- 【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】Yodobashi Camera offers up a tablet box of techie dreams
- Why right now is one of the best times of the year to shop for dojinshi manga and merch in Japan
- 【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】Akihabara Junk Shop Lucky Bags: Now with less junk!
- At what age should parents stop giving kids New Year’s otoshidama money? Japanese netizens answer
- Japanese idol singer reveals that she’s pregnant with her manager’s baby
- Temple bell tolling on Japanese New Year’s Eve gets rid of evil desires, but not complaints
- Chopstick anxiety: Painfully shy Japanese diners struggle with communal restaurant containers
- Japanese Twitter reacts to Logan Paul’s “Japanese Suicide Forest” video
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 07:00 PM PST
Popular retail chain Yodobashi Camera sets the bar high with their “Tablet Computer Dreams i” New Year’s gift box.
Yodobashi Camera is the ultimate haven for lovers of electronics, big and small. Just walking past its shelves jam-packed with the latest and greatest in merchandise is enough to turn any modern techie into a sniveling, bright-eyed kid on Christmas morning again. Even its company president has been known to get in on the electronics fun by buying the only camera to go to the moon and back.
Our Japanese-language reporter K. Nagahashi is also a huge fan of the chain. This year he was determined to get his hands on one of the store’s coveted New Year’s gift boxes (their name for the ubiquitous “lucky bags” we’ve been covering this week). Since he lives on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Nagahashi set out for his local branch, Yodobashi Camera Multimedia Sapporo, and was shocked upon arrival to discover that more than 80 people had already lined up by 2:50 am on New Year’s Day. Apparently the below-freezing temperature and the fact that the sky was threatening to snow couldn’t deter any of the early birds who wanted to enter the store right at 8:30 am.
He soon realized that staff were handing out ticket vouchers to customers in their order of arrival. Nagahashi’s number-one hope was to get the fabled and difficult to obtain “Tablet Computer Dreams i” gift box, an annual offering which costs 30,000 yen (US$267). For a short time all he could do was anxiously wait to see if he had made it in time.
His turn finally came and he voiced his desire to the staff member. Success–there were still tickets left! The gift box was officially his. Suddenly waiting in the freezing cold until the store’s opening hour became a lot more bearable.
We won’t dwell on that time, so let’s fast-forward to the moment when he at last received his prize. He eagerly rushed home to break out the contents, and was ecstatic to check out all of the loot.
Here’s what he found (note that the contents may vary slightly from person to person):
▼Left to right: iPad, tissues, protective film, case
More than anything, Nagahashi was delighted to have received the brand-new iPad. A quick online check revealed that the retail price for the same model is 40,824 yen, so the gift box resulted in huge savings for him–and that’s not even counting the bundled goodies. Speaking of which, at first he was a bit hesitant about the case and protective film since they were advertised for a different model, but there was absolutely no problem with size once he tried them out.
If you’re a big Apple fan and don’t particularly care about specs or colors, but just want a new tablet with iOS, then the Yodobashi “Tablet Computer Dreams i” gift box is a tempting roll of the dice. Nagahashi encourages you to keep it in mind for next year!
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 05:00 PM PST
Lucky bags always make January a great time to go shopping in Japan, but it's the prime dojinshi-buying time for a very different reason.
As he does at the start of every new year, our resident anime fan, Seiji, made a trip to a branch of mega-retailer Animate to pick up one of the chain's lucky bags (also called fukubukuro) filled with anime trinkets. But even with more than 70 pieces of merch inside, the otaku-shaped hole in Seiji's heart still wasn't completely full.
So next, Seiji resolved to get his hands on a lucky bag from Tora no Ana, which specializes in dojinshi, or independently published manga. So imagine how heartbroken he was when he called up the chain's Akihabara A branch in late December, only to have the employee on the other end of the phone tell him that Tora no Ana doesn't do lucky bags.
But then something strange happened. After stopping by Kanda Shrine (pictured above and located on the outskirts of Akihabara) to say a New Year's prayer early in the morning on January 1, Seiji took a stroll through Akihabara, and was surprised to see a long line outside Tora no Ana, even though the store wouldn't be opening for another hour. Guessing that Tora no Ana had decided to sell fukubukuro at the last minute, he took up a position at the back of the queue, which continued to grow and numbered about 100 people before the doors opened at 8 a.m., two hours earlier than usual for the store.
