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Experience the moment the local gods cross a frozen Lake Suwa【Video】

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 07:00 PM PST

Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture is the scene of a curious natural phenomenon which results in ridges of ice erupting out of the frozen surface.

These days, if not for the hot spring monkeysNagano Prefecture may come to mind for its turn as the Winter Olympics host city exactly 20 years ago. Its prefectural area includes the Kiso Mountains, which form part of the range referred to as the “Japanese Alps.” The mountains are in turn the site of Lake Suwa, a destination that has been receiving increased attention as the supposed inspiration for the lake featured in 2016’s animated cultural revolution Your Name.

Speaking of Lake Suwa, there’s an ancient belief revolving around a natural phenomenon that occurs there every winter. When the lake’s surface freezes, pressure ridges form on the ice due to the presence of a natural hot spring beneath its waters. This awe-inspiring sight is known as omiwatari, which can be rendered into English along the lines of “gods’ crossing.” According to local lore, the ridges are actually the pathways of the gods as they travel between the four building complexes of the Suwa Grand Shrine located on opposite sides of the lake.

It’s one thing to read about and another to experience the exact moment when omiwatari occurs with your own eyes. This year, one of those moments was incredibly recorded and uploaded by YouTube user nekonekomyano1. The video has since been spreading over the Internet like, well, a growing crack in thin ice since the end of last month:

▼ The actual moment this particular pressure ridge erupts can be viewed from two angles at 1:10 and 2:16.

Isn’t the foreboding sound of rattling right before the fissures emerge particularly eerie? That must have been quite a lengthy procession of divine spirits!

Interestingly, Japanese net users responded to the video in largely polarizing ways. Some berated the uploader for ignoring the local town’s signs that forbid people from walking on the ice due to changing conditions, while others noted the close proximity of the shore and thanked them for sharing this moment that would otherwise be inaccessible to those in other parts of the country.

For another odd but intriguing view of Nagano’s lakes, check out the frozen waves spotted a bit to the north at Lake Kizaki a few years back.

Source, featured image: YouTube/nekonekomyan01

Japanese confectioner has firm rebuttal to Godiva’s anti-obligation chocolate ad in Japan

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 05:00 PM PST

With Valentine's Day approaching, the Tokyo-based candy company says "You do you, and we'll do us."

Earlier this month, the Japanese division of Belgian chocolate maker Godiva made the very unusual move of publicly pleading with the people of Japan to stop buying so much chocolate. Specifically, the advertisement, with its statement attributed to Godiva Japan president and Parisian native Jerome Chouchan, was taking aim at the practice of giri choco, or "obligation chocolate," in which Japanese women give gifts of chocolate as a platonic thank-you to male coworkers and social associates on Valentine’s Day.

Godiva criticized giri choco as being a burden on Japanese women and encouraged men to vocally disavow any desire for giri choco from their female officemates. But while detractors may deride giri choco as a meaningless gesture and costly hassle, not everyone is so critical. Some Japanese women are quite happy to participate in the established social nicety of giving an edible thank-you gift on February 14 (and to receive a gift in return on White Day, March 14), and so one Japanese confectioner is softly but firmly firing back at Godiva's anti-giri choco campaign.

Black Thunder is a budget line of chocolate filled with cocoa-flavored cookie bits and made by Tokyo-based Yuraku Confectionery. The official Black Thunder Twitter account recently posted the following tweet:

It seems like a lot of people are talking about a certain advertisement('-'*)

You do you, and we'll do us.

Everyone has different ways of thinking, and that's fine. At Yuraku Confectionary, we support the culture of taking an opportunity to say thanks to someone for all the little kindnesses they've shown you, just like we always have.

Tweeted along with the ad is a photo of a Black Thunder sales display, and the bold text written along the front of the stand states:

Chocolate that you can immediately tell is giri choco.

See, while Black Thunder is tasty, it's also incredibly cheap, selling for less than 100 yen (US$0.90) a piece. Just about everyone likes its balanced, straightforward sweet taste, and you can buy it in pretty much every convenience store and supermarket in Japan, so it's not like it requires a special shopping trip to some fancy chocolatier with only one location in the entire greater Tokyo area.

In other words, it's basically the perfect giri choco, and it even has the added bonus of being so remarkably unpretentious that there's no way anyone will misinterpret it as a declaration of true love.

▼ Black Thunder

As a matter of fact, Black Thunder has embraced its image as absolutely nothing more (or less) meaningful than giri choco for some time now. In 2015, the brand even put up a large-scale advertisement in Shinjuku Station's underground walkway, one of the most coveted advertising spaces in Japan.

▼ "Chocolate that you can immediately tell is giri choco."

