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Kyoto-made green tea-infused coffee combines Japan’s two favorite relaxing beverages

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 07:00 PM PST

Why choose between coffee and Japanese green tea when you can have both in one cup?

Coffee and green tea fill similar roles in Japan. They're both drunk as morning eye-openers, excuses for mid-workday breaks, and to cap off satisfying meals.

So it's usually an either/or sort of question as to which to drink. Unless, that is, you're talking about the hybrid beverages from Nagi Kyoto.

Nagi Kyoto takes green tea leaves from Kyoto's Uji, one of Japan's most respected tea-growing communities, and grinds them together with internationally-sourced coffee beans roasted in Kyoto's Nishijin district. When brewed, the mixture combines the qualities of coffee and tea for a uniquely satisfying blend.

Four varieties are offered, starting with Houji, a relaxing and fragrant mix of hojicha (roasted green tea) and medium-roasted coffee. Sen combines sencha, an early-harvest, comparatively sweet variety of green tea, with a tart, light-roasted coffee.

Ban is a fusion of late-harvest bancha tea leaves and coarse-ground coffee. Finally, Mugi blends decaffeinated coffee with mugicha (barley tea) from Kochi Prefecture (the only non-Kyoto tea in Nagi Kyoto's lineup).

Nagi Kyoto sells its wares through its online store here, with prices starting at 250 yen (US$2.30) for non-organic drip bags and topping out at 1,700 yen for 100-gram (3.5-ounce) bags of bean/leaf mixes that use organic tea. If you'd prefer to have someone brew them for you, Chiba Prefecture's Hotel Nikko Narita will be offering the Houji and Sen blends in its lobby-area coffee lounge (500 yen for short sizes, 600 yen for a tall) from March 1 to April 30, which should make for a great way to relax and refresh yourself after a visit to Narita's beautiful temple and garden complex, or on your way to or from Narita Airport.

Related: Hotel Nikko Narita
Source: PR Times
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: Nagi Kyoto

Puma teams up with Hello Kitty in Japan for limited edition sneakers and sportswear

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 06:13 PM PST

Hello Kitty swaps her cute image for some cool street cred.

In the past, we’ve seen some good-looking limited-edition kicks on the streets of Japan, from big name players like Reebok, Converse and Nike. Now Puma is joining the fray with a red-and-white themed collection, paying homage to one of Japan’s most popular characters: Hello Kitty.

At the centre of the collection is a pair of cool kicks, created to mark the 50th anniversary of the Puma Suede, which first appeared on the market back in 1968. Hello Kitty, who recently celebrated her 40th birthday in 2014, is on her way to turning 50 herself, and is such an icon of pop culture that Puma was keen to get her on board with their new collaboration.

For the collection, Hello Kitty appears with her trademark bow and milk bottle, an image that harks back to the character’s childhood in London, where she made cookies and loved her mother’s homemade apple pie.

The colourful graphic is accented with red laces and red suede on the tongue, heel and sides of the shoe. Hello Kitty also appears on the tongue, poking out from the laces alongside the Puma logo.

▼ The Puma x Hello Kitty Suede Classic retails for 1,2960 yen (US$118.97)

The popular Sanrio character can be found on a number of other items in the Puma range, including a red-and-white tracksuit.

▼ The hoodie retails for 8,640 yen…

▼ While the pants retail for 8,100 yen.

▼ And there’s also a T-shirt, for 4,320 yen, that pays homage to the collaboration. 

Also included in the range are a gymsack (3,240yen) and a backpack (8,100 yen), which feature the character on see-through designs.

To see the full collection, and stock up on purchases, head over to the Puma Japan site. Available for a limited time from 8 February, these items won’t be around for long – especially since all the reporters here at SoraNews24 can’t wait to get their hands on them!

Source, images: PR Times, Puma Japan

Japanese smartphone users rank the 10 mobile phone games they play the most

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 05:00 PM PST

The results come from a mobile survey, in which they also shared how much money they spend on in-game purchases.

Japanese gamers are very serious about their smartphone games. Of course, there are the casual players who just use them to kill time on the train, but there are a lot of people who spend so much time playing mobile games that their significant others get jealous. And that’s not to mention how much money Japanese people spend on them: in 2015, the Japanese mobile game industry had the second highest revenue in the world, in spite of its comparatively small population. Like I said, serious business.

But what games are Japanese people playing on their smart phones? And on average how much money are they spending on them? Smartprise, a media device venture business, conducted a survey to find out just that. They run an app called Smart Game that provides points for spending money on smartphone games, which can later be exchanged for an iTunes or Amazon gift card. Using this app they sent out a survey to 2,017 users, asking what games they play the most, on average how much money they spend per month on those games, and other interesting industry-related questions.

