Japanese designers’ brilliant way to stop people forgetting their smartphones in public restrooms

Browsing while pooping is an internationally loved pastime, so here’s a clever way to make sure you never leave your phone behind.

Japanese highway rest stops are pretty awesome. Even if you’re not at one that’s designed to look like an Edo period samurai town or serving as the home of a giant anime robot replica, you can always expect them to have clean bathrooms, which would be a miracle in itself on the roadways of some other countries.

However, rest stop bathrooms can be the sites of sadness too, as sometimes travelers who’re making a pit stop leave their belongings behind by accident before getting back on the road. The Hokkaido branch of NEXCO, the organization that manages highways in eastern Japan, counted up all the time it had been spending taking care of lost-and-found-related issues, and found it was taking up average of 30 hours a month reuniting people with things they’d forgotten in bathroom stalls, with about 60 percent of them being smartphones, wallets, or other small items.

So to help people remember to take their belongings with them after they’re done dropping off their bodily waste, NEXCO came up with a clever solution, as seen in this photograph from Japanese Twitter user @picco_lo_.

Once you’re inside the stall, there’s a large, flat handle on the door’s interior side that you swing over 180 degrees to act as a lock. However, this also turns it into a secure parcel shelf, or “accessory tray” as it’s labeled in English. With a load capacity of one kilogram (2.2 pounds), it’s large and sturdy enough for you to place a phone or wallet on, or even a small bag or other small, handheld item that you might forget about if you set it on top of the toilet paper holder housing or a protruding section of the wall behind or next to the toilet.

Since the tray doubles as the door’s lock, you have to swing it back to its original position in order to get out, at which point your eyes will be drawn to whatever you had resting there if you’d forgotten about it.

NEXCO began installing the new locks last September, and currently they’re in service in 61 stalls spread over eight rest stops in Hokkaido, including the one in the town of Yakumo, where @picco_lo_’s picture was snapped. The organization says it reduced the amount of time spent monthly on lost-and-found problems from the previous monthly average of 30 hours all the way down to 12, and plans to add the new locks to more stalls in the future.

Now if only there was a way to make people remember to wash their hands.

Source: @picco_lo_ via Jin, Biglobe News
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Wikipedia/浪速丹治

Solo-traveling Japanese woman gets romantic pep talk from Hawaii immigration officer

When the airport employee found out she was in the islands alone, he gave her a tongue-in-cheek romantic worksheet to finish before heading home.

With its beautiful scenery, balmy weather, and ample accommodation options, Hawaii is always a popular wedding venue, and when Naoko Tamura (@flaneur_fran on Twitter) had a friend getting married in the islands, she hopped on a plane from Japan to attend the ceremony. But even before she got out of the airport, romance was in the air…or at least the conversation.

Tamura was travelling by herself (Japanese wedding invitations generally don’t include a “plus one”), but her solo status surprised the older man working the counter at the Honolulu airport. “You came by yourself!?” he asked. “All the way to Hawaii!!?? This is a resort! That’s so lonely!!”

Wishing for her to have some companionship, he then handed Tamura a customs form, with some handwritten additions.

“Before you leave the country, make three boyfriends, and report back to us,” he said, having written blank lines on the paper where Tamura could inscribe the names of the three beauxs she’d been instructed to meet during her stay.

After passing through immigration, Tamura moved on to the customs checkpoint, where the officials chuckled while asking “Who wrote this?” but also giving her suggestions for fun date spots if she did in fact make a romantic connection while she was in town. “I learned a lesson: Don’t come to Hawaii by yourself,” Tamura tweeted in a follow-up.

Other Twitter users chimed in with their own stories of surprising styles of hospitality they’d encountered in Hawaii.

“I went to Hawaii as part of a group of three girls, and the immigration staff asked if we were going to be wearing bikinis during our trip. When we said no, their next question was ‘Aren’t you going to go to Waikiki Beach?’, and when we said no again, their response was ‘No way! That’s unbelievable.’”

“I was in Hawaii for business, and one of my coworkers left one of his English-learning notes out, with something like ‘Can you recommend a good bar?’ written in broken English. When he got back to his room that night, a hotel employee had neatly written he correct phrase on the paper for him.”

