Japan

An ode to Japan’s musical trucks and the wondrous things they sell

An ode to Japan’s musical trucks and the wondrous things they sell

The next time someone asks, “What’s your favourite thing about Japan?”, I know what I’m going to say.

When I was growing up in England, the only thing you could buy from a cute little musical van that drove around the neighbourhood was ice cream, and for the approximately eleven-and-a-half months of the year when it was too cold to eat an ice cream, you had to make do with a “mix-up bag” (like pick ‘n’ mix, but without the “pick” part – that is to say, without the element of choice) which consisted of ten gummy sweets no one ever liked anyway.

Sure, in city centres and at events in England we have vendors selling fast food. But our burger and falafel trucks don’t drive door-to-door playing old-fashioned jingles like an ice cream van does. In Japan, however, there are a bunch of tiny vans, privately owned, that each specialise in one product and each have their own song. And it’s not just food, either. The things you can buy off the back of those little musical trucks are amazing.

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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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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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Find 707 animated frames in the “Haruhi Hunting” campaign to unlock a new animated clip!

Find 707 animated frames in the “Haruhi Hunting” campaign to unlock a new animated clip!

Gotta find ‘em all! should be the catchphrase for the campaign attached to the new The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya animated video. Even though it’s the first new Haruhi animation in four years, its creators aren’t just screening it for free–they’re making fans actually work to see it! That said, the campaign is actually more like a treasure hunt than anything else. Introducing “Haruhi Hunting,” in which the residents of Japan must work together to unlock the new promotional video. 

Do YOU have what takes to find all 707 missing frames of the animation?

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Video proves how much Japan loves its pastries

Video proves how much Japan loves its pastries

Few who have not visited the country would ever imagine that Japan is practically overrun with bakeries. When people think of food in Japan, they usually think of things like rice, sushi and ramen, but the truth is, while Japanese supermarkets may not carry anywhere near as many varieties of bread as those in the West, dedicated bakeries can be found all over city centres, with pretty much every station, shopping mall and supermarket having its own shop or dedicated corner offering up freshly baked pastries, and the variety is astounding.

Check out this video to see 30 typical pastries available at Japanese bakeries.

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Roadworks video hints at why everything runs so smoothly in Japan

Roadworks video hints at why everything runs so smoothly in Japan

When people visit Japan, they often marvel at how great the service everywhere is. Trains run on time; a guy pops out of a little hatch like a station ninja when you’re struggling with a ticket vending machine; packages come precisely when they’re supposed to, and even if you miss them you can just call the driver on their mobile phone to arrange a new delivery time.

Day in, day out, stuff just works. And yet, unlike the many foreigners who live here, native Japanese take this all completely in their stride. Take this video, for example, which was taken by a foreigner living and uploaded to YouTube a couple of weeks ago…

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Guy learns powerful lesson: Sending 240 beetles in the mail will kill them all

Guy learns powerful lesson: Sending 240 beetles in the mail will kill them all

An insect collector learned the hard way last year that you should never send stag beetles in the mail, because being stuffed in a box and shipped across the country unsurprisingly kills them.

A specialist apparently sent 240 stag beetles to be delivered to the collector’s Okinawa home. When the box – supplied by the Japanese Postal Service’s “Yu-paku” goods shipping service – arrived, the collector opened it to find all 240 of the beetles decidedly un-alive, prompting the man to sue for compensation; because, come on, if you’re shipping beetles, you expect a certain amount of care to be taken.

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Disney’s Frozen joins the ranks of highest-grossing films of all time in Japan

Disney’s Frozen joins the ranks of highest-grossing films of all time in Japan

Not that we didn’t see it coming, but it was announced on Monday that Disney’s Frozen has officially surpassed 19.8 billion yen (US$194.6 million) in total box office revenue in Japan. Released on March 14 in Japan as アナと雪の女王 (“Ana and the Snow Queen”), months behind its original stateside premiere, the film has held onto its number one position for 11 consecutive weeks. 

So how does that stack up with other successful films in Japanese box office history? Keep reading to find out its current ranking plus a list of the highest-grossing films of all time in Japan!

