Visit to an interesting ramen restaurant in Japan

Fukuoka, Japan is home to the Ichiran ramen museum, where you can see ramen noodles being made. You can also eat at an Ichiran restaurant, where you buy a menu item ticket from a vending machine then sit in one of the walled-off cubicles along the counter, so you can eat without having to interact with anyone else. That's my kind of eatery.

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These people on a remote Japanese island enjoy eating a poisonous plant

Amami Ōshima is a small Japanese island a little north of Okinawa. A plant called cycad grows in abundance there. It's poisonous unless it is properly prepared by drying and fermenting it. This video shows you the process and has interviews with people who explain why they revere the cycad plant.

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New emperor of Japan enthroned in wordless ceremony

The only noises to be heard are footsteps and video editing suites firing up. The nice ceremonies come later.

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Gloriously impractical "pressure gauge" watch

For many years, we've celebrated Tokyoflash's glorious and impractical contributions to horology: the company has set itself on a long path to imagine what a watch can be in an era where we all have unbelievably precise, self-setting timepieces in our pockets at all times, playfully experimenting with what a watchface can do while still telling the time (nominally, at least!). Read the rest

A visit to Japan's most remote ramen restaurant

Rishiri Ramen Miraku is on one of Japan's northernmost remote islands, Rishiritō (pop. 5,000), and many people go out of their way to eat its famous charred-soy seaweed ramen. The restaurant, which takes 7 hours to get to from Tokyo by plane, train, and ferry, earned the Michelin Guide's Bib Gourmand award in 2012 and 2017.

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This sushi-making robot can churn out 2400 nigiri balls and 200 sushi rolls in an hour

One of the many amazing things about Japan is their abundance of robots, from a robot-staffed hotel to robot waiters to robots that teach English to children. This cool robot, made by the sushi-robot company AUTEC, can make 2400 nigiri rice balls and 200 sushi rolls per hour.

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Short video about life on a Japanese wasabi farm

According to this video and article from by The Atlantic, most of the wasabi eaten around the world is horseradish with green food coloring in it. Shigeo Iida, a 75-year-old farmer in Japan, grows the real stuff, and in this beautifully shot video, we get to see him harvest wasabi and make wasabi paste while he waxes philosophical. “Real wasabi, like the ones we grow, has a unique, fragrant taste that first hits the nose,” he says. “The sweetness comes next, followed finally by spiciness.”

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Sightseeing train station has no exit or entrance

A train station in Japan is apparently unique, in that it has no exit or entrance other than the platform. Get off the train, check out the beautiful scenery, and get right back on again.

Called Seiryu Miharashi Eki, which translates to “Clear Stream Viewing Platform Station“, this station has been built so that passengers can stop off and admire the surrounding scenery.

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New York Times investigates Japan's lowrider culture

Walter Thompson-Hernández grew up in southeast Los Angeles. He went to Japan to make a short film for the New York Times about Chicano fashion and Culture in Japan.

What I found when I got there is that, while most instances of cultural appropriation completely disregard the original communities, the people whom I met did the exact opposite: They are in constant communication with Los Angeles lowrider communities. To me, it was more of a form of cultural exchange. Although many people I met in the scene were born and raised in Japan, they pride themselves on appreciating lowrider culture, while also creating something new and adding their own touches through their own cultural experiences.

