Japan

Paying Just $11 a Day, Subcontractors Ripping Off Fukushima Nuclear Accident Decontamination Workers


The Tokyo Shimbun has discovered that workers involved with national government controlled cleanup projects resulting from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are being ripped off by subcontractors.

Despite being able to rent lodging facilities from the government and others for free or for very little money, contractors forcibly deduct inflated accommodation and meal charges from workers’ pay. When the 10,000 yen (US$111) a day “danger pay” provided to contractors by the government (read: taxpayers) is taken into consideration, it means the contractors themselves end up forking out a measly 1,000 yen (US$11) a day per worker.
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The King of Pizzas? We Sample Domino’s Pricey New Luxury Pizza 【Food Review】

Domino’s Pizza, one of the world’s most well-known home delivery pizza services, has recently released a new luxury pizza in Japan– an exclusive to the pizza fast food market.

Priced at 5,800 yen (about US$66), however, you’d be right to think twice before parting with your cash; after all, this is essentially just a circle of baked dough with fancy toppings. Sure, after piling all of your favourite toppings onto a pizza pie, one might hit the 5,000 yen mark, but a large-sized pizza starting at 5,800 yen?!

This had better be something very special…

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Making it in the Japanese Videogame Industry: Exclusive Interview with Developer and Author James Kay

Dutch-British game developer James Kay found his way into the videogame industry after studying Audiovisual design at the Willem de Kooning Academy and moving to London to work at Intelligent Games and Criterion Software. He relocated to Japan in 2001 and, after picking up a wealth of experience at companies including Taito, Genki and Marvelous Entertainment, went on to co-found Score Studios, a company that has received critical acclaim and is fast becoming a big name in the industry.

Detailing the many hurdles that foreigners working in the Japanese videogame industry face, James’ book Japanmanship: the ultimate guide to working in videogame development in Japan may well prove to be an invaluable resource for those thinking of making the move to the spiritual home of videogames.

With the book coming off the presses just last December, RocketNews24 headed to Score Studios in Tokyo’s Yoyogi to meet with James and talk about his book, life in the videogame industry and which Nintendo Princess he’d rather rescue.

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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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Hand-made Pussy Palaces Require a One-Year Wait

It’s too late for this Christmas, but if you want to pamper your pet next December, this might make the perfect gift!

Made from soft inewara rice-straw, these neko chigura (lit. cat cradle) are made by a 30-strong team of weavers in the town of Sekikawa, Niigata prefecture on the northwest coast of Honshu, Japan. The weavers are known simply as the neko chigura kai (cat cradle committee) with each cradle taking around a week to put together.

Demand for the cat beds have exceeded even the creators’ wildest dreams, however, when thousands of orders flew in during recent weeks, creating a 12-month backlog.

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[Hobby News] Choco Egg Collectable Figurines Return to Steal all of Japan’s Loose Change

If there’s one thing Japanese people like to do it’s collect things. And when those things are small, cute or quirky characters, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll fight to get the entire set!

In the land of gachapon (onomatopoeia for the sound of a turning mechanism followed by the drop of a ball or capsule) capsule toys and free collectable figures, mobile phone charms and stickers, confectioners Furuta are well known for their Choko Eggu (choco egg) series that include a collectable toy inside the chocolate shell, not unlike Kinder Surprise eggs sold in Europe and Canada.

Since 1999, the company has produced collectible figures including Disney, Marvel and Nintendo characters as well as scale models of automobiles and cars. The figures are always of incredibly high quality and, with the chocolate eggs being sold for just a few hundred yen each, they’re a big hit with children as well as adults. In 2006, however, the company’s animal figure series, which features everything from cute rabbits to ferocious-looking dinosaurs disappeared from shops, much to the disappointment of collectors.

But now, to delight model fans and kleptomaniacs alike, Furuta’s figures are being brought back to the market as stand-alone models, and Japanese collectors are already going nuts.

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Our Reporter Learns a Thing or Two about Buying Good Luck Charms in Japan…

Tori no Ichi is an open-air market festival held in Japan on the day of the Rooster in November, as determined by the Chinese calendar. At the festivals, markets are set up in front of or near to Shinto shrines, and charms- most often decorated bamboo rakes called kumade- that are said to bring the owner good fortune in the coming year are sold to visitors.

Kumade literally means “bear hand”, since, when you think about them, rakes are shaped rather like a large hand with claws. Rakes were chosen generations ago as a sign of good luck since they can be used to draw things– in this case wealth and good fortune– towards us, and the practice of buying ornamental rakes has been common in Japan since the Edo period (1600-1867).

