Saturday, May 29, 2010

Prime Minister Makes Fashion Statement

Yukio Hatoyama, the former Prime Minister of Japan and setter of fashion trends, has started something new with his multicolored checkered shirt. Waning in political popularity due to his softness on the U.S. in Okinawa, he may turn into a fashion mogul. is the source of Hatoyama´s attire. Previously he has selected stripes or hearts, but apparently the "Hatoyama shirt," with its different colored checks in front and in back and with each arm different, is a style winner.

A limited edition of this shirt has been made with 50 available. If demand warrants, more will be produced. Shirt company founders say the shirt reflects courage and a free spirit.

Mentos-and-Coke-Powered "Rocket Car"

The duo from Maine who shot to Internet fame by donning lab coats and goggles before putting Mentos into some Diet Coke bottles and filming the results have done it again. This time they have used Coke Zero and Mentos to power a vehicle.

Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe attatched a utility trailer to a girl´s bike that had been modified for its new purpose. The pair then filmed the video with the help of director Rob Cohen ("The Fast and the Furious").

The full demonstration video will be shown on the pair´s Web site next Tuesday.

White House Claims No Improper Conduct

Bill Clinton spoke to Rep. Sestak about dropping out of the Senate race to improve Arlen Specter´s chances of winning. Sestak was given other options, including serving on presidential advisory boards in exchange for dropping out of the race.

White House council Bob Bauer released a report that concluded no law was broken. Even so, members of Congress have asked for more disclosure because of discrepancies.

Group SMS Broadcasting Service via GSM Handsets

Instant text messaging gateway transfers your product news at your desired location and saves your valuable time to personally call them.

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Exclusive text messaging software composes and forwards bulk SMS to volumes of people in a very short span of time.

Going Out like a Rock Star — The Nirvana Way

Death can be perceived with either hope and merriment or sadness and despair. Most cultures, including that of Singapore, typically mark someone’s passing with a traditional burial or cremation, during which tears of anguish flow like water down a mountainside. Hoping to combat this sad state of affairs is the Nirvana Memorial Garden columbarium, a death-pioneer, if you will, dedicated to helping folks go out like a rock star.

Nirvana Memorial Garden Going Out like a Rock Star — The Nirvana  Way picture

Signature to Singapore’s funeral ceremonies is the columbarium, a large burial chamber (kind of like an Egyptian pyramid) used to pay tribute to the departed. Most columbariums contain throngs of prayer-offering monks, billowy clouds of incense smoke, dusty urns stacked about like dominos and, of course, a bunch of really sad people. However, this rule of thumb certainly doesn’t apply to the Nirvana Memorial Garden columbarium in Singapore.

Nirvana Memorial Garden Lounge Going Out like a Rock Star — The  Nirvana Way picture

Unlike the gloomy atmosphere of a conventional columbarium, the luxurious, 120,600 sq ft Nirvana Memorial Garden is outfitted with professional-grade carpets, full air conditioning, fine-dining restaurants, a skylit lobby, and lounges adorned with upscale furniture. It’s essentially a resting place for the rich, as the cheapest ‘niche’—a predetermined spot for an urn and other memorial items—costs $2,000, whereas the most luxurious niches run anywhere between $22,000 to $93,000.

Nirvana Memorial Garden Niche Going Out like a Rock Star — The  Nirvana Way picture

According to Reuters, each keycard-protected niche hosts its own set of sofas and rosewood furniture, as well as an urn pedestal, above which lies a “resident Buddha statue” that pulsates with LED lights. Included also are dance-club-like machines that can be made to blow smoke merely via the push of an iPod button. Plus a system has been setup to automatically remind family members of upcoming anniversaries and birthdays.

Nirvana Memory Garden Niche Urns Going Out like a Rock Star — The  Nirvana Way picture

However, the Nirvana Memorial Garden columbarium is about more than just occasional celebration. Director Jeff Kong explained to Reuters, “This is not a place for people to come only once a year to visit their parents or relatives. We want to create an environment to encourage them to come as often as possible.”

Mr Z W Teo, 29, agrees. During an interview with AsiaOne, he said, “I think the place is special, something that you can’t find elsewhere.” His satisfaction with the six-star columbarium led him to bring his parents, who are in their 60s, to view the memorial. After earning their approval, he forked over $30,000 for a special double niche wherein his parents can lie until 2029, upon which he’ll need to renew the contract. Mind you, one wonders why he purchased a niche to begin with, especially considering that his parents are still so young.

Regardless, the Nirvava Memorial Guardian is open and taking submissions, but it won’t be fully complete until 2011. At that point, as estimated 50,000 to 80,000 niches will be available for purchase. Tick tick tick… time is running out folks. If you want to go out like a rockstar, then I suggest you call them and make a reservation!

