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【Monday Kickstart】See the silly kitty and more vying for the prize in the “Pet Bragging Contest”

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 07:00 PM PST

This particular kitty seems to be a disciple of Maru’s “If I fits, I sits” School of How to Cat. 

Seeing cats trying to cram themselves inside ridiculous objects never gets old, does it?

Japanese Twitter user @Kogedox0510 shared one of the most recent cats-squeezing-themselves-into-stuff compilations. In his photos, family cat Futa displays its penchant for sticking its nose, followed by its whole head, into things that are none of its business and then striking a pose:

Clockwise from upper left: Futa in a tuna cat treat bag, cold ramen packaging, Garigari-Kun popsicle box, and hooman boots

Futa’s owner also submitted the photos as an entry in the upcoming Japan Meeting of Furries Pet Bragging Contest. As bizarre as that name seems, the Japan Meeting of Furries (JMoF) is an annual convention which offers workshops and seminars in the art of costume-making, acting, and other related areas.

This year, the convention will take place from January 5-7 in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, and in preparation for the Pet Bragging Contest sub-event, organizers are encouraging Twitter users to post cute or interesting photos or videos of their pets using the hashtag #JMoFペット自慢大会.

Here are a few of the other pets currently in the running for best bragging rights, feline or otherwise:

If Futa doesn’t claim the top prize, then we’re rooting for that last little guy. What a dazzling smile!

Source, featured image: Twitter/@Kogedox0510

AKB48 and South Korean idol groups perform hits at music awards, turns out to be a disaster

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 05:00 PM PST

Scathing comments from Japanese and Korean netizens spark heated debate between the two pop cultures.

Japanese idol group AKB48's popularity is so phenomenal that it even has politicians lobbying for concerts in their country. The mega group isn't so hot in South Korea though, where their own idol group brands have gained international acclaim.

The two distinct pop culture styles came to a head during the recent Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) held in South Korea, when AKB48 teamed up with five Korean idol groups and delivered a less-than-stellar performance.

▼ AKB48’s Heavy Rotation and Koi Suru
Fortune Cookie
in a monster collaboration.

▼ Lots of dynamic and stylish dance moves from the South Koreans…

▼ …and much lukewarm fluttering around by AKB48.

AKB48 generally portrays a cute image, while Korean groups tend to lean towards mature sexiness. But what set them apart in that event was that the Korean side outshone AKB48 with energetic movements and superior choreography.

Some South Korean fans couldn't help but notice the stark contrast and voiced their unbiased opinions:

"South Korean idols are prettier and have better dance moves."

"I finally understand why Korean groups are so popular overseas."

"Our South Korean idols have to pick up the slack in the performance. It doesn't seem like there's any decent Japanese idols out there."

"AKB48's costumes made it look like they're going to a kid's party."

"Those were AKB48 songs, yet why is the choreography better on the Koreans' side? Those AKB48 members were hardly dancing at all!"

Nevertheless AKB48 picked up their spirit and showed they could keep pace with their South Korean counterparts in the next collaboration song, Pick Me.

▼ Both sides made sure they were not to be outdone this time.

The harshest critiques came from Japanese netizens:

"There's no comparison at all. AKB48's level is just way too low."
"We lost again. There's no way we can beat big brother Korea."
"All AKB48 is good for is handshaking events. Let's not even talk about music and dance."
"It's common knowledge that AKB48 is garbage."
"Some people just love to defend AKB48's amateur choreography and terrible singing. It's really disgusting."

To be fair, the vast majority of the audience enjoyed the show, and that's all that matters really. Such differences in performance could be attributed to culture and a bazillion other factors, none of which would change the mindset of fans willing to spend unimaginable sums of money to buy their favorite AKB48 CDs.

Source: YouTube/Mnet K-POP via My Game News Flash
Images: YouTube/Mnet K-POP

McDonald’s Japan finds secret to having best year ever: treat workers and customers better

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 09:30 AM PST

Thanks in part to paying employees more, CEO Sarah Cassanova has put the chain back on top like never before.

Most people would probably not want to have been in Sara Cassanova’s shoes when she became CEO and president of McDonald’s Japan in 2013. Although it sounds like a sweet deal, the company had been dealing with some sluggish performance. According to some analysts, the strict cost-cutting of the previous CEO Eiko Harada had given McDonald’s an image of profitability that may not have really existed.

To make matters worse, one of those cost-saving measures appeared to have involved procuring meat from Shanghai Husi Foods, which only one year after Cassanova’s hiring was discovered to have been dealing expired and tainted chicken. It was like being made captain of a cruise ship with turned out to be made of cardboard rather than steel, only to have a sudden virus outbreak as well.

If all that wasn’t enough, in the following months other incidents of foreign objects in food occurred. The Canadian CEO may have underestimated how seriously the Japanese people take corporate apologies as well, and delays of a few days in her bow-filled mea culpas only served to turn off people even further.

By 2015, McDonald’s Japan had slid into a huge deficit of 349 billion yen (US$3.1 billion) and customer faith was at an all-time low. Needless to say, things were looking bleak.

▼ Annual net income in millions of yen

● Raise it and they will come

Despite all this, Cassanova stayed the course and continued her work to undo the short-sighted and over-thrifty management practices of her predecessor. According to an economic analyst interviewed by Nifty News, one major change involved closing down excess stores and raising the wages of staff.

The concept behind this plan wasn’t novel: the more the workers get paid, the happier they are, and the happier they are, the better their service is. The new pay system which began in 2015 gave employees who got good performance reviews a wage increase while those who got poor reviews a decrease. As a result 2,900 workers quickly received a pay increase.

▼ And suddenly found a reason to give out free smiles again.

