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We turn 100,000 yen into 100,000 one-yen coins, in the spirit of New Year’s generosity

Posted: 02 Jan 2018 03:30 PM PST

Nothing says "Thanks for all your hard work!" like a bonus from your boss given entirely in Japan's smallest-denomination coins.

Just over two years ago, Yoshio, founder and president of SoraNews24, made the questionable decision to drop one million yen (US$8,930) on end-of-the-year lottery tickets. As you might expect, that didn't turn out to be the wisest investment, and ever since we try to keep an eye on his expenditures at this time of year.

So Ahiru Neko, one of our Japanese-language correspondents, was a little concerned when Yoshio asked him to accompany him to the bank to make a withdrawal. As they walked, Ahiru Neko delicately broached the subject of the lottery fiasco, and was relieved to find out that Yoshio's new plan didn't require nearly so much money, and had nothing to do with gambling.

"The staff has been working hard all year, and I want to give them otoshidama," explained Yoshio. Otoshiodama are gifts of cash, usually placed in festive envelopes, that are given at New Year's in Japan. Usually, kids get them from their parents and older relatives, so Ahiru Neko was both surprised and happy to hear that he and his coworkers were getting otoshidama from the boss.

As they reached the bank entrance, Yoshio told Ahiru Neko that he was going inside to get 100,000 yen (US$893) to divide amongst the staff's otoshidama. He instructed Ahiru Neko to wait outside, and disappeared into the building for about 20 minutes, which would have been a long time for a simple ATM run. But Yoshio had to speak with a teller to get the money for everyone's otoshidama, because…

…he'd asked for the 100,000 yen…

…in coins.

▼ 100,000 yen in bills

▼ 100,000 yen in coins

What's more, Yoshio had insisted on the smallest denomination: one-yen coins. Of course, you can't expect a bank to comply with your request if you just roll up and ask for 100,000 in boxes, so Yoshio had called ahead and given the bank time to get everything in order before he swung by to pick it all up, because while he may be nuts, he's also considerate.

But you know how when you get money out of the ATM, you still want to flip through the bills to make sure you got the right amount? Yoshio felt the same way here, and so he and Ahiru Neko headed back to Yoshio's house to count the change.

Each of the 40 boxes was supposed to contain 50 rolls of coins, with 50 coins in each roll. Even Yoshio wasn't crazy enough to count out each and every one-yen coin by hand, though, so he settled for counting just the rolls, laying them out carefully, one by one, on the tatami floor of his house.

Needless to say, this took quite a long time. But as Ahiru Neko assisted his employer, he gradually felt a sense of calm from the repetitive yet visually pleasing task.

There was a certain feeling of orderly peace, and the sight of all the coins even began to take on a unique beauty.

"Wow, I don't know when I'll ver get to see something like this again," mused Ahiru Neko as they set down the last roll of coins, to which Yoshio replied, dryly and immediately:

"Yep. Okay, pack 'em back up and let's take the boxes over to the office.” 

The nearest parking lot is still a few blocks' walk from our office entrance, so Yoshio once again loaded up his handcart, insisting that Ahiru Neko (to whom he'd given an imitation police uniform) stand guard/at attention during the last leg of the coins' journey.

After taking the elevator up to our floor, Yoshi wheeled the cart into our conference room while Ahiru Neko gathered the staff that was on-hand that day, letting them know that he had a present for them all.

"Thank you all for coming in today," Yoshio began. "You've all been working really hard, so I decided to give you 10,000 yen each as otoshidama."

The staff was all smiles at the news. Wanting to keep he good vibes flowing, with a flourish Yoshio pulled back the cover, ready to see their faces light up with even more joy.

"So, thank you…"

"…for all…"

"…your hard work!"

But instead of roaring cheers, Yoshio's grand display of grandiose generosity was met with deafening silence.

You can't entirely blame the recipients for being staying quiet. Seriously, what words can properly express the almost entirely counter-balancing emotions of gratefulness at receiving 10,000 yen, and exasperation at being given it entirely in one yen coins?

Meanwhile, Yoshio was as silent as his employees, with a dark shadow passing over his expression.

Eventually, though, it was our that broke the silence, saying:

"You bunch of ingrates! Do you know how much money I had to spend on this?"

As you've probably noticed, SoraNews24 isn't a hard-core mathematics research organization. Still, the recipients of Yoshio's otoshidama "kindness" were sharp enough to know that 100,000 yen in coins is worth 100,000 yen, so that's how much money Yoshio had spent, right?


Remember how we said Yoshio had contacted the bank in advance to give them time to get all those coins together? Gathering the necessary coins and packaging them required a service charge, which ended up being 86,400 yen.

So in the end, Yoshio's thoughtful (we think…) gesture of giving the staff 100,000 yen had a total price tag of 186,400, only about half of which they actually received.

