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.

All Stories by John Stuart Translations

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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With No Cash for Upgrades, Local Government to Disconnect Some PCs from Net and Tape up Ethernet Ports

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will end support for its XP operating system which is still installed on one-third of PCs in Japan. After that date, the company will no longer provide corrective updates should any security flaws be discovered, meaning users will be more susceptible to risks such as information theft and leakage. Though local governments are moving ahead with replacement plans, “cost concerns” and “worries about human error” are weighing heavily on some municipalities as talk of strategies including simply unplugging vulnerable machines and duct taping their ethernet ports becomes worryingly common.

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Tomatoes – Tokyo’s Latest Fashion Trend?

The coming of spring brings a coming change in fashion, which in turn prompts many to consider a slight change to their hairstyles. Lopping off a considerable length to go from “long” to “short”, adding a few streaks or coloring for accent, or perhaps getting a perm or wave will allow most people to achieve the look they’re after. One young Tokyo trendsetter, however, decided an extreme makeover was needed to celebrate the arrival of warmer weather and the start of the school year (April to March in Japan).

As the following picture shows she didn’t go with a garden variety cut, she went for the garden itself, turning her lovely locks into a… tomato!
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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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Area Man Forgets Kids’ Present in Unlikely Place after Night of Drunken Revelry

Figuring that buying his two young boys a present would help ease the wrath of an angry spouse when he got home late after a night of drinking with co-workers (as process known as nominication), company employee Taro Suzuki may have inadvertently left the gift in a public phone booth after calling his wife to say he would be later than expected due to having missed the last train.

My boys have a huge aquarium and love gold fish,” said Suzuki while picking his ear with his house keys. “I thought if I brought home a few more their joy at receiving them would help calm the wife who, if past experience is any kind of indicator, might be somewhat displeased with my having missed dinner to go out for a few with the guys.”

It wasn’t until Suzuki got home and went to make his play, however, that he realized he no longer had the fish!

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Say Goodbye, Japan — Häagen-Dazs to Close Last Store on April 25

Sorry guys, but no more pick-and-mix cups, cones or parfaits of tantalizingly delicious Häagen-Dazs ice cream will be available in Japan as of Friday, the last of the well-known brand’s outlets is scheduled to close up on April 25.

Though you’ll no longer be able mix your favorite flavors into a cup of scrumptiousness at a Häagen-Dazs-branded shop, the purveyor of pleasurable experiences (or so the ads tell us) will continue to sell pre-packaged offerings at convenience stores and supermarkets throughout the country.

So I can still get Häagen-Dazs at the supermarket, what’s the big deal you ask? Well, the brick-and-mortar locations carried flavors and creations not available in off-the-shelf form.
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Food Fight! Mos Burger to Take on McDonald’s in the Breakfast Arena

MOS (Mountain Ocean, Sun) Food Services announced on the 18th that it would open all 1,400 of its MOS Burger outlets at 7:00 a.m. by the end of the year. The hamburger chain already operates 430 of its stores from that early hour and plans to progressively open the remainder at that time. McDonald’s Japan had been aggressive in the breakfast space with its “Morning Mac” campaign, and MOS Burger’s move is expected to intensify competition. At a press conference MOS President and CEO Atsushi Sakurada explained that the number of people eating breakfast out was increasing, especially among the elderly and working women, adding, “Change in the morning person market is accelerating. I want to strengthen our preparedness.”

Could this mean additional woes for an already troubled McDonald’s Japan?

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Japanese Businessman Suspected of Slashing Up to 1,000 Tires in Effort to Meet Women

Suspected of violating laws related to acts of violence, the first trial for company employee Yoshihito Harada, 25, was held at the Nagoya district courthouse on 16 April. Harada stands accused of puncturing the tires of parked cars that were driven by women in an effort to strike up conversations with the drivers. When asked if there was any truth to the indictment, Harada admitted, “It’s true, I did it.”

According to the opening statement by prosecutors, between April 2011 and December 2012, Harada used a screw driver or other sharp object to puncture the tires of five different cars. The cars had all been parked outside supermarkets in the cities of Miyoshi, Nisshin and Toyota, Aichi Prefecture. In all cases the stated reason was so that Harada could establish contact with the women.

