technology

New ultra-stylish, extra-traditional Shinkansen has tatami floors, foot baths

New ultra-stylish, extra-traditional Shinkansen has tatami floors, foot baths

The Shinkansen is already a pretty cool way to get around Japan, as it whisks travelers from the country’s cosmopolitan urban centers to its more traditional rural locales.

But what if you want to experience a bit of authentic Japanese culture while you’re zipping across Japan at 200 miles per hour? Fear not, Japan Railway has just the thing: a bullet train with tatami reed flooring and a Japanese-style foot bath.

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New online manga service features 200 titles, three selectable languages, and no fees

New online manga service features 200 titles, three selectable languages, and no fees

Kadokawa, one of Japan’s largest publishers, is almost ready to roll out its new online manga service, dubbed Comic Walker. There’s so much to like about it that we’re having trouble picking our favorite part.

The voracious media consumer in us is attracted to the large library of titles, some of which can’t be read anywhere else. The ability to instantly translate dialogue into English or Chinese is a plus, too, especially for those time when you’re not up to the challenge of leafing through your Japanese dictionary so you can read the kanji for “particle beam cannon.”

But perhaps best of all is that Kadokawa’s digital manga service is absolutely free.

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iPhone gets stolen in Spain, Japanese owner gets hit with massive bill for $9,800

iPhone gets stolen in Spain, Japanese owner gets hit with massive bill for $9,800

Recently, we brought you the tale of a man whose iPhone was stolen while he was traveling in Thailand, only to have some of the sting taken out of the unfortunate development when he saw the pictures of the cute girl who was using the pilfered phone.

Now comes the story of another Japanese iPhone user who fell victim to overseas thieves, then received a surprise upon returning home. Unfortunately, his surprise wasn’t photos of a fine-looking female, but instead a massive bill from his cell phone carrier for nearly one million yen (US$9,800).

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Sega/Nintendo rivalry coming to theatres with Console Wars movie

Sega/Nintendo rivalry coming to theatres with Console Wars movie

You wouldn’t know it from the current state of the industry, but the biggest grudge match in video games wasn’t always PS4 versus Xbox One or Skyrim versus Dark Souls. For the bulk of console gaming’s most formative years, the bitterest rivalry was Nintendo versus Sega.

Back before Sega threw in the towel on making its own hardware, the two companies hated each other, and their fans did, too. “Nintendo makes games for little kids.” “Sega’s marketing is obnoxious and juvenile.” “The Super NES processor sucks.” “The Genesis sound chip sounds like a muffled fart.” “Mario is fat.” “Sonic only has one eyeball.”

Soon, you’ll be able to relive the epic struggle for 1990s video game supremacy with the feature film adaptation of the book “Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation.”

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Five Japanese customs even some Japanese people think are a pain

Five Japanese customs even some Japanese people think are a pain

One of the trickier aspects of adapting to life in Japan is getting the hang of the numerous seasonal customs. While your acquaintances aren’t likely to get that bent out of shape if you miss a day or two, completely adhering to proper etiquette involves managing a year-round schedule of sending gifts and written salutations to friends, family, and business associates.

The sentiment is definitely admirable, but don’t Japanese people don’t find this all to be a huge hassle? Actually, it turns out some of them do, as shown in a poll of the top five seasonal traditions people in Japan would like to do away with.

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In wake of nuclear disaster, world’s largest floating wind farm being built in Fukushima

In wake of nuclear disaster, world’s largest floating wind farm being built in Fukushima

The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and subsequent Fukushima nuclear accident have made many in Japan rethink the country’s reliance on atomic energy. Investment in alternative, renewable energy sources is looking more and more attractive to some, and the sentiment is particularly strong among residents of Fukushima Prefecture itself.

Those seeking a less volatile source of power may be getting their wish with the proposed development of what would be the world’s largest-output floating wind farm off the Fukushima coast.

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Tokyo hamburger vending machine has a human touch

Tokyo hamburger vending machine has a human touch

Japan is a wonderland of vending machines, and in many ways they’re great. They’re well-maintained, almost always take bills on the first try, and never judge you as pay for a bottle of hard liquor entirely in 10 yen coins.

Sometimes, though, doing a complete end run around human contact can make the purchasing process feel a little lonely. So when we heard about a restaurant where the vending machines had a human element, as well as delicious yet cheap hamburgers, we knew we had to check it out.