Black Thunder's latest reaffirmation of its support of, and usefulness as, giri choco was warmly received by Japanese Twitter users, who commented:

"It's like Godiva is saying 'Hey, don't run yourself ragged over something like giri choco,' while Black Thunder is saying 'If you're having trouble picking out giri choco, we've got just the thing.'"

"I like Black Thunder's elegant, down-to-earth way of thinking."

"I love when they run their giri choco ads."

"Black Thunder is chocolate that won't cause any misunderstandings."

"No one gives Godiva as giri choco anyway, so it's like Godiva is butting in to show off and say 'See how great we are for understanding your plight?'"

While we won't know how extensive, if any, an influence Godiva's ad has had until Valentine's Day comes, there's virtually no chance that the high-end confectioner's criticism is going to completely eliminate the practice of giri choco. And for all those who choose to say thanks in that way, Black Thunder will be there to lend a hand.

Featured image: Twitter/@Black_Thunder_
Top image: Wikipedia/Ronjones
Insert image: Wikipedia/Boneyard90

Ranma 1/2’s creator and voice cast stars stop by the Ranma 1/2 Cafe in Tokyo【Photos】

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 09:30 AM PST

Rumiko Takahashi, Hayashibara Megumi, and others who were part of the iconic anime/manga hit reunite for an incredible meal.

In January, the Ranma 1/2 Cafe opened in Tokyo, celebrating the one of the most popular and influential anime/manga franchises of all time. As part of my continuing quest to document as much anime-themed food as possible for SoraNews24, I made a point of going on opening day, as did tons of other fans who contributed to the six-hour wait for a table (which was entirely worth it, because the cafe is awesome).

But really, we all should have waited about one month from the restaurant's January 7 opening. Why? Because on February 8, series creator Rumiko Takahashi stopped by the eatery, as did a number of the principal members of the anime's voice cast.

Pictured in the back row of the above photo, from left to right, are Megumi Hayashibara (female voice of main character Ranma), Noriko Hidaka (voice of female lead Akane), Kappei Yamaguchi (male voice of Ranma), Rei Sakuma (voice of Shampoo), and Naoko Matsui (voice of Azusa). Seated in the front row are Ryusuke Obayashi (voice of Akane's father Soun), Rumiko Takahashi, and Kenichi Ogata (voice of Ranma's father Genma).

▼ Yamaguchi and Noriko recreate the poses of their characters from the next panel from the manga sequence shown in the illustrations on the wall behind them.

Aside from being a heaping spoonful of nostalgia, the group photo is also an extremely impressive gathering of anime voice talent, as Ranma 1/2 is just one of many impressive credits the performers can claim on their credits. Hayashibara is arguably anime's most prolifically successful voice actress, famous for her roles as Evangelion's Rei and Slayers' Lina, and Yamaguchi went on to voice the titular roguish hero of Inuyasha, another Takahashi-created mega-hit. Hidaka is best known in Japan for voicing Minami, female lead of iconic baseball anime Touch, while fans of Studio Ghibli would recognize Sakuma as the voice of little witch Kiki's familiar black cat Jiji in Kiki's Delivery Service.

▼ Sakuma poses with a delivery box from the Cat Cafe, the in-anime restaurant where Shampoo works as a waitress, which the real-life Ranma 1/2 Cafe serves its ramen in.

▼ Hidaka flashes a smile as Akane looks decidedly less cheerful about her sudden, inadvertent haircut.

Instagram Photo

▼ Hidaka and Yamaguchi model the Ranma 1/2 Yokosuka jackets from the adjacent (and awesome) gift shop.

▼ Azusa may not have played as big a part in the anime's story as some of the other characters, but Matsui's performance as the eminently energized figure skater always commanded attention.

▼ Ogata's spartan cosplay as his character's panda form.

Some key members of the voice cast weren't present, including Tsuru Hiromi (voice of Ukyo, Ranma's second fiance), who sadly and suddenly passed away last November. Still, this was a gathering of anime luminaries who've left an indelible mark on the industry, and so, fittingly, they signed their autographs on the cafe wall.

The Ranma 1/2 Cafe will be open until February 25, so if you want to see the signatures, don't delay.

Featured image: Twitter/@nonko_hidaka531

Survey reveals Japanese men really want home-made chocolate, but are women willing to make it?

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 07:00 AM PST

In Japan, women give chocolate to men on Valentine's Day, but are guys going to get what they really want?

With Valentine's Day almost here, many of Tokyo's department stores had special chocolate fairs last week, with dozens of confectioners setting up booths to pass out samples and sell their wares. Walking through one of them and munching on sweets, I was happy for the opportunity to take advantage of my full-grown-adult-freedom to spoil my appetite, but I couldn't help but find something a little ironic.

