[On Location at Somin Naked Festival] I Was So Cold I Actually Thought I Was Going To Die

Japan’s premier naked festival, Sominsai (Somin Festival), was held this year on January 29 at Kokuseki Temple in Iwate Prefecture.

The name “naked” is somewhat misleading though, as participants are required to wear a fundoshi, a piece of white cloth which can best be descried as a traditional Japanese G-string. This scant clothing offers little protection from the blistering, below-freezing cold participants are expected to endure. Nevertheless, the toughest of men from across Japan come to test their mettle by trekking through grueling icy course from the temple to the river that’s cold enough to make you feel like you’re dying.

I know this because I took part.

That’s right, your fearless reporter put his life at risk to bring the experience of Kokuseki’s Sominsai to you, our beloved readers.

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Otomo Exhibition Features Original Drawings from Akira, Domu and More

This is an exhibition you won’t want to miss, particularly if you have even the slightest artistic inclination. 3331 Arts Chiyoda is hosting a collection of renowned manga artist Katsuhiro Otomo’s original drawings. Read More

A 22 year-old in her 4th year of university in Kanazawa ordered an iPod through an internet auction but received a shock when she discovered the iPod once belonged to her. Another 22 year-old 2nd year university student, who sold her the iPod, was arrested on suspicion of stealing it from the woman’s parked car last December.

The woman had reported the robbery to police but was left with little hope of recovering it, so she turned to internet auctions to find a similar model on the cheap. By the beginning of January she was able to win a bid on one for only 5,000 yen (US$65), a third of the price she originally paid.

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Taiwanese Students’ Live-Action Recreation of Popular Anime is a Slam Dunk

Basketball’s popularity in Japan today can largely be credited to the mega-hit manga and anime series Slam Dunk. Since its beginnings in the 90s, its popularity had spread beyond the borders of Japan and even to this day it continues to hold a world-wide fan base.

Now, thanks to the National Taiwan University of Arts’ Department of Broadcasting’s Class of 2010, Slam Dunk has been lovingly recreated as a live action video. A hit on YouTube, the video is a rather meticulous reenactment of the opening sequence of the animated version.

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Japan’s Annual Running of the Students

There is an annual student event at the prestigious private college Ritsumeikan University. It’s called the Igakukan Dash, after the hall where it takes place.

Every year, just before the final deadline for turning in theses, a few desperate latecomers will come dashing through the hallway to get their papers in on time. Naturally, a large crowd of spectators always gathers to cheer and heckle these deadline daredevils. Read More

Would You Like Thousands of Baby Fish To Go With Your Pasta?

Near Musashi-Kosugi Station in Kanagawa Prefecture, there is a restaurant called Italian Izakaya: Natura that constantly has line-ups outside. Regardless of the day, it seems the place is always wall-to-wall with customers.

While Natura is said to have good food in general, the real buzz is spreading about their specialty: Whitebait Piled on Peperoncino Pasta – 880yen (US$11). Whitebait refers to immature fish that are collected, cooked and eaten whole in large numbers, and are popular in Italian cuisine.

We decided to go to Italian Izakaya: Natura and investigate what all the fuss is about.

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Ramen Shop’s Strangely Persuasive Billboard Brags “Nothing Good Here!”

Wherever you go in the suburbs of Japan, you can bet that there will be a ramen shop along the main road. They usually offer a large parking area and have the run down look of shops that have been in business for years and years. They’re the kind of places long-haul truckers like to stop for a meal and a nap.

One such ramen shop has made news recently when its rather unique billboard was blogged about. In bold, black letters, the sign reads, “There’s nothing good here!”
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Jason Voorhees Spotted Donating School Supplies To Japanese Orphanage On Friday The 13th

A Yokohama Ward Office was shocked on 13 January, when they received a visit from the infamous immortal homicidal monster depicted in countless horror movies, Jason Voorhees. This time, however, rather than wielding a blood-stained machete, Jason hit the office with a donation of 10 Randoseru backpacks.

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Finally, Potato Chips That Make Us Feel Filthy Rich

On 19 January, potato chip maker, Koikeya, announced they will sell a new flavor in their Premium Series line of chips, this time using the flavor of one of the most expensive delicacies in the world, truffles.

Sold at convenience stores across Japan from January 30 to February 6, you too can get a taste of the good life for only around 150 yen (US$2) a bag.

