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

Lose your head in the wonderful wooden sculptures of Yoshitoshi Kanemaki 【Photos】

As a wood sculptor, Yoshitoshi Kanemaki works in negative space. To create his imaginative human figures, he painstakingly carves and removes the unwanted sections from a huge single block of wood. The resulting statues combine realism with darker, surreal imagery, giving us sculptures such as a woman with many faces; a man embracing a skeleton; mirror images of two young men sprouting from the same head.

In a fascinating and detailed photo series, the Japanese artist has revealed how his latest work was made; join us as we follow in his footsteps, and take a look back at some of his other stunning artworks.

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Eat your beans the doubly delicious way with this mushiyaki edamame recipe 【RocketKitchen】

Edamame – young, green soybeans and (in this writer’s opinion anyway) the food of the gods – are usually prepared by boiling the beans in the pods, before draining and sprinkling with salt. While some people might think of edamame as an appetiser, or a side dish to sushi, in Japan the mighty green soybean has a special purpose – edamame’s best friend and soulmate is a cold beer.

And the writing team over at our Japanese sister site Pouch have their own special method of cooking edamame that they swear is doubly delicious. All you need is edamame, salt, and a lot less water than you might think.

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“Is this because of Fukushima?” Japanese people react to ‘Why people run’ meme

Infographics are designed to present complex information in a digestible, easy-to-understand visual format. And, y’know, to make jokes about national stereotypes sometimes.

There’s one doing the rounds at the moment called ‘Why people run in different countries’, which supposedly depicts – you guessed it! – the reasons why people from different countries might feel the need to run. Perhaps unsurprisingly, commenters from the countries depicted in the meme quickly came forward to ask “WTF why is Australia upside-down?” and to point out that “Americans don’t run for hamburgers – haven’t you ever heard of drive-thru?!”

Japanese netizens were similarly perplexed by the creator’s choice of what people in Japan are running from, and came up with a surprising interpretation of what’s going on here.

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“No rolling in the corridors!” Japanese high-schoolers’ acrobatic way of getting to class【Video】

High school can be a challenging time for young Japanese people, as the pressures of adult responsibility loom and the prospect of university entrance exams threatens to define your whole future.

That doesn’t mean kids don’t find time for fun, though. Like these two high-schoolers just showing us how they roll.

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This amazingly detailed theme park map is what Tokyo Ghibli Land would look like

At the Ghibli Museum in Mikata, Tokyo, in an enchanting building designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself, you can wander among sketches and storyboards, gaze up at the iconic Robot Soldier standing guard on the building’s roof, and learn about the history of animation.

What you can’t do is ride a Laputa roller coaster, a Sea of Decay log flume, or a monorail shaped like the Cat Bus, because a) Mr. Miyazaki would probably hate that and b) Ghibli is presumably doing pretty well out of its other endeavours and doesn’t feel the need to build an actual amusement park just yet.

So, alas, these beautiful plans for a full-blown theme park by Japanese artist and Studio Ghibli fan Takumi won’t be being realised any time soon. Which is a shame, because Takumi’s incredibly detailed Tokyo Ghibli Land is one theme park that we’d happily pay through the nose to visit.

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‘Rassun Gorerai: English version’ is even more oddball than the original 【Video】

Humour can be so dependent on the language and culture of its country of origin, that it easily gets lost in translation. But what happens when you try to translate nonsense? That’s what Satoshi Castro has tried to do with his English version of comedy duo 8.6sec Bazooka’s ‘Rassun Gorerai’, the hit chanting-dance routine that’s racked up 9 million views on YouTube so far.

If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what that title rassun gorerai means, you’re in luck – it doesn’t mean anything! So how will this catchy Japanese comedy song work in English? Join us after the jump to find out!

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Move over, humanoid employees: Nagasaki theme park to open futuristic hotel staffed by robots

Once you’ve tired yourself out playing with your rideable 4-metre tall robot from Amazon Japan and experienced the neon assault to the senses that is Shinjuku’s Robot Restaurant show, you’ll also be able to visit a hotel in Japan with robot staff once the new Hen-na Hotel opens this summer.

As well as robot receptionists, porters, cleaners and waitresses, the aptly-named Hen-na Hotel (literally meaning “strange hotel”) in the Huis Ten Bosch theme park, Nagasaki, will also feature a whole host of futuristic technology aimed at reducing energy consumption and human staffing levels, therefore keeping room prices down.

