Cat and Dog Paw-Themed Ice Cream Is Now a Thing in Japan

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From jellyfish to miso ramen, Japan has some of the most bizarre ice cream flavors in the world, but a frozen treat that’s supposed to replicate the texture and smell of soft cat and dog paws is a bit too much, even for the Land of the Rising Sun.

Japan’s longstanding fascination with cat paws is not exactly new. To many Japanese feline lovers, cat paws smell like nice things (right from caramel crepes, to wheat and sunflowers) and their soft, smooth texture is considered mysteriously soothing. Cat paws are so popular that a couple of years ago, a company came out with a hand-cream that not only left the users’ hands as smooth to the touch as a cat’s paw, but also made their skin smell like it too. But now, the organizers of the 2017 Japan Pet Fair, are taking this obsession one step further with two unique ice creams designed to have the texture and flavor of cat and dog paws.

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This Pocket-Sized Device Connects to Your Phone to Let You Know When You Stink

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The KunKun, Japanese for “sniff sniff”, is a bizarre device developed by Japanese corporation Konika Minolta that detects bodily odors like smelly feet or underarm sweat and notifies the user about them via a smartphone app.

So, yeah, the days of smelling your own armpits when nobody’s watching to see if they stink are over, thanks to modern technology. Now you can just wear the KunKun everywhere you go and find out when you’re starting to stink just by checking your phone. It’s small enough to fit in a coat pocket, so no one will ever know you’re carrying it, and features sensors that pick up specific chemicals associated with three types of bodily odors. It can detect ammonia and isovaleric acid, chemicals known to produce that nasty sweaty locker-room smell, but also 2-nonenal, which is associated with old age and diacetyl, a controversial organic compound that makes yo smell like “rancid cooking oil”.

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Japanese Buddhist Temple Holds Techno Memorial Services

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In an effort to make his Buddhist temple more accessible to the wider public and draw younger generations to religion, a former DJ turned Buddhist priest has been holding “techno memorial services” at his temple in Fukui City, Japan.

Attending one of the unconventional memorial services organized at the Shō-onji Buddhist temple by 49-year-old Gyōsen Asakura feels more like a warehouse rave than a traditional religious experience. A kaleidoscope of psychedelic lights bathes the golden decorations of the temple, and electronic music ranging from IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) to breakbeats blends with chantings of Buddhist scripture.

The sight of a Buddhist priest wearing his traditional garb, but also sporting a pair of large headphones while operating a DJ station during his sermon only adds to the psychedelic feel of attending a techno memorial service at Shō-onji. It’s definitely a strange experience, but one that it is fulfilling its purpose of bringing people, especially youths, back to religion.

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The Japanese Train Station Built Around a 700-Year-Old Tree

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Kayashima Station, in Neyagawa, a north-eastern suburb of Osaka, is one of the most unusual-looking train stations in all of Japan. Despite being located on an elevated platform, Kayashima has a giant broccoli-like tree pocking out through a rectangular hole in its roof.

The Big Kusu Tree of Kayashima, as the camphor tree is commonly known in Japan, is older than most records, but officials estimate that it has been around for at least 700 years. In 1910, when Kayashima train station was originally opened, the tree stood right next to it, offering travelers some much needed shelter on both sunny and rainy days. It didn’t bother anyone for the next 60 years, but as Japan’s population increased at an accelerated rate, overcrowding became a problem and local authorities decided that the train station needed to be expanded. Plans were approved in 1972, and the old camphor tree was going to be cut down.

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New Japanese Gym Lets You Work Out with a Cute Maid

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Maid cafes have been a big part of Japanese pop culture for a while now, but the maid phenomenon is transitioning into other areas as well. For example, a new gym near Tokyo’s famous Akihabara district offers patrons the chance to work out while assisted by beautiful trainers wearing maid costumes.

Can you imagine pumping some iron with a cute maid spotting you and cheering you on? Well, apparently a lot of Japanese guys can and they’re loving the idea. So much so that they’ve helped successfully crowdfund the MID GYM project thought up by a couple of young Japanese entrepreneurs. With more than a month to go to the deadline, the campaign to make the unique maid gym a reality has already met its 700,000 yen goal, on Japanese crowdfunding site CampFire. It’s not clear exactly when the Mid Gym will open its gates, but it’s definitely coming soon.

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Vladimir Putin Calendars Are Very Big in Japan

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You probably didn’t even know that a government-approved Vladimir Putin calendar actually existed, but even more surprising is the fact that it is incredibly popular in Japan, where hundreds of thousands of copies have been snatched up by fans of the Russian president, in the last few months.