“When I showed my passport at the airport in Hawaii, the immigration officer kept looking back and forth between my photo and my face. ‘I took the picture a long time ago, back when I was young,’ I explained, but the officer just smiled kindly and said ‘What? No, you’re still young.’ Hawaii really is a friendly place.”

Mixed in with appreciative comments about the friendliness of the Hawaiian people were a few detractors who said the immigration worker who’d given Tamura the blank boyfriend form should have minded his own business. Tamura herself, wasn’t bothered by his actions in the slightest. “It was just a silly joke on his part, so it’s nothing to think that deeply about, and think it’s worth laughing about,” she tweeted, and considering she’s now got a successful career as an international business consultant, it doesn’t sound like the experience soured her on international travel.

Source: Twitter@flaneur_fran via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter@flaneur_fran
Top image: Pakutaso

Awesome Japanese rice porridge bread is just about the easiest thing to make in the world【Photos】

Okayu bread is so easy that its creator made it by accident.

Okayu, Japanese rice porridge, is just about the easiest thing in the world to make. All you need is some cooked white rice (the absolute easiest thing in the world to make) and water. Put the rice and water in a pot (somewhere around a one-to-five ratio is the most common), simmer until the liquid is mostly gone, and you’re done.

▼ This okayu has some greens sprinkled across the top, but the dish can also be eaten entirely plain.

Making okayu is so simple that it doesn’t even really feel like cooking, which brings us to the story of Japanese Twitter user @moe_getasan. Recently, @moe_getasan was making a pot of okayu. He turned on the lowest flame possible, placed a lid on the pot, and then went to do something else. Because of the nearly non-existent cooking process, though, @moe_getasan completely forgot about his okayu until about an hour or two later. Rushing back to the kitchen, he took the lid off the pot to find…

…he’d created an entirely new kind of food.

Though he accompanied the photo with a message declaring his tweet an “accident report,” he couldn’t help but mention that he’d made something that also looked pretty tasty, despite some singeing on the top where the mass of rice had bumped up against the inner surface of the pot’s lid.

Once the massive okayu bread had cooled down enough, he took a bite, and discovered that it tasted as good as he’d hoped. The outer layer was crisp and wafer-like, but inside was soft, moist rice porridge.

@moe_getasan’s unplanned innovation quickly attracted appreciative comments and watering mouths, with several commenters asking how exactly he’d done it. That, unfortunately, is a bit of a problem, since he didn’t make the rice porridge bread by design. As mentioned above, he knows he put the flame on his stove as low as it would go without extinguishing, and since he’d forgotten he was cooking anything in the first place, he didn’t stir the pot during the process. However, he’s not sure exactly how long it cooked for, aside from the ballpark estimate “between one and two hours.”

Logically, there’s a sweet spot where the rice has been cooked long enough to form a crispy shell, but not so long as to burn, so if you’re trying to duplicate @moe_getasan’s results, you’ll want to check on the progress periodically. Alternatively, if you’d rather make giant discs of delicious carbohydrates without using an open flame, there’s always the option of making a giant pancake in your rice cooker.

Source: Twitter/@moe_getasan via It Media
Featured image: Twitter/@moe_getasan
Insert image: Wikipedia/Opponent

Tokyo Tower Records store helps avert a wedding proposal disaster when it finds a lost love note

Klutziness can’t foil cupid’s plan, which is saved by clever employees.

If you work in retail and you’re tidying up your store, there are certain things you expect to occasionally find your customers have left behind, like phones, wallets, and handkerchiefs. The situation was a bit more dramatic at a Tokyo Tower Records, though, when the employees found a marriage proposal.

Framed by hearts and written in romantic red ink, the note simply said “Marry me.” However, there was no designated recipient, and so, heart aflutter, the official Twitter account of the Tower Record Diver City branch tweeted:

“We just found a piece of paper saying ‘Marry me’ on the floor of our shop. To the owner of the note, please contact us.

If we don’t hear from you by the end of the day, we’ll assume you want to marry our store staff. We appreciate your feelings, but we’d like to start as friends, and see where the relationship goes.”

Just 30 minutes later, the author of the note, Twitter user @____mttmy, came forward, cringing with embarrassment.

