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  • Homemade Masks

    By thomas | May 20, 2009

    In Japan, when people get even a little bit sick they wear a mask.  If you ride the train everyday, you’re likely to see at least one person wearing a mask everyday.

    If there’s a bug going around, some people will wear masks in an attempt to avoid getting sick.

    If there’s a fear of some sort of epidemic, people will go to the drug stores and buy up all the masks.

    Recently, Japan has been making a lot of noise about the swine flu.  People are getting checked for flu symptoms at the airport.  People are being quarantined.  Schools are closing across Japan!!!  And drug stores are running out of masks.

    I happen to live in Hyogo, which is where the schools are closing.  We must be out of masks, because I got this hilarious handout on my desk at work today (click to enlarge):

    homemade mask for when you are sick with the flu
    How to make your own mask!

    It’s easy to make your own mask using stuff lying around the house.  All you need is gauze, tissue and rubber bands.

    Step 1 – Prepare 1 piece of gauze, 1 tissue and 2 rubberbands.

    Step 2 – Spread out your gauze (should be big enough to cover your face lengthwise [important detail!])

    Step 3 – Fold your tissue in half and place it in the middle of the gauze.

    Step 4 – Fold the top and bottom edges of the gauze down.

    Step 5 – Tie the sides of your gauze up with the rubber bands

    Step 6 – Mask complete!


    I’ve read that masks have no effect in staving off swine flu. But they may make you feel safer, giving you a psychological edge in your war against sickness.

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    Topics: Japan Hacks | 9 Comments »

    Newspaper hacks

    By thomas | April 9, 2009

    Kind reader Viljami Nykänen sent me this:

    Hi Thomas,

    I’m not sure if you can actually put these up on your site as they are from a Japan Times article, but here goes anyway.

    Article link:

    The last 3-4 paragraphs (cut-and-pasted below) contain some interesting hacks..

    “For example, you’d be surprised at some of things that can be done with furushimbun (古新聞, old newspaper pages). They can be used as detergent-free window wipes. Newsprint contains glycerine and other oils great for getting rid of dust and grime. It also works wonders in preserving vegetables. Next time you want to save the end of your daikon, wrap it up in a copy of The Japan Times and it will last 10 days or more.

    The older generation of Japanese like to fold the morning’s newspaper into small, portable trash containers and distribute them all over the house. These are used to deposit tissues, candy wrappers and fruit peelings ― all the more oshare (お洒落, chic) if the print happens to be in English!

    Oh, and how about the water left over from washing the rice? Called togijiru (研ぎ汁), it’s great as a hand salve, and it also works as an eco-friendly fertilizer on household plants. A solution made up of togijiru and baking powder is extremely effective for cleaning metal surfaces and air-conditioner filters. Ieyasu himself liked to heat up togijiru to drink when he wasn’t feeling well, and he frowned upon expensive medication.”

    In case you missed the link above, you read the whole Japan Times article here: Japan Times article

    Thanks a lot Viljami!

    If you have any hacks, send them in!

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    Topics: Japan Hacks | 3 Comments »

    Banks and other places close for New Years, plus other stuff

    By thomas | December 31, 2008

     Just a reminder that banks close for New Years holidays.  Don’t get caught without cash.  Grab a few extra ichimans today while you still can.  Also, various stores will close and others will change their opening/closing times.  If you need to, stock up on things like food, diapers, etc.

    Also, be on the look out for New Years’ fukubukoro and get a LOT of stuff for CHEAP.  Seriously, if you don’t know what these lucky bags are, check the link.  Don’t miss it!  Even Mister Donut has fukubukuros (thanks Ken Y-N from whatjapanthinks!).

    I also spotted Hassakus in the grocery store today.  This is my favorite Japanese fruit, so if you haven’t tried them yet, check it out.

    Also, a request. I got an email recently that said this:

    Hey Thomas,
    I’m new to Japan and I’ve really been enjoying your site, though the shoes tip didn’t quite work for me…yet. I’m sure my Japanese isn’t good enough to truly work that one out. Anyways, I’ve been told that the day after New Years (or maybe New Years day) there are some great sales. I read your post on fukubukuro, but it doesn’t really describe the same phenomenon. This was described to be as the “Japanese Black Friday.” Being new here, we could really use some deals, but can’t quite read the websites well enough for info. I would really appreciate a post on this topic, I’m sure you’d have some great input. To give you an idea, we’re looking for small appliances; denki pot, rice cooker, vacuum, plasma TV, etc. ;) Also, we need some clothes, so basically ANY info you can provide will be beneficial. Thanks and have a great New Years!