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Does Avril Lavigne’s Tokyo music video really have anything to do with Japan?

Does Avril Lavigne’s Tokyo music video really have anything to do with Japan?

The lack of both L and V sounds in Japan’s language hasn’t kept Canadian musician Avril Lavigne from achieving widespread popularity here. As a matter of fact, given the country’s affinity for female solo acts, and its decades-long ready acceptance of “girls’ rock” music, you could make the argument that Lavigne has an even broader fan base in Japan, or at least one that’s split more evenly across the gender line.

So when Lavigne recently revealed she’d filmed her latest music video in Japan, maybe it wasn’t so surprising, even if a few of her choices for representing Japan were.

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Searching ‘Japan’ on Google Images in 17 different countries (Korea’s results? Just plain weird)

Searching ‘Japan’ on Google Images in 17 different countries (Korea’s results? Just plain weird)

Google operates hundreds of domain names for different regions around the world, from Australia (google.com.au) to  Zimbabwe (google.co.zw). And searching for the same keyword throws up different results depending on which country Google thinks you’re in.

So what happens when you search “Japan” in different countries’ Google Image Search? To find out, a curious Japanese netizen did exactly that. The image results reveal a little bit about how each country sees Japan – some just might surprise you!

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What does “Konnichiwa” really mean? Understanding Japanese greetings

What does “Konnichiwa” really mean? Understanding Japanese greetings

Well, good afternoon/evening/morning/day everyone! Today we’re going to talk about Japanese greetings and what they really mean.

Just as in English, “Konnichiwa” or “Good day” is a greeting that is technically an idiom with a complex and near-forgotten past. Just as English language greetings tend to stem from bastardizations of foreign loan words and/or full sentences that have been gradually shortened over the years, “konnichiwa” is actually a shortened version of a full and meaningful greeting, because, if anything, human beings are a lazy sort with a bad habit of cutting corners whenever possible.

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Stray animals, trash cans and national dress: 10 things you probably never realised about Japan

Stray animals, trash cans and national dress: 10 things you probably never realised about Japan

Last summer, I was riding the subway with some friends from home who were visiting me here in Nagoya, Japan. Suddenly, my friend pointed at a sticker on the window behind us. “What’s that?” he asked, staring wide-eyed at the image of a smiling cartoon golden dragon wearing a train conductor’s uniform. “That’s the mascot of the Nagoya Transportation Bureau,” I replied, happy to be imparting local knowledge. “Oh,” he said. “And why does the Transportation Bureau need a mascot?” 

You see, it’s the little things that can be most surprising about a culture that’s not your own. Today, we bring you a list of 10 quirky things that you probably didn’t know – or may not have realised – about everyday life in Japan.

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It’s all about the money: The best (and worst) paid student jobs in Japan

It’s all about the money: The best (and worst) paid student jobs in Japan

As Japan’s university students return to start the new academic year this month, many will be looking at their bank balance with trepidation and wondering how exactly they managed to spend all that money during spring break. Over two-thirds of Japanese university students work part time, helping contribute towards the cost of study materials, weird alcohol for drinking games, and buying the same clothes as everyone else.

For students looking for extra funds, or – dare we say it – graduates who’ve been unable to find full-time employment, Japanese site Recruit Jobs has compiled a happy little list of the best-paying part-time jobs in Japan. Let us know how they compare to student jobs in your country!

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The top overpriced products in Japan

The top overpriced products in Japan

Tokyo and its big city cousin to the south, Osaka, are consistently voted among the most expensive places in the world in international polls. Japan in general is notorious for its high prices, prompting many potential visitors to choose a different, more cost-effective destination. Sure, from an outside perspective, prices in Japan are more than most are used to, but what do those who actually live there think? Japanese website, Ameba News, asked 570 working Japanese adults to name any products they felt weren’t priced correctly, whether too expensive or too cheap. The results may surprised you.

