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In case you missed them, here are the most shared stories from The Japan Times for April 2014.

The top 10 most shared new stories

Members of the Tokyo Zentai Club meet at a park in Tokyo. Like just any group, they meet up every other month to hold barbecues or parties. Unlike any other group, they are covered head-to-toe in skintight Lycra.

‘Zentai’ fans search for identity in fetish suits

By day, she is a mild-mannered office clerk whose modest make-up and conservative hairstyle allow her to blend in with any crowd. By night, she dresses in a skin-tight, all-in-one Spandex body suit that covers everything — including her eyes — and sits in bars, alone but liberated, she believes, from the judgment of others.

Visa waivers in works for Indonesians, Filipinos, Vietnamese

Japan might grant visa waivers to tourists from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam when it revises its tourism action plan in June, government sources said Monday.

TOEIC, TOEFL axed as route to U.K. visa

Two of the most popular English-language proficiency tests in Japan can no longer be used to obtain student visas to Britain after a British TV program exposed fraud in the test-taking process.

Simulation of texting at Shibuya crossing goes viral

What would happen if 1,500 pedestrians walked across the famous crossing in front of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station while using their smartphones? Only 36 percent would make it to the other side because many would bump into each other or fall, according to a computer simulation by NTT Docomo Inc.

Sushi legend Jiro enlisted in bid to wow president

After arriving at Haneda airport on Wednesday evening, U.S. President Barack Obama was whisked to Ginza for a “casual dinner” with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the modest yet widely revered sushi restaurant  Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Japan population drops for third year straight; 25% are elderly

Japan’s population has shrunk for the third year running, with the elderly making up a quarter of the total for the first time, government data showed Tuesday.

Fukushima No. 1 boss admits plant doesn’t have complete control over water problems

The manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has admitted to embarrassment that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water, eight months after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the world the matter had been resolved.

Obokata says STAP cell discovery not fabrication, claims Riken dissuaded her from giving her side of story earlier

Apologetic but resolute in the face of intense international scrutiny of her stem cell research, Haruko Obokata stood by her claim Wednesday that she had discovered so-called STAP cells.

Diet members dine on whale meat in defiance of ICJ ruling

Lawmakers across party lines Tuesday held an annual whale-meat cuisine event to celebrate the country’s whaling culture in defiance of the International Court of Justice’s decision at the end of March to ban Japan’s whale hunt off Antarctica.

‘Scent alerts’ for train stations set to cue JR’s distracted commuters (April Fools’!)

Picture this: You’re on a packed rush-hour train, listening to music on your headphones and reading your smartphone. It’s too crowded to see your destination, and you miss your stop.


The top five most shared life stories

Workers harvest cannabis at a licensed farm in Tochigi Prefecture.

Cannabis: the fabric of Japan

An increasing number of states in the U.S. are easing policies on cannabis prohibition but little discussion has taken place in Japan on the potential benefits of adopting a similar approach. As various locations around the world celebrate annual April 20 marijuana festivals, we examine the country’s historical and cultural links to the much-maligned weed.

Tokyo underground: taking property development to new depths

If you think the urban sprawl of Tokyo looks impressive from above, wait until you factor in the areas below ground. With demand for commercial and residential space increasing on the surface, more and more developers are exploring ways to utilize space underground.

Aloha gozaimasu: Japan’s influence on Hawaiian culture

In 1868, the first year of the Meiji Era, 148 Japanese men, mainly from the Kanto area, set sail from Yokohama on the British ship Scrito, bound for Honolulu in the Kingdom of Hawaii.

The sakura front sweeps across Japan

Spring — the season of sakura (桜, cherry blossoms) — has finally arrived and the entire country has been transformed into a fairyland tinted pale pink.

Cannabis: the healing of the nation

Every summer in Hokkaido and northern Honshu, platoons of police and public servants scour the countryside for cannabis.


The top five most shared community stories

Buisness as usual: A police officer takes a passport from a passenger at Narita International Airport, Chiba Prefecture, during a security check in August 2013. Tourists staying in Japan for less than three months must always carry a passport.

Knowing your rights can protect against fake cops

Long-time readers of The Japan Times will already be aware of some of the information in today’s column. But within is an important update, so press on. As you no doubt know (or should know), non-Japanese residents are required to carry ID 24/7 in the form of wallet-size “gaijin cards,” nowadays known as zairyū kādo (resident cards).

Hague jars with Japan’s family law, a zero-sum game with only one outcome

On April 1, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction went into force in Japan, as did the necessary implementing legislation. Having already written about this legislation in a prior column, I won’t revisit the subject here.

Osaka embraces English Reformation

While Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s controversial political antics have increasingly drawn criticism, little attention has been paid to how his leadership has prompted the most progressive reforms of English-language education in the nation.

In a world of pretense, are Japanese just more honest about lying?

Like most people I know, I’m a truth-loving liar. I get upset about the lies of others — how dare they, do they think I’m stupid? — but then, caught in a pinch, I’ve had to bury my grandmother twice to get extensions on urgent projects. I’ve misrepresented my age, my weight and my girlfriend’s hairstyle, and I cheer vacuous Facebook pics of identical bowls of ramen, just to finagle your “like” for my new motivational message.

Adopting a child from Japan: one U.S. couple’s story

For most parents in the United States, their first encounter with their child occurs at birth in an American hospital setting. For Jonathon and Mari, however, that first precious moment with their lively baby boy came at a Tokyo hotel when he was 11 days old.


The top five most shared culture stories

We like it loud: TM Network launches 30th anniversary celebrations with a tour called

Review: TM Network at Fuchu no Mori Art Theater

The fanks were out in full force on Saturday as J-pop trio TM Network launched its “the beginning of the end” tour. “Fanks” is a term coined to denote the band’s fans and is loosely made up of the words “fan,” “funk” and “punks.”

The curious tale of the man who slapped Tojo

On May 3, 1946, the indictments were read at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Among the defendants was a gangly, bespectacled, 59-year-old civilian named Shumei Okawa, who happened to be seated directly behind the former prime minister, army Gen. Hideki Tojo.

Record Store Day finds its groove in Japan

It won’t be business as usual at Big Love Records this Saturday, April 19. The store, one of the best places to shop for records in Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku neighborhood, will be selling limited-edition music from various artists, including film director David Lynch.

How should a civilized nation treat women?

In 1872, a Peruvian ship transporting Chinese coolies docked at Yokohama for repairs. One of the coolies jumped overboard and sought refuge, complaining of gross ill-treatment.

All aboard the art train to Ichihara

Just after the train departs, a passenger falls to the floor. Further down the small train carriage another person follows suit. “Ma’am, are you sane?” questions a female announcer over the loudspeaker. The diesel train chugs forward. A young man asks, “Mom where did you go?” The mother responds, “The next town over.” He answers, “Everyone there is sad.”


The top five most shared sports stories

Golden child: Yuzuru Hanyu waves to fans during a parade in Sendai.

Hanyu gets hero’s welcome in parade

Sochi Olympic figure skating gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu on Saturday was honored in a parade in his hometown, with some 92,000 people gathering to see the event.

Ex-NFL star Johnson happy for new shot with CFL

Don’t you just love serendipitous dovetailing? MAS sure does after benefiting from a whole bunch of it while putting this column together.

Japan rolls to 2015 IFAF berth with rout

Eisuke Tomatsu reached the end zone three times and Japan scored on every offensive possession en route to an 86-0 blowout of the Philippines in an Asian qualifier for the 2015 IFAF World Championship on Saturday at Amino Vital Field in Tokyo

Venlo chief eyes new Japanese talent

VVV Venlo may have taken its eye off the ball when it opted not to sign Shinji Kagawa. But the Dutch second-division side cashed in on the sale of both Keisuke Honda and Maya Yoshida, and chairman Hai Berden says the club is happy to continue offering a stepping stone to Japanese players hoping to make it big in Europe.

Time for FIBA to suspend JBA, force necessary changes to be made

The Japan Basketball Association has changed its alleged goal so many times, it’s difficult to remember the original target.

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