Fran W

Fran grew up on a farm in Northumberland, England’s most northern and least populated county. She relocated to Nagoya in 2011 to teach English and find better edamame beans. On arriving in Japan, she enthusiastically abandoned a lifetime of vegetarianism and now spends her weekends on the trail of the perfect miso katsu. When not attempting to sing k-pop at karaoke, Fran can often be found loitering in old camera shops, or on a hike wishing the manual camera in her backpack wasn’t so heavy.

Posted by Fran W

May 23 is Kissing Day in Japan, apparently. If you didn’t know that, don’t worry – chances are no one in Japan knows either. But May 23 is the anniversary of the release of Hatachi no Seishun, the 1946 movie celebrated as the first Japanese film to feature a kiss scene, and someone decided to declare that date as kisu no hi (キスの日), a date for romantic first encounters and anything-goes puckering up.

And a nightclub in Tokyo is offering couples the chance to experience that famous kiss scene for themselves, by, er, kissing each side of an acrylic “window”!

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Yokohama Baystars get a shojo manga makeover in a bid to wow female fans

There’s only one thing better than a life-size replica of your favourite Japanese baseball player, and that’s a manga-style life-size replica.

A large-scale illustration of eight players from Yokohama DeNa Baystars goes on show this week in the run-up to a special festival for the Baystars’ female fans.

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In pictures: Everyday life in China and Hong Kong, 1868-1872【Photos】

Scottish travel writer and photographer John Thomson was one of the first western photographers to travel to the Far East. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, he travelled extensively in China, recording what he saw for posterity.

From elaborately dressed brides to working fishermen, Thomson captured landscapes and city scenes, people and places. The result is a captivating insight into the everyday lives of Chinese people almost 150 years ago.

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Nintendo DS on the menu as Japanese prisons get creative to keep ageing prisoners’ brains active

As Japan’s penal system struggles to cope with a rising number of older inmates, a number of prisons are taking unusual steps to help inmates stay healthy in mind as well as body.

The number of prisoners in Japan aged 65 or over increased almost five-fold in the twenty years up to 2013. This ageing prison population means institutions are bringing in innovative programmes to slow the onset of dementia in inmates, from yoga to hand-held video games.

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Japanese dad learns sax in secret, surprises son with moving recital at his wedding【Video】

One of the many duties of parenthood is to watch and listen enthusiastically as one’s offspring perform in plays, concerts and recitals. We’re used to the image of proud parents, amazed and moved by what their children can achieve. But sometimes, that dynamic gets flipped on its head, like in this clever commercial by music school TOSANDO, which brings us the story of one father’s mission to surprise his son on his wedding day with a moving musical performance.

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Japanese customisable sailor suits – for when school uniforms just seem a bit…uniform

Japanese school uniforms are adored all over the world (well, all over the internet, anyway) for their cute sailor-suit styles and simple navy and white designs. Aficionados might tell you that school uniforms symbolise nostalgia for what they perceive as a simpler, more innocent time in life. Or, they might tell you that people like looking at high-schoolers in short skirts. It’s probably a bit of both, to be honest.

But I digress! The thing about uniforms, you see, is that they’re all the same. And if you’re buying a uniform as a fashion or dress-up item, you probably don’t actually want the same one as everyone else. So these new customisable designs from Maori Inokuchi could have the answer. Just don’t ask about the price…

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Anthropomorphic sushi girls are our new favourite thing 【Pics】

Ever wondered what your favourite sushi would look like as a cute girl? Nope, me neither, but the results are still pretty impressive.

Manga artist Harikamo has produced these gorgeous, delicate illustrations of anthropomorphised sushi. We never knew salmon roe could be so adorable!

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Meet Hikari Takiguchi, the “once-in-2000-years” twin-tailed idol 【Photos】

Remember Twintail Association Japan, the pro-cute organisation dedicated to all things adorable and pigtail-related? Last year they launched the idol group drop, a four-piece girl group who add “pigtail-wearing” to the usual idol skill-set trinity of singing, dancing, and smiling for the camera.

And one group member in particular has been attracting attention online for her doe-eyed smile and pigtail-wearing skills. Hikari Takiguchi has even been called a “once-in-2000-years idol”! (We’re going to assume that sounds a bit snappier in Japanese than it does in English).

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There’s a katana in the Tokyo Skytree that’s forged from a meteorite!

There’s a lot going on at the base of Tokyo Skytree. Not content with being the tallest structure in Japan and the tallest tower in the world, Skytree also boasts an entertainment complex the size of a small town. Hiding among the shops and restaurants is an aquarium, a planetarium, and a university campus…

Well, sort of. The Chiba Institute of Technology’s ‘Skytree Town Campus’ is more science exhibition than campus – but it does have this badass Japanese sword made from a 450-million-year-old meteorite.

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Two years ago, Song Bo was diagnosed with a serious illness which gave him constant headaches and brought upon depression. Convinced he would never marry or have children, Song was browsing the internet one day when he stumbled upon a listing on China’s online shopping site Taobao that was to give him new hope.

