winter

Feeling frosty? Why not add some chili to your hot chocolate for a spicy pick-me-up!

Here in Japan, there’s a ton of stuff you can use to warm yourself up against winter’s chill, including thermal undies, hot baths infused with ginger, and pocket warmers or kairo, which you can stick all over your body. But as well as applying heat to the outside, it’s also important to make sure you warm up your insides, and one way to do this is by consuming warming foodstuffs like hot soup and hot drinks.

This winter, the major craze is to slurp down a cup of hot chocolate with actual chili peppers floating in it! Check out these Twitter testimonials to find out what’s so great about this unusual beverage!

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Mother Nature gets a little artsy: Miraculous snow piles found around Japan

According to Pennsylvania’s famed groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, the U.S. has another six weeks of winter ahead of it. The States aren’t alone though; February is a cold, dreary month all over the freeze-inflicted parts of the northern hemisphere, including much of Japan. One thing that makes the cold a little better though, is having some pretty snow on the ground to play in and to make the shivering cold (almost) worth it.

The only thing better than snow on the ground is finding snow in weird formations that might make you stop in your tracks, take a second look or like many Japanese netizens, take pictures to post on the Internet. Some of these strange snow formations from around Japan are pretty mind-boggling, so get ready!

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Snow?! Uta no Prince-sama fans don’t care about no snow! (Or sleeping, apparently)

Though it’s not official, we’re starting to think that Japan’s national sport is waiting in line. The colder the day and the longer you stand around shivering, the more points you seem to get. Hey, it’s a lot less violent than, say, sportsball, so we’re not criticizing.

And the most recent line-waiting competition took place this Friday–just in time for the first snow of 2015 in the Tokyo/Yokohama area! We think that’s like a kicking a three-pointer in baseball or something. But who or what were these hundreds of people waiting for in the middle of the snow outside Yokohama Arena?

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Russian street turned into solid block of ice as water pipe bursts in northern town【Photos】

For many people, Moscow, covered in snow, is the first thing that springs to mind when they think of Russia. But while that’s certainly an iconic image, it’s but one view of the largest country by land mass in the world. Russia stretches far from both east to west and north to south, encompassing a variety of ecosystems and climates, and not all of them look like snowy Red Square.

Some places are actually a lot colder. Take, for instance, the town of Dudinka, where a busted water main turned a street into a solid block of ice, encasing cars parked along the road like flies trapped in an ice cube.

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Hamsters in sleeves are all the rage in Japan this winter 【Photos】

Japanese homes are notorious for being poorly insulated, in the wintertime often leaving you feeling just as cold indoors as you do outside.

Despite having permanent fur coats (lucky them!) our pets can still feel the chill and will do what they can to stay cozy. We’ve already shown you cats and space heaters, and dogs in kotatsu, but now we bring you some adorable hamsters in sleeves.

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To hike or hibernate for the winter? The woes of a Hokkaido University student

Heavy winds, low visibility and snow drifts the size of houses. What do you do? Go to that lecture at 8:30 or grab as many blankets as you can and binge watch Dragon Ball? Although the answer might be pretty simple for some university students in Japan, the ones in Hokkaido know there is no such thing as a snow day. Freshman students at Hokkaido University are sometimes amazed to encounter the incredibly snowy weather conditions that face them on their way to class. There is not much else they can do but bundle up, snap a few pictures and share them with the Internet.

We’ve collected some of the best pics taken by Hokkaido’s students this winter. Would you go to class in this weather?

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How do Japanese cats stay warm and accessorize during winter? With tail scarves, of course!

Though spring is only a few months away, Tokyo is still downright cold these days. Of course, if you’re from a colder climate, you probably annoy your friends by running around in shorts asking why they’re shivering, but for many people here, it’s still pretty cold. Whether it’s the sea breeze zipping through the streets or some sort of reverse heat island effect, we’re not sure, but it is enough to make mornings downright brutal.

