Japan’s Creative Take on the Haunted House

In case you needed more proof that Japan is always taking old, tired concepts and turning them on their heads before the rest of the world can.

This past summer 2013 and continuing into 2014, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Japan opened a new exhibit for children titled “Ghosts, Underpants and Stars,” but its most popular project is the Torafu Architects’ Haunted Play House.

Created by Koichi Suzuno and Shinya Kamuro, Haunted Play House spins off the traditional dark, zombie and ghost-filled Halloween houses with a subtle yet eerie art gallery. The architectural installation contains hidden passageways, contorted paintings, funhouse mirrors and thousands of watching eyes.

It may be spooky, but the project also aims to educate children on art history while simultaneously fueling their imaginations.

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The Real Reason Behind Japan’s Surgical Mask Trend

Even if we don’t understand it, we’ve all seen it before– the strange trend in some Asian countries to wear surgical masks.

So what’s the reason behind this phenomenon? In some cases, the justification is perfectly understandable. For instance, residents in China are often seen wearing masks because of the poor air quality. In some cases, this is even a requirement. During a runway show in Jiangsu province last year, models were forced to wear surgical masks because the smog was far too dangerous to inhale.

So what about Japan? According to Rocketnews24, there are 5 main reasons for the popular mask trend.

1.) For health purposes.
While China residents wear the mask to protect themselves from the unfit air quality, Japanese residents wear the mask for any sort of contagious disease. However, the mask is not used to protect themselves. Instead, it is used to protect other people. Because Japanese residents often come in close contact with one another, it is common courtesy to wear a mask if you are sick.

2.) To avoid social awkwardness.
Rocketnews24 reported that the mask is sometimes used by an individual who simply does not want interaction. A Japanese psychologist added, “When we deal with others, we have to judge whether to do things like smile or show anger. By wearing a mask, you can prevent having to do that. The trend of wearing a mask to prevent directly dealing with other may have roots in the current youth culture in which many of them are more accustomed to communicating indirectly through email and social media.”

3.) For warmth. 
Tired of wrapping a scarf around your face to keep it warm? Why not try a surgical mask?

4.) For the lazy.
Have you ever wanted to go out, but you’re too lazy to put on make up? Or maybe you have a pimple and you’re just too tired to cover it up. Maybe its just one of those days when you just want to leave the house for a quick errand and dolling yourself up seems like a hassle. Apparently, Japanese women have decided that a quick way around this is the surgical mask.

5.) In the name of fashion.
We certainly expected this one. As the popularity of the mask grows, more and more people are finding ways to incorporate it into their outfit. Black masks and printed masks were created for that very purpose.

 

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Traditional Chinese Instrument Creates Best Super Mario Bros. Cover EVER

Who doesn’t like a good cover of Super Mario Bros. music? We’ve seen this with just about every sort of instrument imaginable– using a piano, using the guitar, using a harmonica and even using wine glasses.

So what sort of instrument can produce the best cover? As it turns out, the most fitting instrument may be something we didn’t expect at all. A traditional Chinese instrument called the sheng may be our top contender.

You may be unfamiliar with the strange device, but it has actually been around since 1100BC. The sheng is a mouth organ made of wood, metal, or a gourd with a blowpipe and at least 17 extending pipes made from bamboo or metal.

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Although  the sheng is used primarily to play Chinese classical music with other traditional Chinese instruments, there seems to be room for its beautiful sounds here in modern times.

In the video below, a Japanese student is seen doing a sheng cover of the Super Mario Bros. theme song as well as many of the songs and sound effects from the original game. We even get to hear as Mario accumulates coins.

Needless to say, this impressive cover is on its way to viral fame. Check it out for yourself.

 

 

The Rise of the Asian Male Figure Skater

Story by Olivia Ouyang.

On a night when mistakes abounded, history was made. The men’s free skate competition was far from memorable, with falls occurring left and right. However, it was an evening for the books. For the first time in the history of Olympic figure skating, an Asian male won the event. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu skated far below his abilities, falling twice during his program. However, he was able to edge out the competition and solidify the rise of the Asian male skater.

The Japan Figure Skating Championships is considered one of the hardest competitions simply because of the depth of the country’s field. Its two other representatives, Tatsuki Machida and Daisuke Takahashi, finished fifth and sixth respectively. Takahashi, who made history in 2010 by becoming the first Asian man to win the World Championships, did not even make the podium at Japanese nationals. However, given his experience, which includes a bronze medal at the prior Olympics, Takahashi was given a spot on the team.

It is worth noting that all three medalists are of Asian descent. Silver medalist Patrick Chan is of Chinese descent; both his parents immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in the early part of their lives. Chan created a stir a few years ago when he told Reuters that he wished he could skate for China because the country appreciates their figure skaters whereas Canadians only value hockey. The statement was later retracted. The three-time World Champion was a contender for the gold medal, trailing Hanyu by less than four points. After Hanyu’s errors, the door was open for Chan to step in and clench the gold. However, the veteran skater made numerous errors and was unable to close the gap.

