In Japan, cute mascot characters are very popular to help promote many stores, restaurants and merchandise.
Even the Tokyo police, fire department and Japanese military have mascots.
Also, cities and prefectures in Japan have cute or funny mascot characters that are related to some local food or animal.
They are used to help promote tourism to the area.
These characters are normally cute … or at least try to be.
So, the new mascot for the northernmost Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido was on the news recently because not only is the character not cute… but it’s actually on there scary side!
Hokkaido is famous for the wild bears (熊 (kuma) in Japanese) and the cantaloupe (メロン (melon) in Japanese)… so the character is 「メロン熊」(“Melon-kuma“).
It’s a bear with a Japanese cantaloupe melon for a head … and has angry eyes and huge teeth!
It’s also fond of trying to bite people!
Quite different from the usual mascots in Japan!
Here’s a video of the melon-kuma trying to bite people and promote tourism to Hokkaido:
In Tokyo, there is a subway station named 「辰巳駅」(“Tatsumi Station”).
The Japanese kanji characters that spell “Tatsumi” are the characters for “dragon” and “snake”.
So, for that reason, every twelve years … including this year … that station is a kind of unofficial New Years station.
This is because 2012 was 「辰年」(“the Year of the Dragon “) and this year (2013) is 「巳年」(“the Year of the Snake “).
So, for this New Years, Tatsumi Station changed the signs in the station to read:
辰 → 巳
(Dragon → Snake)
The Trip Advisor website had a survey for travelers to rank world cities in nine categories such as friendliest locals, cleanliness, public transportation, etc.
Tokyo ranked first place in five categories and second place in another.
Tokyo Tower and Zojoji Temple (image from “Trip Advisor”)
Here are the top three cities in each of the nine categories:
|Friendliest taxi drivers
|Best taxi services
|Ease of getting around
|Best public transport
|Best value for money
|Best for shopping
||New York City
And here were the ones that were voted as the worst in the same categories (except for “Safest city”…for some reason that category wasn’t listed on the site):
||Second to last
||Third to last
|Friendliest taxi drivers
|Best taxi services
|Ease of getting around
|Best Public Transport
||Sharm el Sheikh
|Best value for money
|Best for shopping
Have you been to any of these cities? Do you agree with the ranking?
Which cities would you rank as best and worst?
Once again, Pepsi Japan is offering special collectors’ edition bottles and cans.
Starting last October 23rd (2012), Pepsi Japan started selling 「エナジーコーラ」 (“Energy Cola”) for a limited time in cans with an image of fire and Darth Vader from the Star Wars movies.
Energy Cola contains five ingredients that are meant to boost energy:
Royal jelly, argenine, asian ginseng, guarana extract and caffeine.
And in late November (2012), they began offering their NEX cola in bottles with images from the Japanese マンガ (manga comics) called “One Piece“.
Which would you choose?
People around the world can name American presidents, American movie actors, American pop music artists, American companies, and American fictional characters.
They’re world famous.
It’s been that way for at least a few generations now.
But before I came to Japan, there was no internet back then and Japanese food and pop culture wasn’t popular around the world like it’s become in recent years.
Back then, I wouldn’t have been able to name a single Japanese prime minister.
The only Japanese actor I knew back then was Pat Morita (from “Karate Kid“)…and he was actually a Japanese-American.
The only Japanese musicians I knew were Yoko Ono and the Japanese heavy metal band Loudness.
Of course, I would have been able to name a number of Japanese companies such as Sony, Toshiba, Toyota, Honda, etc.
As for Japanese fictional characters, I knew Ultraman and Godzilla.
I’ve now been living in Japan for most of my life…so, I probably know more about Japan than I know about America anymore.
How about you? How familiar are you with Japan and Japanese culture?
What famous Japanese people do you know?
How about Japanese food / dishes?
Actors / actresses?
Bands / musicians?
How about Japanese words?
Or any other things you know about Japan?
In America, does Domino’s Pizza have funny or unusual coupons?
Or is it another “only-in-Japan” thing?
Because, once again, Domino’s Japan is offering 25% off specials to customers that fit some crazy stipulations.
Some of the funny new Domino’s Japan coupons.
For example, customers in Japan can get 25% off their pizza order if the pizza delivery person sees that they:
- have facial hair (a beard and/or a mustache),
- have “piggy tails“,
- have a last name with four Japanese kanji characters (very few Japanese people have such a long name),
- have a twin sibling,
- are wearing glamorous clothes,
- are in the eleventh grade (high school ID required),
- have a pet parakeet,
- are wearing a “dorky” T-shirt,
- speak with an accent from another area of Japan (than the one they’re currently in), or
- show a receipt that proves they’ve already ordered a Domino’s pizza earlier that same day.
Coupons can’t be combined in one order…but if someone meets all of the above stipulations, they can get 50% off of their order (the odds of such a person existing are probably extremely slim though).
