Category Archive News and Events

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Japan to tighten border controls on visitors from 3 U.S. states, Finland

The Japanese government said Monday it will tighten border controls for travelers from three U.S. states, Finland and some other areas in response to the spread of highly contagious variants of the novel coronavirus. (Kyodo)

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Japanese life expectancy at all-time high

The average life expectancy in Japan reached record highs for both men and women last year. (NHK)

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You put WHAT in your curry? Japanese netizens reveal their favourite secret ingredients

“Don’t knock it till you try it” comes to mind for some of these!

Japanese curry is pretty simple to make. Just pick your favourite roux, add meat and vegetables and that’s it! But, much like other comfort foods from around the world, Japanese curry isn’t limited to just one recipe. Each person has their own individual way of making it, right down to the specific way they cut their veggies or how long to cook the curry for. And even if the same curry roux is used, the taste may vary from family to family, as people use their favourite secret ingredients to give their curry a unique taste.

We’ve seen some strange curry ingredients before, like matcha and sakura petals, but surely these are just trendy ingredients to attract foodies, right? Regular Japanese households don’t use such unorthodox ingredients… right?

A survey by Japanese lifestyle portal Kufura asked 437 Japanese women what secret ingredient they used in their curry, and the top ten results were posted.

10. Yoghurt
9. Tomato
8. Milk
7. Ketchup
6. Honey

5. Soy sauce

Perhaps not so surprising, soy sauce was the fifth most popular response. Proponents said they liked how it shifted the flavor balance from spicy to rich, and also how it added a traditional Japanese taste to the dish.

4. Garlic

Another pretty orthodox ingredient, garlic, comes in at number four. Because this is a ranking of “secret ingredients” though, respondents aren’t tossing in whole cloves and eating them like the large chunks of potato or carrot you find in Japanese curry. Instead, the trick is to grate the garlic before it goes into the pot, so that it melts into the roux.

3. Chocolate

Yes, a surprising number of respondents (36) said they added chocolate to their curry. Dark chocolate was favoured over milk, in order to give the flavor extra depth without making it sugary sweet.

2. Worcestershire sauce

Ketchup made an appearance in the top ten, but the second most popular secret ingredient was what’s simply called “sosu” in Japanese, a savory liquid seasoning most similar to Worcestershire sauce. Because the sauce itself is made up of a mixture of various spices, it can added to curry to enhance the flavor without overpowering the roux’s inherent taste.

And finally…

1. Instant coffee

Taking the top spot in the secret ingredients was instant coffee, for those who want a sweet caffeine hit with their meal. With Japanese curry already representing spicy, salty, and sweet notes pretty strongly, the addition of a bitter element really makes for a complete, maturely sophisticated eating experience for fans.

The top ten most popular responses have a couple of unusual ingredients in there, but other less common but equally unusual answers included Calpis (“It gives the curry a refreshing taste,”) and leftover jam (“It’s eco-friendly,”). Equally, a number of respondents replied that they didn’t use any secret ingredient at all, preferring to enjoy the taste of the roux on its own.

Next time you make yourself some Japanese curry, why not try one of these ingredients for yourself? You might end up discovering your new favourite flavour! Just… whatever you do, don’t call it katsu curry unless there’s some actual breaded cutlets on the top!

Source: Kufura via Yahoo! Japan News via Jin
Featured image: Pakutaso
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Japan’s hikers return to Mount Fuji

“It is a mountain that is an object of worship.” Hikers are flocking back to Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji as the active volcano’s symmetrical slopes reopen to the public after being off-limits for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Al Jazeera)

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Lawson now giving customers who bring their own tumblers an even better discount on coffee drinks

It’s nicer than Starbucks’ 20-yen discount!

If you’re someone who always has to stop and get coffee on the way to work, take note! Lawson’s budget-friendly convenience store coffee shop “Machi Cafe”–whose staff insist on handing you your coffee even if you don’t want them to–is now even more wallet-friendly, because they’re offering customers who bring their own travel mug or tumbler an even better discount than usual!

Since the introduction of Machi Cafe in Lawsons around the country in 2011, the company has always offered a decent 10-yen (US$0.09) discount to customers who bring their own container in an effort to help reduce their single-use plastic waste. Since 2017, however, they’ve made it their goal to reduce their plastic consumption by 30 percent by 2030, so they have been working to do more to reach that goal.

For instance, in 2019, they switched to selling their iced coffee in a paper cup and replaced the lid with one that doesn’t need a straw. This summer, they’re thanking their customers for helping with that goal by offering a 39-yen discount for coffee fans who bring their own travel mug!

