Oona McGee

Half-Japanese Oona McGee hails from Sydney, Australia, where she worked as a journalist and copywriter before making the move to Japan over a decade ago. Now she spends her days exploring the streets of Tokyo with her laptop and camera, always in search of new cafes, restaurants, events and stories to share with our readers. As an experienced food and travel reporter, Oona has travelled extensively through all 47 prefectures of Japan, and is constantly researching new destinations and drawing up itineraries for her next adventure.

Posted by Oona McGee

Old-school vending machine on Japan’s Sado Island sells bags of rare and local fruit

One of the many things we love about Japan is its impressive variety of vending machines. We’ve seen everything from orange juice that looks like soy sauce to cans of hot, clam-packed miso soup make its way to the hands of customers through the wonders of mechanised distribution.

Recently, we stumbled on a machine we’d never seen before, and one that’s unique even by Japanese standards. Meet the persimmon vending box that delights customers on Sado Island with a rare variety of fruit that’s only grown locally, away from mainland Japan.

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We track down the stunning Ghibli-like waterfall made famous online — just outside Tokyo!【Pics】

There are many well-known areas of beauty all around Japan, but sometimes you stumble upon something off the beaten path that simply takes your breath away.

That’s what happened to one person in Japan, who came across a waterfall in a tunnel of sunlight, filled with the same muted hues as a scene from a fantastical animated movie. Upon sharing the atmospheric photograph above on Instagram it received thousands of likes, with people all over the country eager to learn where the secret waterfall was hidden.

It might look like something from the foggy mists of a far-flung island many miles from Tokyo, but the beautiful scene is actually located just a short one-hour drive from the bustling metropolis. We decided to make our way there, and we’ve marked out the route so you can visit it too!

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From Totoro to Sailor Moon: Macarons get delicious anime makeovers

When you’re looking for cute inspiration, you don’t have to look much further than Japan. As the birthplace of the world’s beloved wide-eyed, chubby-faced anime characters, the nation is full to overflowing with commercials, posters, sweets and goods that are so adorable even self-respecting adults can’t help but squeal like delighted children when they catch sight of them.

Now Japan’s cast of cute characters have found a home for themselves across the seas in a gorgeous little Airstream trailer in California, where they continue to pop up in limited numbers in the best way ever: as deliciously sweet macarons. Come with us as we take a look at some of the cute critters and adorable edibles in the collection after the break.

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Carry a cute kitten in your handbag with the adorably soft kitten pouch!

While tiny dogs don’t mind being ferried about in designer handbags, cats would rather scratch our arms off than let us take them outside the front door. Cat owners have suffered for too long, going about their lives outside without the company of their feline companions, but now there’s a clever way for us to carry a cute kitten around in our bags and keep our arms at the same time, with the adorably realistic cat pouch from Felissimo.

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Say hello to the “Japanese Cotton Wife” who comes in two sizes and wears a suit of skin

Novelty goods manufacturer Bibi Lab has been outdoing itself lately. They’ve given us everything from pillows shaped like anime pigtails, mosquito net jumpsuits and even sailor-style schoolgirl uniforms for men.

Now they’ve redesigned the concept of the huggy pillow, giving it a feminine shape and calling it the “Japanese Cotton Wife”. Available in two sizes, the manufacturers have worked particularly hard on perfecting the lady’s nude bodysuit, saying they’ve done an excellent job of making it look like it contains human muscle and subcutaneous fat. Because that’s not creepy at all…

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Citrus-packing “Pepsi White” coming to Japan for the winter snow season

When it comes to limited-edition beverages, Pepsi continues to rise to the occasion year after year. And just when we thought we’d seen the last of Pepsi’s seasonal releases for 2015 with their mystery-flavoured Halloween range, they go and announce a special Christmas present, with the release of a new Pepsi White Cola for this year’s winter season.

