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Tokyo government provides coronavirus home recuperation sets with instant ramen, curry, and more

Comfort food care packages eliminate the need to go out for groceries or take-out during final stage of recovery. It’s pretty safe to say that no one in the world enjoys having to quarantine at home as they recover from a coronavirus infection. For those living in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, though, there’s at least something […]

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You can build Japan’s hauntingly beautiful Gunkanjima as a papercraft kit【Photos】

Putting together “Battleship Island” gave us a new perspective on what life was like for the families that lived there. A while back, we spent the day recreating Japan’s most famous mountain, Mt. Fuji, in paper form. Today, we’re turning our attention, and fingertips, to another iconic sight of Japan as we build a papercraft […]

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We travel to a mysterious power spot in Okinawa, where a “heart rock” floats in the sea

Mother Nature attempts to reclaim the path at this rugged tourist site filled with mystery and beauty. Japan’s southernmost prefecture of Okinawa stretches out over a chain of about 150 islands, all varying in size and each with a unique appeal. And while some of these islands are more remote than others, a few of […]

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Studio Ghibli releases 300 more images from six movies free to download online

Gorgeous anime stills include tantalising food scenes from some of the studio’s beloved films. Last month, Studio Ghibli wowed its fans around the world with a present they weren’t expecting: a collection of 400 images from eight feature films free to download online. It was a surprise gesture of kindness from a studio renowned for being […]

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Aiming For 45 kg: Disordered Eating Recovery In Japan

In the last few years, in bookstores in Japan, I have often been drawn to the women’s lifestyle section and dieting books. Maybe all of the advertisements on the Yamanote Line when I was in Tokyo in 2018 had pierced my subconscious, but Ishimura Tomomi’s book, ゼロトレ(“Zero Training”), in particular, has recently caught my attention again.

“After trying Tomomi’s exercises, my waist shrank by 7.5 cm in one hour!”

… so it says on the publisher’s website, as well as the ad that I stared at with my daughter strapped to me in a baby carrier on the packed train. It doesn’t attract my interest because it’s an especially interesting idea, however. Rather, it merely reflects one of the biggest weights that I carry—a history of food restriction and disordered thoughts about eating—repackaged in the country I now call home.

My own story with Disordered Eating

By the time I first visited Tokyo, I was in my early twenties and had already spent many years dodging questions about my weight from doctors and mental health professionals in Canada.

Unfortunately, my history with disordered eating, like many women’s goes back far too long: to when I was still in elementary school. I can remember the first time that dieting seemed appealing. It was the late 1990s and I was flipping through a magazine at the dentist’s office. By chance, I came across an article about butter as the “enemy of a slim figure.” Enthralled, I kept reading, strangely attracted to the idea that one could achieve an ideal merely by omitting a simple morning toast topping. And so, I declared my own personal and very quiet war against butter, cutting it out of all of my routines, morning and otherwise. I relished the sense of calm …continue reading


Japanese KitKats are shrinking, Nestlé says previous size may have been “too large” for customers

Twitter user uncovers a case of shrinkflation, and chocolate lovers aren’t happy about it. Nobody does KitKats quite like Japan. Here, they come in all sorts of unique varieties like sakura, sake, and cough drop, and they’re even sold in post offices, where they’re packaged in decorative boxes perfect for sending to relatives and friends. Commonly […]

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How Difficult is the JLPT N1 for Japanese People?

Source: Gaijin Pot
How Difficult is the JLPT N1 for Japanese People?

When I first came to Japan, I heard the rumors about how infamously difficult the N1 exam was. A common story going around the foreign community at the time was that the N1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), the highest level, was so difficult that even Japanese speakers would struggle with the questions and perhaps fail to get the 50 percent score needed to pass.

Would Japanese speakers struggle with the questions?

Surely that couldn’t be right, could it?

I didn’t really believe it until one day, trying to explain a grammar point to one of my younger students, I used the infamous (に)だに (even) grammar point from my N1 grammar cheat sheet to explain. At first, I got that look that Japanese people give when they are convinced that the speaker has made some fundamental error.

“Are you sure that’s Japanese?” she ventured.

I showed her example questions and she laughed. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this,” she explained. “We’d use something like にも instead.” She’s actually right, I would later discover, as (に)だに is only really used in certain types of literature and にも is far more commonly used. However, it got me interested in seeing how Japanese people would actually do on the N1.

The test

The guinea pigs for my experiment were a range of Japanese people. On separate days, using questions from the official materials for taking the exam, I interviewed businesswomen from a reputable firm who have a 短(たん)大(だい)or 4-year degree, students at a 専(せん)門(もん)学(がっ)校(こう) (specialist school), and some junior high school kids to keep things interesting.

Initially, the hypothesis that the test would be difficult for native speakers was blown out of the water as the first questions, which test kanji …continue reading


Why Blonde-Haired, Blue-Eyed Sailor Moon Is Neither White Nor Japanese

Usagi - Sailor Moon figurine

Earlier this year, a Twitter storm erupted over drawings of Japan’s eternal anime superheroine, Sailor Moon (セーラームーン). A redraw of the blonde-haired character that gave her Asian facial features drew rapt approval from Twitter users writing in English, before a swift backlash from Japanese and other Asian users who decried it as stereotyping. At the heart of the storm is a question of how manga readers (or anime viewers) identify characters’ race, or to put it another way—“Why do Japanese anime characters look white?”

Why do Japanese anime characters look white?

Living on the moon

Pretty Warrior Sailor Moon is the star of a manga created by Japanese artist Naoko Takeuchi, which was published from 1992 to 1997 along with a TV anime. The 14-year-old character, who is also known as Usagi Tsukino (or as Serena Tsukino in English-dubbed anime), has big round blue eyes, incredibly long blonde ponytails, an adorable maritime-inspired outfit and is the prototype for Japan’s female superheroines. If you met her on the street, you might think she is Caucasian—but then again, you never will meet this fictional character on the street.

Anyway, according to the storyline, she comes from an ancient civilization that lived on the moon.

A Twitter dustup

In July 2019, a Korean artist started the #sailormoonredraw challenge by posting to Twitter a still shot of the anime character and an original drawing of her, and encouraging other artists to join in by posting versions drawn in their own styles. Pictures posted to the thread accumulated likes and retweets in the thousands, but in May this year that jumped to the 10,000s as Japanese illustrators, including some famous ones, got involved.

It was all good artistic fun until self-confessed fan (non-Japanese) Silverjow posted a picture of …continue reading


Japanese manners debate: Is it OK to tell your coworkers “I’ve found a new job?”

Pros, cons, compromises, and proverbs to consider when it’s time to say so long. Japanese management gurus are big on the benefits of communication. A major reason Japanese companies have so many meetings, after-hours drinking sessions, and employee trips is that they’re ostensibly an opportunity for coworkers to share ideas and better understand each other’s […]

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