John Stuart

Having originally set forth from Vancouver, Canada on what was supposed to a three-hour tour, John found himself washed up on the shores of these well-charted and populous isles some 25 years ago. Now working as a Tokyo-based freelance translator, he enjoys drinking in many of the city’s tachinomiya (standing-only bars) in his free time, but after short spans often finds himself in search of a chair.

Posted by John Stuart Translations

Forget hiking the Appalachian Trail, the path up Mount Hua should get your heart rate up and provide all the exercise you’ll ever need


Located about 120 kilometers outside of the city of Huayin, Shaanxi province, Mount Hua is one of China’s Five Great Mountains. Certainly beautiful, the mountain has historically been a religious retreat for “strong-willed” monks able to find “the way” to the top on narrow pathways alongside gut-churning drops.

With tourism now booming in a more affluent China, the government has worked to improve access to the top of the mountain by widening the trail, adding railings and safety chains, and in general working to prevent hikers from experiencing a quick, unplanned descent to the bottom. Let’s find out what the dizzying location has to offer!
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Still have any mix tapes lying about? Go digital with this cheap converter from Sanwa Direct

Remember making all those mixed-tapes after the Walkman burst onto the scene at the beginning of the 80s (for those of you who grew up with all things digital, ask your dad)? Do you have any of them left? Perhaps there are a few stuffed away at the bottom of the sock drawer? If you still have all or part of that collection, Sanwa Direct can help. Their new 400-MEDI002 cassette to MP3 converter makes changing those old analog compilations to digital format cheap and easy.

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Who spends the most cash on holiday? China jumps six places to grab the top spot


According to the UN World Tourism Organization, the Chinese topped world tourism spending in 2012, emptying their wallets to the tune of US$102 billion while on holiday abroad. The move marks a six place jump up the ranks from seventh spot in 2002. Japan, meanwhile, dropped from fourth to eighth over the same 10-year period.

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No typo here – Amazon Japan offers vicuña wool quilt for just US$674,000!

The vicuña, for those of you had never heard of it before (guilty!), is, according to humanity’s savior Wikipedia, one of two wild South American camelids (you know, llama-like animals) living in the high alpine areas of the Andes. Its coat is said to produce the finest wool in the world. It also happens to be the most expensive for a variety of reasons, including that the animals will starve themselves to death if held in captivity, meaning they cannot be farmed, and shearing wild ones can only be done once every three years, and even then only about three pounds of the animal’s hair can be harvested.

So, I guess that explains why a seller on Amazon Japan was trying to offload what I am sure is a very nice futon quilt for 67,200,000 yen (about US$674K).

But is it worth the price? Well, there’s only one way to find out: time to call accounting for some cash and place an order.

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Facebook users in Japan losing interest and heading for the exits

With over a billion registered users worldwide, Facebook is the king of online social networking services. In Japan, however, there are signs that its dominance is starting to crumble.

Facebook launched a Japanese version of its website in 2008. Initially, the platform experienced sluggish user growth as it struggled to compete with already established Japanese SNS sites produced by the likes of mixi, Mobage, and GREE. However, after well-known companies in Japan began to use Facebook as a marketing tool, it caught on with the general public and by the end of 2012 had 17.12 million users.

A mere five months later, however, that number has dropped to 13.78 million, a 19.5 percent drop in less than half a year.

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The great debate: Eye-opening survey asks ‘How often do you wash your bath towel?’

According to practitioners of feng shui (Chinese geomancy that is supposed to help improve one’s life by bringing in positive energy), when you dry your body with a bath towel, you’re not just wiping away drops of water, but removing misfortune as well. So, if you use the same bath towel the following day without washing it, you’ll just be reintroducing the misfortune you had gone through the trouble of wiping away the previous day.

If that’s true, and the results of a recent survey are to be believed, then some of us are far luckier than others…

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Subway Japan solves Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) pudding dilemma

Head on over to your nearest Subway the next time you’re wondering, “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?” Starting May 29, the purveyor of those fresh, delicious, made-to-order subs is offering double meat portions on selected sandwiches.
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Smackdown! Cat takes on banana peel in fight to the finish  【Video】

Dude, what’s that by your laptop!?
Hey whiskers, it’s just a banana peel.
Are you sure?
Of course, I just ate the damn thing.
I don’t know. I’m gonna check it out. Stay back and cover me.
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Companies Japanese People are Most Proud of

On May 1, market researcher Risk Monster released the results of its first ever “Companies the Japanese Can be Globally Proud Of” survey. Conducted February 25 to 27, the survey received valid responses from 1,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 69. A total of 200 companies with annual sales of at least 250 billion yen and a minimum of 5,000 employees were targeted by the survey.

Coming in at number one was…
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Korean High School Cafeteria Has a Bit of a Cleanup Problem

People are pretty good at returning their trays after they’ve finished eating at a self-serve cafeteria. It’s no fun task cleaning up after others, so dumping leftovers in the appropriate bin and separating utensils and trays and returning them to their designated pickup areas is highly appreciated by kitchen staff. Recent photos uploaded to the Korea-Japan Cultural Exchange (KJ Club) website, however, makes one wonder if students and teachers at one Korean high school might be in need of a manners lesson.
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Guilty and NEVER Proven Innocent – Every Male Train Rider’s Nightmare in Japan

Tales of subway groping are unfortunately commonplace in Japan, and anyone committing such a pathetic and cowardly act deserves every punishment given. But what happens if you are falsely accused? Often filled well beyond capacity, there is a real possibility of such a thing happening if you ride the trains running throughout Japan’s major urban centers. No matter your innocence, with a 99 percent conviction rate should the case go to court, one Tokyo lawyer says the best thing to do if wrongly accused is, run

Attorney Takashi Nozawa provides the following advice to anyone who might find themselves caught up in this nightmarish, no-win situation.
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Chinese Authorities Clamp Down on University Classroom Subject Matter

According to Hong Kong dailies dated May 11, university officials in Beijing and Shanghai were reported as saying authorities had directed them to refrain from teaching seven subjects in their classes including “freedom of the press,” “human rights” and “universal values.”
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GungoHo Online Entertainment Continues Upward Surge, Market Cap Exceeds Nintendo in Morning Trading

On the morning of May 13, GungHo Online Entertainment, Inc. (JASDAQ Standard) rose by its maximum allowable single day limit of 300,000 yen (approx. US$3,000). The stock increased 28.79 percent to 1.342 million yen (approx. US$13,420). The rise comes on the heels of a 17 percent gain on Friday, May 9.
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Hot Pot Restaurant in China Possibly Serves Rat Falsely Labeled as Lamb

According to Reuters and others, a major foreign-owned restaurant chain operating in China possibly used tainted meat products. An organized crime group exposed on May 2 is said to have sent falsely labeled meat products containing rat, fox and other contaminants to the Mongolian hot pot specialty restaurant chain Little Sheep which is owned by U.S.-based Yum! Brands of the U.S., operators of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and other well-known restaurant chains. This latest revelation comes to light not long after it was revealed this past January that KFC China was using chicken that had received excessive doses of growth promoting agents and antibiotics. China has become a major market for the restaurant titan, and the company is said to be at wits end as it deals with successive scandals occurring there.
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Frozen Beer and Beer Cocktails – Mr. Sato Checks Out Kirin Ichiban Garden

With Golden Week over, it means summer and hot, humid days are just around the corner. Knowing you’ll need a cooling and refreshing oasis to escape to in the months ahead, Mr. Sato headed over to the Mori Trust Garden in Toranomom District, Tokyo to scope out the offerings at Kirin’s Ichiban Garden.

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Buzzard Breath? Funky Feet? Odor-Detecting Robots Rate Your Pungency

A team from Kitakyushu National College of Technology (Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka) and CrazyLabo (Koga City, Fukuoka) has developed two robots capable of detecting degrees of offensiveness in foot odor and breath.

Blow into the face of lovely Kaori, a female mannequin-headed robot, for a quick reading on whether or not you are ready to interact with others. After a brief analysis, Kaori will assign one of four ratings to the (un)pleasantness of your breath…
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Subway Japan to Offer 290 Yen Bran-Tastic Breakfast Sets

Jumping into an increasingly crowded morning menu market, starting May 15, some Subway’s in Japan will start selling bran muffin sandwiches and breakfast sets for the morning crowd.

Three different types of sandwiches using healthier, high-fiber bran muffins will be offered: soft-boiled egg, tuna and mayo, and ham and cheese.

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Sixth-Grader and Friends Served Beer and Other Alcoholic Drinks at Local Pub

On April 24, Kanagawa prefectural police sent papers to prosecutors concerning a pub operator in Yokohama city on suspicion that two of its female staff members violated the Entertainment Business Act by serving beer and other alcoholic drinks to a group of young girls, including a 6th grade elementary school student.
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Yahoo! Japan to Offer Employees One-Year Sabbaticals

Yahoo! Japan president Manabu Miyasaka announced at a press conference on the 25th that the company would introduce a new system by the end of the current fiscal year which allows employees to take up to one year off from their jobs. The system, which is based on the concept of sabbaticals, allows employees to spend up to one year freely pursing whatever they desire, albeit without pay. Though fairly common in the west, offering such a system of leave is very rare for a Japanese company.
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Tohoku Region Drug Dealers Slow to Anticipate Local Demand

“Customer growth is stronger now compared to immediately after the quake,” said G, an organized crime group affiliate familiar with the illegal drug market. The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995 proved there was a good post-disaster market for illegal drugs among temporary housing residents and others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a result, when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, dealers from major urban centers swiftly loaded up and headed north to disaster-afflicted areas in the Tohoku region in search of quick profits.

According to G, “First on the scene were the stimulant drug pushers who began selling out of their cars on the back streets and in pachinko (pinball) parlor parking lots. Customers were wide-ranging, from high school students and young bar hostesses to grandfathers and grandmothers. Inferior grades of speed which couldn’t be sold in Tokyo and Osaka were offloaded there.”
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