Japanese subway conductor sues city for legal right for his beard to exist, monetary compensation

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 03:30 PM PST

Verdict handed down in multi-year fight between facial hair and Municipal Transportation Bureau.

In 2015, Eiji Kono, a conductor working for the Osaka Municipal Subway, was having an evaluation interview with one of the organization's human resource managers. The 50-something Kono thought this would be a good time to bring up a concern he had.

"In my last evaluation, I was marked down in two areas because I have a beard, wasn't I?" Kono asked, and he was right. "You repeatedly failed to meet personal grooming standards, so we had no choice but to mark you down," the evaluator informed him. "So do you intend to mark me down again?" the still-bearded Kono asked, which earned him a response of "If you won't follow the grooming standards, it can't be helped. We're just going by the rules when doing the evaluations."

The standards and rules the evaluator was referring to had been codified by the Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau in 2012, when the organization added a provision stating that male employees should be "neatly shaven with no stubble. Beards, including trimmed and combed beards, are not allowed." When Kono's hairy-faced bucking of the system earned him the lowest possible evaluation score, he decided to sue the city, asking for monetary compensation for what he argued was an unjustly low estimation of his ability to do his job well.

▼ A necessary part of a train's pre-departure preparations?

On Wednesday, presiding Osaka District Court judge Hiroyuki Naito handed down his verdict, ruling in favor of Kono and one other unnamed plaintiff who was also claiming an unfairly low beard-induced employee evaluation from the Osaka Municipal Subway. While Naito recognized the need and logical rationale of the rail operator to have its employees project a hygienic, non-intimidating image, he ultimately ruled that the company could, at most, ask for the voluntary cooperation of employees in being clean-shaven. "Whether to grow a beard or not is a personal freedom, and infringing on it is illegal," Naito stated, while ordering the city of Osaka to pay 440,000 yen (US$3,900) in damages to the plaintiffs.

▼ Speaking of people in Osaka who manage to be good at their jobs while still having beards, here’s SoraNews24 writer Steven Le Blanc.

Between the time when Kono received his low evaluation score and Naito rendering his verdict, the Osaka Municipal Subway has changed to private ownership, rebranding itself as the Osaka Metro last year, and so while 440,000 yen is a nice-sized wad of cash to receive, the victory is largely a moral one. Nevertheless, Kono, who still sports a goatee, he's says he's happy to have his facial hair's right to exist legally recognized. "My beard is a form of personal expression, so if I were to shave it, I would no longer be myself," he says.

Sources: NHK News Web via Hachima Kiko, Asahi Shimbun Digital
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

American fan meets his idol under the Shinjuku Godzilla, Mr. Sato apologizes for his photos

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 08:00 AM PST

SoraNews24’s ace reporter Mr. Sato meets with another one of his international fans–an encounter that was a year in the making.

The following is written in the words of our Japanese-language master of disguiseluxury coffee drinker, and likes-to-play hooky reporter. Take it away, Mr. Sato. 

Hello, this is “Worldly Sato” here. I hope you’ve all had a good start to 2019. I humbly ask for your cooperation in dispatching crazy news about myself to all corners of the world in this coming year.

Already in the beginning of this new year, a shy youth has journeyed all the way across the ocean from California in the U.S. to meet me. He arrived in Japan during the final days of last year and we met up earlier this month. Now, looking back at the photos we took together, I noticed something a little bit strange about them.

In fact, my correspondence with this young man actually began over one year ago, in December of 2017. Carl, as I’ll call him, was a 23-year-old resident of California. As astute readers of this site may recall, that’s the same month that a young university student from Singapore also paid me a visit (thankfully, not to call me “garbage” for once). Carl read that piece and then reached out to me in order to arrange a similar meeting:

▼ (The English-language edition of RocketNews24 was renamed SoraNews24 in April 2017.)

To my chagrin, I was going to be in my hometown at the start of 2018, and we were unable to find a time that worked.