In Japan, the custom is for women to give chocolate to men on Valentine's Day. But while all those fancy store-bought varieties from domestic and overseas chocolatiers were tasty, personally I don't really think anything can compare to the joy of receiving home-made chocolate from a girl you've got a crush on.

Shining further light on this gap is a survey by IBJ, a Japanese company that specializes in matchmaking services for singles thinking about marriage. IBJ polled 2,594 unmarried people over the age of 20 (1,493 women and 1,072 men) about their Valentine's Day chocolate plans and preferences. When asked what kind of chocolate they'd be giving year, the vast majority of the women, 75,8 percent, said they'd be giving store-bought varieties, with just 24.2 percent going to the trouble of making, and giving, home-made sweets.

Meanwhile, the men were asked which they'd be happier to receive, and their responses were almost the complete opposite. 69.5 percent of men said they'd be happier home-made chocolate, with only 16.9 percent hoping for store-bought and the remainder indifferent.

However, the divide between the sexes might not be quite as wide as the numbers initially suggest. Just about all women in Japan give what's called giri choco ("obligation chocolate") as a platonic means of saying thank-you to male coworkers, friends, and social acquaintances. Giri choco is almost always of the store-bought variety, while home-made chocolate more often implies romantic feelings, or at least an attraction.

Taking that into consideration, at least some of the 75.8 percent of women who're planning to give store-bought chocolate simply aren't in a relationship that warrants giving home-made chocolate at the moment. On the other hand, the men in the survey were asked a hypothetical question about what sort of chocolate they'd prefer, and given that receiving home-made chocolate often implies that a girl is at least sort of into you, it's no surprise that 69.5 percent of the single men who were polled would like to know there's a girl out there with feelings for them.

The survey had one more Valentine's Day question for the guys. For years, Japanese men who received chocolate on Valentine's Day have given a gift in return on March 14, which is called White Day in Japan. In recent years, though, a small subset of guys in Japan have started a trend of "reverse chocolate" by giving sweets to women on Valentine's Day. While such men are still a definite minority in the population, 16.9 percent of the male survey participants said they've given reverse chocolate. No word on whether they were hand-made or not, though.

Source: PR Times
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)

Beautiful Japanese cosplayer reveals how she earns well over a thousand dollars in a single hour

Posted: 12 Feb 2018 05:00 AM PST

Enako continues to make jaws drop not just with her gorgeous appearance, but also with her amazing economic powers.

Between her good looks and perfectly recreated outfits, Japanese cosplayer Enako is used to having a lot of eyes on her. The 24-year-old got an extra dose of attention two years ago, though, when she revealed that she was not only incredibly popular, but incredibly wealthy, regularly earning more than one million yen (US$9,090) a month.

▼ Enako

Cosplay is a hard field to stay at the top of, however. There's a mercilessly high premium placed on youth, and spending your professional life transforming into fictional characters can make it tough to establish your own identity, which in turn makes it difficult to build lasting loyalty within a fanbase that's constantly being tempted by fresh-faced newcomers.

But Enako has managed to keep her adoring fans in thrall, as evidenced by an interview she recently gave on variety TV program Downtown DX.

While talking with the hosts, Enako revealed that when she shows up as a spokesmodel at booths selling merchandise at anime or other otaku-oriented events, lines of up to 1,000 customers form, and her public photo modeling sessions have attracted up to 500 photographers. But the most startling numbers are the ones related to her monthly and hourly income. In December of last year, Enako claims she pulled in more than 10 million yen (US$90,900) from her various cosplay activities.

▼ So, truth be told, she can probably afford to eat at fancier sushi restaurants than this inexpensive conveyer belt joint.

Granted, December was likely an especially good month for Enako's bank balance, owing to it being the month when the winter iteration of Comiket, Japan's largest otaku gathering, takes place at Tokyo Big Sight convention center. Enako's popularity is such that her cosplaying these days stems from direct requests from anime and video game companies to promote their products, and so her services are especially in-demand by organizations wanting to stand out on the crowded Comiket floor.

That's not to say Enako is just lazing about now that Comiket is over, though. This month she's already streamed two live video chat sessions through app Live.me.

During the chats, patrons of the otaku arts in the audience can make donations to Enako, and thanks to their generosity, Enako says she can earn up to 200,000 yen (US$1,818) an hour from her Live.me ventures.

And then there's the money Enako earns through personal merchandising, such as the full-size huggy pillow cover featuring her likeness that recently went on sale.

Still, before you start ditching school or blowing off homework to put extra hours into your cosplay outfit for the next local anime convention, it's worth remembering that while cosplay definitely gives Enako a hook, she's also photogenic enough that she could likely land work as a mainstream model too.