That beats out Starbucks Japan’s 20-yen discount (which is normally better than Lawson’s usual discount, though Lawson’s coffee is generally cheaper anyway), so if you’re addicted to coffee but on a budget, Lawson is the place to go. The discount applies to both hot and cold coffee and latte drinks (excluding the mega size, which does not count for the normal tumbler discount, either).

They’re calling it the “Thank you” discount (because 3=”san” and 9=”kyuu”, adding up to “sankyuu”), but it won’t be around for long; this nice benefit will only last till August 30, so get your coffee fill while you can! You can even bring your favorite Starbucks travel mug; don’t worry, no one will judge you.

Source: Oricon News via Livedoor News via Otacom, Lawson
Top image: Pakutaso

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Nepartak approaching Japan, may make landfall

Weather officials in Japan forecast that tropical storm Nepartak will approach, or make landfall in northeastern Japan, or an area including Tokyo and several prefectures, on Tuesday. (NHK)

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Drunk droning arrest first of its kind in Aichi Prefecture

Friends don’t let friends fly tiny helicopters drunk.

With the wide range of models and increasingly affordable pricing, drone flying has become an extremely fun hobby for many. However, as I always tell my kids, “with great fun comes great responsibility,” which is probably why they don’t like talking to me.

I’m not wrong though, and to prove it we have the arrest of a 56-year-old man who became the first in his prefecture to get busted for violating the newly enacted law against flying a drone while intoxicated.

The incident occurred on 12 June in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, when the suspect consumed eight cans of beer between the hours of 7 a.m. and noon. Interestingly enough, all that morning drinking motivated the suspect to start cleaning his room.

Our Japanese-side writer Seiji clearly needs to drink more.

While tidying, he happened upon a drone which he had bought a few years ago and took it out of the box to see if it still worked. Upon learning that it did, the drunken suspect abandoned his cleaning ambitions to take it for a spin.

However, while in flight, the drone weighing about 540 grams (1.2 pounds) collided with the window of a nearby residence. The neighbor called the police to report the crash and the ensuing investigation led them back to the suspect who admitted to the charges of drinking and droning.

He may have been surprised to learn that such a crime even existed, as a law regarding it had only been passed earlier this year when Japan revised its Civil Aeronautics Act to include various provision for drones. As a result, piloting a drone under the influence became officially prohibited and his was the first arrest of its kind in Aichi.

▼ News report on the arrest

It certainly surprised many readers of the news who had never heard of such a crime before, but could easily understand why it came to be.

“There’s also drunk driving for drones?”
“There’s no drunk flying for drones. I didn’t know that, but they can certainly do harm when they crash.”
“That’s silly. Drones can’t drink.”
“I’ve never piloted drunk before.”

“Just like with a car, nothing good can come of piloting a drone while drunk.”
“It certainly a law we need.”
“Drinking before noon, cleaning, playing with a drone, I can really sympathize with his situation though.”
“At least he just hit a window and not someone’s head.”
“I think you could get away with it in a place like America because it has more space, but it’s probably windier and harder to control too.”

It’s another example of how the law must adapt to keep up with changes in society and technology. However, we too as members of society have to adjust our behavior to adapt with these changes as well.

So the next time you get drunk for breakfast and get the urge to do some fancy flying, remember to do it in a safe and consequence-free environment. After all, that’s precisely the reason that Microsoft Flight Simulator was developed.

Source: NHK, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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Japan to begin process of distributing vaccine passports, Chief Cabinet Secretary says

The passports are meant to be used strictly for travel purposes.

Though Japan’s vaccine campaign was off to a slow and somewhat hectic start, efforts to increase the number of vaccinated citizens have begun ramping up, bringing Japan’s vaccination rate up to nearly 20 percent.

With the progress remaining steady, the government considered it good timing to initiate the much-disputed idea of a vaccine passport to use as proof of vaccination. On July 11, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato announced on an NHK TV program that applications for vaccine passports will begin to be accepted at all municipal city and ward halls in the country starting on July 26.

The main purpose of the passport, which was apparently requested by the business community, would be to help Japanese citizens traveling overseas and domestically avoid strict epidemic control measures imposed by countries and airlines, like two-week quarantines or mandatory negative test results.

However, the government is also considering implementing additional benefits to having a vaccine passport, such as allowing private enterprises to provide special privileges to vaccine passport holders.

Since for many that seems to be a slippery slope leading into forced vaccinations or preferential treatment for vaccinated individuals, Secretary Kato did say that they’re looking into potential issues concerning this idea. “We have been working on identifying ways to keep this from resulting in unfair treatment or coercion,” he said. “As to how we’ll manage it will require separate consideration.”

