Shop for exclusive Studio Ghibli museum goods at brand new online store.
Back when the pandemic first arrived in Japan in February last year, the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo’s Mitaka was one of the first big tourist sites to temporarily close its doors.
What was meant to be a three-week closure ended up being extended for half a year, and though the museum has since reopened, visitor numbers are down as many people continue to avoid travel and enclosed spaces.
More stylish than a motorhome, but more motorable than a normal home.
Japanese company Bess builds wooden cottages, and while they can set you up with a full-size two-story house, some of their coolest designs are their Imago micro cabins.
The Imago line was launched in 2016, but sales have taken off during the pandemic, more than doubling between last April and August compared to that same time frame in 2020. As a matter of fact, the Imago cabins have been selling so well recently that Bess is expanding the lineup with two new models, the Imago iter and Imago X.
But looking at the above photo of the Imago X, you might notice that the entrance sits just a little high off the ground. That’s because both it and the Imago iter are mounted on trailers, so you can hitch them to your car and pull them anywhere you’re going that you want your cabin to come with you.
Of the two, the iter is the smaller version, at 3.2 meters (10.5 feet) in length, but the 5.6-meter X is pretty compact too, by cabin standards anyway. That said, there’s plenty of room inside to relax, dine, and sleep in, and the X even lets you set up a front yard-style space with an awning.
▼ The Imago iter (left) has 6.51 square meters (70.1 square feet) of floor space and the Imago X (right) 11.27 square meters.
Bess says the Imago X can be towed by large SUVs, and that even mid-sizes should be able to handle the iter. Because of their weight (roughly 2,300 kilograms [5,071 pounds] for the iter and 3,200 for the X), drivers in Japan will need a type-1 towing license.
Since they don’t have shower or bathroom facilities, the Imago cabins aren’t full-on micro houses. However, the ability to hitch up your cabin and drive off with it whenever you want a change of scenery is a huge plus, and if you’d like to hit the open road while still bringing many of the comforts of home with you, prices start at 3.86 million yen (US$35,410) for the iter and 4.42 million for the X.
Japan’s labor shortage is so bad that the government is even recruiting old folks who are willing to work.
In accordance with the Respect for the Aged Day public holiday on September 20, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has released the newest estimate for the number of people aged 65 and up in Japan: 36.4 million. That’s up by 220,000 compared to the previous year, with 15.83 million men and 20.57 million women. Perhaps most startlingly, the number of elderly folks now comprises 29.1 percent of the country’s total population, which was estimated to be 125.22 million on September 15. That’s an overall decrease of 510,000 individuals from the previous year as well.
According to a survey by the United Nations, Japan also easily tops the world’s countries in regards to the proportion of elderly people to total population. Italy comes in second place at 23.6 percent and Singapore in third place at 23.1 percent. The country’s declining birth rate, coupled with its increasing labor shortage, has already forced the government to brainstorm various solutions to combat these societal issues, some realistic and some not-so-realistic, including a push to encourage those senior citizens who wish to work to do so.
▼ Not the Geek Squad, but the Geezer Squad–coming soon to a Japanese tech store near you?
Along those lines, the proportion of working elderly people to the total population of working people in Japan is also the highest ever recorded since 1968, with 25.1 percent being actively employed. That number makes up 13.6 percent of the total labor force aged 15 and up, which–you guessed it–is similarly on the record books. To that end, the government is striving to improve working environments for those elderly folks who continue to work in light of the country’s labor shortage crisis. In particular, the revisions to the Act on Stabilization of Employment of Elderly Persons, which went into effect this April, now require companies to make active efforts to support employment opportunities for senior citizens up to 70 years of age, including specialized training.
With the number of elderly people in general and the number of elderly working people reaching record highs, we have to wonder if more media campaigns will begin targeting this demographic. We certainly wouldn’t have any complaints if we saw more of these touching animated commercials for miso featuring a sweet older couple.
Donkey Kong, his pals, and new roller coaster will be waiting in jungle expansion that nearly doubles the size of Nintendo’s domain at USJ.
After years of waiting, video game fans’ patience was finally rewarded last May with the opening of Universal Studios Japan’s Nintendo expansion. We were there the second the gates opened, and had a blast exploring the Mushroom Kingdom, racing Mario Karts, and collecting coins.
Really, the only feasible complaint one could make is that even though the area is called Super Nintendo World, it only focuses on the Super Mario franchise. That room for complaint is going to be growing smaller, though, as Universal Studios Japan has just announced that it’s adding a second section to Super Nintendo World, and this time it’s a different star’s time to shine, as the new expansion will be Donkey Kong-themed.
In Japan, travelling with someone you love only gets better with age.