The official 2017 Vladimir Putin Calendar is produced by a St. Petersburg company called Mednyi Vsadnik, with authorization from the Russian government. It features a manly photo of Putin for each month of the year, along with some of his most popular quotes. The calendar is written in eight languages, including English, and is obviously very popular in Russia. But while the calendar’s domestic success was to be expected, its massive popularity in Japan was certainly not.

Japanese chain franchise store Loft has been exclusively selling the 2017 Putin calendar since August last year, for around 90 cents apiece. News of the calendar being available at Loft stores apparently spread like wildfire on social media, with many fans of the Russian president scrambling to buy one for themselves or their friends. By October 2016, the Vladimir Putin Calendar, which comes in two sizes, was the the third and fourth most sold item out of some 3,500 different calendars.

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Adult Adoption – The Secret to Preserving Centuries-Old Japanese Family Businesses

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Japan has one of the highest adoption rates in the world, with over 80,000 legal adoptions recorded every year. Yet when it comes to adopting children, the Asian country is lagging way behind most developed countries. That’s because around 98% of Japanese adoptees are bright young men in their 20s and 30s.

At the same time, while studies have shown that family-controlled businesses are generally unsustainable over long periods of time –  mostly due to the fact that business acumen and intelligence are only partially inherited – it’s interesting to see that not only are a third of Japanese corporations family-run, but they are also clearly outperforming professionally managed companies in almost every way. Statistics show that family firms are more profitable, have a higher market valuation and increased sales compared to their rivals. Even more curious is that giants like Suzuki, Toyota or Matsui Securities have managed to keep it all in the family for over a hundred years, and other family businesses for even longer than that.

But what does the remarkable success of family business have to do with the high rate of adult adoption, right? Well, in Japan at least, these two curiosities are very closely linked. Prior to the Second World War, civil code in Japan decreed family wealth could only be passed down through male lines, traditionally to the first born son. So families with no male heirs or with sons deemed unsuitable to take over the family business turned to adoption, but not the kind most of us are used to. Instead of simply adopting a baby or a young boy, they adopted young men who displayed the intelligence and knowledge of business required to ensure that their name and legacy endured until the next generation. And while the law no longer prohibits people from passing down their fortune to female heirs, the age-old tradition of electing a ‘mukoyoshi’ (or ‘adopted son-in-law’) is still very popular in Japan.

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Japanese Man Hasn’t Spoken to His Wife in 20 Years, Despite Living in the Same House

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Despite living under the same roof and raising their three children together, a Japanese husband hasn’t spoken a single word to his wife in the last 20 years.

No marriage is perfect, and spouses sometimes give each other the silent treatment when they’re upset. But either they go their separate ways or try to patch things up and move on. But not Okou Katayama. For the past two decades he has only answered his wife Yumi’s attempts at making conversation with occasional nods and grunts. Their unusual relationship was revealed by their 18-year-old son Yoshiki, who appealed to a Japanese TV show to help him fix things, as he had never heard his parents talk to each other.

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Japanese Boutique Sells Jeans That Have Been Worn for at Least a Year

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The Onomichi Denim Project, a chic boutique in Onomichi, Japan’s Hiroshima Prefecture, is a popular destination for denim enthusiasts looking for a pair of truly special jeans. The shop is well-known around Japan and even abroad for selling premium jeans that have been worn by select members of the local community for at least one year.

Selling used jeans, or any other type of clothing for that matter, is not exactly a new business model, but Onomichi Denim Project is not your average second-hand denim retailer. Created in 2013, as a collaborative effort between local designer Yoshiyuki Hayashi, textile expert Yukinobu Danjo, and Discoverlink Setouchi, an organization that aims to supports local industry, the minimalist boutique aims to draw attention to the city’s top-quality craftsmanship and its people in a unique way. Plus, while used denim is generally sold at a discount, these particular jeans actually get about twice as a expensive after being worn by somebody almost daily, for at least a year.

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The Unlikely 25-Year Friendship Between a Human Diver and a Fish

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Tateyama Bay, in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture, is the meeting place of two very unlikely friends – local diver Hiroyuki Arakawa and an Asian sheepshead wrasse by the name of Yoriko. The pair met 25 years ago and have been visiting each other ever since.

