ANDRES OLIVER

Andres Oliver was born in Uruguay, lived in Germany for five years, grew up in the United States... and is now living and working as an ALT in Aomori, Japan. He's also worked in publishing in New York City for a year before packing up and moving to the snowiest city on Earth. Between wading through snow and dodging falling icicles, Andres enjoys playing guitar, writing, watching movies, and taking pictures of moss.

All Stories by ANDRES OLIVER

High art or crime scene? More photos of passed-out salarymen 【Pics】

A late-night stroll through the streets of Shinjuku or some other lively Tokyo neighborhood usually involves flashing neon signs, groups of people heading to and from drinking parties, and cries of “Otsukarasamadeshita!” (“You’ve worked hard!”) between red-faced coworkers as they part ways. As the evening wears on, a new creature makes its entrance onto the scene. Curled up on the sidewalk or spread eagle on a bench, it’s that curious big-city phenomenon, the passed out salaryman.

Photographer Kenji Kawamoto recently shined a new light on these hard-working, hard-partying company men with a series of photos depicting their various states of repose. While the result is surprisingly artistic, context really is everything; more than a few of these look like shots of crime scenes. 

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Tokyo chain puts french fries on soba noodles, proves dreams really can come true

Ramen burgers. Bulgogi tacos. Cronuts. Sometimes the stars align and the gods see fit to bless the world with visionary new dishes–the kind that make people say, “Is that even possible?” Eventually, those same people end up wondering why no one came up with the concept sooner.

One of our Japanese writers was able to experience the joy of culinary experimentation firsthand during a recent trip to Tokyo’s Nadai Fuji Soba, which is now serving… wait for it… French fry soba! Though at first glance you might think someone spilled their Happy Meal over a plate of noodles, the tasty result is sure to make you a believer.

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Japanese men share the top 10 ways their weekends disappear

Monday: You drag your aching, sluggish body into work and begin the long countdown to the weekend. Tuesday: Is it really only Tuesday? This week is going to take forever. Wednesday: Halfway there! Thursday: Start making plans, we’re close. Friday: It’s finally here! The clock strikes six, and you grab your things and leg it out of there. What will you do first? The possibilities are endless!

Then Saturday rolls around and… suddenly it’s Monday again. Where did the weekend go?

It seems like more than a few adults are wondering the same thing, as revealed in a recent poll which asked 200 Japanese working males in their 20s and 30s the following question: “What are the top 10 things that leave you feeling you’ve wasted your days off?” Number five might just be too perfect for words.

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Cats sitting politely outside Japanese convenience stores restore our faith in felines

It was around this time last year that a 7-Eleven in east Japan posted a desperate plea for help in stopping the ravages of a feline shoplifter. This came on the heels of an earlier article in which we covered a number of concessions granted by convenience store workers to similar furry intruders, no doubt having been coerced under threat of scratches.

These incidents might well lead one to believe that Japan is some kind of modern-day Wild West where cats run unchecked without regard for the law or common decency. While cats certainly do roam freely in some parts of the country, a recent batch of Twitter photos showing cats waiting politely outside convenience stores suggest that manners are alive and well among our feline friends. Or are they? Might these cats be harboring ulterior motives?

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Unusual sandbox art will get the kids flocking–or running to Mom

Imagine you’re a child heading to the neighborhood sandbox. You’ve been waiting all day for Mom and Dad to let you loose in the sand so you can build the castle to end all castles. You just know this one will be the best yet, with little sticks for flags and maybe even a moat. But as you approach the sandbox, you notice a huge structure looming out of the sand. A hulking, spiked shell with writhing feelers on one end

Turns out this scene might not be so far-fetched, as netizens recently took to Twitter to display the most awe-inspiring, bizarre, and downright unsettling sandbox art we’ve ever seen.

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Japanese voters pick the top manga, anime, and other works they wish to see introduced abroad

With the ever-growing presence of Japanese media abroad, fans of various mediums might sometimes find themselves at a loss as to which series to begin next. Fortunately, a massive poll has now made the process much easier by picking out the cream of the crop as chosen by the Japanese public.

Sponsored by Japanese newspaper the Yomiuri Shinbun, Sugoi Japan recently held its first Grand Prix to determine which works in four categories–manga, anime, light novel, and entertaining novel–people deemed most worthy of being introduced abroad. Though the choice of Attack on Titan as the top manga will surprise few, given its explosive popularity, the winner of the anime category might catch some by surprise. 

