So, pandas are generally considered a lock when it comes to selling things in Japan, and showing just how true that is, we now have the release of Atsumare! Panda no Oshiri: Panketsu, a 64-page tome devoted entirely to panda butts.
Panketsu was originally released on 7 December, 2021, but has already sold out and a second run was urgently printed to keep up with the public’s voracious appetite for panda booty.
And when it comes to tochuses, this book is fully loaded, featuring thirteen pandas that reside in Japanese zoos. Even the buttocks of Xiao Xiao and Lei Lei, the highly anticipated twins born last year at Ueno Zoo, can be seen here.
The book invites readers to soothe their troubled minds by staring into the fluffy keisters of these roly-poly beasts, and in doing so observe the subtle differences in the color and shape of each one’s rear end. In fact, there is even a quiz to match the butt with the bear to see how well you’ve been paying attention.
Panketsu also contains a frequently asked questions section where experts give a more thorough explanation of the full panda butt experience. Questions such as “Is panda fur soft?” and “Do pandas have …continue reading
Many cultures celebrate their youth’s passage into adulthood. In Latin America, the lavish quinceanera beckons 15-year-old girls into womanhood. Then, there’s North Baffin Island, where the Inuit take their 11 or 12-year-old boys on an arduous hunting expedition for the first catch of their adult lives.
In Japan, things are more low-key with the celebratory Seiji no Hi, or Coming of Age Day. It’s a holiday for those who pass the adult threshold between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current one.
But what age is an adult in Japan? For the last 140 years, that has been 20 years old, but with the Japanese Civil Code now revised to the bright age of 18, things are about to change.
History of Coming of Age Day
While the current iteration of Coming of Age Day began only in 1948, the ancient traditional coming-of-age ceremony, known as genpuku, sprouted up as far back as the Nara period (710-794). However, it looked slightly different than its modern-day counterpart.
Boys sometimes as young as 10—and occasionally girls—would prepare for the move to adulthood with a change of clothes, name and adoption of adult-only duties. The ceremony would consist of a “capping,” meaning placing a court cap on the head, and the girls would receive a pleated skirt. The age of adulthood fluctuated throughout the centuries, from as low as 10 to as high as today’s 20.
In 1948, post-war Japan looked to rally the despondent youth of the day by declaring a novel rite of passage. Initially, this was to be on Jan. 15 every year. However, with the introduction of the Happy Monday System, which …continue reading
Silent serenity speaks volumes with its overwhelming beauty.
Japan is known for having some of the best snow in the world, and when you see it falling on centuries-old temples and shrines, the beauty can be so otherworldly you might be tempted to pinch yourself to make sure you haven’t entered a fantasy dreamland.
It’s an experience that can be hard to catch on camera, but talented photographer and Twitter user @zookomi0124 was able to do just that recently. Their photo — taken at Entsuin, a Buddhist temple located in Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture — evokes a myriad of emotions, perfectly exemplifying the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
▼ You might want to gaze at the scene for a moment to allow it to sink in.
The photo does an amazing job of drawing the viewer into the scene with its pure simplicity. As our gaze is led towards the temple building, our line of sight is enriched by the whiteness of the snowscape that surrounds it, creating a space that’s both broad yet inviting at the same time.
It’s as if the temple is gazing right back at the viewer, creating a personal connection where nobody else exists. The photo engages so many senses simultaneously — we can hear the silence, feel the chill of the snowflakes on our skin and smell the crisp mountain air. It’s like a purification for the eyes, heart and soul.
▼ The photographer likened the scene to an ink painting.
If you’re a foreigner in Japan, a common question locals might ask you is if you know how to use chopsticks. It might seem odd at first, but using two sticks to pick up food is easier said than done. Training your fingers to use two wooden sticks to grab that large tempura and put it in your mouth without dropping the whole thing might seem daunting at first, especially if you’re used to spoons or forks.
According to historical records, chopsticks were created about 5,000 years ago in China. The earliest versions were twigs used to pick up food from cooking pots. Then during the periods when food and resources were scarce, cooks would save fuel by chopping up ingredients into smaller pieces, making them quicker to cook. This practice also eliminated the need for knives and placed chopsticks into the spotlight.
