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

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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Restaurant in Asakusa offers up itty-bitty sushi made with just a single grain of rice!

Restaurant “Sushiya no Hachi” (すし屋の野八) in Asakusa, Tokyo is serving up some really tiny sushi. So tiny, in fact, that you might not even be able to find it on your plate!

Sushi chef Hironori Ikeno is the man behind these minuscule works of art. He has perfected his craft to the point that he can make each piece using only one grain of rice. Don’t believe your eyes? Don’t worry- you’re not the only one who needs a magnifying glass!

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Want to be in I Am Legend? Website uses Google Street View to show cities after the fall of man

Have you ever watched a sci-fi movie or played a video game and wondered what your home and neighborhood would look like if the human race were wiped out? If so you might want to seek counseling, or you can visit this website to seek closure on your thoughts of inevitable doom.

It’s called Urban Jungle Street View and it makes use of Google Maps interactive Street View system but decorates everything to look as if it hadn’t been touched by human hands for decades.

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Check out this 8m robot that appeared on Tokyo’s waterfront【Video】

It’s not every day you get to see an enormous robot being lifted up to tower above you. That’s why fans of science-fiction series Mobile Police Patlabor were excited to see an 8-metre high humanoid robot from the series being put up in the Toyosu area of Tokyo’s waterfront.

The robot in question is the AV-98 Ingram, which appears in the latest movie addition to the franchise, a live action series called The Next Generation Patlabor. Fans gathered to watch the robot, which is built “actual size” at just over 8m high, being raised into place on March 17th.

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Survey ranks Japan’s most popular fast food chains, McDonald’s surprisingly not No. 1

Despite all the lavish attention RocketNews24 has laid upon the altar of the Golden Arches at the cost of our Adonis-like six packs, it seems there’s a fast food chain Japan loves even more than McDonald’s. According to a recent Niconico News survey of adults, the reigning king of fast food in Japan is the country’s own native Mos Burger – although McDonald’s runs a close second.

Since our diets consist of almost nothing but the lard, chicken goo, sawdust and other mystery substances that go into a fast food meal, a win for any fast food is a win for humanity in our book, but let’s take a moment to look at Niconico‘s ranking and examine some of the possible reasons the results:

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See life-size Dragon Ball & One Piece statues fight & turn Tokyo street into rubble

J-Stars Victory Vs., the crossover fighting game that pits characters from 32 Shonen Jump manga against each other, debuts on Wednesday, and to celebrate the launch, Bandai Namco Games erected life-size statues of Dragon Ball Z‘s Son Goku duking it out with One Piece‘s Monkey D. Luffy on the streets of Tokyo.

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Japanese train platform door tech promotes safety, illusions of being in a sci-fi universe

Japan’s “suicide problem” is much talked about, both within the country’s borders and without, with a shocking number of people each year choosing to end their lives by jumping in front of a train. Less talked about are all the other deadly and injurious accidents that take place on train platforms in Japan on a semi-regular basis.

Recently, Japanese rail companies have been experimenting with platform barrier doors to prevent both suicides and other grievous accidents, and most of these inevitably end up looking like something out of Star Trek or a 1990s first-person shooter before technology allowed swinging door animations.

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New high-res photos simulate aerial tour of Tokyo (helicopter noises included!)

It’s hard to get an idea of how truly massive Tokyo is without seeing it from the sky. Unfortunately, most international flights come into Narita Airport, which is over an hour away from downtown, and we haven’t quite been able to convince our bosses that RocketNews24 really needs a company helicopter.

Thankfully, the newly upgraded Yahoo! Maps lets us take an aerial tour of the city even while we’ve still got both feet firmly on the ground.

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Several Tokyo train lines were momentarily shut down today in honor of Tohoku Earthquake victims

Tokyu Corporation, which runs train lines in the Tokyo Area, announced earlier that at around 2:44 p.m. today all of its trains would stop as part of a training drill to simulate the emergency situation that occurred three years ago today in much of Eastern Japan. It also announced on Twitter that Tokyo’s subway lines run by Toei and Tokyo Metro would stop at this time out of respect for those who suffered during the Great Tohoku Earthquake of 2011.

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5 reasons foreigners find it hard to become friends with Japanese people

With all the controversy surrounding a recent “racist” All Nippon Airlines ad, the Japanese and Western media have both been abuzz with the question of whether foreign people can ever truly become respected Japanese citizens – accepted by their community and deemed worthy of the right to not be the recipient of extraordinary treatment.

But this conversation has been going on a long, long time in the expat community in Japan, with a lot of otherwise Japanophile foreigners finding it hard to befriend the Japanese on a higher-than-acquaintance level. Why? Well, frequent source of opinion and cultural commentary Madame Riri has compiled a few of the reasons:

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Genka Bar, where your drinks never cost more than what they’re worth!

