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Sapporo Snow Festival reveals upcoming ice sculptures and displays for 2018

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 08:00 PM PST

Towering snow sculptures pay homage to Final Fantasy and Osamu Tezuka’s beloved anime characters.

One of the highlights of the winter season in Japan is the stunning Sapporo Snow Festival, or Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, held on the northern island of Hokkaido in February each year.

The event is held across three sites – at Odori Park, Susukino and Tsudome – with most of the activity centred around the 1.5-kilometre (0.9-mile) stretch along Odori Park, where enormous snow sculptures, created with the help of Japan Self-Defense Forces members, can be found.

With the lineup changing from year to year, curious attendees are now being given a sneak peek at what to expect on the grounds of the park for the 2018 event, as festival organisers have revealed some of the biggest showstoppers for the festival’s 69th year.

There will be five “heavy snow” figures, measuring approximately 15 metres in height and depicting scenes like this one from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series.

There’ll also be a sculpture featuring Osamu Tezuka characters like Astro Boy, Black Jack and Princess Sapphire, as a tribute to the 90th anniversary of the legendary animator’s birth.

Also at the Odori Park location will be two large ice sculptures, noted for their “transparent beauty” which is said to be particularly gorgeous when lit up at night.

▼ This display recreates the old station building at Taiwan’s historic Taichung Station in ice form.

Odori Park will also be home to the International Snow Sculpture Competition, featuring entries from countries like Finland, Hawaii, Indonesia, Australia, Macau, Poland, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, South Korea, and China.

▼ Last year’s winning design came from Macau.

▼ And the 2017 runner-up was Latvia.

The local townspeople will also be contributing some designs of their own, with teams currently turning blocks of snow into artistic masterpieces for the “Citizens’ Snow Sculptures” section. Attendees will be able to vote for their favourite sculpture at the event, with the winner announced on the afternoon of 10 February.

A short walk away from the main venue is “Crystal Street”, located at the Susukino venue, which has a fantastic display of glistening ice sculptures each year.

While the Tsudome venue will be drawing crowds to its six-lane “tube slider”, a child-friendly snow slope where attendees can enjoy sliding down the snow in inflatable rings.

▼ The “tube slider” is an annual event at Tsudome.

Instagram Photo

With the opening date for the Sapporo Snow Festival now less than a week away, many of the massive sculptures are already beginning to take shape.

If you’re too far away to travel to the festival, the official site has a number of live webcams set up to keep track of the process on the larger designs at Odori Park. One of the views, from Sapporo Tower, shows workers continuing with construction into the early hours of the morning.

▼ Sapporo Tower, located in Odori Park, is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

The Sapporo Snow Festival is scheduled to run from 5-12 February at the Odori and Susukino venues, and from 1-12 February at the Tsudome location. With last year’s event revealing hidden gems like this crazy snow Piko Taro, who knows what surprises lie in store for attendees this year!

Source, images: PR Times

Viral Facebook post may see couple name their child after Dragon Ball character

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 07:00 PM PST

Father-to-be from Arizona gets more than the one million Facebook likes needed to persuade his wife to call their newborn Son Goku.

My first name is a pretty common, non-descript name in the English-speaking world. Throughout school, and university, there were always plenty of others with the same name. It might not have been exciting enough to make me stand out, but when it came to trying to get a job I could at least be thankful that my parents hadn’t called me Adolf or Beelzebub. One parent-to-be in the U.S. may well destine his son to a lifetime of pure unadulterated awesomeness, or relentless bullying, by naming him Son Goku, after the hero in the father’s beloved anime, Dragon Ball.

Carlos Sanchez, in the photo that ended up going viral, explains that his wife had set a condition on his choosing their baby’s name, one million Facebook likes. At time of writing the number of likes had shot way past that total at one and a half million likes, and perhaps at this rate he’ll be able to get his naming way with any other future children too. Will we one day hear the pitter-patter of tiny Vegeta feet? If naming their offspring after a fictional character isn’t enough to convince you that Carlos is a bit of a Dragon Ball fan, the poster on the wall behind him, and a fair proportion of his other photos should be enough to convince you.

▼ An artist’s impression of what the birth may look like.

America has slightly laxer naming laws than Japan, where names like Akuma, meaning devil, have been blocked, but there are probably stranger names than Son Goku out there (and should I be one day so lucky as to father progeny of my own, I’ve already settled on Thunder Child). Anyway, let’s hope that, unlike his Super Saiyan namesake, Carlos’ son gets to kiss someone someday, when he’s not bashing out one-armed press-ups anyway. Although apparently training might not be the only key to his strength.

