The Ocellated Ice Fish – World’s Only Vertebrate with Transparent Blood

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Every animal with bones hemoglobin in its blood, which carries oxygen through its body and gives blood its red color. Every animal except one – the ocellated ice fish which has water-clear blood.

The ocean’s depth have revealed a series of odd life forms in recent years, from giant squid to translucent sea anemones, but scientists say the ocellated ice fish discovered in 2011 is among the most fascinating creatures the world over.  This unique fish lives in the ice-cold waters of Antarctica at depths of up to 3,300 feet (1 kilometer), and the only specimens in captivity can be found at Japan’s Tokyo Sea Life Park. Apart from the fact that it has transparent blood and no scales, the ocellated ice fish is not much different than most of the fish species living in Earth’s waters.  But its two special traits have researchers baffled. Because hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen through the body of vertebrates, it’s not yet clear how this species can survive without the metalloprotein which binds with oxygen. Several theories have been formulated on the subject, with some scientists speculating that the unusually large heart of the ocellated ice fish might help move oxygen using plasma instead of hemoglobin, and others saying that it may be able to absorb oxygen through its scale-free skin from the oxygen-rich waters of Antarctica. But the truth is very little is known about this fascinating creature and there are yet no facts to back up the claims.

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Japanese High-Tech Coat Imitates Girlfriend Hugs

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Studies have shown  that hugs can truly make lonely people feel better, so a group of Japanese students from Tsukuba University have invented a coat designed to imitate the feeling of a girlfriend hugging you from behind.

Hugging is all the rage right now. London has its own cuddling workshop for people in need of a hug and a professional cuddler in New York City will wrap her arms around you for a fee. But these solutions don’t work very well if you suddenly find yourself in need of a hug and there’s no one around to give it to you. Luckily, a team of Japanese geeks students have come up with a more practical, if weird, solution – a special hugging coat that emulates the sensation of a girlfriend putting her arms around you from behind. Called the Raiju Coat (Fulfillment Coat), this offbeat invention features motors attached to its back to operate the artificial “arms”, which are controlled through a computer using a USB connection. So whenever its owner feels lonely and in need of a fake girlfriend hug, all he has to do is put it on, close his eyes and imagine a cute anime girl putting her arms around him, as the coat takes hold of his waist. To make the experience even more realistic, the Raiju Coat comes with a pair of headphones that plays the sound of footsteps running from behind and pre-recorded sentences like “I’m sorry, were you waiting?”; “Watch your back!”; “Guess who?”; and “Blind side!” With such advanced hugging technology, who needs a real girlfriend?

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Hari Kuyo – Japan’s Unique Memorial Service for Broken Needles

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Hari Kuyo is a Japanese festival dedicated to old and broken needles. Celebrated every year on the 8th of February, this festival sees hundreds of women dressed in colorful kimonos, gathering at various Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples in and around Tokyo. This 400-year-old ritual involves sticking old and broken needles into soft chunks of tofu or jelly as a way of showing thanks for their hard work. I suppose this tradition springs from the Eastern system of displaying gratitude towards objects that are a source of livelihood. It also reflects on the animist belief that all beings and objects have a soul.

It’s not just about needles, several Japanese women consider Hari Kuyo as a time to value the small, everyday objects of daily life that are otherwise forgotten. Mottainai is the concept of not being wasteful about small things. Burying needles in tofu is said to symbolize rest for the needles, as they are wrapped with tenderness. It’s also about the many sorrows that women are believed to carry in their hearts, the burdens of which are passed on to the needles during many hours of sewing. So the needles do deserve a proper farewell and rest at the end of their service. According to Ryojo Shioiri, a Buddhist monk, “Sometimes there are painful things and secrets that women can’t tell men, and they put these secrets into the pins and ask the gods to get rid of them.”

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Tokyo’s Monk-Run Bar Mixes Cocktails with Buddhism

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Who says booze and religion don’t mix? That’s certainly not the case at Vowz, a unique Tokyo bar run by two Buddhist monks who serve customers delicious cocktails, religious chants and sermons.

