In search of the mysterious “Space Station” on a remote mountain in Yamaguchi Prefecture

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 08:00 PM PDT

The truth is out there.

UFOs have become a hot topic again with several credible sightings popping up one after another. That's why our roving reporter Masanuki Sunakoma's eyes lit up after receiving word that a mysterious place known only as "Space Station" was located on the far side of a remote mountain in the rural city of Shunan, Yamaguchi.

Could a giant UFO be moored there? Masanuki was very open to that possibility as he himself once had a close encounter.

It was the summer of 1996, and as a young Masanuki was heading home from a school activity in Kodaira, Tokyo, he suddenly saw a strange object suspended in the sky. It wasn't saucer-like or glowing, however. It looked like two isosceles triangles connected at the sharpest points.

▼ Computer simulation

There were about seven other people at the scene who all saw the object. Masanuki rushed into a nearby FamilyMart and bought a disposable camera. He ran back out and began quickly taking shots of the floating object.

Just then a bright ball of light seemed to descend from the isosceles triangles and everything disappeared. The strangest part of it all was that the object didn't appear in any of Masanuki's photos after they were developed. All that could be seen was a group of people all pointing in amazement at a clear blue sky.

It was an incident that affected our reporter greatly, and even while getting a Kim Jong-un hair cut or visiting Japan's oldest adult movie theater, the question of "Are we not alone?" always hung in his mind.

But now was his chance to learn the truth about the isosceles triangles, so he wasted no time in heading to the area known as Susuma and the Space Station that lied within.

He journeyed by car along Prefectural Road 41 until he reached Lake Chino. This was an artificial lake made by runoff from the Sugano Dam on the upper Kashiwa River. In Masanuki's experience UFOs were attracted to high-capacity man-made lakes, making this place a potential hotbed of sightings.

He continued along a deserted mountain road. The trees were so tall that they blocked out much of the sunlight, making even the daytime seem eerily dim. Masanuki could almost hear the theme from The X-Files playing in the distance.

He reached a clearing and could just make out some strangely shaped objects in the distance. The X-Files theme swelled to a crescendo in his mind and he dashed closer.

He had arrived at Space Station!

▼ Sign: "Space Station"

▼ Masanuki: "…"

The X-Files theme stopped abruptly with the sound of a needle scratching against the vinyl. Something wasn't quite right here. The entire place had a strange — almost handmade — feeling to it. The rocking horses and metallic elephants were especially unbecoming of a proper space station.

However, the place was equal parts bizarre and heartwarming. Strange shapes and structures dotted the landscape, but they also looked inviting for kids to play on.

The apparent UFOs also had a menacing-yet-goofy vibe about them.

Some were little more than cardboard cutouts.

▼ Sign: "Welcome to the station of outer space!!"

Suddenly, Masanuki's heart jumped when he came across an entire shack that had been completely upturned. What could have possibly done this?

▼ Sign: "Thank you for driving safely (Fitness Dezaki)"

It was definitely a clue, but to what? The folksy charm of Space Station was clearly a diversion tactic aimed at drawing people away from the truth. However, even after turning over every stone he couldn't find any evidence of the isosceles triangles or their activities.

"Masanuki, you are tired," he could hear Agent Scully say in his mind and he decided to head back to civilization. Space Station was a dead end but his search would continue, and he would find the truth about triangles at all costs.

Unless there was something better to do.

Photos: ©SoraNews24
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Japan now has sleepable rental cars to help travelers save money by skipping a hotel

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 06:00 PM PDT

Clever interior modifications turn parked car into private bedroom.

While Japan has excellent train and bus networks, there are still parts of the country that you really need a private car to practically access. Unfortunately, many of these hard-to-reach yet beautiful parts of Japan are far enough off the beaten path that hotel choices quickly become scarce, and fewer options makes it harder to find budget-friendly accommodations.

However, rental car company Niconico Rentacar has a simultaneous solution to those problems, as it now rents a car that's specifically equipped so that you can sleep in it.

