A survey by public broadcaster NHK has found that the there were 4,406 buildings and land parcels in Hokkaido owned by foreign funds and corporations as of January 2020. This is a 12% increase from 2019. Even with the international travel bans, some industry experts say acquisitions have continued throughout 2020 as foreign investors are confident that things will return to normal post-covid.

NHK’s survey covered 56 cities and towns with populations of over 20,000. Of the 4,406 offshore property owners, 938 were registered in Hong Kong, 703 in mainland China, and 519 in Australia.

Not surprisingly, more than half of the properties were located in the Niseko ski resort district. Another ski resort destination – Furano – is rising in popularity with 186 properties owned by offshore owners, up 30% from 2019.

The Niseko branch manager of Hokkaido Bank said foreign investors were jumping at the chance to take advantage of a slow market in Hokkaido due to the pandemic.

In December 2020, luxury resort-condominium The Vale Rusutsu opened. The 10-story building has 160 apartments, including a 280 sqm (3,013 sq.ft) penthouse that was priced over 500 million Yen (approx. US$4.76 million). Hotel guests were fewer than expected this ski season due to the pandemic, but the sales team has reported a constant stream of inquiries from interested buyers. Apartments have been selling to buyers from throughout Asia. In the same month, the Higashiyama Niseko Village Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotel opened. This is the fifth Ritz-Carlton Reserve and the first in Japan.

Source: NHK, February 12, 2021.

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Even frogs sometimes have frogs in their throats.

Around midday on 24 February, a woman in her 20s was visiting Senju Kannondo, a temple dedicated to the goddess of mercy that’s nestled between the Sai River and foot of Mt. Kubote in Buzen, Fukuoka Prefecture. While enjoying the serenity of the area, she heard the faint sound of a dog barking.

▼ Senju Kannon in Buzen

The sound led her to a crack in the mountain wall behind the temple’s worship hall where spring water dripped out. She was unable to see anything but could distinctly hear sounds like “grrrr,” “yip yip,” and “woof.” Fearing that an animal was trapped she placed a call to Japan’s emergency number, 110.

Two officers rushed to the scene and searched around but were unable to find any dog. However, all three could distinctly hear a dog barking somewhere very close. Just then a local in his 50s passed by and told them matter-of-factly that “It’s probably those barking frogs.” He then left the trio who were feeling stunned and slightly embarrassed.

Sure enough, there is such a creature called the Tago frog, also known as “Tago’s brown frog,” after Japanese zoologist Katsuya Tago, which is endemic to Japan and inhabits mountainous areas. By all accounts they resemble your average frog, measuring three to four centimeters (1.2 to 1.6 inches) in length, but when mating season comes between February and April the males “bark” and growl just like dogs in order to attract females.

▼ Have a listen.

It seemed most urban dwelling people who read the news also had to check what these frogs sound like and hear it for themselves.

“I checked a website with Tago frog calls and, yeah, they sound like dogs.”
“I saw the story on TV, and the host cracked up when she heard how the frogs …continue reading


These Shinkansen-exclusive ice creams are so famous they even have their own hashtag.

When you take a trip on a Japanese bullet train, there are a lot of things to look forward to on the journey, including the onboard trolley service, where you can purchase Sujata ice cream, a treat so rare it can’t be purchased anywhere else.

Now, with passenger numbers down during the pandemic, one Shinkansen line has sadly suspended sales of the ice cream onboard from February. However, they’ve decided to make everyone’s dreams come true by offering the Shinkansen-exclusive ice cream for sale online, and it’s so popular it sells out within minutes every time there’s a restock.

▼ Our Japanese-language reporter K. Masami failed to get an order in for the new ice creams until she got lucky on the third restock.

The Sanyo Shinkansen, which connects Shin-Osaka in Osaka with Hakata Station in Fukuoka, is selling the ice creams online in 12-piece boxes, containing either all vanilla, all matcha or six of each variety. Masami got the mixed set and immediately went to open one of the matcha ice creams first, as it’s the one she always chooses when riding the Shinkansen.

Peeling off the foil lid, Masami was curious to see if the home-delivered ice creams would have the same hardness as the ones served on the train. Sujata ice creams are so famous for their hardness they even have their own hashtag on social media–“Shinkansen sugoi katai aisu” (“super hard Shinkansen ice cream“)–with photos and videos showing people unable to insert the spoon into the super-stiff ice cream.

▼ Masami took hold …continue reading


It turns out there’s a division of labor between who comes up with the words and who writes them on the papers.

The bar for strangeness is set pretty high in the world of Japan’s capsule toys. After all, right now you can find machines selling such oddities as figures of gorillas wearing randoseru backpacks or Shiba dogs with their heads bursting out of ukiyo-e woodblock artwork.

But even by gacha toy standards, manufacturer Capsule Corporation’s Imoto Kara no Tegami line is pretty out there, since the name translates to “Letters from Little Sister,” and each capsule includes a letter filled with deep sibling devotion to and/or frightening possessiveness of Big Brother, like in the letter than says “Who was that girl I saw you with? Onii-chan KILL Onii-chan…What did the two of you do together? I won’t forgive you.”