Public Servant in Isesaki, Japan? Bye Bye Beard

For years I’ve been told I should shave my beard. Apparently it’s ugly or something, despite mine making me look totally awesome, so I really have no idea what all these beard haters are talking about. The only way this will happen would be if my face caught on fire, or if I moved to the Japanese city of Isesaki and tried to get a public service job.

Located north of Tokyo in the Gunma prefecture, the city has passed a law banning all kinds of facial hair for those who wish to hold a municipal service job. After receiving complaints that facial hair is “unpleasant,” the city made the decision to ban hirsute aesthetics, including stubble, pencil-thin mustaches and mutton chops.

On a positive note, the new law is part of a casual dress code for male public officials that allows them to forgo the usual suit jacket and constrictive ties in an effort to cut down on air conditioning costs and apparently reduce global warming. Known as the ‘Cool Biz’ campaign, these unique methods of cutting costs have been in effect since 2005 under the auspices of the Environment Ministry. It is, however, the first time a municipality in Japan has banned facial hair.

Murdered Man Reappears After a Decade

In central China’s Henan province, Zhao Zhenshang, who was allegedly hacked to death some ten years ago has miraculously put all of the pieces of his body together and reappeared in his hometown, seeking welfare support!

In hiding for a decade, Zhao feared he had killed the man now serving 10 of a 29-year sentence for his alleged murder. The supposed killer, Zhao Zouhai, was arrested about a year after the fight and “confessed” to the murder after a headless corpse was found nearby.

His confession came after being tortured by the police who forced him to drink chili water and set off fireworks over his head. He narrowly escaped execution, but still paid dearly for this crime which he did not commit.

While in prison, his wife left him for another man and three of his four children were adopted by other families.

This raises many concerns about police tactics when it comes to extracting confessions. Due to the fact that the Chinese court system relies heavily on confessions, police are given carte blanche when it comes to how these confessions are obtained. The impetus is to seal the case (and often the life of the alleged accuser, regardless of guilt or innocence).

The power of the Chinese police and a recent series of unexplained deaths have caused a rebellion among some brave reformers bolstered by the support of the Ministry of Justice. The goal is to seize control of detention centers, which are currently under the jurisdiction of the police.

After another incident involving a woman who similarly reappeared several years after her husband was jailed for her murder, an audit of court system cases involving confessions has finally been ordered.

Will justice ever come in time for those falsely accused to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives?

Only time (and less police intervention) will tell.

What do YOU think about this?

Wal-Mart Offers iPhone for $97

Since Apple´s 16 GB 3GS iPhone will soon be outdated because of a new model which comes out soon, Apple is working with world´s largest retailer Wal-Mart.

From Tuesday on, Wal-Mart will reportedly sell the phone for $97. It comes with a two-year contract from AT&T. "It´s our commitment to always lead on price," Wal-Mart´s senior category director for wireless claims.

Last quarter, Apple sold about 8.3 million iPhones.

Main US Airlines Introduce "Peak Air Travel Surcharges"

The five largest U.S. airlines just added extra fees for travels during peak summer days. This covers every day when there is no school in most states.

American, Continental, Delta, United, and US Airways are adding 10 to $30 on top of the fares from June 10 to August 22 (an exception is July 4). The additional charge is figured into the final price and not registered separately.

"It´s part of what I consider to be rather clever marketing. Pushing a very low fare is one thing, [but] by the time you´ve paid for your ticket and arrived at your destination, it´s a very different picture," the senior editor of Travelzoo said.

Apple Investigated by Feds for Music Tactics

The New York Times has reported that the Justice Department is investigating Apple Inc. on antitrust issues in terms of how it dominates the digital music market and the tactics the company uses to stay on top.

People briefed in the inquiries - from record labels and Internet music companies - have said that the Justice Department is investigating allegations that Apple used its dominance to cajole record labels out of deals with competitors.

Specifically, had sought to offer exclusive access to some new music for a period of a few days before official domestic release by speaking with record labels and striking deals with them. Apple and Amazon did not comment on the report.

Ford Announces Investment in Hybrid and Electric Cars

The Ford Motor Co. in the United States has announced it will be adding 170 jobs to two of its Michigan factories and invest US$135 million in the development of hybrid and electric cars.

The factories based in Ypsilanti and Sterling Heights are going to be the recipients of the extra funding and manpower. The Ypsilanti plant will produce hybrid battery packs, receiving US$10 million and adding 40 new jobs.

The Sterling Heights plant will be the focus of building the hybrid transmissions currently being built in Japan for the company. Furthering the development of hybrids and electric cars will depend on their acceptance in the marketplace.

Chinese Workers Sickened by Chemicals Used in Making iPhones

"People should know what we do to create these products and what cost we pay," said Bai Bing from her hospital bed in eastern China. She is among dozens of Suzhou factory workers exposed to n-hexane as she puts together iPhones.