Just to be clear, the car, a Daihatsu Wake, isn't a jumbo-sized motor home. As a matter of fact, in its stock form the Wake is the farthest thing from a house on wheels. It's a kei car, belonging to the class of Japan's tiniest compacts.

But with a few additions, the Wake transforms into a place to hunker down for the night. Like most keis, the Wake's boxy frame allows for a surprisingly roomy interior, and once the seats are folded flat, plopping down the specially designed mattress that Niconico Rentacar provides turns the entire interior space into a spacious bed that measures 185 centimeters (72.8 inches) in length.

Of course, it's going to be hard to get any sleep with light streaming through the windows, so the car also comes with a set of curtains, which can be snapped into place to keep out the sun and give you extra privacy.

Niconico Rentacar says the Nicohaku plan (as it's calling the service) is great for outdoorsy types who want to hike, fish, or otherwise commune with nature during the early morning or late at night, outside the time blocks when buses and trains are in service. However, it's not strictly promoting the specially equipped Wake as a camping companion, as its website proudly boasts that renting a Nicohaku car will allow you to save the money you'd ordinarily be spending on a hotel room.

The Nicohaku plan is priced at 10,000 yen (US$93), which gets you the car for two days and one night, with additional nights available at 7,000 yen each. Currently, Nicohaku cars are offered at select Niconico Rentacar locations, which include Hachioji Horinouchi in Tokyo and New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, one of the best prefectures to travel around by car in Japan (Nicohaku reservations can be made here).

Of course, you might have realized a potential downside to sleeping in a Nicohaku car, which is that there's no shower. But remember, this is Japan, where you're never too far away from an awesome hot spring bath to take a soak in.

Source: Niconico Rentacar via IT Media
Top image: Niconico Rentacar
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Enjoy a refreshing bottle of just-kidding “soy sauce” from Japanese vending machines this summer

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 10:30 AM PDT

Wait, what?

On a recent sweltering day in Nara, our Japanese-language reporter K. Masami grew thirsty while strolling around town. She made a beeline for the nearest vending machine and inserted a coin, looking up to gauge the drink selection. Her eyes then did a double take when she spied a bottle of soy sauce in the top row. 

▼ The suspicious 100-yen (US$0.93) bottle on the right

…Or so it appeared. After a brief moment of confusion, she realized that the bottle’s label actually read, “Just kidding! Orange.” However, the packaging and design definitely bore an uncanny resemblance to a typical bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce…it couldn’t be a coincidence, right?

▼ A comparison of the bottle (left) with a real bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce (right)

The label indicated that the beverage was actually some kind of orange-flavored non-carbonate soft drink, but Masami couldn’t help feeling a bit skeptical. She decided to let her taste buds do the testing and brought it home with her.

▼ Looks like soy, tastes like orange?

Once home, Masami first did a little investigating. It turned out that “Just kidding! Orange” was produced by Osaka-based soft drink manufacturer Cheerio Corporation. Apparently it had been sold in the past but was discontinued for a while, and was now making its grand re-entrance to the western Kansai region market.

▼ This Cheerio brand of vending machine should be a familiar sight to residents of western Japan.

▼ Original “Just kidding! Orange” bottle (left) and revamped current bottle (right)

Masami poured some of the drink into a cup and was in for a second surprise. She had assumed that the dark color was merely the bottle packaging, but it turned out that the liquid itself was the color of soy sauce!

With some trepidation, she took a small sip…and was relieved to find that it did taste like orange after all. It wasn’t an overpowering flavor, but a rather gentle one.

Curious to get to the bottom of the soy sauce mystery, Masami actually took it upon herself to contact Cheerio Corporation about why the bottle looked the way it did. She was delighted to receive the following response:

“We wanted people to enjoy and be amazed by something that was far from the usual image of orange-flavored drinks and resembled soy sauce in packaging and color. We’d be pleased if you enjoy the flavor while also enjoying the gap between appearance and taste.”

