Tokyo

It’s sweet cupcake heaven — Magnolia Bakery opens very first shop in Japan to huge crowds!

It’s sweet cupcake heaven — Magnolia Bakery opens very first shop in Japan to huge crowds!

Before we had mouth-watering croissant doughnuts and doughnut sandwiches, we had … good ol’ cupcakes! But we’re not talking about just any ordinary cupcake here. We’re talking about cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery in New York, made famous the world over by the hit TV Series Sex and the City. And yes, the TV series was an enormous success in Japan too, meaning that countless Japanese fans were left coveting not just gorgeous Manolo Blahnik shoes, but the delectable looking Magnolia Bakery cupcakes as well.

So, you can imagine how absolutely thrilled fans of the cupcakes were about Magnolia Bakery opening their very first store in Japan in the Omotesando area of Tokyo this week. And prove their enthusiasm they did, as throngs of fans showed up on opening day of Magnolia Bakery Tokyo on June 16. Now, as a passionate fan of all things sweet, as well as a devoted follower of American TV dramas — Sex and the City in particular — I knew I simply had to be there for the grand opening. And while the wait was long, the sight that greeted me in the shop was sweet indeed! But first, let us tell you just how long the wait was …

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Take a look at Japan from a whole new angle — from the air! 【Video】

Take a look at Japan from a whole new angle — from the air! 【Video】

Now, chances are you’ve already seen many pictures and video footage from Japan, especially of tourist areas in cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. But this video, shared about a month ago on Vimeo, offers a look at these cities from a very unique perspective — from up in the air! The video, filmed by a tourist visiting Japan, was taken from the perspective of a remote-controlled drone attached with a camera. And while some of the shots captured are of well-known tourist spots, Internet users both inside and outside of Japan seem to have been impressed by how the unique angle gives the familiar scenes quite a new feel! Let’s see what some of the popular sites of Japan look like from up above.

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Amazing time-lapse video turns Tokyo into a floating, endless metropolis

Amazing time-lapse video turns Tokyo into a floating, endless metropolis

Two features of Tokyo make an immediate impression on visitors. First is the sheer size of the teeming metropolis, as it seems to envelop you from all sides. Second is the otherworldly atmosphere imparted by its futuristic architecture, intricate network of crisscrossing train lines, and the fields of neon that come to life like blooming flowers after sundown.

These two characteristics have been captured, interpreted, and enhanced in an entrancing new video from Yokohama-based visual artist Darwinfish105 which gives the impression of floating through a Tokyo without borders or end.

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Unexpected Japan suicide facts are equal parts depressing and uplifting

Unexpected Japan suicide facts are equal parts depressing and uplifting

Live in urban Japan long enough and, as shocking as it sounds, you’re eventually going to have the distinctly unpleasant experience of riding a train that hits and more than likely kills a human being.

Even if you aren’t experiencing it firsthand, walking into a Tokyo train station only to notice yet another train delay caused by what is euphemistically described as a “bodily accident” (jinshin jiko, or 人身事故) is at least a weekly occurrence. It’s enough to make you think Japan must be wrestling with one hell of a suicide problem.

Which is true. But it’s not quite as bad as the Western media would have you believe. Here are five facts about suicide in Japan that are about as uplifting as we have any right to expect from facts about suicide:

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Kamon kamon kamon kamon…branding? Pumps to bring out your inner feudal warlord

Kamon kamon kamon kamon…branding? Pumps to bring out your inner feudal warlord

Japanese family crests (or kamon), have been passed down through the generations for centuries, although these days they’re mostly seen in the patterns of kimono or the logos of sushi restaurants, as well as on flags and armour. Kamon are circular, often featuring animal or plant motifs.

These family crests have found a new home now, though – as logos on cute shoes! These kamon pumps, from an Ikebukuro-based cosplay store, use the actual family motifs of four armoured generals (“busho” in Japanese) from the Sengoku period, to make up this new feudal warlord series. We do love it when Japan combines old and new!

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The number 1 ‘most satisfying’ city in the world is….TOKYO!!!

The number 1 ‘most satisfying’ city in the world is….TOKYO!!!

The world is a huge place, and where you spend your hard-earned money and time off is a big decision. With so many fabulous locations around the globe, how do you choose what is the best destination for you? The answer seems obvious: ask the people. With tools like Yelp and Wikitravel, crowd sourcing your best vacation spot is easier than ever.

One of the most popular travel sites, Trip Advisor, has released a survey asking its users to rank its top 37 cities, and Japan has something to celebrate before the World Cup even begins: coming in at #1 in the world!

