Lake Toyoni: Japan’s Naturally Heart-Shaped Lake

Nestled in a remote area of Hokkaido island, surrounded by lush forest on all sides and untouched by human civilization, Lake Toyoni (豊似湖) is a hidden gem among Japan’s many tourism attractions. It is a freshwater lake at about 260 m elevation in Erimo town located in the southeastern distriction of Tomakomai city. Up until a few years ago, it was virtually unknown to most Japanese, but a popular television commercial featuring an aerial view of the heart-shaped natural wonder turned it into a popular tourist spot virtually overnight. Of…

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Tanabata: the Japanese Star Festival

Tanabata (Japanese: たなばた or 七夕, meaning literally “Evening of the seventh”), also known as the Star Festival (星祭り, or Hoshi matsuri), is a Japanese festival that celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively. According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, who are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. The festival was introduced to Japan by the Empress Kōken in 755. It originated from “The…

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‘Imaginary Elephants’: the sculptures created by a 17th-century artist who had never seen an elephant.

We are in Japan. The Tōshōgu Shrine complex of Nikkō is popular for its architectural and sculptural beauty, including the Three Wise Monkeys and the “Sleeping Cat”. Another among its hundreds of sculptures is commonly referred to as “Sōzō-no-Zō”, literally the “Imaginary Elephants.” The sculpture is located on the gable of the Kamijinko (Upper Sacred Storehouse or God’s Storehouse), where a pair of strange-looking animals grin with crescent-shaped eyes. The sculpture on the left is green and white, while the other is black and both are complete with golden tusks.…

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‘Nemuri-Neko’: is the Sleeping Cat asleep, or just pretending?

We are in Japan. As we already know, Tōshōgu Shrine, the burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, is the most popular tourist attraction in Nikkō. Of course, It’s popular for its elaborate architecture, but also for its carved details, including the three wise monkeys and others. One of the most notable carvings is the Nemuri-neko, or the Sleeping Cat, at the entrance to the okumiya (rear shrine) where Tokugawa Ieyasu’s remains are housed. The carving is attributed to Hidari Jingorō, a legendary 17th-century artist who…

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The Three Wise Monkeys of Tōshōgū Shrine in Nikko, Japan

The grand Tōshōgu Shrine was built in 1617 in Nikkō, and it is one of Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrines. It is actually the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was later deified, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a dynasty that ruled Japan from 1603-1867, with its capital in Edo, current day Tokyo. This Shinto shrine is a part of ‘Shrines and Temples of Nikko’, a UNESCO World Heritage site and 5 of its structures are categorized as the National Treasures of Japan. A cobbled path leads up to its…

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Kanmangafuchi Abyss and the mystery of Jizō statues

Nikko is one of the most popular day trips from Tokyo, and for more than a good reason: it’s got gorgeous shrines, tons of history, and is situated in a really beautiful nature. But besides all the standard stuff you’d see in a trip to Nikko, Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵) is probably the most interesting. The area practically untouched by tourists boasts beautiful ravince, rows of shrines, and also a row of stone Jizō statues. How many? Nobody knows for sure, because apparently each time you count them, you end up…

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Hanami: the way Japanese enjoy the transient beauty of flowers

When cherry blossoms bloom in Japan, people of every age and occupation gather under the trees for hanami: a time to admire, ponder, and celebrate. Hanami (花見, literally “flower viewing”) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. Flowers (hana) in this case almost always refer to those of the cherry (sakura) or, less frequently, plum (ume) trees. From the end of March to early May, cherry trees bloom all over Japan, and around the first of February on the island of Okinawa. The blossom forecast…

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Want to take your pet fish for a walk? Soon it might be possible!

Dear pet fish owners, you don’t need to be envious of fellow pet owners who are able to walk their pets because you may be able to walk your fish too! Well, more or less. A Japanese company is working on a unusual container / bag for live fish, suitable both for pet owners wanting to take their favorite fish on walks, but also for fans of super-fresh sashimi. Ok. This creation is not quite designed for walking your pet, but with the goal of transporting fish that you have…

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So, Japan’s 1,000-year-old cheese that’s back in fashion due to COVID-19 pandemic

A year ago, on February 27, 2020, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe requested that all schools in Japan shut down until early April to stop the spread of COVID-19. And of course, by the following week, most schools across the country shuttered their doors. However, one of the biggest buyers of Japanese agricultural products is the school lunch program, which feeds elementary and middle school students across the whole country. To clarify, around 10% of all domestic food production goes to school lunch, which usually emphasizes local or domestic products and,…

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Tateishi Burger Vending Machine: a charming, homemade vending machine that dispenses burgers at this hole-in-the-wall bakery

There are vending machines for books, jeans, salmon, pecan pies, a vending machine to support mourners during funerals, so it’s only natural that vending machine burgers would pop up somewhere. And that somewhere is Japan. Since it first opened in 2000, Tateishi Burger has been a favorite of those who enjoy oddities, which are known in Japan as “B-spots.” Located in a Tokyo’s quiet neighborhood, its raggedy façade may not lure in a lot of passersby, but it never ceases to attract “B-spot enthusiasts” from around the country. It’s about…

