similar to algae. However, it is truly unique in that it exhibits feeding habits of both animals and plants. Such a fascinating biological specimen has left us all wondering: What does it taste like?

To answer that, convenience stores all over Japan have begun selling Euglena Yogurt from 15 October. Our brave reporter Usagi went to try some out.

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Japanese psychologist explains what the seat you choose in a theatre reveals about your personality

Japanese psychologist explains what the seat you choose in a theatre reveals about your personality

There are a couple things that make going to the movies in Japan different from in the US. First and foremost there’s the price. General admission at just about every first-run theatre in the country is a whopping 1,800 yen (US $18.40).

Helping to take a little bit of the sting out of that, though, is the fact is that all seats are reserved. There are two advantages to this system. First, you never have to deal with the annoyance of one guy, sitting by himself, who’s saving the dozen seats prime seats next to himself for his friends, who will totally be here any minute.

Secondly, the seat a person uses can reveal things that give you a glimpse into their personality.

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Study in China determines Sprite to be the best drink to relieve a hangover

Study in China determines Sprite to be the best drink to relieve a hangover

So you hit the bottle a little too hard last night and have now awoken in a state of gut-rotting, head-pounding, agony. Standing before the fridge you pretend to be a doctor and judge which drink would be chemically most efficient to chug your way out of this stupor. Water? Coffee? Wheat tea?

Surprisingly, if you chose Sprite, you’d be correct. At least, that’s what a team of researchers at Zhongshan University decided after studying the effects of 57 different drinks against hangovers.

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Magic mackerel! This bitter fish has beautifying bowels

Magic mackerel! This bitter fish has beautifying bowels

Fall is the season for mackerel pike. In traditional Japanese restaurants and homes across the nation, it’s quite common to find a complete silvery fish, from head to tail, plopped atop one’s plate.

As an American, I was very confused the first time I found myself faced with a full mackerel for a meal, and I wasn’t really sure where to start. I knew that the meat of the fish was buried in there somewhere, but I had no idea what to do with the rest of the innards. Growing bolder with each poke of my chopsticks, I took one bite of the mackerel’s bitter bowels and promptly decided against eating fish guts ever again. Although, looking back, I might have been a bit hasty with my decision. As it turns out, the consumption of mackerel viscera actually comes highly recommended for its large supply of beautifying vitamins! Looking at the highly touted health benefits of the mackerel’s digestive organs, these particular fish guts might be worth another go.

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Japanese fashion model proposes violent punishment for people who smoke while walking

Japanese fashion model proposes violent punishment for people who smoke while walking

Japan has a number of etiquette rules that might not be readily apparent to people from overseas, such removing your shoes before entering the locker room at the gym, or not wiping your face with the towel you’re given upon being seated in a restaurant.

Recently fashion model Nanao updated her blog with a post expounding the problem with another Japanese societal no-no: smoking while walking.

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Hong Kong Tourism Board resorts to some unusual tactics to get around China’s smog problem

Hong Kong Tourism Board resorts to some unusual tactics to get around China’s smog problem

As many of you may be aware, China has had some serious pollution problems in recent years with contamination spreading far and wide, affecting people’s health and everyday lifestyles. With all this negative publicity, it is of no surprise that China’s tourism industry has seen a decline in visitors to the country.

However, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has come up with a rather clever and, shall we say, peculiar scheme that guarantees to get rid of the smog, at least for all the tourists who want to capture a special photo for the occasion. It comes in the form of a picturesque banner of the Hong Kong landscape that is substituted for the real, polluted background. It’s just a case of standing in front of it, saying cheese and you’re done. Granted the picture may look good but it still doesn’t solve the actual problem of pollution.
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Korea’s elementary schools witness worrying trend of do-it-yourself face-lifts

Korea’s elementary schools witness worrying trend of do-it-yourself face-lifts

It’s no secret that South Korea has an astounding affinity for plastic surgery. While it would be unfair to suggest that the entire population is keen to go under the knife, the percentage of Koreans calling in for a nip and a tuck is literally eye-widening and jaw dropping, in addition to nose elongating and chin altering.

Unfortunately, this attitude towards altered appearances has apparently caused a curious trend in elementary school students. In an effort to appear more like the celebrities they see on TV, grade school students in South Korea are practicing something they call “self-cosmetic surgery.”

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How to drink hot green tea like a master (even if you have “cat tongue”)

How to drink hot green tea like a master (even if you have “cat tongue”)

While attending college in Tokyo, I spent the year living with a Japanese family in order to more fully immerse myself in the language and culture. But aside from being a budding linguist, I was also someone whose culinary skills weren’t quite up to even the challenge of preparing those fancy instant ramens with multiple flavoring packets, so the living arrangement including two home-cooked meals a day was gravy.