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Tiny Suzuki scores one for the little guys by pulling huge big rig out of the snow 【Video】

Tiny Suzuki scores one for the little guys by pulling huge big rig out of the snow 【Video】

As someone who grew up surrounded by full-sized American automobiles, I admit I chuckled a little when I first came to Japan and saw the country’s kei cars. As time went by though, I began to see how these super subcompact cars meshed with Japan’s transportation needs, as they sipped gas and slid easily down the country’s narrow roads.

But it turns out that kei – meaning “light” – cars aren’t just practical. The right one might even get you out of a jam, as this video of a heroic Suzuki saving a truck stranded in the snowstorm that hit the Tokyo area last week.

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Japanese company builds giant robot you could be piloting right now

Japanese company builds giant robot you could be piloting right now

Chiba Prefecture’s Wonder Festival is a bi-annual figure and model expo. The event’s bread and butter is figurine of anime and video game characters, in both frighteningly realistic and sexily unrealistic varieties.

But while the first thing most people associate with the event is toys, if your model is made of metal instead of plastic or urethane, and it’s self-propelled to boot, you’ve crossed the line of three-dimensional art and moved into straight-up engineering. Of course, Wonder Festival’s exhibitors aren’t going to stray too far from their fanciful roots, so what do you get when you combine technology with science fiction? You get this amazing giant robot, which is so easy to pilot that attendees could test drive it.

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So like us – Monkey takes dip in hot spring, brings iPhone

So like us – Monkey takes dip in hot spring, brings iPhone

Along with Mt. Fuji and the Shibuya scramble intersection, a snapshot of a woman chatting on a cell phone while dressed in a kimono is one of the must-have photos from any extensive stay in Japan. That seamless blending of the traditional and high-tech is a perfect encapsulation of just what makes Japan such a compelling society.

Hmm, you know what? We forgot to include a picture of a monkey in a hot spring on our photography checklist. That’s another one of those “Only in Japan” scenes, right? But what if you’re running short on time? Is there any way to multitask and combine our subjects?

Sure there is, with this picture of a primate taking a dip in a hot spring with his very own smartphone.

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Chinese company to launch $50 headphones that don’t play music

Chinese company to launch $50 headphones that don’t play music

Back in the early heyday of the iPod, its distinctive white in-ear headphones were blamed for a sharp rise in street robbery in London because they identified the wearer as having a fancy music player valuable enough to be worth stealing. If the newest product released by Shanghai-based company King Jim takes off, though, the next zombie-like commuter you see wearing headphones might not be able to listen to any music at all thanks to Digital Earplugs (Dijitaru Mimisen in Japanese). The new device looks just like regular white headphones, but they’re not for playing your favourite tunes. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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Still don’t want a smartphone? Japanese women might want you

Still don’t want a smartphone? Japanese women might want you

Despite my work address being “The Internet,” my personal use cell phone actually isn’t a smartphone. Maybe it’s a result of spending several hours a day looking at websites, but to me there’s still just something that feels right about a compact phone that folds shut with an oddly satisfying snap, even if the sound provokes a Pavlovian response of laughter from any technophiles in earshot.

But like skinny ties and 8-bit video game graphics, it seems like flip phones aren’t quite ready to fade away entirely. As a matter of fact, busting out an old school flip phone in Japan just might make a man more attractive to women.

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Hulu Japan offers not just movies, but a little education and awesome customer service too

Hulu Japan offers not just movies, but a little education and awesome customer service too

It’s kind of surprising that even with all of the high tech gadgetry you can find in Japan, most people still make a trip to a video rental store when they feel like watching a movie at home. However, online video streaming services such as Hulu have entered the market, and are finally starting to make some headway in changing how viewers get their entertainment fix.

One well-known fact about business in Japan is that in order to succeed in the country, you’ve got to be able to supply excellent customer service, which is just what one of our reporters got from Hulu Japan in this true story.

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“What’s wrong with her eyes!?” Say hello to the dentist’s doll from the (past, present) future

“What’s wrong with her eyes!?” Say hello to the dentist’s doll from the (past, present) future

Yesterday, we ran an article telling the story of a dentist in Japan who was arrested for “massaging” a female patient’s chest while claiming that doing so would help fix her misaligned teeth. In it, we included a photo of what appeared to be a young woman in a dentist’s chair with her mouth wide open.

We received plenty of comments on Facebook and Twitter about the news story itself, but many people also took a profound interest in the model in the photo, some feeling quite uneasy about the way she looked yet not knowing why, asking, “What’s wrong with her eyes!?”