A year passed but then Carl reached out to me once again that he would be visiting Japan at the end of 2018. I must confess that I was taken aback yet honored that he still wanted to contact me! I was incredibly appreciative. Every day within the workplace and in the outside world as well, a middle-aged guy like me is barraged with a slew of unflattering words. Just knowing that someone would actually cross the ocean to meet me was enough to make me tear up.

We made plans to meet earlier this month near Tokyo’s Shinjuku Kabukicho district. I had no idea where he was actually staying, but he readily agreed to meet under the Godzilla head at the famous Toho Cinemas screen.

Shinjuku Station is a veritable maze for those who are unaccustomed to it. I began to regret my choice of meeting place, but Carl was using an app to find his way to the right spot. Just to be safe, I sent him a photo of where I was standing:

Finally we were able to meet face-to-face! Thank goodness.

Carl first became interested in Japan thanks to the influence of someone who taught English here and practiced his Japanese by watching subtitled anime. He’d last been to Japan on that previous trip, and this time as well he was doing some sightseeing with his family in Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone, and Yokohama. By the time we met up his family had already gone home, so he was continuing his travels by himself.

He had been reading SoraNews24 since he was a high school student and was also encouraged by his friends to visit. Although it sounded like his Japanese reading skills weren’t quite there yet, he was thinking about a future career in web writing.

While it was only for an hour, Carl was able to speak some Japanese so we managed to communicate. At one point I asked him, “Do you mind if I turn your visit into an article for the site?” He replied that it was fine but he would like me to cover his eyes as he was a bit shy. I thought that there was nothing to be shy about, but of course I acquiesced to his request.

When I actually added a line over his eyes in the photo, it turned out like this:

Although I was following his wishes, I thought that something looked off about it.

I also covered his eyes in the photo we took together:

Huh? Yeah, something definitely seems odd…

Let’s meet again, Carl.

In the meantime, I’m so sorry about the strange photos…

Well, that’s a wrap! Carl, if you’re reading this, rest assured that Mr. Sato was flattered by you seeking out his company and promises new photos during your next trip to Japan. And for more of Mr. Sato’s eagerness to meet his overseas fans, check out this article about his visitor from Peru!

Photos ©SoraNews24

Picture-perfect kitty cat with a single, heart-shaped spot on its back is an Instagram star

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 05:00 AM PST

This perfectly spotted kitty is a natural model, too.

Cats come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but they’re all cute, whether they have a permanent flattened head from sleeping too much or a perfectly chiseled physique from long hours in the gym. Some cats have a little extra natural advantage in cuteness, though, like this Instagram cat, Ikura, who has a single, perfectly heart-shaped spot on her back.

Instagram Photo

Not only is the spot perfectly shaped, it’s perfectly placed, too, right on the bottom of Ikura’s back, just over the tail, and it looks like the center of the heart is placed exactly on the center of Ikura’s back. It’s so artful it’s almost as if someone put it there by design, but it’s apparently a completely natural spot.

▼ Ikura is even more adorable in motion, s this video shows.

Instagram Photo

Ikura is a one-and-a-half years old, and lives in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture. She has a happy life with her two owners, and owing to not only her cute heart-shaped spot, but also her cute face, she’s quickly becoming an Instagram star!

Instagram Photo

Her penchant for posing for photos probably has a lot to do with that, as you can see from her Instagram page, where there are many pictures like this of her looking elegantly towards the camera.

Instagram Photo

Looking off into the distance, and out the window, is a precociously characteristic pose for her, too.

Instagram Photo

She also seems to enjoy wearing costumes, and appears to willingly participate in photo shoots. She would probably look adorable in a Pokémon cat cosplay hood; though, honestly, she likely could rock any outfit.

Instagram Photo

She’s not camera shy at all. In fact, she seems to love the camera!

Instagram Photo

But Ikura is a cat, like many others, and still enjoys a good, cute nap when all the hard work of posing for photos is done.

Instagram Photo

Who doesn’t love a cute, picture perfect kitty cat with an adorable marking? Now if we could just see her in a Sailor Scout cosplay collar…with her heart-shaped spot, she would look just like she belonged in the Sailor Moon anime!