Since Tora no Ana's Akihabara A branch has eight floors of merchandise (including one below ground), Seiji figured he'd save himself a lot of walking up stairs by checking the directory to see where they were selling the lucky bags. But even after he carefully read the listings for each floor, he couldn't find any mention of fukubukuro.
So finally he gave up and asked a salesperson where the fukubukuro were, and got the same answer he'd gotten over the phone: Tora no Ana doesn't sell any fukubukuro.
So why was there such a big crowd? Because the last day of Winter Comiket, the massive dojinshi fan and creator gathering that takes place in Tokyo, is December 31. Since dojinshi comics and memorabilia are produced in small batches and sold by the producers exclusively at Comiket, January 1 is the first day that the new and coveted dojin items are available only through the second-hand market, such as Tora no Ana.
So while Seiji didn't get to buy a lucky bag, he was fortunate to be able to get an early crack at dojinshi comics that are going to become increasingly rare from here on out, and with the first post-Comiket weekend coming up, now is the time to hit up Tora no Ana if you couldn't make it to Comiket but still want some special piece of merch.
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:30 AM PST
Mr. Sato once again tempts fate with two mystery grab bags of outdated electronics.
Every year our reporter Mr. Sato likes to forego the big name lucky bags with their predetermined goods that are even advertised on the store’s website months in advance. Instead he prefers the purity of Akihabara junk shops.
▼ It’s the glitz and the glamour that keeps him coming back for more.
These are dealers who specialize in things no other electronics retailer offers, like Atari Jaguar controllers or electronic dictionaries that don’t work but are full of parts for some industrious hacker to harvest.
And for New Year’s Day they reliably put the “luck” back in lucky bags by selling sealed paper sacks with very little indication of what’s inside. It always sets Mr. Sato’s gambling spirit ablaze and even though his previous attempts have resulted in a total of about 30 kilos (66 pounds) of useless junk such as four pairs of “Music Innerphones” and two copies of “Mega-Class Internet Speed CD ROM,” he still yearns for the thrill of it all.
This will be our writer’s third time out. In 2016 he purchased a 2,000-yen (US$18) and 3,000-yen ($27) bag, receiving a slew of outdated iPhone cases and chargers. 2017 came with 3,000-yen ($27) and 6,000-yen ($53) bags, but it turned out to be literally just more of the same.
▼ “2016’s garbage”
▼ “2017”s garbage”
For 2018, the same shop had bags on sale for 3,000 yen ($27) and 7,000 yen ($62). However, something wasn’t quite right. In previous years the junk bags were so heavy that they blew out Mr. Sato’s arms by the time he got them back to the office, but this year they were unusually light.
Mr. Sato had even prepared a luggage carrier this time just in case, but ended up just looking silly.
Even after he got home and took an initial peek, his heart sank. This year’s haul looked pitifully small compared to last years bounty of useless crap…
Mr. Sato slowly took out each item and summed up his haul.
Akihabara junk shop 3,000-yen lucky bag
In addition to Mr. Sato’s usual income of outmoded gear, there was a fully functional DVD player! Its only flaw appeared to be that it was missing a remote control, but otherwise it was in quite good condition. This certainly seems to say a lot about the status of DVDs in today’s society.
The digital camera didn’t work at all, but at least Mr. Sato could huck it against a wall, just to see what that’d be like.
Despite the inclusion of a somewhat useful piece of electronics, Mr. Sato felt rather disappointed. Even though it had all been completely useless stuff before, this year he felt robbed of the excitement of scrounging through the sheer volume of it all to find a diamond in the rough.
Luckily, there was still the 7,000-yen bag…
Akihabara junk shop 7,000-yen lucky bag
Now this was more like it! The SCSI cables were especially a nice touch of nostalgia.
And a junk shop lucky bag just wouldn’t be complete without a ridiculous number of obsolete iPhone cases, and they really outdid themselves this year with the Sony Walkman 2012 cases too!
The buzzer alarm is just the thing to give Mr. Sato’s home that family-run convenience store feel it needs.
The USB 2.0 cables still have their use in this day and age, and with the included adapters they’re that much handier!