Source: Facebook/Carlos Sanchez via JinHachima Kiko
Featured image: Facebook/Carlos Sanchez

Cool traditional Japanese inn lets customers tidy up their room with a click of a button【Video】

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 05:00 PM PST

Thanks to several items outfitted with self-parking systems, we get a glimpse into the future of Japanese hospitality.

No trip to Japan is complete without spending a night in a high-class ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn. They certainly don't come cheap, but choose a good one and it'll guarantee you an experience like no other.

In an effort to revolutionize the Japanese inn experience, Nissan has collaborated with a ryokan in the mountainous hot spring resort of Hakone in an exhilarating fusion of technology and tradition. By taking the self-parking technology of cars and incorporating it into household items, customers won't have to worry about leaving a mess anymore.

▼ Is this the future of Japanese ryokan?

Indoor slippers are equipped with wheels and Nissan's intelligent parking system, which lets scattered footwear sense their surroundings and move them back into a neat row, much like how self-parking cars behave.

▼ It'll come in handy for customers unfamiliar with Japan's customs.

Even the tables, cushions and TV remote found in rooms receive the awesome technology upgrade, sliding back into predetermined positions with just a simple click of a button.

▼ In Japan, even the rooms tidy up after themselves.

The pilot project runs over two days from 24 March to 25 March at Tonosawa Ichinoyu Honkan, allowing you to experience what's it like to have slippers and other items slide around on their own.

Not everyone is able to participate unfortunately, as only two lucky winners of a draw will be chosen. Interested individuals who have a Japanese address have until 10 February to follow @Nissan and tweet the hashtags "#PPP旅館 #wanttostay" to be eligible.

While this is merely a short pilot project on how technology can be used to improve the ryokan experience, it could very well turn into something more permanent in the near future. Making things park by themselves isn't a first for Nissan, as they've already created awesome sliding chairs suitable for office use.

Source: YouTube/Nissan, Pro Pilot Park Ryokan via Japaaaan
Images: YouTube/Nissan

Survey finds roughly one in four all-night Internet cafe customers in Tokyo is homeless

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 09:30 AM PST

Not having enough money to pay rent each month isn't their biggest problem is securing permanent housing, though.

In Tokyo, the trains stop running a little after midnight, but that doesn't mean you have to go home. A number of businesses are happy to let paying customers hang out until morning comes, such as internet cafes, manga cafes, video viewing rooms, saunas, and capsule hotels.

These "all-night businesses" are a convenient option for partiers who've missed the last train. They're less expensive than a taxi ride home or a room in a conventional hotel, and while they're not as cheap as loitering in a 24-hour fast food joint, the staff won't kick you out for sleeping. But a study done by housing assistance organization Tokyo Challenge Net reveals that not everyone who's spending the night in a manga cafe is there because they were having too much fun to get to the station before the last train pulled out.

Tokyo Challenge Net collected data from a total of 222 all-night businesses (156 Internet/manga cafes, three "Internet rooms," 24 video rooms, and 39 capsule hotels or saunas) over a three-month period starting in November 2016, and has recently released the results of its analysis. Through interviews and phone conversations, researchers found 946 people who were spending the night in one of these all-night businesses, and from the total number of such businesses in the city, calculates that on any given weekday night in Tokyo some 15,300 people are sleeping in an all-night business.

The most commonly given reason was "as part of travel of a business trip," which was the response from 37.1 percent of respondents. Coming in second, though, at an alarming 25.8 percent, was "I don't have a home."

353 of the survey respondents said they have either lost their home or fear losing it, with roughly 90 percent of this group staying in all-night businesses at least three times a week. People in their 30s made up the largest chunk of this group, 38.6 percent, with another 28.9 percent being between 50 and 59 years old. Young adults in their 20s, meanwhile, accounted for less than 15 percent of those homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. Roughly half (46.8 ercent) said their monthly income was between 110,000 and 150,000 yen (US$980-US$1,340), with another 10.7 percent saying they had no income at all.

▼ The fact that many Internet cafes provide free self-serve soft drinks, and sometimes soup or even ice cream, is also probably an attractive point to those who need to stretch every yen.

