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

Beautiful soldiers: This is what conscription looks like for Thailand’s trans women

Like many countries, Thailand’s military has conscription by way of a lottery. Draft day is held each April, around the time of the traditional New Year, and all men over 21 – even those who no longer consider themselves to be male – are required to attend the conscription lottery once.

Thailand is widely considered the trans capital of the world, and more gender reassignment surgery takes place there than in any other country. So Thailand’s unusually high number of trans females (kathoey or “ladyboys”) makes this conscription process somewhat unique.

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Kansai International: The airport that’s never lost a passenger’s bag

One of the many things we love about Japan is its amazing customer service, from intelligent packing to omnipresent station attendants who pop out of the walls to help you.

So we weren’t too surprised to hear that an airport in Japan has been judged to be the best airport in the world for baggage handling. And the details of the top-notch service that helped Kansai International Airport clinch the title are really quite impressive. For starters, the Osaka airport hasn’t lost a single item of luggage in over 20 years.

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Someone at Studio Ghibli call this student film-maker and give him a job! 【Video】

Lush greenery, magical flying machines and huge, squelching monsters, overlaid with a soaring orchestral soundtrack. This animated short makes no pretence about its strongest influence – it’s a beautiful homage to the works of Hayao Miyazaki.

The film even features a mysterious-looking gentleman who looks suspiciously like Miyazaki himself. But this short, which has been gaining attention online in Japan and abroad, was not made by a team of professional animators, but a young film student in Paris.

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Forget Tokyo’s giant Gundam statue, we wanna visit this plastic-bottle Gundam in Tochigi!

We’re pretty big fans of Odaiba’s full-scale Gundam statue, which towers over Tokyo Bay at an incredible 18 metres tall. But there’s nothing quite like homespun charm, and we’re equally delighted to discover the existence of a plastic bottle version, built single-handedly by one enthusiastic sake shop owner in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo.

Our friends over at off-the-beaten-track Japan travel site Another Tokyo went to check it out last month, and this is what they found.

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Russian illustrator wows with bold, simple art in tribute to Studio Ghibli【Pictures】

The characters and scenery of Studio Ghibli movies inspire all kinds of artwork by fans, from impressively detailed posters to super-minimalist art. Russian artist mr von ungarn has been delighting and perplexing Japanese netizens with his adorable, naive-style depictions of our favourite Ghibli characters. Check them out after the jump/

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There’s something fishy about that catch! People in Chinese city urged not to eat floating carp

In a city in China’s southwestern Shichuan Province during the early hours of April 2, a man walking alongside the river suddenly noticed what appeared to be huge quantities of pale fish floating in the water.

He quickly rushed home and returned with fishing equipment, and was soon joined by crowds of amateur fishers – and local officials, who subsequently hauled 300 kilograms of fish from the river to be destroyed.

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Narita Airport attempts to woo international travellers with ‘Omotenashi’ welcome program

‘Omotenashi’, the spirit of Japanese hospitality, became something of a buzzword at home and abroad when Christel Takigawa used the phrase in her speech to the International Olympic Committee in 2013.

And it’s in this spirit that Tokyo’s Narita airport plans to extend an especially warm welcome to international visitors this year, as it renews its Omotenashi Program of special offers and cultural events for transferring passengers.

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Doting cat owner buys his kitties a present, finds out all they want is the box it came in

Lots of people treat their cats like kids, really. They give them human names like Molly, Charlie and Pikachu, buy them birthday and Christmas presents, and consider them one of the family.

The problem with treating your cats like children, though, is that sometimes they’ll start to act like them…

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Sadly (thankfully?), this jiggle-inducing piece of video game kit isn’t real…yet

A new promo video for the latest instalment in the Senran Kagura video game series tells of an exciting new piece of virtual-reality kit developed during production of the game. Whilst working on Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, apparently, some hard-working chaps in the “Department of Hyper Enormous Boobage Development” realised that the game’s female ninja characters’ chests were just not jiggling realistically enough. They set to work researching and designing the Pizap, a kind of treadmill add-on to gameplay in which players run after a well-endowed, bikini-clad woman and, er, watch her jiggle.

As you may have guessed, the Pizap is fictitious, as is Marvelous’s “Boobage Department” (although we do have to congratulate them on that name). But the promo video for it is real though, and it’s pretty hilarious. Join us after the jump as we check it out!

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Cup no Fuchiko’s “little sister” Gurimi-chan is all kinds of awkward…

It’s no secret that here at RocketNews24 we are pretty big fans of vending machine toys. One the few capsule toys that’s broken out of the vending machine is Cup no Fuchiko. The adorable, demure little plastic lady who sits on the edge of your cup took Japan by storm two years ago, and can now be found in department and gift stores across the country.

You might be forgiven for thinking that this new little-girl version, named Cup no Kado no Gurimi-chan, was an official product from the makers of Fuchiko. Until you notice their tagline: “Don’t sue us!!”…

Yep, Gurimi-chan is pretty weird, in all kinds of ways.

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You haven’t really graduated unless you were dressed as Tetris 【Photos】

Springtime in Japan means graduation season, and for increasing numbers of students that means cosplay. And with years of costuming excellence preceding them, students of Kyoto University have a lot to live up to. This year’s grads didn’t disappoint, though!