“It’s mine wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
Oh God I’m dying wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.”

“I put it in the glasses case I loaned to my friend, and my friend must have dropped it. Seriously, this is killing me. I want to get married.”

Then, almost immediately, the intended recipient, Twitter user @2OO3__O227__, joined in.

“I’m the one who dropped the paper. Let’s get married…

When @2OO3__O227__ opened the case in order to put on the glasses that were inside, the paper fluttered out, apparently undetected until it was found by the Tower Records staff. Now that they knew who it was really meant for, they turned it over to @2OO3__O227__, who came by the store to pick it up.

Both lovebirds offered sincere yet tongue-in-cheek apologies to Tower Records for getting their hopes up. The store took it all in stride, though, tweeting:

“We were able to return the proposal paper to its owner. We were sad to hear that our staff was not being proposed to, but we’re always happy when our customers’ feeling can reach the people, and artists, that they love.”

Don’t worry, Tower Records Odaiba. We’re sure you’ll find your soul mate someday.

Source: Twitter/@TOWER_Divercity (1, 2) via Jin
Featured image: Twitter/@TOWER_Divercity
Top image: Pakutaso

Swiss otaku says he’s moving to Japan after customs officials confiscate his 66-pound manga haul

Laments the officer handling his case has “no tolerance whatsoever” for hentai and loli dojinshi.

Melonpan, Switzerland’s famous, and most perverted, otaku has been going through a rough patch for the past few months. In April, he lost his job with Swiss bank UBS after his employer found out about his penchant for pornographic anime and manga. A month later, he landed a job with delivery service DHL, but once again, his taste in media turned out to be too much for the company to stomach, and he was fired on his first day.

Still, Melonpan had enough financial resources to take a trip to Japan this summer, apparently coinciding with Comiket, the country’s largest gathering of independently produced dojinshi manga. He apparently also had enough room in his budget to purchase roughly 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of dojinshi, which for many otaku would be a dream come true…but it’s turned into a nightmare for Melonpan.

Trying to lug all that manga back in his suitcase, coupled with his other belongings, would almost certainly have put Melonpan over his airline’s baggage weight limit. So instead, he decided to mail his purchases back to Switzerland. After returning to his home country, he received a notice that his parcel had arrived, but that it had also been seized by Swiss customs officials.

Melonpan’s above tweet reads:

“On my recent trip to Japan, I mailed 30 kilograms of dojinshi (mostly loli), but today customs told me they’ve confiscated it and I must come in soon to explain myself. Everyone, please pray once again that the customs officials will be able to understand the wonderfulness of Japanese art! I’m tired of being in the slammer.”

The last sentence is a little confusing, as Melonpan hasn’t been taken into custody for the parcel, and it’s unclear whether he actually wants to refer to some previous incarceration or is simply misusing the Japanese expression in his tweet. Regardless, the next day, August 16, he tweeted again, lamenting the uphill battle of convincing the government that dojinshi of the loli category (which depicts young, often pre-teen girls in provocative poses and situations) is benign.

“The situation isn’t looking good. It’s like the female official handling my case has no tolerance whatsoever for hentai culture, and is even stricter about loli stuff. Is this as far as my hentai gentlemanliness will take me? I’m scared.”

He followed this up with a bold proclamation…

“Time to move to Japan.”

…and then, in a rarity for the unabashed fan of lascivious Japanese comics, an English tweet.

Considering the abject despair shown in Melonpan’s tweets, it’s hard to say if he’s sincere in his professed emigration ambitions, or simply struggling to find a way to cope with the possibility that he may never get his hands on all that dojinshi he bought. Should he make the move, he might also be surprised to learn that even in Japan, where people are generally content to mind their own business regarding other people’s hobbies, there are limits to how accepting society, and employers, are towards wearing your otaku lecherousness on your sleeve, though relocating would, at the very least, free him from having to deal with the customs department after his shopping excursions.

Source: Twitter/@MeidocafeR via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@MeidocafeR

Tokyo too hot for you? It’s already snowing in Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island【Photos】

Winter wonderland makes a surprise appearance in the middle of August during Japan’s hottest summer ever.