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Tatsuo Horiuchi: 73-year-old who creates beautiful works of art using only Excel

Tatsuo Horiuchi: 73-year-old who creates beautiful works of art using only Excel

When Tatsuo Horiuchi was approaching retirement age, he wanted to do something new with his free time. So he bought a computer, and in 2000 decided to try his hand at making digital art. But Mr. Horiuchi from Nagano Prefecture, Japan, doesn’t use Photoshop or any other graphics editing software. These intricate digital artworks were made entirely in Microsoft Excel! It’s hard to believe that spreadsheet software can be used to make something so compellingly beautiful.

Fourteen years after he first started experimenting with digital art, Mr. Horiuchi is now a celebrated artist whose works have been exhibited locally and nationally. He’s also the winner of the Excel Autoshape Art Contest (what d’you mean, you didn’t know that was a thing?!)  Let’s take a look at some of his work, and the fascinating process that goes into making it.

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Japanese Star Wars notebooks: Because Jedi have homework to do too

Japanese Star Wars notebooks: Because Jedi have homework to do too

April is the start of the academic year in Japan, and for kids, parents and stationery manufacturers that means one thing: it’s back to school shopping season. And across Japan, as elementary school students carefully write their names in their notebooks for the new year, there’s a good chance that notebook will be Showa Noto brand. The company’s gakushucho (study notebooks) are a hugely popular series of school notebooks, used by school students all over the country. Showa Noto also makes character-branded goods, and we’re desperate to get our hands on one of these new Star Wars school notebooks!

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Japan already makes awesome industrial robots — Here’s what happens when it looks…elsewhere

Japan already makes awesome industrial robots — Here’s what happens when it looks…elsewhere

Japan’s industrial robots and non-humanoid creations are already thriving — we’ll meet some of them shortly. But we’ll also take a look at the country’s eerie robotic human analogs that foreshadow a future where it might not be so easy to tell them apart from “real” people.

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Top 10 souvenirs from Japan, as chosen by foreign visitors (and not a folding fan in sight!)

Top 10 souvenirs from Japan, as chosen by foreign visitors (and not a folding fan in sight!)

Earlier in the year we brought you Japanese people’s best souvenir recommendations for foreigners, in which items like folding fans, Japanese wagashi sweets, and even traditional swords were featured. But what do visitors to Japan themselves choose as the best things to buy as a memento of their trip, or take back for their friends at home? The answers may surprise you!

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Stingy people rejoice as Japanese restaurants in New York introduce a ban on tipping

Stingy people rejoice as Japanese restaurants in New York introduce a ban on tipping

Please can I give you a tip? In America, we have this custom, you know. I have to tip the pizza guy. And you came all the way out here in this weather…”

The rain-drenched delivery man on the doorstep of the Japanese apartment looked mildly embarrassed as he waved away my friend’s money. It was a typhoon day – classes cancelled, school closed, and the English teachers from my school had piled into one apartment for a party. Not wanting to brave the lashing wind and rain to go out and get food, we had ordered pizza, but hadn’t counted on the guilt we would feel when the delivery guy turned up on a moped looking like he’d just jumped into a swimming pool fully clothed.

In Japan, there’s no custom of tipping. In fact, leaving a tip could potentially be considered rude, as the cost of the service is already supposed to be included in the price you pay. My American buddy’s attempt to follow his home custom in Japan ended in the delivery driver apologising profusely for not accepting the tip! In New York City, meanwhile, Japanese restaurants are bringing the no-tipping custom Stateside, as Restaurant Riki becomes the latest Manhattan establishment to ban their customers from tipping.

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7 hilarious/inexplicable Japan moments in South Park

7 hilarious/inexplicable Japan moments in South Park

With its crude animation and humour, South Park shocked audiences when it first aired back in 1997, with viewers unsure of its place in the schedules and target audience. Since then, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s animated comedy has grown to become arguably one of the most entertaining, risqué and cutting-edge shows on TV today, with episodes pumped out at breakneck speeds so as to ensure that their content is always as topical as it is amusing.

With endless spoofs, homages and no-holds-barred social commentary, South Park has entertained audiences in dozens of countries for almost 17 years now, but there’s one theme in particular that just keeps cropping up season after season: Japan.

So come with us today as we take a look at seven of South Park’s most memorable and outrageous “Japan” moments. Trust us when we say that this isn’t one for the easily offended.

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