And with all these extra phone converter thingies, Mr. Sato can finally create his ungodly mobile-phone-centipede.
Mr. Sato’s got a kick out of these little cleaners shaped like memory cards to clean the slots too. He’ll probably never be bothered to actually use them, but still…
And now that he has two working DVD players, he can finally see if Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon really does sync up with The Wizard of OZ. Moreover, this one came with a remote – hot dog!
The laptop was an Acer TimeLineX model from five years ago and didn’t come with an adapter. He could always try that thing online where people bake their laptops in the oven to bring it back to life.
As he looked at its lifeless screen, he wondered what treasures are still written on its hard drive. It was a thought that both intrigued and terrified Mr. Sato as he tried to remember the fate of all his old laptops.
And finally this adapter with no markings or cables whatsoever… Well, it’s just heavy enough to be useful at repelling attackers.
And so, despite a little suspense, Mr. Sato ended up happy with this year’s Akihabara junk shop roulette. If you’d like to partake too, just remember that the fun crap is all in the 7,000 yen bag this year!
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 08:00 AM PST
It turns out these envelopes of money can be quite controversial.
Otoshidama are gifts of money that children in Japan get from their parents, grandparents, and other relatives on New Year’s.
I’d always thought that otoshidama were only given to little kids, maybe up to high school. But the first year I spent New Year’s with a Japanese family, I was surprised to see the grandparents gave otoshidama not only to their young grandchildren, but their adult children as well (who were 40 or 50 years old).
So at what age should kids stop expecting to get otoshidama from their family? The question was recently asked on the Japanese question and answer site Oshiete! goo, with Japanese netizen tom_world_312 asking this:
▼ Translated further: “So how long can I keep counting
Here’s some of the answers translated into English, of which there was a surprising amount of variety:
For many netizens, it seems like school graduation also meant “graduation” from otoshidama as well. The youngest was elementary school, but high school and college graduations also brought the end of otoshidama for others.
This group seemed to feel that becoming an adult (age 20 in Japan) and getting a job signaled the end of otoshidama. Not too different from the last group, but the difference between losing otoshidama in middle school/high school and college graduation is several years. For a country that likes to have most everyone following the same cultural rules and guidelines, that’s quite a gap.
It seems that this group sees otoshidama more like presents. They’re something that kids can give to their parents too when they get old enough, and they’re something that you should still accept with a smile at any age, even if you think you’re too old.
▼ “Thanks, grandma. Yeah, I’ll use it
In the end, it looks like most Japanese people agree that otoshidama stops around late teens/early twenties. Of course there are outliers, like those in the last group or the family I visited where the middle-aged “kids” still got them, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.
Maybe that makes otoshidama similar to Easter baskets in the U.S. — a little embarrassing to get when you’re older, and not something you particular miss when they go away. And then, later in life, maybe something you’d put together for your parents to make them happy and remember good times.
Unless, of course, your parents gave you otoshidama made up of one-yen coins. No good times ever came from that.
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 07:00 AM PST
18-year-old’s two-year relationship has angry fans calling the development a "betrayal."
Generally speaking, most idol singer managers in Japan would just as soon their performers not have any love life at all. Anti-dating clauses are often explicitly written into singers’ contracts, and even when they're not, there's usually an unspoken understanding that any scent of an idol being involved romantically with a guy will damage the specific image of virginal beauty that gets hard-core idol fans to open their wallets extra-wide.
However, 18-year-old idol singer Asuka Kiraboshi recently revealed that not only has she been in a relationship for the past two years, but that she's now pregnant, and that the father is her 22-year-old manager. Kiraboshi, a member of relatively unknown idol group Star-Bright until last October, broke the news through her Twitter account and official blog, saying:
▼ Asuka Kiraboshi
However, the news prompted several angry responses from fans, or at least people who had been fans up until they learned of the pregnancy. Online reactions included:
Kiraboshi's manager, however, has said that he intends to continue representing the singer. Both Kirabaoshi and her manager also apologized for any trouble they have caused, with the manager going so far as to say "What I did was a betrayal of the people who have supported [Kiraboshi], and I realize I have done something I shouldn't have."