We can’t over-emphasize how hot Japan is this summer. Anime figures have melted and food has been cooked on car roofs as the intense rays of the sun mercilessly roast the nation.

A time-tested strategy to beat the heat is to take a trip to Hokkaido during summer vacation. Aside from expansive bucolic views and an unhurried atmosphere, Japan’s northern island is always several degrees cooler than the Tokyo area, making it a great destination for those who spend summer wishing they were in the spring or autumn instead. Right now, though, there’s one part of Hokkaido that looks positively wintery.

The above photos were posted by Rinyu Kanko, the travel provider that operates the Daisetsuzan Sounkyo Kurodake Ropeway and manages its official Twitter account (@rinyu_kurodake). The snow-covered snapshots were taken on the morning of August 17, the same day on which Tokyo was 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) and Nagoya, another of Japan’s largest cities, was 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit).

Seen in the background is Kurodake Ishimuro, a lodge built at an altitude of 1,900 meters (6,234 feet) in the Daisetsuzan mountain range (Daisetsuzan meaning, appropriately, “Big Snowy Mountains”). The lodge is about a 700-foot walk from the peak of the mountain it sits on, and freezing overnight temperatures coincided with early-morning rainfall, blanketing the area in snow despite there still being a few weeks of summer left.

The frozen scenery represents the earliest snowfall since records began being kept in 1974, coming four days earlier than the previous mark of August 21 in 2002. Beautiful as it is, visitors to the area are advised to be careful of their footing, as rain continues to fall on the icy terrain, and to take cautions against hypothermia, since staying clothed is just as important in cold conditions as it is in hot ones.

Related: Daisetsuzan Sounkyo Kurodake Ropeway
Source: Twitter/@rinyu_kurodake, Livedoor News/Tenki.jp via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@rinyu_kurodake

This Shinto shrine’s gorgeous glass gateways are the only ones of their kind in all Japan【Photos】

Torii gates always have an elegant allure, but none quite like this shrine’s.

Sometimes, visitors to Japan have trouble differentiating Shinto shrines from Buddhist temples. The easiest way is to look for a torii, a gateway of two pillars connected by two crossbeams. If there’s a torii at the entrance, you’re in a shrine.

Torii are usually bright orange or red, but some are made of unpainted wood, like the torii at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine. Sometimes you’ll also find torii made out of gray stone. However, there’s only one place in Japan where you’ll see a torii that’s practically clear.

▼ To the extent that you can see something that’s see-through, anyway.

That’s the entrance to Jintoki Inari Shrine in Kanoya, a city in Kagoshima Prefecture on the southwestern island of Kyushu. While construction of the shrine finished in March, it hadn’t attracted much attention until this week when Japanese Twitter user @DJ_HARABO snapped and shared a photo of its glass torii, which quickly went viral for its unique beauty.

@DJ_HARABO isn’t the only shutterbug to have visited Jintoki Inari this summer, though. Other locals and travelers have been posting their own photos of the glass torii, which has a faint blue-green tint to it that almost makes it look like it’s made out of water, or even light, in some pictures.

The shrine actually has two glass torii. One is at the entrance to the shrine grounds, while the other is further back, standing in a pool traversed by a bridge that leads to the shrine’s administrative office.

Since the shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of agriculture, rice, and commerce, statues of foxes, the deity’s messengers, stand next to the torii, much like the ones seen at Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. Also like at Fushimi, there’s a long tunnel of wooden torii gates at Jintoku Inari, with roughly 100 of the structures leading from one of its glass torii to the other.

And if you’re thinking the whole place looks not only beautiful, but romantic too, you’ll be happy to know that Jintoku Inari is available as a venue for weddings and bridal photography.

As a matter of fact, Jintoku Inari’s glass gateway is so captivatingly elegant that we wouldn’t blame the shrine from anime Lucky Star, which is currently in the market for a new torii, if it decided to commission one for itself.

Shrine information
Jintoku Inari Shrine / 神徳稲荷神社
Address: Kagoshima-ken, Kanoya-shi, Shineicho 1771-4

Source: Twitter/@DJ_HARABO via Jin, Kagoshima Gourmet Tabearuki and Susume Spot, Togetter
Featured image: Twitter/@fumin_fuq
Top image: Pakutaso