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Video highlights remarkable recoveries of towns destroyed by the 3.11 Tsunami seven years later

Posted: 11 Mar 2018 08:00 PM PDT

Chris Broad’s look at the towns of Onagawa and Kesennuma are an inspiration.

Chris Broad, a British YouTuber living in Japan, visited towns on the northeast coast of Japan that were nearly wiped off the map after being hit by the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and subsequent tsunami. This look at how they are doing now, titled What Happened In Japan After The Tsunami, has garnered over 350,000 views in the month since it was originally posted on his channel Abroad in Japan, but really deserves more.

The video starts off in Onagawa which was hit by the brunt of the tsunami and lost 10 percent of its population along with 70 percent of the town itself. Left with this vast destruction, the Mayor Yoshiaki Suda took amazingly proactive steps to rebuild and revitalize the town in to a thriving center of commerce.

Residents of Onagawa include Hideki Konno who was left homeless by the tsunami, but now just seven years later is driving a Lambourgini thanks to his successful cardboard business. Next door is Yosuke Kajiya, who designs custom guitars which don’t use screws or glue and instead are constructed using traditional Japanese interlocking parts which can be seen in temples and castles.

▼ Oh, I want one of those bad. But at US$7,500 a piece,
I’ll just settle for the video of one for now.

The video then moves through Ishinomaki and its innovative Fisherman Call wake up service, and on to Kesennuma. Here we find the K-Port cafe which was established by locals and actor Ken Watanabe in 2013. Since then, despite his globetrotting lifestyle, Watanabe continues to keep close contact with the residents of Kesennuma, even sending a letter to K-Port every day.

Even today, tourists flock to Kesennuma in part to see the house that Ken built. However it is also in large part to experience the area’s famous hospitality, which even by Japanese standards is a cut above the rest, as explained in an interview with English teacher and current tourism official Nishant Annu.

Finally we visit Ichiyo Kanno, a woman who despite coping with more tragedy than one person should have to in her life, is the now proprietor of an award-winning bed & breakfast and arguably the “friendliest person in the world.”

After their house was decimated in the tsunami, Kanno and her husband completely rebuilt it, but also made additions so that they could open the Tsunakan Minshuku. Since then, the lodging has found success and attracted some famous regulars including Watanabe when he’s in town visiting his cafe.

It’s funny how seven years can seem like both a long and short time. For many in Japan, the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has already become a distant memory, and kids are growing up not knowing about it at all. And yet for many who were affected by it, sadly the pain lives on as if it were yesterday.

However, the people in this video are all shining examples that by forging ahead and not giving up, even when hit by the worst adversity imaginable, you can accomplish amazing things.

We’d like to thank Chris Broad for sharing these stories on the eighth anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake, and also for helping to improve the reputation of all YouTubers in Japan from abroad by not desecrating a corpse.

Source, top image: YouTube/Abroad in Japan

Rising 14-year-old Japanese table tennis star screams way to victory, ruffles netizens’ feathers

Posted: 11 Mar 2018 06:00 PM PDT

It got so bad that the Japan Table Tennis Association essentially told him to shut up during games.

Sportsmanship can mean the difference between winning gracefully and disrespectfully rubbing salt on your opponent's wounds. In the world of table tennis, players have been slapped with hefty fines for losing a moment of self-control.

And when Japanese table tennis star Tomokazu Harimoto plays, not everyone in the audience is appreciative of his conduct. The 14-year-old boy is the youngest player ever to clinch the Men's Singles title at the Japanese National Championships, an impressive feat that few will ever replicate for years to come.

A bright future lays ahead of this young talented player, but viewers of his games quickly learn that he has a somewhat peculiar characteristic.

▼ Tomokazu celebrates each point as if he won the Olympics.

Short cries of jubilation after scoring points in table tennis are usually tolerated, as players often use them as means of celebration, or to a lesser extent, intimidating opponents.

While Tomokazu might truly be celebrating each rally as a hard-earned, well-deserved victory, his behavior on court more often than not irked those he has crossed paths with.

His conduct has drawn the attention of Yoshihito Miyazaki, the head of development of the Japan Table Tennis Association, who personally chastised Tomokazu that cheers of inspiration are encouraged so long as they are brief.

▼ So respect the competition and be careful with that fist pumping.

Reactions from Japanese netizens were mixed:

"I don't feel like cheering for this kid."
"I'm not bothered by his voice. I just wish he'd stop with all that fist pumps."
"Why are you guys paying so much attention to his shouting? Shouldn't you be watching how he plays?
"Why do table tennis players all scream like that?"
"He's just happy, so what's up with all the hate? I feel sorry for him."