Some fans some seemed able to take the development more or less in stride, reacting to the news with:
Other fans' anger simply can't be placated, though, such as the one who, using questionable logic, fired off the comment:
Eventually, the vitriol got to be enough that Kiraboshi herself started, gently, fighting back, tweeting "A lot of people have been calling me ugly or uncute, or that I'm a bad singer. If you have a complaint, please come to my next concert," and "If you have a complaint, let's talk about it face-to-face."
Despite the word "betrayal" being bandied about, Kiraboshi's pregnancy doesn't seem to be the result of a commitment-less fling. In addition to the couple having been romantically involved for the past two years, she says they had discussed their mutual desire to have a baby. The manager also posted a message on the singer's blog saying that "While I want to apologize to her fans, I also feel happy [about becoming a father]…Taking everyone's opinions into account, I will devote myself to becoming the world's best manager and father." Kiraboshi has also said that while she and her baby's father have yet to set a date, they plan to register their marriage "once things settle down."
Posted: 04 Jan 2018 05:00 AM PST
No matter how much good it brings, the sound of a humongous bell struck 108 times might be too much for some people.
The passing of a year here in Japan is marked by the annual ringing of temple bells, one of many buddhist traditions practiced in Japan. The bell is rung a whopping 108 times in total during the ceremony, with the last strike ushering in a new year.
It's believed that humans harbor 108 worldly desires, such as anger, suspicion and lust, that prevent us from achieving ultimate happiness. Each strike on the temple bell removes an evil desire, and so we enter the new year with a clean slate.
▼ It's "New Game +" every year in Japan.
Given the proximity of some of these bells to residential areas, though, some locals seem to have had enough of the ruckus caused by the ceremony. Although few complaints are filed every year, their impact is enough to have pushed certain temples into ceasing the annual practice entirely.
One example is the bell in Senju-in Temple in Koganei, western Tokyo, which has been sitting quietly for the past four years.
▼ Perhaps the bells aren't working as intended,
It's not as if the bells are being struck continuously by a DJ on crack; there's plenty of silence and downtime between strikes. It'd be a different story if the bells emit annoying high-pitched sounds, but they're really low and deep, and, in many people’s opinions, not at all disruptive.
▼ Here's a New Year's Eve bell ringing ceremony at Chion-in, Kyoto, for reference.
Japanese netizens voiced dissatisfaction over the complaints, with many appalled to see their fellow countrymen objecting against a deep-seated tradition:
Perhaps the bell tolling is a nightmare of an event for a few Japanese, but it's really depressing to witness a ceremony held with nothing but good intentions get snuffed out of existence. We can’t rule out the possibility that it’ll eventually evolve into a silent affair of 108 imaginary strikes. After all, there's already a silent disco out there.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 11:00 PM PST
At inexpensive Japanese restaurants, the chopstick container might be in front of another customer, which is a tension-filled dilemma for some.
In a lot of casual restaurants, such as ramen or beef bowl joints, almost all the seating is at a counter. There might be a table or two stuck in the corner, but the vast majority of customers will take a seat along the counter, and it's pretty much where all single diners are expected to sit.
The reason why is simple: counters take up less space, and having strangers sit next to each other means that there are no wasted, empty seats. For further efficiency, restaurants usually leave a few container full of chopsticks on the counter, along with pitchers of water and condiments, so that customers can grab whatever they need.
▼ Interior of a branch of Yoshinoya, Japan's most popular beef bowl chain
But as you can see in the photo above, there isn't a chopstick station set up in front of each and every seat. If there’s not one in front of you, you're supposed to reach over and grab a pair from the closest container, but for a subset of Japanese diners, this is easier said than done, because they feel anxious or awkward about reaching in front of another diner who's a complete stranger.
As an extreme example, a user of Japanese Internet forum 2channel recently posted that he went into a beef bowl restaurant, placed his order, and then, once his meal came, noticed that the chopstick container was in front of the person sitting next to him. "I've been sitting here for 15 minutes," he wrote, unable to bring himself to procure a set of eating utensils. "My food's cold now…"
A number of other commenters chimed in to say they feel similar disease in such a situation. "I totally know what you mean. I get nervous enough talking to the restaurant staff," said one. Another added "I'm OK getting chopsticks, because you have to have those to eat, but I always hesitate to take the condiments if they're not right in front of me."
