Japanese culture

Giant floats, handmade structures & penis poking: The many ways to celebrate Hassaku Matsuri

Giant floats, handmade structures & penis poking: The many ways to celebrate Hassaku Matsuri

Hassaku Matsuri is a festival in Japan reserved for asking the gods for a bountiful harvest and happy life. It occurs every year during the first day of the eighth lunar month, usually falling during the beginning of September. Just as dialects and traditional foods vary depending on the region, Hassaku Matsuri is celebrated in vastly contrasting ways, especially in Kumamoto, Fukui, and Ibaraki prefectures. From intricate structures made of natural materials to an extremely inappropriate goblin, join us as we explore a few of the many Hassaku traditions in Japan.

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Stay at the unique Artist in Hotel and absorb some Japanese culture — through your hotel room!

Stay at the unique Artist in Hotel and absorb some Japanese culture — through your hotel room!

Tired of staying at nondescript, ordinary-looking hotels? If that’s the case, and you’re traveling to Tokyo, you may want to check out this highly unique hotel located in the Higashi-shimbashi area. In fact, when you stay at this hotel, you may not want to leave your room, because the rooms there have practically been turned into works of art, and not just any kind of art — each room is filled with elements of Japanese culture. So, why don’t we take a look at the stylish rooms at the Artist In Hotel, where the interior is not only stunningly artistic, but can be a cultural lesson as well!

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Nine things the US does better than Japan (according to our cosplaying Japanese reporter)

Nine things the US does better than Japan (according to our cosplaying Japanese reporter)

After a long week of Comic-Con and coming down off the high of crossdress cosplaying as Sailor Venus, our intrepid Japanese reporter, Yoshio, settled back into life in his home country and has taken some time to reflect on his trip. Yoshio has been to the US nearly a dozen times, but there are always several things that impress him. The following is a translation of his impressions and the nine things he thinks the US does better than Japan.

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【TBT】Tipping in Japan: Yes, it exists and it’s confusing

【TBT】Tipping in Japan: Yes, it exists and it’s confusing

Flipping through any travel guide about Japan you will learn that Japan is a country where tipping is non-existent. Leaving your change on the table at a restaurant may result in the waiter chasing you down to give it back.

But in Japan there actually is a system of tipping that exists but is tangled in a mysterious system of formality that no one really seems sure of. In an interview with Yahoo! Japan, Nobuko Akashi of the Japan Manners & Protocol Association attempts to unravel this system so we can all know when and where it’s appropriate to tip in Japan.

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6 things Japanese expats miss most about Japan

6 things Japanese expats miss most about Japan

As you may have noticed, we here at RocketNews24 are definitely not shy about giving out our opinions about life in Japan. But although you’ve heard plenty about what we think are the best and worst parts of living in the country, we thought it would be interesting to look at what Japanese people think of their own country.

After living and working abroad for a while, Japanese expats coming back home may find themselves thinking they’ve lost touch with their own culture. But we found a list of things that Japanese expats say are some of the best parts of life in Japan that you just can’t find anywhere else. Click below to find out the six things that Japanese citizens living overseas miss most about home!

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【Thursday Throwback】7 reasons New Year’s is the best time to experience Japan

【Thursday Throwback】7 reasons New Year’s is the best time to experience Japan

Christmas is less than a week away and I’m sure many of you in the Americas and Europe are looking forward to a (hopefully) relaxing day spent with family, good food and, of course, presents.

Here in Japan, Christmas seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year, but the flavor of the holiday is probably much different than it is abroad. For example, Christmas was originally popularized here as a holiday for couples to have a special night out in the city: have dinner at a fancy restaurant, exchange gifts and then spend the night together ‘celebrating’ at a hotel.

While still viewed as a ‘lover’s holiday’, Christmas has since spread to the household, with many families feasting on the now-traditional Japanese Christmas foods of cake and—thanks to an incredibly successful marketing campaign by KFC—fried chicken.

But for most Japanese families, the real holiday spirit is felt during the time around New Years. In fact, New Years is probably to Japan what Christmas is to the US and other Western countries.

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10 little-known rules for eating Japanese food

10 little-known rules for eating Japanese food

Japanese food, called washoku in Japan, has just been registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, but you didn’t need an official declaration to know that sushi and tempura are absolutely delicious. But while enjoying Japanese food, have you ever mixed wasabi and soy sauce as a dip for your sushi? Or how about using your bowl as a chopstick rest? If so, you’ve committed an etiquette faux pas. Take a look at our list of 10 little-known rules for eating Japanese food and save yourself some embarrassment while enjoying a traditional Japanese meal.

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Need a little help with your bags or the housework? Rent a middle-aged man for $10 an hour!

Need a little help with your bags or the housework? Rent a middle-aged man for $10 an hour!

Japan is well known for its vast array of escort services that cater to every societal niche. You can find flashy girls and guys at hostess bars and host clubs who pose as your conversation and drinking partners for however long your money lasts. Butler and maid cafes have also found a market with the slightly less seedy (but no less obsessed) crowd who are willing to pay money to be served tea by snappily dressed attendants as they chat you up.