Masami thought this sounded just in line with the type of humor famous in the Kansai region. To top it off, she then noticed the “warnings” on the back of the bottle:

▼ “This is not soy sauce!”reads the warning in both Japanese and English

▼ [In red] “Never, under any circumstances, drink a real bottle of soy sauce.”

All in all, she decided it would make an excellent gag gift idea if nothing else.

Speaking of disguised food, maybe Masami can treat herself to some deer poop ice cream on the next scorching day in Nara!

Photos ©SoraNews24
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Japanese artist and cat make bamboo guitar that serves nagashi somen noodles on hot summer days

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 08:00 AM PDT

Gives new meaning to “noodling around on the guitar.”

For years now artist-inventor Shota Mori has treated us with an array of utterly random projects from making a girlfriend out of plastic bottles to choreographing samurai jet-pack battles. But more recently he has begun the Original Guitar YouTube channel in which he builds an original – and I mean original – guitar every week, and documents its construction in a video.

This week Mori appears to be gearing up for summer with a guitar that doubles as a nagashi somen slide. Nagashi somen is a traditional Japanese summer activity in which people pluck noodles out of water while they flow along a bamboo chute.

Mori’s goal this week was to create a guitar that not only is playable but also can be used as a nagashi somen chute, and after watching his video you can too! All you need is some bamboo, a power drill, a few pickups, and a cute cat.

Really the gist of the video is pretty simple: Mori screws a bunch of electric guitar parts onto a bamboo frame. So, a good chunk of the two-minute video is just glamour shots of his pet cat assistant.

However, the resulting guitar does sound surprisingly good as he whips off the opening chords of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Next, he flips it upside-down, runs a hose from the top, and proceeds to catch some noodles for the ultimate in single-guy-apartment-summertime-fun.

The video appears to be a hit with everyone who watches it, gathering rave review after rave review.

“I love these videos and especially the cat and the narration. Looking forward to the next one!”
“Finally! I was waiting for a new video.”
“Smells like summer spirit.”
“Great editing, DIY skills, and humor…and the cat!!! You’re going places.”
“That’s a great idea!”
“Mori-san is very cute.”
“Great pacing! You know exactly how long to make a video.”

This is Mori’s fifth guitar in as many weeks, including a guitar made with a working Starbucks sign and a guitar that is also a giant can of kitchen cleanser, with actual powder cleanser inside.

However, he hasn’t given up on his other off-the-wall projects either such as this video of his cat randomly appearing out of an inter-dimensional wormhole.

Whatever he does, you can bet it’ll be whimsical and delightful, so be sure to subscribe to Shota Mori’s YouTube channels, especially so he can get paid. If anyone out there deserves some of that YouTube cash, it’s this guy.

Source: Twitter/@ShotaM0ri, YouTube/Original Guitar, YouTube/MoriShota, Togech
Images: YouTube/Original Guitar
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Japanese Fans, Official Translator Weigh in on Netflix Evangelion English Subtitle Debate

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 06:00 AM PDT

Netflix subtitles translate Kaworu’s proclamation to Shinji as ‘I like you’ compared to ADV’s ‘I love you.’

The Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth and Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion films launched on Netflix on June 21, sparking a ton of new chatter about the classic 1995 robot anime series. One subject that has come up for returning fans of the series is the difference between the translations in the Netflix subtitle and dub tracks and the translations provided by ADV Films in the platinum edition on DVD for the North American market. One interaction between Shinji and Kaworu in episode 24 has come under particular scrutiny.

(Note: Spoilers for the TV series below.)

Episode 24 shows Shinji and Kaworu having a bath together. After holding Shinji’s hand and telling him how much he understands the pain he is suffering, Kaworu says, “好意に値するよ” (You are worthy of my grace/favor/affection). When Shinji asks what Kaworu means by that, Kaworu responds, “好きってことさ”.