The letters come on pieces of paper folded up and nestled inside the capsules, and while some are printed with a hand-written font, others actually are written by hand.

But who’s actually putting pen to paper? That was the question put to Capsule Corporation CEO Hideaki Eto by magazine Nikkan Spa, and at the risk of shattering the illusion, he revealed that the letters are not, in fact, written by teenage girls. “They’re generally written by women in their 20s, 30s, or 40s” Eto explained. Most of the time, it’s one or two women writing the expressive, brightly colored characters, but when things get busy, they bring in five or six part-timers to help with the extra workload.

<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="480" srcset=" 1024w,,113 …continue reading


According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism’s (MLIT) LOOK Report for the fourth quarter of 2020, a total of 15 locations recorded an increase in land prices, up from just 1 location in the previous quarter.

In the Tokyo region, 6 of the 43 locations saw an increase in land prices, up from 0 in the third quarter, while 11 saw land prices fall. The Osaka region saw 4 districts with an increase in land prices up from 0 in the third quarter, while 17 saw land prices fall.

As expected, demand for residential development sites has recovered as apartment sales have remained strong throughout the year. On the commercial side, there has been some demand although it is more restrained, with 6 locations seeing land prices rise.

Districts with a heavy concentration of hotels and retail have continued to suffer from the prolonged drop in tourism spending. Some districts have taken a turn for the worse as retail and office vacancies start to rise.

Commercial and retail districts in Tokyo’s Yaesu, Nihonbashi, and east of Shinagawa Station saw land prices switch to a downwards trend. Kabukicho and Ueno, entertainment and tourist districts, saw land prices fall between 3 ~ 6% for the third straight quarter. Osaka’s Shinsaibashi and Namba districts also saw similar drops.

Nationwide, 38 locations saw land prices decline, down from 45 locations in the third quarter.

This is the third report looking at changes in land prices since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: MLIT Look Report, February 24, 2021.

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Let’s find out with goo Ranking what Japan’s favourite crisps (or chips, if you are so inclined) are.

Back in Scotland, it was Walker’s, and usually cheese flavour, but now in Japan it’s sour cream and onion, and Calbee is my favourite brand, although Koikeya’s Pride Potatoes are not bad too.

Now there’s a thing – I’ve never seen Smoky Bacon despite that being a standard UK flavour, and Vinegar is a rarity in crisps yet is a fundamental in many Japanese dishes.

The Calbee adverts can be quite entertaining (these are for Consommé Punch)

Ranking result

Rank Votes
1 Calbee Potato Chips Lightly Salted 171
2 Calbee Potato Chips Consommé Punch 94
3 Koikeya Potato Chips Seaweed Salt 82
4 Calbee Hard-Fried Potato Lightly Salted 68
5 Calbee Potato Chips Seaweed Salt 67
6 Calbee Pizza Potato 53
7 Calbee Hard-Fried Potato Black Pepper 46
8 Calbee Potato Chips Happy Butter 41
9 Koikeya Potato Chips Lightly Salted 36
10 Calbee Potato Chips Consommé W Punch 30
10 Yamazaki Chip Star Consommé 30
10 Koikeya Potato Chips Rich Consommé 30
13 Yamayoshi Potato Chips Wasa Beef 22
14 Yamazaki Chip Star Lightly Salted 19
15 Pringles Sour Cream and Onion 18
15 Koikeya Karamucho Chips Hot Chili Flavour 18
17 Koikeya Suppa-Mucho Chips Refreshing Plum Flavour 16
18 Calbee Potato Chips Crisp Lightly Salted 15
19 Calbee Potato Chips Crisp Consommé Punch 14
19 Koikeya Suppa-Mucho Chips Refreshing Vinegar 14
21 Koikeya Pride Potato Godly Seaweed Salt 13
22 Calbee Potato Chips French Salad 12
22 Koikeya Potato chips Seaweed Soy Sauce 12
24 Calbee Thin Potato Lightly Salted 10
25 Yamazaki Chip Star Seaweed Salt 9
25 House Oh Zack Lightly Salted 9
27 Calbee Potato Chips Crisp Sour Cream and Onion 8
27 Calbee Hard-fried Potato Grilled Seaweed 8
29 Calbee Potato Chips Soy Sauce Mayonnaise 7
29 Koikeya Potato Comfort Okhotsk Salt and Rock Salt 7
31 Koikeya Pride Potato Inspiring Lightly Salted 6
31 Koikeya Pride Potato Whole Potato Salt-Free 6
31 Koikeya Potato Chips Garlic 6
31 Bourbon Petit Potato Seaweed Salt 6
31 Calbee Potato Chips Zigzag Rich Chicken Consommé 6
36 Pringles Delicious Salt 5
36 Koikeya Potato Comfort First-Pressed Sesame Oil and Rock Salt 5
36 Bourbon Petit Potato Lightly Salted 5
39 Yamayoshi Potato chips Hokkaido Sour Cream and Onion flavor 4
39 Yamayoshi Potato chips Super! Korean Seaweed 4
39 Yamayoshi Potato chips Hokkaido Rich Butter 4
39 Calbee Potato Chips Zig-Zag Tasty Salt 4
39 Calbee Crunch Potato Sour Cream and Onion 4
39 Bourbon Potelka Consommé 4
39 Tohato Amijaga Chicken Consommé 4

