Category Archives: Japan: Only in Japan

“Eco-Oto” iPhone Toilet Sound App: Virtually flushing your money away to save face

screen shot of the eco-oto iPhone app (30 second flush selected)
screen shot of the eco-oto iPhone app (30 second flush selected)
I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about Japanese toilets for years (see our first Japanese Toilet article here). Now I’ve got Steve Jobs and his avid Japanese team of iPhone app developers to thank! Who else but the Japanese would think of designing an iPhone app that replicates the sound of a toilet flushing.

Now, thanks to the “eco-oto” (“エコ音”, which is short for “ecological sound”) iPhone app, you no longer have to feel embarrassed that someone is hearing you take a whiz in a public toilet. Do I hear you saying “Why on earth would I be embarrassed fulfilling a call of nature?” Well there are a few things that you need to know about Japan. Continue reading “Eco-Oto” iPhone Toilet Sound App: Virtually flushing your money away to save face

Japan’s real-estate market won’t take it lying down

Tasteful front door of a Nurse Flavored Fashion Health Establishment in Akebonocho
Tasteful front door of a nurse flavored Fashion Health establishment in Akebonocho
After being developed in Kyoto in the early 80s as a next generation version of bottomless coffee shops (ノーパン喫茶, nopan kissa), the so called “Fashion Health” industry was and still is a key aspect of the neon alleys in Japan’s red light districts. Fashion Health was a product of the bubble and began to proliferate in 1981.  Nowadays, the government has tightened the regulations (風営法, fu’eiho) considerably and it’s now practically impossible to open a brand new Fashion Health shop. However, due to one of those wacky loopholes that you often find in Japanese law, Fashion Health establishments that were already in operation before the enactment of the new regulation are allowed to remain in business. Continue reading Japan’s real-estate market won’t take it lying down

Actress Maiko Kawakami Roasted Over Sheep-Dog Incident

LambYet another “Only in Japan” story, but we just had to delve deeper into this one! According to many of the foreign press outlets this week, hundreds, possibly thousands of Japanese women have been conned into buying baby lambs, which they thought were in fact poodles. Coming from a background where an annual highlight is Christmas lamb, this story tested my limits. Continue reading Actress Maiko Kawakami Roasted Over Sheep-Dog Incident

Why I Support Privatization of the Post Office

Japan post annual reportI have always been a supporter of leaving key services up to the central government to run. Services like the police, prison, schools, universities and up until now I thought the post office of Japan was no exception. In my mind the postal system here in Japan has always provided efficient service, despite being blatantly over-staffed. That was until last week.

I could delve into the standard arguments for privatization. How the post office here has three branches: postage, banking and insurance and how the insurance is over-priced for minimal cover and how the savings accounts of nice little hunched over Japanese ladies earn a meager 0.1% and are used as a private slush fund for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party – but that is old news and fairly standard knowledge here. Continue reading Why I Support Privatization of the Post Office

Natsukashii “Japan Trip” – When Magic ‘Shrooms Were Legal

Magic Mushrooms in Japan
Until June 2002 Magic Mushrooms were legal in Japan

Japan, despite its lax attitude toward tobacco and alcohol, has always been very strict when it comes to matters of “more illicit” drugs. Laws regulating soft drugs such as marijuana are as strict as those toward heroin and cocaine. This was not so until the American Constitution was imposed on Japan after World War II; actually hemp has been an integral part of Japanese culture and religion since ancient times (see for more details), but that is another article altogether.

Generally, restrictions on all drugs in Japan are so strong that it is not uncommon for customs officers to seize over-the-counter foreign cold medicines, and possession of cannabis can lead to weeks in jail. The most famous victim of this law is Continue reading Natsukashii “Japan Trip” – When Magic ‘Shrooms Were Legal

New Highs In Japan’s Tissue Paper Culture

supertissue.jpgEarlier this week Nepia, one of the nations largest manufacturer and distributor of domestic paper products released a very limited number of what may be the most expensive tissue paper in the world. Nepia very shrewdly made their new product available only through their internet shop at mid night on Friday, by the time the Saturday morning talk shows had picked up on the campaign it was all but over and all 3000 sets had sold out.

Japan has long been know as a place where tissue paper comes cheap, so cheap in fact that there exists an entire industry of handing out of free tissue paper Continue reading New Highs In Japan’s Tissue Paper Culture

Mail Order “Snow Kitty” – Made of Real Snow!

Mail Order Snow Kitty ChanJapan is supposed to be the land of conformity, a land where nobody has original ideas, where everyone unquestioningly follows the pack. But every now and then, people in Japan come up with some things so bewildering that you wonder where the idea could possibly have come from!

The Hello Kitty “Snow Kitty” is one of these. The ultimate present for kids who have never had a chance to play with snow, I was told by the Sanrio employee who invented this. For 4,800 yen, payable online or by bank transfer, the reliable blokes at the Sagawa Kyubin delivery service will deliver right to your door a frozen Kitty-chan snowman made of snow hand-packed in Hokkaido the very day before! Continue reading Mail Order “Snow Kitty” – Made of Real Snow!

Love Hotels in Japan Series: Part 2 – Casa Di Due, Shibuya

hotel-017.jpgThis is the part two of’s Love Hotel in Japan series, showcasing the best, weirdest, and more interesting love hotels in Japan. Part one was the introduction to the series, and from today onwards, we will be introducing a different love hotel, and delving deep inside with our cameras and camcorders to show you the darker underbelly of Japanese culture.

First up, is the famous Casa Di Due in Shibuya, Tokyo. (See the video of the Casa Di Due near the bottom of the article. It really captures the disco like atmosphere – from the flashy lights on the outside, the crazy waiting room and lit-up hallways, right into the actual room, and the bed of joy!) Continue reading Love Hotels in Japan Series: Part 2 – Casa Di Due, Shibuya

Love Hotels in Japan Series: Part 1

edohotel.jpgThe love hotel is an icon of Japanese culture, the thought of which warms the hearts (and loins), of both Japanese and foreigners alike. plans to showcase the most wacky and interesting love hotels in Japan, complete with video footage of the interior of each one, including Alcatraz – The Rock in Gunma Prefecture, the conspicuous Hotel Sexus in Kyoto, and of course the historical Meguro Emperor. Look out for these original videos and critiques throughout this year!

The rationale and logic behind the creation of love hotels is simple Continue reading Love Hotels in Japan Series: Part 1

‘Man Scent’ Chewing Gum

phpihzknppm.jpgEarlier in Summer you may have missed the a new chewing gum phenomenon, “Otoko Kaoru” (Literally: ‘Man Scent’).

What’s unusual about this gum is that it causes a rose fragrance to be emitted from the chewer’s body for about one to two hours after its chewed. The Rose Menthol flavoured gum, contained a fragrant component geraniol, which is found in roses. According to Kanebo’s food research laboratory, the component is easily emitted from the body’s sweat glands, in much the same way as Continue reading ‘Man Scent’ Chewing Gum