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We’re struggling to find the Japan in Bose’s new “JAPAN CONCEPT MODEL” headphones

What’s that you say? Bose headphones in two brand new limited edition Japanese designs? Well, that sounds right up our street!

American audio specialists Bose continue to lead the noise-cancelling headphone market, but at US$250-$300, their QuietComfort 25 headphones are something of an investment. So what have the designers at Bose done with these new limited-edition “Japan Concept” headphones to warrant the bumped-up 43,200 yen ($366) price tag?

Why, they’ve made them in “Japanese colours” like black and gold, of course!

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South Korean artist offers a bare-bones look at our most loved cartoon characters【Photos】

Hyungkoo Lee looks beneath the skin of a whole host of Disney and Looney Tunes characters, imagining what their skeletons might look like underneath.

But the Seoul-based artist doesn’t stop at building these realistic-looking constructions. He then displays them in character, giving us a series of tableaux in which Tom chases Jerry, Sylvester reaches out for a flying Tweety Bird, and the Road Runner is (true to form) perpetually running. It’s like a dinosaur museum…with fictional characters.

Sure, they’re pretty creepy and bound to upset small children, but we’re too impressed to care.

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Get ready for yuru-kyara car plates! Japan to lift ban on colourful regional license plates

In larger countries like Australia and the United States, vehicle registration is carried out at the state level. This has long allowed each state to produce distinctive designs, including slogans or iconic imagery on number plates. In little Japan, however, vehicle registration is issued by the national government, so car owners have had no option to show their local pride with a regional license plate…until now.

The Ministry of Transport has announced that from next year, local authorities will be free to put colourful character designs on car number plates. Let’s have a look at some of the potential ways to pimp your Japanese numberplate!

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Fly-kicking good?! KFC Malaysia apologises after employees brawl in front of customers

KFC Malaysia has launched an investigation after a fist-fight broke out between employees in a branch of the restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. The fight, which happened directly in front of customers, was captured on camera and uploaded Facebook, where it has been shared and viewed thousands of times.

A video of the punch-up, which appears to show one member of staff verbally abusing another before a third employee dives in with a flying kick, was uploaded on January 17. KFC Malaysia was surprisingly quick to respond.

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“Is that you, Hiro?” This kid’s Big Hero 6 cosplay is out of this world! 【Photos】

“How is your cosplay so perfect…?” “How did you escape from the movie screen?!” “Are you ACTUALLY Hiro?”

For Filipino artist and self-confessed “cosplay dork” Jin, questions like these are a regular occurrence. Already an internationally recognised cosplayer, when promo images for Big Hero 6 were released last year, Jin began to get messages from fans pointing out an uncanny resemblance to the film’s central protagonist Hiro Hamada. Which is pretty interesting, seeing Big Hero 6 is a Disney movie and Hiro is, of course, computer-animated.

Intrigued, Jin tried it out – and has been cosplaying Hiro ever since. Fast-forward a few months and Jin and friends continue to produce incredibly realistic, beautifully produced photos of cosplayed Big Hero 6 scenes. Join us after the jump as we take a look!

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Things left behind on Japanese trains: A sad photographic collection to make you wonder

From the super-efficient bullet train cleaning team that whizzes in and out in a seven-minute turnaround, to stories of entertainingly brilliant station customer service, there are heaps of things to love about Japan’s rail system, which ranks amongst the cleanest and most punctual in the world.

One other cool thing about Japanese trains – or perhaps about Japanese society in general – is that if you lose something, you stand a pretty good chance of getting it back again. Even valuable items like smartphones or wallets often end up handed in to lost property and returned to their original owner.

Today, though, we bring you a collection of some of the more unusual items left on trains around Japan – things that made other commuters go “Huh? Why’d someone have that on the train anyway?”

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Naoko Tachibana is a photographer and professional ‘josou’ specialist who has helped over 1,000 men to try out crossdressing, giving styling and fashion advice as well as shooting stunning photos of the completed transformation. And josou itself – male to female crossdressing – is the theme of a new solo exhibition of Tachibana’s photographic work, which opens at the Vanilla Gallery in Ginza, Tokyo this month.

Join us after the jump for a peek at the promotional shots for the exhibition, featuring Ladybeard and more!