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After the short program, only 3.5 points separated third and eleventh place, leaving the bronze medal was up for grabs. It was Denis Ten, the 2013 World silver medalist, who rose to the occasion. Representing Kazakhstan, Ten is of Korean descent. His great-great-grandfather was Min Keung Ho, a Korean general in the war against Japan for independence in the early 20th century. Ten rose from ninth the third place with one of the best programs of the night.

Michael Christian Martinez, the first figure skater and only athlete from the Philippines at these Games placed a respectable nineteenth place. Read more on his story here.

The ladies’ competition gets underway today. Unlike the men, Asian women have dominated the past two Olympics, beginning with Shizuka Arakawa’s victory at the 2006 Torino Olympics. Reigning Olympic champion Yuna Kim of Korea is competing here in Sochi to defend her title. Also in the mix is Mao Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist who is looking to improve on her prior finish and get gold.

This Adorable Video Will Make You Want to Visit Rabbit Island

In Japan, the island of Ōkunoshima has become a well-known tourist attraction. However, the popularity of this island may not be for reasons that you would typically expect from a tourist spot. The main attraction of Ōkunoshima island are the adorably, fluffy rabbits which scamper all about the area.

The island served as a secret military installation in World War II. The Japanese used the island to produce poisonous gas. Because the island was far enough from the major cities, the army believed it would be the perfect location to experiment with dangerous mustard gas.

Unfortunately, the story gets rather sad here. Rabbits were brought onto the island as test subjects for the poison. At the end of WWII, the facility was shut down and the rabbits were released into the wild.

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According to the Los Angeles Times, it is said that only eight rabbits were released into the wild by school children, but with the predator-free environment, the bunnies multiplied and became a group of over 300.

The rabbits, who have become so accustomed to humans that they have no problem hopping into human arms, gave the island its popular nickname.

In the following video, a young girl is seen attracting a swarm of bunnies. Needless to say, it’s too cute not to watch.

 

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Fall In Love With Japan’s Women’s Hockey Team

Any fan of Japan’s women’s hockey team will admit that they don’t exactly expect the girls to take Olympic gold anytime soon– but the team is loved anyway.

Although the team places second in every Asian Winter Games since 1996, they are ranked 10th in the world and generally struggle with international competition. In fact, Japan’s spot at the Sochi Games is the first time in the country’s history that it qualified into the Olympics in women’s hockey.

Despite this, Japan’s women’s hockey team is consistently a fan favorite. They’ve been described as “the smiley-est group ever known.” This is perfect seeing as the team’s nickname is “Smile Japan.”

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The girls are known for their positive energy and love of celebration. Because of this, they have gained a handful of fans despite their scores at Sochi.

“We hoped to get a better result, but we are still positive,” one of the players said when Japan lost 4-0 to Germany. “We wanted to make our fans smile for us. Despite this, we hope we can still make them smile.”

This doesn’t seem like a very difficult task for the girls at all. Upon arriving at Sochi, the team was given some practice time. How did they utilize it? Certainly not by running drills or practicing every second they were given. Instead, they took pictures, played around in the ice and relished every moment of being on Olympic ice.

Check out the super cute pictures below.

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Korean Magazine Headline Angers Japanese

Story by James S. Kim. 

Popular men’s magazine Maxim Korea is accustomed to racy, eye-catching covers, but that’s usually due to the scantily-clad women. In this case, however, the editor-in-chief of the South Korean publication is under fire from netizens for a front page headline in the February issue that reads, “How to date Japanese women who haven’t been exposed to radiation,” as well as for his faux apology that blames the Japanese for the mistake.

The controversy began when readers in South Korea initially pointed out the inappropriate nature of the headline. Once the Japanese media picked up the topic, the issue blew up even further, prompting a public apology from the editor on Feb. 5, but his statement only added fuel to the flames.

He began appropriately enough, apologizing for “causing discomfort and inflicting harm” to any Japanese. He explained the article was a guide about how to get a Japanese girlfriend, and the headline on the front page was meant to be eye-catching and not intended to be offensive in any way.

It goes all downhill from there, as the editor subsequently shifts the blame to Japan: “The recent brash remarks coming from Japan concerning Dokdo and the island dispute, Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine and the issue of comfort women, have unintentionally caused us to make a mistake,” he said.

“I will apologize for a second time to the many Japanese who harbor amicable feelings towards South Korea and continue to wait for the correct resolution to Dokdo and other historical problems,” he continued. “I wish to thank the readers who reprimanded us out of love.”

Japanese readers were understandably angered, with many calling the statement a provocation rather than an apology. There is no word on whether Maxim will issue (another) apology.

