It was a rough year for Japan’s non-onsen bathhouses, but a comeback might be on the way.
Onsen (hot springs) have been part of Japanese culture for centuries, but they’ve been seriously surging in popularity over the past 20 years. At the same time that there’s an onsen renaissance going on, though, Japan’s sento, non-hot spring public baths located in urban or suburban neighborhoods, feel like they’re gradually fading away.
Statistics largely back this up. In 2006, Tokyo still had a total of 963 sento, 873 in the 23 wards that make up the most populous part of the capital and 90 farther out from the city center. By 2020, nearly half of them had closed, leaving just 499 Tokyo sento still in operation (453 in the 23 wards, 46 elsewhere).
The biggest reason, of course, is that up until a few generations ago reliable indoor plumbing was a bit of a luxury for Japanese homes, but now it’s pretty much a given. Aside from the lowest of low-rent properties, pretty much every apartment in Tokyo nowadays, no matter how small, still has a shower and modestly sized tub. Regularly stopping by the local sento is no longer the grooming and hygiene requirement it once was, and that slide towards non-necessity has been going on for a long time.
“Don’t knock it till you try it” comes to mind for some of these!
Japanese curry is pretty simple to make. Just pick your favourite roux, add meat and vegetables and that’s it! But, much like other comfort foods from around the world, Japanese curry isn’t limited to just one recipe. Each person has their own individual way of making it, right down to the specific way they cut their veggies or how long to cook the curry for. And even if the same curry roux is used, the taste may vary from family to family, as people use their favourite secret ingredients to give their curry a unique taste.
We’ve seen some strange curry ingredients before, like matcha and sakura petals, but surely these are just trendy ingredients to attract foodies, right? Regular Japanese households don’t use such unorthodox ingredients… right?
A survey by Japanese lifestyle portal Kufura asked 437 Japanese women what secret ingredient they used in their curry, and the top ten results were posted.
5. Soy sauce
Perhaps not so surprising, soy sauce was the fifth most popular response. Proponents said they liked how it shifted the flavor balance from spicy to rich, and also how it added a traditional Japanese taste to the dish.
Another pretty orthodox ingredient, garlic, comes in at number four. Because this is a ranking of “secret ingredients” though, respondents aren’t tossing in whole cloves and eating them like the large chunks of potato or carrot you find in Japanese curry. Instead, the trick is to grate the garlic before it goes into the pot, so that it melts into the roux.
As it turns out, there’s a lot of love for cats on the railway network too, because over at Tokyo’s Nippori Station you’ll find some cleverly hidden feline images dotted around the station complex. This is in homage to the surrounding area, which is known for its connection to cats — particularly the Yanesen area around the West Exit, which is said to be a “cat town”, and the Yanaka Ginza shopping strip, a five-minute walk away, where you’ll find loads of cat images and motifs, including “Senchan”, Yanaka Ginza’s official feline mascot.
The cat motifs at Nippori Station are a recent addition, following the renewal of the West Exit in April last year. This allowed Nippori Station’s own feline mascot, “Nyappori“, to finally play a more prominent role at the station, after the character became something of a symbol when it was created by a station employee in 2011.
▼ Nyappori combines “Nippori” with “nyan”, the Japanese word for “meow”.
Even after the character’s creator moved on to work at a different station, Nyappori’s fan base grew and the cat stayed behind to grace stamps and posters used at Nippori Station.
▼ Here, the cat demonstrates why you should stay clear of shutters while they’re in operation.
Following the station upgrade, Nyappori now has a more permanent position inside the complex, with staff saying the character can currently be found at three locations.
Head of state also picks up an amazing One Piece souvenir that any fan would treasure.
When French president Emmanuel Macron arrived in Japan last week, there were two highly publicized reasons for the visit. One was to attend the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics, and the other was for summit meetings with Japanese prime minster Yoshihide Suga.
However, part of Macron’s itinerary in Japan has dropped the jaws of people even with no particular interest in sports or politics, as France’s head of state also met with some of the biggest names in otaku culture.