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Facebook Opens Brick-and-Mortar Store in Myanmar – Or Does It?

In a recent visit to Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, we made a rather interest discovery; it would appear Facebook was trying to muscle in on the hot Southeast Asian clothing market.

Even after closer inspection, however, we were unable to determine whether or not Zuckerburg and crew were in fact the backers behind this chic apparel retailer.

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Who’s Stealing our Flags? Osaka Prefectural Police Look for Clues

Having ruled out Colonel Mustard with a candlestick in the dining room (thanks Hasbro), Osaka prefectural police at the city’s Taisho station are trying to figure out who made off with national flags from two of the district’s elementary schools on April 16.
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Chinese Authorities to Issue Ban on Using Quotes from Weibo and Foreign Media Sources

It became evident on the 16th that as a general rule, Chinese authorities would soon ban domestic media companies from using quotes from foreign media sources and information garnered from Weibo, the country’s popular microblogging website. Citing the need to “form a healthy reporting structure,” among other reasons, authorities are preparing to lay out strict reporting regulations

The General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), state authorities that control domestic media, made it clear they will start “requesting reporters and editors” not to use reports from foreign media sources or citizen-generated content from the Internet without first gaining prior approval.

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Free Gifts and Cheap Coffee No Help as McDonald’s Japan Troubles Continue

The collapse of McDonald’s Japan continued as the company recorded declining year-over-year sales for the 12th consecutive month at the end of March. The situation is dismal, as whatever the company does seems to end in failure.

Its 100-yen menu (about one US dollar) and free giveaways no longer impress customers who have grown accustomed to deflationary pricing. Its “Food in 60 seconds or next burger free” campaign, which the company initiated in January as a measure to help revive fortunes, also failed to deliver. And there doesn’t appear to be any light at the end of the tunnel. Its most recent venture, free gum and other “unique”gifts to purchasers of breakfast sets, has been roundly criticized on the Internet as being a “hackneyed idea.”
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New Hyundai Concept Car Looks a Bit Like Dragon Ball Character Frieza’s Ride

South Korean automobile manufacturer Hyundai revealed its new E4U single-person concept car at the recently completed Seoul Motor Show. Egg-like in shape, the mobility device measures 92cm in width while standing 123cm tall. Hyundai believes the vehicle to be suitable for narrow streets in urban centers where speeds are generally slow.
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Sayonara Taxis? Tokyo to Consider Operating Trains, Buses Around the Clock


Whether working late or partying late, people lacking the stamina for an all-nighter and missing the last train home in Japan are primarily left with two rather expensive options: taxi or hotel.

Well, in the not-so-distant future, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government may provide a more wallet-friendly third option, buses and trains operating 24 hours a day.

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“It’s Just like Red Bean Soup,” Chinese Official Sacked after Trying to Downplay River Pollution Fears


An official from the environment bureau in Hebei Province, China, was dismissed after telling residents that underground water that had turned red due to discharge from a nearby factory “was not polluted,” likening it to “red bean soup.”
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A Rare Sight in Japan: Commuter Train Operates while Carriage Doors Remain Open

Commuter trains in Japan are known for being among the most punctual in the world. The entire rail system is a well-oil machine. When a train is scheduled to depart its station at 09:42 and arrive at its destination at 10:33, it almost always leaves the station at 9:42 and arrives at 10:33; a mind-boggling concept perhaps in some other parts of the world.

Close to 40 million passengers use the rail system daily in Tokyo alone, so when trouble does occur, it needs to be sorted out quickly. Still, it would shock anyone who has been living in risk-averse, safety-first Japan for any length of time to see their local commuter train run down the tracks with a passenger carriage door wide open.
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Mister Donut Japan to Change Product Ingredients for First Time in 42 Years

On April 9, Duskin Co., Ltd., operators of the Mister Donut franchise in Japan, announced they would be making changes to the batter and oil they used for their product in order to better bring out the original taste of the donuts themselves. This is the first time for Mister Donut Japan to undergo a major change in ingredients since opening 41 years ago in 1971.
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