In Tomokazu's defense, the champion table tennis player is still just a young boy. Even at my own age of 36, I sometimes have difficulty understanding the do's and don'ts of our convoluted world. The take-home message for Tomokazu is that, unless it's an incredibly long table tennis rally, it's best to mute cheers to a more acceptable level.

Source: Yahoo! Japan via Hachima Kikou
Top image: YouTube/Tokyo TV Table Tennis Channel
Insert image: Pakutaso

Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku launches spring menu full of crazy kawaii-ness

Posted: 11 Mar 2018 10:30 AM PDT

The Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku has just released a new seasonal spring menu, and it looks like the insanely colorful offerings won’t disappoint!

The Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku, which has been an icon of Japanese kawaii culture since opening in August of 2015, has just launched their “Spring Lunch Fair” campaign. The new items on their menu certainly look worthy of the cafe’s reputation as a “visual representation of the colorful and crazy Harajuku district.”

▼ The cafe is designed after Harajuku, which they’ve described as a “monster”
that gobbles things up and expands, creating a unique culture in the process.

The new spring menu features “poisonous-looking yet cute” items  in typical monster kawaii style and includes the latest in the cafe’s popular line of original hamburgers, as well as easter-themed desserts made in collaboration with major snack manufacturer Lotte. Let’s take a closer look at the seasonal items!

The spring lunch menu includes the colorful dishes below:

The “It’s Time for Flower-Viewing (hanami) Burger (2,400 yen, US$22.47)

Hanami, or flower-viewing, is a big deal during spring in Japan, so it stands to reason the activity has been made into a hamburger! This sakura-themed creation features pink buns with a menchikatsu (fried minced meat cutlet) patty, garnished with salsa and topped with a sakura leaf. It even comes with a bit of dessert, in the form of sweet dango dumplings in three colors.

The Fujiyama Taco Rice (2,100 yen)

This dish offers a Mt. Fuji made of pink rice with flavored meat “lava” flowing out of the mountain, topped with cheddar cheese and garnished with prawn chips, while the green vegetables are meant to represent the vast “sea of trees” (jukai) that surrounds the actual Mt. Fuji.

The Colorful Vegetable Parfait Fondue (2,200 yen)

The ingredients in this dish, which include brightly-colored quail’s egg, purple cauliflower, and pieces of blue bread (in addition to the more ordinary looking sausages, shrimp, and cherry tomatoes), not to mention the pink and purple cheese sauce, are certainly eye-catching. The idea here apparently is supposed to be that the eggs are monster eggs and the cheese sauce is a kind of “honey” from a fantastical carnivorous plant.

The cafe has also created delightfully quirky-looking Easter-themed desserts in collaboration with Lotte, which you can order as part of a set meal in place of a regular dessert for an extra 400 yen. The “Lotte Enjoy Easter Kawaii” desserts include the following two options:

The Pink Rabbit Easter

This playful dessert represents a rabbit that has had too many Lotte Chocolate Pies and Custard Cakes and has turned into a giant monster Pink Rabbit! The dish involves a Lotte Custard Cake base topped with a Lotte Mini Choco Pie and strawberry, wrapped in a generous serving of strawberry cream.

The Koala’s Easter Island

This dish is supposed to represent the “Lotte Easter Island“, made in the image of floating dessert islands inhabited by the koalas from Lotte’s popular Koala no March snack. The dish includes a “Custard Cake” island, a “Chocolate Pie” island, and a “Pie no Mi chocolate biscuit” island decorated with colorful cream and Koala no March biscuits.

There are also desserts you can take away as well, which again can be ordered in place of a regular dessert for an extra 500 yen. Below are the two take-away options:

The Chihuahua Wa Wa Cake

This colorful cake was designed in commemoration of the Year of the Dog and is made from strawberry mousse contained inside a layer of yogurt mousse for a combination which should delight children and adults alike. Unfortunately, the green cream decoration doesn’t come with the cake when it’s to take home.

The Mushroom Cake Bite!Bite!Bite!

This is what a lifeform from the cafe’s Musroom Disco area looks like when turned into a cake! The image here is of a carnivorous plant about to devour some brightly colored easter eggs. The inside of the cake contains chocolate ganache covered with white chocolate mousse, so it should be satisfying as a sweet as well as eye-popping to look at. (Again, the decorative green cream is not included with the take-away cake.)

So do the new items look colorful and kawaii enough to you? The spring menu is available now until April 8, so do check it out if you’re not afraid of the bold designs and colors!

