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Tokyo’s Baby Café – Where the Cool Japanese Kids Hang-Out

Tokyo – probably the only city in the world where toddlers have their own hang-out spot, where no childless adults are allowed.

Japan may have one of the lowest birth rates in the world, but that apparently only means the few babies that are born here are given everything – even their own exlclusive café. Located in the Omotesando neighborhood of Tokyo, the Nendo-designed Baby Café is the perfect place for children under seven to chill out, and play in a safe environment, while their parents socialize over a cup of coffee. No more having to listen to mommy telling them to “sit up straight”, “don’t play with your food”, “don’t run through the restaurant”, at the Baby Café kids can do as they like. But there are monitors all over the place so parents can keep their eyes on children while giving them the illusion they’re free to do as they please.

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Summer Night Horror – Japan’s Creepy Yokai Monster Train

The Yokai Train is a somewhat scary summer attraction in Kyoto, Japan. One of the electrical trains is boarded by creepy monsters that try to scare children out of their wits.

If you were looking for a way to scare a spoiled brat into submission, look no further that the monster train of Kyoto, an eerie attraction where yokai (Japanese monsters) become real. For kids at least, because any grown-up can tell they’re actually actors wearing white kimonos and scary masks. The custom was introduced by the Keifuku Electric Railroad company, in 2007, and was so popular that it became an eagerly awaited yearly tradition.

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Natsumi Hayashi – Tokyo’s Levitating Girl

Natumi Hayashi‘s blog featured all kinds of normal photos of herself, her pet cat, friends and Tokyo sights, but on September 16, 2010 she posted a photo entitled “Today’s Levitation”. The rest, as they say, is history…

Hayashi has become an Internet sensation after she began posting photos of herself levitating in all kinds of places around Tokyo. She told the Daily Mail it was an English idiom that inspired her to take the first photo of herself levitating – ‘to have one’s feet firmly planted on the ground’. Apparently they have the exact same phrase in Japan, but since she doesn’t consider herself a practical person she chose not to have her feet firmly on the ground in her self-portrait photos, to show how she really is. “In being free of gravity in the pictures, I am also not bound to societal conventions. I feel as though I am not tied to many things and able to be my true self.” the artist said in an interview. After taking her first levitation photo the frequency of “Today’s Levitation” gradually increased until she started posting a new photo every day.

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Japanese Clone Factory Makes Creepy Lookalike Dolls of Its Clients

If you’ve always wanted to have yourself cloned, you’re probably going to have to wait a few more years, but in the meantime you can get a creepy doll that looks just like you, from the Clone Factory, in Japan.

Danny Choo, of Culture Japan visited the quirky Clone Factory, in Tokyo’s Akihabara district and decided to try out their services himself. Lucky for us, he also snapped some nice photos of the place and the making process of a miniature clone doll. The so-called cloning process begins with the subject sitting on a chair in a room surrounded by SLR cameras and lighting stands. After he/she has the proper pose, the cameras start triggering in a loop, taking photos from all possible angles. The photos are then transferred into a computer and a 3D model of the client’s head is rendered. Once that’s out of the way, it’s time for the actual doll-making.

This all happens in Japan, so, obviously, they have a high-tech printer that pretty much does all the work. All they have to do is connect it to the computer, insert a tray full of plaster powder and the printer creates the detailed model using layers of ink which harden in the plaster. When the tray comes out, it looks pretty much untouched, but once the excess plaster powder is removed, a creepy, smiling doll is revealed, and it looks so much like an actual person it’s not even funny.

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10-Year-Old Girl Is World’s Youngest Sake Expert

Akane Niikura, 10, has passed the Sake Institute of Japan’s expert test even though she’s 10 years too young to even taste the traditional rice wine.

Akane was already considered a child prodigy in Japan, for her cooking skills, but now that she’s an official sake expert, her notoriety is expected to grow even more. Although it will be around 10 years before she is allowed to taste sake, the 10-year-old connoisseur can already tell what dish will complement a certain variety of sake, simply by smelling it and observing the way it clings to the glass. Her small nose proved so accurate an instrument that the Sake Institute of Japan had to acknowledge Akane Niikura as a sake expert, after she passed their tests without drinking a drop of rice wine.

As the daughter of a sake bar owner, Akane was always around different types of rice wines from various regions of Japan, and in time managed to tell them apart and learn what foods they best go with. After school, this amazing fourth-grader helps her mom in the bar by recommending sake to customers. Most of them seem pleased with her choices and that’s when the little girl feels happiest. When she grows up, she wants to be a sake bar owner, just like her mother.

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Game Lets You Play Table Tennis without a Table, Ball or Opponent

“Go with the rhythm! Hyper Ping Pong” is a quirky Japanese video game that allows you to play table tennis without a table, a ball or an opponent.