So what are the top 10 mobile games that are most played by Smart Game’s users?

10. Jikkyou Pawafuru Puro Yakkyu (Real-life Powerful Pro Baseball)

Part of a series of pro sports games that also includes soccer, this game is a realistic baseball game that allows you to pit real-life teams with real-life players against each other. It’s also available on several game consoles. However, though this game appears to be played a lot, Pawapuro Yakkyu doesn’t rank in the top 10 for in-app purchases.

9. Shadowverse

Shadowverse is a digital collectible card game. According to the app page, there are over 600 cards available in the game, and each one is drawn in a beautiful anime style. But, in spite of boasting a full-voice story mode, which is appealing for RPG fans, as well as an online competitive mode, the amount of money spent on in-app purchases doesn’t rank in the top 10 for Shadowverse, either.

8. Shironeko Project (White Cat Project)

A “one finger RPG”, Shironeko Project is a full-scale, action roleplaying game that is controlled simply with taps and slides of one finger. Players travel across the land on a 3-D map and complete quests, either alone or in collaboration with friends. The popularity of Shironeko Project matches with how much money players spend on it: it ranks at number 8 there, too.

7. Ensemble Stars!

One of a number of idol singer games, Ensemble Stars! is marketed towards women, as its focus is male idols. The point of this simulation game is to turn a high school boy into the most popular idol in Japan. There are 40 options to choose from and each has his own voice, so users really have the chance to develop a unique idol. Ensemble Stars! and the following three games all match their popularity ranking with their in-game purchase ranking.

6. Granblue Fantasy

From the same company that produced ShadowverseGranblue Fantasy is a turn-based RPG game. It has a stellar production team, including Nobuo Uematsu on the music and Hideo Minaba on character designs, who are both of Final Fantasy fame. Its full character voices both in battle and in story make it a popular mobile game for RPG fans.

5. Love Live! School Idol Festival

Unlike the previously mentioned Ensemble Stars!, this idol game is song rhythm game. It’s part of a huge multi-media series that includes CDs, manga, and anime as well, so it’s no surprise that a smartphone game of the same legacy would also achieve popularity, especially since the game includes music from the anime series.

4. Monster Strike

A hunting RPGMonster Strike is similar to Pokémon in that you go around battling and collecting monsters, but the mechanics are quite different: you fight using catapult techniques! Also unlike Pokémon (yet), Monster Strike has over 1,000 monsters to collect, and contains both a story mode and a cooperative mode, which, combined, could lead to some heavy, long-term playing.

3. The iDOLM@STER -Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage-

The third idol-based game on the list, this iDOLM@STER game is part of a larger series of products that include arcade games, anime, audio dramas, and even a radio station. In this trading card rhythm-based game, you serve as a producer of a talent agency, and you have to form an idol group out of 50 possible characters, each of whom also have a variety of “cards” with different levels of rarity and ability. Playing unlocks all kinds of possibilities, which is perhaps why this game ranks at number three on the list.

2. Puzzle & Dragons

Interestingly, Puzzle & Dragons is the only puzzle game on the list, but it probably made it because it has strategy and role-playing game elements to it too. Using different colored icons, you make matches of three or more and get your dragons to attack other dragons and monsters. You can also raise your dragons, expand your collection, and modify your team, all the while traveling through dungeons. Though Pazudora is ranked number two as most played, it’s actually beaten by iDOLM@STER in in-app purchases.

1. Fate/Grand Order

The number one mobile game on the list is Fate/Grand Order, based on the popular manga Fate/Stay Night, which has also been made into numerous other video games and anime. It plays as an online RPG with turn-based battles in which the player summons familiars for help. In keeping with its original format, the story, in which you make use of time travel to prevent the extinction of the human race, is presented in the form of a visual novelFate/Grand Order is also the game on which the most respondents said they spend most of their money.

The majority of these games are RPG-based, so it’s no surprise that Japanese consumers would love them. How much do they love them? Enough to spend between 10,000 and 50,000 yen (US$91.20 to $456) per month on them. 38.3 percent of respondents said that’s how much they expect to spend monthly on in-app purchases for their favorite games. But while more than 50 percent said they would spend less than 10,000 yen ($91.20), eight of the respondents actually said they usually spend more than 1,000,000 yen ($9,120).

Didn’t believe me when I said they’re serious about their mobile phone games? You should now, especially since the top 10 mobile games typically earn 50 percent of the mobile game market’s revenues.

