Tokyo’s Nakano district doesn’t just have an Obon Dance, it has an Obon Jovi Dance!

The west Tokyo neighborhood’s take on the centuries-old event is like bad medicine, and bad medicine is what I need.

As we have often covered in the past, mid-August is generally known as the Obon season in Japan. This is a time when tradition holds that the spirits of our ancestors return to the realm of the living to say “hi” and have a snack.

One of the cool things about Obon is that despite its longevity in Japanese culture, there isn’t a hard and fast set of customs that span the country. This means that spending Obon in one region can be completely different that another. For example, while people in one area enjoy making horses out eggplants, another makes Mad Max vehicles instead.

There are some threads of commonality, however, such as the Bon Odori or “Bon Dance” held during festivals. Like other customs of this holiday, the steps of the dance itself can vary widely from region to region but is generally done in larges groups using slow, easy-to-follow motions for participants both young and old. Here’s a taste.

Although there is no standard song for this dance either, it is usually set to an arrangement of traditional Japanese instruments like shamisen and taiko drums. But again, the highly flexible nature of the Obon season can sometimes yield some really interesting results.

For example, here’s a short clip from a festival held by Nakano Station in west Tokyo posted to Twitter by @hayatodelarossa.

Hopefully you had the volume up while watching that because then you’d be treated to the trippy sights and sounds of watching Japanese people do an age-old dance to Bon Jovi’s 1986 hit “Livin’ On a Prayer.”

However, the more you think about it, as the following commenters have, the more it kind of makes sense.

“That’s an Bon Jovi Odori!”
“I think “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a good match since the Bon Odori was originally a form of religious worship.”
“In Matsudo, we dance to ‘Gengis Khan.’”
“I thought it was Bon Jovi live on stage for a second. That would have really been something.”
“I think Bon Jovi should get automatic citizenship for that.”
“I like this modern style Bon Odori, anime songs work well too.”
“The Ebisu Bon Dance ends with ‘La Vie En Rose.’ It’s very cute with the hand movements.”

A classic song mixed with traditional Japanese culture and a dash of word play for good measure: What’s not to love? We can only hope that Japan’s recording industry copyright watchdog JASRAC was too busy shaking down barbershops playing obscure jazz on portable CD players to notice this one and let it slip by.

And so, it’s exactly the kind of adaptability illustrated above that has allowed this great piece of culture to thrive so many years since its inception. If you’d like to learn more about it, then please be sure to check out our other articles regarding Bon Jovi or visit your local library.

Source: Twitter/@hayatodelarossa via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Twitter/@hayatodelarossa

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

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe enjoys a shaved ice, Twitter buries him in a hashtag avalanche

Japanese netizens react to the PR photo with a variety of “helpful” advice hashtags, as well as some hashtags that aren’t very helpful at all.

Recent years in politics have worn heavy on 57th Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with a series of scandals over land deals and an unflattering drawing in his image spreading through the Internet. Sometimes you just have to take a break from all those political missives and order yourself a treat.

This time, his craving for something cold and creamy was slaked by a heaping pile of the classic summer dessert kakigori (shaved ice), and someone was on hand to snap a photo of him taking a bite.

“I’m eating some shaved ice in my home town. This is what summer is really all about.”

Even Abe’s detractors can enjoy his passion for sweet things, as seen in the amusing tag lines on university baseball games about his love of discount chocolate candy Black Thunder. But no one was expecting the reaction to this innocuous photo…

▼ “#IsYourStomachDoingOkayShinzoAbe
#SummerIsAllAboutShavedIceIsntItShinzoAbe
#DoYouLikeStrawberryFlavorShinzoAbe
#SummerIsReallyHereAgainShinzoAbe
#DoYouLikeShavedIceShinzoAbe
#YouHaveAStunningSmileShinzoAbe”

Hold on a minute, this reply (and many exactly like it) is just hashtags and nothing else! What’s the deal?!

It turns out that Japanese online etiquette differs from Western Twitter in a few key ways. For one thing, hashtags increase the social relevance of a single Tweet way more than in the West – but also, it’s common for hashtags to include entire sentences or paragraphs and become popular trends, as opposed to Western net users who generally prefer something short and snappy. As you can see just in this lone example, the hashtags become more and more mundane and just plain silly. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from!

▼ A still-growing collection of bizarre hashtags

While a lot of the early replies were saccharine-sweet advice such as “#EatItSlowlyShinzoAbe“, “#MakeSureNotToGetABrainFreezeShinzoAbe” and “#DoYouNeedASecondHelpingShinzoAbe“, soon it crept into the realm of tongue-in-cheek parody – “#IfYouAren’tHappyWeAren’tHappyShinzoAbe“, for instance, or “#ArentYouGladToHaveSuchKindCitizensWhoWorryAboutYourHealthShinzoAbe“.

One cheeky commenter left a hashtag referring to the 2017 land buying controversy, where Moritomo Gakuen (a school with ties to Abe and his wife, Akie) was able to purchase a valuable piece of land at a high discount. “#DontThinkYouCanHideYourSyrupLikeYouHidTheMoritomoDocumentsShinzoAbe” was followed by a reply from someone imploring “#DontWorryAboutTheMoritomoScandalPleaseJustRelaxShinzoAbe“.

Onlookers were divided as to whether the comforting hashtags were serious or not:

“I loved the comment that asked their own prime minister if he had enough pocket change, haha!”
“What a kind world we live in.”
“[When you read them out] it sounds like a rap song!”
“Everyone really is being too nice to him.”
“#EatYourFillShinzoAbe”

If the prime minister gets re-elected, the Internet will have to wait with bated breath so see what delicious icy food he’ll be caught with next year. Maybe this cute frosty bear? Scratch that, actually… With all he has on his plate recently, he’s going to need a literal cold one.

Source: Twitter/@ShinzoAbe via Jin
Featured image: Twitter/@ShinzoAbe

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

Anime voice actress is selling her used miniskirt…for US$690!

But she’s not interested in keeping the skirt or the money.

Japan is a pretty awesome place to shop for second-hand fashion items. A large percentage of Japanese people aim to look their best when they go out in public, and so they take good care of their clothes, meaning that articles of clothing remain in near-new condition even after extended use. For example, the owner of the denim skirt pictured above says she’s had it for many years, but it’s still totally wearable, with some charming fade that could easily pass for an intentional from-the-factory weathered look.

At the same time, there’s a bit of a stigma about used clothing in Japan, which helps to keep prices down. However, this particular skirt isn’t a bargain-hunting find, since it’s priced at 77,000 yen (US$690). You might expect that price to be the result of a prestigious brand name on the label, but the seller doesn’t even mention the manufacturer. It does, however, make a point of trumpeting who the previous owner was: anime voice actress Ryoko Shiraishi.

Shiraishi, whose roles include Boruto’s Chocho and ReLIFE’s Sumire, says she’s selling this particular skirt, which was one of her favorites, because of its short length, which doesn’t mesh with her current taste for more conservative attire. Nevertheless, before being offered for sale, the skirt spent many days slung around the Nara native’s hips, and though she opened the bidding for it at just one yen on Yahoo! Auctions, her fanbase has pushed the price up to 77,000 yen, the highest bid as of this writing.

There are a pair of additional factors encouraging bidders to toss their hat in the ring for the skirt. First, as you can see beneath the left pocket, Shiraishi has signed the fabric, making it not just a skirt, but an autograph too. Also, the voice actress isn’t planning to pocket the proceeds, nor use them to go out and acquire other denim apparel. Instead, the money from the sale will be donated to charity (Shiraishi hasn’t specified whether it will be given as disaster relief to victims of this summer’s flooding and earthquakes in Japan, like with the special-edition momiji manju-flavor Kit Kats, or to some other cause).

If you’re a Shiraishi fan, generous philanthropist, or just a fashion fan in the market for a one-of-a-kind skirt, the auction page can be found here.

Source: Yahoo! Auctions via Otakomu
Images: Yahoo! Auctions

Tokyo company offers foot massages from cute VR anime girls, but given by real-life men【Photos】

Completely embracing that virtual reality and actual reality are two different things.

While Tora no Ana is much appreciated as a retailer for independently produced dojinshi manga, the company has also branched out into other branches of otaku wellness. It’s started an otaku dating service, for example, and now it’s looking to provide something not only for anime fans with lonely hearts, but those with sore feet too.

Within the year, Tora no Ana plans to open a virtual reality relaxation center in the Akihabara neighborhood, Tokyo’s otaku mecca. Customers slip on a VR headset which transports them into a simulated space where a cute anime girl is waiting to rub the tension out of their muscles. Meanwhile, back in the world of reality, a licensed massage therapist is on hand to actually perform the treatment.