It was around 500 AD when chopsticks spread to Japan and other Asian countries like Vietnam and Korea. However, the earliest version of hashi (meaning bridge) in Japan was used strictly for religious ceremonies. It was made of one piece of bamboo joined at the top, much like tweezers.
In Japan, most of the chopsticks are made in Obama, Fukui, showcasing centuries of craftsmanship and tradition. However, the practice has slowly dwindled, from more than a hundred hashi masters a century ago to about ten chopstick makers today. Chopsticks can be made of wood, silver, titanium, even gold, ivory, and jade, their price increasing with the material and craftsmanship.
Did you know that a jeweler in Australia created one of the most expensive chopsticks in the world, priced at $139,000 (¥15,711,580)? That’s a rather big difference from the hashi you can get at a ¥100 store.
Every New Year’s Eve, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK airs a musical extravaganza titled Kohaku Uta Gassen, which translates to Red & White Song Battle. This is where two teams whose rosters are filled with top-selling artists both past and present, perform songs while viewers vote for their favorites. The winners don’t really get anything as far as I know, but I guess it’s more about the journey than the destination. In that way, it’s not really so much a competition as it is a showcase of the biggest songs of the year mixed in with some timeless classics.
▼ Judy & Mary performing “Sobakasu” in 1996
However, the 72nd instalment in the competition has run into snags recently. First, there was a lot of talk that the show was struggling because there wasn’t really a definitive hit song of 2021. Also, about a week ago Kohaku announced that they would include a special tribute to anime and video game music for the first time ever with a medley from Evangelion, Dragon Quest, and Demon Slayer.
Prior to that, it was also learned that the show’s hosts would not be divided by gender as they always had been. In Kohaku the white team is made up of male artists and the red team is female and they had always been introduced by a male and female host respectively. This year the gender divide will remain among musicians but the hosts will not be bound by it. The show said that the change was an effort towards move diversity in the program, indicated in part with this year’s theme of “colorful,” implying that everything isn’t just red and white …continue reading
If you usually start the year partying and stuffing your face with food, spending the holiday in Japan could strike you as oddly quiet and devoid of glitter. Despite what it may appear on the surface, New Year’s is a major holiday in Japan, and December is spent bubbling with preparations for it.
The first days of the year are for relaxing. Many opt to spend the chilly evenings sharing meals with their family under the warmth of a kotatsu (a table with a heat source).
But that breezy start is only possible thanks to meticulous planning diligently carried out the days before. People in Japan declutter their bodies, minds and houses before unwinding and rekindling connection.
Are you also looking for mindful ways to kick off the year? Here are five Japanese New Year’s traditions and why you should follow suit.
Drink something healthy
In 951, a monk in an epidemic-rippled Kyoto gave the sick umeboshi (pickled plum) tea. Miraculously, it made them feel better. Thus, the emperor began drinking umeboshi tea every New Year’s Day for luck.
It later became a tradition known as obukucha. Nowadays, kelp has also been added to this intense infusion, giving it a salty kick. The drink remained popular, especially in Kyoto, despite its sourness, perhaps because of it. You can find it in Kaldi and other stores nationwide.
Instead, hopes are channeled in deep introspection and prayer.
If you’re looking for a more natural alternative to champagne, toso, known as “medicinal sake,” is a popular pick. This fragrant spiced drink is made of ginger, Japanese pepper, cinnamon and other herbs mixed with two types of sake and mirin. It’s sold in many liquor …continue reading
Some grape Japan readers may recall the amazingly photorealistic work of Haru Otomi 音海はる. We first introduced the then 18-year-old color pencil artist in 2019 because of his cute cats who looked incredibly real, and then again in 2020 when he introduced his impressively detailed drawing of a cheetah.
We checked in with him recently to see his work over the past year and were happily surprised. Not only do his skills seem to be getting even better, showing incredible attention to detail pushing the limits of photorealism, but he has drawn even more adorable cats and even a cute bunny rabbit this past year.
To begin with, this truly impressive profile view of a cat:
From the color pattern of the fur to the astonishing detail in its hair and whiskers to the reflection in its beautiful green eyes, it’s hard to believe it’s not a photo!
