Japanese Home Gardening Pod Lets You Grow Vegetables Indoor

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Many of us living in tiny apartments can only dream about growing vegetables in our own backyards, but thanks to Foop, an ingenious home gardening pod developed by Japanese company C’estec, we can now grow veggies in the comfort of our own home.

Foop (a combination of the words ‘food’ and ‘people’) is a small-size hydroponic agriculture kit that allows users to grow plants in water instead of soil. Its designers claim that you can use Foop to grow small crops of popular vegetables, including lettuce, arugula, basil, parsley or shiso, all of which can be raised from seeds and will develop faster than non-hydroponic plants.

The elegantly-designed wooden frame of the Foop is is produced by craftsmen from Hida, in Gifu Prefecture, one of Japan’s most famous woodworking regions, but the device also comes with a clear acrylic cover that lets you check the progress of your crops. There are no buttons or switches visible on the Foop, because all the settings – temperature, humidity, light, water levels, etc. – are done via a smartphone app. The Foop will also regularly send notifications regarding the state of your indoor garden and alert you when the crops are ready to be harvested.

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Hikaru Dorodango – The Delicate Japanese Art of Making Perfect Shiny Spheres Out of Dirt

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Hikaru Dorodango, which translates to ‘shiny dumpling’, is a relaxing Japanese art that involves crafting shiny spheres from dirt. That might sound super simple, but it actually takes years to perfect and several hours to manipulate the dirt. It’s all worth it in the end though, because, in the hands of a true master, the end results are nothing short of mind-blowing.

To make a shiny Dorodango, you start by packing mud into your hand and squeezing out all the moisture. You then press into into the shape of a sphere and spend the next two hours rubbing on more layers of increasingly finer dry dirt. Once this is complete, you pack the dumpling in a plastic bag for three or four hours and later polish it with a cloth and varnish until it shines.

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World’s First Hedgehog Cafe Opens in Japan

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Tokyo is now home to the world’s first hedgehog cafe, the latest in a long list of animal-themed establishments in the city. Located in the Roppongi entertainment district, the cafe is named ‘Harry’ – a play on the Japanese word for hedgehog.

Hedgehogs aren’t native to Japan, but they’ve long since been sold as pets in the nation that’s crazy for all things cute. At Harry, 1,000 yen ($9) can buy animal lovers an hour in the company of the prickly yet adorable creatures. The cafe is home to 20 to 30 friendly hedgehogs of different breeds that you can spend time with and even take home. A chalk-written blackboard lists all the available hedgehog breeds available for purchase and their prices by sex. So if customers find it hard to part with the adorable rodents once their hour is up, they have the option to give them a forever home.

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Japanese Cafe Creates Delicious-Looking Salad Cakes to Make Dieting Less Depressing

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Japanese food stylist Mitsuki Moriyasu is on a mission to prove that salads can look much better than they taste. Last year, she introduced the world to the concept of the ‘Vegiedeco Salad’, an exquisite preparation of vegetables made in the likeness of a cake. The hybrid dish was initially featured on the menu of a bistro in Nagoya, but it got so popular that it is now being exclusively showcased at a brand new cafe in the city.

The savory dish consists of colorful layers of vegetables, sandwiched between two soybean-flour sponge and covered in a tofu or cream cheese frosting blended with vegetables for natural coloring. The end result is a sinful-looking salad-cake that is not just a visual treat but also packs a nutritious punch. Containing very little to no sugar, each salad also includes a good amount of roots and peels for fiber.

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Caring Husband Creates Giant Scented Flower Garden to Make His Blind Wife Smile Again

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Over 7,000 people visit this beautiful phlox moss garden in Shintomi Town, Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture on any given day in the months of March and April, drawn both by the beauty of this scented purple carpet and the touching story behind its very existence.

The story of this popular tourist spot can be traced back to 1956, when Mr. and Mrs. Kuroki, a newlywed couple, purchased a plot of land in Shintomi. They built a house and a dairy farm on it and worked hard for several years, tending to a herd of 60 cows. They hoped to take a trip around Japan when they eventually retired, but things didn’t quite turn out as they had planned.

At age 52, after 30 years of marriage, Mrs. Kuroki developed an eye condition and went blind a week later. Devastated at the prospect of living with a disability, the poor woman grew depressed and shut herself from the world, choosing a life of seclusion. Mr. Kuroki was saddened to see his normally cheerful wife in so much pain. Because she couldn’t travel across Japan as they had always planned, he wanted to find a way to bring the whole of Japan to her.

