Eyeball Licking is All the Rage

Yes, you heard right, people are licking each other’s eyeballs for fun

It’s another strange trend that is popping up recently in Japan, that of licking another person’s eyeballs.  Also known as “worming”, it is considered an intimate act among friends and closer-than-friends.  Unfortunately for the lickers, it seems that this little trend is creating some unwanted side effects in the form of eye infections.

The trend appears to be most prevalent among school-children and teens.  Apparently it is an older trend that has seen some play earlier in the 2000s and has now been revitalized by its appearance in a popular music video.  Why do people choose to lay tongue on eyeball?  Well, supposedly it feels great.  Some have even gone so far as to claim that eyeball licking is sexually arousing to them.

As it caught on and began to gain popularity, however, teachers at schools began to notice things.  In particular, they began to notice a rise in the number of kids wearing eye patches due to infections.  Yes, your tongue has some nasty stuff on it and the eye doesn’t have the best ability to fight these germs off.  Whoops.

Doctors in Japan have been warning kids off of the eyeball licking craze by stating that it can cause pink eye, lead to abscesses on eyeballs, can scratch the eye’s lens and that it even has the potential to cause blindness.  The cases of infections seem to support this claim, so maybe they’re not just trying to spoil a bit of good-natured teenage rebellion.  The result - medical folks and teachers are telling kids to cut it out already. 

Personally, I don’t think I would want someone’s tongue lingering on my eye.  Of course, I’ve never tried it so I don’t know for sure, right?  Who knows, it could be better than a back rub for all I know.  Likely, I will remain in the dark on this particular subject indefinitely.  No one is getting their tongue that close to my eye, thank you very much.

Togyu - The Okinawan Tradition of Bull Sumo

Bulls butting heads for the prestigious title of yokozuna

Little known to most of the world, the country of Japan has its own bull fighting tradition going on.  It’s not at all the same as the West, naturally, and in fact the bulls fight each other as opposed to matadors.  The name of it is togyu, but it’s commonly referred to as bull sumo.  The main region where this unique activity takes place is in the Ryukyu Islands, with Okinawa being at its center.

Togyu has a long tradition in Okinawa, dating back hundreds of years.  It started, if the tales are to be believed, due to boredom.  Farmers without entertainment decided that they would pit their bulls against each other to pass the time.  Over time, it evolved into a fully fledged sport, with weight classes and everything.

How the sport works is that you get two bulls together and have them lock horns.  They then push each other around an arena, each trying to get the other to either back off or get so tired that they can’t continue.  It can take some time for one or the other of the bulls to give up, so it’s generally a slow moving sport punctuated with small bursts of energy.

And contrary to other forms of bull fighting, togyu is bull-friendly.  Owners of the bulls are very protective of their prize animals and if it looks at all like one or the other of the combatants might get hurt, people step in to break it up (how they manage to do that is beyond me).  In fact, most of the blood spilled due to togyu comes from the trainers due to accident during training.

Once one bull has conquered all his enemies, he is crowned with the traditional sumo title of the greatest - yokozuna.  The owner even receives a small prize, though I’m guessing pride is the main reward.  Though unique and interesting, togyu may not be the most entertaining thing to watch (kinda like baseball).  Check out the video below and see what you think:

牛の角突き3 2011/9/11 小千谷 Japanese Bullfight in Ojiya

In Tokyo, dirt is on the menu

A fancy French restaurant, in Japan, that serves dirt in your food

Japan is known for having more than its fair share of strange and interesting restaurants.  Perhaps they’re really no odder than the rest of the world, but they certainly put some effort in when it comes to catering to crowds with peculiar fetishes.  Now, there’s one more to add to the list, though this one concentrates less on unique atmosphere and more on unique food.  They serve food with dirt in it, to be precise.

The restaurant is called Ne Quittez Pas and it’s located in Tokyo.  The head chef apparently decided that the best way to attract new customers is to create a dirt-containing multi-course meal.  He also seems to believe that this dirt is so good that it’s well worth paying $110 for the opportunity to eat it.

