Japan

[Election 2012] Google Sets Up Face Time between Japanese Politicians and Voters

With Japan’s general election looming on 16 December, the tension in Japan is so thick you could cut it with a noodle. Yes, the country has been mired in a political malaise of apathy since the days of Koizumi.

The Prime Minister’s seat has been a musical chair for the past 6 years with no dynamic leadership on the horizon to guide the country into the future. Government in Japan is largely a good old boys club where people rise to positions of power simply by being the grandson of some great leader way back when.

Google has set up a campaign to help politicians get more in touch with their electorate and hopefully hash out a plan for Japan’s future that people can get behind – not to mention help promote the social network Google+.  Google Japan will be putting regular people face to face with representative of the major political parties for a little Q & A session on 14 December.

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You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

It’s squid fishing time in Chibu and when the waves aren’t too high, the horizon is sure to be speckled with the distant light of squid fishing vessels.  Sometimes there are so many boats out at sea that it looks as if dawn is breaking.

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Japan’s “Rent-a-Boyfriend”Dispatch Service: Because Japanese Women Get Lonely Too

Japan provides its lonely men with plenty of way to find sweet respite from the emptiness and isolation of everyday life—provided you have the cash. And we’re not just talking about prostitution: you can rent a girlfriend at Moé Date for day of “simulate romance” or find a cuddle partner at Soine-ya to help you rest easy at night.

But what about the ladies? Women get lonely too, so it seems unfair that such services would only be available to men.

Believe it or not, even before either of the above establishments were in business, there was Soine-ya Prime, a dispatch service where women can hire a handsome young man to lay with her in bed for a night.

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Fact or Photoshopped? Tweeted Schoolgirl Picture too Weird to be True

Take a moment to examine this picture, a typical day at a typical stationery store with customers shopping for papers.  This is a sight anyone living in Japan has probably seen countless times before.

However, this girl has a secret so bizarre that – although it’s hard to say definitively –I’m inclined to declare photoshop shenanigans.  So come along if you dare. We’re about to take a trip into the Weird People Found on Twitter Zone.

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Survey About Employees’ “Ideal Boss” Highlights Major Differences Between Japanese and Chinese Thinking

Bitching about our bosses is probably one of the best things about socialising with coworkers. They’re to strict; they’re a push-over; they have coffee breath and get way too close when they talk; whatever the issue, complaining about the boss is a great stress reliever and helps us get through the day.

According to a recent survey taken across four countries, however, expectations of bosses and opinions of what makes a good one vary wildly between countries. Not only that, Japan ranks as the country with the lowest “boss satisfaction” rate of all those surveyed.

Of course, my boss is the greatest, and I would never even dream of saying a bad word about him <cough>Christmasbonus<cough>, but the difference between the opinions of those surveyed in Japan and those in other countries, most notably China, is startling.

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So Nerdy it Hurts: Bring on the Pain with this Hatsune Miku BMW

Itasha, or “pain mobile,” is a Japanese word that refers to a car that is so nerdy, it’s painfully embarrassing to even look at.  If a car actually had the ability to cause pain with a single glance, this BMW, with full-body paint and decals featuring otaku-worshipped vocaloid, Hatsune Miku, is enough to put you in the hospital.

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SoftBank Funds New Social Network for Collectors and Cosplayers

Want to share your plastic Gundam model collection with your friends but too embarrassed to upload it to Facebook?

On November 29, Japanese internet company SoftBank and subsidiary Yahoo! Japan launched WONDER!, a social network where otaku can upload photos of their PVC figures, plastic models, cosplay, and original illustrations.

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The Top 10 Things Middle-Aged Japanese Men Say While Out Drinking That Make Their Coworkers Hate Them

After a hard day at work, many middle-aged Japanese salarymen love to go out for drinks at the local bar or izakaya. “But it’s no fun to go alone!” thinks the 45-year-old section chief. “Why not invite those young hotshots that entered the company earlier this year? Surely they’d love the chance to loosen neckties and enjoy some laid-back conversation with one of their seniors outside the workplace!”