Even with this dire financial background, though, the most commonly cited problem wasn't not being able to afford rent. Instead, it's the hefty upfront fees that renters have to pay in Japan before moving into an apartment, including security deposits, advance rent, and the dreaded gratuity to the landlord known as "key money," that was the major hurdle, with 62.8 percent saying they can't afford it. Next on the list was not being able to handle monthly rent payments (33.3 percent), followed by not having anyone to act as guarantor/cosigner on the lease (30.9 percent). Faced with such difficulties, a night in a an Internet cafe, which can cost as little as 1,000 yen for a five-hour stay, is an attractive quick-fix.

It should be noted that while Japan doesn't have anywhere near the number of homeless shelters as similarly developed countries (which is part of the reason why homeless encampments can often be seen in certain Tokyo parks), the country does have organizations, such as Tokyo Challenge Net, which are doing what they can to help those in need of assistance. And though the study's data was collected over a year ago, there haven't been any significant changes to Japan's economic fortunes or social welfare programs since the survey was conducted, and so it's likely there are still just as many people staying in all-night businesses because they have nowhere else to sleep.

Related: Tokyo Challenge Net
Source: IT Media, Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Images ©SoraNews24

Japanese Twitter loves adorable cats’ reactions to Monster Hunter: World’s Felyne voices【Videos】

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 08:00 AM PST

These kitties just can’t figure out where the sounds are coming from!

Monster Hunter, the widely popular video game in which you go on quests to slay monsters and become more and more powerful, has just released its newest edition on January 26, titled Monster Hunter: World. Like its predecessors, Monster Hunter: World allows you to create and customize not only your main character, but also your helpful cat-like assistant, the Felyne. Naturally, you can adjust what it looks like and what it’s wearing, but there are a lot of other cool things to customize, from its movements all the way to its voice.

Adjusting the voice is fun, because it makes lots of different meowing noises and you can choose which one you like best. It’s even more fun if you have cats, because they are going to come running to find out who is making the mysterious cat noises!

“Real felines who appeared when they heard the Felyne’s cries.”

Cats across Japan were drawn to their owners’ TVs by the cries of the Felyne, looking curiously and adorably around for the source.

Japanese netizens were just smitten with these kittens, who couldn’t figure out the exact source of the cries! The poor kitties just could not find the mystery cat, though they looked high and low for it.

When they really couldn’t find it, some turned to their owners with baffled looks:

“My cat came running when it heard the Felyne’s voice. It looked all around the TV, but when it couldn’t find anything he looked at me like he was saying, ‘It’s not there!'”

▼ “I started customizing my Felyne’s voice and my cat came running, then looked at me with this “What the heck???” kind of look. I just can’t stop laughing. The rumors are true!”

For some cats, simply moving the character around was enough to attract their attention.

Even dogs were (adorably) confused!

Apparently the voices of the Felyne were recorded from a real cat that was owned by a staff member at Capcom studios, so it’s no wonder that animals would respond so well to it.

▼ “My dog thought the Felyne was real because of the movements and the voice…he looks like he’s ready to attack! lol”

Japanese netizens loved these poor concerned cats:

“Now I want to buy Monster Hunter: World so that my cats will react that way too!”
“Cats’ responses to the Felyne voices are soo cute!”
“Too cute!”
“Both dogs and cats are curious about it. Cute!!”
“I wonder what the Felynes are saying? I love watching these videos but I hope the meows are not bad words in cat language. It sucks not being able to speak it!”

It just goes to show that there are many reasons to play the new Monster Hunter: World, chief among which are the gorgeous graphics and engaging gameplay, but also the cute responses elicited from your pets. However, since cats and expensive TVs don’t really mix, it might just be better to try other ways to inadvertently cause your pets to do funny things, to ensure that you can make it past the character customization phase.

Source: HachimavKiko
Featured image: Twitter/@misogorikun

Japan’s chicken nugget French fry instant ramen will fill you up with two comfort foods at once

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 07:00 AM PST

Cup Noodle maker Nissin continues to push the instant ramen envelope in delicious new ways.

While noodles and broth are really all you need to make ramen, most aficionados would say that you need some sort of meat to really tie everything together. In restaurants, the standard is chashu, strips of thin-sliced pork, but unfortunately chashu is a little too delicate for use in instant ramen.

So instead, instant varieties usually use bits of ground pork. Cup Noodle maker b, though, is always looking for new ways to innovate, like its hit "mystery meat" (which we recently unraveled the true identity of), and now it's come up with yet another way to add meaty goodness to its beloved product line: Cup Noodle Potenage Big.