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

There's also the looming question of whether she'll continue to enjoy the same sort of enthusiastic support from fans once she gets into her late 20s and 30s, at which point she'll be double the age of the teen characters that make up such a large proportion of anime and video game characters. For at least a little more, though, it looks like we're going to keep seeing plenty of Enako.

Source: Nico Nico News via Jin
Featured image: Twitter/@enako_cos

Twitter user shares stupidly simple lifehack for eating Japanese snacks

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 11:00 PM PST

We hate to break it to you, but you’ve been eating bags of chips wrong your whole life

Every now and then we at SoraNews 24 like to provide our dear readers with a healthy dose of cruel reality to make sure you’re not embarrassing yourselves in front of company during culinary situations. Previous tips we’ve shared involve things that you’ve most likely been doing wrong this whole time, whether it’s eating sushi or removing the sticky wrapper from packets of natto (if you can eat fermented soybeans in the first place!). But rest assured, brilliant readers, because these little faux pas aren’t actually as big a deal as we’re making them out to be–half the time Japanese people are in the exact same boat!

Today, we’d like to share with you another extremely simple yet ingenious lifehack for eating potato chips in Japan that’s quick and efficient (though we’d have to guess that it could apply anywhere, and with more than just chips). Originally shared by Twitter user @KTA009, the tip has already garnered over 183,000 likes on Twitter in just a few days.

In @KTA009’s sample photos, he demonstrates the strategy using a regular bag of Calbee potato chips. Calbee is one of the biggest producers of snack foods in Japan and is known for their daring potato chip inventions (or monstrosities, depending on how you view it), including “pizza potato,” “wet chips,” and “funazushi” (aka smelly fermented sushi flavor, for all intents and purposes).

Check out his tip and simple instructions below:

 ▼ “Whoever thought up this way of opening the bag is a genius.”

“1. Open the top of the bag.
2. Without opening the bottom edge, fold it inward and upward at the center.
3. Continue folding while gently pushing the bag’s contents upward so that both sides are of equal length.

You don’t need a plate. It’s easy for everyone to grab the chips. The bag is very stable. In other words, it’s pretty perfect.”

While it’s unclear whether the Calbee potato chip bags are actually made to be used in this manner and most of us have just been snoozing this entire time, a whole slew of net users were positively awed by this nugget of wisdom. After all, why eat chips in the “old-fashioned” way of reaching inside a bag laying on the table and risk more fingers than necessary accidentally brushing against smelly sushi seasoning?

Source, featured image: Twitter/@KTA009

Japanese senior stabs younger man multiple times after seeing him sit in train’s priority seat

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 09:00 PM PST

Seats are generally reserved for elderly and disabled passengers.

The seats at the corners of the carriages on Japanese trains and subways are designated as "priority seats" for the benefit of elderly, physically disabled, and pregnant passengers. But though passengers outside those demographics who are sitting in the priority seats are asked to give up their spot should someone in greater of need come along, they're not forbidden from sitting in them, nor is their any penalty for non-compliance, as the system generally relies on polite courtesy between passengers.

However, such civility broke down in a startling way on the morning of February 7 on the Kanjo Line in Osaka. 62-year-old Motokazu Koizumi spotted a 34-year-old man (whose name has been withheld), who was on his way to work, sitting in a priority seat. This wasn't the first time Koizumi had crossed paths with the man, either, as on a previous day they'd gotten into verbal altercation on the train while Koizumi was on his way home from working night shift.

Koizumi says "I was angry that he was sitting in the priority seat [on February 7]," so when the train reached Taisho Station at roughly 6:50 a.m. and the younger man stood up to exit the train, Koizumi stabbed him multiple times in the stomach with a fruit knife, inflicting serious, though thankfully non-fatal, wounds. Koizumi then fled the scene, though security footage showed him making his escape following the attack. No statement has been made in regards to whether or not the victim, in spite of his young age, had some sort of not-visually-apparent condition that prompted him to sit down in a priority seat.

The following day, Koizumi, who lives in Osaka's Taisho Ward, contacted the authorities and turned himself in. "It was only a matter of time until they figured out I was the one who did it," Koizumi said, "but I had to work, so I couldn't turn myself in right away."

Koizumi was subsequently placed under arrested for attempted murder. The incident underscores the need to be cautious and aware of your surroundings, even in ordinarily safe Japan, and also, even in the unlikely event that you believe you'd be morally justified in committing assault with a deadly weapon, to consider carefully the full ramifications such actions will have on your work schedule.

Sources: Shirabee via Jin, Sanspo, NHK News Web
Top image: Pakutaso