Of course, there wasn’t much actual gravy, as most of our meals were traditional Japanese fare. Dinner was always followed by a cup of freshly brewed green tea, served piping hot. Every night though, by the time I could start drinking my tea, my host parents had already finished theirs. Was there some special technique for drinking hot tea? Was I doing something wrong?

As has so often been the case in my life, yes, I was.

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Man accidentally morphs into Dragon Ball’s Piccolo, seeks professional help

Man accidentally morphs into Dragon Ball’s Piccolo, seeks professional help

For those of you who are fans of Dragon Ball, what would you call Piccolo’s most defining feature: the turban, the heavy-set brow line, or perhaps the long, pointy ears? If you ask us, the first thing to register when staring at a screen shot of the awesome alien warrior is his undeniable Hulk-like greenness.

Late last month, a man from Western China managed to achieve this startling shade of green skin, though not of his own volition and not without consequence, either. And what was the cause of his seemingly alien ailment? Snails.

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Cold beer – less smelly than fermented soybeans, and by one criteria, healthier too

Cold beer – less smelly than fermented soybeans, and by one criteria, healthier too

Earlier this week, we talked about the purported beauty benefits of Japanese rice wine. Today, we’ve got good news for health-conscious beer lovers.

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“Smoking Café” last oasis for increasingly ostracized Tokyo smokers

“Smoking Café” last oasis for increasingly ostracized Tokyo smokers

Japan has a long way to go when it comes to eliminating the public health hazards associated with smoking, but recent public policy efforts have caused a serious change in attitude toward smokers.

Smoking sections in restaurants and cafes are becoming smaller and increasingly more isolated, while fleets of bike-mounted enforcers hand out humiliating fines to those caught smoking on designated no smoking streets.

Finally, however, smokers can indulge in their pastime in peace at the Koshigaya Laketown shopping mall in Saitama Prefecture. A new specialized café, Smoking Café Briquet, caters specifically to tobacco connoisseurs with a variety of smoking merchandise and cigar and cigarette selections, with every seat in the house safe to light up in. It’s almost like being a character in Kaze Tachinu

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Drink till you’re hot – How Japanese rice wine can improve your looks

Drink till you’re hot – How Japanese rice wine can improve your looks

Drink enough adult beverages and one day you’re sure to experience “beer googles,” the phenomenon where the person you’re looking at starts to appear more and more attractive after each round.

But is it possible to make yourself better looking through the power of alcohol? Apparently so…

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Japanese vs. Western-style toilets: Squatty Potty stool gives us the best of both!

Japanese vs. Western-style toilets: Squatty Potty stool gives us the best of both!

There are many highly touted health benefits associated with Japanese-style toilets. But who would want to get down to business with a glorified hole in the ground when they have the option of a wonderful Washlet, complete with heated seats and a butt-cleaning water spray?!

Thanks to a new American company that cares a lot about colons, there’s no need to choose the health benefits of one over the comfort and familiarity of the other. This very special team has created a stool to ease the release of your stool and give you perfect poo from atop your porcelain throne. They call their product the Squatty Potty.

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Bon-odori: Dance your way to love, health, and mental fitness!

Bon-odori: Dance your way to love, health, and mental fitness!

Would you like to find a new lover, improve your health, and prevent senility? Would you like all those things at the same time? Oh, and did we mention that it’s essentially free too??

It might sound like a regular snake oil sales scam, but trust us, this is for real! Just what the hell are we talking about? Bon-odori dancing!

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Behold: the molting man! Is this sunburn or lizard skin?

Behold: the molting man! Is this sunburn or lizard skin?

When summertime comes, it’s usually a case of the less clothing the better, and this year’s Asian heat wave has proved to be particularly cruel. It’s common sense to shed layers when working outside in this broiling weather. But I’d say that shedding an entire layer of skin is taking it a step too far!

This month, a very peculiar Twitter picture has been making the rounds. Looking at the label, it would appear that we have a real, live lizard-man on our hands! But be warned, it’s not a pretty sight.

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Summer brings bad breath – Here’s how to beat it!

Summer brings bad breath – Here’s how to beat it!

The summertime heat can often cause a loss of appetite for a lot of people. I know I have days where I’d rather drink fluids all day long and rely on energy drinks to keep me going. On those days, even the things I do eat are likely found swimming in a bowl of cold broth.

Of course, this is unhealthy in a whole slew of ways, some more social than physical. Did you know, for example, that eating less can cause you to have bad breath? You’re not only doing your body a disservice when you skip a meal, you’re driving away your friends and colleagues by them breathing in their presence. Thankfully, we’ve got the full breakdown on what generally causes beastly breath and what measures you can take to prevent it.

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