App Gives Japanese Drivers Free Coffee for Not Checking Their Phones at The Wheel

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In a bid to convince drivers in Aichi Prefecture to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, a new Japanese smartphone app offers free coffee coupons to drivers who don’t check their phones for at least 100 km.

For the last 13 years, Aichi Prefecture has recorded the highest rate of traffic fatalities in Japan. Last year, there were 443,691 accidents that resulted in injuries or deaths, and 50,101 arrests involving the use of smartphones while driving. With handhelds becoming such a big part of people’s lives, there appears to be an increase in violations of this nature, and authorities have yet to come up with an effective plan to combat the problem.

Interestingly, a trio of Japanese company seem to think that an ingenious new app could incentivize drivers to restrain themselves from checking their phones at the wheel and reduce the number of traffic accidents. Toyota Motor Corporation, Komeda Co Ltd and KDDI Corporation have teamed up to create Driving Barista, an app that uses the phone’s gyro sensor to sense the tilt of the device, and the GPS to determine the distance driven. This allows it to calculate the number of kilometers a driver has traveled with the smartphone facing down.

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Meet the Japanese Cheerleader Troupe with an Average Age of 70

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Japan Pom Pom is a unique cheerleading troupe made up of 28 vivacious members whose ages range from 55 to late 80’s. These energetic grandmas have been engaging in their glamorous hobby for the last two decades and show no sign of stopping anytime soon.

84-year-old Fumie Tanako is the founder of Japan Pom Pom and an active member of the group. She says that she would not have had the confidence to pick up cheerleading in her youth, but became emboldened by major life changes that occurred during middle age. When she was 53, Fumie decided to travel to Texas to study. It was against her dying mother’s wishes, but her children supported her decision. Then, in her early 60’s, her relationship with her husband began to fall apart, and ultimately ended. It was around this time that she found her calling in life – cheerleading. Mesmerized by the impressive array of moves performed by professional American cheerleaders, she immediately rounded up five elderly girlfriends and started practicing. Two decades later, their troupe is still going strong.

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Japanese Artist Creates Stunningly Realistic Wool Felt Animals

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Looking at the majestic wolf below, it’s hard to imagine that it’s not actually a real live animal, but a handmade wool felt sculpture created by talented Japanese artist Terumi Ohta.

Born in Hokkaido, Ohta grew up surrounded by flowers and animals, and her love for nature has transcended into her amazing wool felt art. Although she can use a simple needle and a handful of wool to create anything she puts her mind to, her hyper-realistic sculptures of wild and domestic animals are definitely the most impressive items in her extensive collection.

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Creepy Pokemon Go-Like App Lets You Receive Visual Messages from Beyond the Grave

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A Japanese tombstone company is using the augmented reality technology made popular by Pokemon Go to allow mourners to “catch” pre-recorded video messages from their deceased loved ones in cemeteries.

Named “Spot Message”, the new Pokemon Go-inspired app is the brainchild of Yoshiyuki Katori, president of Ryoshin Sekizai, a tombstone company based in Katori, Japan’s Chiba prefecture. He claims that the new technology realizes his longtime dream of preserving realistic memories of the dearly departed for the living. “My uncle, who ran a paint store, died eight years ago after he fell from a tall structure at work,” 33-year-old Katori said. “His death was so sudden, and it shattered the lives of his family. I also respected him a lot, so I would often visit his grave, consulting with him in my mind whenever I had issues concerning my business. I wondered how comforting it would be if he could talk to me at his grave, with messages like ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘Hang in there.’ ”

His desire to hear his uncle’s words at his grave inspired the Japanese entrepreneur to use augmented reality to plant pre-recorded messages from the dead at their graves and other places dear to them, for their living friends and family to discover using their smartphones.

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Obsessed Audiophiles in Japan Are Installing Their Own Utility Poles for Better Sound Quality

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Japanese audiophiles are so obsessed with perfect sound quality that they not only invest tens of thousands of dollars in high quality audio technology, but also install private utility poles to makes sure their setups have enough electricity to work perfectly.

There is currently no definitive proof that having your very own utility pole and an ample amount of electricity makes any meaningful difference on sound quality, but die-hard audiophiles insist that they are critical for a pure audio experience. “Electricity is like blood. If it is tainted, the whole body will get sick,” Takeo Morita recently told the Wall Street Journal. “No matter how expensive the audio equipment is, it will be no good if the blood is bad.” He recently paid around $10,000 to have a concrete utility pole installed in his yard. It comes complete with his own personal transformer, which feeds power more directly from the grid.