And people aren’t the only ones cursing the cold–our furry feline friends are none too fond of winter either! But unlike humans, they come with built-in scarves. Check out some of Japan’s cutest cats wrapping themselves up nice and warm with their tails.

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Nope, these aren’t cat-shape lights…

From afar, it seems like this building in Japan has given its lobby’s floor lights a fancy new makeover by adding cat statues to them. On closer inspection, however, we can see that these are actually real cats that have decided to position themselves right on top of the light sources and are being illuminated like heavenly beings.

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Kyoto treasures hidden by snow: You won’t want to miss this beautiful temple【Photos】

Earlier last month when Kyoto was blanketed with deliciously photo-friendly snow, hundreds of truly serene pictures of world-famous Kinkaku Temple flooded the Internet. However, Kyoto’s beauty isn’t exemplified only by Kinkaku-ji; the old capital is full of amazing pieces of Japanese history that were made breathtakingly tranquil by the recent snowfall.

Daigo Temple might not be as popular with tourists as other spots in Kyoto, but perhaps you should be planning your next visit there once you see these pictures.

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Town in Hiroshima now offering exciting… snow-shovelling tours?

To someone raised in an area that receives little to no snow in the wintertime, living in a snowy region might seem like a lot of fun, what with all the sledding, snowball fights, and easy access to ski resorts. But it’s not all fun and games when you need to shovel through feet of snow just to leave your house or to get your car out of your driveway.

But maybe to someone who hasn’t grown up having to shovel heaps of snow each winter, snow-shoveling could be a fun experience too. At least, that’s what the Akiota-cho Sightseeing Association in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, seems to be hoping as they try to lure city-dwellers to their 4th annual “Heavy Snow Region Experience Tour“. However, this tour has some net-users questioning why anyone would want to pay 5,000 yen (approximately US$50) to shovel snow for someone else.

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Pop-pom pigeons are topping Japan’s cute-o-meter this winter

Perhaps the (in)famous pigeon dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend has given the nation a soft spot for the feathered creatures, because Japanese people have been going crazy for cute pics of pigeons all fluffed up in the cold.

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A selection of the finest (amateur) snow sculptures from Japan and China【Photos】

Remember the fun you used to have making snowmen when you were just a little sprout of a kid? Sure, your fingers would get numbed to the bone and your knees would get soaked from kneeling in the snow as you sculpted away for hours. But those little niggles were forgotten once you looked upon your finished masterpiece, before running inside to beg for some spare clothes and a carrot nose to decorate your newest frosty friend. Then he melted and you felt a little abandoned, a little lost, as though a part of your childhood had vanished, eroded like so much evaporated snow… Just me? Anyway, making stuff out of snow is awesome, and if you don’t believe us, check out this gallery of the best cute and wacky snow sculptures from China and Japan!

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Video series of cats with mikan and kotatsu is also a cute survival guide for Japanese winter

Chilly as winter may get in Japan, we’ve got to admit there are some cool things about the coldest part of the year. For example, the Christmas decorations around Tokyo are amazing, and even if you’re not feeling up to braving the cold weather, Japan offers a couple of ways to make winter more bearable even if you’re staying indoors. High on the list are mikan, the mandarin oranges that’re at their tastiest in winter, and kotatsu, the blanket-covered, heater-equipped tables that’re so cozy it’s almost impossible to pull yourself out of one once you get situated comfortably.

Don’t take our word for it, though, as these adorable cats lounging though a Japanese winter serve as far better spokescreatures for mikan and kotatsu than we ever could.

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Dog tummy wraps are all the adorable rage in Japan this winter【Photos】

When Japanese people decide to become pet owners, they really throw themselves into it. Perhaps because of the relative scarcity of pet-friendly apartments in the city, dog owners in particular tend to be either home owners or have slightly higher incomes and can afford to live somewhere that allows them to live with their four-legged pal. For that reason, many pet-owning urbanites think nothing of buying expensive leashes and clothing items for their furry friends or paying exorbitant sums to have their dog shampooed and expertly groomed, and you’ll sometimes even see people riding the trains with their dogs in strollers or designer carriers.