The answer to that question is simple, but also kind of creepy: the woman in the photo is an ultra-lifelike doll used in dentistry.

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Apple cosplayer beats the rush, lines up for iPhone 6 seven months early

Apple cosplayer beats the rush, lines up for iPhone 6 seven months early

It’s been less than six months since the iPhone 5S went on sale here in Japan, but already Apple devotees are chomping at the bit to get their hands on an even newer model. One such would-be early adopted is blogger Yoppy, who’s still feeling the pain from failing in his quest to be the first person in Japan with an iPhone 5.

Not wanting to let greatness slip between his grasp two times in a row, Yoppy decided that this time he was going to line up early for the release of the upcoming iPhone 6. How early? Seven months ought to do it.

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Japanese parents react to the technological prowess of their digital-native kids

Japanese parents react to the technological prowess of their digital-native kids

One day when I was a pre-kindergarten kid, some relatives were visiting our house. At one point the grownups’ conversation turned to something outside my realms of interest, which at the time consisted of giant robots and dragons, exclusively. I grabbed a video cassette and stuck it into the VCR (probably to watch cartoons about giant dragon-shaped robots).

My aunt saw this and expressed her surprise that I could do it all by myself, but to me, on the difficulty scale it ranked somewhere below that pesky toilet thing my parents kept recommending I learn how to use. My aunt saw me mastering a new, cutting-edge form of technology, but to me, I was just hitting some buttons to start the cartoon I wanted to see.

This sort of thing happens every day, and I’m not talking about me amazing someone with my mental capacity (that only happens about once every 12 months – can’t wait for April!). The wondrous gadgets that change the way adults work, play, and live are just ordinary tools in the eyes of their kids, no more awe-inspiring or intimidating than a refrigerator or pair of scissors. Recently, Twitter users in Japan shared the moments when they realized their children were digital natives, and couldn’t imagine life without the high-tech conveniences their parents will never take for granted.

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About time! Osaka embraces free city-wide Wi-Fi

About time! Osaka embraces free city-wide Wi-Fi

Despite its image as a sleek, technologically advanced society, Japan really sucks when it comes to free wi-fi hotspots. In fact, when the Japan Tourism Agency surveyed tourists about difficulties traveling in the country, a lack of free Internet access was far and away the number one answer.

One major city has finally taken note and begun offering better connectivity for visitors. Osaka has just announced the launch of Osaka Free Wi-fi, a program that brings free wi-fi to locations throughout the city, as part of its effort to position itself as an international gateway to rival Tokyo.

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Our anime dreams come true as we operate a robot suit from Appleseed

Our anime dreams come true as we operate a robot suit from Appleseed

For years, science fiction movies have been teasing us with visions of high-tech wonders that remain frustratingly just out of reach. Where are our flying cars? Shouldn’t we at least have those hovering skateboards by now? How is it we can put a man on the moon, but we haven’t perfected an automated kitchen that can read our thoughts and cook what we want for dinner?

But today, the waiting ends for one of our technology-based dreams, as we operate a powered robot suit from anime and manga hit Appleseed.

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Special photo booths let you pose with sumo wrestlers without having to strap on a loincloth

Special photo booths let you pose with sumo wrestlers without having to strap on a loincloth

Should your visit to Tokyo coincide with a sumo tournament being held in the city, you really owe it to yourself to see the sport in person. Tickets are reasonably priced, the matches are fast-paced and showcase a surprisingly large variety of techniques (many similar to those of offensive linemen in football), and there’s really no way to properly convey the amazing controlled ferocity through a television screen. Best of all, the arena is compact enough that even the cheap seats provide a good view of the action.

And in case you need an added incentive, the venue is now home to two special sticker picture booths, where a little digital photo manipulation allows you to take a snapshot with your favorite sumo wrestler.

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Your iPhone is embarrassingly bad at simple math

Your iPhone is embarrassingly bad at simple math

The Cult of Apple is so smug about the many features and perks of the iPhone that it becomes a test of will for us Android users not to snatch any iPhone we see out of the hands of its user and throw it overhand into the nearest wall.

But now we may have a new weapon in the war on Apple: basic arithmetic. Seedy Japanese Internet geek forum 2chan has apparently proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that, when it comes to the calculator function, Apple’s smartphone is as dumb as that kid in your elementary school class that ate glue all day.

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