At the opening of the video shared through Macron’s official Twitter account, he can be seen, with the help of an interpreter, speaking to a Japanese man in a dark suit. While not every fan may recognize the face, that’s Hiro Mashima, manga artist and creator of the Fairy Tail anime/manga franchise.
Macron hasn’t summoned Mashima just to fanboy over him, though. As they speak, he expresses his sincere appreciation for Mashima’s work, which he says is immensely popular in France, and Mashima humbly adds that he himself greatly admires French culture.
Moving to his left, Mashima next introduces himself to a second Japanese man. This is Hidetaka Miyazaki, the director of such enjoyably punishing video games as Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro.
▼ For anyone who’s played Miyazaki’s notoriously merciless games, it’s almost surreal to see people standing in his presence but not suddenly die a brutal death.
After they speak, Macron next turns to an older, more casually dressed gentleman. This is none other than Katsuhiro Otomo, manga artist and creator of Akira.
Can Seiji find the true meaning of the Olympics for a few bucks?
Aside from the inclusion of video game music, our writer Seiji Nakazawa has been having a hard time getting into the 2020 Olympics. Feeling that whatever the Games used to be about has been lost in crass commercialism, the whole pomp and circumstance seemed a little hollow to him.
In an effort to reconnect with that spirit, Seiji decided to transform himself into an Olympic super fan. He headed over to the 100-yen shop Daiso and their rock-bottom prices because he mustn’t give into the capitalist farce surrounding the event… That and he was very poor.
In a way though, Daiso is like the gold medalist among 100-yen stores, so they ought to have what Seiji needed for his mission.
The store in Asakusa ROX had a big special display for Olympic goods. However, none of the signs mentioned the Olympics by name, because they’d have to pay for a sponsorship fee to do that. Instead, they just said things like “absolutely recommended products” and “cheer from home!”
“That’s right,” thought Seiji, “stick it to the man.”
At first glance it might have been hard to notice the Olympic theme of this display. DVDs, smartphone stands, neck pillows, and HDMI cables were arranged next to potato chips and other finger foods. Clearly they were angling for those watching the Games from home and wanting to record events while at work.
Some of the world’s greatest athletes hang a left at the life-size anime robot in their race for Olympic gold.
With the Tokyo Olympics taking place under pandemic conditions, non-press spectators have been barred from the stadiums and arenas where events are taking place. It’s a slightly different story with outdoor events that run through public spaces, though. So during the cycling portion of the triathlon, the athletes were riding by in sight of some of Tokyo’s citizens…and also under the watchful gaze of one of Japan’s most famous robots.
The triathlon presents a unique logistical challenge for Olympics planners, since you need both a large body of water for the swimming portion and abundance of paved roads for the cycling and running portions. So for the Tokyo Games, organizers decided on the city’s Odaiba district. A manmade island in Tokyo Bay, Odaiba has plenty of shoreline, but as one of the city’s newer neighborhoods is far less congested than other water-adjacent parts of Tokyo. However, by far Odaiba’s most attractive feature, in the eyes of anime fans anyway, is that it’s home to a gigantic, life-size statue of anime mecha Gundam.
Specifically, that’s the 19.7-meters (64.6-foot) tall RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, hero mech from the Gundam Unicorn arc of the franchise. Well, technically, it’s not a robot, but a “mobile suit,” to use Gundam’s in-anime terminology, which the announcer for Japanese public broadcaster NHK’s Olympic coverage properly did when he told viewers “The athletes are now riding past, with the mobile …continue reading
During the Parade of Nations of the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, the athletes entered the stadium as the P.A, system said their country’s name first in French, then in English, and finally in Japanese. So when the host country’s team made its appearance, the speakers rang out with “Japon! Japan! Nihon!”, which, of course, translates to “Japan! Japan! Japan!”
And yet, a number of people in Japan were confused, because even though Nihon means “Japan,” it’s not the only way to say the country’s name in the local language. “I think the stadium announcer made a mistake,” said news commentator Tatsuyuki Takaoka the following morning on talk show Asapara S, where former volleyball player Junichi Kawai said he too was surprised.