Summer in Tokyo is very hot and humid. There is a typhoon season and sometimes a sudden thunderstorm with heavy rain will start seemingly out of nowhere…and then stop just as suddenly with blue skies returning.
Japanese people are sometimes surprised if I tell them that summer in Florida (where I grew up) is very similar.
Summer in Florida is also hot and humid. There is a hurricane season (hurricanes, for all intents and purposes, are basically the same as typhoons) and sometimes sudden short thunderstorms occur there too.
In fact, the area in Florida where I lived, Tampa Bay, is called “the lightning capital of the world”.
When the weather is sunny and then a rainstorm suddenly starts…with the sunny weather returning just as suddenly, Floridians call that a sun shower.
So I also referred to the same phenomenon in Japan as a sun shower, as well.
But a few years ago, the Japanese media gave these storms an original Japanese name. Here in Japan, these storms are called 「ゲリラ豪雨」 (“Guerrilla rainstorms“) because of the way they violently come out of nowhere.
Well, yesterday, there was a sudden, short, ゲリラ豪雨 (Guerrilla rainstorm)…and someone photographed it from the Tokyo Sky Tree tower.
The 「ゲリラ豪雨」 (guerrilla rainstorm) that hit the Tokyo area yesterday. It looks like a tornado!
Yesterday (2012 August 15), was the 67th anniversary of the end of World War II.
And, as is done every August 15th in Tokyo, some Japanese politicans went to the 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)… which is the shrine in Japan that honors all who died defending Japan in war… to pay tribute.
All who died in Japan’s defense are enshrined there … including those who were found guilty of war crimes by the U.S. war tribunals.
For that reason, many of Japan’s neighboring countries don’t like Yasukuni Shrine … and get upset when Japanese politicans visit it.
But really, the shrine doesn’t exclude war dead based on another country’s war court verdict … in the same way that all of America’s soldiers who die in battle can be buried at Arlington Cemetary, all of Japan’s soldiers are honored at Yasukuni Shrine.
But that isn’t the only political debate neighboring countries have with Japan.
China, Russia and South Korea have border disputes with Japan.
After their victory over the Japanese team at the Olympics, a player on South Korea’s Olympic soccer team held up a sign declaring that the disputed Takeshima Island is Korean territory. The Korean team almost lost their medal because of that.
Then, the South Korean president visited the island – - unannounced visits to disputed land by a political leader isn’t probably a wise move.
And then, yesterday … the anniversary of the end of World War II, some Korean men attempted to swim to the island. They didn’t make it there, so Japan didn’t need to take any action … but their attempt made the news.
And then yesterday, a Chinese boat was intercepted by the Japanese Coast Guard as it tried to head to the Senkaku Islands … which is disputed land between Japan and China.
The Chinese people onboard are currently in a Japanese jail. China is demanding that they be freed.
This seems to happen every year at this time.
Recently there was a show on TV here that showed a tribal family who live in the jungle of a small tropical island. The tribal family were brought to Japan to stay in the home of a regular Japanese family and to experience life in Tokyo.
Needless to say, the tribal family were overwhelmed with Tokyo but overall they really loved it here.
It made me think…
It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century there are still people in the world who live like it’s the “Stone Age” but in South America, Africa, some tropical islands and other places, there are people living in trees or huts who hunt for their food and have no electricity, indoor plumbing, “real” medicine or other modern amenities.
Should we introduce these people to the modern world? Would their life improve with television, internet, telephones, public transportation, fast-food, hospitals, clocks, shopping malls and all of the other things that make the difference between “first world” and “third world” countries?
In Japan, America and other first-world countries, we grew up with those things and most of us couldn’t live without them. I would find a weekend camping trip without toilets, air conditioners, and supermarkets difficult…so I know I could never give them up and live like the tribal people do.
But they grew up in their world and that’s all they know so of course they don’t miss or desire cell-phones or other things that we use every day. But what if we showed them how much easier and convenient our lives are? Wouldn’t they like it better? Or would they prefer their “simple” lives?
And what if all of the world’s tribal people left the jungles and entered the “real” world?
Would it affect the economies and lives of the rest of us? If so, would it be a negative affect?
It is now the evening of 2011 December 31st in Japan…a few hours ’til New Years Day 2012.
So, what do you think the five biggest news stories of 2011 were?
I think I’d say:
● The 2011 March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan.
● The ten year anniversary of the 2001 September 11th terrorist attacks in America.
● The death of Muammar Gaddafi on 2011 October 20.
● The death of Osama bin Laden on 2011 May 2.
● The Occupy protest movement.
Which events epitomized this past year to you? Tell me in the comments section of this post.
Here’s a YouTube video that shows many photos and videos of this year’s biggest news through a series of “Google searches“: