News about Japan

Got hay fever? No fear, the new ‘Pollen Robo’ is here!

For several years, Weather forecaster Weathernews Inc. has deployed a special robot at this time of the year to help Japan’s hay fever sufferers better navigate the pollen season.

The new Pollen Robo designed for this year will be capable of collecting data on not only pollen, but also on PM2.5 particulate matter and yellow sand that blows across the sea from China.

The company is dispatching 1,000 units across the country.

Hay fever sufferers will be able to access the information online in real time, allowing them to know where the levels are highest and plan their days accordingly.

Weathernews said pollen levels started climbing in the Kanto region (the Kanto region is where Tokyo is located)  from late January, and will greatly increase from around mid-February.

The amount of airborne pollen is expected to climb by 10 percent this year from an average year.

The spherical Pollen Robo measures 15 centimeters in diameter and has human facial features such as eyes, nose and a mouth. The eye color also changes according to the amount of pollen it detects.

Weathernews Inc.’s new Pollen Robo will monitor pollen and PM2.5 levels.

Weathernews Inc.’s new Pollen Robo will monitor pollen and PM2.5 levels.

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Dog Castle – The Coolest Dog House in Japan

Japanese love their pets, but some take their love to a whole new level!

Meet Nanami,  a playful Japanese pooch can claim to be the only dog in the world to be living in a regular castle.

Built as a small replica of Japan’s famous Matsumoto Castle, Nanami’s castle stands 2.5 meters tall and features three rooms. At the front is the main hall, where Nanami can just lay on his belly and watch out for the mailman, while at the back he has a sand-floor room, for cooling down during the hot summer days, and a rear room to hide in during thunderstorms.

Located in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Nanami’s castle took his owner six months to complete, and cost 50,000 yen ($583). While it may not be as old and famous as the real Matsumoto Castle, built in 1504, Nanami can be proud of his new dog castle.

Japanese dog house

Matsumoto castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Japans whacky holidays: Coming of age day

The second Monday of January is Coming-of-Age Day, a national holiday to encourage those who have newly entered adulthood to become self-reliant members of society. (The holiday used to be on January 15, but in 2000 it was moved to the second Monday of the month.) Last Monday we celebrated the coming of age day for 2014.

Local governments host special coming-of-age ceremonies for 20-year-olds, since an “adult” in Japan is legally defined as one who is 20 or over. They gain the right to vote on their twentieth birthday, and they’re also allowed to smoke and drink. But along with these rights come new responsibilities as well, and so age 20 is a big turning point for the Japanese.

Coming-of-age ceremonies have been held since time immemorial in Japan. In the past boys marked their transition to adulthood when they were around 15, and girls celebrated their coming of age when they turned 13 or so. During the Edo period (1603-1868), boys had their forelocks cropped off, and girls had their teeth dyed black. It wasn’t until 1876 that 20 became the legal age of adulthood.

These days, males generally wear suits to their coming-of-age ceremony, but a lot of females choose to wear traditional furisode – a special type of kimono for unmarried women with extra-long sleeves and elaborate designs. For unmarried women, furisode is about the most formal thing they can wear, and so many of them don it to the event marking the start of their adult life.

Coming of Age Day is a joyous occasion in Japan. Although most 20-year-old girls choose to wear a traditional kimono, get their nails painted, and have their hair done up, usually with some curls and a few accessories such as flowers or jewels. But one young adult who goes by the name “Harutamu” on Twitter, celebrated her milestone with some of the most extreme fashion we’ve ever seen. Don’t take our word for it, have a look yourself:

Harutamu crazy hair

Harutama full lenght

▼ Let’s play “Where’s Harutamu?”

Group pic

Don’t worry, Harutamu’s extreme fashion has company. Introducing the Coming of Age dress of Twitter user, “Richu,” who just happens to be Harutamu’s friend:

Richu

If you’re shocked by these ladies’ choice of clothing and accessories, take a look at how they look on the weekend:

gyaru

Harutama and Richu are both part of a gyaru group called Black Diamond. Gyaru are fashion-conscious young women who like to dress in extreme makeup, but we probably didn’t have to tell you that. Upon turning 20 years of age, these girls are now technically adults in the eyes of the Japanese government, but we’re not so sure this is the kind of adult they had in mind. Especially with Twitpic captions such as, “Check out my long-sleeved kimono for the coming-of-age ceremony ♡ mini prostitute ʕ•̫͡•ʔ♡ʕ•̫͡•” (but we have to give her props for adding bear emoticons). As expected, most Twitter users who retweeted Harutama and Richu’s pictures were also unsure if the pair could be considered adults and one user wondered, “What happened to the Japan of old?” But no matter your opinion, we suppose there’s nothing left to say but, “Congratulations!” and hope for the best as these young ladies continue their journey into adulthood.

