Japanese

Six outdoor Japanese hot springs you can visit right now (with Google Street View)

Almost everyone loves soaking in an outdoor hot spring bath, called rotenburo in Japanese. The combination of soothing natural mineral water and being buck naked outside is enough to wash all your stress away. Just look at those little capybara in the photo above. Don’t they look so relaxed?

If you ever have the chance to visit Japan, we highly recommend you take a dip in a rotenburo. But if you aren’t able to make the long journey over to this wonderful country right away, might we suggest taking a virtual tour of six outdoor hot springs in Japan?

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We test our Japanese staff’s knowledge of kanji by making them take a kanji aptitude test

Anyone who’s serious about studying the Japanese language will soon encounter that seemingly insurmountable wall known as kanji. Many of those people will inevitably think, “Just how many of them do I have to learn to be able to read Japanese?” Well, to put it simply, it depends on to what degree you want to be able to read like a native speaker.

Of course, the meaning of “to read like a native speaker” is also up for debate. In search of this answer, we had four adult members of our Japanese staff take three different levels of a kanji aptitude test. How do you think they fared?

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The number one thing that foreign men find “not so kawaii” about Japanese women

For some reason, the Japanese internet just loves polling its readers about a variety of (often mundane) topics in the form of surveys, polls, and other data collection methods. One of the biggest themes revolves around international perceptions of Japan, particularly in the realms of dating and relationships, as our site has featured multiple times in the past.

According to the latest poll conducted in a joint effort between Omron Healthcare Co., Ltd. and Wacoal (a lingerie company based in Kyoto) for an ongoing women empowerment project, 98% of foreign men perceive Japanese women to be kawaii (“cute”). But can you guess the number one thing that the majority of those men find to be unattractive about Japanese women, and what researchers are planning to do about it?

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Russian beauty talks about troubles foreigners face when first moving to Japan 【Video】

Japan attracts foreigners of all kinds and people decide to come here for all sorts of different reasons. But, as with any culture different from one’s own, there can be some aspects of Japanese culture that are hard for foreigners to wrap their heads around or get used to, such as deciding if you should help a crying girl.

Ashiya, a beautiful Russian expat, recently shared some of her difficulties upon coming to Japan on her YouTube channel*. We have a feeling that these will strike a chord with many other expats and internationalists interested in Japan as well, Russian or not.

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We’re struggling to find the Japan in Bose’s new “JAPAN CONCEPT MODEL” headphones

What’s that you say? Bose headphones in two brand new limited edition Japanese designs? Well, that sounds right up our street!

American audio specialists Bose continue to lead the noise-cancelling headphone market, but at US$250-$300, their QuietComfort 25 headphones are something of an investment. So what have the designers at Bose done with these new limited-edition “Japan Concept” headphones to warrant the bumped-up 43,200 yen ($366) price tag?

Why, they’ve made them in “Japanese colours” like black and gold, of course!

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Struggling with Japanese? Let Tako lend you a hand…or five

Yes, I know octopi have eight tentacles not six, but Tako of Takos Japanese has five. It’s the same cartoon logic that makes the Simpson family all have eight fingers. And yes, I know the name should probably read “Tako’s Japanese.” Really though, let’s not get bogged down in talk of appendages and apostrophes right now.

Today we’re here to look at a new Japanese study app released by Spain-based Giant Soul Interactive. A lot of Japanese study apps found online are either fun but limited in content or deep but boring and stodgy. Learn Japanese with Tako (recently changed from “Takos Japanese”) aims to strike a happy balance of a fun way to learn the language that’s also rich in content. Let’s find out if they succeed.

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Islamic State militants demand $200m for release of Japanese nationals, threaten their execution

A video purported to have been made by Islamic State militants showing a man dressed in black standing over two Japanese hostages has been released online. The video addresses both the Japanese government and Japanese public directly and demands a ransom of US$200 million, to be paid in less than 72 hours.

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Flipping the kanji for “husband” upside-down reveals slightly worrying double meaning

The common stereotype about women among sexually frustrated, mostly parents’ basement-dwelling, men is that girls only go for attractive, rich guys, and never the nice, tender guys with warm hearts and chic fedoras.

