Tofugu » » Saturday Timewaster A Japanese Language & Culture Blog Thu, 23 Oct 2014 21:35:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Creative Sketches on Japanese TV [Masquerade] Sat, 29 Jun 2013 16:00:21 +0000 In my years on the internet, one Japanese TV show has popped up over and over again in GIFs, videos, and excited discussions. Even though the people who post about this show usually speak no Japanese and don’t know the name of it, this particular TV show seems to break through language barriers to amaze people around the world.

The show? 欽ちゃん&香取慎吾の全日本仮装大賞, also known as Masquerade in English.

The show’s premise is familiar: teams of people compete to wow judges and audiences alike with their talent. What makes Masquerade different from America’s Got Talent (other than Nick Cannon and a Snapple™ sponsorship) is its focus on incredibly creative sketches full of clever visual tricks.

These sketches take place anywhere from under the sea to a skydiving plane flying high above the ground. Not to be clichéd, but the only limit to these sketches seems to be the contestants’ imagination.

Fortunately for those of us who can’t catch Masquerade on Japanese TV, the show has an official YouTube channel full of some of its coolest, most imaginative sketches. You might even recognize some of them!

Many of the sketches are done with stagehands that blend into the background, very much in the Japanese tradition of kuroko (黒子), the stagehands dressed in all-black in traditional Japanese theater.

While many of the sketches are incredibly impressive, some of them can just be plain bizarre:

From the imaginative sketches to towering meter that fills up after every performance, Masquerade has a plethora of endearing qualities that make it clear why the show has spent decades on the air.

For more, check out Masquerade’s official YouTube channel!


Want the excitement of Masquerade as your desktop background? Our incredible illustrator Aya has you covered!

Wallpaper (1280×800)
Wallpaper (2560×1440)

]]> 29
Ugly Logo Contest Winners Sat, 22 Jun 2013 16:00:16 +0000 Last week, we kicked off a contest, mainly for my own amusement, to see who could create the ugliest version of the beloved Tofugu mascot. The prize was a free copy of Japanese, an iOS app that includes a Japanese-English dictionary, study tools, and more.

I got a bunch of great entries, but had to sadly whittle it down to ten. Here are the winners:


I didn’t have a clear definition of “ugly” in mind when I started this, but this drawing gave it to me in spades. No other submission was as hard to look at as this crazy-eyed, snot-nosed fugu on a bright red background.


Not only was the fugu itself really ugly, but this person went above and beyond the call of duty to explain their artistry. Very dark and post-modern.


The illustrator of this fine fugu said that they took inspiration from the ugly, all-too-real closeups in the 90s cartoon Ren and Stimpy. The inspiration is clear, and ugly enough to earn this person a free copy of Japanese.


This fugu isn’t just ugly, it peers into your very soul when it looks at you with that piercing, disturbing glare. Little does it know that I sold out my soul long ago. Joke’s on you!


This ugly, ugly collection of fugu with passionate pleas written all around it (“u ken lern japenese furm me dun eet mee”) was not only hideous, but heartwarming as well.


This dark, brick-like fugu seems like something you’d see popping out of the wall in a horror movie or while playing Amnesia. Look at those mouth, those eyes—not something I’d like to run into.


Vomiting fugu. Enough said.


I didn’t even think that this fine piece of artwork was particularly ugly, but I was too by our lil Tofugu fugu in red high heels not to pick it.


While I suspect that this was all done digitally, this submission has a lot of real-life textures (like brush strokes and glitter) that made the ugliness of the “Toefugu” really stand out.

Honorable Mentions

There were a few submissions that either weren’t eligible to win or didn’t want to win, but I liked nonetheless and wanted to include here.


Our own John submitted his this repulsive piece of art, complete with ugly brick texture and saved in the wonderful BMP format. Most of you sent your pieces in a lossless form, which almost defeats the purpose. Haven’t you people heard of compression artifacts?!

Sadly for John, he couldn’t win since he, y’know, works here. Sorry bud!


This person actually said in their email that they couldn’t use the prize even if they won it, and just wanted to enter for fun. I respect that, and thus they earn a spot on our honorable mentions.


I love this upset fugu, but it’s not ugly, just sad. What’s the matter, little guy? Found out that you’re doomed to be sashimi?