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Fukushima disaster: what happened 10 years ago at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Exactly ten years ago, on a Friday afternoon, March 11, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan struck off the country’s eastern coast. The 9.0-magnitude quake was so forceful it shifted the Earth off its axis, triggered a tsunami which swept over the main island of Honshu, killing more than 18,000 people and wiping entire towns off the map. At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture (on the country’s east coast, about 220km north-east of the capital Tokyo), the gigantic wave surged…

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Zipper Fastener Ship: the boat shaped like giant zip that looks like It’s opening the water

Japanese designer Yasuhiro Suzuki has created a unique boat shaped like a giant zipper puller that looks like it’s opening up the water when sailing. Unveiled as part of the Designart Tokyo 2020 event, the zipper puller boat, officially known as Zipper Fastener Ship, is the brainchild of Japanese designer who claims it was the result of a simple observation. He was looking down from the window of an airplane and saw a ship sailing through Tokyo Bay. The movement of the water as the boat passed created the illusion…

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Hiroto Kiritani: the japanese man who has been living almost exclusively on coupons for 36 years

We all love coupons and vouchers, but can you imagine living almost exclusively on them for almost four decades? Well…a Japanese man claims to have been doing it for the last 36 years, adding that he hasn’t spent a yen of his own money during that time! This is the story of Hiroto Kiritani, a minor celebrity in his home country, Japan. His ability to live comfortably on coupons without spending any money unless he really has to is incredible, and he has been invited on numerous television shows and…

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Why do Japanese slurp Toshikoshi Soba 年越し蕎麦 on New Year’s Eve 大晦日?

Toshikoshi soba (年越し蕎麦), delicious buckwheat noodles, is one of Japan’s unique New Year’s customs. The history of this curious tradition dates back around 800 years, to the Kamakura period, and it is said that it all started at one Buddhist temple that gave soba to poor people on New Year’s. In the Edo period, when the common class developed customary religious and superstitious rituals, these New Year’s noodles turned into a fixed custom done by people all over Japan, still today. But why do people eat soba on New Year’s…

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Ken’s roasted sweet potato stand in Sapporo, Japan

In warm weather, the beautiful rolling hills of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido burst with flowers while, in cold weather, they literally glisten with snow. In any case, a loyal and friendly sentinel stands guard in the island’s major city, Sapporo. This is Ken-kun, the proprietor of the Inu no Yakiimoyasan sweet potato stand, a steadfast salesman that greets visitors and welcomes them to sample his signature roasted sweet potatoes, even though a sign outside the stand reminds visitors that he can’t give you change…because he’s a dog. The stand…

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12 Ways Halloween is celebrated around the globe

In America, people associate Halloween with pumpkins, costumes, candy, and spooky stories or ghosts but, around the world, it could be a little different. The holiday might look slightly different this year since we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, but we can reminisce on years past. If most places in the U.S. celebrate Halloween in much the same way, one city that stands apart is New Orleans. This town loves both to party and voodoo, so one can find things here they couldn’t anywhere else, from…

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Nekobiyaka: the world’s only black cat cafe

The Japanese castle town of Himeji is home to the only known black cat café in the world, Nekobiyaka, where you can enjoy a refreshing drink in the company of about a dozen felines, strictly black! Despite there are hundreds of cat cafes all over Japan, (including the one located in Tokyo’s district of Akihabara), but only one dedicated exclusively to black cats. Nekobiyaka opened in 2013 and has since become somewhat of a tourist attraction in Himeji. The owner, Ms. Yagi, came up with idea of a black cat…

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Obake Kaidan: a flight of this “ghost staircase” has 40 steps on the way up, but only 39 steps on the way down….

In the Nezu district of Tokyo there is a stone staircase know for a really strange feature. Known as Obake Kaidan, literally “Ghost Stairs”, it has 40 steps on your way up…but 39 when you go down. The staircase was once very narrow and dark, probably deserving of its nickname but, after an expansion work a handrail was added to it and the width of the stairs was doubled. However, the staircase on the left trails off halfway for no reason, and its steps are uneven. Of course many urban…

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Who is the genius behind japanese new transparent public toilets?

Apparently, a number of people are apprehensive about using public toilet as it is, so making them completely transparent would just boost their anxiety, right? Well, apparently, in Japan is the exact opposite. Despite japanese public toilets generally have a higher standard of hygiene that other public restrooms around the world, also in this country some people dread the thought of having to walk into a dark, probably smelly and possibly unsafe facility to do their physiological needs. But what would happens if you could see how clean or safe…

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Takao Shito: the farmer who lives in the Middle of Japan’s second largest airport

Living in an airport isn’t easy. Try to imagine the sound of planes taking off and landing both early morning and late at night, or simply the mess. However, for one stubborn Japanese farmer it’s the only place worth living in! Takao Shito’s family has been growing vegetable on the same farm for over 100 years. His grandfather was a farmer, his father as well and, rightly, he followed their footsteps…even if things are “a bit” different than they were for his ancestors. At the time, the Shito farm was…

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Kejonuma Leisure Land: a quaint amusement park that now lays rusting and forgotten among the foliage.