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The Japanese secret to staying young for longer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wasabi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wasabi, the Japanese condiment which offers a delicious kick to the nasal passages with every bite, has long been embraced in Japan, and more recently other parts of the world. However, aside from accentuating sushi or playing jokes on friends, the pungent plant has been found to provide anti-aging effects in recent years.

 

For those who turn up their noses at the thought of a daily dose of wasabi, you may reconsider when you realize how easy it is to benefit from the sulfinyl found in it. That’s right: it keeps you pretty for longer!

 

 Sulfinyl

 

A lot of what goes on inside of a wasabi plant is accredited to a sulfur/oxygen bond called sulfinyl. When the plant is damaged the sulfinyl is combined with other molecules to make 6-methylthiohexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC). Stay with us. In short, this chemical group helps to give wasabi its unique taste, which is believed to be a natural pest repellent.

 

Studies are also finding that the 6-MSITC created by wasabi can lower the reactive oxygen in the body. Reactive oxygen is said to be related to cancers and the weakening of the body due to age. Other research is suggesting that wasabi’s unique sulfinyl compounds are also good for blood circulation and reflexes.

 

 Know your wasabi

 

So we know that wasabi is great but first you have to make sure you’re actually eating real Japanese wasabi. The wasabia japonica plant is a little tricky to farm and yields don’t tend to meet the demand for it. As a result much of the wasabi sold and served is actually mixed with horseradish known as seiyo wasabi (Western Wasabi) in Japan.

 

Although the taste is good, horseradish doesn’t have the same 6-MSITC health benefits of its Japanese cousin. So read the label before buying!

Wasabi explanation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dorito's with wasabi

Obviously your best bet would be buying a fresh wasabi rootstock, but they can be rather pricy and hard to maintain. After grating, the taste of wasabi dramatically decreases in only minutes.

 

On the other hand, powdered wasabi would have had most of the 6-MSITC processed out of it. Unfortunately this means that Wasabi Doritos and Wasabi Beef chips, despite tasting awesome, will not prevent aging… they probably accelerate it.

To get the best of both worlds we recommend the wasabi sold in tubes like toothpaste. As long as you check the label, it won’t take much to begin lowering your reactive oxygen.

 Just a teaspoon a day

According to studies, one would have to consume a minimum of five milliliters (one teaspoon) of wasabi a day to begin recieving the effects of 6-MSICT. You might want to consider a spoonful of it in the place of your morning coffee for a truly potent pick-me-up. Besides, it’ll help clear those tubes during the cold season!

Also, if you happen to not love the spicy zing of wasabi, no problem! Since 6-MSITC is very durable against heat you can just cook it up with something and reduce the nose-burning taste while maintaining the health benefits.

These types of health studies can be shaky at times, so we can’t guarantee eating wasabi will keep you cancer-free. However, it takes almost no effort at all, so why not give it a try? In fact, I’m going to start putting it on my morning McGriddle to try and undo the years of damage it’s no-doubt done to me.

 

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Fun short news stories from Japan

breaking newsNEWS FROM THE LAB

STATS:
  • 76Percent sixth-graders who “enjoy or somewhat enjoy learning English,” according to the education ministry
  • ¥301,000Per capita medical costs in Japan in fiscal 2012—the first time the figure has topped ¥300,000, according to the health ministry
  • ¥764Average minimum wage in fiscal 2013, a ¥15 rise from last year, according to the labor ministry

I RISKED MY LIFE COLLECTING THESE THINGS”
—Anthropologist Yoshihiko Yamaguchi, on the closing of two museums in Yamagata that house 20,000 pieces he brought back from South America
  • Researchers at the National Institute for Environmental Studies have found that people in Sapporo need to sun themselves for 76.4 minutes a day to get adequate amounts of vitamin D, compared to just 7.5 minutes for residents of Naha.
  • Scientists at Hiroshima University say they may have found the gene responsible for late-onset blood cancer, which afflicts “people exposed to strong radiation.”
  • In what is being described as a “major discovery,” archeologists in Aomori have dug up a Jomon Era earthenware bowl “sculpted with human facial features.”
  • Officials at the Meteorological Agency say Western Japan experienced its hottest summer ever.

FOREIGN FLINGS

  • Six dance troupes from northeastern Japan performed the traditional Morioka Sansa Odori at a festival in Moscow’s Red Square.
  • Meanwhile, members of the MPD, the New York City Police Department and the People’s Police of Vietnam were among the groups taking part in the Mainichi Newspapers’ 18th World Police Band Concert, which drew 150,000 spectators in Jakarta last month.
  • Customs officials in Manila arrested three Japanese men for failing to declare “at least ¥30 million and $15,000 cash.”
  • Headline of the Week: “Android Teaches Japanese in Vietnam” (viaThe Japan News)

WILD THINGS

Boar hunting in more innocent times.

