Niigata

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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Patlabor AV-98 Ingram anime mecha arrives in Niigata, residents welcome their giant robo-cop

For anyone who lives in Niigata or is planning on heading there in the next couple of days, please be sure to obey all the laws and regulations of the prefecture. It’s not that they have odd rules that are going to catch you off guard, it’s the fact that there is a gigantic, police labor robot, or Patlabor, that has arrived in the prefecture. Its appearance has caused a bit of a commotion and the robot is, potentially, fully prepared to take out any criminals while it’s stationed there.

Oh, and if you think you might be able to commit some sort of crime out of sight of a robotic police presence, the human officers have a very speedy patrol car in the area as well.

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Japan’s newest Shinkansen is world’s fastest gallery, packed with contemporary art inside and out

From an engineering standpoint, Japan’s famed Shinkansen is already a work of art. Recently, though, the country’s bullet trains have been putting a renewed effort into their appearance, taking inspiration from centuries-old tradition and science-fiction anime.

The latest Shinkansen to be unveiled, though, incorporates design cues more modern than tatami reed floors yet not as futuristic as giant robots. Instead, it’s envisioned as a travelling gallery of contemporary art, allowing for what operator East Japan Railways calls “the world’s fastest art appreciation.”

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These giant straw dinosaurs would probably rip any straw man to shreds

If you are a farmer in Japan, there’s a good chance you’re a rice farmer,  so after harvesting all your crop, you end up with a lot of straw. Most farmers will stack the straw together and either dry it out or roll it up to dispose of it. Sometimes you will see them burning it as well because that straw is good for nothing.

Nothing that is, unless you’ve got an art student handy. Enter Amy Goda, an aspiring artist currently studying art in Niigata Prefecture. She has taken the leftover straw after the harvest and has fashioned some pretty awesome straw sculptures that might make you think the land is alive.

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Butt Bat Girl: Japan’s latest trick photography craze that combines sports anime with slapstick

While seemingly 90 percent of anime and manga are set in Tokyo, a lot of the creative individuals behind Japan’s biggest animation and comic hits grew up in other parts of the country. Many accomplished artists and authors hail from Niigata, and while Inuyasha and Ranma 1/2 creator Rumiko Takahashi is probably the most famous among English-speaking fans, the prefecture can also claim Shinji Mizushima as one of its native sons.

Mizushima is best known for his baseball saga Dokaben, which was so popular its protagonist has been immortalized with a bronze statue in Niigata City. It was already a bit of a local landmark, but these days it’s getting a fresh batch of attention as the site of a series of trick photography shots of the power-hitting catcher sending young women flying with a swing of his bat.

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Sweet, delicious and extra cold: snow apples from the Japanese alps

Japanese apples are legendary for their gigantic round shape, sweet taste and a hefty price tag due to their flawless appearance. Recently, a “new” kind of apple has been getting popular in the mountainous and very snowy prefecture of Nagano. It seems that apple growers there have decided to make the most of the winter precipitation that covers their fields by burying freshly picked apples for several months under a huge pile of snow. The “snow apples” are said to be even juicier, crisper and sweeter after spending the winter months hibernating under the snow.

But how can you make a snow apple, and what other tasty produce can you bury in the snow? Click below to find out!

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The Bubble Princess: Japan can’t help staring at this revealing character

Japan is filled with interesting characters–and by that we mean local mascots and characters, not the wacky TV personalities. From rosy-cheeked bears to wild and crazy pears, there is no shortage of mascots for every prefecture, city, and company.

While Funasshi might be the one stealing the limelight right now, another older character is stirring up a storm online with her revealing outfit!

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Local Group’s Plan for “I Conquered Nation of Japan” Certificates Dashed by Protest

A group of local residents around the Nation of Japan had established a plan to issue “I Conquered Nation of Japan” certificates to people for 500 yen (US$5) a copy.  The plan was a small way to help promote tourism to the area. However, when the news broke, people from all over the country wrote in, protesting the scheme and calling it “inappropriate.”

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Breathtaking Nagaoka Fireworks Will Make You Want to Spend a Summer in Japan

Summer in Japan is all about matsuri, or festivals. Young people dressed in yukata walking through streets lined with food stalls and game booths, the rowdy, drunken group of local men carrying a giant mikoshi shrine through the crowd while yelling “Washoi! Washoi!” and, of course, the fireworks.

The Japanese take fireworks very seriously, which is why Japan is home to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays in the world. To see what we mean, the fireworks show at this year’s Nagaoka Matsuri in Niigata prefecture has been generating buzz on the net thanks to some amazing video footage posted to YouTube. Check it out below!

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