Source: Instagram/@ikura_0711 via Netlab
Featured Image: Instagram/@ikura_0711

The surprising source of the Ohmus’ voices in Ghibli’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Posted: 18 Jan 2019 11:00 PM PST

You’d never guess how the sound effect for an Ohmu’s voice was produced.

If you’ve seen Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, then you know about Ohmus, the giant but docile creatures that sometimes get a little crazy when they’re angry. You’ve also probably heard its inhuman voice when it goes berserk, but have you ever wondered where it came from?

When Japanese national television aired Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind at the start of the New Year, fans brought up all sorts of fun facts, and one we learned was the source of an Ohmu’s voice: an electric guitar.

▼ The result is this sound. It might sound rad coming from a guitar, but it’s much more terrifying coming from a giant monster.

That’s right; the screeching, bleating noises the Ohmu make when they’re full of rage are actually guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei (also known simply as Hotei) wailing on a guitar. Music director Joe Hisaishi asked the famous musician (who currently has a 35-year career in the music industry) to “cry with the guitar” in order to express the anger of the normally docile creatures. Guitar amps, effects, and technique are what ultimately produced the unique sound emitted by Ohmus.

▼ Here’s a reminder of why exactly the Ohmus get so angry.

Once again we are reminded of the awesomeness of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and that instruments can make some pretty awesome monster sounds, like Godzilla’s famous roar.

Sources: Livedoor News via My Game News Flash
Featured image: YouTube/Madman

Beloved Japanese paper craft wizard turns cookie box into a gorgeous sculpture

Posted: 18 Jan 2019 09:00 PM PST

Once you’re done with your cookies, you can always take a knife to the box and turn it into a beautiful clock tower.

Certain people have unbelievable skills when it comes to crafting pretty things. Some of them can take nothing more than some card stock, lights and wiring and create something entirely new out of it, and others can make something exciting out of just one piece of paper.

One artist extraordinaire is Twitter user @02ESyRaez4VhR2l, who is renowned for using ordinary snack containers and fashioning them into something new and pleasing to the eye. We’ve featured his work numerous times, and now he’s back again, this time using a cookie box to construct a new creation.

Moonlight Cookies are soft, crumbly butter cookies that are best enjoyed with a good cup of tea. The striking blue and white box pairs with the golden discs of the cookies to make a very striking impression in any grocery store snack aisle. @02ESyRaez4VhR2l has emphasized all the strongest features of the packaging in this re-imagining of it as a dramatic clock tower, with a crescent-shaped slice of cookie standing in for the moon and the Morinaga logo itself as a sweet little angel perched on top of it.

The sculpture is full of fun little details to seek out: a figure at the bottom stands outside the building with a shining lamp overhead, while another stands on the stairs. A third figure sits atop of the tower roof, literally fishing the moon out of the sky. The vibrant windows and clock face are all crafted using the bright spots of yellow on the original packet, and it’s fun to match them with the unmarked box below!

The tweet has over 66,000 retweets at the time of writing, and a comments section filled with praise. Users were quick to highlight their favorite parts:

“The angel is too precious!”

Others had questions:

“I wonder, did the thread for the fishing line come from somewhere else? You would expect it to…”

But don’t worry, the artist came in to provide the answer.

“I cut the plastic wrap from an individual cookie very thin and used that.”

Some commenters even shared their own Moonlight artworks, to great approval! This one is of the Pokémon Moon legendary, Lunala.

“It’s incredible! Mine’s nowhere in the same league, but please look at it… *eager*”

@02ESyRaez4VhR2l replied encouragingly, saying “You did a great job of replicating the colors and style of the original design! I can tell you put a lot of care into creating it.”

Make sure to check out the artist’s other work (especially that incredible Mr. Pringles), and hang tight for whatever he has planned next. Wonder which of the nation’s top sweets will be next to meet his crafty skills?

Source: Twitter/@02ESyRaez4VhR2l via Hamster Sokuho
Featured image: Twitter/@02ESyRaez4VhR2l