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Sony sets its sights on the Chinese market, unleashes its limited-edition dragons on March 20

As the third-largest gaming market in the world, with revenues surpassing US$15 billion in 2014, China has long been a coveted prize for global gaming giants. Yet, until recently, that prize has remained out of reach due to the Chinese government’s 14-year ban on sales of foreign gaming consoles. With that ban now lifted, Japan’s Sony is set to take the plunge into these uncharted waters.

Sony is spearheading its entry into the new market with the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, both of which will go on sale in China on March 20. This being the second planned release after a previous delay in January, Sony is pulling out all the stops with limited-edition models of both systems.

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Samsung’s Dream Doghouse: a $30,000 pad for the cultivated canine

When we look at our four-legged companions, we can see ourselves stripped of all the complications of being human. After all, dogs seem to derive an almost inordinate amount of joy from the simplest pleasures: a well-chewed bone; a warm spot on the couch; occasional rolls in the dirt. Yet, as with humans, there are some dogs that value the finer things in life. 

Samsung might just have the answer for these posh canines: the Dream Doghouse. With building costs of US$30,000, this prime piece of real estate is hardly a bargain… but, then again, how many doghouses have a hydro-pool and treadmill?

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Twitter users display their unusual, enchanting family chopsticks

Whether it’s a ragged, lovingly stitched kitchen towel inherited from a grandparent, a banged-up knicknack collecting dust on a shelf, or a pair of old baby shoes, the seemingly mundane objects scattered around a house serve as a window into their owners’ hearts and minds. In the case of a family, any given eating utensil might go through the hands of children, siblings, parents, and even guests, collecting a little more history with every pass.

Japanese netizens recently charmed us all with a nostalgic glimpse of their family chopsticks, with designs ranging from Sailor Moon to Star Wars that positively ooze character. We take a look at the highlights below.

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Flyer for May dōjinshi fair brings together beloved childhood anime… Tokyo, here we come!

It’s been a little over three months since the fantastic Comiket 87, which certainly didn’t fail to disappoint with everything from toilet plunger cosplay to the usual slew of dōjinshi. Yet, just as with Christmas, the end of such a big event can leave one feeling empty in the aftermath. “I have to wait until August?” you moan as you count down the months to the next Comiket.

We think the wait just got a little easier, thanks to a recent flyer advertising an upcoming dōjinshi fair. Featuring all our favorite childhood anime, including Yu Yu Hakusho, Soul Hunter, and Rurouni Kenshin, the flyer is sure to set dōjinshi fans scrambling to book tickets to Tokyo in time for the May opening.

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Japanese government to recruit “white hat” hackers for landmark cybersecurity initiative

The word “hacker” might bring to mind the motley crew of the 1995 film Hackers, or else a number of high-profile cyberattacks resulting in everything from compromised email addresses to a massive Sony data leak. Recently, however, cybersecurity measures are proving that not all hackers are created equal.

Starting in early 2015, the Japanese government will begin recruiting personnel for a fledgling team of “white hat” hackers. Unlike their counterparts on the other side of the law, these computer experts will bring their skills to bear in identifying and protecting against potential security threats.

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Taco Bell to tackle Japanese market–but should we cheer or groan? Our foreign writers reflect

With perennial favorites such as Mos Burger, CoCo Ichibanya, Hotto Motto, and more, Japan has no shortage of tasty casual dining establishments to satisfy any craving. Yet many a foreign resident has surely at one time found himself longing for something more–the kind of guilty satisfaction that can only result from a visit to our favorite not-quite-Mexican joint, the peerless Taco Bell.

According to recent reports, the American fast food chain will soon be reentering the Japanese market, following up on its previous, disastrous, attempt almost three decades ago. Is this the beginning of a Mexican food renaissance in Japan, or simply the beginning of the end? We asked our foreign writers currently residing in Japan for their opinions, which proved to be mixed, to say the least.

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Masked drummer brings the heat to our favorite video game music

His hair is a shock of red flame. His face is hidden behind a black-and-white wrestling mask. The mystery drummer, godly skills at his command. Final Fantasy. Romancing SaGa. Dragon Quest. He plays them all. Who is he?

Why, he’s drum virtuoso and YouTube regular, dainashi! Since his first video almost a year ago, the masked drummer has set jaws dropping with his incredible renditions of popular video game background music. We take a look at some of his uploads.