  • Officials at the environment ministry say depopulated areas of Fukushima have beenoverrun by wild boars. As many as 200 of the beasts will need to be captured or killed before residents are allowed to return.
  • Zookeepers in Kanagawa have sewn together a bunch of fleece shirts to make pouches for a baby wallaby and an infant kangaroo that were abandoned by their moms.
  • A group of seven female employees at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa have accused the facility’s directorof “abusive and highhanded behavior.”
  • Tourism officials from a whopping 154 countries and territories attended an expo at Tokyo Big Sight hosted by the Japan Association of Travel Agents.

LEGAL BRIEFS

  • MPD officials say they investigated 763 cases of child pornography in the first half of the year—the most since record keeping began in 2000.
  • The Tokyo District Court refused to reinstate former sumo wrestler Kotomitsuki, who was given the boot as a rikishi following a gambling scandal in 2010.
  • Several municipalities in the quake-hit northeast have established guidelines requiring firefighters to “complete their own evacuation 10 to 30 minutes before a tsunami’s predicted arrival time.” Many of the197 firefighters who died in the March 11 disaster were killed while trying to help others evacuate.
  • Sentence of the Week: “The Osaka Family Court on Friday rejected a demand from a 31-year-old transsexual man for the court to confirm that a 1-year-old boy his wife had using a third person’s sperm is his legitimate child.” (Via Jiji)

AND FINALLY…

  • The government is considering whether to allow companies to trademark “sounds, moving images and colors that they use in their commercials.”
  • Scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology achieved a world’s first when they used a “cement-like mixture” to absorb and break down CO2 at room temperature.
  • Officials at the tourism ministry say they’ll change the writing on road signs in 49 tourists areas fromromaji to English—for example, “Dori” will become “Ave.”
  • The welfare ministry says the number of centenarians in Japan has hit a record high for the 42nd consecutive year. Of the 54,397 Japanese people aged 100 years or older, 87.5 percent are women.
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Hotaka mountains ablaze as autumn starts

 

limbers make their way through forests tinged with autumnal colors in Karasawa Cirque in the Northern Japan Alps.

Climbers make their way through forests tinged with autumnal colors in Karasawa Cirque in the Northern Japan Alps.

 

MATSUMOTO, Nagano Prefecture–Karasawa Cirque, a popular mountaineering base to the Hotaka mountain range in the Northern Japan Alps, is rewarding climbers and hikers with a gorgeous vista of autumnal reds, yellows and oranges.

 

The leaves of rowan, Erman’s birch and other trees have turned their seasonal colors, in stunning contrast to the dwarf stone pine and other evergreens.

 

The cirque, formed by alpine glaciers, is located at an altitude of 2,300 meters in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

 

Visitors will be able to enjoy the autumnal foliage until mid-October, according to Takashi Yamaguchi, who operates the Karasawa Hyutte mountain hut.

 

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Ritual transfer of deity at Ise Grand Shrine

Ise grand shrine
Many Japanese were visiting the Ise Grand Shrine in central Japan on Wednesday, ahead of an important ritual that is closed to the public.

The event dates back 1300 years and involves the rebuilding of the shrine. All of the sacred wooden buildings at the site in Mie Prefecture are dismantled and built anew every 20 years.The event reaches a climax on Wednesday evening with the ritual transfer of the shrine’s deity to its new sanctuary. Worshippers prayed at the old sanctuary for the last time.

Shrine officials are preparing a special passage-way for the deity, lit with paper lanterns.

A group of 150 priests will make the transfer to the new building.

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Must see: Japanese talent show for gaijin (foreigners)

Big in Japan: A group of foreign residents compete in the 2011 edition of Gaikokujin Star Tanjo. This year's event will feature rap, dance and classical music.

Big in Japan: A group of foreign residents compete in the 2011 edition of Gaikokujin Star Tanjo. This year’s event will feature rap, dance and classical music.

They say that fortune favors the brave and this Saturday, in Fukuoka, brave non-Japanese residents will get the chance to feel like a star.

The sign-up period to take part in Gaikokujin Star Tanjo has passed, but you can still get in on the fun by heading down to the party to cheer on other hopefuls. The talented bunch will be competing for the prize of being Fukuoka’s “most talented foreigner.”

Gaikokujin Star Tanjo will be held this year for its fourth time and is reportedly one of the biggest international parties in Fukuoka. The event will take place at JR Kyushu Hall in Hakata Ward.

