Tokyo

Street Fighter II creator Yoshiki Okamoto talks games and his new project, Monster Strike 【Interview】

When Street Fighter II creator and retro gaming legend Yoshiki Okamoto announced two years ago that he was leaving console games forever to pursue mobile gaming projects, many probably thought he was joking. A lifelong arcade and console game creator abandoning ship to work in the much loathed and parodied mobile platform? This must be some kind of pre-retirement prank, surely?

As it happens, Okamoto was dead serious, and – far from having retired – has made good on his promise to focus on mobile games, working with a protege to crank out one of the most successful mobile games of all time: Monster Strike.

Monster Strike has reached over 16 million players in Japan and Taiwan, exceeding all expectations and becoming a cultural institution in the game’s native Japan. Sensing it was time to strike out into other territories, Okamoto, game producer Koki Kimura and his team are now working to expand the game into the west and beyond. We caught up with Okamoto and Kimura in San Francisco at Monster Strike’s North American launch party to talk about the game and the industry in general:

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Photos from 140 years ago show Tokyo’s skyline was amazing long before the Skytree was ever built

In 1853, the rulers of Japan ended the country’s more than two centuries of isolation from the rest of the world. But while foreigners could now get into Japan for trade and commerce, it would take more than 10 years until Japanese citizens could leave the country, meaning that outside cultural influences were still slow to find their way into the half-opened nation.

As such, there’s a brief, time capsule-like period in which Japan’s culture was still almost entirely of indigenous origins, but foreign visitors had the technology to visually document it, as shown in these beautiful photographs of 19th century Japan.

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Restaurant refuses to serve couples on Dec. 24 so singles won’t be reminded of their loneliness

Ah, December 24, Christmas Eve. The time to spend with parents, siblings, drunken aunts and that one crazy uncle that’s always telling you about chemtrails after four or five eggnogs. Or, the time for romantic dinner dates, proposals and convenience store chicken, if you’re in Japan.

The holiday has long been the bane of Tokyo singles, who are forced to watch thousands of happy couples marching all over town Christmas Eve, hand-in-hand, checking out the Christmas “illumination” shows that have become so popular over the years. That it’s one of the few times public displays of affection are relatively accepted in polite Japanese society just makes it all the more difficult for lonely guys and gals to bear.

But, this year, one Tokyo restaurant has a plan to give all those Forever Alones out there a safe haven to dine in peace on Christmas Eve and, who knows, maybe even find a potential partner.

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Visiting a maximum security shrine at the foot of the Narita airport runway

Flying into Narita International Airport, many travelers are surprised to learn they are almost 60 km outside of Tokyo and need to take an hour train ride to get into the city. Its location in rural Chiba Prefecture was chosen in the 1960s when the government realized the smaller Haneda airport could not keep up with the booming postwar air traffic in and out of Tokyo. Many locals protested the new airport that bulldozed over their formerly quiet lives and the bitter fight left the area with some very odd landmarks, such as a heavily secured and monitored shrine that sits almost directly in front of one of the runways.

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Snickers may have come up with their best campaign ever: A free barber shop

That delicious combination of peanuts, caramel and nougat all coated in chocolate known as Snickers has been around for ages. But I always wondered why it was called “Snickers.” Apparently named after a horse belonging to the Mars candy dynasty, it seemed like an odd name despite its inherent zip.

In what initially looks like an even weirder move, Snickers will open a barbershop in Omotesando, Tokyo giving away free haircuts for a limited time this month. Although seemingly random on the surface, a quick glance at the choice of hairstyle will show you why. These styles will guarantee you get snickers everywhere you go.

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Tokyo’s Christmas displays offer dazzling rebuttal to calling Paris the City of Lights 【Photos】

Spring in Japan belongs to the cherry blossoms. Summer is all about the country’s amazing fireworks shows. And in fall, there’re the beautiful fall colors to look forward to.