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The Kissing App for People Who Love Their iPhones a Little Too Much

Sometimes we all need a little lovin’. Now you can get a kiss anywhere, at any time, with the saucy new iPhone app Choi Kiss, loosely translated as Kisses on the Go. This little piece of heaven won’t even cost you a penny.
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You Can Take The Yoshinoya Out of Japan, And It Seems You Can Take The Japan Out of Yoshinoya Too

The number one gyūdon (beef and rice in a bowl) restaurant, Yoshinoya, has been working its way into Thai markets. Already having infiltrated America and China amongst other countries, it appears there is no stopping Japan’s favorite beef and rice restaurant from world domination.

However, the further a restaurant strays from its homeland, the harder it is to keep the original atmosphere of that restaurant, as a team of reporters from our editorial department learned during a recent trip to Thailand. At first they were simply curious whether the taste was the same as Japan or not, but what they discovered was far more troubling. One member of the party, who was new to Thailand, exclaimed upon seeing the menu: “Huh? A cup of tea costs 30 baht (US$1)? What’s this about?! It’s free in Japan!”

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Carbonated Tea and Yakuza: A Big Hit With Thai Kids, But Something’s Not Quite Right

Although a popular drink around Asia, it can be difficult to turn the younger generation on to the simple pleasures of tea. In order to compete with the likes of colas and energy drinks, Bangkok tea makers have come up with Chakuza.

Chakuza combines the nutrition and refreshment of tea (“cha” in Japanese) with the rugged attitude and danger of organized crime (“yakuza” in Japanese). And according to a clerk at a Bangkok 7-11, it’s selling really well.

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Trouble Unhooking Bras? There’s an App for That.

The App Store, which is famous for prohibiting applications of a sexual nature, doesn’t have any porn, but now they’ve at least got an app that will be amusing for you dirty-minded guys. With Putti!, you can practice unhooking a brassiere on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and if you succeed, you’ll be rewarded with a “marvel of unsurpassed glory”! But first you’ve got to beat that little hook.

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All-Japan Kendama Champion Takes Game to The Next Level

First of all, you might be wondering, “What’s kendama?” Well, it’s a popular children’s toy that is kind of like a cup-and-ball game on steroids. However, rather than a single cup, this game has three of varying sizes, and they aren’t so much “cups” as they are shallow saucers that are meant to hold the ball. And if that’s not enough, there’s an extra spike that you’re expected to skewer the ball on exactly through a pre-made hole. The purpose of this game being not only to get the ball into a cup but to also juggle it between cups or spike without dropping it.

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Diamond Head’s Sunrises Are Unmatched Anywhere

Hawaii’s Oahu Island is home to an inactive volcano known as Diamond Head. At a height of 232m it is by no means a tall mountain, but it’s a huge draw for tourists and is the biggest sightseeing spot around Waikiki. The reason for its popularity is the spectacular view it offers.

Getting up extremely early so I could catch the sunrise, I caught a taxi to the entrance of Diamond Head’s trail. While two to three hours are recommended to enjoy the whole mountain experience, only about forty minutes are needed to get to the top. It seemed like an easy enough trek, even for someone like me who rarely climbs mountains.

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WTF is a Fuckin’ Sale?

Recently, a lot of fuss was made over an advertisement spotted near the Amerikamura (American Village) area of Osaka. Although overlooked by most Japanese who walked by, the posters hit English speaking foreigners like a slap in the face. It read: “Fuckin’ Sale — All 20% Off”.

This poster and the ensuing controversy surrounding it raises more questions than it does answers for both Japanese and Western people.

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Your iPhone Was Made by a 13-Year-Old Girl for 48 Yen/Hour

The Apple products we’ve grown used to seeing everyday, like the iPhone4S and iPad 2, were made by 13-year-old Chinese girls working 16-hours a day for just 48 yen (about $0.60 US) an hour.
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Tokyo Clinic to Test Internal Radiation Exposure

On January 16th, a clinic was opened in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward to check the levels of internal radiation exposure. The clinic, loosely translated as Radioactivity Premium Dock, offers a complete body scan for radiation levels, among other services, which the general public can access for a fee. The company hopes to reduce anxiety resulting from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster and to help the public manage their health.
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Duct Tape Da Vinci Discovered in Hawaii

Kalakaua Avenue, the main strip of Waikiki, is littered with high class hotels and brand name shops and it is by far the best place to spend evenings after enjoying the sunset on the beach. It was on this street that I discovered a young man with a very unique talent.

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A humble hair salon has become the center of attention in Tokyo because of its seemingly impossible ability to change men’s appearances completely.

Residents in the flyer distribution area of Dear-Logue hair salon (Shimokitazawa area) discovered this mind-blowing secret tucked in their junk mail and quickly took to the internet to spread the word. “Yesterday in Tokyo, I came home as usual, but when I checked my mail – I noticed this incredible flyer” wrote one bemused blogger.

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