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“I want to make it easier for people to come out”: Ami Takeuchi on being a trans woman in Japan

Beauty queen and “too cute to be true” Japanese model Ami Takeuchi released her first idol DVD on May 17 at a handshake and photo event for fans. Takeuchi’s DVD is not only the model’s first – it’s also being touted as the first ever idol DVD by a “new half” – the Japanese term for a trans female.

And at the launch event, Takeuchi spoke of the need for change, and her hope that Japanese society can become a place where it is easier for trans people to come out.

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36 more humorous glimpses of Asia 【Pics】

Need a little laugh to help ease yourself into the week?

In the past, we’ve featured some photo fun from Asia35 signs you might be in Asia, as well as 39 looks at the lighter side of Asia. This time, we’re bringing you 36 more bizarre, comical, and downright nonsensical scenes from around Asia!

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Someone help this poor, dying cat! Oh, wait, never mind 【Trollcats】

A Japanese Twitter user was in for a gruesome surprise on Thursday when, while out getting some fresh air, he stumbled across an exceedingly unfortunate cat that appeared to have been heinously murdered in the streets (perhaps by some Bad Rats).

The doomed feline was lying on its side near what appears to be a parking lot, with copious amounts of “blood spatter” forming a grisly trail to the poor kitty.

But, there’s more to this crime scene than meets the eye.

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In pictures: Everyday life in China and Hong Kong, 1868-1872【Photos】

Scottish travel writer and photographer John Thomson was one of the first western photographers to travel to the Far East. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, he travelled extensively in China, recording what he saw for posterity.

From elaborately dressed brides to working fishermen, Thomson captured landscapes and city scenes, people and places. The result is a captivating insight into the everyday lives of Chinese people almost 150 years ago.

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Here are the 15 most amazing home made robots, tanks, and vehicles in China

China is known as an industrious nation and, after pictures surfaced of one Chinese teacher who built a phenomenal “Iron Man” Hulkbuster replica in his garage, it seemed like the right time to take a look at some of the country’s most impressive home made inventions.

From full size, working airplanes to wooden, yet electronic cars, the Chinese have spent anything from a couple of months to several years, knocking up some pretty impressive modes of transports and robots.

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Valley of the (creepy) dolls: Nagoro has hundreds of scarecrows but almost no people

On a recent trip to Shikoku, we heard about a small town tucked away in the Iya Valley called Nagoro. Like many small rural towns in Japan, the human population has dwindled to almost nothing in recent years. Unlike other towns, though, Nagoro doesn’t look empty. That’s because it’s populated by hundreds of scarecrows.

Of course we had to go check it out.

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NHK host, bullied for being “too busty”, quits, sticks it to the man with new photo book

Apparently, the Okinawan branch of oft-despised broadcaster NHK (Nihon Hoso Kyokai or Japan Broadcasting Corporation) had been receiving complaints, starting around 2008, from concerned parents about a morning host who was boasting some exceptionally large assets and making men and teenage boys feel all funny and conflicted while tucking in to their morning cereal.

Former announcer Tomoka Takenaka says viewers would regularly call in to complain about her (Japan size) G-cup breasts, with such gems as, “I can’t concentrate on the news [with those things in my face]!” and “It’s not good for kids to see [huge breasts] first thing in the morning”.

After additional on-set bullying from co-workers, Takenaka decided she’d had enough and called it quits to ironically pursue a career where her endowment would be more appreciated: modeling.

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Red skies and mud rain in China as apocalypse begins earlier than expected

Listen guys. I have some bad news. You might want to sit down for this.

The apocalypse is clearly happening right now, and if you’re in China, Mongolia or that general region, you may want to go ahead and kiss your loved ones goodbye, because Cthulhu himself, or some other terrible dark deity, is already sending warning of the end times in the form of blood-red skies and freaking black stuff raining from the heavens. Sorry, guys, but we’re clearly all doomed.

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Heartbreaking photos inside the bedrooms of children who died in last year’s South Korean ferry disaster

A year ago Thursday, a ferry carrying 476 people sank off the coast of Incheon, near Seoul, South Korea, during a routine trip to the island of Jeju.

In all, 295 people aboard the Sewol perished, many of them high-school students and teachers who were on a field trip. Many of the bodies still have not been recovered.

Since the disaster, controversy has centered on the South Korean government’s response. Some argue the government attempted to whitewash its accountability in the incident; others have called for a thorough investigation.

Parents of the students who died in the catastrophe are still reeling from their loss a year later. Many still keep their children’s rooms intact to keep their memories alive. Reuters photographer Kim Hong-Ji visited their homes and documented the families and the rooms.

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Mochi hot cakes: The Japanese pancakes you don’t even need a rice cooker to make!

There’s a reason we say “selling like hotcakes”, and that reason is that hotcakes are awesome. These fluffy, light little circles of joy were sent to make snack time delightful and fill the world with rainbows and sunshine.

But if you’ve ever looked down at your little pancakes and thought “hey, this just isn’t Japanese enough for me!” then we have the answer for you. Mochi, Japan’s favourite rice cake, is said to make hot cakes even fluffier and even more awesome. But how do you add a solid, square block of mochi to a bowl of pancake mix anyway?

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Hirakawa Zoo’s Twitter feed packed with baby otters, extreme levels of cuteness

Ahh, the internet. It used to be that if you wanted snorgle-worthy pictures of baby animals, you had to go out and take them yourself, risking skinned knees, mozzie bites, and the occasional head cold to do so. Now, we can sit back in the comfort of our own beanbag chairs and have the cute come to us.