Restaurant information
Kawaii Monster Cafe
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-31-10, YM Square Building 4th floor
東京都渋谷区神宮前4丁目31‐10 YMスクエアビル 4F
Telephone: 03-5413-6142
Open 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. for lunch and 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m. for dinner (weekdays and Saturdays); 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Sundays and holidays)

Source, images: PR Times

Future Japanese casinos to use steep admission fees to curb addiction, make winning harder

Posted: 11 Mar 2018 08:00 AM PDT

"Preventative measures" sees visitors setting themselves back $75 before even stepping foot into the casino.

Despite having spiffy pachinko parlors, horse racing, and lotteries, Japan still doesn't have an official casino in the country.

In an effort to boost tourism, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been lobbying for casinos to be legalized, a move that will likely come to fruition as long as said casinos are included as part of a larger set of facilities called "integrated resorts."

As part of an ongoing movement to reduce gambling addiction, the government recently proposed a 2,000 yen (US$18.70) admission fee for those seeking to enter a casino's premise, to which the LDP responded that there was no need to impose such heavy fees.

▼ Casinos attract lots of tourists, but adversely affect people too.

Komeito, LDP's coalition partner, went the other direction and suggested an astronomical 8,000 yen entry fee, drawing inspiration from what Singapore's Marina Bay Sands Casino did with theirs (US$76).

▼ That's right folks, you're already in debt before you even started.

The government also presented plans to lawmakers to limit the number of visits Japanese citizens can make to a casino, up to three times a week and ten times per month. Tourists in Japan, on the other hand, are not bound by such fees or limits.

The question is this: will these measures actually deter gambling addicts? An 8,000-yen admission fee may not mean much for high rollers, but not all of us are willing to dump our paychecks on a single blackjack game.

Casinos are hardwired to have a house advantage in their games, and by introducing an exorbitantly high entrance fee, visitors get shackled with a monumental task of winning back that money to break even in a limited amount of time, possibly tilting them further to losing even more.

▼ "I'll win back that 8,000 yen in an instant."
Nope, you'd probably lose a lot more than that.

Limiting casino visits sounds like it could be a decent idea, but lawmakers will have to iron out the details in order to make it really work.

Here’s how Japanese netizens reacted:

"8,000 yen is easy. No problems there."
"Too cheap. Bring it up to 80,000 yen please."
"I'm looking forward to playing in a casino."
"8,000 yen is too high. Make it a little cheaper, like 1,000 yen or something."
"Just make it 10,000 yen. If it's too cheap, it'll just feel like a cheap amusement park."

The most dangerous way of thinking is to be overconfident in gambling, and thinking that a 8,000 yen admission fee can be easily recovered with a few rounds of roulette or baccarat might be a recipe for disaster.

An alarming number of Japanese people are already addicted to pachinko gambling, and there's no telling how many more might get hooked when casinos finally make their way here.

Source: The Mainichi Newspapers via Hachima Kiko
Images: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3, 4)

New survey shows Japan to be deeply divided among blue and red prefectures

Posted: 11 Mar 2018 06:00 AM PDT

A difference in a fundamental way of thinking threatens to tear Japan apart at the seams.

There is a cultural war brewing in this great nation. Although not a secret, it has gone largely unspoken for years — perhaps in the hope that it will just blow over. But a new survey by J-Town shows that Japan is divided like never before between red and blue prefectures.

Of course as we all well know, “blue prefectures” are those who use blue-colored gas cans whereas “red prefectures” are those who use red-colored gas cans. The results were gathered by J-Town when they asked over 1,000 people across the country “What color is a kerosene polytank?”

“Polytank” is the Japanese word for plastic “polyethylene tanks” which are a modern derivative of the metal “jerrycans” created by German soldiers during WWII to carry extra supplies of fuel.

▼ Jerrycans got their name for the term “Jerry,” used for German soldiers


According to the chart posted above, the usage of blue cans is almost exclusively in western Japan, whereas people in eastern Japan identify with red cans. While it might look like the majority favors blue by land area, when factoring the population densities of each area, red polytanks are in the minds of 60 percent of Japanese people, nearly doubling the 33.3 percent who put their kerosene in blue containers.

▼ Other surveys have led to similar results.

Alarming news to be sure, but in an effort to help bridge this ideological rift, we must first try to understand how it got to be this way.

Various sources online seem to suggest that people in eastern Japan think red is the ideal color because it conveys the sense of danger that the flammable contents possess.

On the other hand, the prevailing theory is that people in the west — often characterized by the traditional merchant culture of Osaka and Kobe — chose blue simply because it is cheaper to produce and thus can be sold at a more competitive price. Having lived in Osaka quite a while myself, I can attest that the spendthrift stereotype of its people is not entirely unfounded, but still this theory seems very fishy.