Source: Niko Niko News via My Game News Flash
Top Image: Pakutaso

Amazing Sailor Moon smartphone case recreates anime heroine’s transformation sequence【Video】

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 09:30 AM PST

Clever superfan shows how you too can easily replicate the most famous scene from the most famous magical girl anime.


One of the things that sets anime magical girls apart from ordinary superheroes is their transformation sequences (it’s even one of SoraNews24’s Laws of Magical Girl Anime), and no sequence is more famous than that of Sailor Moon. No matter how dire the situation or how dangerous the adversaries, the genre's most famous heroine always has time for a luxuriously long, dazzling display of her combat costume forming around her sparkling silhouette.

As a fan of the series, Japanese Twitter user @unXXXhm no doubt has a pretty detailed mental image of Sailor Moon's transformation in her head. She doesn't have to rely on memories to relive the iconic scene, though, since she's created a smartphone case that recreates ordinary schoolgirl Usagi Tuskino's magical shift to lunar guardian Sailor Moon, as demonstrated in this jaw-dropping video.

It should be noted that the flashes of light and background music were added digitally, but the sparkles moving over Sailor Moon's mid-transformation body are an entirely practical effect.

So how did @unXXXhm pull this off? She started by recreating an illustration of the character, drawing the outlines of her body countours, hairstyling, and eyelashes while leaving everything else unshaded. Next, she ordered a glitter-filled smartphone case from Canvath, a Japanese company that does custom printing with customer-submitted images.

Since the character's body and hair were the only parts of @unXXXhm's illustration left unshaded, they remain transparent when printed, and so when she turns the case over, the glitter moves over her silhouette, replicating the look of the anime.

Magical girl fans were quickly enchanted, leaving comments such as:

"God-like."
"This is all I could ever want in life."
"So cute. So stylish. I want this so badly!"
"Awesome…! If you're selling these, I will totally buy one."

Unfortunately, despite several other Twitter users saying they're ready to purchase the case, @unXXXhm has clarified that it's not for sale. While the illustration isn't traced, it is an eyeballed copy of an existing piece of official Sailor Moon artwork, so she's not sure she'd be in the clear selling it, and even if rights holders sometimes turn a blind eye to derivative merchandise sold in-person at fan events like the twice-a-year Comiket, they're not nearly as lenient when it comes to online sales.

So for now, it looks like the only way to get your hands on a Sailor Moon transformation sequence smartphone case is to make your own, but luckily @unXXXhm was kind enough to tell us all how to do just that.

Related: Canvath
Source: Twitter/@unXXXhm via IT Media

Images: Twitter/@unXXXhm

Lame tourists’ lame excuse for spray-painting graffiti in Tokyo still gets them arrested

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 07:00 AM PST

Claim they thought graffiti was allowed in one Tokyo neighborhood.

Before I started working for SoraNews24, I was a study abroad recruiter, and I'd often have people come in for counseling and tell me "I'm interested in going to Japan, but I'm really worried about unintentionally offending people. Will I be OK there?" Though it's usually poor form to answer a question with a question, my usual reaction was to ask them "Do you offend people on a daily basis in your home country? If not, you'll probably be OK, since Japanese people are, first and foremost, people."

Granted, there are a few things foreigners need to keep in mind in Japan, like taking off your shoes before entering someone's home. Nine times out of ten, though, Japanese manners aren't so different from manners anywhere else in the world, and if something would make you a jerk in your home town, it'll probably make you a jerk in Tokyo, and trying to overthink the situation isn't going to end well.

Case in point: Before dawn on the morning of January 16, officers from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's Shibuya Precinct arrested two 19-year-old Australian nationals, who were in the country as tourists. A security guard noticed the two men had made their way up an exterior staircase of a building in Shibuya Ward's Jinnan district and were spray-painting their nicknames on the outside walls.

The security guard called the police, who promptly arrived on the scene and apprehended the vandals. Upon questioning, they admitted to the charges, as well as spray-painting graffiti on three other buildings in the area. As to why, they said:

"We saw graffiti in other parts of the neighborhood, so we thought it was OK to do that in Shibuya."

▼ May as well have just said "We're too dumb to be on the streets, so please take us into custody."

It's worth noting that Shibuya, compared to other parts of Tokyo, does have a bit of a rough-around-the-edges vibe, and the influx of young partiers who stream into the neighborhood nightly aren't always the best at keeping the place clean. That said, this is still Tokyo, which means litter and vandalism standards are higher than most other cities on the planet. And more importantly, Tokyo is still a city populated by human beings, and common sense should tell you that said humans aren't going to appreciate having their homes or workplaces tagged up.