And look at this adorable grey and white kitten looking up. Don’t you want to just reach out and pet it?
Otomi has a thing for cute pets, which can be seen in this drawing of a rabbit with a beautiful coat of caramel brown fur:
Finally, since we’re about to enter the Year of the Tiger, we thought it would only be appropriate to introduce his tiger drawings too. Unlike the growling cheetah we introduced last year, this tiger has a cute side to it, captured with Otomi’s masterful touch …continue reading
Ah, Christmas in Japan. Here, Santa leaves his home in Finland, comes through the front door (no chimneys here) and places gifts next to sleeping children’s beds. Meanwhile, families scarf down KFC and cake, and young couples go out on romantic dates.
Christmas movies are different too. While we might watch a family-friendly film about Santa and his elves, locals want to curl up on the couch with their significant other and get romantic. So it’s more of a couple’s holiday. However, one thing that we share is the idea of the Christmas miracle.
So enjoy Christmas like the locals—grab a big bucket of fried chicken, eat some cake and fire up one of these holiday flicks. Note that some of the films here are unfortunately not available with English subtitles.
1. Miracle: Devil Claus’ Love and Magic
Hikari (Smap’s Masaki Aiba) is a struggling manga artist working to make ends meet at a bookstore. One day he runs into Korean So-Young (Han Hyo-Joo), a spitting image of a character from his manga. While smitten, Hikari doesn’t notice his childhood friend, Anna (Nana Eikura), loves him. The love triangle grows even more complicated when Hikari’s university friend, fellow manga artist Kitayama (Tomu Ikuta), enters the picture.
Miracle: Devil Claus’ Love and Magic is a delightful piece of Christmas-themed entertainment. There’s enough drama to keep you hooked, but it’s presented with a light touch. The characters are relatable, the story is enjoyable, and the ending is satisfying—an excellent choice for a Japanese-style romantic Christmas Eve.
“Asian Fishing” is the term used when a non-Asian styles themselves to look Asian, particularly East Asian, through the use of clothes, makeup or photoediting. And that’s what a number of people picked up on when Grande posted a series of photos of herself on social media on 1 December.
▼ Grande is barely recognisable in the photos she posted online.
literally wtf is this… bc i know Ariana grande is not trying to go from black fishing to asian fishing…. pic.twitter.com/OdW0pkxvZg
Having previously been accused of Black Fishing for things like her accent, lingo, and overly tanned skin, fans overseas were quick to pick up on Grande’s unusual look in these new photos. Her straightbrows, thin-winged eyeliner, no-lid eyelid look and lighter-than-usual foundation were all called out as Asian hallmarks, while others took issue with her demure pose, saying it was a stereotype that fed into the fetishisation of Asian culture.
▼ Grande’s makeup looks surprisingly similar to this.
However, on the other hand, a number of fans, including Asians themselves, didn’t seem to be bothered by Grande’s new look at all.
not non-asian people felt uncomfortable and offended by ariana grande “asian fishing” shit while us, Asians / SE Asians didn’t even notice it and had …continue reading
Before I had kids, something that struck me about my yearly trips to Japan was how visible young children are. Of course, I knew that Japan is considered a super-aging society, with one in three people in the elderly category. But, compared to everywhere I lived and visited in North America, I saw so many more babies out and about when I was in Japan.
Part of this is potentially related to the enduring nature of sansaiji shinwa, or “the myth of the first three years,” which is the belief that a mother must fully dedicate herself to child rearing for the first three years of her baby’s life or risk averse outcomes. Part of this is also the so-called taiki jidou mondai, or waitlisted children problem, whereby Japan has a shortage of childcare resources—especially for women working full time. Yet, the high visibility of babies in contemporary Japan is also because they are largely being carried through public spaces, tiny heads popping out of front and back carriers, as their caregivers go about their days.
At the time, I felt inspired. This solved one of my dilemmas about having children in the first place. I always had trouble envisioning myself handling a stroller through the city streets, folding it to get on a bus or in a café or fighting through the snow (hi Canada!); but with my baby strapped to me, I could better imagine what my life would look like with a little one. When my first and second daughters came, carriers were indispensable to me whether I was in North America or Japan.