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Saying “Will you go out with me?” is just a Japanese thing? Well…it’s complicated

Recently, I was talking about relationships with a Japanese friend who is studying here in the UK, and she asked me: “you don’t have kokuhaku here, do you?”

I knew what kokuhaku is – it’s the declaration that marks the beginning of a relationship, the point where one person says to the other “I really like you, will you go out with me?” So at first, I thought it was a bit of a funny question. I mean, we do that in western countries too, right? Declare our feelings, ask and get asked out? Well…yes. But maybe it’s not quite the same.

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Japanese PM Shinzo Abe says he pays his Facebook and Twitter fees just like everyone else

Has Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fallen for one of those “Facebook to start charging” hoaxes?

Abe found himself the butt of the joke in parliament this week after slipping up on the subject of social media. The prime minister proudly told the House of Councillors on Wednesday that of course, he pays his Facebook and Twitter membership fees.

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Bottle-blowing meets the sounds of sushi in The Bottle Boys’ new ad for Kirin【Video】

The Bottle Boys are a five-piece band from Copenhagen, who shot to fame last year after performing ‘Billie Jean’ using nothing but (a large number of) beer bottles. And now they’ve been snapped up by Kirin Ichiban, in a slick production that sees them team up with Iron Chefs to record a track blending their musical bottle-playing with the sounds of sushi.

Join us after the jump to see how it sounds!

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Japanese illustrators’ Pokémon mashups are probably the coolest thing you’ll see all week

Japanese users of Twitter have an instant advantage over English speakers, because the Japanese language is much more efficient in its use of characters. Take the word “book” for example. Write “book” in a tweet, and you’ve used up four of your characters. In Japanese, however, the word for book (本 “hon”) only takes up one character, so a 140-character tweet written in Japanese gives quite a bit more breathing space to the writer.

This, combined with the fact that Japanese doesn’t have spaces between words either, means the wonderful world of Japanese Twitter has another feature that’s not so common among English-language users: absurdly-long hashtags, like #1番目にリプがきたポケモンと2番目にリプがきたポケモンをフュージョンさせる (“reply to this with Pokémon and I’ll make a mashup combining the first two”), the hashtag being used by Japanese illustrators on Twitter recently. The results are glorious visual mashups of our favourite Pokémon – with some other shows’ characters sneaking in too.

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Someone in Japan hits on killer formula for textbook covers: stick a cute anime girl on there!

Do you remember the characters in your school textbooks? Perhaps you have fond memories of doodling in the margins and augmenting the illustrations.

Well, just when we were thinking that study guides in Japan in recent years were all looking a little bit same-y, some clever marketing person (or, more likely, about 100 clever marketing people) has come up with a one-step technique for designing these educational guides. It doesn’t matter whether it’s history, philosophy, social studies or English – just put a smart, cute anime girl on the front cover!

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Seven things we’ve learned from Haruki Murakami’s quirky “ask me anything” project

Back in January, author Haruki Murakami launched his very own agony uncle website, inviting questions from readers on a range of topics from relationship advice to questions about cats to his favourite baseball team, the Yakult Swallows.

In just two weeks, the website Murakami-san no Tokoro (“Mr. Murakami’s Place”) received over 30,000 questions from readers keen to hear the celebrated author’s answers to their burning questions. And since the end of January, Murakami has been diligently answering those questions, sometimes replying to more than 30 queries a day.

As the project draws to a close, we look back on what we’ve learned from Murakami’s musings, from pragmatic advice to a would-be writer to the author’s thoughts on the afterlife, gay marriage, and anthropomorphic fantasies.

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There’s a temple in Yamaguchi that keeps a dog as Chief Priest

Maru is an eight-year-old Kishu Inu from Wakayama Prefecture, and by all reports he’s a bit of a grumpy old chap. But Maru’s cantankerousness has a little more bite to it than most guard dogs, because he also happens to be the chief priest of Yamaguchi City’s Toshunji temple!

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Say it with flowers and a Ghibli character! Proof that Totoro can make even plant pots cute!

I’ve never really thought of plant pots as being particularly good gifts, and buying a flowerpot for Mother’s Day has never crossed my mind (sorry mum!) But if that planter was being pulled along by a steadfast Totoro, or came with a little Jiji the cat standing guard by the flowers, it’d probably be worth a second look.

These two new designs from Studio Ghibli merchandise store Donguri Kyouwakoku are miniature plant pots featuring adorable Totoro and Jiji figures, and they’ve just been announced for a Mother’s Day release!

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Adorable Shiba Inu Mari-chan gets to work in the kitchen, with disastrous results 【Video】

Here at RocketNews24 there’s only one thing we like more than a Shiba Inu, and that’s a Shiba Inu with professional comic timing. Last time we saw our favourite doggy actor Mari-chan, she was wreaking havoc working as a handy-man’s assistant, and this time, she’s been let loose in a new playground – the kitchen.

Mari-chan’s long-suffering owner has a new culinary plan – to make a special dish of “Super Chilled Tofu”. Unfortunately, Mari-chan has other ideas…

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