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Japanese Company to Start Selling Tear-Free Onions This Fall

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Onions may be one of the healthiest, most flavorful vegetables on the face of the Earth, but they’re definitely no fun to chop. However, your days of getting teary-eyed in the kitchen may be coming to an end as Japanese company House Foods Group prepares to launch the world’s first tear-free onion to the market.

Aptly named “Smile Ball”, because it puts a smile on your face rather than make you cry, this new type of onion is the result of two decades of research. In 2002, House Foods Group scientists published a paper in which they hypothesized that tear-inducing enzymes in onions could be weakened while retaining their full  flavor and nutritional value. Their research actually won an Ig Nobel Prize – an award handed out to honor achievements organizers consider unintentionally funny – but last year the company announced that their theory had finally become reality. Although the announcement mentioned that House Foods Group had no intention of producing Smile Ball onions commercially anytime soon, it appears the wonder vegetables will hit Japanese stores this fall.

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Who Needs Deodorant When You Have a Japanese Armpit Fan?

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With summers getting hotter every year, keeping your armpits dry is quite the challenge. While many of use still rely on deodorants, the quirky Japanese have come up with a high-tech alternative worthy of their reputation for crazy inventions – clip-on armpit fans.

Developed by Japanese gadget maker Thanko, the Waki no Shita Kura (Japanese for Under the Armpit Cooling Device) is a small fan that clips to your sleeve to deliver cooling blasts of air to your armpits. The device is powered by three AAA batteries and can keep your armpits nice and dry for five to nine hours, depending on which of the three speeds you use. If you want to stay cool for longer you can connect the fan to your PC or a separately purchased battery pack with the included micro USB cable. Thanko claims the armpit fans are very light (30g/1 oz) and silent enough to use even in a crowded, so you shouldn’t have to worry about attracting unwanted attention with your buzzing armpits. The fan is also very small (60 x 65 x 15mm)  and thanks to the clip-on design it can also cool your chest area: just clip it to the front of your shirt and it will keep your torso and neck dry.

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Japanese Pet Spa Offers to Exorcise Your Possessed Dog

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The D+ Kirishima spa in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture is believed to be the first one in the world to offer a “Pet Dog Exorcism Plan”. The ritual is performed by a Shinto priest at the revered Shingariyu shrine.

“Seven-year-old, 10-year-old, and 13-year-old dogs need to be careful of their health, as it’s easier in those years for them to gets diseases of aging,” the D+ Kirishima website reads. To help improve their condition, the spa offers an exorcism plant performed by an actual Shinto priest, which allegedly drives away the evil spirits wreaking havoc on the animal’s health. The Pet Dog Exorcism Planv costs 31,000 yen ($293) and includes the 30-minute exorcism ritual, a lavish room for two owners and their dog, breakfast and dinner.

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Man Pays $11,000 for a Bunch of Grapes

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A grocery store owner in Japan recently paid 1.1 million yen ($11,000) for a bunch of grapes of the Ruby Roman variety. He now plans to put them on display in his store and then give them to customers as taste samples.

Special fruits are a status symbol in Japan, sort of like rare wines in the Western world. It’s also customary to give high-quality fruits for formal occasions like weddings, business meetings or hospital visits and there are specialized fruit shops that sell only the rarest, most perfect products, grown in special conditions to ensure they look and taste as good as possible. The truly exceptional fruits are regularly auctioned off to the highest bidder, who often gift them to people perceived to be of a higher status, as a sign of respect and appreciation.

The 30 grapes bought by Takamaru Konishi were the first of the Ruby Roman variety harvested this season. They were the size of ping pong balls, and the buyer himself called them “truly Ruby Roman gems”. Well, they better had been, to be worth $11,000, or $370 per grape.

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Japanese “Zoo Jeans” Are Actually Designed by Lions

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How much would you pay for a truly one-of-a-kind pair of jeans featuring an abstract pattern of scratches and bite arks designed by lions at a Japanese zoo? Only ten pairs will be available this year, so you’d better be ready to break the piggy bank.