There are over 10,000 bars in Tokyo, but none like the Vowz, in the city’s Yotsuya neighborhood. Opened by Japanese Buddhist monk Yoshinobu Fujioka, this offbeat watering hole has been bringing members of his congregation together for 13 years. “They become totally different believers here, the distance between them and myself diminishing,”the shaved-head bartender says. “They are more connected with each other.” In the old days, people would go to Buddhist temples to socialize and have a drink, but times have changed, and Fujioka decided to adapt in order to remain close to the people. So he opened the Vowz Bar, a place where people could come in and listen to Buddhist sermons and homilies without feeling constrained in any way. “At the temple, folks are always well-behaved and attentive, no matter how long or boring the sermon is,” head monk Gugan Taguchi says. “Here at the bar, they don’t like my sermons — they walk out.” But thanks to the friendly atmosphere and the tasty cocktails prepared by the monks themselves, that hardly ever happens.

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Japanese Dude Needs Your Help to Travel the World and Take Photos of Beautiful Women

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Kei Akatsu is a Japanese student who wants to travel the world and take photos of beautiful women for his Beauties World Map project. But he needs your help to do it. Traveling isn’t cheap, so he’s turned to an online crowd funding service to fulfill his dream.

The Tokyo University of Science student spent half a year in Vancouver taking photos of cute girls from all over the world and putting together a collection for his Beauties World Map website. He actually managed to meet an impressive number of women, and organized their photos on his site according to their places of origin, age and height. But it was only the beginning of his great photographic experience. Kei Akatsu now wants to travel the world and capture feminine beauty on camera for everyone see. Sadly, he lacks the funds to journey across North and South America, so he turned to Crowdfire, a Japanese online crowd funding service similar to Kickstarter, for help. To attract sponsors, Kei mapped out the entire project and even posted a promotional video and sample photos.

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Bathing in Fermented Sawdust – The Latest Bizarre Beauty Treatment from Japan

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Forget about greasy creams, mud wraps and even Botox shots. All you need to keep your skin looking healthy and beautiful is a good old fashioned fermented sawdust bath. It’s all the rage right now in Japan, and everyone seem to love it.

Women will do all sorts of weird things to their bodies in order to keep themselves looking younger for just a little longer. That includes extreme plastic surgery, having their breasts slapped,  and even their teeth chiseled, but the Japanese seem to have discovered a much less intrusive magic way of rolling back the clock and keeping old-age disorders at bay – bathing in fermented sawdust. It’s really not as disgusting as it sounds, and many beauty experts from the Land of the Rising Sun swear by it. Apparently, just 15 to 20 minutes of being covered in sawdust from cedar and cypress trees improves circulation, cleans skin and helps with muscle pain, among other health claims. Enzymes from vegetation and fruit ferment within the sawdust to warm the body, bringing the temperature up to 40 degrees Celsius and making you sweat like you’ve just finished a 2-hour marathon. The process is said to activate your internal organs, thus optimizing metabolism, raising immunity and improving circulation. It also stimulates sweating without clogging the pores and washes away sebum and dirt from your skin.

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Would You Pay $600 a Month to Live in a Human Locker Room?

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It’s no secret that Tokyo is one of the most crowded cities n the world. It’s also got some of the smallest apartments in the world, but a recent news program showed this whole housing problem is getting ridiculous. People are paying huge rents to live in coffin-sized apartments.

Just looking at photos of these locker room apartments in the Tokyo’s Shibuya district is enough to make anyone feel claustrophobic. And yet there are people willing to pay as much as ¥55,000 a month ($586) a month to live in them. Granted, most of them are probably just young professionals who spend most of their time at work and outdoors, using these tiny accommodations just for sleeping, but still, the fact that someone would pay that high a rent for this kind of living conditions is baffling. Apart from the obvious lack of space, these so-called “geki-sema share houses” are stacked on top of each other, and some don’t even have windows. The latest reactions to the video report show even Japanese people, who are used to small spaces, think these human locker rooms are insane.

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Young Japanese Women Rent Out Their Bare Legs as Advertising Space

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A good way to make sure your advertisement gets plenty of exposure is to place it where a lot of people are looking. With this important marketing rule in mind, one Japanese advertising service is offering brands a novel way to raise awareness to their business – placing advertising stickers on the bare thighs of young girls.