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Korean MMORPG redefines character customization with adjustable wrinkles, bone structure

MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) immerse players in virtual worlds, places where thousands or millions are simultaneously engaged in forging new equipment, embarking on quests, or even just fooling around. Given the sheer number of users, players want to feel that their individual game experience is somehow unique. Character customization offers one such avenue.

While many games provide detailed character customization, allowing players to choose from any number of races and classes while also altering build and appearance to their liking, a new Korean MMORPG is blowing the whole system out of the water. With controls for everything from iris size to bone structure, the upcoming game Black Desert all but ensures that no two characters will ever look the same.

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North Korean officials, Gaddafi and more get the heavy metal treatment from talented guitarist

A while back, Japanese politician Ryutaro Nonomura captured the world’s attention after a surreal outburst at a press conference regarding his alleged misuse of taxpayers’ money. No doubt seeing fertile ground for comedy, one creative musician then made Nonomura the stuff of Internet legend by setting the man’s sobs to a guitar track.

Guitarist Felix Martin and his talented collaborators operate under a similar concept, setting guitar, drums, and bass to speeches from North Korean officials, Hugo Chavez, and others. This project isn’t for laughs, though. With an ear for the rhythm and pitch of the spoken word, not to mention masterful heavy metal stylings, Martin and company elevate the aptly named Human Transcription project to the realm of art. Politics and propaganda have never sounded so good.

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Netizens awed, charmed by company’s insanely detailed culinary miniatures 【Pics】

Japan clearly has no shortage of incredibly realistic miniatures. Only recently, we’ve covered Ginji, the wise hamster behind the world’s smallest izakaya (may he rest in peace), as well as the creator of some remarkable small-scale hangars.

Which brings us to the newest development in this saga: miniature food sets. Many have taken to Twitter to express their love for the ant-sized creations of company Re-ment, a maker of toys and other miscellaneous goods. With names like “Dad, eat the bitter part for me!” and “”Grandma’s House,” these sets recreate each scene with uncanny accuracy, but at a fraction of the size.

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Wall of bubble-wrap Blue Slimes appears in Shinjuku Station to promote new Dragon Quest game

Nothing says Dragon Quest like its adorable mascot, the smiling, teardrop-shaped slime. With appearances in almost every Dragon Quest title, a slew of associated merchandise, and even its own video game, the series’s blue slime is instantly recognizable to many fans around the world.

And until March 1, not one, not two, but 100,000 of these blue critters will line one wall of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station in the form of a massive bubble wrap sheet. Now it’s up to the passersby to pop each slime into oblivion and become the heroes they were born to be.

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Stunning montage takes viewers through Japan’s own hidden wine country: Koshu, Yamanashi

With the long Golden Week holiday only a couple of months away, many residents of Japan may well be wondering where best to use their precious vacation days. Tokyo? Kyoto? Perhaps a traditional Japanese hotel? How about Koshu City, Yamanashi Prefecture?

A new video introducing the relatively small city of Koshu might just make people reconsider their travel plans. With stunning views of Mount Fuji, world-famous vineyards, and a wealth of cultural events, Koshu is the perfect place for both escaping the bustle of big city life and getting a glimpse of traditional Japan.

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She likes cooking and Final Fantasy; web series brings young woman the gift to end all gifts

Harry’s wand; Luke’s lightsaber; Eren’s 3D maneuver gear. Surely more than a few fans have at some point pictured themselves wielding one of these iconic objects. While some must be content with imagining, others may find themselves the happy owners of something straight out of the realm of fantasy.

Such was the case with one Final Fantasy super-fan named Brittany Walloch. Unbeknownst to her, Brittany’s fiancé got in touch with the minds behind Super-Fan Builds, a popular web series that creates custom items for die-hard film and video game fans. The crafting wizards at Tim Baker Productions then went to work designing a one-of-a-kind gift. Let’s just say chopping vegetables will never be the same.

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Tenga toy-themed robots take over Valentine’s Day 【Pics】

At first glance, they seem like Transformers, or perhaps unusually flashy Gundam. Then you notice the color scheme, followed by a number of cylindrical trimmings and its unusual shape. “I feel like I’ve seen that somewhere before…” you wonder to yourself. Then it clicks. “Oh.”

While Tenga toys may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks “Valentine’s Day,” some highly imaginative artists capitalized on the romantic holiday to recast the popular adult products as robots. Don’t think of them as mere joke drawings, however; these creations are the real deal. We take a look at some of the spectacular art below.

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