Aside from political scandals and rumors of celebrity dalliances — which are pretty much tabloid fare wherever there are tabloids — an alien first encountering Japan's weekly tabloid magazines might conclude he has come to Earth in a nation of inquisitive hypochondriacs. With a blizzard of feature stories, advice and exposes covering everything from the temperature of water in your bath to dealing with toe fungus, it is no exaggeration to say that stories on health and prevention are a major magazine standby, and the appetite for such fare shows no sign of abating.

While the topics covered are kaleidoscopic, in a nutshell, the most basic articles adhere to a standard formula: either "Eating/drinking/taking X is good for you" or "Eating/drinking/taking X is bad for you." These can then be further divided into various categories depending on the season and so on.

This time of year, for example, a proliferation of articles for those who suffer from hay fever — an estimated 25 percent of the population — can be found. And we'll soon be seeing sage advice on how to pace yourself when drinking at the inevitable company cherry blossom-viewing gatherings, along with the most effective treatments for nursing a post-party hangover.