For now, though, the government seems intent on restricting the use of the passport to travel to prevent any undue discrimination and improper use from happening. Applicants will have to present proof of a flight in order to receive the passport, for example, and must bring their travel passport to the application window as well.

However, several loopholes have distrusting citizens suspicious. For instance, no laws regarding the use of the passport have been put into place, and the government has only strongly requested that citizens apply for one only for travel purposes, rather than requiring it by law. There has also been no indication about what will happen to a vaccine passport after travel is completed. Do citizens get to keep it? Or do they return it? These questions and more leave several gaping loopholes that many critics think could be easily exploited, leading to discrimination.

“Dogs need proof of a rabies vaccine, and humans need proof of a COVID vaccine.”
“The discrimination begins.”
“They should make it okay for you to go to drinking parties at night if you have a vaccine passport.”
“If things go wrong, these would become excellent proof in the vaccine’s harmful side effect lawsuit. This vaccine is super fishy. The government is definitely hiding something.”
“If they’d just give them out when people get their shots, they could avoid people getting any extra doses like that one guy did.”
“No matter what the government does, there will always be those who will use this to discriminate, in the same way that they’ll never get rid of slander on social media.”

While the move doesn’t come without controversy, one can’t deny that having a vaccine passport could certainly come in handy when it comes to travel, but with so few Japanese citizens already vaccinated, and most of them being senior citizens and valuable healthcare workers who may be less likely to travel, it seems quite unlikely that very many people will need one, at least for now. That’s why we probably won’t have to worry about any unfair treatment resulting from their distribution any time soon.

Source: Jiji News via Yahoo! News via Hachima Kiko, Jiji News (2)
Top images: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)

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Super-expensive capsule toys – Trying out Japan’s Premium Gachapon machine【Photos】

Bandai’s top-of-the-line capsule toys are expensive enough that you can’t buy them with coins,

Part of what makes vending machine capsule toys so popular in Japan is their impulse buy-friendly pricing. Most of them cost somewhere around 400 yen (US$3.60), so as long as you get even a mild chuckle out of, say, a miniature hand sanitizer stand or a chubby panda weighing itself on a bathroom scale, it’s pretty easy to buy one with whatever loose change you’ve got in your pocket.

Recently, though, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun found out about toy maker Bandai’s Premium Gachapon line. These high-end capsule toys have trinkets priced at 800, 1,000, and even, he’d heard, 1,500 yen (US$13.60). So with his journalistic juices flowing and his expense account-exploiting emotions surging, he went out to try a Premium Gachapon for himself.

Because of their higher price point, the Premium Gachapon is less about quirkiness and more about quality, and that translates into a lot of anime character figures. Sure enough, when P.K. looked at the 1,500-yen machine, it was offering figures of Dragon Ball’s Goku charging up a very cool Kamehameha energy blast.

Instead of pumping 1,500 yen’s worth of coins into the Premium Gachapon machines, they work with one of Japan’s chargeable train ticket/shopping cards, like Suica or Passmo, or smartphone payment apps, like Line Pay or Pay Pay. Near the machines was a charging terminal, with written instructions in multiple languages.

But just as P.K. was about to purchase a 1,500-yen Goku, he noticed that a machine selling even more expensive capsule toys, priced at 2,000 yen (US$18.20) each!

Now, as proper capsule toy machines, there’s a degree of randomness as to exactly what toy you’ll get. However, Bandai realizes that even the most enthusiastic gacha gamblers desire some degree of certainty about what they’re buying before they’ll part with that much money. So while this 2,000-yen machine had four possible toys you can get, they were all figures of the same character, Azu/As from tokusatsu series Kamen Rider Zero-One, but with different hairstyles, facial expressions, and poses.

Back at the SoraNews4 headquarters, P.K. opened up the capsule to see what he’d gotten.

Some assembly is required, since the figure can’t fit inside the capsule without being broken down into pieces. Putting them together is pretty simple, though, and doesn’t require any special tools or adhesives like a model kit would.

After a few seconds, the job was finished, and the figure even comes with a stand to help keep Azu upright on your desk or shelf.

The quality is honestly pretty impressive, far better than the suspect seams and dull paint some more cheaply made capsule toys occasionally have. Honestly, there was only one problem…

…P.K. has never watched Kamen Rider Zero-One, and so has no pre-existing attachment to or affection for Azu.

Honestly, though, that’s on P.K., not Bandai’s designers, and considering that we’ve got some pretty big otaku on staff, we’re sure she’ll find a good home with a more appreciative owner soon enough.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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Monuments of recovery from 2011 disaster unveiled

Three monuments that symbolize the effort to recover after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan have been unveiled ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. (NHK)