I received this submission with the message “My most sexual greetings from Israel.” I’m not sure what that means, or what it has to do with the drawing itself, but this ugly minimalist masterpiece found a place in my heart.

This person actually turned down the prize, apparently just wanting to submit their creation for the love of art. That’s a-okay with me.

Thanks so much to everybody who participated! This was a lot of fun and I loved checking my inbox every day and seeing your hideous creations.

]]> 12
The Creepy Future of 3D Doll Cloning Sat, 15 Jun 2013 16:00:53 +0000 The toys of the future are here and boy are they creepy. A Japanese start-up company known as Clone Factory has stirred up a storm on the internet with their 3D printed human faces on doll bodies. Whether the creepiness comes from the hyper realistic faces or just the disparity between the realism of the printed faces and the primitiveness of the doll bodies, these things are weird. Really weird.

How It’s Made

[yframe url='']

Making these abominations is actually quite simple. The model sits themselves down in a chair, has some coordinates projected onto their head, and then pictures are taken. These pictures are then processed by a computer and the model’s lovely mug is printed out in doll sized plaster by a 3D printer. From there, they airbrush on any fine details as needed.


I’m not sure how long the total process is, but the final result is pretty astounding. Now everyone can have their own little miniature version of themselves. For a price of course, but more on that later.


When ordering your doll, you get a choice of body. Some choices are creepier than others. The more out of proportion everything is, the weirder the doll ends up looking I think. I’ve heard of companies that make plushies in your likeness, but this is definitely next level right here.

Wait, They Cost How Much??

doll1Yeah, these things aren’t cheap. They’re about $1,300. Now, why would someone want to spend so much money on a doll? Well, some people just have too much money. Other than that, these dolls have become popular with women who want to have creepy custom mementos of special events in their lives, such as a wedding.


Women can have their face, just as it looked on their wedding day with makeup and everything, plastered on a doll with their wedding hairstyle and their wedding dress and all. It’s almost like having a 3D picture to remember the event by. To some people, the $1,300 is worth it.


I don’t think I’d be willing to spend more than $100 for something like this, but then again I can’t really think of any reason other than novelty for wanting one myself.


Perhaps if there’s a strong demand for these sort of things, and 3D printing continues to become cheaper, these goofy dolls will fall in price as well. For now though, I think I’ll stick with regular action figures.


Oh yeah, they’ll also clone your pets too.

So tell me, how much would you spend for one of these custom dolls? Would you even want one? Do you think they’re as creepy as the rest of the internet does? Let us know in the comments!

]]> 18
Maru Turns 6 Sat, 08 Jun 2013 16:00:03 +0000 There’s no shortage of excellent YouTube videos coming out of Japan (even if some of them are just ripped from NicoNico) made by a lot of different people; but hands down the most famous Japanese YouTuber isn’t a person, but a cat. Maru, a Scottish Fold cat, has become famous around the world through YouTube.

We’ve written about Maru before in our roundup of Japanese cat videos and in our list of awesome Japanese YouTubers, but we thought that we’d write about Maru again for one reason: Maru’s 6th birthday just recently passed (May 24th).

In celebration of Maru’s 6th birthday, his anonymous owner created a video montage of some of his best moments from 2012:

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With 259 videos with over 200 million views, you could probably call in sick to work and spend at least a week watching nothin’ but Maru videos; and I gotta say, I wouldn’t blame you.

Maru’s biggest claim to fame is his love of cardboard boxes—jumping into them, sliding into them, and just generally trying to stuff his chubby little frame into any kind of container that he possibly can.

But there are plenty of other great Maru videos that will make you neglect your own cat to watch a Japanese cat on the internet (because that’s where we are as the human race now).

For more of Maru, check out his YouTube channel or official blog.

Wallpapers and GIFs!

Desktop background (1280×800)
Desktop background (2560×1440)

Animated GIF (700×438)
Animated GIF (1280×800)

]]> 17
DIY Japanese Candy Kits Sat, 01 Jun 2013 16:00:10 +0000 Japanese candy seems exotic and exciting to most of the rest of the world; between the novelty flavors, seasonal varieties, and unique packaging, Japanese candy really intrigues people.

One type of candy in particular that seems to always grab people’s attention is the do-it-yourself candy kits. With little more than the included ingredients, water, and a little patience, these candy kits transform from packets of powder and bags of putty into miniaturized versions of gourmet dishes.