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Kagawa’s Udon Monster joins Japan’s other local kaiju to help save the environment

Did you know that each of Japan’s 47 prefectures has a designated monster that represents their region? The larger-than-life beings were born from the “Gotouchi Kaiju” (“Local Monsters”) multimedia project helmed by Professor Hiroshi Sagae, who’s worked on a number of kaiju-centric films such as Godzilla Millenium, Ultraman Saga and Gamera the Brave.

Now there’s a special crowdfunding campaign that’s calling on the masses to support the plight of the monsters as they strive to protect nature and promote greenery in their towns. Patrons who contribute to their favourite beast will be rewarded with cards, T-shirts or even a 3-D kaiju figurine but best of all, the funds raised for each prefecture will go towards supporting environmental projects in the region.

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Hold the Force in the palm of your hand with limited edition Star Wars plushies from Takara Tomy

Japan is really putting on a show for the upcoming release of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie. From cute, bite-sized character sweets to samurai figurines and even a special train, welcome celebrations in the Land of the Rising sun are proving to be the best this side of the galaxy.

Fortunately for us, the special releases just keep on coming. And now, Takara Tomy Arts have joined the party by metamorphosing our favourite characters into adorable plush toys that are small enough to sit in the palm of your hand!

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Japan mourns the loss of legendary illustrator Noriyoshi Ohrai

It has been announced that Noriyoshi Ohrai—the Japanese illustrator best known for producing remarkable poster art for Metal Gear Solid as well as for films including the Godzilla series and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back—passed away from pneumonia yesterday morning at the age of 79.

With a career spanning over half a century and an impressive portfolio of artworks for novels, games and well-known international movie releases, fans around the world are mourning the loss of a great talent and taking a look back at his extraordinary body of work.

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LoCoS: The universal language we’ll be using by 2065, according to legendary Japanese designer

Yukio Ota is a legendary graphic designer in Japan. As the creator of the green “running man” pictogram that features on the nation’s emergency exit signs which have since spread to Europe, Canada and the Asia-Pacific, Ota is a frontrunner when it comes to developing images that convey a thousand words.

Now the designer of the exit sign is making headlines for his long-term project that aims to have the world using a universal language by 2065. Called the Lovers’ Communication System, or LoCoS, the standardised system based on pictographs has the power to overcome language barriers and revolutionise the world of communication as we know it.

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New Japanese commercial captures high school life with amazing blackboard chalk art animation

For students all around the world, the day of a big test is one of the most nerve-racking of the entire school year. And when you’re sitting for your university exam in Japan, it’s like the final step of a long journey after months of solo studying, endless reading and many sleepless nights.

The student’s journey to the final exam has now been beautifully captured in a unique two-minute commercial that features the most fitting of canvases: the humble school blackboard. While students around the country have shown us their amazing talent for creating chalk-based works of art on classroom blackboards, this commercial brings chalkboard art to life with a moving animation that will simply blow you away.

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Buddhist schoolgirl idol group gets shut down for becoming too popular

In Japan, there truly is an all-singing, all-dancing “idol” group for everything. From plus-sized beauties to macho men and octogenarians, if you’ve got a unique message and a catchy tune, there’ll be a niche audience out there waiting to share your next video and dance along with glow sticks at your next performance.

Just when we thought the happy-go-lucky, free-for-all nature of the amateur idol world had no boundaries, it seems there is one line that can’t be crossed: schoolgirls and religion. Meet the “Num-Num Girls”, a Buddhism-based schoolgirl pop group that has been shut down for becoming too popular.

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Pigeon cuts in line, casually boards train in Japan【Video】

A lot has been written about Japan’s incredible train culture. From carriages dressed up as anime characters to people who band together to rescue a fellow commuter, you don’t even have to get on a train to experience all the action; you can see it all first-hand from the platform itself.

That’s what one commuter found when they stumbled upon this little guy while waiting for the train in Japan. Caught on video, it shows an adventurous pigeon who doesn’t even flinch when the train arrives, instead walking up to the passenger doors, waiting for them to open and then hopping on board to find a seat.

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Get married in the name of the moon with official Sailor Moon marriage registration certificates!