We are in Ōsaki, in Japan’s remote Tohoku region, where an abandoned amusement park rests upon the banks of the Kejonuma Dam. Once known as Kejonuma Leisure Land, the park was originally built in 1979 in an effort to bring joy back to the community after the ravages of World War II. In its heyday the amusement park, with a campsite and driving range, boasted up to 200,000 visitors and offered an assortment of rides, including a Ferris wheel, tea cup ride, miniature train ride and carousel. In addition, the…

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In Japan, coronavirus pandemic inspired haunted house drive-through experience

A haunted house tour operator in Japan has announced the world’s first horror drive-through experienced as a responsible way of providing horror enthusiasts with summer scares also during the Covid-19 pandemic. While restaurants and shops remain the most affected business by the coronavirus, amusement parks and events aren’t fairing much better either. Regarding haunted house attractions, It’s hard scaring someone without getting up close, but some companies are starting to adapt to the situation and trying out new things. As a result, haunted house design company Kowagarasetai has created what…

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PooPaint: a toilet paper that lets you use your poop to make art

If you’re bored in this difficult period, this specially-printed toilet paper that lets you use poop as paint to make art may be just what the doctor ordered. PooPaint is a new type of toilet paper designed to make potty moments fun, and entertaining by allowing you to paint with poop when wiping your child’s bottom. Featuring a variety of printed images with dotted line sections that you are supposed to fill in with the leftover poop on a toddler’s bottom, PooPaint should ensure some truly special (and smelly) moments…

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Deep Sea Pudding made in Japanese port town of Numazu: an edible work of art!

Numazu Port, in central Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture, was more famous for its seafood dishes and arresting views of Suruga Bay, but ever since photos of a visually striking blue pudding became popular online the port town has become known for its gourmet desserts as well. Japan is famous for its striking desserts, do you remember the transparent water cake? The Numazu Deep Sea Pudding Factory (Numazu Shinkai Purin Kōbō), opened its doors in July of 2018 and managed to make a great first impression with the help of an inspired…

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Kaizō-ji temple and its legends – Japan

Kamakura was the capital and religious center of Japan from the 12th-14th centuries. The city is scattered with medieval Shinto shrines and numerous Buddhist temples, including temple Kaizō-ji, which dates back to 1253. Due to the fact that flowers bloom all year long on its grounds, Kaizō-ji is commonly known as “the Flower Temple”, but it is also popular for its Sokonuke-no-i, a legendary “bottomless well” located in front of the gate. Of course the well is far from bottomless, and it originates from a 13th-century poem written by a…

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Tomino’s hell: the creepy legend of a cursed poetry.

Can some verses hurt someone? A popular Japanese story is about a poem called “Tomino’s Hell” (トミノの地獄). They say that you should only read with your mind, and never out loud. It’s said that the poem became known to modern audiences after Japanese writer and film critic Inuhiko Yomata (also known as Goki Yomata) included it in a book published in 1998 called The Heart Is Like A Rolling Stone (心は転がる石のように). However, the poem itself is much older, having originally been written by Saijo Yaso in his 27th collection of…

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#March 9, 1974: the incredible Hiroo Onoda’s One-Man war finally ends

Nearly 30 years after the end of the Second World War Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda finally surrendered on this day, March 9 1974. His story is curious: he had been waging his own war from a jungle and the mountains. All began in December 1944, when, towards the end of the global conflict, Onoda, an intelligence officer, was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines. His task was simple: destroy infrastructure on the island and do all he could to thwart enemy attacks. However, when US and Philippine Commonwealth forces…

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Sapporo, Japan: a giant Buddha statue wrapped in a Lavender Hill

In the Makomanai Takino cemetery, in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo, the famous Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, designed a spectacular temple, opened in December 2015. “The aim of this project was to build a prayer hall that would enhance the attractiveness of a stone Buddha sculpted 15 years ago. The site is a gently sloping hill on 180 hectares of lush land belonging to a cemetery. The statue is 13.5 metres tall and weighs 1500 tons. It is made of fine, highly selected solid stone. Until now, the…

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Hinnagami: the spirit that possess japanese dolls and grant their owners any wish

Hinnagami are powerful spirits from Toyama Prefecture, Japan, that live inside in dolls. In Japan dolls take on an important meaning, and this is why once they become old they are not thrown away, because an ancient Japanese belief says that inside the dolls there is a soul. Therefore instead of getting rid of dolls used, the Japanese put them on an altar with the utmost respect. The spirit within the dolls is considered evil, as the Hinnagami are spirits that grant wishes to the families that own the haunted…

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A lost japanese village uncovered in the British Columbia forests

In 2004, a retired forester reached out to Capilano University archaeology professor Bob Muckle about investigating what looked like the remnants of an old logging camp in the forests of British Columbia, Canada. According to North Shore News, each spring for the next 14 years, Muckle took his students there to help him excavate what he now believes was a sort-of-secret Japanese settlement. The site is located on the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, about 12 miles (19 kilometers) northeast of Vancouver. It’s approximately the size of a football field and…

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