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This story was originally published in iamkoream.com 

Video of The Week: The Fastest (And Cutest) Baby Penguin is in Love

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and love is in the air. That certainly appears to be the case for this female cape penguin who lives at Matsue Vogel Park in Japan.

Matsue Vogel Park is one of the Largest indoor garden in the world and is situated in Matsue-shi, Shimane prefecture. It is an aviary park which houses a number of tropical birds such as toucans, turacos, hornbills and ibises. There are also a number of aquatic birds such as emus and, you guessed it, penguins.

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This particular penguin is named Sakura-Chan and from the looks of it, she seems absolutely smitten by the human caretaker. At least it seems that way since she won’t allow any distance between the two.

No matter how fast the caretaker runs, Sakura-Chan is right on his heels. Forget having a human Valentine this year. This quick and adorable penguin is sure to warm your heart.

Watch the video below.

 

Yet Another Japanese Weight Loss App: Get Slim & Your Virtual Girlfriend Will Too

In Japan, the pressure to be slim continues to grow. In fact, a body figure which is considered average in America may be considered chubby in Japan. For instance, a new idol group was introduced in Japan called Chubbiness. As you may have guessed from their name, their angle is their “chubby figures.” The thought of an idol group who embraces their heavy figure sounds nice, but many people are bothered by the fact that the women in Chubbiness are hardly considered overweight at all.

Unfortunately, it seems as if many of Japan’s efforts to be accepting of heaviness have backfired. They have tried to introduce the term “marshmallow girls” to describe chubby women in hopes of associating chubbiness with cuteness. Instead, many have found the term insulting. Even worse, one television show said it was alright to be fat, but there are “right and wrong ways to be a fat woman.

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As expected, these efforts to be accepting of larger body figures cannot compare to the overwhelming pressure to be thin. Japan has just about everyone and everything encouraging weight loss. One B&B has rent price dependent on how much weight the tenant loses or gains. Then there’s a weight-loss app which has virtual men insult you until you lose weight.

But now a new app has decided to take this concept one step further.

The “Diet with Your Girlfriend” app is just what it sounds like. You are given a virtual girlfriend (which has gotten quite popular in Japan these days) and the more you diet, the more she does. The virtual girlfriend gets noticeably more attractive as she loses weight.

The problems with this sort of weight-loss app seems endless. Is this app suggesting that only slim women are attractive? What if a man prefers heavier women?

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Russia Wins The First Team Figure Skating Gold Medal, U.S. In Third

Story by Olivia Ouyang.

The first ever team figure skating event concluded yesterday with the men’s and ladies’ long program and free dance. Veteran Yevgeny Plushenko sealed Russia’s fate as the gold medalist after winning the men’s free skate. However, there were plenty of other highlights over the course of the three-day event that began on Thursday, the day before the opening ceremonies.

Unique to this competition is that skaters who would not normally be in the spotlight are able to compete alongside the world’s best. For example, Japan has some of the strongest singles skaters in the world. However, they have much weaker pairs and ice dancing teams. Because of the team structure of this competition, these Japanese skaters shared the ice with the best in the field. In addition, the five countries that qualified for the finals were allowed up to two substitutions for the long programs and free dance. Most countries took advantage of this rule and let some less experienced skaters compete.

While this was a nice way to kick off the Olympics, the real action starts on Tuesday when the individual events get underway.  However, the team event gave audiences a nice preview of who to watch.

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Men’s: Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan) won the men’s short program, edging out Plushenko by a little over six points. Patrick Chan of Canada also proved he is a medal contender by placing third in the short. Although Plushenko won the long program, Kevin Reynolds of Canada and Tatsuki Machida were right on his heels.

Ladies’: Yulia Lipnitskaya, the 15-year-old from Russia, proved that she is the girl to beat, dominating both the short and long programs. Veteran Carolina Kostner pulled together one of her best programs ever and placed second in the short. If she skates like that in the individual competition, she is definitely a medal contender. Mao Asada, one of the few women with a triple axel, fell on the element in the short program but still managed to cling to third. Ashley Wagner partially redeemed herself after a devastating performance at U.S. Nationals that sparked quite the controversy when she was selected for the Olympic team over bronze medalist Mirai Nagasu (for more on this story, click here). Lastly but certainly not least, Gracie Gold, the current U.S. National champion, came the closest to challenging Lipnitskaya, placing second in the free skate.

Pairs: As it has been for the past decade, the top three pair teams in the world are still the Russians, Canadians, and Chinese. All three countries have such a deep team that it will be interesting to see who ends up on top.

Ice Dancing: Meryl Davis and Charlie White demonstrated why they are the favorites to win the Olympics, scoring a season’s best during the free dance and winning both portions of the competition. Their closest rivals (both literally and figuratively) are Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who represent Canada but happen to be their training mates. Marina Zoueva coaches both teams.