"Potenage" is a mash up of "potato" and "nagetsu," the Japanese word for "nuggets." In other words, this is ramen with chicken nuggets and sliced French fries, with the latter meant to evoke happy memories of French fries. In a logical decision for something so decadent, it's part of Cup Noodle's extra-large "Big" sub-brand, which comes in 94-gram (3.3-ounce) packages as opposed to the 77 grams of a normal cup of Cup Noodles.

The Potenage's marque ingredients are accompanied by scrambled egg and green onion, with the accompanying soy sauce-based broth heavily seasoned with black pepper. Scheduled to go on sale February 12 for 205 yen (US$1.80), it's both and affordable and time-effective way to satisfy multiple cravings simultaneously, and if it's somehow still not flavorful enough, you can always stir in a dollop of Japan's new fried chicken-flavor rice spread.

Source: Nissin via Narinari via Otakomu
Images: Nissin

Ghibli characters come to life in time-lapse painting of magical My Neighbor Totoro scene 【Video】

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 06:00 AM PST

This talented artist paints a detailed Ghibli movie scene every time a child is born into the family.

It’s always nice to hear about unique family habits and traditions that tie relatives together in profound ways. In Japan, we’ve seen families who live by interesting mottos and others who take pride in unconventional rituals, but for one family in Germany, they have a different way of bonding, and it involves some stunning artwork from Studio Ghibli.

Called “Son of Ghibli” on YouTube, this German-based artist has started up a beautiful family tradition, saying: “Every time a child is born into our family I a paint a scene from “My Neighbour Totoro” (となりのトトロ) as a present for them.

Going by the first painting shared by Son of Ghibli online, these are some lucky children, as the beautiful image created looks exactly like a magical scene from the movie. The time-lapse video of the artwork being created shows just how much work goes into the process.

Take a look at the making of “Totoro in the Tree” below:

The video begins with the initial pencil drawing, which goes from a rough sketch to a more defined image after it’s tidied up with an eraser and some bold lines.

Once the initial drawing is complete, it’s time to give it some colour. Here, the artist uses Nicker poster paints, which are the same paints used by Studio Ghibli artists for their anime artwork.

By gradually building up the colour, the Ghibli scene comes to life, with a variety of brushes used to get the right amount of precision in all the finest details.

The final result is a beautiful painting that not only captures a magical moment from the movie, but also captures the heartfelt sentiment of joy and love from artist to child.

The fascinating journey from sketch to finished painting now has us inspired to take up our own brushes to try our hand at creating a Ghibli masterpiece of our own.

Looking at some of the artwork inspired by the famed animation studio, including a Stranger Things crossover and this Guillermo del Toro Totoro,  there are plenty of ideas out there to help guide us on our artistic journey!

Source: Kotaro Blog
Images: YouTube/Son of Ghibli

Quick-and-easy penis size evaluation technique fascinates Japanese Twitter users

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 05:00 AM PST

Intrigued individuals predict huge spike in Japanese toilet paper consumption.

Since there's really no point in beating around the bush after a headline like that, let's dive right into it. Earlier this week, Japanese Twitter account @urasahou sent out a method for evaluating the size of one's manhood, both in length and girth, without having to use a ruler, tape measure, optical scanning, or any other customary measuring apparatuses.

Instead, all you need is a roll of toilet paper, specifically the paper core at the center.

"We found a chart with an extremely simple way to determine whether you have a big penis or not," tweeted @urasahou, accompanied by the above photos of a penis-substitute sponge being inserted into the toilet paper core.

According to the criteria for length:
● Glans does not protrude from far end of core: Small size
● Two centimeters (0.8 inches) or less of glans protrudes from core: Average size
● Glans protrudes from core: Huge cock
● Entire glans protrudes from core: Irregularly large

And for girth:
● Plenty of room to spare inside the core: Small size
● Snug fit: Average size
● Cannot insert without tearing the core: Giant cock

@urasahou went on to clarify that the test criteria are for use with a standard consumer-sized roll of Japanese toilet paper, and that using a roll meant for commercial use or sale in overseas markets, which could have a different length or diameter, will skew the results. No specific mention of whether the penis is supposed to be erect or not is mentioned, but most such self-evaluations are designed for the member to be at attention.