Another worker, Wu Mei (all used their nicknames for the source article), has suffered weakness, fatigue, numbness and loss of balance. She thought it was from her long hours working at Wintek. The Wintek manager has since stopped using n-hexane.

The factory manager used n-hexane, a chemical whose risks are well known in industry, because it dries faster than alcohol, but did not provide adequate ventilation. Over-exposure to the chemical can lead to paralysis.

Mexico Announces Junk Food Ban

Mexico has said that it will be banning all junk food in schools across the country in its effort to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity. According to new figures, approximately 26% of children are overweight.

Soft drinks and snacks are not the only foods to fall under the ban, but traditional Mexican snacks such as Tortas and Tacos packed with meat. Light versions of those foods will be allowed.

Water, pure fruit juices and low-fat milk will be the only drinks available on school grounds. Over the last decade, the consumption of fruits and vegetables in Mexico has declined 40%, while the sale of sweetened drinks has increased.

Apple Becomes Largest Tech Firm in the World

Apple Inc. has taken over as the biggest tech firm in the world based on market capitalisation, or what the companie´s shares are worth in dollars. Although Apple shares dropped over night to US$244.11.

This set Apple´s value at about US$222 billion. Microsoft´s stock fell 4.1% leaving the company with a market cap of approximately US$219 billion. The only US company now with a larger market cap than Apple is the Exxon Mobil Corp.

Guinness World Records Names Tallest Man in the US

A man from Minnesota has been named the tallest man in the United States. Igor Vovkovinskiy was measured Monday night on The Dr. Oz Show. He measured 7 feet, 8.33 inches tall, which edged out a sheriff deputy from Virginia.

Igor, who is 27 years old, is originally from Ukraine. He moved to Minnesota with his mother when he was seven years old to receive treatment for a pituitary disease, which is what spurred his rapid growth.

Igor is now pursuing a degree in paralegal studies at the Minnesota School of Business. Guinness says that the world´s tallest man is Sultan Kosen from Turkey, who measures at 8 feet, 1 inch tall.

Japan's exports rise 40.4% in April


Japanese exports in April grew 40.4% from a year earlier on the back of robust demand in Asia, marking the 13th consecutive month of trade surplus, the Finance Ministry said Thursday.

Exports in April totaled 5,889 billion yen, up for the fifth straight month, but the rate of growth slowed from the previous month’s 43.5%, the ministry said in its preliminary report. Imports rose 24.2% to 5,147 billion yen, increasing for the fourth consecutive month. As a result, the trade surplus amounted to 742 billion yen.

Food fair to help Miyazaki meat industry


A food fair featuring local delicacies from Miyazaki Prefecture including beef commenced at a Tokyo department store Wednesday in a bid to help the region’s meat industry, which has been hit hard by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

The organizer decided to hold the fair featuring food from the western Japan prefecture as scheduled, despite the recent massive outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. A Takashimaya spokesperson said, ‘‘There was a suggestion that we should cancel the event but we’ll support (Miyazaki) by selling local delicacies.’’ The food fair will run through Tuesday and a special donation box has been placed at the Takashimaya store.

Hotel Okura to buy JAL Hotels


Japan Airlines Corp, undergoing a state-backed rehabilitation process, plans to sell its hotel operator JAL Hotels Co to the operator of Hotel Okura, sources familiar with the matter said Friday.

Hotel Okura Tokyo Co aims to further expand its business through the acquisition of JAL Hotels, the sources said.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chikan Subway Gropers Beware!

Japan hosts a large population of over 125+ million citizens trapped within the confines of a 143,619 sq mi island, which for clarification is slightly smaller than the US state of California (163,707). Suffice it to say, Japan is an extremely overcrowded nation—making it an ideal spot for perverts that like to grope innocent women.

In Japan, a man who commits such an act is known as a chikan. And it just happens that the over crowded subway cars of Japan’s capital city Tokyo are the chikan’s favorite spot to practice their iniquitous behavior. In fact, chikans sometimes even group together for a mass grope, wherein one man holds the victim in place while the others take turns violating her body.

Added to that, a 2001 reported cited by Wikipedia claims that more than 70% of Tokyo highschool girls have been groped by a chikan at least once while riding the subway.

Japan Railways, the largest subway operator in Japan, finally struck back earlier this year by creating “females only” cars for the Chuo Line (Japan’s busiest line) that passes through Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station—which itself is the world’s busiest train station. Unfortunately, getting a ticket is quite difficult; plus those fortunate enough to get in can expect to be “crammed like sardines.”

Fast-forward to April and we start to see some real action. Between April 15 and 21, over 120 police officers from Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) congregated in metropolitan Tokyo for a mass takedown of gropers, aka the chikan. The operation netted 77 suspects, 49 of who were arrested on the spot, and six who were busted on the previously mentioned Chuo Line.

In addition, another popular rail operator, East Japan Railway Co., jumped on the bandwagon by installing cameras in each of its subway cars. The effort resulted in a 50% decrease of molestation reports. And according to the Daily Yomiuri, JR East intends to follow suit and “install cameras in all 30 trains on the line from June.”

