Japan

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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ZOMBOOBIES: The Japanese-American horror movie where zombies crave boobs, not brains

ZOMBOOBIES: The Japanese-American horror movie where zombies crave boobs, not brains

Director Mike L. Taylor describes his latest project ZOMBOOBIES as “a crazy boobs-to-the-wall horror-comedy movie”, inspired by “a love of insane Japanese horror films and a passion for traditional creature effects, modern digital effects, and of course BOOBIES”.

The movie makers are asking for funds on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, and at the time of this writing $4,275 has been pledged, leaving the project pretty far off its $99,000 goal with only two weeks to go. Let’s take a look at the wacky trailer in full, and see if we can size up the movie’s chances of actually being made.

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Revealed! Japan’s top 10 handsome samurai【Photos】

Revealed! Japan’s top 10 handsome samurai【Photos】

Posed portraits in history textbooks can all look the same after a while. Formal clothes, dark to create enough contrast for a black-and-white photo; stiff posture because old cameras required the sitter to be still for at least a few minutes; no smiling, in case the photo blurred. It’s no wonder students love to embellish the illustrations in their textbooks with creative graffiti.

Luckily for us, Japanese site Bakumatsu Gaido, an online guide to Bakumatsu, the Edo period’s final years (1853-67), is on hand to liven things up with a light-hearted look at the samurai with the best-chiseled features, sharpest dress sense and most awesome photo poses. Join us after the jump for Japan’s top 10 ikemen (cool, good-looking) samurai, plus a few bonus selections of our own!

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Remembering the people of Tohoku three years on

Remembering the people of Tohoku three years on

At 2:46 p.m. today, exactly three years will have passed since a Magnitude 9.0 earthquake shook Japan to its very core, moments later sending an enormous tidal wave that claimed tens of thousands of lives in the Tohoku region.

Today is a day to remember the people who are no longer with us, and to think of those whose lives were changed forever–many of whom were displaced from their homes and are still trying to start anew.

But today should also be seen as something of a gift. Those of us who came away from March 11, 2011 unscathed or are fortunate enough never to have known loss like the people of Tohoku are given days like today to pause and take stock of what we have. Whether or not you observe a moment’s silence this afternoon, and wherever you are in the world, try to keep Japan in the back of your mind today, but also try to look a little closer to home. Use today to effect some positive change in the world or in your own life, however small and seemingly insignificant. Donate to a charity you believe in; call your mother; switch off your phone for an hour and look at all of the cool stuff around you; start work on that book that you’ve been crafting in your mind for the past five years; buy some nicotine patches instead of another pack of cigs; book that holiday you’ve been meaning to take; pay for the guy in line behind you in Starbucks; tell your dog that he really is a good boy; make an awesome cake, then sit with a pal and stuff it into your faces while pretending to be dinosaurs.

As dramatic as it may sound, days like March 11, 2011 are firm reminders that sometimes there isn’t a tomorrow to put things off until, so make the most of today. Ganbare, Tohoku!

Need some inspiration? Maybe one of these groups could use some help:

Japan Red Cross Society / Cancer Research UK / (RED) 
Global Giving / Save the Children / World Vision / WWF

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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Halfway to adulthood: New Japanese festival for 10-year-olds gets parents talking

Halfway to adulthood: New Japanese festival for 10-year-olds gets parents talking

Japanese children enjoy many rite-of-passage celebration and age-specific holidays. This week it was Girls’ Day (hina matsuri) on March 3rd; next up in May will be Children’s Day (kodomo no hi). Another children’s holiday comes along in November: shichi-go-san, for children who have turned 3, 5 or 7 that year.

Once Japanese young adults turn 20, they have a special holiday to celebrate the beginning of adulthood, too. Coming of Age Day (seijin no hi) celebrates those who have reached the Japanese age of majority by turning 20 the previous year. And now growing in popularity is the “halfway to adulthood” festival, held when a child is 10 years old.

So what is this new(ish) celebration, where did it come from, and what does its burgeoning popularity tell us about Japan today?

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Stunning rediscovered photos show life in Japan 100 years ago

Stunning rediscovered photos show life in Japan 100 years ago

A worker pulls a passenger cart over a wooden bridge, Mount Fuji’s snowy peak rising in the background. Men wear long dark robes as they catch fish from traditional Japanese boats, and women dive for pearls in the river. Looking at these photos of rural Japan, it’s hard to believe they were only taken 100 years ago.

The photographic techniques, however, are deliciously retro. Tinted in blue or sepia, the photos are overlaid with multiple exposures, soft-focused for a hazy glow. At the turn of the 20th century, this so-called “pictorial photography” was enjoying a brief international boom. Japan, meanwhile, was experiencing a period of rapid industrialisation which would see it move from a feudal to a modernised nation. These fascinating photos offer an insight into a way of life that was already disappearing.