The YouTube channel RRcherrypie has created an incredible number of videos showing viewers how to assemble these strange and interesting candy kits.

The appeal of RRcherrypie is not only does the channel introduce me to these novelty, do-it-yourself candy kits that aren’t really known in the West, but it’s also clear that the people behind RRcherrypie take a lot of care in what they do.

The attention given and the precision that these people take to assemble these candy kits is astounding. While most people would write off these candy kits as playthings for children, RRcherrypie treats these kits as if they were a craft. Many people find the deliberation found in RRcherrypie videos soothing and relaxing.

The identity of the people behind RRcherrypie is surprisingly mysterious. RRcherrypie’s official website states, in somewhat broken English, that RRcherrypie is a group of 3 or more people. We don’t tell you each individual person’s profile, because the imposter tries to pretend to be us. And the members would change often because we have a job.

The idea that a group of people got together to form an anonymous, candy-making collective is a little silly, but it’s endearing to me.

For more, check out RRcherrypie’s YouTube channel and official website.

]]> 15
Automatic Mario Stomps Out Sweet Tunes Sat, 25 May 2013 16:00:16 +0000 Some people like playing video games. Other prefer their video games to play themselves, giving birth to the fad of hacking Super Mario World levels that move Mario to the end without any player input required. Still, others took it farther. It wasn’t enough that the game played only itself, it had to play music, as well. And thus begins the legend of 自動マリオ – Automatic Mario.

The typical Automatic Mario music video has Mario being ferried across the level by moving platforms, bouncing off enemies and custom blocks that send him flying. Most videos are uploaded to the Japanese video sharing site, Nico Nico Douga.


Theme song to Doraemon

This next one gets a bit Mario-ception, being a Super Mario World rendition of a vocal version of a song from Super Mario World. Sometimes blocks and other background objects are used to create graphics related to the song. Can you spot the KY in this video?

Western Show on Super Mario World

Even Luigi gets his own 自動ルイージ – Automatic Luigi:


Cirno’s Perfect Math Class

Not to be outdone, some videos feature four separate levels playing out at the same time, to cover even more parts of the song.

Little Busters!

There’s even a four screen version of Queen, one for each member of the band.

Don’t Stop Me Now

Interest in Automatic Mario peaked around mid-2008, but there are still a few new videos being submitted to Nico Nico Douga every so often. In closing, I’ll leave you with an eleven minute medley of songs.

Kumikyoku Nico Nico Douga Grand Finale

]]> 10
The Beautiful Bento Art of Mari Miyazawa Sat, 18 May 2013 16:00:40 +0000 Japanese artist Mari Miyazawa plays with her food. Like, a lot. As a parent, she sent off her kids with homemade bento lunches, that much is normal; but where Miyazawa differs from most mothers is that her bento creations are works of art.

They’ve been featured in photo exhibitions and on TV shows in Japan and abroad. You’ve probably seen bento art before, but Miyazawa is maybe the most prolific and skilled of the many bento artists out there.

Bento art is called キャラ弁 in Japanese, a combination of the word for “character” and “bento,” and Miyazawa is a master at creating different characters using lunchtime materials.






Bento Theater

Not content with just her amazing bento box art, Miyazawa has dipped her toes into animation as well. Her YouTube channel is full of what she calls “Bento Theater.”

You can find a whole playlist here.

Do It Yourself

Maybe the best part about Miyazawa’s YouTube channel is the instructional videos; she’s kind enough to show us all how she whips up her amazing culinary works of art.

Putting together these dishes might not be especially easy or practical for you to do. Still, Miyazawa’s artistry is inspirational and might be enough to encourage me to

via Metafilter

]]> 10
Capybara in Japan Take Baths, Think They’re People Sat, 11 May 2013 16:00:36 +0000 When we visited Japan earlier this year, we visited the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park (which you can read more about here), a place where Japanese macaques bathe in natural hot springs.

I thought it was pretty funny that the monkeys were so spoiled in such a human way; the monkeys bathe in the same kind of tub a person would use.

What I didn’t realize until recently was that monkeys aren’t the only animals in Japan who get treated to a relaxing, hot bath.

At Nagasaki’s Bio Park, its collection of capybara, a type of rodent from South America, get spoiled with a hot bath in the winter time.

In the summer, the capybara get another seasonal treat: watermelon.