It has taken years to occur, but it looks like Japan is finally taking a stand against the chikan. So for any chikan subway gropers out there, beware lest you find yourself groped as the government lays its firm grip on YOUR BODY!

Below is a video of a similar albeit less effective crackdown that occurred in 2009.

Is This an Advert for Japanese Snackfoods or Nightmares?

It starts off simple enough. A young Japanese boy walks home, seemingly with a broken heart. His head hung low with the broken heart hanging over his head. There’s his dog to cheer him up! Wait…why does the dog look human? Why is it holding a rubber ear? What happened to its head? Oh my God, why is it walking?

After walking displaying a level of dexterity not often thought possible in canines, it becomes clear the human-like dog is simply trying to cheer up the heartbroken little boy. Judging by the look on his face when the boy reconciles with the girl, however, the dog is genuinely upset that he chose her over him. That’s cool, though, because the dog has crackers! Or chips!

So it can safely be assumed that the commercial is pimpin’ out some Calbee-brand cheddar cheese chips. It’s too bad that the walking dog will haunt your nightmares and kill you from shock before you get a chance to eat them.

I-Fairy Robot Performs Its First Wedding

It may be centuries before scientists engineer a robot as sophisticated as Data from Star Trek: TNG, but they have at least managed to develop a robot capable of administering a simple wedding.

Meet I-Fairy, a 4-foot tall robot who looks and speaks like a pig-tailed toddler, but is intelligent enough to conduct a wedding. On Saturday, May 16, I-Fairy performed its first wedding at Hibiya Park in central Tokyo, where it brought together robotics professor Tomohiro Shibata, 42, and Kokoro-employee Satoko Inoue, 36.

The couple’s unorthodox decision to enlist a 6.3 million yen (approximately 70K USD) robotic wedding conductor stemmed partially from Satoko’s position at Kokoro, which is an animatronics company dedicated to the “development, planning and design, production, sales and leasing/rental of robots.”

According to the Associated Press, Kokoro is in fact a subsidiary of Sanrio Co., the international powerhouse responsible for Hello Kitty and the Actroid android.

Regardless, Satoko apparently had the time of her life. “This was a lot of fun. I think that Japanese have a strong sense that robots are our friends. Those in the robot industry mostly understand this, but people mainly want robots near them that serve some purpose,” she said.

Her husband Tomohiro was a tad bit more skeptical, as he noted, “It would be nice if the robot was a bit more clever.”

Unfortunately, I-Fairy is limited to preprogrammed movements and sounds, not to mention a meager 18 degrees of arm rotation. Plus Kokoro’s official I-Fairy PDF reveals that the ultimate purpose was to design a simple information robot capable of acting “as a communication tool.”

Suffice it to say, it doesn’t look like I-Fairy will be receiving any major firmware upgrades anytime soon.

Six-Year Old Boy Saved By His Ears

While some people may claim to have been saved by the bell, six-year-old Ming Ming has another tale to tell. The little boy slipped through the window bars of his home and ended up dangling by his ears eight stories above the ground!

It happened in Jucheng Compound, Yichang in Hubei Province, China, in a block of housing flats after his grandfather left him sleeping to go on an errand. It is believed the little boy woke up alone, went to the window to look for his grandfather and lost his footing.

He slipped right through the safety bars, but because he was so small his head got trapped. Neighbors heard him scream and notified firefighters who rescued the child from certain death.

“The boy had a miraculous escape. He could have fallen to the ground or have been suffocated at any minute,” said Fire service spokesman, Wang Shen

It was Ming Ming’s grandfather who opened the door for the firefighters who rescued the boy under the watchful eye of a gathering crowd below. They held the child firmly while using hydraulic tools to widen the bars and pull him safely back into the apartment.

Two ears behind bars.

That’s a rather stiff sentence for a little boy whose only crime was that he couldn’t find his grandfather.

One can only wonder how much time the grandfather should serve for endangering his grandchild’s safety?

Surely child safety advocates should have something

to say about this.

What do YOU think about this?

The Japanese and 3D Just Don’t Mix

Back in 1996, Nintendo revolutionized the gaming industry by releasing Super Mario 64, a 3D platformer wherein players could explore open 3D environments like never before.

3D has since then emerged as a commonplace trait of any quality game, from World of Warcraft to Final Fantasy, Resident Evil and, of course, the wonderful world of Wii Sports. It appears, however, that the Japanese aren’t too keen on this new technology, although they are the ones responsible for its birth.

Super Mario Galaxy, a 3D platform game, dropped in 2007 to critical worldwide acclaim. According to research by the loons over at Siliconera, Nintendo had already sold over 8 million copies of it worldwide by March 31, 2009. Surprisingly, only 11% (or approximately 900,000+) units were purchased in Japan.