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From Frozen to Gandalf, Madrid’s cosplayers find inspiration in unlikely places【Photos】

From Frozen to Gandalf, Madrid’s cosplayers find inspiration in unlikely places【Photos】

The Japan Chibi Weekend, held in February in Madrid, is a relatively small player in the anime convention world. Entry costs just 7 euros (US$10),  and its name even means “mini” in Japanese. That doesn’t stop anime and manga fans having a blast though, with a great mix of Japanese and western characters on show in the cosplay competition and around the convention.

Although the two-day event focuses on manga, anime and Japanese culture, the competitors’ handmade costumes included an impressive line-up of Disney and Dreamworks characters, too! Let’s take a look at what was on offer in the Spanish capital at this year’s event.

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We try chucking our lunchtime bento into a pan of soup, result is doubly delicious

We try chucking our lunchtime bento into a pan of soup, result is doubly delicious

The cutesy home-made lunches that lucky Japanese children take to school are famous worldwide. For the time-pushed or culinarily challenged among us, though, store-bought bento (boxed lunches) can offer great value for money. Convenience store bento, which are hugely popular all over Japan, contain all kinds of delicious goodies like fish, meat, stewed vegetables and pickles, along with rice. When one bento-loving Japanese university student threw caution to the wind and sunk her entire lunch into her miso soup, she discovered that the resulting soupy concoction was even more tasty than she could have imagined! Thus, convenience store bento soup was born!

Here at RocketNews24 we love to try out rice-augmenting recipes and other wacky food combinations, so when a writer from our Japanese sister site heard about this amazing invention, made by heating the entire contents of a convenience store lunchbox in a pot of miso soup, she just had to give it a try! Let’s see how she got on.

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10 surprising things about America (according to this crazy Japanese travel pamphlet)

10 surprising things about America (according to this crazy Japanese travel pamphlet)

Visitors to Japan are often perplexed or amused by some of its weird and wonderful customs: endless bowing and kneeling, slapping a face mask on at the first sign of a sniffle, the seemingly never-ending cycle of obligation-based gift giving. Then there are the differences between Japanese homes and those in other countries (I for one am sitting on the floor as I write this, eating potato chips with chopsticks to keep my keyboard clean). But how do Japanese tourists feel about the customs and habits of countries they visit?

A Japanese pamphlet offering advice to people travelling to America has surfaced on the internet, and it’s now been translated into English for you. Let’s take a look at some of the things Japanese people thought were weird about America, starting with … some crazy thing called “dinner plates”!

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How epic is PlayStation 4? The specs of Sony’s newest console explained through Dragon Ball

How epic is PlayStation 4? The specs of Sony’s newest console explained through Dragon Ball

Readers in North America, Europe and Australia, where the PlayStation 4 was released back in November, might be surprised to learn that Japanese gamers are still waiting for Sony’s next-gen console. But this Saturday February 22, the PS4 is finally unleashed on the video game capital of the world!

As we’ve discovered before, Dragon Ball can be used to explain just about anything, and this clever infographic shows how the PS4 compares to its predecessor – with specs converted into battle strength! So if Frieza was a PS4, just how powerful would he be?

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Guard your smartphone with a tiny ninja accomplice

Guard your smartphone with a tiny ninja accomplice

Lurking in the shadows is a mysterious figure. He conceals himself behind a giant kite, a flipped tatami mat, or a sliding door. Only his eyes are visible from beneath his dark robes. Yes, it’s a tiny ninja, and with a distinctly modern purpose: to protect your smartphone from would-be assailants!

There are three different warriors to choose from, each using a different ninja art to fend off attacks:

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Japanese pottery repair technique makes comeback, clumsy people rejoice

Japanese pottery repair technique makes comeback, clumsy people rejoice

When I was 13, I fell in love with a hand-made bowl in a ceramics shop in Italy. “How are you going to get it home without breaking it?” asked my dad. I wrapped it in a tight bundle of clothes in my suitcase and fretted about it all the way back to England.

My little bowl survived the airline baggage handlers, but it was no match for a clutz like me. Two weeks later, I knocked it off the kitchen counter and it took a sizeable triangular chip out of the rim. “It’s always the things you like that get broken”, my dad told me. “The bowls and cups that you don’t care about, they stay in the cupboard and don’t get smashed up.”

If only I’d known then about kintsugi, the Japanese art of restoring pottery that makes a broken object even more beautiful than it was before.

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Don’t bother, ladies: Survey reveals most Japanese guys don’t want your Valentine’s chocolate

Don’t bother, ladies: Survey reveals most Japanese guys don’t want your Valentine’s chocolate

Valentine’s Day gifts in Japan are usually one-directional, with women giving chocolate to men. You might think the people leading any kind of counter-movement against this would be the girls, fed up with having to buy or make chocolates for everyone in the office. But a new survey shows it’s the guys who are unhappy, with 90 percent saying they don’t care or would rather the girls didn’t bother.

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