Tokyo

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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Tokyo’s 7 coolest public art pieces

Tokyo’s 7 coolest public art pieces

Last week, we had a round-up of my choices for the seven stupidest art pieces in Tokyo, but lest you think I am just a negative Nelly incapable of appreciating talent and beauty, this week we’re presenting Tokyo’s seven coolest public art pieces.

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Bizarre Tokyo shop sells retro sunglasses by the literal bowlful

Bizarre Tokyo shop sells retro sunglasses by the literal bowlful

Before you jump directly to the comments section to scold me about the proper usage of “literal” and the dangers of hyperbole, just know first off that the long-running Ikebukuro institution Rougan Megane Hakubutsukan (老眼メガネ博物館, or literally, “Aging Glasses Museum”) actually sells bowls full of retro sunglasses. And for just 280 yen (US$2.80) at that.

And, besides enabling writers like me to use the phrase “literal bowlful” in relation to something that isn’t a food item, Rougan Megane Hakubutsukan defies expectations in a lot of other ways, too.

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Tokyo’s 7 stupidest public art pieces

Tokyo’s 7 stupidest public art pieces

Any city with aspirations to be a vibrant international metropolis should invest in interesting, challenging and useful public art, and Tokyo has certainly done so. There are some absolutely amazing artworks scattered around our fair city, but there are also some complete abominations lurking as well.

While acknowledging that art is subjective and one person’s favorite piece is another person’s piece of crap, here are what I consider the seven stupidest public artworks in Tokyo.

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Japanese casual steak joint set to debut in New York

Japanese casual steak joint set to debut in New York

When one thinks of exported Japanese food, one tends to imagine sushi, miso, and other dishes that have become so ingrained in the English lexicon that they no longer warrant italics.

One thing you almost definitely don’t consider when thinking about Japanese food is steak. Why would you? Steak is the territory of Western food, often associated specifically with American diners; Which is what makes the New York debut of Ikinari Steak – a Ginza-area chain – so much more surprising.

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Simon Boulsson’s “Tokyo Reverse” is backwards, gorgeous 【Video】

Simon Boulsson’s “Tokyo Reverse” is backwards, gorgeous 【Video】

In the age of affordable digital cameras and programs that can make even photos and footage taken by a team of cavorting chimps look artistic and cool, footage of popular destinations like Tokyo are ten-a-penny online. But this video from Simon Boulsson is not just noteworthy by stop-and-gawp-worthy.

Titled “TOKYO REVERSE”, the video is set to a pumping soundtrack and takes us on a brief tour of some of the capital city’s most famous spots. The views are of course stunning, but as its title suggests there’s even more to the video than that.

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Hidden gem in Tokyo: Black water hot spring hotel

Hidden gem in Tokyo: Black water hot spring hotel

Tokyo may be the largest city in the world, but Tokyoites still long for the comforts of rural Japan. While the less populous cities don’t have all the luxuries of a major metropolitan city, what they have in spades are hot springs. Hot springs remain one of the most popular getaway destinations for the busy Japanese worker. Day trips, short weekend trips, everyone longs for the chance to relax in the soothing waters of a hot spring.

But where do you find a nice, relaxing hot spring within the 23 wards of Tokyo? Is it really possible to find one that is reasonably priced? Can you find one where people respect the rules? Where guests won’t immediately enter the bath before washing themselves which makes the water dirty and suspicious? Where you won’t have to wonder what that thing floating in the water is? The answer is a resounding yes and it’s closer than you think!

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Bored with traditional hanami? Four other ways to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the Tokyo area

Bored with traditional hanami? Four other ways to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the Tokyo area

It’s sakura (cherry blossom) time again in Tokyo! As the blossoms reach their peak in the next week, you can bet that people will be flocking to the parks to enjoy some much-needed R&R under the flurry of falling petals. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could get tired of gazing at the sakura since the flowers are only in full bloom for such a short time in the spring.

But if you’ve found yourself fighting through the hanami (blossom-viewing) crowds at Ueno or Yoyogi Park for several years in a row, you might be looking for a slightly more alternative, or even adventurous way to take in the ephemeral petals. If we’re describing you, check out these four alternative ways to enjoy hanami without having to break out that tired old picnic blanket or get up at 5 a.m. on your precious weekend to grab a decent a spot!

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Tokyo’s Sanrio Puroland to host special “necogirls” Grand Prix event on March 29

Tokyo’s Sanrio Puroland to host special “necogirls” Grand Prix event on March 29

If you happen to be a fan of cats, have a penchant for ridiculously cute Japanese idol culture, and will be in Tokyo later this week, then there’s an event you simply have to check out! Sanrio Puroland, an indoor theme park dedicated to the characters of Sanrio (think Hello Kitty!), will be hosting a “Neco 1 Grand Prix” on Saturday, March 29 focusing on “necogirls.”

The necogirls (neko = cat in Japanese) are a group of young women who express their love for cats in their adorable and quirky fashion style, which you can bet will always include a pair of cat ears. This event will serve as PR for the girls and will include a special contest held onstage. You can even interact with them and take cutesy pictures together. Just be ready to dodge the hordes of Japanese girls screaming kawaiiiii (cuuuute!) at the top of their lungs!       

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