Perhaps the Japanese “develop motion sickness from fast-moving games”? The problem with this theory is that many 2D platformers are just as fast paced, if not more so, than their 3D counterparts.

Nitendo president Satoru Iwata added his two cents, claiming that his Japanese peers are “afraid to be lost in the 3D world,” in that the open environment and lack of restrictions scare them. With 2D Mario, however, “they feel they can play with no such issues,” he added.

The irony is that Nintendo specifically designed Super Mario Galaxy to better appeal to the Japanese. They adopted a “spherical shape” to ensure users are not easily lost. Plus they adjusted the camera angles to reduce the likelihood of a user suddenly experiencing motion sickness. Unfortunately, the tweaks weren’t enough to accommodate the high demands of the Japanese.

However, Siliconera reports that the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy 2 will come with a tutorial DVD designed to show users “how to enjoy playing with Mario in the 3D world.” Hopefully, it will fare much better in Japan than its predecessor.

Study: Dads Also Have Prenatal and Postpartum Depression

A recent study shows that fathers´ postpartum depressions are a real phenomenon and it is more common than previously assumed. Actually, approximately 10% of men get prenatal or postpartum depression, the study proved.

Researches conducted earlier said it was 5%. Matthew, 35, is only one example. He reported daydreaming and intense feelings after the birth of his child. Even though he sought treatment, he could not describe these feelings.

Lead author of the study James Paulson says that fathers´ depression is often linked to mothers´ depression and is likely to have negative impacts on the child. It is also shown that the rate in the US is higher than in other countries.

New South Wale Ninjas Come to the Rescue

A German medical student had just gotten off the train in New South Wales when he was attacked by three rowdy youths. All of a sudden five ninjas all dressed in black popped up and chased them away. The victim lost his iPod and mobile phone.

One student was about to leave ninja class and came upon the assault. He quickly called the teacher who, with other students, chased the rogues away.

Thus far, two bandits have been caught: a 16-year-old and 20 year-old. The third is still at large.

Behold Mankind´s God-Like Power

A Maryland genome mapper has developed what he and his team are calling the world´s first synthetic living cell, though it´s more of a cell created by manipulating DNA. It´s just a first step, says creator J. Craig Venter.

The eventual goal, he said, is to design organisms that operate differently than natural creatures do in order to perform a wide array of tasks that could include turning algae into fuel, cleaning polluted water, and creating vaccines.

"This is the first self-replicating species we´ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer," Venter said. President Obama has ordered his bioethical issues commission to study Venter´s scientific milestone as its first order of business.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Admits Mistakes

After recent privacy concerns, Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence and admitted making mistakes. Furthermore, he promised to fix the problems.

In an open letter, he wrote: "I know we´ve made a bunch of mistakes, but my hope at the end of this is that the service ends up in a better place and that people understand that our intentions are in the right place."

In an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post, he added that there will be privacy controls added to the site that are simpler to use.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

5.1 Earthquake at California-Mexico Border

On Tuesday an earthquake (magnitude 5.1) hit the area of the California-Mexico border 19 miles southwest of Calexo. It is another aftershock of the major quake that rattled the area on April 4.

This time no injuries or damage has been reported. In the April 4 earthquake two people lost their lives. Furthermore a damage of not less than $91 million was caused only in California.

President Obama has already signed a "federal disaster declaration" for the area concerned.

6 Strange Asian Beverages

Sodas and other beverages made for the Japanese market can often seem strange to us in the Western world (remember Pepsi Ice Cucumber?). But what may seem like an odd flavor to us is often very popular in Japan.

From curry-laced soda to “cheese drink”, here are some strange Japanese beverages you may not have heard of.

1. Curry and Wasabi Ramune

Ramune is a popular Japanese soda that is usually fruit flavored, and is recognized by its unique bottle shape and glass bead stopper. However, Ramune also makes two strongly flavored sodas: Curry and Wasabi.

The label on the curry flavored Ramune explains that it is actually a combination of curry and lemonade flavors.

2. Pepsi White/Yogurt Pepsi

This limited edition version of Pepsi blended the sweet taste of cola with the creaminess and tartness of yogurt.

3. Fanta Furufuru Shaker

This beverage starts off in a semi-gelled state, but when you shake it, the Fanta becomes carbonated. Seems like shaking a carbonated beverage never ends well, though…

4. NEEDS Cheese Drink

Because Japan is an island nation, it has been historically hard to support a large dairy industry because of the limited amount of available land. Therefore, many Japanese people have never developed much of a taste for milk products. Today, however, some companies are hoping to introduce more dairy into the Japanese marketplace. One such attempt is NEEDS cheese drink, which reportedly tastes a bit like yogurt.

5. Coolpis Kimchi

Fermented cabbage? Hot peppers? Sounds like a refreshing drink to me!