Contestants from Canada, Nepal, France and other countries are ready to deliver, through music and dance, an entertaining and cultural experience that allows the audience to gain an insight into the traditions of their home countries.

The seven finalists will perform from 7 p.m. and their talents include rap, dance and classical music. The top prize is ¥100,000 in cash.

The event, inspired by the TV singing competitionAmerican Idol,” was launched in 2010 under the name Gaijin Idol. A year later its name was changed to Gaikokujin Star Tanjo.

It is co-organized by Fukuoka Now, a local bilingual monthly magazine run by Fukuoka Now Ltd., and JR Hakata City, the owner of a commercial complex in the Hakata Station building.

The event will be hosted by Sebastien, the single-monikered personality behind “C’est ça la France” and “Afternoon Delight” on Fukuoka’s Love FM.

 

Details:

Gaikokujin Star Tanjo will take place Oct. 5 from 7 p.m. till 11 p.m. at JR Kyushu Hall on the ninth floor of Hakata City, a multifunctional facility complex at JR Hakata Station. Tickets cost ¥1,500. For more information, visit www.fukuoka-now.com/gaikokujin-star-tanjo.

 

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Japanese love their vending machines. Now there is even one for games!

Vending machines are quite popular in Japan, and Google recently put up a few of its own to distribute mobile games to Android users. Engadget reports that the machines offer 18 different games—some of which are free while others require payment—and transactions are made by resting an NFC-enabled phone running Android 4.0 or higher onto a tray below the large touchscreen.

googleplay

Photo credit: Engadget

If you don’t have a compatible device, the vending machine lets you take it for a test run with a Nexus 4, which, unsurprisingly, you do have to give back. Google employees will be present to ensure proper return of the phone.

The Google Play machines can be found in front of the Parco department store in Shibuya and will be there for just over a week. Or, if Japan is too far for you, you can always just tap the Play Store icon on your Android phone or tablet for a similar, albeit less novel, experience.

 

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Japanese housewives; mostly faithful, sometimes frisky

Cheating women

Frustration within the married state is as old as the institution itself. Sexless marriage? You’ve heard this story before. Condom maker Sagami Gomu, following an in-house survey, has concluded that nearly half of all marriages in Japan are sexless.

Simultaneous developments in other spheres promise, you’d think, riotous extra-marital goings-on. More and more wives work. At work they meet people. In the warm glow of fresh encounters, home and family are another world. No need to spell it out. A stale marriage need no longer be the bondage it once was.

Then there’s the Internet. Encounter sites, social networking sites. The possibilities are endless. Even the non-working housewife has the whole erotic world at her fingertips, if she wants it.

Here’s the shock: few do want it. Josei Seven (Aug 22-29) polls 500 married women in their 40s. Question 1: “Have you ever had an extra-marital affair?” Yes, say… 10.8%. No, say 89.2%.

Question 2: “Have you ever wanted to have an affair?” Another landslide victory for the no’s – 87.9% versus 12.1%.

What’s going on? Why not? Naturally, Josei Seven poses this question too, and the replies are: “My children and home are important to me” (cited by 44.4% of respondents); “It’s unthinkable from a moral point of view” (41.9%); “I love my husband” (34.3%); “I haven’t met anyone” (22.9%) – and so on. Far down the list is a reason you might expect to find much higher up: “I’m afraid my husband would find out” (10.1%).

“Shocking” seems hardly too strong a word for what this seems to reveal about the stability of marriage in the face of restlessness, dissatisfaction and easily-available remedies.

To those who have taken a plunge into infidelity, Josei Seven asks, “Where did you meet your partner?” The workplace, as expected, is the leading nest of romantic entanglement, with 31.5% of first encounters occurring there. The Internet ranks next (24.1%) while 18.5% hook up with former boyfriends.

How long was marriage enjoyed or endured before the first affair? Here too, the replies impress upon us the surprising stability of Japanese marriage, sexless or not. Eleven years, say 63%.

“Do you feel guilty?” the magazine asks. Yes, say 68.5%; no, say 18.5%; not sure, say 13%.

“Don’t call it having an affair,” says a 50-year-old housewife and mother of a daughter in senior high school. “Call it… love.”

They met on Facebook. More accurately, they met *again* on Facebook. They had known each other in high school, where they’d been members of the same after-class club. Well, this was a pleasant surprise! Her marriage had long been happy, as marriage goes. Her husband knew music and history and talked well. He was interesting. But after 20 years who doesn’t become predictable? It happens – and when it does, you face a choice. Should you put up with it in the name of responsibility and morality? Or seize an opportunity, if it happens to come along? She made her choice, and doesn’t seem to be among the 68.5% who feel guilty about it.

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