Meanwhile, the young hotshots are thinking about how they can’t wait to go home and relax after another consecutive day of (unpaid) overtime—but oh wait, section chief wants to go out drinking again and turning his invitation down would show that I’m not a team player.

Such are the troubles of 20 and 30-year-old working men and women who are roped out to drinking with their middle-aged colleagues time and time again.

This generation gap was a popular enough topic for Nikkan Spa to conduct a survey of 200 20 and 30-year-old men and women as to what they found most irritating about drinking with their superiors in their 40s. 

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Outbreak of Rare Phantom Squid in Pacific Coast of Japan May Herald Imminent Earthquake

Deep below the ocean lives the squid Chiroteuthis, known in Japan by the name Yurei Ika (Phantom Squid).  The Japanese name comes from its ghost-like fluttering and floating movement.

It’s a squid seldom seen by people who don’t have access to a submarine and can visit their habitat 200 to 600 meters beneath the ocean.  So when they started turning up in unprecedented numbers around the southeastern coast of Japan, experts became understandably alarmed.

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Japanese City Changes Name to “Xmas City” this December

On 30 November, the mayor of Yamaguchi, Sumita Watanabe, declared to Nishinippon Newspaper that his city of Yamaguchi will be renamed “Xmas City” for the entire month of December. The move is a part of a tourism campaign which involves a month-long event of festive activities.

More than simply a PR campaign, Yamaguchi actually has a valid claim as being the launching pad for Christianity in Japan and thus the “hometown” of Christmas in Japan. Yamaguchi was where Saint Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Japan, and his followers celebrated their first Christmas.

Gather around kids, it’s time to hear the story of how Christmas first came to Japan.

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Capcom Ōkami Collaboration Helping Restore Tsunami-Struck Town, and So Can You

Playstation 2 and Wii owners will likely be familiar with Ōkami, the adventure game set in ancient Japan that features an absolutely gorgeous wood-cut, cell-shaded graphic design.

The game puts players in control of the wolf incarnation of Shintō goddess Amaterasu, and quests them with using a magical, life-giving paintbrush to transform a dark, cursed world into one of plants, trees and flowers, as well as battling a few demons and evil spirits along the way.

On the same theme of restoration, a local website based in Rikuzentakata, a coastal town in Iwate prefecture severely damaged by the March 11 tsunami, has launched a special range of products officially backed by Capcom, the makers of Ōkami, with profits from their sale going to towards rebuilding the town and, much like the game, “restoring nature to its once beautiful state.”

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Look Out Starbuck’s Gundam Café Has You in Its Sights, Opens 3rd Store in Tokyo Station

When the first Gundam Café opened in Akihabara, people thought it was a cute little niche place for the resident otaku, but there’s no way a giant robot themed coffee shop would ever take off.

However, their blend of mechanically efficient service and sterile décor had led to a second Gundam Café to the south in Odaiba.  Still, people wrote it off as a fluke.

Now, less than a year later on 20 December, the a 3rd Gundam Café is set to make a precision strike right in the heart of Tokyo: Tokyo Station.  The coffee service industry may never be the same.

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Japanese Husband and Nissan Go All Out to Give Wife Anniversary Surprise of a Lifetime

We all know about wedding anniversaries like the 50th year ‘Golden Anniversary’ and the 25th year ‘Silver Anniversary.’ Some people even may make a point of celebrating every year with something special, others may surprise their partner on an unplanned year.

One Japanese man teamed up with Nissan (yes, the car company) to give his wife the surprise of a lifetime for their 11th anniversary.

Check the video below!

 

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Creative Japan Finds a Hundred Uses for the Humble Oven Toaster

Japanese kitchens are not the warm, oven-centred hubs that many westerners are used to. The majority of people here get by with a grill/broiler, a couple of gas burners and maybe a handful of kitchen devices like a rice cooker or, if they’re really swish, a bread maker.