If you decide to order the dirty offerings, you will be served dirt and potato soup and a salad with dirt dressing to open the meal.  Then, a main course of dirt risotto and sea bass.  Afterwards, some dirt ice cream and dirt gratin and a cup of soiled mint tea.

Even odder still, the reviews of this bizarre meal have been good.  People are saying that you can hardly taste the dirt (doesn’t that defeat the purpose?).  The reason that the dirt is so hard to taste, according to the chef, is that he uses only the highest quality earth as an ingredient.  Of course, he also happens to be a well-trained chef, so maybe it’s the good cooking that does the trick.

Considering the price, you won’t catch me sitting down to eat at Ne Quittez Pas anytime soon, no matter how many good reviews they get.  And even if I did eat there, I’d probably have to order something a little more traditional.  Still, if dirt eating is your thing, you may have just found a little bit of heaven thanks to Japan.

Japan takes action to prevent endangered species trade

In a country known for whaling and dolphin kills, this may be a good trend

It may seem hard to believe, considering Japan’s record of whale hunting and mass dolphin slaughters, but it appears as if they’ve decided to take the hardline against those participating in the illegal trade of items associated with endangered animals.  A new law dictates that existing fines shall be increased a hundredfold for those that seek to make their profit by destroying these rare creatures.

Japan’s Environmental Ministry has raised the maximum allowable fine against corporations taking part in the trade of endangered species items.  The old fine was a paltry one million yen (about $10,000 USD) but the new fine will get up to 100 million yen (around 1 million USD).  That’s a pretty hefty chunk of change, even to a corporation.  The law is a little different for those not connected to corporations, however.  For the individual illegal trader, the fines will range from 1 to 5 million yen.  Much less, to be sure, but enough to discourage your typical Ebay seller.

Truly though, the old fines were pretty weak when compared with some other countries.  Not to mention that many of the items being traded can fetch tens-of-thousands or even hundreds-of-thousands of dollars.  It’s also nice to see them targeting corporate traders primarily, as this prevents those with big dollars and big influence from just choosing to ignore the laws because they can afford to pay whatever fines are involved.

The irony here is, of course, that Japan is one of the biggest problemed areas when it comes to people trading freely in illegal endangered animal items online.  In many respects, people continue to do so to this day.  They have one of the worst records when it comes to this practice.  It’s good to see them taking the steps to make this change and hopefully we will see more such changes out of the island country in the future.

Elephant poop beer anyone?

Japan’s Sankt Gallen Brewery makes new stout with strange ingredients

Japan’s latest contribution to the world of spirits appears to be a rather strange concoction that relies on the feces of elephants to produce.  Named “Un Kono Kuro” (or, roughly translated “Shit Black”), this beer proved to be so popular that the company sold out their entire stock in under a day.  Well, to be more precise, their website sold out in a matter of minutes.  It went on sale on April Fools' Day, but this beer is apparently not a joke.

The poop element of the brewing process is a little less nasty than you might be thinking.  Seriously, would someone actually drink something made from crap?  The real secret ingredient is a rare coffee bean, processed through the digestive tract of the elephants in question.  These beans are eaten, crapped out and then extracted from the fresh dookie.  Then they make their way into the beer.  The beans themselves come from Thailand, courtesy of that country’s hungry elephants and if you were to buy them to brew in a more traditional way they would cost you around $500 per pound.  Yes, crapping out coffee beans does inflate their value for some reason.

Un Kono Kuro was put together by the Sankt Gallen Brewery and is being sold as a chocolate stout, despite definitional evidence to the contrary.  The bottle even comes complete with a label showing an elephant relieving itself.  The beer also seems to be getting some rather good reviews.  So maybe these Japanese guys have something after all?

Though sold out, Sankt Gallen promises that they’ll get those elephants crapping as fast as possible and have more of the beer to sell soon.  If it sounds like something you need to try, check out their website here.  Of course, it’s all in Japanese, so good luck navigating it properly.