ADV translates this line to “It means I love you.” On the other hand, the translation on Netflix renders it as “It means I like you.”

The differences carry to the end of the episode, where a depressed Shinji says, “カヲル君が好きだって言ってくれたんだ、僕のこと”. ADV translates the line to “It was the first time someone told me they loved me,” while the translation on Netflix is “That’s the first time anybody’s ever said they liked me. Ever.”

Japanese fans have also taken note of the debate after Japanese news outlet J-Cast reported on the issue. Dan Kanemitsu, the translator of the Netflix Evangelion subtitles, told J-Cast, “This translation was made from the ground up. It has no connection to the previous translation at ADV.”

Users on the pop culture site Nijimen have been having their own discussion on whether “like” or “love” is a better translation in this context. The top-voted comments are translated below:

“Ask Anno!”

“I felt like I got a glimpse of the difficulties of translating nuance, but I also have the feeling that people are being swayed by the vocal minority.”

“Given Kaworu’s personality, I think you’re supposed to be wondering, ‘Huh? Is it like or love?’ when he says 好きってことさ.”

“The issue is whether it was right to revise ‘love’ into ‘like.’ The nuance is ambiguous, but if [the American fans] heard it as ‘love’ first and didn’t have a problem with it, then I can see why they’d be confused when it got changed.”

“I also think it’s weird for the line to get changed all these years later.”

“As far as the nuance goes, I think that ‘love’ fits better, but for a Japanese person it feels too direct to straight out say ‘I love you’ (愛してる), so normally you’d say ‘like’ to convey the gist.”

“Personally, I like it when characters express love but make out that they just ‘like’ the other person. It’s very like a Japanese person to not express their feelings too directly when they’re in love. It’s realistic. Also, depending on the way the words are said, it changes the vibe of the scene.”

“I think that it fits the character for the Kaworu of the TV anime to express his feelings towards Shinji as ‘love,’ although he only appeared in one episode and talked with Shinji for a few minutes.”

“Kaworu-kun is expressing ‘love’ but making out that it’s ‘like.’ That’s the nuance behind his love…”

On the subject of “Ask Anno,” Dan Kanemitsu provided a translated excerpt of an Evangelion companion book, titled Hideaki Anno Schizo Neon Genesis Evangelion, in an email to ANN as follows:

Anno: [Eva is a work] where the remaining process [of completing the work] is in the hands of the audience. I place strong emphasis in that relationship. After you get to a certain point, I want them to make their own judgment. There are portions where things are left ambiguous, so it all depends on how you view [and judge it for yourself.] I think the character of the person [e.g. a personality] reveals itself in that process. [Eva is a work] where if 10 people watch it, not all of the 10 will [compliment] it. In that sense, it’s very Japanese.

Kanemitsu clarified in the email that this excerpt should not be interpreted as a “defense” of his translation choices, but rather as “an argument of what makes Evangelion so wonderful and compelling for people of so many walks of life.”

Kanemitsu has provided translations for the staff who would eventually form Khara since the early days of General Products in 1989-1990, the retail outlet and merchandising store that complimented Gainax. He has been working with Khara on translation assistance since the very first Rebuild film in 2007. Speaking generally about his translation methods, he told ANN that he commonly consults the original creator in cases where the meaning is unclear or needs to be specified.

The question of “love” vs “like” brings up an oft-discussed quandary among translation theorists: who or what does the translator owe their fidelity to? To the original creator? To their understanding of the work itself? To the audience? Which part of the audience?

Some English-speaking fans have criticized the Netflix translation of “downplaying” or “erasing” the homoerotic overtones in Shinji and Kaworu’s relationship, pointing to a history of queer erasure in anime localizations, such as the Cloverway dub of Sailor Moon, which infamously changed Haruka and Michiru’s relationship from lovers to cousins. They argue that by translating Kaworu and Shinji’s lines literally, the translation gives fuel for deniers to argue that no romantic attraction exists between the two characters at all. This perpetuates a culture where gay relationships are seen as “just shipping” or “fan delusions” in media barring works explicitly labelled as “queer” or “LGBT.”

