Saitama

This year’s contest to choose Japan’s greatest mascot attracting some shady characters

Call me old fashioned but I remember when mascots were meant to be cute, not demons spawned by human weakness or yam ninjas.

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Dragon Quest celebrates anniversary with enormous rice paddy art in Gyoda, Japan【Video】

The Guinness World record-holding game joins up with the Guinness World record-holding rice paddy to create a Dragon Quest artwork on a massive scale.

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Mass stabbing in Japan leaves 19 dead and dozens injured

According to local media reports, the incident is one of Japan’s worst massacres since WWII.

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Japan’s most sensitive bikers busted for Valentine’s Day rowdiness

Gather around and listen to the tale of Discreet Relationship; the most gosh darn precious biker gang Japan has ever seen.

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Angry customer smashes pachinko machines with hammer 【Video】

Videos have emerged of a man smashing pachinko machines with a hammer before being arrested by police.

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Japanese city’s promotional animation is an emotional roller coaster like no other 【Video】

This flipbook animation will have your heart doing flips right along with it.

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Kidnapped girl escapes from abductor after two years in confinement

A girl who was apparently held captive in Tokyo for two years has escaped and been reunited with her family.

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This photo of a train has an amazing surprise

If you look closely there’s a chance you’ll be able to see it…

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Barbapapa opens its first cafe in Japan with exclusive menu of cute characters

Joining the amazing anime café openings this month is Café Barbapapa in Saitama Prefecture, with a gorgeous lineup of sweets, sandwiches and drinks all featuring cute character details from the series.

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Stunning Saitama rice field art snags Guinness record

You may have already heard about rice field art: Those complex works that use dyed or naturally colored rice grains to create gorgeous patterns, or that turn the whole rice field into a canvas for a massive “painting” that can only be fully appreciated from the skies. Also, because Japan, Ultraman is sometimes involved.

But the phenomenon, once a niche practice for small Japanese cities that otherwise had nothing in the way of tourist destinations, has caught on to the point that the Guinness Book has actually recorded, for posterity, the current world’s largest work of rice field art.

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Saitama now offering free SIM cards to foreign tourists

Japan is well-known for its unique hospitality culture, which partially stems from the concept of “ichigo-ichie” (lit. “one time, one meeting”), the tea master’s philosophy that every encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime moment to be cherished.

Now, Japan is flexing its hospitality muscles in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by rolling out new services and products to help visitors and reduce the stress that comes with travelling in a country where things can sometimes get lost in translation. The latest display of impressive hospitality comes from Saitama City, where the city council is offering free SIM cards to its foreign visitors.

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Camera crew visits the abandoned town that inspired Japanese survival horror game “Siren”【Video】

Back in 2003, the world was introduced to the first Siren, a survival horror video game which told the story of a mysterious secluded village caught between time and space. Like the best games of its genre, the setting played a pivotal role in captivating the player, sucking them into an eerie atmosphere made all the more scary by the tremendously creepy town.

It turns out that the fictional town of Hanuda is based on an actual town in Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. Life imitates game as a camera crew heads to the abandoned town, just like how a crew did in the third Siren game. Take a look at the footage they captured after the break. If you aren’t too afraid…

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Johnson Town: A little piece of America in Japan… where all the residents are Japanese 【Pics】

Groups of people moving to a new country often settle in the same area together, creating a little neighborhood reminiscent of their old lives in their new homes. In the U.S., we have a Chinatown or Little Italy in almost every big city, and Japan has the same thing too. They even have something you may have never heard of: Little America towns that used to house U.S. military personnel.

But what happens when the military decides they don’t want to live there anymore? Then you get a place like Johnson Town in Saitama Prefecture, where you’d swear you were walking around rural America, if not for the fact that it’s entirely populated by Japanese people.

What is one of these Little America towns in Japan like? And, most importantly, do they have good American-style food? A reporter from our Japanese sister site went to investigate and bring you all the answers, some of which may surprise you.

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Soak yourself in 100% pure hot spring water at home for less than 100 yen!

In the land of earthquakes, typhoons, blistering summers and mountains of snow in the winter, Japan’s plentiful and luxurious hot springs are Mother Nature’s way of letting us know that she doesn’t totally hate us.