Well, when it comes to one of those observations, anyway, there appears to be at least one cultural precedent of a diabolical hidden message that seemingly proves the stereotype right in one of the very words that defines men and women’s relationship in Japan…

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Survey ranks convenience store rice balls – salmon, sea-dwelling poultry & plants steal the show

Known to many in the English-speaking world simply as rice balls, onigiri are as much a part of daily life in Japan as sandwiches are in the West. Although they’re often eaten as snacks or included along with a handful of other items as a packed lunch, for many Japanese onigiri are the ultimate comfort food; something that, no matter which part of the country they find themselves in, they can easily make or pick up from a convenience store.

Of course, store-bought onigiri can never come close to those pressed into shape by someone who knows their way around a rice cooker, but they always hit the spot nevertheless, and hundreds of thousands of these little lumps of savoury goodness are eaten every single day. But what are Japan’s most loved convenience store rice balls? And do tastes vary from chain to chain? Well, according to a recent survey, there are three onigiri fillings that Japan is especially fond of.

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Katakana is cool: Designers take inspiration from Japan’s least popular writing system

Remember the Chinese character phase? Back in the early 2000s you could see Chinese characters everywhere from T-shirts to tattoos. While the trend still continues to some extent today, once people started realizing that you should probably double-check the meaning before going out in public, it has definitely slowed down.

Maybe Chinese symbols have a sort of stigma now, but that is not stopping major designers from branching out into the other styles of Japanese writing, namely katakana. This new trend is being used by brands all over the world, from Adidas to Stussy.

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Cat got your tongue? 10 unusual Japanese phrases that use the word ‘cat’

Cats. Where to begin? They’re cute, cunning, easily offended, happy with or without us and we could never imagine our lives without them. They are rich in mystery and surprise and it’s no wonder the Internet is flooded with pictures and videos of them.

Japan also has a long history of interactions with cats, from believing they can foresee natural disasters to being creatures of vengeance, out to kill humans. Because of this, there are some great Japanese words that use “neko” (猫), the word for “cat,” in combination with another character. Learn some Japanese, and fall even more in love with cats through our list of 10 “catty” Japanese words.

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Lonely diners discover an easy way to get handwritten confessions of love from Yoshinoya staff

Anyone who has watched even a handful of episodes of Japanese anime will have heard the words “suki” or “daisuki” at some point. Literally meaning “like” and “like very much” (daisuki is, after all, written with the characters 大 “big” and 好き “like”), these two words are used not just when describing one’s preference for a particular pokémon or pizza topping, but when declaring deep, “more-than-friends” feelings for someone.

It would seem, however, that staff at Japanese fast food chain Yoshinoya have recently been unwittingly handing declarations of love to especially peckish patrons following the arrival of a popular seasonal dish, with these handwritten love letters becoming the subject of great amusement online.

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10 misconceptions Japanese people think foreigners have about Japan

Unintentional cultural misunderstandings became the subject of great debate in Japan recently following a new round of commercials produced for cup noodle manufacturer Nissin. Although intended to be entirely tongue-in-cheek, some people have raised the issue that it is precisely these kinds of advertisements that compound incorrect notions about a country and lead to further stereotyping, which led to a survey being taken which asked Japanese to list the things that they perceive to be the most common stereotypes about their own culture.

Think you can guess what made the list? Keep reading after the jump to find out!

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18 Japanese words understood around the world

If you’re an enthusiastic linguaphile like myself, you probably spend a good part of each day A) Thinking up ways to make your friends groan yet again with all your linguistic knowledge (e.g. dressing up as a “dead language” for Halloween), and B) Getting super excited whenever you discover the etymology of a new word (also, C) Debating which flavor of ice cream to buy based solely on how witty its name is).

One of my favorite linguistically related topics to contemplate is the constant borrowing of words and shifts in meaning that takes place among the world’s languages. Students of Japanese are often surprised to discover the huge inventory of ‘loan words’ in Japanese that were borrowed from English which have often either changed drastically from their original pronunciations or are combined in different ways to create new, Japanese-made English terms.