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【TBT】A day in the life of a Japanese anime director

【TBT】A day in the life of a Japanese anime director

If you thought being an anime director was all cosplay groupies and cool action figures, think again. Turns out it’s long, long hours in front of a computer, less-than-fancy convenience store dinners and tons of office all-nighters.

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The Tokyo bar where servers are princes, customers are princesses… and everyone’s a girl

The Tokyo bar where servers are princes, customers are princesses… and everyone’s a girl

Kyabakura hostess clubs, where men pay to spend time with a girl who will pour their drinks, light their cigarettes, and generally lavish them with attention, are a common sight in Japanese cities. The equivalent for female customers is a host club, where women can be waited on by smartly-dressed male hosts. A newer addition to Japan’s nightlife scene are cross-dressing bars, which fulfil a niche gap in the industry.

At Bar Prince, in Tokyo’s Nakano ward, the boyish-looking staff in ruffle-trimmed “little prince” outfits are all cross-dressers. The bar operates a strict women-only policy which extends to staff as well as patrons. At hostess clubs, the customer is king: but at this club, the stated mission is to treat every customer like a princess.

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Bored with hotels? Abenomics bringing new lodging options for foreign tourists in Japan

Bored with hotels? Abenomics bringing new lodging options for foreign tourists in Japan

With Japan’s population steadily decreasing, the country is finding itself with a bigger and bigger surplus of vacant houses—7.75 million of them, according to a 2008 survey. That makes more than 10% of all housing units in Japan unoccupied and that is set to increase to 30% by 2030.

But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic reforms, lovingly dubbed “Abenomics,” hopes to turn this vacancy problem into a cash cow for property owners by changing hotel laws and loosening restrictions on renting out your home to tourists planning their ultimate Japanese vacation. And to jumpstart the initiative, a Japanese real estate giant has teamed up with a home rental website to match up homeowners to prospective overseas tourists who want to experience a more authentic Japan.

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7-Eleven’s Premium Popcorn is apparently so good it barely even exists

7-Eleven’s Premium Popcorn is apparently so good it barely even exists

We’ve already talked about Japan’s penchant for limited stock and limited-time seasonal items, but I’m starting to get the impression manufacturers and retailers are playing us for fools. Zipping down to the grocery only to find that at least some of the basic items you wanted are sold out is a common headache in Japan, as if retailers are hoping we’ll all be like, “Oh man, white bread must be really trendy right now. Guess I’ll buy five loaves next time.”

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven is downright diabolical about this kind of stuff, with a constantly shifting roster of goods that seem to come and go arbitrarily, which Japanese consumers have apparently picked up on because they’re currently in a crazy purchase panic over 7-Eleven’s delicious new Premium Popcorn.

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U.S. may demand compensation from Japan for having the nerve to snow on its planes

U.S. may demand compensation from Japan for having the nerve to snow on its planes

Few can forget the massive snow storm that swept over most of Japan’s main island of Honshu this February. Obscene amounts of snow accumulated everywhere, throwing cities into panic, shutting down Disneyland for the first time in years, and even completely destroying U.S. warplanes like some kind of snow-based Godzilla villain.

But now the U.S. is wading into some touchy political territory, announcing that it’s currently investigating whether or not to demand compensation from Japan to pay for the planes because, come on, obviously that’s Japanese snow.

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Falafel, beer, and water wheels: Shibuya and Harajuku’s tucked-away treasures 【Hidden Tokyo】

Falafel, beer, and water wheels: Shibuya and Harajuku’s tucked-away treasures 【Hidden Tokyo】

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the bustling, beautiful megalopolis of Tokyo, then the city really is yours – you just have to know where to look. And if you want to get away from the tourist trail and get down close to the beating heart of the capital, a journey into the back streets of the 23 wards is where you’ll wind up.

Come with us as we take you into different neighbourhoods and spend an afternoon exploring some of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets. Today we’ll take you around some of Shibuya’s lesser known backstreets, where you can chow down on falafels, pick up some of the best coffee and soak up a hip, laid-back atmosphere.

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This table tennis player shows that “nothing is impossible” 【Video】

This table tennis player shows that “nothing is impossible” 【Video】

Have you ever given up on something you wish you’d persisted with? We’ve all quit something at one point or another in our lives and there are many reasons for giving up. It sounds great to be able to play an instrument effortlessly, master a sport or become fluent in multiple languages, but once the reality of just how much work goes into a skill sinks in, it can often feel impossible.

Meet Ibrahim Hamada of Egypt, a table tennis enthusiast who says, “Nothing is impossible as long as you work hard.” That may sound like the kind of thing that can only be said by the exceptionally naive, but that is not the case here. He was involved in a train accident when he was 10 years old, and he lost most of his arms as a result. At 13, he was determined to find a way to play again.