Still, what was done was done, and so Yoshio solemnly handed out the boxes, before retreating to the balcony to sulk and repent.

We feel kind of bad for him, especially considering that he could have just sent everyone their otsohidama using the line social media app, which has a special otoshidama present system.

Image: Line

Still, whether it's in coins or paper money, 10,000 yen is 10,000 yen. So thanks, Boss, but if we're being completely honest, we're already worrying about how you're going to celebrate next New Year's.

Top image ©SoraNews24
Insert images ©SoraNews24 (unless otherwise noted)

【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】Celebrate New Year with Studio Ghibli merchandise from Donguri Kyowakoku

Posted: 02 Jan 2018 08:00 AM PST

Totoro from My Neighbour Totoro and Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service are the stars of the show this year.

As we make our way through the fukubukuro lucky bags released around Japan at the start of the New Year, there’s always one that we look forward to buying, and it’s the fukubukuro from Donguri Kyowakoku, the Japanese retail chain that sells officially licensed Studio Ghibli goods.

This year we picked up their 3,000 yen (US$26.65) lucky bag, which contained the following bounty of gorgeous Studio Ghibli merchandise.

Inside the dark grey tote that everything came packed in was another, much smaller mini tote bag. Called the “My Neighbour Totoro Monthly Tote Bag”, this one comes with an adorable yellow-orange Totoro with the number 2, for February, scrawled across his belly.

There were also two small hand towels featuring Jiji the magical black cat from the film Kiki’s Delivery Service.

▼Jiji also made an appearance on a cute zippered pen case.

The other items in the bag featured Totoro from the world-famous 1988 feature film My Neighbour Totoro. There was a cute lunch box bowl…

▼ A stainless steel drinking flask…

▼ An 80-piece “Art Bowl” jigsaw set…

▼ And an adorable soup spoon, complete with case, perfect for all the hot soups we’ll be having at work over winter.

While the Donguri Kyowakoku fukubukuro are known to contain different items, meaning you can’t be entirely sure of what you’ll get until you open up your purchase, they always represent good value for money, given the high retail price point of Studio Ghibli licensed goods.

With more than eight items for just 3,000 yen, these fukubukuro typically sell out within hours of going on sale at stores on January 1, so if you want to get your hands on one of these, be sure to get in line early on new Year’s Day next year!

Related: Donguri Kyowakoku Store List
Photos © SoraNews24

Japanese former adult video star Sola Aoi announces marriage to man who’s “not handsome or rich”

Posted: 02 Jan 2018 05:00 AM PST

Internationally beloved actress explains why her new husband is "awesome" anyway.

With the Internet being the preferred distribution channel of adult video enthusiasts, the industry has become largely globalized. Still, few performers have achieved the sort of international success that Japan's Sola Aoi has.

Actually, calling the former adult video actress "Japan's" is a bit of a contentious claim, given that Aoi has spent considerable amounts of time living and working elsewhere in Asia, with China, Thailand, and Korea all having been graced by her presence at live events or in movies and TV series. But while the actress' pornographic body of work was likely the point of entry for many members of the Sola Aoi fanbase, she's moved away from outright porn over the last decade, to the point where the Japanese media now often describes her as a "sexy actress" rather than a flat-out "adult actress.”

And now Aoi is ready to transition into yet another new stage of her life, as she's just announced her marriage. On January 2 (Japan time), Aoi posted on her blog that she and Japanese musician DJ Non have tied the knot, and shared a photo of herself wearing her wedding ring through her Instagram account.

Instagram Photo

In her blog posting, Aoi said "I've always wanted to get married. I love kids, and it's always been my dream to start a lovely family…My [husband] is neither handsome nor rich, but he has removed all of my uneasiness about having been in adult films, as well as everything else."

▼ Aoi and DJ Non

Aoi, whose works predate the recent industry rule changes that allow adult film actresses to halt the sale of their movies after five years on the market, went on to talk more about her feelings regarding her former primary profession. "I don't regret making adult films, but it's also not like I don't feel any embarrassment about how such work is viewed by society. To create a family, you have to accept everything about each other, your past and future, so I think my husband is really an awesome guy for accepting me."

As alluded to in Sola's comment about her husband's finances, DJ Non isn't a famous, household name in Japan, but it sounds like the two of them have very compatible personalities, which is something money can't buy.

Instagram Photo

However, unlike many Japanese entertainers, especially those with a "sexy" image, it doesn't sound like Aoi is going to be stepping away from the limelight now that she's no longer single. "To all of my fans and associates," she wraps up her blog post with "I am still the same Sola Aoi I have always been, and I look forward to your continuing support."

