HomeCategory Japan

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Coronavirus has now spread to dozens of countries around the world. Italy has had over 600 deaths per day from it, and Iran is another epicenter. Cases in the US are surging, especially in Louisiana. Japan was one of the first countries to get coronavirus, but has managed to keep the number of cases relatively low (a little bit over 1,000 on Japanese soil, and about 400 or so more on the Diamond Princess cruise...

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A common issue that travelers to Japan face is that they end up with a massive pile of coins. Japanese coins range from ¥1 (slightly less than $0.01) to ¥500 (~$4.68), so unless you make a conscious, daily effort to give cashiers, vending machines, etc. change that is as exact as possible, you’d soon have dozens of coins in your wallet, and then maybe even need another container… What if Japan had a ¥500 bill...

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It’s that time of the year again: cherry blossom season! Cherry blossoms (sakura, 桜) bloom across most of Japan, starting in the tropical/subtropical areas down south, then working their way up to the temperate areas, and finally, they reach cold Hokkaidō (and its outlying areas) last. This year, the best cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo will be on the weekends of March 20-22 and March 28-29. The predicted best cherry blossom viewing time is March...

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Recently, in Saitama (the prefecture directly north of Tokyo), the weather was rainy, but it was a very odd type of rain. It was a black rain. In some country/countries, “Black Rain” is a code word meaning “very heavy downpour,” for example, in Hong Kong, but in this case, this was not just figure of speech. The rain was actually the color black! The black rain came at night, days after a very violent lightning...

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Now, let’s discuss a new type of Japanese real estate…a house…for hedgehogs! Hedgehogs are becoming increasingly common as pets, especially in Japan. The Japanese word for “hedgehog” is harinezumi (ハリネズミ or 針鼠, literally “needle mouse”), because their bodies are covered in sharp quills. However, when the hedgehog is calm, it’s possible to pet it; it feels like petting a hairbrush with stiff bristles. Hedgehogs love new smells, from cigarettes to turpentine, and will “anoint” themselves...

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In Chichibu, there’s a museum called the “Chinsekikan” (珍石館). 珍 (chin)=Rare 石 (seki)=Rock 館 (kan)=Hall They have over 1,700 rocks. Many (though not all) of them resemble human faces, for example, Elvis Presley. Take a look at the following picture (from mapple.net) at the third one on the second row: Some Western news sources claim that the museum only has rocks that resemble human faces. That’s actually not true, although many of them do. For...

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For thousands of years, Mt. Fuji has been free-to-climb. This is about to change. For those who’ve been living under a rock (though obviously not a reddish-orange volcanic rock on Mt. Fuji), Mt. Fuji (also known as “Fujisan,” but NOT “Fujiyama”) is the tallest mountain in Japan, a dormant volcano that last erupted between 1707 and 1708. It stands 3,776.24 meters tall, or for those of you using the imperial system, that’s approximately 12,389.24 feet....

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Over the past ten or so years, toilet smashing has been becoming a serious problem in Tokyo and The Greater Tokyo Area (for example, Saitama, Kanagawa, etc.). Someone, or perhaps multiple offenders, is entering public restrooms and utterly destroying toilets and urinals. How are they doing it? With a sledgehammer? Really strong martial arts skills? It’s a mystery. However, the government has decided to fight back by installing stronger, virtually unbreakable toilets. Maybe the next...

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The statistics are out. In 2019, the population of the Tokyo area, including Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa, increased by over 148,000 (148,783, to be precise). This may seem surprising to those used to reading cynical news about Japan’s decreasing population, which is true, but doesn’t show the whole picture. Rural-urban migration, as well as more immigration than before, is happening, resulting in some prefectures increasing in population. This was the sixth straight year in...

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Japan is already famous for its cat cafés. Now, you can play with not only felines, but the world’s largest rodent! What is the world’s largest rodent, though? It’s the capybara. The capybara comes from South America. It’s very cute, a social animal, and enjoys being petted. However, it’s an uncommon pet because it often requires a license (although, in the US, in Texas and Pennsylvania, none is necessary), it needs other capybaras to be...