In winter though, Christmas decorations take center stage. Specifically, it’s the lights covering the urban landscape, called “illuminations” by the locals, that really bring out the crowds. So if you’re looking to do a little prep work for your Christmas Eve date, the following collection of Tokyo Christmas display snapshots should help you choose which one will best set the mood, and is also a chill-free way to get into the holiday season for those of you more comfortable at home with a hot mug of cocoa than braving the elements outdoors.

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Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building now accepting applications to watch first sunrise of 2015

With 2014 winding down, it’s time to make plans for the new year holidays. For many people in Japan this means finding a place to watch the first sunrise of the year, or hatsu hinode; a common custom of the season.

However, many Tokyoites may be unaware that the perfect spot to view the sunrise is standing in plain view: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This 243-meter (797 ft) building has a pair of observation rooms which offer the greatest views in the city and is a spot popular amongst tourists, though few ever think of when it comes to New Year’s Day, assuming that because it’s a government building it would shut down for the holidays.

But ever since 1995 the building has been opening its doors to a handful of visitors, giving them the chance to take in the first sunset of the year from high above the city. Here’s how to apply for a spot on the observation deck.

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Japan’s 10 best ryokan inns and top 10 hotels, as chosen by foreign visitors

Ask any member of the RocketNews24 team, and we’ll tell you: Japan is awesome. A lot of people seem to agree, too, seeing as how Japan gets more and more visitors from abroad every year.

But as much as we love all of our readers, and hope you all get a chance to come visit, our staff doesn’t quite have the collective living room floor space for you to crash at our apartments. Thankfully, the country has plenty of amazing accommodation, as shown by this list of the top 10 inns and hotels in Japan, as picked by foreign travelers.

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Tokyo’s Rikugien garden: Beautiful for 300 years, but especially in autumn after dark

They’re often overshadowed by the sakura, but Japan’s fall colors make the country a beautiful place to be at this time of year. Maples and gingkos even have a few advantages over cherry trees. They tend to hold their color a little longer, and the cooler weather is less conducive to large outdoor parties, meaning your appreciation of the beauty of nature is less likely to be disturbed by the carousing of drunks.

In contrast to Tokyo’s many cherry tree-lined parks and boulevards, though, getting a good view of crimson and yellow leaves often means having to head out of the city and up into the mountains. That’s not always the case, though. Historic Rikugien Garden has plenty of fall color, is located right in the middle of Tokyo, and right now is so beautiful it’s staying open after dark.

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Tokyo adding free Wi-Fi to 143 subway stations for foreign travelers

I honestly don’t remember the last time I used a taxi in central Tokyo. The extensive subway network is clean and efficient, and not only is it far cheaper than a cab, a lot of the time, it’s faster, too.

As if public transportation didn’t already have enough going for it, next month things are about to get even better, as over 100 Tokyo subway stations are about to start offering free Wi-Fi to foreign travelers.

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Tokyo train delayed due to the strangest of reasons

The JR East Musashino Line sure has an impressive track record when it comes to trains being delayed due to unusual circumstances. And after a most bizarre early morning collision on Friday last week, the rail line can add another reason to that list. 

Although the details of the incident are still murky, one thing is for certain–no one ever expected this to happen in the middle of Tokyo!

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Filled to bursting point? Rush-hour crush on Tokyo subway leaves train with broken window

The Tokyo metropolitan subway system is notorious for being incredibly crowded at rush hour, with commuters packed into narrow train carriages like sardines in a can. You’re probably familiar with images of white-gloved train conductors literally pushing people onto trains in an attempt to squeeze just one more body on before departure.

It can be very scary being squished into a mass of people like that, and this particularly holds true in case of sudden incidents such as the one that occurred this week when the window of a train literally broke due to the pressure of all of those heaving bodies. Join us after the jump for images of crushed glass and scenes of utter chaos! Okay, it’s actually only a few cracks, but still…

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1,200 Japanese workers convert above-ground train to subway line in a matter of hours

On March 15, 2013, the Shibuya Station Toyoko Line above-ground train quietly shut down for good, to be replaced with a new section of subway track connecting Shibuya Station and the nearby Daikanyama Station. Converting the line from above-ground to underground was a massive operation, requiring a grand total of 1,200 engineers and countless man-hours.