Bit by bit, people began to notice a marked increase in service. A few years ago, ordering a Big Mac may have resulted in a box full of jumbled meat and toppings, but now sandwiches often come out carefully crafted.

“Today’s Big Mac looks amazingly beautiful.”

● Democracy and Pocket Monsters

While that is a great move for many reasons, giving customer service a shot in the arm alone isn’t enough to save a company as deep in the red as they were. Another important strategy involved reminding the people in Japan how much McDonald’s was a part of the modern culture. Engaging campaigns like the battle between Japanese regional nicknames Makku and Makudo or the General Burger Election allowed the brand to gradually warm people’s hearts once again.

It wasn’t blatant, but these campaigns put the customers in the spotlight, rather than just shoving and endless line of new burgers in their faces. It made McDonald’s a place to have fun, taking part in an election or playing Pokemon rather than stuffing one’s face, which can be done anywhere.

▼ We even held the SoraNews24 Rockin’ Christmas party at McDonald’s.

At the same time, McDonald’s was also not losing sight of national eating trends by venturing into the occasional healthier meal options and offering higher-priced and higher-quality lines of burgers. It was a multi-pronged assault on the market. But there was still one more factor that contributed to their recovery.

● The competition did next to nothing

From 2014 to 2016 Ronald McDonald had been lying dead on the make-up-smeared asphalt, leaving behind a sizable hold in the market. And yet all of his rivals just seemed to stand around looking at each other, not knowing what to do.

In the years leading up to the fall of McDonald’s, Burger King seemed poised to take over with a slew of creative burgers and campaigns. However, in 2015 as McDonald’s was deep in the red and vulnerable to a death blow, Burger King began to fall strangely quiet.

▼ Not too little, but too late…

This year, after what appeared to be a long period of slumber, Burger King released Box Sets — reasonably priced yet jam-packed combo meals — that we being dubbed the Mac-Killers. However, it proved to be too late. Ronald had already trained with King Kai and traveled the Snake Way all the way back to the fast food battle with a new power level of over 9,000.

And with their renewed vigor, McDonald’s seems to have effortlessly taken back the market. For 23 straight months the company’s performance has been constantly increasing. From January to September 2017 sales have been up 13.2 percent, and by the end of the year McDonald’s Japan is expected to net 200 billion yen (US$1.8 billion) making it the most profitable year in the company’s history.

In terms of both speed and scale, this success is nothing short of amazing — they’re even in a position to already begin expansion again. So let that be a lesson to all companies out there looking to boost your profits: start by paying your workers more! That’s what Cassanova did and now the company is surely lovin’ her.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, Nifty News, Hachima Kiko
Images: SoraNews24

Pikachu, Hello Kitty Elected 2025 Expo Ambassadors to Osaka

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 07:00 AM PST

Hopefully the newly-elected officials will be announcing their political stances soon.

The Foreign Minister of Japan Taro Kono announced on Wednesday that appointed popular characters Pikachu and Hello Kitty as ambassadors to Osaka to help promote the Japanese city as a host for the World Expo 2025. The images show Kono awarding both mascot characters official recognition of their status as ambassadors.

The host city won’t be selected until November 2018, and Osaka is currently competing against Paris; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Yekaterinburg, Russia. However, the city is hoping its bid won’t be lost after Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympic Games and that electing the two characters will win the support of the international community through Japan’s “soft power,” like anime and manga.

Pikachu and Hello Kitty weren’t the only appointed ambassadors. Kono also selected living, breathing humans Keisuke Honda (a professional soccer player) and Nobel Prize-winning stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka.

More from Anime News Network:

Source: TBS News
Featured image: Twitter/@konotaromp

We visited Tokyo Comic-Con 2017 to get our fill of superheroes and cool cosplays

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 01:00 AM PST

Join us as we take an exciting tour of Tokyo's second Comic-Con event.

Our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun managed to snap himself a nice collection of photos at last year's inaugural Tokyo Comic-Con, and seeing that it's that time of year again, he took it upon himself to make that pilgrimage once more.

Held from 1 December until 3 December, this year’s Tokyo Comic-Con also boasts special appearances such as legendary comic book writer Stan Lee. Given its lineup of stars and events, P.K. was a little disappointed to find the venue wasn't filled to capacity with visitors, but was glad that he could at least move around easily.

▼ It wouldn't be Comic-Con without the classic Alien statue.

Our trusty reporter decided to head over to the DC Cafe first as he felt a little peckish; you can’t expect a man to run around an adrenaline-filled event like this on an empty stomach after all.

▼ P.K. felt like he could summon his inner hero after wolfing
down a Superman Gratin Croquette Burger.

Feeling not a tinge of guilt that the rest of the SoraNews24 staff were slaving away in the office, he then set out with camera in hand to snap some pictures.

▼ For a moment, P.K. thought he’d met the real Superwoman.

▼ What's better than Superwoman? Three of them of course!

▼ Last year's Catwoman foursome were back.

▼ The anime-remake of Ultraman proved to be popular…

▼ …as was Wolverine from the X-Men franchise.

▼ Female Captain America traded the
trusty shield for an equally trusty pamphlet.

▼ The girls from the Drobo booth showed off their funky costumes.

▼ Transforming robot toyline Diaclone also showcased their goods.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was heavily promoted…

▼ …and P.K. spotted staff dressed up like a Pearl
featured in the science fiction film.

▼ This mighty impressive Hercules also attracted a sizable crowd.

P.K. thoroughly enjoyed browsing each booth's offerings and snapping away with his camera, but eventually the time came for him to head back to the office. Next year couldn’t come soon enough, and our reporter hoped Comic-Con garnered enough support to continue in Japan for many years to come.

Want to see more awesome photos from Japan’s biggest events? Mr.Sato’s got the awesome Tokyo Game Show 2017 covered too.

Photos ©SoraNews24