If you’ve finally met your real-life Princess Serenity or Prince Endymion and have decided to venture out together in holy matrimony, congratulations! Now it’s time to invest in a tiara, stock up on some sexy lingerie and start planning a wedding filled with special Sailor Moon details. And when it comes to filing the paperwork at City Hall, you’ll no longer be plunged back into reality with boring forms because now you can continue the fantasy with two very special Sailor Moon-themed marriage registration kits!

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Cosplaying taxis with monster drivers to offer free rides to cosplayers in Shibuya this Halloween

Halloween in Japan keeps getting bigger and better every year, with cosplayers coming out in droves to celebrate the world of costumes and make-believe. This time around, Japanese car manufacturer Nissan is joining the fun with a fleet of taxis dressed up in Halloween costumes, complete with “monster drivers” behind the wheel.

The monsters and their vehicles will be helping fellow ogres and ghouls by offering free rides to people in costume in the Shibuya area on October 29 and 31. What’s more, the unusual vans promise to be so spacious, they’ll accommodate any type of outfit you’re wearing!

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Japanese drinks company attaches free “rental umbrellas” to its vending machines in Osaka

Japanese vending machines are a great example of the culture of convenience so prevalent in Japan. Whether you’re after orange juice that looks like soy sauce, or a hot, clam-packed miso soup to cure your hangover, if you want something fast, the nation’s vending machines will be there for you, come rain or shine.

Now one of the country’s largest drinks manufacturers, DyDo, is catering to customers who actually do find themselves caught out in the rain, with a free “rental umbrella” service attached to a number of their machines in Nishi Ward, Osaka.

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New Japanese toilet paper dispenser tears off sheets, folds the ends into a point for you【Video】

With their heated seats, hidden sensors and warm water cleansing systems, Japanese toilets are used to being the centre of attention in hotel bathrooms, public restrooms and ordinary residences all around the country.

Now its time for their next-of-kin to get an upgrade, with a new machine set to revolutionise toilet paper dispensers, making it possible to automatically cut sheets and even fold the final edge into a neat little triangle for the next person to use.

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Evangelion Shinkansen gets range of souvenirs, including its very own bullet train ekiben obento

A train journey in Japan is much more than a means to a destination; with spotless carriages and unique tie-in promotions, riding the Shink is an event in itself. And with the Evangelion Shinkansen bullet train scheduled to start running from November 3, things are set to get even more exciting as passengers can now ride the rails from Osaka to Fukuoka and back inside a train dressed up as a giant bio-machine.

To mark the special occasion, Japan Rail West is releasing a whole range of commemorative Eva bullet train goods for travellers in the country, including stationery, snacks, and an awesome ekiben bento that comes in a keepsake ceramic shinkansen-shaped container.

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Travel from Kansai Airport to Osaka aboard the Star Wars: The Force Awakens express

The Limited Express Rapi:t that shuttles passengers back and forth between Kansai Airport and Namba Station in Osaka has been offering some fun rides lately. The train’s distinctive deep blue exterior was given a red makeover last year in a Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn promotion and it even received its own superhero earlier this year.

Now passengers are in for another treat with news of the train’s next big adventure: as a jet-black ambassador for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens enterprise. With awesome interior and exterior details, including a wrap that features all the new characters from the upcoming movie, this is bound to be a welcome sight for visitors landing at the airport from November this year.

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Limited edition Star Wars sweets are the cutest collection of edible characters in the galaxy

Star Wars fans in Japan have to be the luckiest group of Padawans on the planet. From samurai figurines to cup clingers to ukiyo-e woodblock-style covers, limited-edition releases in the Land of the Rising Sun are blessed with extraordinary details that can’t be found anywhere else in the galaxy.

Now it’s time for Japanese confectionery chain Ginza Cozy Corner to weigh in on the celebrations, with a stunning lineup of cakes, tarts and limited edition tins that feature some of the cutest characters from the movie alongside some edible dark foes. We’ll need to summon up every ounce of the force within to bite into these because these are the most amazing sweets we’ve ever seen!

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