At Bio Park you can actually walk up and pet the adorable, docile capybara as evidenced by this video:

But not everything is rosy for Bio Park’s capybara. During feeding time they have to compete with their greatest natural enemy—the swan:

Strangely, Bio Park’s capybara aren’t the only ones in Japan who get special treatment. Up in Ishikawa, its zoo’s capybara also get to enjoy hot baths in the winter:

And in Fukuoka’s Torias Hisayama Zoo, the capybara lounge with other animals (like kangaroo and meerkats) in front of a heater to keep warm.

All in all, I’d say life is pretty good for capybara in Japan. Even though they’re far from their native South America, they get the royal treatment.

Wallpapers & Animated GIF

Once again, our illustrator Aya has provided desktop backrounds and animated GIFs. Enjoy!

Wallpaper (1280×800)
Wallpaper (2560×1440)

Animated GIF (700×438)
Animated GIF (1280×800)

]]> 10
New Form of Japanese Advertising Too Sexy? Sat, 04 May 2013 16:00:05 +0000 It’s edgy, it’s innovative, it’s in your face. It’s also super sexy. But could it be… too sexy? Japan’s latest advertising fad is sweeping the nation, offending, arousing, and selling product faster than you can say, “Damn, baby – you want fries with that shake?”

The Science of Absolute Territory


The premise behind this new advertising scheme is taking advantage of something known as zettai ryouiki or “absolute territory”. Zettai ryouiki is the exposed area of skin between the hem of a woman’s shorts or skirt and their leg wear. Often, a woman’s zettai ryouiki will garner more attention than any cleavage she might be sporting.


Since zettai ryouiki is defined by the length of the stockings, socks, or boots she’s wearing (I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring), Japan has developed a ranking system to define the grade of zettai ryouiki on a girl. It’s as obvious to me as it is to anyone that only grades A and B are to be considered true zettai ryouiki.


Zettai ryouiki focuses on young and innocent sexuality and is most often worn by girls who are somewhat aware of their attractiveness but not so much that they’re going over the top with it. Fun fact: many tsundere characters find themselves sporting zettai ryouiki. Had you noticed?

The Advertising

Leg-Ads-JapanOf course someone would find a way to monetize this leggy phenomenon. A company calling themselves Absolute Territory has started to hire girls to sport ads on their zettai ryouiki, earning up to $125 a day. Over 1,300 girls are already participating in this new marketing fad and the only requirements apart from being a female (sorry Koichi) is that you must be over 18, and have at least 20 social media contacts.


The girls have to wear the ad for at least eight hours during the day, taking pictures and uploading them to social media periodically to prove they’re keeping to their end of the bargain. Since men’s eyes would naturally wander to the girl’s milky white thighs anyway, Absolute Territory is taking advantage of this by placing an ad there.

[yframe url='']

Everybody from RocketNews24 to Green Day has been hopping on this advertising bandwagon. Not everyone, however, is keen on the idea. The Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau along with their prefectural government put the kibosh on any plans to make use of this new advertising stating that placing ads on the thighs of young women to advertise Okinawa is not in line with the prefecture’s brand image.


When they were still toying around with the idea, the offices received numerous complaints bashing the sexy plan as “undignified” and “not an appropriate use of taxpayer money”.


Since this sex advertising would be funded with government money taken from the people, it’s obvious that some would be outraged at the thought. Fortunately the government decided to kill the plan before it went into action. Even though they knew the campaign would definitely be effective in getting the attention of young people and males, they didn’t want to do anything to harm the overall image of Okinawa.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on this new advertising trend? Is it too sexy for use? Does it ruin the image of the people and companies who use it for advertising? Do you think this trend would ever catch on in your home country? Let us know in the comments!

]]> 45
The Hilariously Impractical Japanese Typewriter Sat, 27 Apr 2013 16:00:11 +0000 Growing up in a computerized world, I’ve never really thought too much about the problems faced by people using typewriters.

It’s pretty damn hard to make a Japanese typewriter (known in Japanese as a 和文タイプライター). Instead of the simple 26 letters in the English alphabet, Japanese has 48 hiragana, 48 katakana, and thousands and thousands of the Chinese-derived kanji characters.

Unsurprisingly, it’s really hard to come up with a typewriter that can incorporate 1,000+ characters, but people still tried their damndest to make it work.