Friday night means going out for a drink with your buddies from the office or your favorite classmates. It also means a large chunk of cash is missing from you wallet when you wake up with a pounding headache on Saturday morning. As much fun as a night on the town is, it’s often ridiculously expensive–especially in Tokyo! And it doesn’t help things that bars and restaurants love to mark up their drinks by…well, a lot. If only you could get your booze and snacks at cost.

Well guess what, thirsty and hungry readers? You can at the Genka Bar! At least, that’s what they claim. We sent one of our Japanese writers to find out the truth. Check out the results below.

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Serious accidents from walking while using smartphone up over 50 percent in Tokyo

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you’ve certainly seen it and may have even done it yourself a few times. Walking while staring down at a smartphone has become a troubling pedestrian habit, even in Japan where it’s called aruki-sumaho. As the technology rapidly becomes more widespread, you’d expect people to get a little savvier and a little safer while using it. However, a study by the Tokyo Fire Department revealed that the number of accidents where a victim had to be taken away in an ambulance after walking while using a smartphone last year has increased to 1.5 times the number in 2010.

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A guide to Tokyo’s best cat cafés

It’s Cat Day! The one day in Japan that celebrates our feline friends. In honor of this occasion, we’ve put together a list of a dozen cat cafés around Tokyo, so even if you don’t have a furry face waiting for you at home, you can still enjoy some time with kitties on their special day.

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Tokyo artist sketches strangers around town like one of his French girls

One of the major differences between photographers and pen-and-paper artists is that a pen-and-paper artist is apparently allowed to stare for extremely long periods of time at complete strangers, sketching them in minute detail to take home and add to his/her collection and possibly publish on the Internet. But if a photographer takes a picture of a stranger, oh boy, it’s lawsuit time!

Take Tokyo-based artist hamahouse, for instance. This guy appears to spend a lot of time sketching complete strangers in Tokyo,and nary a soul seems to mind. Sure, it helps that he’s extremely good at what he does and people’s facial features are sort of made purposely vague in his sketches, but let’s keep in mind a photographer’s work is done in an instant – but a sketch artist needs to sit and stare at you for at least 10 minutes to complete his work.

Here’s a glimpse of hamahouse’s really very cool sketches:

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Tokyo shop makes ramen for foreigners by adding sugar, something called “Japanese sprit!!”

With the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, restaurateurs in Tokyo are already thinking about how they can appeal to the crowds of foreign tourists set to descend on the city. Most of them are focusing on spiffing up their English menus and adding pictures, but some eateries are actually cooking up new menu ideas to appeal to the non-Japanese palate.

We got word that a ramen shop in Shinjuku had concocted just such a dish, so we naturally went to check it out.

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Nine ways Tokyo is the number one city in the world

Tokyoites went to the poll last week to do their civic duty of picking a new governor. In the end, the people chose Yoichi Masuzoe, who has gone on record with his desire to make Tokyo the “number one city in the world.”

Of course, your city doesn’t toss out the term “mayor” and replace it with “governor” for its elected leader without already having some legitimate claims to greatness. Masuzoe has yet to specify exactly what benchmarks he plans to use in making good on his pledge, but here are nine things for which Japan’s capital already occupies the top spot.

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From hot spring to hot pot: One restaurant in Tokyo is actually serving wild monkey

Imagine yourself sitting down to a delicious warming winter meal. There’s nothing like nabe (Japanese hot pot) on a dark, cold evening. And there are so many choices! Pork, chicken, fish, seafood, monkey… Hang on a second … MONKEY?!

As soon as they heard that monkey hot-pot was on the menu at the Sakagura Niigata restaurant in Tokyo, a reporter from our Japanese sister site headed out to find out if it could possibly be true. Here’s what they found.

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Tokyo’s heaviest snowfall in 16 years inspires one-of-a-kind displays at Tokyo Disney Resorts

It’s sure to happen to everybody at least once in their lives: You save up for months and spend far too much time planning and packing for that perfect trip with your family or significant other, only for unexpected inclement weather to come along and ruin it all.

At Tokyo Disney Resorts, not all is lost, even if you end up going on the worst snow day in 16 years of Tokyo history. Disney, after all, has a reputation to keep as the “most magical place on earth,” so the already tirelessly hospitable staff sometimes kick it into overdrive on bad weather days to give some consolation to guests.

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“Sexist” pro-nuclear politician elected as Tokyo’s newest governor

Yoichi Masuzoe, the politician who once publicly stated that women “are not normal” during their period and “couldn’t possibly” be relied upon to run the country because of it, has been elected as governor of Tokyo, it has been announced.

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