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We examine the footage, decide Coming of Age Day in Okinawa is actually pretty badass【Video】

Japan’s Coming of Age Day, held in January to celebrate young people who have turned 20 in the last year, involves dressing up in fancy kimono to attend an official ceremony, followed by a trip to the shrine or (more likely) an afterparty.

Or, to put it another way, every 20-year-old in the country is invited to a party to celebrate the fact they’re old enough to drink alcohol. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that in recent years, each Coming of Age Day has brought with it a small number of arrests, as rowdy enjoyment spills over into reckless driving and alcohol-related incidents.

Okinawa in particular boasts some of the wildest Coming of Age celebrations in Japan. This year, filmmaker and Okinawa native Hisashi Hamamoto headed to some of the busiest spots to film the partygoers. Join us after the jump for kids blocking traffic, shaking champagne about and generally having a riot, Japan-style.

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Playing ‘League of Legends’ is way harder with your cat around【Video】

Three things about cats that everyone knows: they are super cute, incredibly contrary, and love to play League of Legends.

Er… Nope, we didn’t know about that last one either! But as this video of a kitty in South Korea fighting with his owner for screen time shows us, there may be (adorable) downsides to cat ownership we’d never even considered. It turns out, some cats love touchscreen games as much as humans do!

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Guys in China weigh up the sh*t their girlfriends say in “Chinese Girlfriends: North VS South” 【Video】

Pranksters and sketch-makers TMD Shanghai are back with another look at relationships in China – and this time, it’s the girls getting sent up. TMD, formerly known as Monkey Kingz, are the team that brought us that ‘Single Chinese Guy vs Single White Guy’ skit. As we might expect from a comedy video playing on ethnic stereotypes, that provoked some decent debate online. Is it ok to make generalisations based on race? Does the comedic context make it more, or less acceptable?

So after watching TMD’s new video ‘Chinese Girlfriends: North VS South’ video, we immediately jumped to the YouTube comments, expecting the usual cries of stereotyping and “WTF man you couldn’t be more wrong.” But we were surprised to discover that, well, everybody loves it!

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One man’s mission to record the stories of Tohoku survivors “revisited” by lost loved ones

What happens after we die? Is it possible to communicate with loved ones after they are gone? And if not, how can we explain the stories of those who claim to have done so? These questions are pertinent to the work of journalist Shuji Okuno, who researches the yūrei banashi, or ghost stories, of relatives bereaved by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Over 18,000 people were killed in the disaster in March 2011, most by drowning; including 2,601 bodies that were never recovered. Okuno has been researching and recording the stories of Tohoku people bereaved by the disaster who say they were visited by the spirits of their deceased family members, often at the exact moment of their passing.

But reporting on ghost sightings in a disaster zone is controversial work. In an interview with Tohoku-area newspaper Kahoku Shimpo this week, Okuno spoke about the stories he has uncovered and the criticism he continues to face.

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“No pants hot-pot” enjoyed a brief spell of notoriety in the mid-90s when it emerged that Japanese Finance Ministry officials had demanded that bankers take them to a no-pan shabu shabu restaurant – where waitresses wear short skirts and no underwear – as a form of bribe.

After that scandal, no-pan shabu shabu disappeared, to be replaced by new trends in oddball sexy café entertainment. But the team in our Tokyo office felt it was about time this important element of Japanese culture was revived – no, improved! So we turned our office into a shabu shabu parlour for one night only, as two of our reporters enjoyed a night of bromance, bonding, and beef.

Warning: While there’s nothing full-frontal coming up, things are about to get NSFW.

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‘A Cruel Angel’s Thesis’ took just two hours to write says Evangelion lyricist Neko Oikawa

If you’ve ever been to karaoke with anyone who likes anime, chances are you know ‘A Cruel Angel’s Thesis’, the theme song to Neon Genesis Evangelion – it’s a karaoke classic. Since its original release, singer Yoko Takahashi has re-released the song, which is known as Zankoku na Tenshi no Tēze in Japanese, three times; it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

When Neko Oikawa, who wrote the lyrics to the hit song back in 1995, claimed this week that she only spent two hours on it, some fans weren’t too surprised. After all, history is full of hit songs that were supposedly written in mere minutes, from ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ to ‘Under Pressure’ to ‘My Sharona’.

What’s more impressive – especially when you consider how well ‘A Cruel Angel’s Thesis’ fits the series’ themes – is that the lyricist knew next to nothing about the show itself when she wrote it.

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