Wanting to check out the lively festival and ask for continued success for the website next year, our reporter Mr. Sato headed over to the famous Hanazono shrine in Shinjuku to purchase a kumade on behalf of RocketNews24.

However, having never purchased one of the charms before, he discovered that he had more than a couple of things to learn…

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‘Tis the Season to Go Shopping – Japanese Men Prepared to (And Most Likely Expected to) Spend More on Christmas Presents than Women

You could probably say that we Japanese are generally not very strict when it comes to religion. Most Japanese go to Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples on New Year’s, many couples have weddings at churches regardless of their religion, and a majority of funerals in Japan are conducted in a Buddhist style. And of course, we can’t forget one of the biggest holidays of the year, Christmas, which the Japanese most definitely celebrate in a huge, though not Christian, way. And now that we’re into November, it won’t be long before we’re hearing “Jingle Bells” or “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” at every store we step into.

That means we’ll soon have to start thinking about Christmas presents. (Yikes!) So, in a country that is predominantly apathetic towards religion, do many Japanese people look forward to Christmas, and how much do they expect to spend on presents? NetMile, a Japanese internet research and shopping points program company, conducted a poll to find out, and the results were recently announced. Read More

Japanese Couple Arrested for Stealing $300 in Hotel Amenities

One of my favorite things about staying at a hotel is all the complimentary stuff they let you take home. From toiletries to beverages, bathrobes to coffee makers, each visit to a hotel is like a smorgasbord of free everyday items—the only limit is your suitcase!

Some people claim that not everything in the hotel is free. That aside the cheap toiletries  everything in the room is hotel property and taking it home is “stealing.”

Yeah, sure. Even if that is true, what are they going to do, call the Hotel Gestapo?

No, but they will call the police, as one Japanese couple found out after being arrested for stealing nearly $300 worth of hotel amenities.

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People of the World Speak: 9 Random Reasons to Love Japan

A few months ago, we found the top 25 things in Japan most likely to blow foreigner’s minds. This time, we asked foreigners (all men) to tell us what makes Japan such a great place.  Those surveyed came from France, the United States, Tunisia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Malta, and Ireland.

Ranging from seemingly mundane to large-scale societal characteristics, our readers explain why they love Japan.

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Robotic Tropical Fish Give Hope to Lazy Pet Owners

Taking care of a pet is hard work. You have to remember to feed it, clean up after it, and at the very least, acknowledge its existence. Even the number one low maintenance pet, a fish, turns into a burden after you forget to change the sludgy green water that your poor fish is no longer gliding, but trudging through thanks to the algae-filled, jelly-like consistency (shame on you!).

Lazy pet-lovers rejoice! Finally, a “pet” you can accidentally forget about without any consequences. Introducing Robo Fish, the next generation of pet care giving. Invented in Japan by Takara Tomy A.R.T.S., these little robotic fish are made to look like the real thing.  We noticed a small crack where the tail joint meets the body, but the fish’s movements is very realistic.  They even look as if they are searching for and eating food, bobbing up and down on the floor of the tank.

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World Famous Author Haruki Murakami’s Passionate Essay on the Dispute Over the Senkaku Islands

Haruki Murakami, the award-winning essayist and critically-acclaimed author of Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore and many others, has spoken out about the recent troubles between Japan, China and Taiwan in a startlingly down-to-earth essay over on the Asahi Shinbun Digital’s culture section.

Motivated in particular by the recent news of China’s bookshops removing titles by Japanese authors, the essay focuses on the importance of cultural exchange in our societies and how, through all forms of media, we are able to communicate our very souls over seas and across borders. Read More

No Voice for the Poor: 77,000 US Dollars Just to Stand for Election in Japan

Want to be the next political leader in Japan? We hope you’ve got deep pockets!

It was revealed by internet-condensing extraordinaire Naver this week that, in order to put themselves forward for election, aspiring political leaders much first make a mandatory deposit of six million yen (77,000 US dollars / 59,000 euros) into the legal system, making Japan the most expensive country in the world to announce one’s candidacy. Read More

Taiwanese Fishing Boat Flotilla Arrives at Disputed Islands, Invades “Japanese Waters”

As reported here on RocketNews24, on Tuesday last week, a flotilla of Taiwanese fishing boats was rumoured to have set off for the now infamous Senkaku archipelago, situated close to the Japanese island of Okinawa, with a view to asserting rightful ownership.