Japanese scientists screw with Cedar Tree DNA

In a country where allergies rule, pollen-free cedar trees may be the answer.

This week I present to you yet one more bit of evidence that shows that not everything Japanese scientists invent is bizarre or seemingly useless.  This time around, it’s the genetic engineers who are hard at work.  They’ve managed to create a new pollen-free cedar tree, a huge step forward in the war against allergies in the country.

This genetic marvel comes to us courtesy of the people at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute.  They screwed around with a tree’s DNA and, via genetic recombination, made a pollen-free strain of the terrible cedar tree.  They aren’t the first to attempt this mad science, however, as U.S. scientists put together a pollen-free pine tree some time ago.  Still, it’s a great leap forward.

So why is this so important, you ask?  Well, cedar trees are rampant in the country and a great many people, an estimated one-fourth of the population, are allergic to them.  Ever seen those pictures of people walking around Japan with surgical masks on?  That’s not because of the smog.  Anyone out there who has bad allergies can probably relate to the pure hell that is a high pollen count.  They’ve had low-pollen versions of cedars making the rounds already, but to have no pollen is, naturally (unnaturally?), a better option.

It takes about two years after planting the trees before they transform into pollen-free versions, so time will have to pass before people get their much-needed relief.  Of course, the question of how this new strain will affect the environment is still up-in-the-air. But until random genetic mutant trees grow huge and start destroying Tokyo, people are probably going to be pretty OK with them.

Inodore company’s gas-proof underwear

In a country where subway cramming is a regular deal, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

This time around, the cleverness of Japanese inventors has brought to us the miracle that we’ve all been waiting for - the ability to pass gas in public without anyone knowing.  Whether in the car on a long trip or tightly packed into some form of public transportation, these new gas-proof underwear are said to be effective enough to get the job done on even the most pungent of smells.

Of course, this is more than just a nose-saving invention, but also works well as a face-saving one.  No respectable businessman (or woman) wants to be called out when they gas-bomb the board meeting.  With this innovation, created by a company called Inodore, you’re guaranteed a 99 percent odor removal.  How exactly they determined that one percent was actually getting through, I have no idea.

The company scientists say that the main problem with perfecting this invention was being able to balance the odor removal ability with actual comfort.  Sure, you can make a gas-mask for your butt, but if you can’t even sit down while wearing it then it doesn’t really do any good.  Once that was out of the way, they test-drove their product in where else but a nursing home.  Not only were they able to remove the constant stench of farting, but the underwear apparently also worked to remove that annoying “old age” smell.

The truth of the matter, however, is that the Japanese didn’t really invent these.  Similar products have been selling in American way before now.  What they did was what they always seem to do with American rubbish - they improved on it and actually made it a viable product.  Their next step is to branch out and provide odor removal coverage for the entire body.

And it appears that they’re doing something right, because the gas-blasting underpants are in high demand and Japanese people love them.  I guess when you shove that many people into a city, fart-proof underwear could be considered on par with a life saving device.

‘Absolute Territory’ advertising

Japan’s new billboard is the female thigh.

The notion of using sex in marketing is nothing new.  In Japan, however, it looks like they’re taking it a step further, moving from suggestive pictures to real live flesh.  Rather than using women in adverts, the women are becoming the adverts by attracting men’s eyes to where those eyes would naturally wander, to the exposed bit of leg between their hemline and their stockings.  Of course, this time when men look they’ll see an advertisement staring back at them.

The idea was put together by a company known as Absolute Territory.  Their name, coincidentally, also happens to be the terminology used to define that bit of space that they’re using for their ads.  So far the marketing campaign appears to be going strong, because more than 1300 women are now working for AT.

So you may be asking yourself, how does something like that work?  Well, the women who work for the company simply stop by one of their advertisement offices each day.  There, they are given a sticker that they’re to wear somewhere on their body for at least eight hours during the day.  Though in addition to just wearing the ads, the women are required to post pictures of themselves sporting the ads on social media platforms.  At the end of the day, the girls head on back to the advert office and collect their pay for the day.  Depending on the ad (and perhaps on the girl), they can make as much as $125 for one day of not-quite-working.  Not a bad paycheck for showing off your legs, eh?