But what about the people that aren’t interested in the overly fashionable, intimidating bar workers? What if you don’t want some cute maid young enough to be your daughter, or a stoic butler the same age as your little brother at your beck and call?

Japan has got just the thing for you! Introducing rent-able middle-aged dudes!

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Language of the otaku has infiltrated our Internet forums

Language of the otaku has infiltrated our Internet forums

I’m sure that many of our readers are acquainted with the Japanese word otaku and its assimilation into English. For those that aren’t, it is a special label given to people who are especially obsessed with what might be considered nerdy hobbies, particularly those related to Japanese anime and manga. In Japanese, it can refer to any person with an obsession, whether it be half-naked figurines or interior design, but it almost always carries the negative connotation of being obsessed to the point of anti-social behavior. In the Western world, however, being an otaku is a badge of honor for many. People who like Japanese manga, anime, and games will often self-identify as otaku and join together with others of like interests over the Internet and other social outlets.

For better or worse, this circle of online anime fanatics has adapted a small vocabulary of Japanese words, creating a sub-set of Internet slang that bridges the language gap between these two similar cultures. Japanese pop culture enthusiasts worldwide cling to words like baka, moe, hentai, and more. But is this particular aspect of otaku culture a healthy thing to have spread? For example, there’s also the potentially disillusioned concept of “mai waifu.”

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Japan questions imagery in risque portraits by New Zealand Prime Minister’s daughter

Japan questions imagery in risque portraits by New Zealand Prime Minister’s daughter

The current prime minister of New Zealand, John Philip Key, has been big in the news lately owing to his 20-year-old daughter, Stephie Key. Stephie is currently studying in France at the highly acclaimed art school, Paris College of Art, and is causing quite a stir with her newest string of risqué self portraits. Controversial as the work might be, it’s also quite cutting-edge, as one of her pieces was chosen to promote Paris Design Week on the second week of September.

But, it’s neither the nudity nor the artistry that caught the attention of Japanese news outlets. You see, many of the pictures contain words and themes that are obviously intended to be Japanese, but leave actual Japanese people scratching their heads.

Caution: some pictures contained in this article are not safe for work.

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Five things that keep Japanese people chained to their jobs

Five things that keep Japanese people chained to their jobs

Japanese workers are famous for their seemingly inexhaustible dedication to their companies and ability to work long, long hours. Japanese even has a specific word for death from overwork: karōshi (過労死). But is this work ethic something that Westerners ought to admire, or is Japan in need of a holiday?

Japan Today asked foreigners “Why do you think Japanese work such long hours?” and received a huge amount of comments from people who had experienced life in a Japanese company. The responses were overwhelmingly negative about the Japanese work ethos, and many believe a shift in attitudes towards work right across society is necessary. Five points in particular stood out as particularly problematic.

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Survey Among Expats in Japan: What Did You Think About Japan Before You Started Living Here?

Survey Among Expats in Japan: What Did You Think About Japan Before You Started Living Here?

When you hear the word, “Japan,” what comes to mind? Mt. Fuji? Animé? Cherry blossoms? Those of us who have lived in Japan came to this country with ideas of what we might encounter and many of those preconceived impressions turned out to be completely false. We asked foreigners who have been living in Japan for at least three years to share what they thought about Japan before ever stepping foot inside the country. Take a look at their answers:

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How the Expired Copyright License of Old Literary Works Could Keep Japan’s Cultural Soil Fertile

How the Expired Copyright License of Old Literary Works Could Keep Japan’s Cultural Soil Fertile

When it comes to reading famous literary works whose copyright license has expired, there is one piece of software that is renowned for doing the job rather well. It goes by the name of “Aozora Bunko” and is a digital contents reader available on a wide variety of devices; there’s even a version available for smart phone users. It is currently host to a plethora of copyright-free material rich in Japanese history and culture. What’s particularly exciting is that the more time goes by, the more the library of works can be seen to grow.

Anyone with an interest in old Japanese masterpieces – and can read Japanese – will surely be lured in by what this software has to offer. In this connection, on January 1 this year, the legendary writer Eiji Yoshikawa’s work “Miyamoto Musashi” is also set to be added to the collection. Miyamoto Musashi is a bestselling novel depicting the life of legendary samurai Musashi Miyamoto, who actually existed during the Japanese Edo era.

Just what makes all this free content possible is the rule that governs copyright licensing laws: 50 years after an author has passed away, copyrighted works are released freely into the public domain.

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Cha-Ching! Kids in Japan Receive Up to $1,500 During New Year’s

Cha-Ching! Kids in Japan Receive Up to $1,500 During New Year’s

Happy New Year!  Here’s a fist full of cash!

In Japan, there are many interesting New Year’s traditions. Aside from watching TV all night, risking your life eating mochi, and indulging in a ton of specially prepared food, those lucky enough to be young receive money.

