Sweets we bought on the street turn out to be suspiciously delicious.

After finishing work the other day, our Japanese-language reporter Yuichiro Wasai was walking to the station to catch a train home when a young woman called out to him. He’d never seen her before, and for a second he almost thought she might be about to ask him out on a date.

It quickly became apparent, though, that the woman didn’t speak much Japanese at all. Instead, she pointed towards the sign she was holding, on which she’d written, in Japanese:

“I’m having trouble making ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic. Please buy my homemade chocolate.”

Speaking in broken Japanese, the woman said she was a foreign student currently going to school in Japan, and this set off some warning bells in Yuichiro’s head. Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been an increase in non-Japanese people selling various trinkets on the street, usually with some sort of story about how they’re in Japan on a student visa but no longer able to support themselves. Their stories are often vague and lack specific details, though, and it’s hard to get answers to any further questions, as the sellers often say they don’t speak Japanese well enough to understand the query or convey the answer. In other words, it’s hard to tell if they’re legitimate students going through a rough patch, or just scam artists looking to profit off kindhearted people’s sympathy.

When Yuichiro asked if he could take a picture of the woman’s sign, the woman said no, he couldn’t, which didn’t exactly inspire confidence. “What if she’s lying?” Yuichiro thought. “Maybe this is part of some scam operation and I’ll be funding a bunch of fraudsters?” But then the little compassionate angle aspect of Yuichiro’s psyche settled on his shoulder, and in …continue reading


Taman Observatory is a curious structure located on a small hilltop overlooking a sports park and the town of Tamana beyond. It’s not so high and the views are not particularly impressive.More like an oversized, climbable sculpture than a building, it does have a single room inside the central ovoid shape.As a photographer I found it exciting as I spent a good hour running around taking lots of

…continue reading


Officials are eager to stop young people from sending salacious images.

We live in unprecedented times, as I’m sure you well know by now. But one of the most striking changes in recent years is how ubiquitous and constant our use of technology is. While some of us remember being in our early twenties by the time we had our own cell phone, now it’s something of a necessity for people at younger and younger ages. This brings its own challenges, of course. How can you help children and teenagers stay safe on the Internet while respecting their privacy?

This issue is further complicated by how many phones nowadays come with cameras, and where there are cameras, there are selfies.

While snapping a cute photograph of yourself isn’t a crime, some younger people might find themselves tempted to take photographs where they’re in a state of undress…or in a worst-case scenario, be directed to do so by an outside party. Once a compromising photograph like this exists it could be sent to other people, uploaded online, or even discovered through hacking, and so the government is expressly encouraging phone carriers to implement technology that can restrict inappropriate selfies.

▼ There are already rules in place for using your phone for upskirt photography and other misdemeanors.

The request comes as part of the government’s most recently declared 5th Basic Plan on Measures for Providing Safe and Secure Internet Use for Young People. This plan includes such initiatives as education programs in schools to help young people acclimatize to the digital world, awareness campaigns regarding harmful content and predatory practices that are present online, and the promotion of ways to deal with uniquely Internet-based problems …continue reading


Boys Run the Riot Vol 1 last page

When it comes to freedom, I think about what Inio Asano was trying to point out when Solanin was released in America. There was a quote about freedom being a demon and it stuck to me since then. After finishing the 1st volume of Keito Gaku’s much-revered Boys Run the Riot, I think back to what freedom’s supposed to be.

This last page of Volume 1 spoke to me. To give context, the series is about a transgender high school student named Ryo (he/him), who joins up with a cisgender male delinquent named Jin to create a fashion label that aims to make an impact in the world. The end of Volume 1 highlights a genderqueer individual named Tsubasa who has an estranged relationship with their mother. Tsubasa’s cousin (whose classmates happen to be Ryo and Jin themselves) makes the above comments as he’s seen what happens when you attempt to break free from society’s standards in the case of Tsubasa’s situation.

There’s a really good interview with Gaku in the English version of Boys Run the Riot and Gaku is asked about that last page as family relations do become strained when someone who is LGBTQ+ comes out to their family. Gaku says,

“Personally, I also still have a lot of problems with figuring out how to interact with family, friends, and relatives. As for my parents, I was half-forced to create a situation where they had to accept me, so I don’t think I’m in any position to give advice on these matters.