6. Breast Enlarging Drink

Okkikunare brand drinks contain a soy additive that the company claims can increase breast size. “Okkikunare” literally means “make them bigger!”

Marriage School To Find Mr. or Mrs. Right

One can go to school for just about anything these days. Still, who ever would have thought that getting married would involve a skill set that needs to be officially taught? The Infini School in Tokyo, Japan, that’s who.

For that wannabe spouse of either sex, the Infini School, which is an offshoot of the charm school of ages ago, teaches its students a different set of ABCs (perhaps, attitude, beatitude and charm?).

The school is flourishing in a time when many Japanese are avoiding the institution of marriage or at the very least, finding it very difficult to find some one with whom to share their lives.

The school, which opened last month and has thirty female students, directs potential brides and grooms specifically on how to deal with in-laws and how to talk, walk and present oneself in a socially elegant manner. Men are also enrolled but for some reason most do not show up for most classes.

“I had never even thought that my boyfriend’s mother could play such a big role in my relationship, but now I’ve realized I need to start thinking seriously about how to impress my future in-laws,” said Kozue Sugawara, 29.

In Japan, nearly two-thirds of women under the age of 34 are single and there are thousands of companies offering matchmaking services. This phenomenon is due to a number of factors, including women’s growing economic power and a shift in national attitude about marriage.

“Before, people would find it easy to get married because families and society would connect them in some way, sometimes pushing them to get married. But nowadays, people have too many choices and cannot seem to make up their minds,” says Etsuko Satake, principal of the Infini marriage prep school.

For an annual fee of 200,000 yen (about $2,200 US dollars), students have unlimited access to classes and are entitled to one-on-one instruction about attire, eating and dating etiquette, posture, verbal communication and even the finer points of poise, such as, the proper way to cross one’s legs when exiting a vehicle.

“Konkatsu,” or spouse-hunting activities represent a renewed interest in economic stability. It can only be hoped that these students will have enough money left to start a savings account after they finish paying for the school!

What do YOU think about this?

Tallest Building in Japan Only Halfway to its Planned Height

On March 29th the Tokyo Tower, which currently checks in at 1,092 feet, was no longer the tallest building in Japan. That distinction now goes to the Tokyo Sky Tree, which checks in at a slightly taller 1,108 feet. Poor Tokyo Tower.

The real kicker? It’s only halfway done.

The Tokyo Sky Tree, which sports one of the most ridiculous names for a building I have ever heard, will be completed in December 2011 and reach an astounding 2,080 feet.

Although impressive, it’s still not as tall as the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, which checks in at approximately 2,717 feet. By comparison, the next tallest building is the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, which only reaches 1,667 feet.

The purpose of the tower, other than serving as a huge makeshift phallus? Broadcasting. Spearheaded by Tobu Railway and six terrestrial broadcasters, the sky tree will focus on radio and television transmissions, allowing digital signals to reach beyond six hundred feet.

Aside from this, the tower, which will have its grand opening in the Spring 2012, has two observations decks, one at 1,148 feet and another at 1,476 feet. Whether or not it means Japan has the collective bigger penis is something they will have to bring up with Dubai.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Japan’s Crying Sumo Contest — Loud Babies Wanted!

A baby wailing its arms, howling in misery and shedding tears galore is typically perceived as a sign that Little Timmy or Little Tina needs his/her diaper changed. However, this general outlook doesn’t apply to Japan—or at least not to Japan’s notorious ‘Crying Sumo’ contest.

The Nakizumo festival, which translates to ‘baby cry sumo,’ is celebrated every year outside a Buddhist shrine in Tokyo known as the Sensō-ji Temple. The most recent incarnation of this wild and wacky tradition occurred Sunday, April 25, and included a Buddhist monk, a batch of overweight shrine officials attired in sumo gear—although some news outlets claim that they are in fact sumo wrestling students—and, of course, a bunch of really ticked-off babies.

The festival first begins with a blessing from the monk, who according to ABC “dabs a ceremonial stamp on the forehead of each baby.” Then each sumo picks up a baby and is tasked with making it cry; in fact, whosever baby bursts into tears first is heralded as the winner. And in case two babies simultaneously begin bawling, victory then goes to whosever baby cries the loudest.

Tactics used to break the babies include gently shaking them left and right or rocking them up and down, growling and making mean, scary faces. In case a baby dares and laughs (it does happen), monks donning frightful masks are brought in to assist. All the while, the head monk utters “nake, nake,” which means “cry, cry.”

Thousands of mothers line up every year to volunteer their babies, who must be no younger than 6 months and no older than 3 years, into the competition. Not only is winning good in that it sucks to lose, but children capable of producing an “impressive wail” are considered to be in better health than those too shy or weak in vocal chords to do as such.

Several theories exist as to the Nakizumo festival’s origins, but it is speculated that the tradition began approximately 400 years ago during the Edo era, which encompasses 1603-1867. However, some claim that a crying baby once removed the presence of a malicious ghost. Either way, the Crying Sumo competition continues to this day.