The excuse is so dumb that it sounds more like a made-up, last-ditch effort to dodge responsibility by taking advantage of Japan's well-known attitude of hospitality towards foreign visitors. Regardless of its veracity, ignorance of common sense is no better a legal excuse than ignorance of the law, and the immature pair (who are referred to in the police report as "boys," since Japan's legal age of adulthood is 20) have been formally arrested.

Source: Livedoor News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

Gamers can become Pac-Man with new VR attraction in Tokyo【Video】

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 06:00 AM PST

Video gaming's newest trend meets its oldest hero with co-op game at Namco's Tokyo amusement park.

Advancements in cost-effective motion controls and head-mounted displays have led to some believing virtual reality is the next big thing in games. Meanwhile, games with modern relevance don't get much more old-school then Namco's Pac-Man.

Those two opposite ends of the spectrum have come together at the Namja Town indoor amusement park in Tokyo's Ikebukuro neighborhood. In addition to its food court with a rotating lineup of anime-themed items, Namja Town is constantly dreaming up new attractions for guests to enjoy, and its latest is a virtual reality Pac-Man game that has you taking on the role of video-gaming's original hero.

To play Pac in Town, as the MR ("mixed reality") attraction is called, players don a Microsoft HoloLens headset, which gives them a view of a 3-D construction of a Pac-Man maze, which, of course, is stocked with dots, Power Pellets, and ghosts.

Instead of controlling a character with a joystick, players physically run about the maze, with teams of up to three members working together to clear the screen while also competing to see who can get the highest score.

Pac in Town is playable now, and will be part of the Namja Town lineup until February 28. Oh, and if all that running around gives you a real-world appetite, don't forget that if you hop on the train for a 10-minute ride to the Shinjuku neighborhood, you can fill yourself up with some Pac-Man curry and rice.

Location information
Namja Town / ナンジャタウン
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Higashi Ikebukuro 3-1-3 World Import Mart Building 2nd floor
東京都豊島区 東池袋3丁目1−3 サンシャインシティ・ワールドインポートマートビル2F
Open: 10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
Admission: Attraction passports (required to play Pac in Town) start at 1,300 yen (US$12)
Website

Source: Namja Town via IT Media
Top image: Namja Town
Insert images: YouTube/NamcoAmusement

Starbucks sakura Frappuccino and hot drinks unveiled for 2018 cherry blossom season in Japan

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 05:00 AM PST

For the first time ever, Starbucks even has a cherry blossom tea in their sakura collection.

Every year, people in Japan look forward to cherry blossom season, a time of year when the days slowly get warmer and pink-hued limited-edition treats appear in stores.

One of the most highly anticipated sakura releases to appear on the market every year, and one which we at SoraNews24 can never resist trying, is the Starbucks collection, which includes hot and cold beverages, alongside a gorgeous selection of pink drinkware that pays homage to the blossoms of spring.

Today, Starbucks revealed all the details for the new 2018 collection, including some interesting surprises that will have customers lining up at branches around the country from next week for a taste. Let’s take a look at the range below!

First up is the Sakura Strawberry Pink Mochi Frappuccino (580 yen [US$5.29]), which pairs cherry blossoms with strawberries for a refreshing springtime flavour. The highlight of this drink is its unusual glutinous texture, which comes from its star ingredient: Domyoji-ko, a dried powder made from steamed sticky rice. This sticky rice powder originates from Domyoji, a temple in Osaka where the rice was once said to cure illnesses, and is used mostly in sakura-flavoured Japanese confectionery today.

The cherry blossom-flavoured sticky rice pieces can be found scattered throughout the entire drink, and on its sakura mochi sauce whipped topping, which, when combined with the crunchy strawberry chocolate chips, is said to create “a whole new Frappuccino sensation“.

Instagram Photo

Next up in the range is the Sakura Strawberry Pink Milk Latte, which combines the sweet-and-sour taste of cherry blossoms with fruity strawberry flavours. Hot milk is added to the sakura-strawberry sauce base, along with finely chopped pieces of sakura leaf and sake lees, an umami-filled non-alcoholic by-product from the Japanese rice wine-making process, which gives the drink more depth of flavour.

Rounding off the new lineup of beverages is the Sakura Strawberry Pink Tea (430 yen-550 yen), the first tea-based sakura offering in the history of the company. Using Starbucks’ Teavana brand chamomile tea as the base, this drink combines sakura-strawberry sauce with freeze-dried strawberry pieces, creating a sweet-and-sour hot beverage with a pulp-like texture.