Song bought a child-sized love doll, just 145cm tall (4’10”), and now takes her everywhere with him. The doll may be pint-sized, but as this tender photo series shows, she seems to have changed his life.

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This “revolutionary” Japanese compression bottle is our 100-yen shop find of the week【Video】

Like many people, our reporter Go Hatori likes to decant his lotions and potions into portable mini-bottles for travel. It saves space in his luggage for other items, looks neater, and shows the world that you are a well-organised, fully-functioning member of society. The problem with those little bottles which have a spray or pump attachment, though, is they can be wasteful. Once you’re down to the last centimetre or so of product, it just refuses to come out.

So when Go discovered this tiny straw-less pump bottle in the 100-yen shop (“where everything’s 83 cents approx!”), he was over the moon!

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Rescued dog becomes rescue dog as Hiroshima stray joins search for survivors in Nepal

In the wake of the massive earthquake that struck central Nepal last week, non-profit organisation Peace Winds Japan sent a small team of six rescuers and two specially trained dogs to help with the search for survivors.

Remarkably, one of the search dogs who was dispatched to Kathmandu is himself a former rescue: Yumenosuke, a stray dog saved from euthanasia in Hiroshima.

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Our Japanese reporter’s US trip goes horribly wrong when his luggage somehow ends up in Ecuador

Today, we’d like to share with you the experience of one of our reporters on a domestic flight in the United States. Hailing from Japan, home of the airport that hasn’t lost a piece of luggage in 20 years, our reporter Yoshio wasn’t expecting the unthinkable to happen on his brief 45-minute flight – but somehow, his bag went missing. And ended up in Ecuador!

Join us after the jump to hear his story, featuring insurance claims, flight changes, and at least one trip to buy new underwear.

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This convention attendee’s Hestia outfit takes cosplay to new, unparalleled heights

At Niconico Chokaigi, the annual convention held near Tokyo last weekend, one cosplaying attendee was gaining more attention than most. This particular enthusiast’s glorious Hestia costume – with, of course, the magical blue ribbon we’ve heard so much about recently – has won its owner followers, fans, and the love and respect of Hestia fans everywhere. Kind of.

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Ami Takeuchi is a beauty queen with pageant awards under her belt, legions of fans and a new idol DVD out, and boy, is it sexy. She also happens to be a “new half”, which in Japan refers to a trans female. Her catchphrase, in fact, is “the new half that’s just too cute!”

Warning: Things are about to get a little bit NSFW (unless you work at RocketNews24, in which case, congratulations! Pretty much nothing is NSFW!)

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Little Maria! One of the finalists for the AKB48 draft this year is just 11 years old

Japan’s 140-member supergroup AKB48 is holding its second annual draft next month, in which sub-teams will choose new members from a draft of 48 young hopefuls. And among the finalists is one of the youngest potential members the group has ever seen.

Unlike the rest of AKB48’s members, who are in their teens and early twenties, 11-year-old candidate Maria Imamura is still in elementary school. But that hasn’t held her back in reaching the finals of the draft, a huge event which will be televised on May 10th.

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Six things Tokyo has less of than any other city in Japan

Being the capital city, Tokyo very often tends to come out on top when it comes to rankings – it’s the top tourist destination for foreign visitors, the safest city in the world, the most populated (in fact, the most densely populated place on earth), has long been one of the most expensive (that dubious honour now belongs to Singapore, apparently), was recently declared the most satisfying city…we could go on.

But the student section of Japanese website MyNavi published a list this week of six national rankings that Tokyo comes at the bottom of – things it does worse at than any other city in Japan. Let’s take a look at what they found!

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Bet you can’t look at Satomi Ishihara’s face without wanting to squeeze it 【Video】

Quiz time! Is this video of actress Satomi Ishihara pouting and finger-dancing along to something called the puni-puni dance:

a) ridiculously catchy?
b) a telling example of what it means to be female and in a Japanese commercial?
c) the cutest thing to happen since those photos of the baby otters?

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It probably wasn’t Pokémon that turned ’90s kids gay after all

We’ve been seeing online chatter in Japan this week about reports, originating from a French website, that an American church says the characters and storylines of Pokémon caused homosexuality in teenagers in the late 1990s.

The “phallic appearance” and even the names of individual pokémon were designed to encourage gay feelings in teenagers, apparently.

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Mochi hot cakes: The Japanese pancakes you don’t even need a rice cooker to make!

There’s a reason we say “selling like hotcakes”, and that reason is that hotcakes are awesome. These fluffy, light little circles of joy were sent to make snack time delightful and fill the world with rainbows and sunshine.

But if you’ve ever looked down at your little pancakes and thought “hey, this just isn’t Japanese enough for me!” then we have the answer for you. Mochi, Japan’s favourite rice cake, is said to make hot cakes even fluffier and even more awesome. But how do you add a solid, square block of mochi to a bowl of pancake mix anyway?

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