However, I think that the person you’re coming out to also needs time process it, just as you probably took years to process it yourself before coming out. You might be worried about rejection or hurting people, and although it may be …continue reading


Pressured to review outdated prohibitions, an entire prefecture says goodbye to “relics of the past”.

Controversial school regulations have been under the spotlight in Japan recently, with an overwhelming number of people calling for reviews to be made after it was revealed that students were being forced to dye their hair and even show their underwear to teachers.

These rules, which have been in place at a wide number of schools across the country for decades, ultimately aim to uphold uniformity amongst students. However, when students with naturally brown hair are forced to dye their hair black to align with a school’s no-dyed hair colour policy, and student handbooks advise that pupils’ underwear must be white or beige for “hygiene reasons”, basic human rights start becoming a legitimate concern.

▼ If you were a student born with this hair colour, chances are you’d be accused of dyeing it, and would have to dye it black.

Because of these concerns, schools and prefectural boards of education are now under pressure to review outdated regulations, dubbed “black school rules” for their negative nature. Thankfully, this pressure is slowly leading to change, with Saga Prefecture recently announcing it would do away with underwear and hair checks, and now Western Japan’s Mie Prefecture has revealed it’s followed suit.

According to Mie’s prefectural board of education, as of this spring all public high schools in the prefecture have abolished school rules regarding hairstyles, the colour of underwear, and also dating. The changes came into effect after a 2019 survey found that out of 54 public high schools in the prefecture, 24 had provisions banning the “two-block” undercut hairstyle (short back and sides), 17 required students to …continue reading


Congratulations, space cowboy.

Some of anime voice actor Koichi Yamadera’s most memorable roles are characters who aren’t exactly lucky in love. As Ranma 1/2’s Ryoga Hibiki, he spends pretty much the entire series pining after a girl who only sees him as a friend (or a pet), and he’s got an even more tragic love life as Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel, a man eternally haunted by the memory of the lover he left behind when he broke away from a life in organized crime.

Yamadera himself, on the other hand, has a much more active love life, and this week announced that he’s gotten married.


— 山寺宏一 (@yamachanoha) June 14, 2021

“If you’ll pardon me for talking about a personal matter, I’d like to announce that Robin Shoko Okada and I have gotten married,” Tweeted Yamadera.

▼ Robin Shoko Okada



— 岡田ロビン翔子 (@xoxorobin19) June 7, 2021

You might be thinking that Okada, a former idol singer and current media personality (or “talent,” to use the Japanese show biz term) looks surprisingly young for the spouse of someone who’s been an anime voice actor since the mid-1980s, and there is indeed a large age gap between them. Okada, who was born in the U.S., is 28 years old, while Yamadera is 59, and will be turning 60 on Thursday.

▼ Okada was a member of idol unit Ciao Bella Cinquetti (also known as The Possivo) from 2004 to 2018.

The couple became acquainted while co-hosting The Bay Line, a talk radio program for Chiba Prefecture’s bayfm, where their stint lasted from 2015 until March of last year. “After we both graduating from hosting the show,” says Yamadera, “I realized how important she’d become to me, and we started dating.” …continue reading


We know how you feel, panda.

A lot of us have put on a little weight during the pandemic, and if you’re one such individual, don’t beat yourself up too much over it. With nowhere further to walk than the confines of your home, constant access to all the snacks in your pantry, and the option of wearing loose-fitting sweatpants day in and day out, it’s understandable if you’ve been taking in more calories than you’ve been burning.

We’re only human, after all…but then again, maybe we’ve got some company with Japan’s newest cute animal capsule toy figures.

Called What’s My Weight Today?, the line is a team-up between toymaker Takara Tomy Arts and Tanita, Japan’s most prominent manufacturer of personal scales and health monitors. There’s a total of six self-weighing animals, and on our first try we got the panda, whose confused expression reminds us of one we’ve made before when the number the scale is displaying isn’t one we’re eager to accept.

▼ We call it the “Wait, I didn’t eat that many Pikachu butt macaroons, did I?!?” expression.

▼ The deflated posture as acceptance sinks in is also one we ca relate too.

Since this is a tie-up with Tanita, each animal’s scale is a replica of an actual model made by the company.