Joining the sakura beverages is a range of beautiful drinkware, which will be released in two instalments. The first range, called “Looking Back“, which features retro-inspired, traditional cherry blossom designs, will be available from 15 February.

▼ Prices range from 620 yen (US$5.65) for the beverage cards,
up to 4,500 yen for the large stainless steel bottle (third from the left in the back row below).

The second range, called “Looking Forward“, features more modern designs, with vivid colours that pop against plain backgrounds, creating images of “hope for an exciting future”. This collection will be available in stores from 28 February.

▼ The items here range in price from 1,300 yen for the sakura glass (front, middle)
to 4,600 yen for the stainless steel dot bottle (back left).

This year you’ll also be able to take the blossoms home with you on Starbucks’ Spring Season Blend coffee packs. Ranging in price from 849 yen for the six-pack drip variety (below right) to 1,430 yen for the 250-gram pack (below left), these don’t come with any cherry blossom flavour, unfortunately, but the beautiful limited-edition springtime packaging makes them a perfect seasonal gift for friends and family.

As with all of Starbucks’ limited-edition releases, these won’t be around for long, so be sure to get in quick to get your hands on the sakura range before they disappear for another year.

Sakura season runs from 15 February to 14 March at Starbucks this year, but if you can’t wait until then, you can always try the new Starbucks Sakura Caramel Milk with Mixed Berries chilled cup, available at convenience stores around Japan from 13 February.

Source, images: Starbucks Japan

Cherry blossom forecast 2018: Sakura expected to come to Tokyo earlier than usual this year!

Posted: 07 Feb 2018 09:00 PM PST

Sakura speculation map and dates for each prefecture in Japan released by Japan Weather Association.

There's no more iconic symbol of spring in Japan than the sakura, but the sad truth is that while the season may last three months, the cherry blossoms only stick around, from absolute start to complete finish, for roughly two weeks. So if you're planning a trip to Japan to see the beautiful pink flowers, or you're a local resident putting together a cherry blossom viewing party, you'll want to know when the blossoms will open, and the Japan Weather Association has just released its forecast for sakura season 2018.

This year, the cherry blossoms are expected to start blooming in Tokyo on March 24, which is two days earlier than average, but three days later than in 2017. Meanwhile, in Kyoto the JWA expects the sakura to bloom on March 28, the same day as in most years. Once the sakura bloom, you've typically got a week (give or take a few days) until they're in full bloom.

▼ The JWA's sakura cherry blossom forecast map for 2018

Each year the "sakura front" (as the line of newly blooming cherry blossoms is called by meteorologists) starts in the warmer southwest and makes its way to the cooler northeast. Within Japan's four main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu), the cherry blossoms will appear first in Kumamoto, Miyazaki, and Kochi Prefectures, all forecast for March 21. By April 30 the flowers are expected to begin blooming in Hakodate, the largest city in the southern section of the northern island of Hokkaido, with sakura in bloom across Hokkaido by May 15.

The specific dates forecast for earliest sakura sightings in each prefecture are:
● Kyushu
Fukuoka: March 24
Oita: March 24
Nagasaki: March 22
Saga: March 24
Kumamoto: March 21
Miyazaki: March 21
Kagoshima: March 22
● Shikoku
Kagawa: March 28
Tokushima: March 28
Ehime: March 26
Kochi: March 21

● Honshu
Hiroshima: March 27
Okayama: March 28
Shimane: April 1
Tottori: April 1
Yamaguchi: March 28
Osaka: March 28
Shiga: April 4
Kyoto: March 28
Hyogo: March 29
Nara: March 31
Wakayama: March 26
Aichi: March 26
Shizuoka: March 25
Gifu: March 26
Mie: March 30


Tokyo: March 24
Ibaraki: April 3
Tochigi: April 4
Gunma: April 1
Saitama: March 30
Chiba: March 30
Kanagawa: March 28
Yamanashi: March 29
Nagano: April 12
Niigata: April 9
Toyama: April 6
Ishikawa: April 4
Fukui: April 4
Miyagi: April 11
Aomori: April 24
Akita: April 17
Iwate: April 20
Yamagata: April 14
Fukushima: April 10
● Hokkaido: April 30

It's worth bearing in mind that this is the JWA's initial forecast, and a revision is coming later this month. Still, this should give you a rough outline of which days you'll want to call into work pretending to be sick.

Source: Japan Weather Association (1, 2)
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Japan Weather Association, Pakutaso (1, 2)