True, more expensive microwave ovens often have an “oven” setting, allowing half-baked (sorry) chefs to cook things like pizzas and simple cakes and cookies, but since most microwaves are limited in size you can forget about cooking anything like a whole chicken or a nice ham around Christmas time.

Although vertically-loading toasters are few and far between, small toaster ovens like the one pictured above are very popular in Japan, and, as we’re about to see, can be put to incredible use so long as there’s a little creativity involved.

So, if you’re a foreigner arriving in Japan and bemoaning the lack of a gas oven like you had back home, feast your eyes on some of the mouth-watering creations that clever Japanese toaster oven users have put together.

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Men Who Use Trains on Dates: Please Just Abandon the Idea of Marriage and Stay Single Forever

A little while ago, we posted a column on our Japanese site by a writer claiming to be a total “it girl“, the epitome of female sex appeal. The article received quite a bit of attention, prompting some internet viewers to respond with indignation, both feigned and genuine. Yes, it’s a bit naughty, and taken at face value, I guess the article could upset some readers, since it reads like … well, a column written by Carrie Bradshaw‘s evil Japanese twin.

The viewers’ response notwithstanding, we thought the article was funny, and we’ve translated it below for your amusement.  Read More

【Cheapskate News】Yoshinoya Beef Bowls for Just 250 Yen! Same Taste, Super Low Price!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Hungry students and budgeting businespeople! Have we got a great deal for you! Yoshinoya’s gyūdon beef bowls – made with the same USA beef, rice, onion and delicious marinade as ever – is available for just 250 yen!

This isn’t a special offer. This isn’t for a limited time only. This is 24 hours a day, seven-days-a-week wallet-friendly value. Available at a number of special Tsukiji Yoshinoya restaurants, for just US$3, you can have a big, hearty warming dish of rice and beef, guaranteed to warm your soul and fill you up until your next meal.

Our top dog Kuzo headed out to try the beef bowl for himself, and he can confirm that this is the same Yoshinoya grub that we know and love, for 130 yen ($1.60) less than normal!

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Fashion Trend or Wall of Self-Isolation? More Japanese Youth Wearing Surgical Masks to Hide Their Face

First time visitors to Japan may be surprised to see so many people wearing surgical masks in public.

There are a few reasons for this, the most common being that they are sick and are wearing a mask to keep their nasty germs to themselves in consideration of those around them. Likewise, many people also wear a mask to guard themselves from whatever illness is going around. Others use it vainly to shield their faces from the onslaught of cedar pollen that descends upon the masses every spring.

Then there are those who wear masks because they’re self-conscious about the way they look or have something they want to hide, like a pimple or even their emotions.

In particular, wearing surgical masks for cosmetic and comfort purposes has become so popular among young people in Japan over the past few years that the media has begun labeling it as a “fashion trend.”

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“Son, Please Be More Careful With Your Condoms! Love, Mom x”

We’re sure we all have things that we’d rather our parents didn’t see. That folder within a folder within a folder on the computer titled “schoolwork” that isn’t really anything of the sort; that moustache waxing kit at the back of the drawer; the small collection of letters penned by an old love…

But a parents discovering – and then returning – a condom is perhaps one of the worst experiences a young man or women living at home can have.

Spare a thought, then, for the poor chap who discovered this misplaced condom along with a note from his mother waiting for him when he returned home one evening.

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New Tokyo Crossdressing Bar Appeals to First-Time Drag Queens

Men, no matter how old or how “masculine” they are, can learn a lot from crossdressing in public (trust us, we know).

But even if you do get the urge to unbuckle and skirt up, it can be difficult to find a time and place where going out in drag is socially acceptable. Throw in the added stress of having to coordinate an outfit and wig that sufficiently bring out your inner woman and the simple act of putting on women’s clothes and walking out the door can feel incredibly intimidating to first-timers.

Enter Onna no Ko Club, or Girls Club, a new club in Tokyo where curious men can go to experience the wonderful world of crossdressing.

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