Following in the footsteps of Nintendo – inventors of the popular Wii console –  Japanese game developer, Happinet, has decided to take things one step further and take the video out of video-game. They’ve come up with a table tennis game that only features a motion sensor racket that emits the sound of a ball being hit by the invisible opponent. Players must find their rhythm and time their hits to the sound to continue their rally. By pressing the square button on the paddle, they can do a Smash, and if performed with perfect timing, it turns into a rally winning Super Smash.

According to Atsushi Watanabe, from Happinet, you can play Hyper Ping Pong, by yourself, in your room, but also at parties, to show people just how well you can rally. As the game progresses, the rally will make everyone more excited, making the game more enjoyable for everyone. Right… I think a YouTube commenter said it best: this game was invented for people who love ping pong but have no friends whatsoever.

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Researcher Creates Artificial Meat Based on Human Excrement

The global food crisis is a very serious issue, but professor Ikeda thinks his latest invention, an artificial meat based on protein from human excrement, could be of great help.

The Japanese researcher from the Okayama laboratory says its country has more sewage mud than they can handle, so Tokyo Sewarage asked him to explore its possible use. Knowing the wacky nature of many Japanese scientists, it’s no surprise he came up with a turd burger. During his research, he discovered sewage mud contains a great deal of protein so he began developing a process of extracting that valuable protein and turning it into a viable meat substitute.

Sewage mud is high in protein, because it’s full of bacteria, most of which comes from human feces. However, these microorganisms are harmless, because they are killer by heat during the manufacturing process. According to initial tests, the artificial meat even tastes like beef, thanks to added soy protein, and Ikeda added some red food coloring to give it a more natural look. In terms of nutritive values, the turd burger doesn’t sound bad at all: it’s 63% protein, 25% carbohydrates, 3% lipids and 9% minerals. Read More »

Japan’s Mouth-Watering Plastic Food Displays

Fancy menus may be enough for most restaurant diners around the world, but not in Japan. Here, image is everything and before going in for a bite, people want to see exactly what the food they want to order looks like. That’s where Japan’s realistic plastic food displays come into play…

Japanese fake food models can be traced back to 1917, but it wasn’t until 1926 that a restaurant owner decided to use them in a glass casing, to attract more customers. His idea was a big hit and people flocked to his venue hoping to get a serving of the delicious meals displayed outside. Soon, other restaurants followed his example and fake food display making became a lucrative business. In 1932, Iwasaki Ryuzo set up up a company that made and sold fake foods to restaurants and today it’s Japan’s top plastic food manufacturer. Business is very lucrative, as estimates show it produces revenues of billions of yen every year. For an entire menu, executed to perfection, luxury restaurants will pay up to one million yen.

In the old days, fake food models were made from wax. It was melted and pored into molds made from kanten (a seaweed jelly), but today manufacturers use silicon molds in which they pour liquid plastic and heat it up until it hardens. Modern materials and techniques apparently make the food considerably more realistic.  Restaurants send fake food makers the exact item they want replicated, along with photos. Silicon is poured around and over the disk and solidifies into a mold, which is then filled with liquid plastic and cooked in an oven. Then comes the really hard part – getting the details right. Oil based paints, regular brushes, air brushes, knives and carving tools are all part of fake food artist’s arsenal, but they all keep their techniques a secret.

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Kiss Transmission Device Lets You Kiss over Long Distances

This revolutionary kiss transmission device is still under development at the Kajimoto Laboratory, at the University of Electro-Communications, and its creators hope it will soon be able to effectively transmit the feeling of a kiss over long distances.

A kiss is really a complex thing, if you think about it, and there are a lot of things to consider in order to truly replicate it using a device. So far, the researchers at the Kajimoto Laboratory have only come up with a gadget that replicates the movement of the tongue. “If you take one device in your mouth and turn it with your tongue, the other device turns in the same way. If you turn it back the other way, then your partner’s turns back the same way, so your partner’s device turns whichever way your own device turns.” says one of the bright minds working on the project.

“It is achieved only by motor rotations, and you control the rotation positions via PC. It is called a bilateral control, and the turn angle information is sent reciprocally by both devices to maintain the same position. Right now the values are handled by one PC, but if a system is put together to handle the values over a network, then it would be easy for this operation to be conducted remotely.” One of the top YouTube comments said it best: Imagine using this over the internet and you hit a lag spike. It stalls for 10 seconds, and then all the motions comes at once and rips your tongue out.

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Japan’s Cat Island Safe after Quake and Tsunami

Tashirojima, also known as “Cat Island” was believed to have been devastated by the recent 9.0 earthquake and following tsunami, but a recent report shows both the human and feline population are safe.

I’m sure you’re as happy as I am to finally hear some good news after the disaster that recently struck Japan, but you’re probably wondering why I’m posting such news on a blog that’s supposed to be about oddities. You see, Tashirojima isn’t just some island off the coast of Japan, it’s somewhat of a cat haven where the human inhabitants believe their purring companions bring them luck and protection from harm. After the recent events, and the population’s miraculous survival, many are inclined to agree.