In the case of the panda, it’s the BC-315, accurate to two decimal places, and sure enough …continue reading


Hashimoto becomes the undisputed, certified Queen of Tissues.

It was eight years ago that a photo of young idol Kanna Hashimoto dancing spread through the Internet like wildfire and earned her the title of “the once in a millennium idol.” Since then, it’s been a non-stop rise in show-business appearing in TV, film, and eight out of 10 commercials at any given moment.

And if all that wasn’t enough, the 22-year-old Hashimoto has now joined the rarified ranks of Guinness World Record holders. Appearing on the TV program 130,000,000 People’s Show Channel on 12 June, Hashimoto broke the record for “Most Facial Tissues Pulled Out of the Box in One Minute.”


— 橋本環奈 (@H_KANNA_0203) June 13, 2021

A crucial aspect of this record is that it can only be done with one hand, but Hashimoto seemed confident she could surpass the previous record of 140 tissues in one minute. As the Guinness official watched on, Hashimoto started with her palm flat on the table and then began plucking like the wind when time started.

She showed a keen sense of conservation of movement in her technique, swinging her forearm at the optimum angle for tissue removal and displacement far from the box. This would be the key to her success, because Hashimoto knew that after enough time a large enough pile of tissues could develop around the box that would severely hamper her ability to keep plucking.

Still, with the sheer speed of her endeavor tissues had eventually begun to gather around the working area. However, without missing a beat, she used her one available hand to sweep away the mess and resume plucking. Hashimoto also used her knees to help keep a steady momentum.

▼ Full video of the record attempt

In …continue reading


There’s a lot of great curry inside this machine, but one in particular is really something special.

Japan’s awesome vending machines have long been one of our favorite things about the country, but recently they’ve really been on a roll. Our recent visits to Sriracha and blind-buy whiskey vending machines already had us falling in love with mechanized commerce all over again, and then we found a vending machine selling all sorts of different types of instant curry!

We came across this wondrous machine by accident when we tried going to Curryland, a curry specialty shop in Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood. Unfortunately, we rolled up on a Tuesday, which turns out to be the store’s regular day off. Shortly before our eyes filled with tears at the prospect of going home empty-handed, though, we spotted the curry vending machine just outside the entrance.

Taking a look inside, our eyes were greeted by a huge variety of regional curries incorporating local ingredients from Hokkaido, Hiroshima, Yamanashi, and several other prefectures.

We narrowed our options down to three types, and unable to pick just one, bought all of them to take back to SoraNews24 headquarters and taste test. All of them come in vacuum-sealed pouches, and before eating them you either boil the unopened pouch in a pot of water or pour the contents into a dish and heat them up in the …continue reading



For expats living in Japan, aside from the realization that you are expecting, that fear may be compounded even further by having to figure out prenatal care, doctors, official registration and the like. I can relate. Not to worry, Savvy Tokyo is here to help! After you’ve done your little happy dance, a few fist pumps and taken some deep calming breaths—read of the following tips.

Confirming the pregnancy

If you suspect you may be pregnant, you’ll be happy to know that simple, pee-on-a-stick type home pregnancy tests (ninshin kensayaku) can typically be found at any drugstore for a few hundred yen. To confirm your pregnancy head to your local hospital or ladies’ clinic for a checkup.

Hospitals and birth centers book up very fast, so you will want to get onto this fairly quickly.

I went for my confirmation appointment when I was six-weeks pregnant amid much ribbing from my husband—who thought I was being a little overeager—only to find that the delivery suite at Kawasaki Municipal Tama Hospital (my local) was already fully booked for anyone beyond the eight week mark. Note that you don’t need to go to the facility where you wish to give birth for this initial checkup, but depending on the hospital, it may mean your name gets pencilled in even before confirmation.

Your doctor will confirm your pregnancy via transvaginal ultrasound. This can be a blessing and a curse. While it’s exciting to have a scan and possibly see your tiny, flashing bean straightaway, it can also be unnecessarily concerning if no heartbeat can be found, since it’s not always possible at such an early stage. So if not, try not to worry—your doctor will likely ask you to return the following week to try again.

Once your doctor spies a heartbeat, you will be issued …continue reading