Slapping on a fake mustache and monocle, I went undercover as a potential buyer of polyethylene to the websites of various wholesalers of “masterbatch,” which is the name given to the coloring additives to plastics. Everywhere I went, the color seemed to have nothing to do with the price which instead hinged more on the pigment’s ability to evenly dye the plastic.

That doesn’t completely rule out the “cheap blue plastic” theory, however. It’s still possible that this is a lingering relic of bygone days of manufacturing, or perhaps some masterbatch dealer in Japan was looking to offload a surplus or blue… possibly due to a lull in Doraemon merchandise production.

▼ That cat’s been around a while and even
it can’t keep the same pace forever.

Kyosuke Yoshimatsu of the website Miteco attempted to understand this peculiar trend as well. Yoshimatsu is stationed in Shizuoka Prefecture which falls along the demarcation line defined by a 2013 TV show to be National Highway 19. It is here, on the front line, where the battle for people’s minds is currently being waged.

In this nexus of the nation you can find both blue and red polytanks side-by-side, although the ratio of each can vary widely from store to store. Here, some manufacturers are also trying to defuse the situation by offering a rainbow of colors to choose from.

Unsatisfied with the “cheap west” urban legend too, Yoshimatsu decided to go straight to the source and ask the makers of polytanks what the deal was. However, when pressed to explain they had little more insight other than blue sells well in the west and red sells well in the east. As for the reason, they simply said, “We don’t really know.”

And so, with the mystery of why western Japan uses blue kerosene containers unsolved, the prospects of finding mutual understanding are bleak. This means that we currently stand on the brink of a full-scale civil war over the matter.

▼ Some still hold out hope that a compromise can be reached.

In this case despite being outnumbered, should push come to shove, blue Japan luckily has an ideological ally in the USA which also uses blue containers for kerosene. There, industry standards dictate that gasoline be kept in red tanks and kerosene in blue so that the two don’t get confused. This isn’t a problem in Japan though, because it’s illegal to keep gasoline in any plastic container here.

It is sure to be a bloody and prolonged battle, but necessary in the long run so that the nation can truly come together as one and begin to tackle the more serious issues, like the proper nickname for McDonald’s or which side of the escalator is for standing.

Source: J-Town, Miteco, Touzai-Bunka, Matome Naver
Top image: Photo AC

Emergency lifehack lets you wash away shampoo without using a shower head

Posted: 11 Mar 2018 01:00 AM PST

A great alternative for when your water supply gets cut off during emergencies or disasters.

Earthquakes in Japan occur often enough that residents learn to keep their emergency kit fully stocked and updated with all manner of rations and necessities.

But when water mains get cut during a disaster, it could be days or even weeks before it gets restored. During showering and particularly after shampooing, reaching for an open bucket of water can cause wayward bubbles to contaminate the reservoir which you might be saving for cooking purposes. Keeping separate bottles of water dedicated for showering might help, but gripping onto plastic with hands slippery from shampoo is a recipe for disaster, as dropping it could lose precious water in the process.

Malaysia-based Japanese journalist @mahisan8181 has found an ingenious method that takes all the headache out of showering with limited amounts of water, allowing people to cleanly wash away shampoo bubbles without the need to touch anything.

▼ All you have to do is to tie a large water bottle to your back.

Aside from making sure that the wearer's head is bent forward far enough to prevent splashbacks into the container, this lifehack is as easy as it gets. It lets you save water, keeps your hands free, and turns you into Blastoise.

And if a bottle of water isn't enough to clean long hair, strapping on a large bucket reportedly works just as well.

Japanese netizens were beside themselves and raring to try out the lifehack:

"This is a fantastic tip worth keeping in mind. You never know when a deadly earthquake will strike."
"I think I can actually use this since I've experienced long periods without steady water supply during the Kumamoto Earthquake."
"This dude's clever."
"Why didn't I think of this earlier?"
"The invention of the century!"

▼ Onsen may come with water bottles to strap on one day.

With a bit of human ingenuity, this shower lifehack makes things that much easier for victims of a disaster. Nevermind emergencies, whipping out Blastoise is a pretty nifty way to conserve water even during everyday life.

There's no telling when nature will wreak havoc on unsuspecting citizens, but luckily for us there's a plethora of handy lifehacks out there to help keep things in line. Spend some time equipping yourself with a few, and you’ll be prepared for emergencies of any kind, including everyone’s favorite zombie apocalypse.

Source: Twitter/@mahisan8181
Images: Pakutaso (1, 2)