For a glimpse into this year’s festival, take a glimpse below. Parents against baby cruelty might want to look away.

What’s on the menu tonight? RATS!

The Chinese are a fascinating people enshrouded in a cloud of mystery. Many Westerners theorize over their Eastern neighbor’s eating habits. Some speculate that the Chinese eat dogs and cats, while others claim that the Chinese devour live babies. The latter is mere hogwash, although the first two beliefs do hold some merit.

Regardless, what we do know for certain is that some members of the Chinese populace love to dine on rat meat..... mmm mmm delicious!

Our story begins in the city of Guangzhou, which lies in the center of Guandong Province and is in fact the third largest city in China. Known as a “key transportation hub and trading post,” Guangzhou features a plethora of exotic restaurants that cater to everyone’s tastes. A brisk walk through downtown Ghangzhou gives one easy access to the likes of Italian pizza, Indian chicken curry, American ribs and, of course, some good ol’ home-made rat meat!

Rat meat is so popular that a single restaurant can easily move 40kg of rat meat per day. Just for clarification, 40kg of rat meat is equivalent to approximately 358 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins.

According to a local street restaurant employee who spoke with China Daily news, most restaurants are now having to book rat-meals in advance, especially during peak hours. And in preparation for the large number of potential daily clientele that pass through the city, restaurants typically post several cages of live rats on display to “lure diners.” I don’t know about you, but my stomach is rumbling in hunger!

As for procuring suitable rat meat, most restaurants in Guangzhou turn to Zhanjian city, which according to anonymous restaurateurs hosts a large selection of “field mice.” Added to that, one kg of quality rat meat costs only 15 yuan, allowing restaurant operators to earn approximately 35 yuan ($5) per pop.

“But why would anyone eat rat meat?” you ask. For one, it can be braised in soy sauce, cooked in soup, roasted or even stewed. All these options translate to a variety of different tastes—it’s like having fried chicken on Monday, roasted chicken on Tuesday and grilled chicken on Wednesday.

Plus China Daily reports that “many local residents believe in an old saying: ‘A rat equals three chickens in term of nutrition.’” In addition, some claim that rat meat can magically alleviate the symptoms of old age, such as baldness or gray, thinning hair.

The best answer comes from an unnamed vendor interviewed by MSNBC news. He said, “Guangzhou people are rich and [so they] like to eat exotic things.”

I guess that in China, eating rats is merely the high price of fame and fortune.

No More Doughnuts for Nepalese Police Officers

Police officers must possess street smarts coupled with cheetah-like agility and tiger-like strength. Otherwise, the villainous predators that roam our streets might devour them like an oatmeal cookie. In particular, the proud officers of Nepal must also be in perfect physical shape because being fat is considered just plain “lousy”!

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal commands an extensive police force stocked with over 56,000 officers spread across the 56,827 sq mi, landlocked nation. According to recent complaints from the public to the Secretariat of the Inspector General of Police, however, many of Nepal’s officers are far too overweight to correctly perform their duties.

In accordance with these new findings, the Nepalese Police Headquarters in Kathmandu has decided to initiate a weight-loss program that stipulates officers must lose weight, lest they be “barred from promotion and transferred to less well-paying posts.”

Police spokesman Bigyan Raj Sharma told AFP reporters, “When you are fat, you look lousy and it’s obvious that perception of people towards you is not positive.” Tell that to Carl Winslow!

To ensure officers stay on point, annual tests will be introduced to accurately track officers’ physical progress. Plus according to the Telegraph, additional “fitness and yoga sessions will be scheduled,” in that a camp featuring renowned fitness guru Swami Ramdev just ended last month.

Sharma added, “Some officers work for 18 hours a day here in the capital. The situation is getting worse and more improper. They must be given time for physical fitness training.”

Perhaps a course on healthy eating might also be in order. If nothing else, at least cut out all the doughnuts!

Introducing the Gateway of India Laughing Club — HAHAHA!

Laughter is the best medicine. It relieves physical tension and stress, boosts the immune system and even protects the heart by enhancing blood flow. It makes sense then that we should begin each and every day like the Gateway of India Laughing Club—with a big, hearty guffaw!

Every morning at 7am, men and women from all across the world—although most of them are Indians—gather at a tiny rectangular park, situated right beneath the Gateway of India monument in Mumbai, to let loose bellows of unfiltered laughter. Everyone is welcome, so long as they have a great sense of humor. And if you’re a foreign visitor, don’t be surprised if the locals poke fun at your country, because everything is fair in the game of laughter!

Methods of garnering a laugh aren’t just restricted to jokes about age, ethnicity, gender or nationality, though. The whole event is in fact an all-out circus of grown men and women clapping their hands in a frenzy, clawing the air like kitty cats, giggling with glee like teenage girls and making outrageous faces fit for a bored toddler. And in-between the madness are short sessions of deep breathing and stretching designed to further soothe and relax the body.