So what did they think the stadium announcer should have said? Nippon. “That’s what we were always called back in my day,” said Kawai. Even the announcers for public broadcaster NHK, which was televising the event, called the arriving team “Nippon” immediately after the stadium announcer introduced them as “Nihon.”
So which is the correct way to say “Japan?” Both of them. Yes, as strange as is it may seem, there are two ways to say “Japan” in Japanese: Nihon and Nippon. Making the while thing even more confusing is that, in Japanese, Nihon and Nippon are written exactly the same way.
Relive the thrill of this classic arcade game every time you need to tell the time.
Pac-Man, originally released as an arcade game by Namco (now Bandai Namco) in 1980, is popular around the world among all generations. Heck, the only reason I even remotely looked forward to going to the orthodontist while growing up in the U.S. was because there was a free-to-play Pac-Man machine in the waiting room. As proof of its success, the game entered the Guinness World Records in 2005 as the most successful coin-operated game of all time.
Speaking of time, everyone’s favorite dot-chomping, ghost-chasing yellow puck character has teamed up with electronics and watch maker Casio for the release of a new retro-looking digital watch, the A100WEPC, that will go on sale on August 21.
▼ Casio x Pac-Man collaborative A100WEPC model
This new model is based on a reissue of Casio’s classic F-100 digital watch, which was originally released in 1978 as the first quartz model with a resin case along with stopwatch and calendar capabilities. Notably, it features the F-100’s characteristic four front buttons, the “Illuminator” logo in the center using the Pac-Man font, and colorful depictions of Pac-Man and the four ghosts with the arcade game’s iconic dot maze layout.
In a fun nod to the game, the upper watch band features laser-cut illustrations of Pac-Man fleeing the ghosts while the lower band features Pac-Man chasing the ghosts after eating a power pellet.
Summer in Japan is the perfect time to try out new sports or outdoor activities. With months of cloudless blue skies and longer days, it’s a great opportunity to finally get on the fitness bandwagon and try to lose a bit of weight. While the obvious answer is to join a gym or fitness center, there are other ways to stay fit and active this season.
So what can we do here in Japan to improve our fitness, lose a bit of weight and feel healthier during the Japanese summer? Here are five ideas for you to consider that use the time of year, natural environment as well as local sports and activities to help you get in shape and feel healthier.
1. Go for a walk (or run)
Walking is the easiest, cheapest and possibly least stressful way to lose weight in a relatively short space of time. Japanese cities are surprisingly easy to walk around. Despite the high population densities and busy roads, even the largest metropolitan areas like Tokyo and Osaka have plenty of green spaces—whether parks or along the rivers and canals that cut through them.
The best places to enjoy a good walk are riverside areas, such as the banks of the Edogawa or Tamagawa in Tokyo or the Nakanoshima waterfront district in Osaka. There’s something about the cool breeze of the riverside that makes a summer walk so much more pleasurable and more apt to keep you moving.
It really bugs us that Japan has the prettiest bugs.
Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has placed three rare species of arthropods native to Okinawa under immediate legal protection until June 30, 2024. Under Japanese law, the capture, killing, distribution, exportation, or unauthorized display of these species during this timeframe could result in imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to 5 million yen (US$45,270). The special protections are intended to save the species from extinction and make it easier for scientists to study them in the wild moving forward.
The protected species include two newly discovered cockroaches (after a drought of no new ones in Japan for 35 years) and one new centipede (the first in over a century!). Notably, they’ve been winning over entomophiles and the public alike because of their striking color accents–even among those who aren’t usually part of the cockroach-loving crowd.
Let’s properly introduce the new guys now, shall we?
Inhabiting only the forests of Okinawa Prefecture’s Miyako Island, Eucorydia miyakoensis was just recently recorded as a new species in a scientific article in June. It immediately stands out for the vivid orange belt pattern on its wings. Not much is currently known about its habits apart from the fact that it thrives in humus (decayed plant and animal matter) on the forest floor.
▼ Why can’t we have an iridescent cockroach like this in the U.S…?
Meanwhile, Eucorydia donanensis was identified as a newly discovered species on the small Yonagumi Island (home to the westernmost inhabited point in Japan) in a November 2020 article. It has a purple abdomen with a …continue reading