But, even if you’d been living in Tokyo at the time, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the construction, because it all occurred during the train line’s off-hours… over the course of one single night.

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Barbie head shoes: the new craze making heads turn in Harajuku

Barbie, the popular fashion doll from America, has been a style icon ever since her creation back in 1959. Now, at the age of 55, the controversial bombshell is hitting the streets of Harajuku – quite literally – this time inside the clear soles of some amazing, if kind of creepy, shoes.

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Police called in for civet disturbance in Tokyo

Walking down the street in Tokyo, you never know what you might bump into, especially if you happened to have been around Aoyama Itchome Station in Minato Ward on 14 November. During the afternoon, a masked palm civet was seen darting around the streets by several witnesses.

The masked palm civet was connected to the SARS outbreak about a decade ago and unleashes an anal spray when threatened. But that didn’t stop passers-by from trying to get the best photos for their Twitter feeds… Not at all.

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Gross ramen topping: somewhere between a spit-take and not being able to look away

Ramen is an amazing food, and nothing beats traveling around Japan and eating all the different kinds. Some are certainly better than other (tonkotsu FTW!) but they all are fighting for the top spot of “best bowl of ramen ever eaten“. Some bowls of ramen you can’t wait to go back and eat again, others are categorized as “one time is enough“. But there are some bowls of ramen that you shouldn’t even taste…let alone look at. Beware; these next pictures are not for the faint of heart.

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The originator of the strawberry daifuku, Tamaya continues to be a step ahead of competition

Daifuku is a widely popular type of Japanese confection consisting mainly of an outer layer of mochi (gelatinous rice paste) with an anko (sweet bean paste) filling. The result is a mildly sweet treat with a comfortably smooth texture.

There are many variations of daifuku including ichigo daifuku containing a whole strawberry inside of the mochi and anko, which have become hugely popular all around Japan. However, do you know where this trend started?

Our hungry reporter Mr. Sato does, and he went down to the first store ever to sell ichigo daifuku, Tamaya, to try their wares himself. He found that not only are they the original, but they may just make best ichigo daifuku in all of Japan.

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Choose your own toaster at the specialty toast restaurant in Tokyo

There’s a lot of freedom and innovation when it comes to dining in Japan. For every Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo, there’s an equally impressive place where you can dine with maids, hang out with cats or even watch boys make out.

Now there’s another must-visit eatery to add to Tokyo’s ever-growing list of unique cafes and this time the star of the show is the humble slice of bread. At Centre the Bakery in Ginza, you can choose your own toaster, take it back to your table and enjoy freshly made toast.

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Slow News Day Special 2: Use obvious clues in this photo to find out what this “bird” really is

Sometimes, you’re surfing around on the Internet to find weird Japan news to write about and can’t seem to find anything except one of those old “I thought this thing was that thing, but it was another thing,” Twitter comparison pictures and you kind of just have to run with it. I know, oddly specific scenario, but we’ve all been there, right?

Like, check out this thing that looks like a bird. We already know it’s not a bird, but can you use some of the clues in the photo to figure out what it really is?

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Classy pipes, intestines, and a taste of the past all can be yours from Asakusa vending machines

If you ever visit Tokyo, the district of Asakusa is a worthwhile spot to wander around in. It has a healthy mix of tradition, entertainment, food, and shopping that should please anyone looking  for a small but all-encompassing Japanese experience.

But there’s one other unique feature that Asakusa has and it’s one that’s surprising even the most entrenched Tokyo residents. Apparently, Asakusa is home to an enormous selection of wildly unusual vending machines. And coming from a land positively peppered with automatic vendors, that’s saying a lot.

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