In 1929, a man named Kyota Sugimoto invented the first Japanese typewriter and, in the decades that followed, many more people tried their hand at making a better Japanese typewriter.


They came in various shapes and sizes, but the underlying pricinple was more or less the same. You used a giant plate full of the 1,000+ characters included on the typewriter and gradually steered the plate to the character you wanted.



But it gets even more complicated. Some typewriters had interchangeable characters, some wrote vertically, others wrote horizontally. Apparently, certain characters, because of their complexity and the surface area, required more force than others. All in all, not very user friendly.


These typewriters might have given writing a certain formality and uniformity, but they were also basically slower than handwriting and really, really complicated.

Fortunately nowadays, Japanese people don’t have to deal with these cumbersome, complicated machines; computerized word processing has more or less solved the problem much more simply and elegantly than Japanese typewriters.

Still, there’s some mystique in these intricate devices. Even if they don’t make life especially convenient, they’re a fascinating relic of a time when Japanese was trying to bridge the gap into the modern world.

Read more: Gatunka – Japanese Typewriters

]]> 20
Japanese Dog Is Smarter Than You Sat, 20 Apr 2013 16:00:16 +0000 Japan, more than any other country, seems to have mastered the art of using adorable pets for internet fame. In the past we’ve covered some of Japan’s greatest cat videos (including the incomparable Maru), and the adorable combination of an old Japanese lady and her odd-eyed cat, and a little Japanese boy and his best friend.

So I wasn’t surprised when I discovered Purin the Super Beagle, an extremely talented dog owned by a man living in Shibuya, Tokyo. Purin is, embarrassingly enough, probably smarter and more talented than I’ll ever be.

Purin (Japanese for “custard”) first caught my eye when I found this video of her catching a ball in mid-air with her paws. It’s a cute video, not only because of Purin’s talent, but the softly excited「やった!」from the owner with each successful catch.

Beagles are notoriously smart, so it makes complete sense that Purin’s range of tricks doesn’t stop there. She can also jump rope:


And maybe most impressively, she can catch a sword. The trick is based on an old samurai trope called 真剣白刃取り, where somebody stops a sword at the last minute with their bare hands.

Fortunately, Purin’s owner uses a foam sword, which is probably for the best since Purin seems to want to bite it anyway.



You can find more pictures and videos on Purin’s YouTube channel, and her Facebook page.

]]> 9
Japanese College Students Prank Statue (Even After It’s Gone) Sat, 13 Apr 2013 16:00:08 +0000 In the early 90s, Kyoto University had a problem. A statue on campus kept getting vandalized over and over, without any sign of stopping.

Students kept making their own additions to the statue of educator Hikoichi Orita, including face paint, clothing, props and just plain ol’ text and scribbles.


By 1994, the university was so fed up with all of the graffiti and vandalism that they put up a sign next to the statue. It said:

折田彦市先生は、第三高等学校の校長として京大の創設に尽力し、京大に自由の学風を築くために多大な功績を残した人です。 どうかこの像を汚さないで下さい。


To paraphrase in English: Hikoichi Orita was a great man who contributed a lot to this school, so stop vandalizing his statue.


Unsurprisingly, the sign didn’t a damn thing to stop the vandalism. By 1997, the university decided to permanently remove the Orita-sensei statue; but even that didn’t stop people from messing with him.

Nowadays, instead of defacing the long-gone statue, people simply build their own, complete with pedestal and sign.

Every year, new, fake statues pops up on campus in place of the Orita-sensei statue around significant dates (like exams and such), featuring a different character in place of the seminal Kyoto University figure.


Gym leader Brock/Takeshi from Pokémon


Mr. Contac, the mascot for cold/flu medication Contac


Fujiya mascot Poko-chan


Twitter bot @nisehorn


Children’s TV show character Tendonman


A Kamen Rider character


Superman character from the manga Dr. Slump


Snack mascot Noppo Toppo

I feel kinda sorry for Hikoichi Orita; I’m sure he would have liked to be remembered as an educator and major figure in Kyoto University history, instead of an oft-defaced statue.

At the same time, the legacy of the Orita-sensei statue has made Hikoichi Orita much more notable than he might have otherwise been. After all, how else would I know about this minor 19th century historical figure?

To the Kyodai students who carry on the tradition of pranking the Orita-sensei statue, even though it’s been gone for almost 20 years: I salute you.

]]> 26