Otoshidama, roughly translated as “New Year’s gift,” is the act of giving children small, decorated envelopes filled with money during New Year’s. Parents, relatives, and close friends usually give Otoshidama to children in elementary school to high school.

After collecting envelopes full of money from their closest adult relatives and friends, these kids make out like bandits. But just how much are these kids hauling in? The Benesse Corporation conducted a survey of elementary school children to find out.

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Privacy Please?【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

Privacy Please?【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

From my experience, there is very little privacy in Japan compared to the US.  You want to take some time off during the summer break to go on a vacation?  You better write down where you’re going and for how long so that information can be distributed to not only your boss, but everyone in the office.  Make a big mistake at work?  You’re purposely going to get scolded about it in front of your coworkers.  A close family member passed away?  You’re going to have to make a public announcement about it whether you want to or not (at least that’s what I was forced to do at work when my grandmother passed away and I had to suddenly go back to America).

The oddest invasion of privacy that I have ever encountered here in Japan is always during the yearly health examinations. Since I’m a public worker, once a year I am required to have a full physical.  This sounds awesome, I get a free health check-up and I don’t even need to make an appointment.

Wrong, it is awful.

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Online Survey Asks, “When Do You Feel Japanese?”

Online Survey Asks, “When Do You Feel Japanese?”

No matter what country you call home, there are always moments when you feel like a true citizen.  For me, it’s when I’m sitting on the couch watching football (the American version) and eating chips (of the thinly sliced, wavy fried potato variety) and dip.

What about Japan?  What makes Japanese citizens feel distinctly Japanese?  My Navi News asked 1,000 of their members to tell them about a moment when they felt Japanese. Here are the results of their survey:

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It’s Just Like a Handshake… 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

It’s Just Like a Handshake… 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

I have encountered many things in Japan that prompted me exclaim in disbelief, “that did not just happen!”

For example:

“I did not just see a guy peeing on the side of the road”

“That bunch of strawberries does not cost $20!”

“That lady did not just ask how big my husband’s thing is”

But the one that takes the cake, something I’ve said (on several occasions) is “that kid did not just stick his fingers up my butt.” 

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“Japanese People are Never on Time.” Twitter Comment Starts Online Debate About Overtime in Japanese Workplaces

“Japanese People are Never on Time.” Twitter Comment Starts Online Debate About Overtime in Japanese Workplaces

In Japan, if you aren’t ten minutes early to an event, you are late.

Planning parties was especially difficult when I studied abroad in Japan.  If I told all of my friends to come to my apartment at 9pm, my Japanese friends would show up at around 8:55 (5 minutes late) and my American friends would roll in at around 9:45 (or whenever they felt like it).  To remedy this problem, I learned to tell my Japanese friends to come a half hour later than my American friends.  After that, everyone arrived to my parties at around the same time.

In the land where trains magically run on time every day and no one is ever late to work, you would think the world could agree that Japan has mastered the art of time management.

However, one Twitter user isn’t convinced of Japan’s ability to follow a time table.  The tweet in question was made by an Indonesian nurse who is working in Japan.  It reads, “Japanese people are never on time.  They are very strict when it comes to being late, but never stop working on time.”  

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People of the World Speak: 9 Random Reasons to Love Japan

People of the World Speak: 9 Random Reasons to Love Japan

 

A few months ago, we found the top 25 things in Japan most likely to blow foreigner’s minds. This time, we asked foreigners (all men) to tell us what makes Japan such a great place.  Those surveyed came from France, the United States, Tunisia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Malta, and Ireland.

Ranging from seemingly mundane to large-scale societal characteristics, our readers explain why they love Japan.

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Bull Sumo in the Oki Islands 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

Bull Sumo in the Oki Islands 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

Starting this week, RocketNews24 will feature blogs written by people living in Asia who we hope can offer a unique glimpse at the country they call home. The first of these is You, Me, And a Tanuki by one of our own writers, Michelle. Originally from California, Michille is currently one of only two foreigners living in a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan.  We’re still looking for more unique and interesting stories from Asia to share with the world, so drop us a line if you’d like to have your own blog featured on RocketNews24.

The Oki Islands, nestled in the Sea of Japan, have a tumultuous history.  Once used as a place of exile for fallen emperors, the islands have been shaped by its unique past and transformed into an area rich in traditional culture and events.  One such event is ushi-tsuki, or bull sumo.  Used as a form of entertainment for the exiled Emperor Gotoba and dating back to 1221, the tradition of bull sumo is still proudly preserved by the local people of Oki.       

Unlike the famous “man vs. beast” bull fighting of Spain, Oki’s bull fighting pits bull against bull in a fair battle of brute bovine strength.  The match is over when one bull gives up and runs away and neither bull is injured in the ring.  There are even weight classes and bulls of comparable weight fight against each other.  Humans are present in the ring, but only play a supporting role facilitating the fight. 

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