This report came just hours after stories of a similar fleet heading to the disputed islands from mainland China, which turned out to be false.

The initial rumour of the Taiwanese boats, however, proved to be true… Read More

Give Japan a High-Five with this Fun and Simple Recipe: Land of the Rising Sun Omu-Raisu!!!

What with the recent troubles and disputes in China concerning the Senkaku islands, and with many of the fervent anti-Japanese demonstrations often escalating into violence, Japanese both at home and abroad are understandably feeling a little delicate right now.

Japanese-owned stores and factories in China have borne the brunt of many nationalists’ anger, suffering considerable damage to property, and a number of Japanese businesses with locations in China are incurring significant losses.

With this in mind, we here at RocketNews24 are doing our bit to cheer Japan up and get back some of that lost pride.

As well as buying plenty of Japanese-produced goods to give the economy a helping-hand, we’ve decided to add a dash of patriotism to our plates and bring you a recipe for possibly the most patriotic, yet easy to make, dish ever: Land of the Rising Sun Omu-Raisu (omelette rice).

So grab a frying pan, put on your apron, and let’s cook up a little cheer for Japan! Read More

Tokyo’s Irina Churns Out Some Amazingly Colorful Roll Cakes

Bright pink polka dots, zebra print, and purple stripes are printed on these oblong objects.  They look so showy and colorful, but what could they be?  A handkerchief?  A fancy sponge?

Believe it or not, these colorful circles are roll cakes (rolled sponge cake and cream filling), and yes, they are edible.  They’re so cute and tiny we could eat a hundred of them, but the sad realization that we can’t sit around all day snacking on these beautiful pastries without gaining some junk in the trunk has got us down.  At 271 yen (US $3.47) for one mini roll cake, these little guys will slim down your wallet while expanding your waist.

You can find these sweets at irina, a bakery that specializes in roll cakes.  Our reporter visited irina’s Ginza store to check out these amazing little pastries.

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What’s Your Passport Worth? (Not That We’re Buying)

It turns out that not all passports are created equal…

International residence and citizenship experts Henley & Partners released a report earlier this month detailing for the first time the level of ease with which people of various countries are able to travel around the globe, and what restrictions they face during their time abroad.

The more fortunate among us are undoubtedly well aware that, with a valid passport, they are relatively free to travel wherever they like, and can in some cases remain in a foreign country for months at a time without acquiring any kind of paperwork or additional visa approval. But there are also many countries out there whose governments require citizens to jump through a series of hoops before allowing them to leave the country for so much as a weekend, and even then their entry to another country is not always guaranteed.

Henley & Partners’ Visa Restriction Index ranks countries based on how easy it is for their citizens to travel around the globe, essentially providing a numerical value to any given country’s passport. After comparing everything from socio-economic factors to political relations between countries, each country is awarded a score, reflecting just how free to travel and enter other countries its people are; in a word: passport power. Read More

“You’re Very Good at Using Chopsticks” and Other Obscenities

Earlier this week, website Netallica posted an interesting little article entitled “The Things That Foreigners in Japan Hate to Hear” for its predominantly Japanese readership. Naturally, classics like “wow, you’re so good at Japanese”, and “you’re very good with chopsticks” were flagged as the main offenders, which I’m sure many gaijin (a term I use intentionally and will come back to later) will no doubt empathise with and would be happy to hear a little less frequently, but overall there were few phrases that could not be reasonably perceived as stemming from either the speaker’s genuine desire to compliment the listener or simple naivety.

It’s difficult to broach this topic- especially as a cynical Brit who loves a good grumble- without it quickly turning into a cliché-ridden compendium of gripes about life in Japan as a foreigner or an ill-advised rant about how comments of this nature are, in fact, some kind of backhanded attempt to draw a line between foreigners and Japanese; and goodness knows there are plenty of those out there.

There are, nevertheless, a number of phrases that foreigners living in Japan have heard a thousand times and would definitely prefer Japanese people knew aren’t always received in the way that they are probably intended…

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Starbucks & ANA Bring You a Coffee Tumbler So Cute, You’ll Forget About the Price…Oh Wait, It’s 50 Bucks…

ANA (All Nippon Airlines), Japan’s largest airline, has teamed up with Starbucks to release a limited edition stainless steel coffee tumbler.

With it’s clean white color and charming little whale/rainbow combo, you can’t help but scream, “IT’S SO CUTE!!!”  One of our reporters was so enthralled with the cuteness of this limited edition tumbler, that she stopped an unsuspecting bystander and demanded to know where she procured such an adorable item.

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