As to why @urasahou is sharing this information, which has been retweeted tens of thousands of times, the initial charts were accompanied by the suggestion that "If you use this and reevaluate the size of your penis, it's less likely that someone who sleeps with you will then tell other people 'He didn't turn out to be as big as he says he was.'" However, as some online commenters have pointed out, the test is ostensibly meant to be performed after using up all the paper on the roll, so maybe we shouldn't entirely rule out the possibility that this is a secret marketing campaign by Japanese toilet paper manufacturers to boost consumption as men furiously spool off the paper remaining on the roll when they go home tonight in order to satisfy their curiosity.

Source: Twitter/@urasahou via Otakomu
Featured image: @Twitter/@urasahou
Top image: Pakutaso

Taste-testing Japan’s murky, mysterious “bathroom ramen”

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 09:00 PM PST

We're equal parts intrigued and scared as we try this local version of Japan's favorite noodle dish.

Part of the reason Japan has so many ramen restaurants is because the country has so many different kinds of ramen. The primary way to classify ramen is by the broth, and in addition to soy broth ramen restaurants you can find eateries that specialize in miso, tonkotsu (pork stock), and gyokai (fish stock) ramen.

Sometimes those classes even have their own subcategories. For example, in Fukuoka Prefecture tonkotsu broth is the most prevalent, but individual communities further put their own spin on the dish, which brings us to the town of Omuta, at the south tip of the prefecture, where the locals enjoy something that's earned the nickname "benjo ramen," benjo being a coarse Japanese word for "bathroom," sort of like "the John" or "the head" in English.

The name might have you thinking benjo ramen was developed by convicts who made ramen in their prison cells, or perhaps secretly by people in their homes during some sort of ramen prohibition. The truth, though, is that benjo ramen traces its roots to Omuta's coal mining boom following the end of World War II. In 1949, a group of four men from Okayama Prefecture came to Omuta and opened a ramen stand next to the town's main train station. The stand quickly became a popular place for hungry miners to grab a meal, and its legacy is carried on today by the restaurant Kokaen, which makes the same style of ramen and, we'd been told by locals, is the place to go for benjo ramen.

We walked through the door, sat down, and looked at the menu, which simply lists the house noodles as "ramen," with no "benjo" qualifier. At just 500 yen (US$4.50) it's pretty cheap for restaurant ramen, although the order of gyoza (pot stickers) we added was also 500 yen, which is surprisingly expensive for the ordinarily inexpensive ramen accompanying side dish.

After a short wait, the waiter set our bowl of "benjo ramen" down in front of us.

As with most ramen in Fukuoka, Kokaen's ramen has tonkotsu broth. But while tonkotsu broth is often a light tan, or almost milky white color, Kokaen's, though, is a murky, opaque brown that's not too far from being gray. It's also pretty pungent, with an oily aroma, and bubbles of grease on the surface.

But while it might look and smell a little odd, the broth tastes great. As you might expect from a dish originally designed to satisfy off-duty coal miners, it's incredibly flavorful, with a meaty saltiness. The gyoza reflect a similar philosophy, being packed with so much garlic we'd recommend thinking twice about ordering them if you're going to be having an important business meeting or hot date following your meal.

▼ 10 gyoza to an order is a lot more than the six that's the standard at ramen restaurants in Japan, which explains the 500-yen price.

But we still couldn't understand why Kokaen's ramen is called "benjo ramen." Like we said, the menu didn't offer any hints, and we felt too awkward to ask the staff directly. So we finished our noodles, paid the bill, and walked out of the restaurant, which is when things suddenly became clear.

At the end of the building Kokaen is located in, there's a public restroom. Because of this, locals have largely stopped referring to the restaurant by its name, and instead just started calling it "benjo yoko ramen," or "the ramen restaurant next to the restroom." Eventually, that got shortened down to just "benjo ramen," and nowadays there are even plenty of taxi drivers in the town who won't know where you're talking about if you ask them to drive you to "Kokaen," but who know exactly where you want to go if you ask for "benjo ramen."

So don't fear, there aren't any public restroom-sourced ingredients going into your benjo ramen (unlike the coffee at that one shady Starbucks in Hong Kong). Really, the bigger thing to worry about is having enough breath mints on you if you do decide to order the gyoza. And if you're eager to try benjo ramen but want to balance its slightly vulgar name with some classiness elsewhere, you can always ride the fancy new luxury train that goes to Omuta.

Restaurant information
Kokaen / 光華園
Address: Fukuoka-ken, Omuta-shi, Higashi Shinmachi 1-5-15
福岡県大牟田市東新町1−5−15
Open 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
Closed Mondays (or Tuesday if Monday is a holiday)

Photos ©SoraNews24