Trump blabbed about response to North Korean missile launch in the Mar A Lago dining room while diners listened in

After a day of engaging in the most irresponsible activity a president can undertake (according to Donald Trump, anyway), President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went to the Mar A Lago dining room with Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn, when Trump got a phone call about North Korea's missile tests. Read the rest

Otonamaki: wrapping oneself in cloth to ease pain

Otonomaki, or "Adult wrapping," sees the subject swaddled cosily, even tightly, in a muslin-like cloth. The aim is to "alleviate posture problems and stiffness," reports the BBC, and it's exploding in popularity in Japan.

"The reason why Otonamaki was invented was because some people were worried about babies struggling or feeling claustrophobic while being wrapped up," says Orie Matsuo of Kyoko Proportion, one of several companies that offer Otonamaki to its customers. "We thought if adults were rolled up like them, they could experience how good it feels." And if customer feedback is anything to go by, Otonamaki is certainly proving successful.

The psychological dimensions speak for themselves, whispering from within their calm white cocoon.

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What a new house in Tokyo looks like

Life Where I'm From has a tour of a 4LDK (4 bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen) in Tokyo. Cost is about $480,000. I love that magnetic door stopper, and the high tech toilet. Read the rest

Trump threatens to order 'additional security for our country' next week, 'very rapidly'

During a bizarre meet-and-greet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that ended with the weirdest diplomatic handshake ever, so-called 'President' Donald J. Trump ominously teased his intent to introduce some sort of heightened national security measures next week, and to continue fighting his losing battle with America's judicial system over the #MuslimBan.

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Modding a vintage Japanese pachinko arcade game

Pachinko machines are traditionally purely mechanical, so Ben Heck thought he'd mod one to include electronic lights and sounds. The 8-bit gaming sound program is a great option, but Ben's fart sound program may be the keeper. Read the rest

Unprecedented: Japan's population has declined by 1 million in 5 years

Rich countries have low birthrates (in part because they have more rights for women, and women who can control their bodies and fates choose to have fewer children on average than women who live in poor countries with fewer rights for women); Japan, one of the most xenophobic of all the rich countries, has the killer combination of a near-total ban on immigration from poor countries (where all the young people are) and a high standard of living. Read the rest

Idiot's guide to Japanese apartments

Rachel & Jun present a helpful introduction to Japanese apartment living. Includes tips on cleaning your tub every day, preparing for earthquakes, and caring for your easily-destroyed tatami mats. Read the rest

Charming short film on creating the perfect bowl of ramen

Many Westerners equate ramen noodles with the cheap dried stuff that poor students and young adults eat, but Criterion Collection is doing their part to change that. They put together this wonderful documentary to support the 4K restoration of "ramen Western" Tampopo, one of the greatest food films ever made. Read the rest

The history of eating bugs in Japan (with recipes)

Over at the Japanese culture website Tofugu (where my wife Carla is on staff), there's a great article by Kanae Nakamine on Japanese bug eating traditions, complete with tasty recipes like bee larva omelets, baby ant minestrone, and rice grasshopper granola bars. There are also vending machines in Japan that sell edible bugs.

If you’re too lazy to hunt for bugs and cook them, don’t worry! There are other options. Japan is a land of convenience, and this extends to their tasty, tasty insects.

You can buy edible bugs anytime 24/7. In Tokyo’s Inokashira park, there’s a vending machine with two kinds of bugs that come in cans: Rice Grasshopper Kanroni and Hanakuyouniis Brand Bee Larvae. Both of these products are kinds of tsukudani, which is the traditional way of cooking with soy sauce, sugar, and sake. Kanroni is similar to tsukudani, but has more sugar and tastes sweeter. Hanakuyouni is a certain brand of tsukudani food in Japan. It uses its original recipe to stew the bee larvae for this product. So next time you’re going for a jog in this Tokyo park, swing your sweaty self over to this vending machine and start guzzling bee larvae. Nothing prepares you for long distance running better than a belly full of insect babies!