We’re not really ones for dolling our pooches up, and our cats wouldn’t be seen dead in half the outfits that are available online, but this year’s must-have dog fashion item is one that we could definitely got on board with: tummy-warming “haramaki”.

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Pet owners, beware! Cat gets “toasted” by a space heater

Winter has been homing in hard and fast this year, hasn’t it? Two weeks ago a massive snowstorm invaded America, and a cold wave has been sinking into Japan this week, already causing unexpected snowfall two months early in certain parts of the country. It feels almost as if Elsa is throwing a fit because Baymax has been getting more attention lately.

In such unpredictable freezing temperatures, it’s best to stay at home with the heater on so you’ll be warm and dry. All the better if you have a huggable, furry pet at home who wouldn’t mind cuddling up with you. Keep an eye on your pets when you’re using a heater though, or else they might end up like this unfortunate feline who got a pair of charred “wings” on its back!

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Water pipe bursts at Beijing art building, turns everything into a frozen winter wonderland

Nothing kills a great winter vacation more than coming back to find out your pipes have burst. That water can be flowing out of the broken pipe for days before you return home to find you have a new indoor swimming pool. It only has to happen once to forever taint your holidays with an extremely nagging “did we turn the water off?”

With temperatures dipping below zero in many parts of the world, each day is a potential pipe bursting tragedy. However, sometimes two wrongs really do make a right, and the horrible outcome of water soaking everything with Jack Frost blowing through create a really spectacular winter wonderland.

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Adorable Japanese robot gobbles snow, poops ice blocks to keep streets clear【Video】

The Japanese sure do love their robots, don’t they? It seems like every couple of months there’s a new robo-creation being unveiled to the public, sprung from the minds of Japan’s master robotic engineers. Today, we’d like to introduce you to this cute little trundling yellow fella, Yuki Taro! As we all know, winter is coming (we should probably say “winter is here”, but that has less dramatic punch) and with it a flurry of snowstorms and bad weather that can seriously disrupt people’s lives. And who really has the time or energy to shovel snow all day?

Enter Yuki Taro. This snow-gobbling little guy is here to make all your problems melt away – as long as they’re snow-related, that is…

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Cute snowman-pan will bring a little sweet joy to your dreary winter

France may have delicious bread, but Japan has cute bread (even if it doesn’t always turn out as planned). I mean, they are the creators of Anpan-man, after all!

Adding yet another almost-too-cute-to-eat bread treat to the already long list, a bakery called “Cafe Blue Jean” located in the Hotel New Hankyu Osaka, brings us “Snowman-pan.” These seasonal treats are breads, shaped and decorated to look like darling, little snowmen.

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Doting owner builds cosy kotatsu for cats, faces the sting of feline rejection【Photos】

Every cat owner has, at one time or another, experienced the soul-crushing disappointment that comes from giving your cat a thoughtful gift, only to have them throw it back in your face in favor of a paper ball or a plain old cardboard box. It’s almost as if cats the world over are in on some sort of conspiracy designed to make their owners feel inadequate. And that’s exactly what happened to “kitty blogger” Udama when they attempted to create a cosy, cat-sized kotatsu to delight their feline family members. As our pictures show, the experiment didn’t exactly go according to plan…

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Japanese sleep experts say we’ve been using our blankets wrong, help us hate winter a little less

I hate winter. 20-plus years of living in sunny southern California didn’t do anything to help me build up a tolerance for cold weather, and honestly, if I could make like the bears and just gorge myself on salmon for a few weeks and then sleep until spring, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, since hibernation isn’t really an option, I have to rely on a blanket and down comforter to make it through the freezing winter nights. Even still, the cold often leaves me shivering (plus grumbling, cursing, and generally complaining).

As it turns out, though, instead of blaming Old Man Winter for all my discomfort, I’m actually part of the problem, according to Japanese experts who say I’ve been using my comforter and blanket the wrong way.

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