Cats were apparently brought to Tashirojima Island a long time ago, to eradicate the rodent population that prevented the successful breeding of silk worms. The felines did their job, but they also began gathering at fisherman inns and begging for scraps. Over time the people of the island became so fond of cats that they started studying their behavior and interpreting it as weather predictions and fish patterns. They even built a small cat shrine in the middle of the island, which has become a popular tourist attraction for cat lovers.

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Japanese Scientists Create Creepiest Mobile Phone Ever

A group of Japanese scientists have created a doll-like mobile phone they say is designed to make you feel closer to the person you’re talking to. No, this is not a joke…

Japan has been at the forefront of technological research and development for a long time, but some of the things they’ve come up over the years were incredibly weird and creepy. Case in point the latest mobile phone prototype designed by researcher Takashi Minato assisted by a team of scientists. He has created a human-shaped cell phone with a skin-like outer layer that is supposed to help people feel closer to the person they’re communicating with.

The current prototype is slightly larger than the palm of a hand, designed to look like a human and has a soft outer layer that heats and cools in a similar way human skin does. A speaker is installed in the creepy humanoid head of the handheld gadget, and the microphone is located at the bottom, where the feet should be. It also has a light-emitting diode that turns blue when the phone is in use and red when it’s in stand-by mode. Minato and his colleagues hope to add image and voice recognition in the near future.

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Japan Holds National Hole Digging Competition

Japanese are known across the globe for their quirky contests, and the All-National Hole-Digging Contest is right up there with the wackiest.

This yearly event takes place at the beginning of February, at the Narita Dream Dairy Farm, just east of Tokyo. This year, over a thousand people from all over Japan showed up for a chance to win the coveted Golden Shovel award. There are a lot of families and groups of friends, but the most numerous are those who are ‘professionals’, who dig for a living, such as gas company workers or those who deal with the water supply.” says a public relation official of the offbeat competition.

Participants grouped in around 200 teams had 30 minutes to dig as deep as possible, without throwing dirt in their competitors’ holes. But while depth is important in such an event, contenders are also judged on the creativity of their hole, and the originality of their digging suites. So while some tried to dig as fast as they could, others preferred a different approach. For example, one of the teams used the dirt they dug up to build a small pyramid next to the hole.

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Aokigahara Forest – The Suicide Woods of Mount Fuji

Referred to as “the perfect place to die” in Wataru Tsurumui’s bestselling book – The Complete Manual of Suicide – Aokigahara is a thick, dark forest located at the base of Mount Fuji, famous as a popular suicide spot.

No one knows exactly how many bodies go undiscovered among the trees of Aokigahara forest, but the ones uncovered so far have already earned this place an eerie reputation. In 2002 alone, 78 bodies were located in Aokigahara, and by 2006, another 16 suicides were reported. Some of the victims even carried copies of Tsurumui’s book with them, which makes this even creepier. The whole place is dotted with signs that read “please reconsider!” or “please consult the police before you decide to die!” but these have little power on those determined to die here.

“We’ve got everything here that points to us being a death spot. Perhaps we should just promote ourselves as ‘Suicide City’ and encourage people to come here,” says the mayor of Aokigahara exasperated by the high number of suicides registered in the area. Locals claim they can always tell who is going into the forest to admire its natural beauty, and who isn’t planning on ever coming back. They say part of the reason people decide to commit suicide in Aokigahara forest is because they want to die at the foot of the sacred Mt. Fuji and because it’s so dense and thick that sounds from just a few kilometers inside can’t be heard outside the woods.

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The Wonderful World of Japanese Manhole Cover Art

Found across nearly 95% of Japan’s 1,780 municipalities, custom manhole covers have become an important part of national culture.

The history of manhole cover art can be traced back to the 1980s, when cities began making custom covers with designs inspired by the region’s cultural identity (mythology, history, culture, etc.). Every one of the over 6,000 custom manhole cover across Japan reflects the uniqueness of each city, keeping true to the country’s reputation for aesthetic sense.

Have a look at some of the most beautiful custom manhole covers spotted across Japan:

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LED Smiles – The Latest in Japanese Fashion

They make people look like they’ve been chewing on glow sticks, but the LED smiles created by designers Motoi Ishibashi and Daito Manabe are the new rage in Japan.

Originally created as an experiment, the LED smile is currently used in a commercial for the winter sale of a popular Japanese clothing store, and are quickly becoming one of the most sought-after fashion accessories in Japan. LED smiles are easily fixed to one’s teeth and glow different colors when you smile. Best used in the dark, these unusual gadgets change color wirelessy, through a computer interface.

Although LED smiles aren’t yet available for purchase, Ishibashi and Manabe are currently offering workshops across Japan, teaching people how to create their own.

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