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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Japanese Company Bottles the Scent of a Cat’s Forehead

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Japanese online retailer Felissimo specializes in all things feline, but they really seem to be in love with cat odor. So much so that they’re releasing their second cat-scented product this year! First they came out with a cat paw-scented cream earlier this year, and now they’re introducing a special fabric spray that carries the smell of cats’ foreheads.

‘Mohu Mohu Odeko no Kaori’ (Fluffy Forehead Fragrance) Fabric Water comes in a 3.4-ounce bottle, priced at 1,293yen ($10.60). The company revealed that they developed the product after collecting extensive data through customer survey responses. Many of the respondents wrote that the smell of a cat’s forehead is like ‘the smell of sunshine’, ‘a futon that’s been dried in the sun’, and ‘sweet bread’.

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Japanese Company Launches World’s First Washable Mobile Phone

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It may look all shiny and new, but your smartphone is probably one of the filthiest things you own. The amount of bacteria and germs it carries is disgustingly huge, which is probably why a Japanese company is targeting germaphobes with the world’s first washable phone.

The Snapdragon 410 processor, 5-inch android phone, called Digno Rafre, is all set to be released in Japan by tech company Kyocera Telecom this week. It’s USP is that it’s waterproof and soap resistant, so it can be thoroughly washed under running water. There’s no risk of water entering the device because it’s entirely sealed to keep water and bubbles from getting in. It doesn’t even have a speaker, relying instead on a Smart Sonic receiver that transmits sound through vibrations on the phone’s screen. The built-in 13MP camera is also waterproof.

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Lonely Japanese Women Can Now Hire Hot Guys to Sleep Beside Them

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Entrepreneurs in Japan seem to be going out of their way to please women with a host of interesting services – rent-a-boyfriend, rent-a-crying-therapist, rent-a-crying-room, rent-a-solo-wedding, and now, they can actually rent a cuddling partner for the night!

Thanks to ‘Rose Sheep’, single Japanese women don’t need to worry about lonely nights or empty beds anymore. All they’ve got to do is call and order a ‘sheep’ – an attractive young man between the ages of 20 and 30 – to spend the night beside them. The service does not extend beyond cuddling, though. A bare-chested snuggle is just about as steamy as it can get. 

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Man Embarrassed to Use Selfie Stick Creates Ridiculously-Long Selfie Arm Instead

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A Japanese man named Mansun has invented a new contraption that’s supposed to be an improvement on selfie sticks. It’s called the ‘selfie arm’, and as the name suggests, it’s a super-long stick fitted with a fake hand.

Mansun said that he felt compelled to invent the device because he was too embarrassed to use selfie sticks in public. But he might just have made things worse for himself, because selfie arms are way more ridiculous – they’re just selfie sticks concealed inside an altered shirt with extremely long sleeves and fake hands attached at the ends. Thankfully, he isn’t planning to mass produce the device, but he’s provided detailed pictures for anyone who might be interested in making their own set of arms.

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This Japanese Maid Cafe Is Staffed Exclusively by Chubby Girls

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At Shangrila, a newly opened cafe in Akihabara, Tokyo, the waiting staff is made up of well-rounded young women, playfully nicknamed ‘marshmallow girls’.

According to the founders of Shangrila, the cafe is trying to promote the ‘bostive’ (body positive) mindset among Japanese youth. They want to contribute towards reducing the stigma associated with being overweight, and show people that ‘skinny’ isn’t the only definition of ‘cute’.

While maid-themed cafes are common in Japan, Shangrila is the only one that exclusively employs plus-sized women. Interestingly, they do not sell any junk food. Instead, they serve fresh food prepared by an Italian chef, using only organic ingredients. They claim to have the best pizza in all of Akihabara, but since the place is quite new, that is yet to be confirmed.

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Introducing Mr. Babe – A Japanese Lifestyle Magazine Aimed at Chubby Men

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While most lifestyle and fashion magazines are full of photos of slender male and female models photoshopped to perfection that create an unrealistic image of the human body, a fresh Japanese men’s magazine is taking a different approach. Mr. Babe is targeted towards chubby men, a body type that is rarely represented in the mainstream fashion industry.

Launched early this month, Mr. Babe describes itself as  Japan’s first “fashion and lifestyle magazine of chubby men, by chubby men and for chubby men”. It’s main goal is to boost the confidence of its readers and convince them that they can lead happy successful lives regardless of the few extra pounds, by offering fashion tips, health and personal grooming advice and articles on romance and marriage. “Our magazine is in no way encouraging men to gain weight and become chubby,” editor-in-chief Norihito Kurashina said in a recent interview. “Our message is that chubby men can be attractive by making use of what they have now while being mindful of their health so as not to become obese.”

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