But the number of true hot springs – where water naturally comes from the ground rather than being pumped in and then heated – is lower than you might imagine. Many places such as the new “hot spring” being built in Shinjuku have their water shipped in from a real hot spring source.

And now, if you live in the Kanto area, you can ship in your own hot spring water too! Why pay entry into some huge complex when you can soak in your own home bathtub away from the leering eyes of RocketNews24 journalists or tattoo-prudes. Oh, and did we mention it’s ridiculously cheap?

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Upcoming announcement for a Moomin theme park has fans clamoring for info 【Update: Confirmed!】

Over two years ago, the Finnish Ambassador to Japan announced that a Moomin theme park was being developed in Japan with the expected opening date in 2015. Some of our readers might be asking, “What the heck is a Moomin?” but these hippo-like fairies who originated in Finland have a very strong following and fan base in Japan. You might not be familiar with Moomin before you come to Japan, but once you get here, you grow to welcome them at your dining table.

Well, it’s already halfway through 2015, and there is still no Moomin theme park ready to take our money. Or is there? There might be a forthcoming announcement that has us all in a tizzy.

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15 million flowers are in beautiful bloom right now at Saitama’s field of Heavenly Poppies

As Japan gets ready to flip the calendar from May to June, it’s a perfect time to get out of the house and spend some time outdoors. If you’re the sort who hates cold weather, it’s finally warm enough to spend the afternoon outside with no need of a jacket, and if you can’t stand the heat, you’ve only got a few weeks left until the onset of the steamy rainy season and sizzling midsummer weather patterns.

And to sweeten the deal, right now there’s a perfect spot for your sojourn with nature, this breathtaking field of over 15 million flowers in Saitama Prefecture known as the Heavenly Poppies.

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Japan’s “Underground Temple” now up for virtual touring in Google Street View

Running underneath Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture, lies the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel – a sprawling network of waterways as long as its name. Its 6.3 kilometers (3.9 miles) of tunnels are intended to divert flood water from area rivers.

Also, since the massive project was completed in 2009 its enormous columns and walls are in relatively pristine condition giving the place an almost magical atmosphere. As a result it’s earned the nickname of the “Underground Temple” and has been frequently used in movies and music videos.

Tours run regularly for free which you can join, or just take a peek right now from the comfort of your browser with Google Street View.

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‘Dressed Omurice’ might just be the most beautiful omurice we’ve ever seen 【Video】

Ask Japanese kids what their favourite foods are and you’re as likely to get the answer “hamburg” or “curry rice” as you are “sushi.” Japanese food is popular around the world, but less well known to foreigners is the proliferation and popularity of yōshoku dishes – Japanese western food. Yōshoku makes up a sizeable part of the menus of family restaurants in Japan, as well as being popular home-cooked food. Staples include the aforementioned hamburger steaks (no buns) served with demi-glace; curry and rice, eaten with a spoon; naporitan spaghetti in a ketchup-based sauce; and of course omurice, chicken-and-ketchup rice topped with a thin yellow omelette.

There’s always room for a little more innovation, though. Like this restaurant in Saitama that’s turned the old favourite, omurice, into a beautiful swirl of eggy perfection.

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Ritzy Japanese cop breaks Rolex wristwatch during arrest, sends suspect US$6,000 repair bill

With famously low crime rates and an honest society that returns wallets full of cash, Japanese cops usually have it a bit easier than their overseas counterparts. But while they may have some extra time on their hands, Japanese police officers still are put in the line of danger catching the bad guys and keeping Japan safe.

One cop in Saitama Prefecture was reminded of this reality when he was got banged up pretty badly and broke his expensive Rolex watch a couple of years ago while pursuing a man suspected of exposing himself to a young girl. This cop shocked his colleagues and the public last week when Japanese media reported that, after arresting the suspect, the police officer took the man to court and sued for him for damages including more than 700,000 yen (US$5,949) to repair the watch!

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Spooky “radiation fog” turns Saitama cityscape into Silent Hill overnight

Halloween may be over for this year, but the weather gods in Saitama clearly hadn’t got the message on Wednesday morning this week, as the city was shrouded in a mysterious thick fog – with an even more mysterious name!

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