We’ve featured some pretty bizarre advertising techniques here, on Oddity Central. We’ve had people renting out their last names to the highest bidder, tattooing brand names on their faces, and even using animals as living billboards, But so far, women’s legs have been off limits. Well, not anymore; Japanese PR company Absolute Territory PR has begun paying young women to wear advertising stickers on their “absolute territory” – the part of their thighs between the edge of their miniskirts and their high socks. Apparently this area of the female thigh is very popular with Japanese men, as evidenced by the fact that it even has its own Facebook page. You’d think such a daring way of advertising would be frowned upon by most girls, but as of November of last year, over 1,300 girls had applied for the agency’s service, and their number is growing fast.
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Eat My Face – 3D Printed Face in Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

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Nothing says “I love you” like your detailed mug rendered in delicious chocolate. At least that’s what the Japanese at 3D-printing firm KS Design Lab and FabCafe, in Tokyo, are hoping you’ll think, as they offer patrons the chance to “chocolatize” their faces as gifts for Valentine’s Day.

Valenntine’s is big business in Japan. As we previously reported, a lot of Japanese chocolate companies record half their annual sales in the days before the romantic holiday. In the Land of the Rising Sun, only women offer gifts to men, usually in the form of chocolate sweets. Trying to stand out from the competition, 3D-printing firm KS Design Lab and Tokyo’s FabCafe, in the Shibuya district, have teamed up to offer a very original service to a group of women attending their workshop – 3D printed models of their faces in chocolate, to be given as presents on Valentine’s Day. Some of you may find them oishii (delicious), but I think they qualify more as kimoi (creepy). “We were brainstorming together about how the 3D-printing technology could appeal to consumers, when we hit on the idea of Valentine’s Day chocolates,” PR rep. Kazue Nakata explained.

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Women-Only Sleeping Cafe Opens in Tokyo

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Power naps – those short periods of sleep during the day – have been known to boost brain activity and increase productivity at the work place. Now a sleeping cafe in Tokyo’s Akasaka business district is offering hard-working Japanese women the chance to enjoy the benefits of the power nap, for a fee.

Stress and fatigue at the office are real issues in Japan, but for the women workaholics of the Asakara business district, in Tokyo there is a place where they can go relax and restore their energy – the Quska Sleeping Cafe. This ingenious concept offers patrons the chance to get a quick shut-eye either during their lunch breaks or in between their constant hours of overtime. It charges ¥150 ($1.60) for ten minutes of sleep in their comfortable facilities, but have even more affordable rates for clients looking to buy four-hour slots (¥3,120, around $33) or more. Now, you may think 10 minutes makes no difference if you’re ready to drop to the floor from fatigue, but various studies have shown that brief naps (10 -15 minutes) improve a person’s alertness and overall performance without the negative effects of sleep inertia associated with longer sleeping periods. Japanese companies are well-known for their productivity, and one of the reasons for this may be the power nap. For years, they’ve actually been encouraging their employees to take naps during work hours, and sleeping cafes like Quska provide the perfect environment.

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Japanese Restaurant Employs Masked Monkey Waiters

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Are you running a restaurant and can’t afford to hire waiters? Well, you could take a cue from this Japanese restaurant that hired monkeys for the job. And in an attempt to make them look more human, they even strapped masks on their faces. Not that they really fooled anybody.

The restaurant in question is Kayabuki, in the Miyukihoncho part of Utsunomiya, North of Tokyo. The place is a traditional ‘sake house’, which makes its choice of staff even stranger – a couple of monkeys named Yat-chan and Fuku-chan working as waiters (or waitresses, we’re not sure). 16-year-old Yat-chan is the older of the two, but he moves quickly between tables as he takes the customers’ drink orders. Fuku-chan gives diners a hot towel and helps them clean their hands before they order their drinks, as is the custom in Japan.  Believe it or not, the pair is actually certified by local authorities to work at the restaurant. The customers like them as well, so they get tipped with soya beans. One customer, Takayoshi Soeno said, “The monkeys are actually better waiters than some really bad human ones.”