Arakawa has been looking after an underwater Shinto shrine located in Tateyama Bay for over a quarter of a century, also acting as a guide for tourist who want to visit it. During that time, he has become unusually close with a giant friendly fish who comes to greet him whenever he calls. All he has to do is call – by knocking with a hammer on a piece of metal – and the fish shows up. They’ve been friends for 25 years now, and Hiroyuki has even named the fish Yoriko.

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Adult Wrapping – The Japanese Therapy Craze That Recreates the Comforting Feeling of a Womb

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Otona Maki, or ‘adult wrapping’, is a Japanese therapeutic method of correcting posture and alleviating body stiffness by wrapping the human body in a large piece of cloth that emulates the comfortable feel of a mother’s womb.

Well-known for their long work hours, many Japanese people develop posture problems and body stiffness. For a long time, getting massages and stretching have been the most popular ways of dealing with these issues, but now someone claims to have come up with an even better solution. Otona Maki is a new and intriguing way of improving posture and making your body more flexible than ever, while at the same time helping practitioners relax by recreating the comfortable feel of a mother’s womb.

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Tokyo Restaurant Will pay You $438 if You Can Eat This Giant Bowl of Ramen in 20 Minutes

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If you love ramen and want to get paid for eating lots of it, I suggest visiting the Umakara Ramen Hyouri restaurant, in Tokyo, Japan. They will pay a cool 50,000 yen ($438) to anyone who finishes their giant bowl of delicious ramen in under 20 minutes, Easy money, right?

Well, they don’t call these things eating challenges for nothing, so it’s definitely not a walk in the park. In fact, in the three years since the Japanese restaurant introduced the challenge, only nine people have managed to finish the gargantuan dish in the allotted time. Legend has it that they didn’t eat for a week afterwards and never spoke the word “ramen” again. Nine is not that many, but at least it’s doable right? And here’s an extra incentive: if you think that 20 minutes is just not long enough to gobble this delicious monster, Umakara Ramen Hyouri is also willing to pay $236 to whoever manages to eat it all in 30 minutes.

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This Japanese Restaurant Chain Is an Introvert’s Paradise

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If your idea of a good restaurant experience includes a nice conversation and interaction with the waiting staff, then Ichiran Ramen is probably not a place you want to visit. The popular Japanese chain is all about solo dining, taking extraordinary measures to ensure that patrons avoid human interaction as much as possible.

Manabu Yoshitomi, the founder of Ichiran Ramen, came up with the concept for his famous restaurants when he was just a high-school student, after seeing his female friends attempting to cover their mouths when eating ramen. After asking them about it, Yoshitomi discovered that their reluctance to being watched by other people as they slurped noodles was actually a huge barrier to them visiting ramen shops. This information inspired the young man to open a tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen restaurant that offered almost total privacy instead of human interaction.

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Japanese Skating Rink Freezes 5,000 Marine Creatures in Ice as Promotional Gimmick

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Japan’s Space World theme park sparked worldwide controversy after it froze 5,000 fish, crabs and other shellfish in the ice of its newest skating rink, aptly-named ‘Freezing Port–Ice Museum’.

On November 12, Space World, a popular theme park in the city of Kitakyushu, south-west Japan, opened its newest attraction – a skating ring embedded with 5,000 frozen fish, crabs and various other shellfish, as well as enlarged photos of larger marine creatures, like stingrays and sharks. It was advertised as the first of its kind in the world, and in the beginning, the reaction of the public was very positive. Space World officials said that since Freezing Port opened two weeks ago, they had an unprecedented number of visitors, but things went south very fast after the bizarre ice rink received coverage on a local TV station, on November 26. Inquiries and criticism started pouring in, and the Space World Facebook page was bombarded with negative comments.

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‘Magic’ Megaphone Automatically Translates Speech into Various Languages

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To help Japanese companies better deal with the increasing number of foreigners visiting the country, Panasonic has created an innovative megaphone capable of automatically translating Japanese into English, Chinese and Korean.

Remember that cool universal translator the crew of the Enterprise used to break down language barriers with alien species? Such technology is not yet available in real life, but if Panasonic’s ‘Megahonyaku’ is a sign of things to come, that universal translator doesn’t seem so sci-fi anymore. Megahonyaku is a pun on the Japanese words for ‘megaphone’ and ‘translate’, which actually makes a lot of sense because it’s a megaphone that can translate Japanese into several other languages in real time. When a user speaks Japanese into the megaphone, it recognizes and translates what is being said instantly, and outputs the phrase in English, Chinese or Korean.

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