Source: Livedoor News/Sports Hochi via Jin, Sola Aoi official blog
Featured image: Instagram/aoi_sola

【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】Starbucks Japan lucky bag only available to lottery winners this year

Posted: 02 Jan 2018 01:00 AM PST

Take a look inside one of Japan’s most exclusive fukubukuro.

In Japan, one thing that many people look forward to doing on New Year’s Day is shopping for bargains and exclusive merch put out by their favourite stores in the form of “fukubukurolucky bags. And out of all the fukubukuro released in Japan one of the most popular is always the one from Starbucks. In fact, their bags are so sought after that this year they decided to make their lucky bags available only via advance lottery applications, in an attempt to stop people from buying them up in bulk to resell online.

To give ourselves the best chance of securing a lucky bag this year, three of our staff put in applications before the end of 2017, and our Japanese-language reporter Meg was the lucky staffer who received a notification from Starbucks telling her she’d won.

Even though she’d won, she would still have to hand over the 6,000 yen (US$53.22) purchase price, which she was more than happy to do. In previous years, Starbucks released a couple of bags at two different price points, but starting from last year, they decided to change things by releasing only a 6,000 yen version.

After stopping in to her local Starbucks to pick up her fukubukuro, Meg immediately opened it up and set everything out in a neat display, grinning from ear to ear with her highly sought-after bounty. The contents included a set of four drink vouchers to use by June for any beverage up to the price of 610 yen. That was 2,440 yen of the total purchase price back in her pocket already!

There were also two coffee packs: the House Blend, which usually retails for 1,050 yen, and the Pike Place Roast, which retails for 1,140 yen. Doing the math, the vouchers and the coffee brought the total value up to 4,630 yen.

Then came the gorgeous drinkware, with a mug from the 2017 winter range priced at 1,800 yen…

And a stainless steel flask from the same range, which usually costs a whopping 4,000 yen.

All these goods came to a total of 10,430 yen, which was far more than the cost of the bag, but there were still several more items that Meg couldn’t put a price on, literally, as these items aren’t usually available for sale.

▼ There was an original tote bag and a mini tote, both featuring the Starbucks mermaid logo.

There was also a beautiful little jar, designed for holding sugar, that Meg had never seen before.

▼ Meg loved the jar’s unusual shape.

The 6,000-yen Starbucks fukubukuro represents great value…for those who are lucky enough to get their hands on one.

Given that the types of fukubukuro, and their purchase methods, can vary from year to year, hopefully Starbucks will be able to make their lucky bag more accessible so that more of us can enjoy their wares in 2019!

Photos ©SoraNews24

Mochi continues to be Japan’s deadliest New Year’s food, causes two deaths in Tokyo on January 1

Posted: 01 Jan 2018 09:00 PM PST

Often considered a symbol of longevity, mochi annually brings about sudden deaths.

My wife and I went to her parents' house for dinner on January 1, and included in the spread were a number of osechi (celebratory New Year's) dishes. If you've got a dual passion for the Japanese language and linguistics, osechi is a real treat, since names of the dishes all have some sort of cultural or linguistic significance. For example, renkon (lotus roots) are an osechi staple because they have holes in their cross-section, so that you saki ga mieru/"can see ahead," implying that eating them will give you a clear vision of an auspicious future.

But osechi has a dark twist in the form of mochi (rice cakes). Outside Japan, mochi is most commonly encountered as mochi daifuku, a bite-sized dessert that's actually a thin mochi covering with some sort of sweet filling. But when mochi is eaten as a solid block, like it is for osechu, its texture is incredibly stretchy. The Japanese word for "stretch," nobiru, can also mean "extend" or "continue," and so eating osechi at New Year's is said to extend your longevity, giving you a long and happy life. Ironically, though, mochi is the only osechi dish that consistently racks up a body count.

Mochi is so stretchy that it can be hard to bite through, especially for senior citizens whose teeth aren't in the best shape to begin with. That leads to people trying to swallow their mochi in bigger pieces than they would for other foods, and every year, a number of elderly Japanese choke on their New Year's mochi. This year, the Tokyo Fire Department reported that by 9 p.m. on January 1, 15 Tokyo residents were taken to the hospital for emergency medical treatment as they gagged on mochi. Their ages ranged between 55 and 90, and two men, one in his 50s and the other in his 80s, perished when the mochi could not be dislodged in time.

In Japan, the New Year's festivities traditionally continue through the 3rd of January, which means that there's still a lot of osechi, and thus more mochi, to be eaten. The fire department encourages seniors to cut their mochi into small pieces, chew thoroughly, and swallow carefully. The department also implores fellow diners to be attentive of elderly relatives and acquaintances and to offer assistance and contact the paramedics if they are having difficulty swallowing.

Sources: Sankei News via Jin, Ryugo News Sokuho Tsuhin Kyoku
Top image: Wikipedia/Opponent
Insert image: Gahag