But how about the flip side of that–Japanese words that have been imported into other languages? Join us after the jump for a look at some of them!

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New app helps you translate Japanese and Chinese offline using smartphone camera

With their complex writing systems, getting around in Japan or China can be stressful for even the most seasoned of tourists. Sure, you could carry a travel dictionary in your pocket while you go sightseeing, but how are you supposed to look up all those funny looking sticks and squiggles when you don’t even know how to pronounce them? Often the locals try to be helpful by providing an English translation, but there are reasons why that doesn’t always work out. If only there was a way to just wave your magic smartphone over some unintelligible text and have it provide a reliable translation on the spot. Well, as we discovered over at Shanghai Listthere’s an app for that.

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Nose songs, bug teeth and dirt sticks: 10 Japanese words translated way too literally

As anyone who has studied Japanese for any length of time will tell you, leaning lists of vocabulary can be tough. On some occasions, the very first time you’ll meet a word will be on paper; some abstract or complex term that’s almost impossible to remember as it’s so rarely used in the real world. Other times, you’ll have heard–or perhaps even used a word yourself–in conversation, but when encountering it on paper for the first time it may appear completely alien due to the characters with which it’s written.

Thankfully, though, since kanji characters are based on meaning rather than speech sounds, it can be easy to decipher a written word even if you’re still not sure how to pronounce it. But sometimes, translating a word too literally can land you in all kinds of trouble, or at the very least leave you chuckling to yourself while native Japanese speakers are left wondering what’s so funny…

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Chinese university gets hot new Japanese teacher; internet goes crazy

Ask any group of students why they like a particular class and you’ll probably get a range of sincere-sounding answers professing love of learning and enthusiasm for the subject matter. While those things may well be true, in real life our reasons for making even the most crucial of life decisions aren’t always particularly noble or earnest.

When a beautiful young female teacher named Ms. Du took charge of Japanese language classes at one Chinese university this year, so many students turned up that she had to move to a larger classroom. Now, the stunning sensei at China’s Southwestern University of Finance and Economics has even become an internet sensation after photos of her were posted online.

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“A pig that doesn’t fly is just a pig”: 8 of Japan’s favourite Ghibli movie quotes

Studio Ghibli movies are adored worldwide for their character and heart. When a contributor to a Japanese online message board asked users for the best, wisest, most famous lines from a Ghibli movie, the responses range from the beautiful to the bizarre.

Here, we bring you our pick of the best! Why not choose one and stick it on your wall above your desk next to your Totoro mug and your framed photo of Mr. Sato?

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“Office lady in heels walking on tatami”: The mysterious world of Japanese fetishism

When I left England for Japan in 2011, I received a card from four schoolfriends of mine. “Keep in touch!” the girls had written. “Have a great time!” The one guy in the group had a slightly different message for me: “Enjoy the tentacle rape porn!”

While for many, Japan evokes imagery of ancient temples, plates of sushi, and Shinkansen, it is also known as the land of crazy weird sex stuff.  (Tentacle erotica, by the way, is much older and, I might add, much rarer than you might think). So when we stumbled across (I know, right! I can’t remember what we were looking for in the first place, either!) a Japanese blog post about surprising sexual fetishes, we knew it was worth sharing.

What’s your fetish? An introduction to the fetishes you won’t believe exist” runs the title of the list, compiled by 26-year-old Japanese NEET Nura Hikaru. We bring you our top three, plus a few bonus ideas for good measure.

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Turns out women STILL don’t want to see men’s nipples through their shirt

Eighty-four percent, apparently, is the magic number. And there I was thinking it was three all this time.

When we brought you the news last year that 84 percent of Japanese women said that not wearing an undershirt to work was “totally gross and, like, we can see your nipples, ewwwwww…”, little did we expect that some eighteen months later, a completely separate survey – this time with seven times as many participants – would not only confirm a general freaking-out about male summer nipple protrusion, but also come up with – get this - exactly the same number of non-nipple-showage fans: 84 percent.

This time, though, there’s a but. We should’ve known! There’s always a but.

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