During the massage, which eventually works its way up to the customer’s shoulders, the anime girl will ask questions, with the customer selecting responses using a handheld controller, making the whole thing bit like a romance simulator video game. A recent demonstration of the system featured Yui Hanasaka, from popular anime series One Room, but VR Relaxation, as the service is called, also has two original characters, created by illustrator Rouka.

As you can see, VR Relaxation’s design sheets include what kind of lingerie one character wears, which suggests there’s supposed to be at least a little sexy excitement mixed in with the relaxation, as does the blushing, pantie-flashing promotional poster artwork. The company also boasts that on successive visits, new conversation topics and story elements will present themselves.

But take a look at the photos from the recent demonstration Tora no Ana held in Akihabara this week, and see if you can spot a discrepancy between the fantasy and reality of the service.

Yep, that’s a male masseuse administering the foot rubs, which means that while the customer is seeing a cute anime girl giving him a massage, it’s actually a dude with his hand all over those otaku feet. And though it might seem like this is simply a result of Tora no Ana only being able to book a male masseur for the three-day demo, another piece of official promotional artwork is totally upfront about the possibility that you’ll actually be getting a massage from a man.

▼ And possibly a pretty hairy one.

Under ordinary circumstances, there’s nothing weird about getting a massage from a man, and likewise, there are plenty of people in the world who enjoy being touched by a guy. Still, it’s a bit of an odd choice for VR Relaxation to go so heavily towards girliness for its virtual attendants, even billing the service as “a dream come true with your 2-D wife,” but then do the complete opposite with the human factor, especially when there’s no shortage of female massage therapists in Japan.

Sources: Tora no Ana, Panora via Jin
Images: Tora no Ana

Mysterious Japanese woman gives one million yen in cash to man she’s never met, then disappears

The money wasn’t meant for him, but the intended recipient has no clue who the woman is either.

Last Friday afternoon, a 28-year-old resident of the coastal town of Hokota, Ibaraki Prefecture, was at home when the doorbell rang. When he went to see who it was, he saw an elderly woman he’d never met before standing on her doorstep.

“Are you her son?” asked the bespectacled woman, who appeared to be in her 60s or 70s. “Your mom said she’d be home abound five o’clock so when she gets back, please give her these,” she said, handing the man two envelopes before walking back to her compact Toyota, hopping in, and driving away.

Mysterious as the exchange was, the man does indeed live with his mother, who was out at the time. Moreover, many Japanese homes aren’t spacious enough to comfortably entertain guests, and Japanese people often keep their circles of social acquaintances separate from their families when going out, so it’s entirely possible for one of your parents to have friends you’ve never met face-to-face. However, when the man’s mother came home and he described the elderly woman to her, she didn’t have any idea who she was either.

Likely hoping for some sort of clue as to the woman’s identity, they opened the envelopes. One contained 40,000 yen (U$360) in cash. That’s a princely sum to receive from a complete stranger, but not nearly as princely as what they found in the second envelope: one million yen (US$9,000) in cash.

▼ Considering Japan’s largest bill is 10,000 yen, the second envelope had to contain a very thick stack of paper.

The elderly woman doesn’t fit the description of any of the son’s or mother’s friends or relatives, leaving them baffled by the seemingly random display of largesse. At first, it almost seems like the elderly woman may have been being targeted in an “ore ore” scam (a common ploy in which con men contact a senior citizen on the phone whle claiming to be a child or grandchild who needs a sudden influx of cash, which they ask to be handed over to a “coworker,” who’s actually an accomplice) and had gotten confused about where she’d been instructed to make the money exchange.

However, the elderly woman’s choice of words shows that was acting under the belief that she was at the home of the woman she intended to be the final recipient of the money. Ore ore con men don’t run their schemes out of residences, though, since the scam relies on the victim not having any way to track them down once they realize they’ve been duped. The exchange either takes place in some outside location, or the criminals come to the victim’s home to pick up the cash.

Also strange is the way in which when the man opened his door, the elderly woman immediately assumed an older woman (the “mother” she wanted the envelopes given to) also lived in the house. While it’s more common for adult children to live with their parents in Japan than it is in many western countries, it’s still far from a given that a man in his late 20s would be cohabiting with his mother.

Rather than pocketing the windfall and deluding themselves into thinking the woman must be their dear old Auntie Hanae, who they’d conveniently forgotten about until just then, the son and mother have done the honorable thing and turned the sizable sum of cash over to the police, who are handling it as lost property until the elderly woman, whom they’re currently searching for, can be found.

Sources: TBS News via Jin, Livedoor News/Sankei News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso