TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Honors Instant-Noodle Inventor Momofuku Ando


Peel off lid. Pour boiling water. Steep for three minutes. Stir well and serve.

Thursday marks the 105th birthday of Taiwanese-Japanese inventor Momofuku Ando, whose instant noodles revolutionized the food world, and Google is honoring this king of quick cuisine with a new Google Doodle.

As TIME wrote back in 2006, “In 1958, Momofuku Ando, an unassuming entrepreneur living in Osaka, created the instant noodle — and a continent has been feasting on his invention ever since.”

However, the road was not easy for the founder of Nissin Food Products. Ando struggled to find the right balance and create noodles that were tasty but did not become mush when boiled. The secret, learned from his wife, was to spray the noodles with chicken soup and then fry them in tempura oil.

The instant noodle, a dietary staple for every college student from Asia to America, had come to fruition.

Ando was born during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan in 1910, moved to Japan at the age of 23 became a Japanese citizen following World War II. He died in Osaka on Jan. 5, 2007, at the age of 96.

Read next: New Google Doodle Honors Inventor of Flat Map Gerardus Mercator

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TIME Aging

The World’s Oldest Person Is Totally Chill About Turning 117

Misao Okawa, the world's oldest Japanese woman poses for a photo with her great-grandchild Himaki and grandchild Takako Okawa on her 117th birthday celebration at Kurenai Nursing Home on March 4, 2015 in Osaka, Japan.
Buddhika Weerasinghe—Getty Images Misao Okawa, the world's oldest Japanese woman poses for a photo with her great-grandchild Himaki and grandchild Takako Okawa on her 117th birthday celebration at Kurenai Nursing Home on March 4, 2015 in Osaka, Japan.

Misao Okawa was born on March 5, 1898

The world’s oldest person has lived through two World Wars and the invention of the first airplane, but it doesn’t seem like a long time to Misao Okawa.

“It seemed rather short,” Okawa said on Wednesday, the day before her 117th birthday, the Associated Press reports. When Okawa was asked about the secret to her longevity, she said nonchalantly, “I wonder about that too.”

Okawa was born in Osaka on March 5, 1898 and was recognized as the world’s oldest person by Guinness World Records in 2013. She has slowed down in recent months but still eats well and is healthy, according to her Osaka nursing home.

She married her husband, Yukio, in 1919, and has three children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1931.

Japan has more than 58,000 centenarians, more than any other country in the world.

Read next: 13 Secrets to Living Longer From the World’s Oldest People


Read next: Europe’s Oldest Woman Says Being Single Helped Her Live to 115

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TIME Travel

Godzilla Will Make Sure You Get a Good Night’s Sleep in This Japanese Hotel

Godzilla Eats A Commuter Train
Embassy Pictures/Getty Images Godzilla is seen in a scene from Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, 1956.

Sleep tight, don't let the mutant lizards bite.

If you’ve ever wanted to sleep under the gaze of Godzilla’s giant eyes, you’d better book a room at Tokyo’s Hotel Gracery.

The hotel, which opens in April in Tokyo’s buzzing Shinjuku district, promises a monstrous good time for fans of the big lizard. The 30-story hotel will feature two Godzilla-themed rooms, one of which requires the hotel to construct an enormous Godzilla head on the roof of the Toho Cinema, which sits on the ground floor of the hotel tower. The gigantic mutant lizard head will peek into the window of one of the rooms, promising that your slumber will be under the ‘zilla’s never-sleeping eyes.

The other room, appropriately called the “Godzilla Room,” is even more ominous with one Godzilla wreaking havoc on a miniature Tokyo in the corner of the room, while a giant hand armed with razor-sharp claws reaches over the bed.

For those who prefer to look over a monster instead of having a monster look over them, the hotel also offers two Godzilla View Rooms, which are close to the action, but don’t require visitors to try and use the restroom with a giant lizard staring at them.

According to AFP, the Godzilla Room is 39,800 yen (US$ 334) during weekdays and 49,800 yen ($417) during weekends and holidays. The two Godzilla View Rooms available, with each a single starting at 15,000 yen ($125) a night.

The Hotel Gracery seems to be affiliated with Toho, who operates the cinema, and is the movie company behind the original Godzilla film. They plan to release a new Godzilla film in 2016, according to AFP.

TIME Food & Drink

Butter-Flavored Kit Kats Are Now a Thing

Nestle To Make Fairtrade KitKats
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Bars of original KitKat chocolate, produced by Nestle SA, sit arranged for a photograph in London, U.K., on Monday, Dec.7, 2009.

But only for the fortunate few

The good news: a new butter-flavored Kit Kat will be unveiled next month. The bad news (unless you happen to live in the vicinity): it will only be available in one store in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo, which lies on the island of Hokkaido.

The rich new buttery flavor was the winner of a contest organized by the Tsuji Group culinary school, which sought to highlight an ingredient local to the region. Milk and butter are among the island’s main claims to fame — luckily, in this case, beating out other Hokkaido specialties like sea urchin and salmon.

The butter-flavor chocolate-covered wafers will be sold at the Sapporo branch of Chocolatory, a Kit Kat specialty store, in four-packs for $3.36 or 12-packs for $10.20.

MORE: The 13 Most Influential Candy Bars of All Time

Kit Kats enjoy immense popularity in Japan, partly because parent company Nestle has been wowing consumers with its limited edition local flavors — like special Sakura Green Tea Kit Kats (made with green tea, white chocolate and edible cherry-blossom leaves), Strawberry Cheesecake and (yes) Wasabi.

The butter-flavored Kit Kat will be available from March 7. If you have friends in Sapporo, now’s the time to start calling in a few favors.

[Rocket News 24]


See Photos of Love and Courtship in 1950s Japan

As Western influence took hold in Japan, dating and mating were no exception—and LIFE captured the country during a moment of change

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl get married, buy a house and have (on average) 2.2 children. This may have been a common story for heterosexual couples in America in the 1950s, but when LIFE dispatched John Dominis to capture love and marriage in post-war Japan, he found a landscape undergoing a significant transformation.

Before the war, most marriages in Japan were arranged by the bride’s and groom’s parents. Men and women rarely spent much time together prior to the wedding, let alone took part in anything that might qualify as “dating.” But during the Allied occupation of Japan—from the end of World War II until 1952—the ubiquity of the American soldier’s courtship rituals jump-started the Westernization of love and marriage in Japan.

Whether accompanied by their visiting wives, Japanese girlfriends or prostitutes known as “pan pan girls,” American soldiers modeled the behavior they knew from home: public displays of affection and leisure time spent with women at cafés, parks or the movies. And inside those movie theaters, American movies offered even more examples of Western mating rituals to a Japanese public at once hesitant and intrigued by the bold behaviors of their American counterparts.

In his photographs—which never ran in LIFE—Dominis captured a moment when the new had caught on, but the old had not yet been forgotten. The young couples he photographed in 1959 were living on the edge of modernity, but still holding onto many of the the traditions long followed by their culture.

Notes written by Dominis and someone who appears to be an assistant that accompanied the dozens of rolls of film he shot provide insight into the song and dance (sometimes literal) in which the young lovers engaged. Some met by chance, others in settings tailor-made for matchmaking.

One of these settings was the “Shibui” dance, run by a man of the same name. For $2.50, young men and women could attend a night of dinner and dancing with the express purpose of introducing eligible bachelors to single young women. Upon arrival, new members bowed to one another and offered the greeting “yoroshiku,” described as “a very loose greeting which is used to fit any situation and in this case meaning ‘I hope I can find a mate among you.’” During dinner, partygoers were expected to “learn proper manner of eating western food.” If a young man found a young woman intriguing, he was not allowed to leave with her. Instead, he would tell Mr. Shibui, who would then arrange a date if the feelings were mutual.

One young couple, Akiksuke Tsutsui and Chiyoko Inami, met when Chiyoko, who worked at a bank in the same building as Akiksuke’s father’s clothing shop, began frequenting the shop during breaks. When Akiksuke brought Chiyoko to meet his family—after several outings to the beach, cafés, beer halls and department stores—his siblings welcomed her in ways that reflected the changing times. His younger brother showed off his Western knowledge by demonstrating how to swing a baseball bat and singing a rockabilly song. His sisters, meanwhile, sang Chiyoko Japanese folk songs.

Before meeting Akiksuke, Chiyoko had had five meetings with potential husbands, all arranged by her family. During these meetings, the young man and woman walked past each other in a Japanese garden, catching a quick glimpse of their potential mate, and delivering a decision to a go-between. Chiyoko had declined them all.

Dominis also photographed Takahide Inayama and Mitsuyo Ogama, two university students in their early 20s. The pair met six months prior, at Takahide’s house, when a friend of his brother’s brought her to a party there. Takahide and Mitsuyo, in a better financial position than some of the others, led Dominis to make an observation about class and marriage. “Most couples in Tokyo just can’t afford to get married until the guy is around 30 unless they both work or he has an exceptional job, or there is money in the family,” he wrote. “These kids go out with other couples and act more or less like you would expect western young lovers to act.”

While the photographs capture the increasing normalization of modern Western customs in Japan, they also exhibit the excitement and tenderness of being allowed to choose—a privilege which, of course, includes the right to opt out. “Two of the couples have since broken up,” reads a note from the files, “and are being shy about letting us know whether they have taken up with new friends.”

AnRong Xu, who edited this gallery, is a contributor to LightBox. Follow him on Instagram @Anrizzy.

MONEY Holidays

These Miserable Guys Say Valentine’s Day Is a Ploy By ‘Oppressive Chocolate Capitalists’

Vday chocolates on shelf
Denis Beaumont—AP

Imagine if the Grinch hated Valentine's Day instead of Christmas. A group of dudes with this kind of mentality are planning a march in protest of the "blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine's Day" on Saturday.

A reasonable case can be made that Valentine’s Day is too forced and commercial. It’s the ultimate Hallmark holiday, the argument goes, in which many people spend purely out of a sense of obligation, based on traditions cooked up ages ago by entrepreneurs pushing chocolates, greeting cards, jewelry, and roses. This week, for instance, the Miami Herald reported that over the course of half a century, Colombia has spent a fortune developing and marketing flowers to export to the U.S., and the result is that today three out of four flower orders delivered on Valentine’s Day originate in the country.

The point is that no matter how much Valentine’s Day has to do with genuine displays of love and affection, it’s also about marketing and making money. Big whoop, you might think. Every holiday, from Thanksgiving to Halloween and beyond, is exploited by somebody trying to make a buck.

Apparently, however, one angry group of men in Japan feel that they can’t stay quiet or simply ignore the holiday they view as offensive and oppressive. They are planning a “Smash Valentine’s Day” protest march in Tokyo on Saturday to get their voices heard.

As you might imagine, these haters and their movement aren’t big hits with the ladies. In fact, they admit as much. The group’s name is Kakuhido, which translates roughly as “Revolutionary Alliance of Men That Women Find Unattractive” or just “Revolutionary Unattractive Male Alliance.”

A call to arms on has been issued on group’s website, the (UK) Telegraph reported. “The blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine’s Day, driven by the oppressive chocolate capitalists, has arrived once again,” reads the announcement about Saturday’s planned demonstration. “In order to create a brighter future, we call for solidarity among our unloved comrades so that we may demonstrate in resolute opposition to Valentine’s Day and the romantic industrial complex.”

On the one hand, Katsuhiro Furusawa, who founded the “Revolutionary” group in 2006 after (surprise) being dumped by his girlfriend before Christmas, is sometimes known to express a sensible point of view. “The love the mass media is talking about is actually commercial love,” he explained of Valentine’s Day to one magazine. “They are using love to turn people into consumers.”

Yet Tokyo Reporter noted that, by and large, “Kakuhido’s beliefs are misogynistic.” They’re anti-woman, anti-marriage, and also just plain angry and sad. And it’s not just Valentine’s Day they hate. The group hosted an anti-Christmas demonstration last December, reportedly because they were “tired of feeling lonely and depressed by the lack of female companionship during the holiday season.”

Sad. Let’s hope that come Saturday, a Grinch-like miracle happens and the hearts of Kakuhido members grow three sizes on Valentine’s Day.

TIME Japan

Don’t Even Think About Going to Syria, Japan Tells Its Journalists

Freelance photographer Yuichi Sugimoto speaks to media reporters a day after his passport was confiscated by the Foreign Ministry at his home on Feb. 8, 2015 in Niigata, Japan.
The Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Imag Freelance photographer Yuichi Sugimoto speaks to media reporters a day after his passport was confiscated by the Foreign Ministry at his home on Feb. 8, 2015 in Niigata, Japan.

Cameraman planning a trip has his passport revoked by Foreign Ministry officials

How badly does the Abe administration want to avoid another hostage crisis in Syria? Badly enough to seize the passport of a Japanese journalist for even thinking about going there.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) took the unprecedented step of ordering a freelance journalist to surrender his passport after learning last week that he planned to travel to Syria later this month. The action was based on an obscure law that allows the government to take a citizen’s passport if preventing that person from traveling would protect his or her life.

The action also comes just weeks after Islamic militants brutally murdered two Japanese hostages in Syria and promised further attacks “wherever [Japanese] people are found.”

The murders shocked Japanese leaders and public alike and intensified debate over Abe’s plans to ease long-standing restraints on Japan’s military. Under Japan’s pacifist constitution, troops are not permitted to use force overseas, except in cases of strict self-defense, and cannot possess weapons deemed “offensive” in nature.

However, the passport seizure has brought sharp criticism from journalists and free-speech advocates.

“It is a dangerous precedent for the government to unilaterally decide where journalists can go and what they can report on. Revoking the passport is a form of censorship and an encroachment on civil liberties,” said Jeff Kingston, director of the Asian Studies program at Temple University’s Tokyo campus.

“Although I realize the Japanese government is balancing many difficult concerns at this time, the right of journalists to cover stories and the principle of freedom of the press must remain an inalienable right,” said Lucy Birmingham, president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. She said the group was considering filing a formal protest.

A ministry spokesperson said officials initially tried to dissuade Yuichi Sugimoto, 58, a little-known freelance cameraman from western Japan, from following through on plans to travel to Syria.

“[Sugimoto] had expressed in public, including through media, his intention to go to Syria via a neighboring country. MOFA, together with the National Police Agency, strongly persuaded him to refrain from the planned visit, but the man’s intention to go to Syria was not changed,” said spokesperson Takako Ito.

She said Article 19 of Japan’s passport law allows the government to order citizens to surrender their passports “in cases where there is a need to cancel a trip abroad in order to protect the life, body and assets of the passport holder.”

She said it was the first time that Article 19 had been used in a case involving a journalist.

Japan is still reeling from last month’s hostage drama, in which a troubled adventurer and a respected freelance journalist were beheaded by Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants. The murders came after weeks of shifting demands and the release of chilling videos that had fixated the public and dominated the government agenda.

Although the hostages had been kidnapped months earlier, militants cited Abe’s pledge of financial aid to ISIS opponents as a pretext for the murders. Abe announced a $200 million humanitarian-aid package in a speech in Cairo as part of a six-day trip to the Middle East; he cut short the visit after the crisis erupted.

Officials said last week that they had repeatedly tried to dissuade one of the hostages, journalist Kenji Goto, from traveling to Syria in October, but that he ignored their warnings. He was kidnapped shortly after entering the country.

Goto told associates earlier that he wanted to travel to Syria to negotiate the release of Haruna Yukawa, a friend and would-be private military contractor who had been kidnapped in August.

Sugimoto told local media this weekend that he had planned to travel to Syria via Turkey later this month to cover the plight of refugees. He said he had not planned to enter territory controlled by ISIS. He said he did not know when his passport would be returned.

The response to Abe’s handling of the hostage crisis has been generally favorable. The approval rating for the Abe Cabinet rose to 58% in early February from 53% a month earlier, while the disapproval rate dropped four percentage points to 34%, according to a survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

Following the crisis, Abe told members of Japan’s parliament that he planned to introduce legislation in the current session that would expand the use of Japan’s armed forces overseas, including the enabling of rescue missions for Japanese citizens and logistical support for multinational forces.

TIME China

China’s President Xi Jinping Is Planning His First State Visit to the U.S.

Chinese President Xi Jinping waits to welcome French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing January 30, 2015.
Fred Dufour—Reuters Chinese President Xi Jinping waits to welcome French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Jan. 30, 2015

No dates have been set however

China’s President Xi Jinping is planning his first state visit to the U.S., according to Chinese state media.

The country’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, told China Daily that he was discussing the visit with American officials, reports the Associated Press. No date has been set but it would be later this year.

On Friday, President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Washington had invited Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for state visits.

Xi and Obama last met in Beijing during an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in November.

Recently, China and the U.S. have been working together on a range of issues including a climate-change pledge to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.


TIME Japan

Japan Isn’t Going to Take the Next Hostage Crisis Lying Down

KAZUHIRO NOGI—AFP/Getty Images Japan's Self-Defense Force honor guards prepare for a welcoming ceremony of new Defense Minister Gen Nakatani in Tokyo on Dec. 25, 2014

Tokyo wants to end 70 years of strict pacifism so that it can help its nationals overseas

When Islamist fanatics threatened to murder two Japanese hostages in Syria last month, a rescue mission was one option that Tokyo did not have.

Under the country’s war-renouncing constitution, Japanese troops are not permitted to use force overseas. But if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has his way, that could change soon. And with it, Japan’s 70-year commitment to strict pacifism.

Abe said last week that he plans to introduce legislation to end restrictions limiting Japanese troops to overseas missions that don’t require the use of weapons (such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and limited types of peacekeeping).

Those restrictions effectively took away the option of using elite military forces to try to free the two captives — troubled adventurer Haruna Yukawa and experienced freelance journalist Kenji Goto. Videotapes purporting to show the men’s beheaded bodies were released by ISIS after attempts to negotiate their release failed.

The apparent killings and threats of further violence shocked Japanese leaders and public alike, and renewed debate over Abe’s plans to boost defense spending and free up Japan’s armed forces.

Abe issued a statement shortly after the videotapes that seemed remarkably bellicose by Japanese standards. Although a government spokesperson said that Japan would not send in troops to join the fight against ISIS “at this time,” Abe promised to hold the hostage takers “responsible for their deplorable acts.” That was according to an official translation. Many Western news organizations rendered Abe’s words as the more aggressive-sounding “to make the terrorists pay the price.” But either way, the Prime Minister’s intentions were plain.

Despite its pacifist constitution, Japan maintains a large and highly capable military. More than 250,000 men and women are in uniform, and the defense budget ranks among the six largest it the world.

Japan’s armed forces includes two special-operations units of about 300 soldiers or sailors each. Their missions are similar to those of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALs, with whom they have trained. The troops are currently restricted to operating within Japanese territory and would require long-range aircraft, improved intelligence capabilities and other assets if sent overseas.

Nonetheless, experts say that if given legal authority, they could be ready in as little as a year.

“Japan would have no trouble forming up a small, capable unit focused on overseas hostage rescue and counterterrorism. They are first rate now in terms of combat skills, and with practice they could be in the same league as U.S. and British special forces,” says Grant Newsham, senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, in Tokyo.

Abe said during parliamentary debate last week that he plans to introduce legislation in the current session that would expand the type of missions that Japan’s Self Defense Forces are allowed to perform overseas, including logistical support for friendly armed forces and rescuing Japanese citizens under duress.

The legislation would not be an open ticket, however. Abe said hostage rescues would be limited to countries that agree to the presence of Japanese troops, or where no state or state-equivalent organizations would oppose them.

The new law seems likely to pass. With a two-thirds majority in the powerful lower house, Abe’s ruling coalition can approve legislation even without upper-house agreement.