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What happens when your political photo goes viral in 2017

Sean Bonner's posted his share of viral images over the years, but the most recent time was a little different: he tweeted a picture of an anti-Trump political sticker he spotted in Tokyo, created by street artist 281_Anti nuke. Read the rest

Moral panic: Japanese girls risk fingerprint theft by making peace-signs in photographs

Isao Echizen, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Informatics, told a reporter from the Sankei Shimbun that he had successfully captured fingerprints from photos taken at 3m distance at sufficient resolution to recreate them and use them to fool biometric identification systems (such as fingerprint sensors that unlock mobile phones). Read the rest

Sea eel population dropped 90% in 30 years

In Japan, people eat more than one hundred thousand tons of eel per year. In the last 30 years, overfishing has caused the wild eel population to decline by 90 percent.

From The New Yorker:

At Tsukiji, wholesale prices for farm-raised unagi imported from China immediately surged to a record high of around forty U.S. dollars per kilogram, and remained there for much of 2013. Prices for the wild-caught, “natural Japanese” eels served at upscale restaurants like Nodaiwa climbed even higher, by as much as fifty or sixty per cent.

But the government had been late to recognize the extent of the problem, which had already taken a toll on many famous restaurants specializing in kabayaki, a signature unagi preparation. In March, 2012, a year before the species was declared endangered, the beloved unagi restaurant Suekawa closed its doors, after sixty-five years of business, and it was followed a month later by the popular restaurant Yoshikawa.

Image by Kossy@FINEDAYS from Akabane, Tokyo - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link Read the rest

Whirlwind POV Tokyo tour with BMXer Nigel Sylvester

Nigel Sylvester is back with the third in his crazy GO! video series, this time heading to Tokyo for a dizzying array of match-cut adventures on a simple red bike. Read the rest

Watch Japanese bo-taoshi players defend their poles

Bo-taoshi (pole toppling) is a contact sport in which two teams each try to keep a large pole upright. Half of each team is on defense, and the other half plays offense. There's a player who stands on the top of the pole and kicks everyone in the face till they yank that player off the top. Read the rest

Why just four seasons? Ancient Japan had 72 microseasons

Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Boring. Ancient Japan had 72 microseasons each lasting about five days. They each have wonderfully evocative names like "Spring Winds Thaw the Ice" and "The Maple and Ivy Turn Yellow." We just finished “The Bear Retreats to its Den,” and this microseason 64, falling immediately after the solstice, is called "The Common Heal-All Sprouts. Read the rest

The best way to get tickets for Miyazaki's Ghibli Museum in Japan

One of the highlights of our family vacation to Japan was a day spent at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. Carla wrote an article for Tofugu about how to get tickets to the museum, which isn't as easy as you might think. Read the rest

Why is KFC a Christmas tradition in Japan?

Around Christmas, many KFC restaurants in Japan see 10 times their average daily sales. Customers order their KFC special Christmas dinner weeks in advance or wait in line for hours to score a Kentucky Christmas dinner package including chicken, side dishes, cake, and even wine. WTF??! Marketing, that's what. From the BBC:

According to KFC Japan spokeswoman Motoichi Nakatani, it started thanks to Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country. Shortly after it opened in 1970, Okawara woke up at midnight and jotted down an idea that came to him in a dream: a “party barrel” to be sold on Christmas.

Okawara dreamed up the idea after overhearing a couple of foreigners in his store talk about how they missed having turkey for Christmas, according to Nakatani. Okawara hoped a Christmas dinner of fried chicken could be a fine substitute, and so he began marketing his Party Barrel as a way to celebrate the holiday.

In 1974, KFC took the marketing plan national, calling it Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii, or Kentucky for Christmas. It took off quickly, and so did the Harvard-educated Okawara, who climbed through the company ranks and served as president and CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan from 1984 to 2002.

The Party Barrel for Christmas became almost immediately a national phenomenon, says Joonas Rokka, associate professor of marketing at Emlyon Business School in France. He has studied the KFC Christmas in Japan as a model promotions campaign.

“It filled a void,” Rokka says.

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