The latest digital goldmine to be discovered? The Twitter feed of the Hirakawa Zoo in Kyushu, where a pair of baby Asian small-clawed otters have been bringing the cute in a big way.

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Forget Tokyo’s giant Gundam statue, we wanna visit this plastic-bottle Gundam in Tochigi!

We’re pretty big fans of Odaiba’s full-scale Gundam statue, which towers over Tokyo Bay at an incredible 18 metres tall. But there’s nothing quite like homespun charm, and we’re equally delighted to discover the existence of a plastic bottle version, built single-handedly by one enthusiastic sake shop owner in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo.

Our friends over at off-the-beaten-track Japan travel site Another Tokyo went to check it out last month, and this is what they found.

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The times they are a-changin': Snapshots of Tokyo 50 years ago vs. today【Photos】

Once upon a time, Tokyo was nowhere near the sprawling megalopolis that it is today. Long ago, it wasn’t a sure thing that the small fishing village known as Edo would someday become one of the most bustling cities in the world.

But let’s skip Tokyo’s early years and fast-forward to a slightly more recent age. Ever wondered what the city looked like half a century ago, before the towering skyscrapers and iconic neon lights? Today, we are proud to present a visual comparison of Tokyo, 50 years ago versus the modern day!

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High art or crime scene? More photos of passed-out salarymen 【Pics】

A late-night stroll through the streets of Shinjuku or some other lively Tokyo neighborhood usually involves flashing neon signs, groups of people heading to and from drinking parties, and cries of “Otsukarasamadeshita!” (“You’ve worked hard!”) between red-faced coworkers as they part ways. As the evening wears on, a new creature makes its entrance onto the scene. Curled up on the sidewalk or spread eagle on a bench, it’s that curious big-city phenomenon, the passed out salaryman.

Photographer Kenji Kawamoto recently shined a new light on these hard-working, hard-partying company men with a series of photos depicting their various states of repose. While the result is surprisingly artistic, context really is everything; more than a few of these look like shots of crime scenes. 

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Nine of our Japanese writers share the restaurants they absolutely must visit again!

Have you ever had a meal so good that you decided you absolutely had to come back at least once before you kicked the bucket? It might have been some tiny restaurant on a beach or a five-star establishment in Shinjuku, but we imagine lots of people have some special place where the food was just freaking perfect.

So, we asked our Japanese writers what those places were for them and compiled the answers. You’re welcome! Click below to find out the ten places (someone cheated) they absolutely must visit again and see if your favorite eatery made the list.

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Want to relive all your horrifyingly awkward high school dates? Now you can with this photoshoot.

A recent photo shoot uploaded to the photography site Pakutaso has gotten a lot of attention online for its somewhat bizarre theme and pretty model. The photos, which were provided by “Timeslip Joshi Kosei” (or “Timeslip High School Girls”), depict a model 19-year-old model travelling “back in time” to her high school days and going on a date.

The photos, which are all shot from the point of view of her date, portray a pleasant high school romance. Which makes us think that whoever organized this photo shoot doesn’t actually know what dating in high school is like…

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Controversy and confusion as young woman is allowed to sit in cockpit on Cathay Pacific flight

When 28-year-old Ada Ng posted photos of herself sitting in the cockpit of a Cathay Pacific flight, she would never have imagined that she would find herself in the middle of a social media storm soon after.

But Ng’s photos and videos of her experience, and accompanying excited comments, which were posted on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo, have prompted debate about airline security – and confusion as to why the young woman was allowed to travel in this way, seemingly in breach of post-9/11 security standards.

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And now for some photo fun from Asia 【Pics】

The continent of Asia itself contains over half of the world’s population. Looking solely at the numbers, this means that there’s a much higher chance for something crazy to go down here than in other parts of the world.

So when you see pictures of people like the woman above, you might get the sense that a lot of Asians are a little bit out-there, but actually for the most part they’re just as plain as you, me or my buddy Kenji who dresses up like a panda at his local zoo and pretends to mate with another panda-dressed co-worker to encourage the real pandas to get it on.

So please keep people like Kenji in mind when viewing these 14 photos of strange occurrences around our lovely continent.

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More than 600,000 rounds of fireworks are exploded for this ancient Chinese New Year celebration

Every year, the Chinese New Year is celebrated for more than two weeks in January or February, with many festivals and celebrations commemorating the occasion. On the first day of the New Year, the festival kicks off with the Firecracker Ceremony, during which locals light nearly 600,000 rounds of fireworks.

Last Thursday, we headed down to New York City’s Chinatown to see the community’s 16th annual Firecracker Ceremony. The community was celebrating the beginning of the Year of the Goat.

It is a tradition for Chinese people to light bamboo sticks filled with gunpowder on the first day of the year to create as large as commotion as possible. The practice is thought to ward off evil spirits. In more recent years, the tradition is carried on with firecrackers and fireworks. Thousands of firecrackers are strung up with red ribbon on the rope in the background.

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Wander through the forest with Princess Mononoke in these beautiful photos from Oregon cosplayers

Tesla Cosplay are an all-female group who describe themselves as “five girls from Oregon who decided to add a little ‘awesome’ to their lives”. And looking at these photos from their recent Princess Mononoke shoot on location, we think they’ve achieved that aim!

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