Some may see the advertising method as sexist, but I would have to disagree.  These girls are likely going to get their legs stared at anyways, so if they want to make a few bucks taking advantage of men’s short attention spans and inability to control themselves, more power to them.  Heck, they don’t even have to change their normal routine other than stopping by the office twice daily.  Sounds like easy money.  I only wonder how long it will be before this trend crosses the ocean and we see it here in the states.

Tseuke-yaeba: Japan’s crooked tooth fashion

Pop stars are making imperfect teeth into a fashion trend.

A month or so ago, I was writing about people getting saline injected into their heads (i.e.: the bagel head phenomenon).  Now, it looks like the fashion world is going a bit further down the face and settling in on women’s teeth.  It’s certainly less severe than a giant, squishy donut on your forehead, but the trend of tseuke-yaeba still goes against what most people in the west would see as attractive.

This little bit of cosmetic dentistry involves taking just a couple of teeth - the canines to be specific - and getting them altered so that they appear pointed or fang-like.  The trend has actually been around for more than a few years, but pop stars that happen to have teeth that look like this have inspired a wave of copycat teeth modifications.  The general Japanese populace has encouraged it as well, with men in the country saying that they think the trend is sexy.  Apparently, there is a new attraction to imperfection that is sweeping through Japan, a sharp contrast to most of the Western world and its emphasis on linear perfection and symmetry.

Luckily, those interested in getting this dental alteration can get temporary versions and try it out first.  If they decide that it looks right on them and don’t have any incidents with their teeth tearing up their bottom lip, they can then move ahead with the permanent version.

The trend has caused a bit of controversy, with some saying that the popularity of tseuke-yaeba is based around the fact that it appears child-like and that men are encouraging it because of their attraction to youthful beauty.  I’d have to argue that the popularity is probably mainly because it’s associated with pop stars.  If a guy has a crush on a particular pop star and she has fanged canines, he’s going to start finding that an attractive feature in all women.  Or he could just have a furry fetish…  Either way, this could really be considered one of Japan’s less insane trends and thankfully it’s not one that can cause any permanent damage to people.  Aside from, perhaps, the occasional bite wound.

Domino’s Pizza Japan

Sales promotions in Japan are way more interesting than the U.S. could ever hope to be.

I recently came across some news on a couple of promotions that are going on in Japan, courtesy of the Domino’s Pizza franchise.  Apparently, once a business makes its way overseas it is allowed to go crazy and mutate from the standard American way of doing business to the wacky Japanese way of doing it.  The results are some of the strangest promotions ever.

One of the two major sales that I found involves getting 50% off your order.  The requirement for this discount, however, is that you sit in front of your computer and watch the clock.  It’s called the “Shortest Sale in the World” and it literally lasts for one second.  If you manage to click on a button on the Internet at the exact right time, you win a coupon good for 50 percent off your order.  The times are predictable, thankfully, always composed of repetitive numbers such as 4:44:44.  And they occur multiple times over the course of three days, so there are plenty of chances.  Of course, you need some damn good timing and a fast Internet connection to even give it a try.

The next promotion involves a series of coupons that allow customers to get 25 percent off their order if they perform certain tasks or meet certain criteria when receiving their pizza.  The list of conditions ranges anywhere from dressing a certain way, such as in 80s costume, to greeting your deliveryman with a parakeet in hand. 

Other fun ways to get a discount include having a beard or mustache, being in your second year of high-school, taking with a particular accent, being a twin or having a certain number of characters in your name.  If you manage to fulfill all of the above requirements (a feat that is virtually impossible), you get a whopping 50 percent off!

So yeah, as if businesses didn’t do some weird enough stuff to get customers in already, Japan manages to push it to the limit.  For sure way more entertaining than anything I’ve ever seen.  I’d totally be okay with growing a beard if it meant I could get my pizza for 25 percent off.