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This Japanese Restaurant Serves the World’s Most Outrageous Dishes

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Even if you’re into weird foods and like trying new and exciting things, you’ll still probably find the menu at this Japanese restaurant too hardcore. With dishes like cooked crocodile feet, grilled piranha and battered, deep-fried whole salamander, this place makes frog legs seem like baby food.

Located in Yokohama’s Noge district, Chinju-ya (rare meat monger) Restaurant is certainly not for the faint-hearted. In the six years he has been running the place, chef Fukuoka has taken pride in serving customers the rarest and most unusual meats from across the world. using his international connections, he can apparently get his hands on anything from axolotls and isopods to black scorpions and even camel meat. Their twitter feed [email protected]_chinjuya’ is frequently updated with their latest and greatest imports.

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Meet Tanu, the Japanese Raccoon Dog Taking the Internet by Storm

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The internet is going crazy over photographs of Tanu, an adorable dog that belongs to a canine species called tanuki, also known as ‘Japanese raccoon dog’. Most Westerners mistake the tanuki for a raccoon or badger, but it is in fact a canine breed.

Tanu became an internet celebrity after his owner, Twitter user @chibi_tori, started posting photographs of him. The pictures, which mostly show Tanu eating or sleeping next to a warm stove, were thousands of times over before Buzzfeed picked up the story. Chibi_tori told the popular entertainment website that he found the dog abandoned in June last year and has been raising it as a pet ever since.

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Japanese Taxi Drivers Report ‘Ghost Passengers’ in Area Hit by 2011 Tsunami

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In a chilling turn of events, some taxi drivers in Japan are claiming to have picked up ‘ghost passengers’ in the aftermath of the tsunami that devastated the nation in March 2011. As many as seven of the 100 drivers interviewed by Yuka Kudo, a student of sociology at Tohoku, admitted to having encountered phantom fares.

Kudo conducted the interviews as a part of her graduation thesis, traveling to the coastal town of Ishinomaki every week for a year to speak to taxi drivers waiting for fares. She asked over 100 drivers the same question: “Did you have any unusual experiences after the disaster?” Many of them ignored her, some even got angry, but seven drivers agreed to describe their strange encounters.

One driver recounted a particularly unsettling story – in the summer of 2011, a woman dressed in a coat climbed into his taxi near Ishinomaki station. She said, “Please go to the Mianmihama Station.” When he pointed out that there was nothing left standing in the district, she asked him in a shivering voice, “Have I died?” The driver immediately turned around, only to find the back seat empty.

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Japanese Professionals Put on Full-Body Lycra Suits to Escape Pressure of Everyday Life

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In a bid to de-stress and break free from the tensions of daily life, Japanese students and professionals are taking to a bizarre trend called ‘Zentai’. It’s a community consisting of people of all ages and walks of life, donning full-body lycra suits and meeting on internet forums, in clubs, at barbecue parties, and sometimes just on the street.

It’s ironical, but the tight suits are actually able to help stressed individuals loosen up, because such behavior is probably frowned upon in genteel circles. Many of the Zentai perceive the trend as a welcome break from the pressures of living in Japanese society that values conformity to tradition over individual desires.

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World’s Most Prolific Patent Holder Wants to Beat His Own Cancer by Inventing a Cure

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Meet Yoshinari Nakamatsu, aka Dr. NakaMats, a prolific inventor and Japan’s very own ‘Patent King’. With over 3,500 patents to his name, the 87-year-old had no plans to retire – his dream was to live to the ripe old age of 144 and eventually produce at least 6,000 patents. Sadly, there’s a serious obstacle to that goal now – he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and isn’t expected to be around much longer.

But the eccentric mastermind and self-professed polymath doesn’t plan on going down without a fight. He’s been spending his last days doing the one thing he does best – inventing. Best known for licensing the floppy disk to IBM corporation in the 1970s, Dr. NakaMats has spent the past two years trying to invent a cure for his deadly disease.

The rare ductal prostate cancer was discovered in 2013, and his doctors told him he only had around two years left. However, Nakamatsu has been fortunate to make it into 2016 and he is still “investigating all kinds of therapy so people could live longer.” He is determined to continue doing so until the very end. “I’m going to discover a new treatment,” he asserted in a 2014 interview.

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Japan Railways Allegedly Keeps Train Station Running for Just One Passenger

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Last Friday, China’s CCTV News posted a heart-warming story on Facebook about how Japanese railway authorities are keeping a train station in a remote village open for the sake of only one passenger – a high school student.