On September 1, the JR Group announced special passes for older married couples available for a limited time. The Full Moon Couple Green Pass gets you and your loved an all-you-can-ride pass to use the Green cars on the JR lines (with some exceptions) for five, seven, or ten consecutive days.
If you’re not familiar, Green cars are considered premium train cars with slightly more perks than your average seating, and so they come with a higher price tag. Not all Green cars are the same, though. While a Shinkansen Green car has perks like fewer seats for a more spacious and peaceful riding experience, other express trains simply guarantee you an assigned seat in a train that may not otherwise have assigned seating. Either way, though, in the end they’re supposed to offer you a more comfortable riding experience.
To be eligible for the Full Moon Couple Green Pass, you must be a married couple with a combined total of at least 88 years of age. You can even get a slightly sweeter deal if at least one of you is over 70 years old!
Each pass if usable by two people, with the five-day pass costing 84,330 yen (US$770), the seven-day pass 104,650 yen, and the 10-day pass 130,320. If you qualify for the Silver Pass (at least one of you is over 70 years old), they’ll cost you 79,330 yen, 99,650 yen, and 125,320 yen, respectively.
▼ This is what a Green car will be labeled like.
That may seem like a lot upfront, but let’s put it into perspective: a round-trip for two Green car tickets from Shinagawa Station in Tokyo to Sendai Station in Miyagi Prefecture will cost you 30,140 yen, per person. That means a round-trip for two would be 60,280, which means you’d get more than your money’s worth with just a pair of two-person round-trip journeys on the Full Moon pass!
It is important to note that the Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen routes aren’t applicable, so you’ll still have to pay full price if you want to ride in the Green car to places like Osaka or Hakata in Fukuoka.
If you’re looking for a special deal to celebrate your love in your “full moon” phase of life, consider getting the pass! You can purchase tickets at JR train stations or travel centers until May 31, 2022, and you’ll be able to use it between October 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022.
New Oden Pot Discount is good for the environment and your wallet.
Last year, new regulations went into effect in Japan banning resellers from providing free plastic shopping bags. The intended effect is for people to balk at the extra charge and thus be encouraged to bring their own reusable shopping bag with them, but customers heading to branches of the Lawson convenience store chain will now want to bring a cooking pot or Tupperware container with them too.
With cool fall weather on the way, Japan’s craving for oden, a traditional mix of stewed vegetables, meats, and tofu (pictured above), is on the rise. Oden is particularly popular at convenience stores, where customers pick out which pieces they want and they’re then placed in a takeout container. Lawson, however, now offers discounts for oden customers who bring their own container from home.
▼ A demonstration of Lawson’s Oden Pot Discount, as the service is called
Customers who bring their own container (which must have a lid, as oden includes broth) and purchase five or more pieces of oden will receive a discount of 39 yen (US$0.36). While that’s not a make-or-break difference, it’s a nice proportional savings (the five pieces in the video came to 381 yen before the discount, knocked down to 342 after).
It also addresses something just a little strange about the economic logic of charging extra for plastic bags, which is that they weren’t really being given away for free in the first place. Even when no specific additional charge for a bag was tacked on to the bill, stores still had to spend money to produce the bags, and that expense got bundled into their total operating costs, which stores then priced their merchandise to cover. Merchandise prices have remained the same since stores have started adding specific charges for bags, though, so even if you’re doing the right thing environmentally by bringing your own reusable bag, you’re still, in essence, paying for the store’s plastic bags.
Lawson’s Oden Pot Discount, though, encourages customers to sacrifice a little convenience for the sake of the planet, but also gives them some positive reinforcement by rewarding them with an economic benefit as they reduce the store’s need to produce its own disposable takeout containers. Some online commenters have even said bringing their own pot has a nostalgic appeal, as in past generations before plastic became common Japanese people would bring their own pots to their neighborhood tofu shop when making purchases.
The Oden Pot Discount is already in effect at 30 Lawson locations in Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Chiba and Saitama, with the service scheduled to expand to the rest of the country starting in October.
Yaki imo is the star of the show this autumn.
Whipped Cream is a Drink is a dessert and a philosophy all rolled into one.
I guess my days of plastic spoon-hoarding days are now over.
If there’s one thing folks living in Japan will notice, it’s the amount of plastic involved in everything. From individually wrapped goodies to how almost every convenience store purchase comes with a plastic bag, there seems to be an excess of plastic packaging, which honestly, sometimes doesn’t end up in the right place. In a bid to reduce waste, however, the Japanese government is now looking into the possibility of levying surcharges for specific kinds of plastic products.
We create an apple pie inception that’s as ill-advised as it is appetizing.