…continue reading


Day 45 of my first walk around Kyushu and it’s time to head north out of yatsushiro towards Kumamoto City. My first stop is the Shinkansen station a little outside thye city, Shin Yatsushiro Station.Standing in front of the station on the east side is Monument Kilali, a project of Kumamoto Artpolis.It looks quite flimsy and is roughly the size and shape of a small house. Its not a building,

…continue reading


According to BS Fuji’s top dog, there’s a reason why making romance dramas in Japan is an uphill battle.

Sometimes, as The Beatles once sang, all you need is love. Stories about romance can lift us up, make our hearts pound, bring us joy or reduce us to emotional sobs. There is a hearty trove of powerful love stories out there in the world, and even for stories thoroughly bereft of romantic sub-plots, we can always rely on fanworks.

It sounds as though some of the people who think up these epic romances are finding it increasingly hard, however. Chihiro Kameyama, one-time president of the Fuji Television Network and current president of the BS Fuji broadcasting service, shared his thoughts about the current climate—and why it’s so much harder to peddle romance dramas to audiences than it used to be.

▼ Kameyama is responsible for a number of hit TV dramas, such as 1997’s Beach Boys.

Only 3 more episodes of #ビーチボーイズ left to watch. ?#ドラマ #dorama #BeachBoys #反町隆史 #竹野内豊

— ベアちゃん (@kojikohai) January 19, 2019

“I think romance dramas are challenging in this current era,” Kameyama said when questioned about the lack of recent Japanese-produced romantic dramas. “Romance has become considered something that happens to other people.”

He continued to explain his theories for what is essential when making a romantic drama, namely the idea of “barriers.” Barriers like class, economic stability, status, and long-distance relationships have all been mined rather thoroughly leading to audiences feeling bored with the genre. These barriers also vary from era to era, which leads to another problem: the world and its issues loom large in the current Japanese audience’s consciousness, especially in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Kameyama …continue reading


A nurse prepares to vaccinate in Singapore, 19 January 2021 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Jeremy Youde, University of Minnesota Duluth

In less than a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, there are already 10 different vaccines approved for use in various countries around the world. But vaccines are only effective if people can get vaccinated — and progress on that front is incredibly uneven. While many states in the Global North will likely achieve widespread vaccination by late 2021, middle and low-income countries may not receive significant vaccine access until 2024.

This lack of access persists throughout much of Asia. Most Asian states have not started vaccinating their populations, largely due to limited vaccine manufacturing capabilities, logistical challenges and regulatory delays. In contrast to the strong initial responses to COVID-19 by many Asian states, the slow rollout of vaccination programs threatens to undermine early successes.

There are efforts to improve COVID-19 vaccine access throughout Asia, two of which deserve particular attention. The first is COVAX, a joint partnership between the (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance (GAVI).

Its aim is to develop, purchase and supply COVID-19 vaccines to provide more equitable access, with the goal of vaccinating 1.8 billion people (or 20 per cent of the population in its target low-income states) by the end of 2021. Under this plan, Southeast Asian states should receive 695 million vaccine doses by year’s end, covering roughly half of the region’s population.

COVAX represents a global collaboration …continue reading


Recent ruling overturns win in landmark case.

Nothing is more annoying for those residing in Japan than opening up the door only to reveal a licensing fee collector for NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster. Famous for their persistence and sometimes brutish tactics, NHK licensing fee collectors are universally scorned. In fact, many folks have come up with a variety of ways to avoid coughing up the technically required fees, which could cost up to 24,800 yen per year (US$233.57).

Some individuals have even gone as far as contesting the broadcasting organization’s fees through court. There aren’t too many success stories, but for the first time ever, one Tokyo woman in the summer of 2020 was able to avoid paying the de facto mandatory fees. While the court initially ruled in her favor and the case was seen as an important win against NHK’s reach, on February 24, Tokyo’s highest court has overturned the landmark decision.

▼ There goes all my extra cash for Famichikis

The reason? Originally, the line of argument which won the woman’s case highlighted how the television had a pre-installed signal blocker and a private citizen can’t be expected to inherently know how to uninstall one. However, the new ruling now argues that technically the Tokyo woman’s television could have a signal booster installed with the right tools involved. Essentially, as long as the electronic device can receive or can be modified to receive a broadcast signal, then it’s fair game for NHK when it comes to collecting fees from folks.

▼ Don’t open the door to the NHK license fee collector with your smartphone in hand because some fee collectors may …continue reading