“The Kyu-Shirataki-Shirataki train station is located in Japan’s north island of Hokkaido,” the post read. “Three years ago, due to its remote location and ending of freight trains, the Japan Railway (JR) decided to close it down. However, they changed their minds after they discovered a young girl used the station to go to high school every day.”

According to the report, the only two trains that stop at the station now are just for this girl, with a “unique timetable depending on when the girl needs to go to school and back.” Japan Railway apparently intends to keep the station open until March this year, when she will finally graduate.

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Japanese Fashion Designer Has Her 93-Year-Old Cool Grandma Model Her Creations

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Meet Emiko, a supercool granny taking the Japanese fashion industry by storm. At age 93, she’s got the spunk and energy of a six-year-old, and she’s positively adorable as she models her granddaughter Chinami Mori’s colorful creations.

Chinami is a fashion designer from Osaka, who specialises in Saori – a freestyle hand-weaving technique that produces playful, unpatterned garments. She uses lots of bright, colorful fabric and yarn to create whimsical clothing and accessories like hats, scarves, bags, tops, and more at her studio. Saori is based on the idea that anything goes and what’s important is heart. “There are no rules,” she explained. “I can weave as freely and colorfully as I want.”

Emiko, who Chinami describes as her “favorite person in the world,” would stop by at the studio every day just to spend time with her. Eventually, she started trying on a few of the clothes and accessories that her granddaughter made. And Chinami realised that she’d found her perfect model for her designs. So she got Emiko to pose and took a few photographs, later posting them on Instagram. The response of her fans was overwhelmingly positive and the 93-year-old grandmother has become a regular feature on the designer’s Instagram account, attracting new followers with each new photo she posts.

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Kamikatsu – Japan’s Aspiring Zero-Waste Town

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We’ve heard many stories of individuals across the world who’ve adopted a zero-waste lifestyle, but it’s not often that we come across an entire community that is trying to become waste-free. The residents of Kamikatsu, Japan, take recycling so seriously that they actually hope to become the nation’s first zero-waste community by 2020.

Kamikatsu has no garbage trucks – so residents need to compost their kitchen scraps at home. They also have to wash and sort the rest of their trash into 34 different categories, and bring it to the recycling center themselves where workers make sure that the waste goes into the correct bins. It apparently took some time for the residents to get used to this rule, but they eventually managed to adapt to the drastic changes and  are now seeing them as normal.  

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This Japanese Bookstore Only Stocks One Book at a Time

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Japanese bookseller Yoshiyuki Morioka has come up with a highly unusual concept for a bookstore – he sells one book at a time in a tiny shop located in Ginza, Tokyo’s luxury shopping district. Ever since he launched the store in May, he has stocked multiple copies of only one title per week. 

You might argue that it’s hardly a bookstore if you can’t go in and spend at least a few hours browsing through hundreds of volumes, but Morioka never intended to create a classic bookstore. It’s like a weekly ‘suggested reading’ service – you just go in and pick up the book chosen for the week, relieving yourself of the burden of choice. Morioka said he came up with the idea a store that solely focused on one book at a time after organising several book-launch events at his old bookstore.

“Before opening this bookstore in Ginza, I had been running another one in Kayabacho for 10 years,” Morioka told The Guardian. “There, I had around 200 books as stock, and used to organise several book launches per year. During such events, a lot of people visited the store for the sake of a single book. As I experienced this for some time, I started to believe that perhaps with only one book, a bookstore could be managed.” To finance the store, Morioka sold his huge collection of Japanese wartime propaganda, famous for the quirky, strong graphics.

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The Black Boiled Eggs of Owakudani – A Japanese Delicacy

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Owakudani, also known as the ‘Great Boiling Valley’, is a large volcanic caldera that formed 3,000 years ago when Mount Hakone erupted. The explosion was so powerful that the area is still active with boiling pools of water and huge vents that expel steam and volcanic fumes of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. That hardly sounds like an ideal tourist destination, but hordes of people visit Owakudani each year in search of the mystical black boiled eggs, locally known as ‘Kuro-Tamago’.

These black eggs might look other-worldly, but they’re actually just plain chicken eggs. The strange black hue comes from boiling them in the sulphur-rich hot water pools of Owakudani, near Hakone, Japan. The sulphur in the water reacts with the eggs’ shells, making them black and imparting a sulphur tinged flavour and odour to the cooked egg inside.

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