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童絵解万国噺: a wonderfully bizarre 19th century Japanese fanfic history of America

Japanese historian Nick Kapur unearthed "Osanaetoki Bankokubanashi" (童絵解万国噺), a wonderfully bizarre illustrated Japanese history of the USA from 1861, filled with fanciful depictions of allegedly great moments in US history, like "George Washington defending his wife 'Carol' from a British official named 'Asura' (same characters as the Buddhist deity)." Read the rest

China legalizes eating a pufferfish bred to be nonpoisonous

Chinese fish farms have successfully bred seven generations of Takifugu rubripes and ten generations of Takifugu obscurus that lack the gene that causes normal specimens of these pufferfish species to produce a deadly toxin that means near-instant death for anyone who eats a fish whose poison has not been completely removed during preparation. Read the rest

What it's like to work at a Japanese snow monkey park

Here's a guy who went to a monkey park in Takasaki-yama in Japan and donned a monkey park worker uniform for a day to see what it was like. One reason Japan has monkey parks is to get them used to eating food there so they don't invade nearby farms. The monkeys didn't really like having a stranger tend to them, and they made their displeasure known by chattering. They settle down pretty quickly, though. My favorite part was when an experienced worker ran through the park with a cart loaded with sweet potatoes. The monkeys chased after him and picked up the sweet potatoes as the fell off the cart.

I went to a monkey park near Kyoto with my family in 2010. Here's a video:

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A cafe where the robot waiters are remote-piloted by paralyzed people

Dawn ver.β is a Tokyo cafe in Akasaka where all the table service is performed by 120 cm tall OriHime-D robots that are piloted by people who are paralyzed and work from home; it was inspired by a fictional cafe in the 2008 anime Time of Eve. Read the rest

Japan opens its doors wide to immigration

As populism and a tilt to the political right has prompted many nations to question once welcoming immigration and refugee policies and embrace xenophobia, a nation with a centuries long reputation for insularity has decided to move in the other direction. With its rapidly aging population and an underwhelming birthrate, Japan is opening its doors to large-scale immigration.

From The New York Times:

Under a bill approved by Parliament’s upper house in the early-morning hours, more than a quarter-million visas of five-year duration will be granted to unskilled guest laborers for the first time, starting in 2019.

Under the new measure, between 260,000 and 345,000 five-year visas will be made available for workers in 14 sectors suffering severe labor shortages, including caregiving, construction, agriculture and shipbuilding.

The measure also creates a separate visa category for high-skilled workers, who will be allowed to stay for unlimited periods and enjoy greater benefits, including permission to bring their families to Japan.

As The New York Times points out, over the next 25 years, Japan's population is set to shrink by 16 million people, or 13 percent. During the same period, the number of old folks in Japan will increase to make up 1/3 of the population. This leaves an incredible vacuum of caregivers, laborers and other positions that must be filled.

Not everyone is thrilled with the country's fresh, welcoming approach to immigration. But their feelings on the matter are moot: unless the Japanese start having a shitload of babies, which they're not, the nation will be in a serious bind when the bulk of their current population becomes too old to be able to keep the nation's infrastructure and businesses humming along efficiently. Read the rest

Watch this master swordsman slice a speeding baseball in two

Isao Machii is a Iaido master from Kawanishi, Hyōgo, Japan. His skills as a master swordsman have landed him a number of Guinness World Records: fastest tennis ball (820 km/h) cut by sword and "fastest 1,000 martial arts sword cuts" to name just two.

His speed and accuracy with a katana is a thing of wonder. Put on display once again in this video, after watching two speeding baseballs whiz past him, he non-nonchalantly cuts a third ball in half, fired at him at 161 kilometers per hour. Amazing. Read the rest

7 minutes of Tommy Lee Jones' fabulous Japanese coffee commercials

Tommy Lee Jones does ads for Boss Coffee's Rainbow Mountain brand of iced coffee, most of which feature him as a fish-out-of-water immigrant observing and enjoying Japanese life, taking odd jobs (cab driver, train station guard, astronaut, etc) and occasionally using his magical powers. It's like a series of clips from an early-90s science fiction show set in a parralel universe. Which it is. Read the rest

Watch: horses drag 2000-pound sleds in Japaneses competition

Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan's major islands. It's here that the practice of racing giant draft horses is being kept alive. The horses race against each other by dragging heavy sleds (weighing between 900 pounds and 2000 pounds). The horses are fed four times a day and race once every two weeks.

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