Whether the Japanese public is ready for the dispatch of even a small group of armed soldiers — locked and loaded and looking for hostages — remains to be seen, however. Japanese troops have not fired a shot in anger since World War II, although coast-guard cutters sank a suspected North Korean spy ship off Japanese waters in 2001.

Polls show that a majority of the public remains opposed to revising the constitution. But opposition to Abe’s defense agenda has been declining in the face of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and China’s growing military spending and territorial demands.

A Kyodo News poll reported over the weekend showed that 61% of Japanese supported Abe’s handling of the Syria incident.

During the crisis, a masked militant appeared on a videotape accusing Abe by name of taking sides by pledging aid — nonmilitary — for countries in conflict with ISIS and threatening “carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.”

Given the traumatic episode in Syria, the public is likely to accept the use of force the next time, says Lully Miura, a JSPS research fellow at the University of Tokyo.

“Obviously, there will be a huge debate and a lot of fuss, but if the circumstances are close to what happened in the recent [hostage crisis], I think it would be perceived as acceptable.”

MONEY Workplace

Why America Should Follow Japan’s Lead on Forcing Workers to Take Vacation

Japanese woman on beach
Getty Images/Flickr

Japan has plans to legally require its workforce to take a break. If only the U.S. would be so kind.

A law forcing you to take vacation days? Sounds like a bureaucratic gift, but in Japan, it’s meant as a workaholic intervention.

Legislation will be submitted in the country’s current session of parliament that will make it the legal responsibility of employers to ensure that workers use their holiday time. Japan has been studying such legislation since 2012, when a consensus concluded that the health, social, and productivity costs of Japan’s extreme work ethic were too high.

While it may seem crazy to Americans to require a person to take a vacation, we suffer from more than a touch of workaholism in this country.

In Japan, 22% of workers toil for more than 49 hours a week; in the U.S., it’s 16%. But in France and Germany, only 11% of the population puts in that many hours, according to data compiled by the Japanese government.

And when it comes to unused vacation days, we are second only to Japan among developed nations. The average Japanese worker used only 7 of the 18 vacation days allotted each year, or 39% of their annual paid leave, a survey by Expedia Japan found. According to a study by Oxford Economics, U.S. workers who had paid time off typically left 3 vacation days on the table. And if you look just at the 41% of U.S. workers who said they did not plan on taking all their vacation, the average number of unused days jumps to 8.

We’re also similar to Japan in another way: the percentage of workers who don’t take any vacation at all. A whopping 17% of the Japanese workforce does not take a single day of paid vacation, compared with 13% of Americans. Both of those figures are startlingly high in light of the fact that there wasn’t a single Australian in the Expedia Japan survey who didn’t take off at least one day in the past year.

Trending in the Wrong Direction?

While Japan is working on decreasing unused days, America seems to be heading the other way. Use of vacation days are at their lowest point in the past four decades, the Oxford Economics study found.

Fears of keeping your job, being passed over for promotions or lead projects, coming back to a staggering pile of work, or feeling like you’re the only one who can do your job all push Americans to stay at the office—or, when they do actually take a holiday, to do some work remotely. Employment website Glassdoor found that 61% of us have logged on while we were supposed to be logged off.

This shift can hurt us big time when you consider that employees who use more vacation days end up with better performance reviews, according to internal research by audit firm EY. Increased vacation time has also been linked to increased worker productivity, other research has shown.

Japan has another key piece of legislation that the U.S. lacks: It guarantees workers 10 paid days off a year.

Unlike most other countries with advanced economies, “the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation time and is one of only a few rich countries that does not require employers to offer at least some paid holidays,” noted a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank. Nearly a quarter of Americans receive no paid days off at all.

Considering that workers in the European Union enjoy—and use—a minimum of 20 paid vacation days and as many as 13 paid national holidays, it seems Japan isn’t the only country that could use a little legal help taking a break.

Read next: How to Disconnect From Work (Without Getting on the Boss’s Bad Side)

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