Such arguments bring to mind something that the famous Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki is said to have taught his students: the ideal Japanese translation for "I love you" is “Tsuki ga tottemo aoi naa" (The moon is so blue tonight). “I love you” may be too direct for a Japanese person to say aloud, even if the intent is implicit, an idea corroborated by some of the Nijimen commentors quoted above. This suggests that perhaps English translations of Japanese texts should be more explicit in regards to statements of romantic affection, depending on context.

Speaking personally as a Japanese-English translator, I think that “love” is a better fit in this particular context. Shinji’s despondent reaction at the end of the episode only makes sense if he believed that Kaworu expressed feelings stronger than mere “like” towards him. What is ambiguous is the nature of what Kaworu calls “love.” Does he love Shinji as a man or as a divine figure, the way the Christian God loves humans? At the end of the day, it’s up to each of us to decide what word best describes the relationship between the two characters. Even after this particular controversy dies down, the questions it provokes about translation fidelity will remain.

(NOTE: ADV Films first released the series dubbed on VHS in 1997-1998, and then produced a remastered version on DVD in 2002 and a platinum edition in 2004. According to users from the Evangelion fan community Evageeks, the VHS release used a different translation from what is quoted in the article. ANN was unable to independently confirm the translation on the VHS release.)

Source: VoxJ-CastNijimen
Featured image: Twitter/@shokikita
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Gun-dam, these are some crazy-looking anime robot-style cooking knives from Japan【Photos】

Posted: 29 Jun 2019 10:00 PM PDT

Ever wanted to prepare dinner with a replica of Gundam's heat hawk mecha weaponry? Now you can.

Japan loves craftsmanship and culinary arts, so it's no surprise that the country has a bit of a thing for high-quality cooking knives. As a matter of fact, there's a whole sub-category of Japanese-style kitchen cutlery, which often features katana-style hamon blade patterning and kanji character engravings.

But what if you created knives inspired not by Japan's historical past, but by the country's visions of a high-tech future? Then you might end up with something like the Gustav KG-06 series from Hyogo Prefecture cutlery maker Amenoma.

While they're not officially licensed products, it’s pretty clear that Amenoma modeled the Gustav line on some of the weaponry from anime mecha franchise Gundam. Specifically, the knife is a dead ringer for the heat hawk, a giant ax-like weapon that's part of the standard equipment loadout for the Zaku, the primary mecha of the series' villainous Zion military groups.

▼ The Gustav KG-06 even comes in a military-style case, with stenciled that makes it look like it belongs in a space station weapons depot.

▼ Amenoma lists the blade at 18 centimeters (7.1 inches) in length and the entire piece at 32.4 centimeters long, with a hefty 400-gram (14.1-ounce) weight.

But make no mistake: this is an actual chef's knife, although one used with a different cutting mechanic than most of us are used to.

In further keeping with the wink and nod to anime mecha design, there are three different versions of the Gustav KG-06, each with a different color scheme and powers. For example. the top-of-the-line red version sports a super-stylish black oxide coating.

▼ All Gustav models feature a hand-forged stainless steel blade and aluminum-cast body, and come with the carrying case.

▼ It's unclear if the iron cross-style insignia is part of the package, or simply an unusual accouterment added just for the promotional photography.

Finally, the blue Gustav KG-06 is billed as both a kitchen knife and a "machete," with a sturdier body and heavier weight of 450 grams, and is bundled with a cloth blade cover.

Prices start at 42,120 yen (US$390) for the green Gustav, climb to 45,260 for the blue, and top out at 51,840 for the red. All three are available through Amenoma's online shop here.

Source: Miki Kajiyamura Online Shop via Japaaan
Top image: Miki Kajiyamura Online Shop
Insert images: Miki Kajiyamura Online Shop (1, 2, 3)
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