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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"Let's test out our newly sharpened katana on an intern"

A couple of weeks ago I linked to an article Carla wrote at Tofugu about the Japanese word, tsujigiri, which means "to cut someone down to test out a new / newly sharpened katana." Today, Tofugu posted a video that goes into a bit more detail, with a real life demonstration of tsujigiri. Read the rest

Fellow keeps impressive stone face as he's shoved into a packed subway car

This fellow has zero fucks to give as THREE oshiya (pushers) try their hardest to get those doors to close.

(via Marco Patella Photography)

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This sleeping 'rice bear' with an 'egg blanket' is almost too cute to eat (but yes we'd eat it)

Presentation is usually the last thing on my mind when I’m making dinner, but if I had more patience, this rice bear would make for an adorable dinner companion. Read the rest

As Japan's trumpian leader prepares for war, Japanese people march for peace

Shinzō Abe, the xenophobic, autocratic prime minister of Japan, has been dismantling Article 9 of the constitution, which forbids acts of war by Japan. Read the rest

Lalah the cat is a master of the climbing wall

Lalah lives at the Boulbaka Bouldering Gym in Naha, Okinawa, Japan.

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Fantastic vintage Japanese matchbox art

See more at Juxtapoz!

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Smooth chihuahua Nana has the derp game on lock

Instagrammer Edamame114 is proud biographer of Japan's derpiest superstar chihuahua Nana. Follow Nana's adventures wearing hats, going to local landmarks, and eating treats. Warning: you may make audible sounds while scrolling. Read the rest

Tsujigiri: a ghastly samurai practice

Tsujigiri is the Japanese word for lopping off an innocent person's head with a sword. My wife, Carla Sinclair, wrote about the origins of this grisly practice in her article for Tofugu.

The reasons for tsujigiri varied, but usually the swordsman slashed at an unsuspecting victim to try out his new katana, to practice a new move, to test his strength, or just for the sheer thrill of it. There was even a superstition floating around that said performing tsujigiri on 1,000 people would heal illness. The victims were usually merchants or peasants.

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How Canadian and US expats celebrate Thanksgiving in Japan

My wife Carla is executive editor of Tofugu, a very cool website about Japan. She just wrote an article about how USans and Canadians living in Japan celebrate Thanksgiving. She interviewed five people (a few are Boing Boing readers who responded to a request to be interviewed) and they told her how they managed to have a nice dinner in a country where turkeys are relatively rare.

WHAT DO JAPANESE PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THANKSGIVING?

Joel: Not very much. Unlike Christmas and Halloween, school kids tend not to learn much about it other than, "Americans eat turkey." There also seems to be a lot of confusion with young kids regarding turkey versus chicken. Explaining that they are not the same animal results in a lot of baffled looks.

Annamarie: I have found very few people are familiar with American Thanksgiving. Apart from the knowledge that it exists and that we usually eat turkey, most people I’ve spoken to about it are at a loss. This isn’t a bad thing. I appreciate the opportunity to explain both the storybook and historical origins of the holiday.

Katie: I'm still discovering what Japanese folks know about Thanksgiving. Since I work for an American company (Nike) I find most of my coworkers are pretty savvy about things like Fourth of July and other very American holidays, but I can't tell what my neighbors think, or even if it registers on their radar at all. The most interesting insight for me this year was when a colleague said they were going home to visit family for the Obon festival, “you know, kind of like your Thanksgiving holiday.” I thought it was a good sign that he equated Thanksgiving with “homecoming” and not overeating and football games.

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Amazing photos from Kinshasa's scrap car-parts megamarket

The N’Djili district of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo is home to an enormous market of scrap auto-parts, carefully salvaged from Japan's waste-stream and meticulously arrayed on blankets by merchants eking out a marginal existence. Read the rest

The much-anticipated Part Three of the Tonoharu trilogy is hot off the press

My wife, Carla, is the executive editor of Tofugu, a Japanese language and culture blog. Today she ran her review of the third and final installment of Lars Martinson's Tonoharu trilogy.

The entire trilogy takes place over the course of one year, as we follow the main character, Dan Wells, an awkward 25-year-old English teacher who has just moved to the remote town of Tonoharu, Japan. Being the only American in a rural area an hour away from the nearest small city is a culture shock that Dan hasn’t anticipated. Over the course of the series we are right there with Dan as he struggles with issues that most new assistant language teachers will likely deal with to some degree: loneliness, making friends, fitting in, improving Japanese language ability, overcoming cultural barriers, and figuring out what’s next.

Previously:

Video trailer for Tonoharu graphic novel

Tonoharu: Excellent graphic novel about an English teacher in Japan

Tonoharu Part Two: Excellent graphic novel about an English teacher in Japan Read the rest

A travel diary about getting lost on the most isolated island in Japan

In 2009, illustrator Florent Chavouet decided to shrug off city life and get lost somewhere off the beaten path. Way off the beaten path. Stating, “The country [Japan] claims more than four thousand islands. But I only know two," as reason enough and taking pencils in hand, Chavouet traveled to the smallest, most isolated island he could find: the small fishing island of Manabeshima.

A good travel diary is built on unfamiliar, sometimes incomprehensible scenes brought to life by the ability of its author to paint pictures in the readers' minds. He or she must make both the physical and cultural descriptions of a place and its people understandable, and relatable. In lovely, delicate colors, Chavouet does exactly that. Whether it is by detailing the furnishings and artifacts layered in a photographer’s home or in the odd and surprising detritus cluttering up the local post office, the author shows us all the minutia of daily life on this tiny island.

Chavouet has a knack for finding the little details that define people and places in our minds. We meet Hironobu, whose “round belly fills him with joy.” We meet a nameless vagabond who seems to take delight in inserting himself into Chavouet’s personal space. We meet Reizo-san, an old man who taught English in Hiroshima after the war. And on and on until it seems that the entirety of the town must have come straight from central casting just to populate this charming locale.

In between and alongside the descriptions and sketches of people and places are all the tiny things that make up daily life. Read the rest

The incredible and dying art of Japanese candy sculpture

Shinri Tezuka, 27, sculpts candy into beautiful, creepy, and very sweet creatures like goldfish and octopuses. The centuries-old practice is called amezaiku, but according to Great Big Story, "today there are only two artists left in Tokyo. Tezuka hopes his elaborate goldfish, frog and octopus designs will inspire the next generation of candy crafters to keep the tradition alive."

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