Something that likely exacerbates the anxiety is that at many casual Japanese restaurants, ordering is done by purchasing a meal ticket from a vending machine at the entrance. You then hand the ticket to the waiter or cook, with no need for any verbal, and only the bare minimum interpersonal, interaction. Diners who're painfully shy are likely to gravitate to such establishments, and for them the hurdle of entering another customer's line of sight no doubt feels especially high.
It should be noted, though, that most Japanese people don't have any problem grabbing what they need. "It's a lot bigger nuisance to just sit there without eating and weirding everyone out," remarked one commenter.
In any case, know that the unwritten but commonly followed etiquette is simply to say "sumimasen" or "shitsurei shimasu" (both of which translate as "excuse me") as you reach for the chopsticks or whatever else you need from that common-use section of the counter, and if anyone gets upset at you for it, Japanese society considers him to be the rude one. And should you happen to notice the person next to you sitting there idly and staring at the chopstick container in front of you, you can always throw him a bone by gesturing towards the utensils and saying "dozo" ("please, go ahead") to make extra sure he knows you don't mind his reach.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 09:00 PM PST
Video showing body of man who committed suicide in Aokigahara forest was only up for a day, but the backlash is likely to last much longer.
During a visit to Japan, American vlogger Logan Paul and his crew had a plan to camp overnight in Aokigahara, a lush forest that spreads out from the base of Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture. However, while Aokigahara is trying to establish itself as a sightseeing destination for nature lovers, its primary image is as one of the most common spots for suicide in Japan.
While hiking through the woods, Paul came across the hanging body of a man who had apparently committed suicide, and while he did blur the man's face, he uploaded a video showing the body to YouTube on December 31, giving it the title "We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…"
▼ Clips from the now-deleted YouTube video (the body is not shown)
The video quickly racked up millions of views, but also drew heavy criticism, prompting Paul to take it down on January 1, and issue a pair of apologies, one written and one in video form, on January 2.
The now-deleted Aokigahara video was not monetized, and began with a message imploring those considering suicide to seek help. "I didn't do it for the views," Paul says of the video in his written apology. "I intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention." However, those sentiments don't seem to mesh with some of the Aokigahara video's content, such as when Paul chuckles and asks “What, you never stand next to a dead guy?” when one of his travel companions says he "doesn't feel good" after discovering the body.
Also odd are Paul's in-video statements that "this was supposed to be a fun vlog" and "we came here with an intent to focus on the haunted aspect of the forest, this just became very real and obviously a lot of people are going through a lot of s— in their lives." While finding a dead body doesn't seem to have been part of the initial plan for the video, nor something Paul seems to have expected would actually happen, the bare-minimum amount of prior research required to find out that Aokigahara is a scary place will also reveal that suicides continue to happen frequently within the forest, and implying that the issue just became "real" once you actually stumble upon a dead body is pretty tone-deaf, as is walking into the area expecting to make a "fun" video that plays off the area's ongoing status as a place where distraught individuals choose to end their lives.
Perhaps because the video was both uploaded and deleted during Japan's New Year's holiday period, or maybe because of Paul's considerably lower level of fame in Japan than in the west, the incident hasn't attracted quite as large-scale a backlash as it has in English-speaking circles. Nevertheless, Japanese Twitter users who are talking about it don't have much in the way of kind words for Paul (translations appear below each tweet).
While the criticism of Paul's actions has been near-universal on Japanese Twitter, it's worth noting that even some people in Japan have a dark fascination with Aokigahara, and at least one commenter pointed out that Japanese media isn't uniformly above sensationalizing suicide or death.
However, another commenter argued that even when Japanese organizations cover Aokigahara, there's at least a veneer of gravity in the way the information is presented.
Following the reaction from his Aokigahara video, Paul does seem to be showing genuine contrition, judging from some of his words in his video apology.
"I made a severe and continuous lapse in my judgement, and I don't expect to be forgiven," he says, adding "None of us knew how to react or how to feel. I should have never posted the video. I should have put the cameras down." He then goes on to apologize to viewers, those suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, and "most importantly… the victim and his family." He even goes so far as to say "For my fans who are defending my actions, please don't. They do not deserve to be defended," but it's likely that those who find his actions unforgivable no longer are, or never will become, fans of his.
If you or someone you know is in Japan and having suicidal thoughts, there are people here to help. Click here for more info.
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