Truthfully, the Gateway of India Laughing Club is merely one of perhaps hundreds of similar groups scattered throughout India. The first laughter club began in 1995 in Bombay due to the brilliance of Dr. Madan Kataria, but the concept soon spread throughout the entire country. According to Telegraph reporter Charlotte Cory, tension between India and Pakistan is partially to ‘blame,’ as whenever both nations enter a nuclear standoff, large groups of Indians gather to laugh “in the hope that their explosions of mirth will diffuse the political tension.”

Leading this particular group is Girdhar Peshawaria. During an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Girdhar said, “In the beginning it was a little tough, how to laugh, because we are not used to it. Now we cannot live without it.” Indeed Girdhar’s sessions have become a staple activity for many locals.

Krishna Aujla, one of his local followers, said, “I get energy from the morning time… Doing exercises like this – ‘ha ha ha’ – makes the whole day go nicer.”

Dr. Saifee Sailwass, another one of Girdhar’s loyal laughers, explained, “Laughter comes automatically, from inside; it is a natural thing, whether you are in the mood or not in the mood. We have to heed that instinct to laugh.”

The Gateway of India Laughing Club’s popularity has recently soared so high that a batch of American cardiologists filmed a video of Girdhar’s sessions in the hope that his 20-minute routine could greatly benefit US heart patients.

Speaking of laughter, are there any Monty Python fans in the audience? If so, here’s a real kicker for you. Actor John Cleese traveled to and filmed a video of the Laughing Club back in 2008. Here it is in its full entirety for our viewing pleasure. Laugh it up, world! (Youtube)

Taiwan Fears Smoking in Movies more than Violence

Are sex, drugs and rock and roll the worst influences on a growing child? Apparently not in Taiwan. The local authorities of this East Asian island are calling for dramatic changes to its current movie rating system because they consider cigarette smoking in movies to be far worse than steamy scenes or gory violence.

This ’smoking is worse than sex’ idea was conceived by the Taiwanese Department of Health.

“Smoking (in movies) has a much worse impact on health than sex and violence,” was the claim by the department.

These folks believe that young children are more likely to emulate the smoking habits of their favorite characters in various movies and shows.

In keeping with this mentality, the authorities are planning a major alteration to the movie rating methods.

Thus, the presence of cigarette smokers in a movie, be it animated of live-action, can diminish the chance of younger kids being allowed to view that flick.

Taiwan is well-known for its strict stance on smoking. In this way, they had previously banned fancy advertising for and promotion of cigarettes.

12 Interesting Menu Items from McDonalds in Asia

The Big Mac, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Chicken McNuggets… for those of us who visit McDonalds in America, these menu items are all familiar. But overseas, McDonalds has released a number of foods that cater to local tastes, and many of these items seem kind of… unexpected… to many of us in the Western world.

In fact, some of these McDonalds items are even stranger than pizza in an ice cream cone.

1. Green Tea & Red Bean Ice Cream Sundae

Featured on menus in Hong Kong, the Green Tea & Red Bean Ice Cream Sundae is made with vanilla soft serve, and topped with green tea-flavored syrups and azuki beans, a sweet-tasting bean that is often used for desserts throughout Asia.

2. Breakfast Bacon Lettuce Egg McWrap

This seems pretty Westernized, with the exception of the lettuce. A similar chicken Caesar wrap is also available, but only for breakfast.

3. Samurai Pork Burger

The Samurai Pork Burger, featured on the menu in Thailand, features pork instead of a beef patty. A similar product, the Shogun Burger, is on menus in China.

4. Seaweed Seasoned Fries

These fries are seasoned with seaweed and salt, and you apply the seasonin

g yourself. Other seasonings include “chargrill” and French onion.

5. McRice

Popular in Singapore, the McRice is served between two fried rice patties.

6. Bubur Ayam

Chicken strips in a thick porridge with vegetables and hot peppers.

7. McSpaghetti

No, this item doesn’t hail from Italy, it’s actually on the menu in the Philippines.

8. McHot Dog Mega Sausage

Yup, that’s a hot dog. But it’s only available as part of the breakfast menu!

9. Pies

Breakfast varieties include ham and egg, and bacon and potato. Dessert pies run the gamut from banana to taro to pineapple.

10. Breakfast Pasta Soup with Egg and Sausage

This breakfast-only item includes veggies, sausage, eggs, and pasta in chicken broth.

11. Double Beef Prosperity Burger

Offered in Malaysia, this is part burger, part French dip sandwich. Each patty is dipped in a spicy pepper sauce, and topped with onions.

12. Filet-o-Shrimp

This ebi-burger (ebi is Japanese for shrimp) is served with secret sauce. The secret’s out, McDonalds. We know the secret is just Thousand Island dressing.