Zoo Jeans are part of a revitalization campaign for Japn’s Tohoku region, and were originally thought up at Sendai City’s Tohoku Gakuin University. The first pairs were originally launched in 2014, when lions, tigers and bears were given a series of toys wrapped in denim and allowed to literally leave their mark on the fabric. The toys were then retrieved and the denim was passed over to jeans makers who made sure the placement of claw and bite marks on the pants was just right. Although very pricey, Zoo Jeans proved extremely popular, so this year, the Tohoku Gakuin University is selling another 10 pairs designed by lions, via online auction.

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Harmonica Vacuum – The Musical House-Cleaning Trend Taking the Internet by Storm

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If you’re looking of ways to make vacuuming the house less of a chore, this ingenious combination between a harmonica and a vacuum cleaner may be the coolest thing you’ll see today.

Vacuuming a harmonica may just become the house-cleaning trend of 2016, but it all started just a few days ago, completely by accident. Japanese Twitter user @CelloMetalGirl was the first to upload one a video of the unusual activity, with the caption “I laughed to death”. As it urns out, the girl’s father was vacuuming the house when he accidentally hit an old run-of-the-mill harmonica with the vacuum brush and… Magic happened.

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Japan’s Hardcore Minimalists Live in Virtually Empty Homes

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The minimalist lifestyle trend has been gaining popularity in the Western world for a while now, but we’re still far from the hardcore minimalism Zen-loving Japanese have adopted in their quest to achieve a stress-free life.

Space has always been an issue in crowded Japanese cities, so from that point of view it makes sense that people try to keep their homes junk free, but some are taking minimalism to such an extreme that they are virtually living in empty houses surrounded by only the barest of necessities. For them, minimalism is not just about de-cluttering their living space, but also about evaluating what material possessions truly bring to their lives and focusing on the things that they consider important. To Japan’s hardcore minimalists, less is more in every sense that actually matters.

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Would You Spend $60 on a Pair of Underwear That Has Been Hung in Hawaiian Air for Two Days?

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It’s a dumb question, I know, but that’s exactly what Japanese company Seiren is trying to find out with its limited-edition of Deoest cotton underwear called Hawaiian Breeze. Apparently, each pair of boxer briefs were hung on a clothesline in the U.S. island state for 48 hours before being packaged in a sealed glass container.

To promote its Deoest line of anti-odor men’s underwear, Japanese company Seiren has taken the effort of hanging 100 pairs of the new boxer briefs on a giant clothesline in Hawaii, where they were caressed by the gentle tropical breeze for two full days before being taken down and stuffed into individual glass containers. I get the idea – fresh air and anti-odor underwear kind of make sense together, so I guess it works for promotional purposes. What I can’t wrap my head around is why they thought selling these 100 pairs of Deoest Hawaiian Breeze for $60 was a good idea. Designers briefs from established brands like Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren usually cost around $30, so why would anyone pay double that? Because they were exposed to Hawaiian air, or because they come in glass jar?

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Japanese Boy Missing for Three Days After Parents Left Him in Woods as Punishment

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Rescue teams have been scouring the thick woods of northern Hokkaido, Japan, for the past three days in search of a young boy who had been abandoned there by his parents, as punishment for being naughty.

7-year-old Yamato Tano-oka was first reported missing on Saturday, when his parents alerted the police saying that he had become separated while they were out walking through the forest, looking for wild vegetables. However, a day later, during questioning, one of the parents admitted that Yamato had been left alone in the bear-infested woods on purpose, as a form of punishment for misbehaving. Although the police has yet to confirm the exact reasons for this punishment, local media reports that he had been throwing rocks at passing cars and people.

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Coca Cola Japan Launches “Sleep Water” It Claims Could Help You Sleep Better

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Capitalizing on the Japanese work culture that makes insomniacs of employees,  Coca Cola Japan has recently released a new beverage that the company claims can help people get a better night’s sleep. Aptly named ‘Glaceau Sleep Water’, the drink is perfect for those who have trouble nodding off every night and are desperate to experience deep, uninterrupted sleep.

Sleep Water is apparently enriched with a special ingredient called L-Theanine, an amino acid that is believed to decrease anxiety and stress while improving relaxation. Theoretically, this should result in better quality sleep, so it should work even for people who don’t have time for a full eight hours of slumber. The company claims that only a few hours of Sleep Water-induced rest are more than enough to feel rejuvenated the next morning.

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