    [ed: To clarify: Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and is the busiest shopping day of the year in America. Everybody has the day off and all the stores have big sales.]

    Does anybody know anything about this? I don’t shop much, so I don’t know anything about it. If you do, please leave a comment and help us out!

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    Topics: Japan Hacks | 4 Comments »

    Mos Burger has jalepenos

    By thomas | December 20, 2008

    Jalepeno peppers are my favorite sandwich condiment.  Whenever I’d go to Subway back in Texas, I’d always have them pile on the jalepenos.  Sadly, Subway here in Japan doesn’t offer jalepenos (at least not any Subway near me!).  My import store doesn’t even sell them!  What can I do?

    Mos Burger.

    Not only is Mos Burger the best fast-food hamburger place around, not only does it have the best onion rings known to man, but they also have jalepenos!  If you order a Spicy Mos Burger, the “Spicy” you taste comes from chopped jalepenos that they stick in your burger sauce blap stuff.  Delicious! Even without the tilde.

    If you like jalepenos, go to Mos Burger.

    Do you have any fast food secrets?  Let me know in the comments!

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    Topics: Japanese Food | 12 Comments »

    Nothing says Japanese Christmas like Tsurushigaki (aka Looking Out My Window In Japan)

    By thomas | December 14, 2008

    If you were to look out my apartment window, this is what you’d see:

    Looking Out My Window In Japan

    Yes, that’s right.  The apartment across the street!   Not very exciting.  But if you look a little to the left, you’ll see this:

    Looking Out My Window In Japan

    Some more apartments, some cars, a pair of rice fields and… tsurushi-gaki!

    So wait, what’s tsurushi-gaki?  I’ll tell you.

    Japan has these fruits called “kaki“.  They have an English name too, persimmon, so some of you may know what they are.  I never saw one back in Texas so they were new to me.  Anyway, people around here grow them and so a lot of the time I’ll get them as gifts.  One problem though: I don’t like them!   The texture, the taste, the skin, the seeds.   Not my favorite fruit.  But there’s something magical you can do to them to make them taste awesome.  Turn them into tsurushi-gaki!

    The word tsurushi-gaki comes from the verb 吊るす (tsurusu) which means “to hang, to suspend”, and the word 柿 (kaki) which is the fruit.  tsurushi-gakis are also called hoshi-gaki, from the verb 干す (hosu) “to hang outside”. (umeboshi gets its name from this too).

    Anyway, tsurushi-gakis are just kakis left hanging outside for a while until they become dried kakis.  And they are delicious.  The perfect Christmas treat in Japan!  Here’s how to make them:

    1. Get some kaki and get some string – sometimes they sell tsurushi-gaki kits like this one, but you can also just buy the individual fruits.

      tsurushi-gaki hoshi-gaki dried kaki

    2. Peel the kaki, or get someone you love to do it for you while you take a picture.

      tsurushi-gaki hoshi-gaki dried kaki

    3. Attach the kaki to your string. This can be tricky if you bought kaki that don’t have their stems intact. Be creative.

      tsurushi-gaki hoshi-gaki dried kaki

    4. When you finish attaching all of your kakis, hold the string up and admire your work.

      tsurushi-gaki hoshi-gaki dried kaki

    5. Hang your kakis outside.

      tsurushi-gaki hoshi-gaki dried kaki

    6. Wait about one or two months. If it rains really hard, you might want to bring them in temporarily so they won’t get soaked and spoil. When they are done they should look something like this:

      tsurushi-gaki hoshi-gaki dried kaki

    7. Enjoy your tsurushi-gakis. Eat it as is, add it to your cereal, whatever. Mmmmmm.. Delicious!  Even more delicious by the Christmas tree.

      tsurushi-gaki hoshi-gaki dried kaki

    Kaki usually show up in stores around mid-fall and continue on into the winter. If you get them early enough, you can put them out and they will be ready just in time for Christmas (too late now, I know, sorry. But act now and you can have tsurushi-gakis for Setsubun!). We make these every year and for me it’s become one my images of Christmas in Japan (though Japanese people associate them more with New Years, but whatever).


    Do you have a tip for making cool Japanese food snacks?  Let me know!

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    Topics: Japanese Food, Winter | 11 Comments »

    NihonHacks Breaks 1000 subscribers!