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Slow News Day Special: We cook pasta with Tokyo Bay seawater

Slow News Day Special: We cook pasta with Tokyo Bay seawater

Given that there were no murders, Abe gaffs, North Korean human rights violations or major Attack on Titan events today, we decided we’d do something a little fluffier and… saltier with our reporting today. After hearing that professional chefs claim pasta should be boiled in a combination of water and salt that closely resembles seawater, we wondered: Why not just use, you know, actual seawater?

Since it’s essentially an unlimited and free resource, it seems like a waste to go out and buy pure water and sea salt and combine the two when you can just head on over to Odaiba on Tokyo Bay and fill up an empty bottle with real seawater.

One of our Japanese reporters did just this, with… somewhat mixed results.

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80% of Japanese women report being hit on by strangers, indicate dudes need to try a new strategy

80% of Japanese women report being hit on by strangers, indicate dudes need to try a new strategy

In one of the most obvious conclusions since that survey that found people tend to buy potato chips in grocery stores, a new Japanese poll found that 80% of women have been hit on by strangers on the street at least once.

It’s really not surprising given that most guys have tried the random on-the-street approach at least a few times in their lives, either because of peer pressure or through a fleeting, spur-of-the-moment impulse. It seems to us as long as you’re polite and not overly aggressive, it doesn’t hurt to try, but apparently Japanese women disagree, since the poll also found that 65% of women reject those proposals outright. Why? Well…

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20 Tokyo GIFs from around the world

20 Tokyo GIFs from around the world

Tokyo is filled with enough lights, sounds, and odd sights to inspire any artist to create something interesting – and that’s exactly what we found over at Show us your type, an online gallery that showcases GIFs created by artists using the names of cities across the globe. The artists draw inspiration from the famous sites, food, and culture of a particular area and incorporate that area’s name into an animated GIF. In other words, it’s a “creative platform for designers to share their talents and explore cities from a different perspective.” Let’s take a look at 20 different perspectives of Tokyo as seen by artists from around the world.

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Tokyo pub offers “balding discount” for follicly-challenged diners

Tokyo pub offers “balding discount” for follicly-challenged diners

A Japanese pub deep in the heart of white-collar Tokyo wants to help out their customers whose heads are showing the consequences of too much stress and hard work (and perhaps a bit of genetics too).

The restaurant hopes that instead of covering their heads with a complex comb-over or taking a cue from monks to shave it all off, “salarymen” white-collar workers treat their thinning hair as a badge of honor and proof of their dedication to help the struggling Japanese economy. And to show their support, the restaurant has announced a generous “balding discount” as a way of thanking follicly-challenged gents for sacrificing their precious locks for the country!

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We hope you’re not thirsty — Tokyo shuts down its vending machines for U.S. president’s visit

We hope you’re not thirsty — Tokyo shuts down its vending machines for U.S. president’s visit

This evening, U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Japan. While here, he’ll be meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with the two scheduled to discuss strengthening diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Japan, and also the possibility of Japan participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

Since we spend at least half of our time thinking with our stomachs, we can’t help but realize that Japan’s agreeing to the proposed trade agreement would likely mean lower import taxes on American beef. But while the possibility of a future with more meat has us excited, it comes with a gastronomic price, as the security measures surrounding the president’s visit mean that a number of beverage and ice cream vending machines in Tokyo have been temporarily shut down ahead of his arrival.

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Stunning 22-year-old HD footage brings Tokyo of the ‘90s back to life

Stunning 22-year-old HD footage brings Tokyo of the ‘90s back to life

When looking at old photographs and video, there’s a strange phenomenon that sometimes occurs. Between the visual grain and the way colors bleed together, sometimes those images don’t seem like they’re just from another time, but from another world, one somehow less defined and concrete then the one in which we now live.

Of course, that’s all just outdated technology playing tricks on you. While camera and monitors have certainly gotten better over the years, the resolution of real life hasn’t gone through any upgrades, and the physical world has always been as sharp and vibrant as what we see today. As proof, take a look of these amazing HD videos of Tokyo taken over two decades ago.

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Tokyo’s coin lockers to be out of service for week in effort to prevent terrorism

Tokyo’s coin lockers to be out of service for week in effort to prevent terrorism

Notices like the one above, which was posted on Twitter, have been popping up at major stations around Tokyo such as Shinjuku. It notifies commuters that coin lockers will be unusable from 19 to 25 April as a terrorism counter-measure.

How exactly does shutting down coin lockers prevent terrorism? The answer is quite simple… but a little confusing.

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