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Japanese Company Offers Valentine’s Day Insurance for the Lonely

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Valentine’s Day, the most romantic celebration of the year, is fast approaching, and while some people can’t wait to declare their love and shower their partners with gifts, flowers and chocolate, for others it’s just a day of painful loneliness. However, Japanese bachelors no longer have to worry about being the only ones at the office who never gets anything on Valentine’s, thanks to a new service called Valentine’s Day Insurance.

So how does this service work, you ask? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually. All a person has to do is visit the Valentine’s Day Insurance website, purchase the ¥500 ($5.50) policy and provide an address where their Valentine’s gift should be delivered. Once they’ve done this, they’re guaranteed to receive a package on February 14, containing chocolates and a personal message from a self-professed beautiful woman called Rieko. I know what you’re thinking, having to buy your own Valentine’s Day present is pretty lame, but for some Japanese men it’s a lot better than having to cope with the uneasiness of being the only ones who didn’t get anything. Well, them and every woman in the Land of the Rising Sun, because here only men receive presents from women, usually in the form of chocolate. In fact, so much chocolate is purchased for the occasion that some Japanese chocolate companies record half of their annual sales in the few weeks before Valentine’s Day.

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Insanely Complicated Maze Is Probably Impossible to Solve

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It looks like the street map of a really complex city of the future, but this intricate drawing is really a 30-year-old maze drawn by a Japanese janitor. His daughter posted photos of the complicated work on Twitter, which went viral almost instantly.

Just last year, we posted an article about the efforts of Joe Wos, a Pittsburgh-based cartoonist who was working on the world’s largest most difficult hand-drawn maze. He worked on it from July until the end of September, and estimated that a person would need approximately 40 hours to solve it. His doodle-filled maze is truly something to behold, but I doubt it’s more challenging than the one created by Twitter user @Kya7y‘s father. Drawn on an A1 sheet of paper measuring 35 by 23.3 inches, this multi-layered masterpiece reportedly took the artist seven years and several months to complete. “Won’t somebody make it to the goal?” @Kya7y tweeted after posting the pics. And, believe it or not, there were actually plenty of people willing to waste several days of their lives trying to find the exit… If there even is one.

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Japanese Restaurant Uses Dirt as the Main Ingredient for Its Expensive Dishes

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While most chefs work hard to make sure no dirt winds up in their food, at French restaurant Ne Quittez Pas, in Tokyo, Japan, dirt is actually used as a key ingredient.

Mind you, this isn’t just any kind of dirt. It’s a special black soil from Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture, that’s actually been tested for safety, but it’s still the thing most people use to grow plants in. So how did dirt wind up on the menu of this respectable venue? Apparently, Chef Toshio Tanabe once won a cooking competition with his signature dirt sauce, and from that point on he put together an entire menu based on the unusual ingredient. Now the restaurant is offering dishes priced as high as $110 with Kanuma dirt in them.

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Okunoshima Island – Japan’s Rabbit Paradise

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Okunoshima is a small Japanese island, located in the Inland Sea of Japan, in the Hiroshima Prefecture. What’s special about this place is that it is completely crawling with rabbits – a bunny paradise of sorts. Nicknamed the Rabbit Okunoshima attracts thousands of animal lovers every year. Feeding bunnies can be one of the most relaxing pastimes, and people come here to do just that. The island is a popular day-trip and weekend holiday destination.

Okunoshima might be a place of natural beauty, but it has a dark, dirty past as well. In the early 20th century, it served as the base for the Imperial Army’s lethal gas operation. Over 6,000 tons of about 5 types of poison gas were manufactured on this very island between the years of 1929 and 1945. The mission was top secret back then, so Okunoshima was actually omitted from maps and workers were sworn to secrecy. Today, you can still see the ruins of these factories on the island. Given its history, there are several explanations of the unusually large number of rabbits in this place. Some sources say the furry animals were brought over during World War II, to test the effects of the poisonous gases. When the war ended, the workers are said to have released the rabbits into the wild. Other sources claim that a group of children were on a field trip at Okunoshima in 1971, when they left behind 8 bunnies. Well, we might never know how the first rabbits got on to the island, but they did their job well – copulating to make sure they left behind hundreds of their progeny to roam the island today. Hundreds might not sound like a lot, but on an island just 2.5 kilometers in circumference they make their presence felt.

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