    By thomas | December 12, 2008

    I checked the front page today and saw this:

    NihonHacks Breaks 1000 subscribers

    Wow! 1000 subscribers! I never imagined I would reach so many people, especially not this quickly. Thank you everybody for your continued support! I love you guys.

    Now I have a favor to ask. Think of it as a Christmas present or a non-denominational winter gift or something. Let’s spread the word! Please tell someone you know (preferably an English-speaking foreigner living in Japan) about Nihonhacks. More readers means more potential hacks, which means everyone benefits! お願いします!

    Here’s to 2000!

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    Topics: Site News | 8 Comments »

    Free Book Alert: Japanese Gaming Centers!

    By thomas | December 12, 2008

    Shane over at The Nihon Sun is giving away a free book. In her words:

    If you have ever been to a Japanese Game Center or want to learn more about the gaming scene in Japan then you need to read Arcade Mania!, The Turbo Charged World of Japan’s Game Centers.

    The book is filled with with great graphics and information about game centers, their popularity and history as well as interviews with game designers and top players in Japan. Written by Brian Ashcroft with Jean Snow, the book is as fun to read as it is to visit a game center in Japan and you can win a copy today!

    The Nihon Sun, an online magazine covering Japanese travel & culture, is offering readers a chance to win a copy of this book. All you need to do is read the review of Arcade Mania! and answer a couple of fun arcade trivia questions from the book in order to enter.

    Once again:

    Review: click here.

    Contest Details: click here

    Now go win yourself a free book!

    Are you holding a contest/giveaway on your Japan-themed blog?  If so, drop me a line and I can help spread the word.

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    Topics: Contests and Giveaways | 4 Comments »

    Rice Pancakes For Breakfast

    By thomas | December 11, 2008

    Reader Bob sends in this delicious hack:


    I enjoy your nihonhacks site and I wish it had been available to us when we lived in Tokyo from 1988 to 1991 and again from 1996 to 1999.

    Another use for leftover rice that we enjoy is to make rice cakes for breakfast the next morning. Mix the rice with enough eggs to make a paste about the consistency of pancake batter. You can add a dash of vanilla extract but it’s not necessary. Then fry pancake size portions just like you would make pancakes: a few minutes on one side then turn it over and a few minutes on the other side. Don’t stir it up like you do for fried rice. Use a moderate to low heat to cook the rice mixture through without burning the surface. Then serve with butter and maple syrup, just like pancakes. A few rashers of bacon on the side is nice, too.

    I learned this from my mother who used up leftover rice this way, but I’ve never seen this anywhere else. Hope you and your readers enjoy.

    These sound so delicious that I’m going to cook some up this weekend, even if I have to use fresh rice. Thanks Bob!

    Do you have any food saving tips? Send them in!

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    Topics: Japanese Food | 3 Comments »

    Two hacks from Indonesia: soothe those burns

    By thomas | December 10, 2008

    A blog I subscribe to, David Goldsworthy’s Indonesia Blog, has a cool post about curing two kinds of burns: skin burns and the burns you get from eating spicy food.

    1. To cure skin burns, put toothpaste on them (the white kind) and wait 20 minutes. No blisters.
    2. If you eat something spicy and its too much, cure the burning sensation with boiling (or almost boiling) water.

    Here’s the original post with more details: Toothpaste For Burnt Fingers; Boiling Water For a Hot Tongue Please visit the blog. It’s a good one! It has cool posts and pictures like this one about Java Coffee.

    Do you have any pain remedies you’d like to share? Post them in the comments.

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    Topics: Japan Hacks | 4 Comments »

    December Hacks from the Past roundup

    By thomas | December 8, 2008

    Hacks from the Past is a series of posts that I will do monthly that will go over past hacks so that new readers don’t have to bother digging through the archives.

    Here are December’s Hacks from the Past:

    1. How to find a Christmas Tree in Japan Part 1 – Name says it all. Are you celebrating Christmas? Want to know where to get a tree? Read here.
    2. How to find a Christmas Tree in Japan Part 2 – Same as above, but more options.
    3. Poor Man’s Tea: Mugicha – Don’t buy big tea jugs from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Buy from the tea bag aisle and save lots of yen

    That’s all. Last December was a bit slow! Next year won’t be though. I’m working hard this time! If you have any December Holiday Hacks, please don’t hesitate to send them in!

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    Topics: Hacks From The Past | No Comments »

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