Daruma dolls like the ones shown below are traditionally sold with the eyeballs unpainted. Those who are setting goals paint one eye to ask for Daruma (representing Bodhidharma, the Buddhist monk credited for creating Zen Buddhism in ancient China) for help and the second eye once their goal has been achieved. Then, they take the “spent” Daruma to a temple to be burned in a bonfire.
The image of bright red Daruma dolls enveloped in red flames was so impactful that it gave rise to the Japanese expression hidaruma 火だるま referring not only to Daruma dolls but something that has figuratively or literally “gone up in flames.”
Perhaps one of the best examples of this impressive sight is at the famous “Daruma Temple” of Aichi Prefecture, 大興寺 Daikōji, at their 開運大日福だるま大祭 kai’un dainichi fuku-daruma taisai (“Great Luck-Bringing Daruma Doll Festival”) held once a year on January 10th.
Talented Japanese photographer H. Fujinami, who goes by the name wasabitool (@wasabitool), attended this year and took some amazing shots of the hidaruma. In fact, the photo above is from the Daruma dolls at the festival before they began to burn.
As they trained their camera on the scene, wasabitool captured this amazing shot of the bonfire with a lone Daruma above it in mid-flight:
“A hidaruma soaring through the air”
It almost looked as if the Daruma doll was trying to escape…
We asked wasabitool why the Daruma doll was flying and as we waited for a reply, we wondered if it was a Daruma who wasn’t ready to face the flames. You can’t see its other eye, so maybe it …continue reading
Turning 20 marks the commencement of one’s life as an adult in Japan, and that journey into adulthood is celebrated on Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day). Every year on the second Monday of January, those who turned 20 in the year before or will turn 20 by April are honored at a seijinshiki (Coming of Age Ceremony) held at their hometown’s local city office.
Typically, those celebrating their newfound adulthood put on stylish clothes, with men wearing their finest suits and women donning their most gorgeous kimono. The city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka prefecture is particularly famous for young adults going all out and celebrating in gaudy and garish outfits that annually become a hot topic in the news.
While Japanese Twitter user and newly celebrated adult Beef Pie (@Beef_Pie_kuri) may not have had the gaudiest gear, she certainly got plenty of attention and made some lasting memories with a very unusual number at her recent Coming of Age Ceremony in Kitakyushu.
She shared photos of her getup with the caption “I attended my Coming of Age Ceremony in my hometown of Kitakyushu. It was the most popular I’ve ever been in my life”, and we can certainly see why!
As you can see, Beef Pie decided to celebrate her passage into adulthood by wearing a giant duck head. This obviously resulted in a lot of attention and pictures, but she also was covered by national TV news. She clarified that during the actual ceremony she did not wear the duck head, but …continue reading
Revered as a UNESCO World Heritage site and an emblem of nature’s wonder in Japan, it’s no surprise that the iconic Mt. Fuji is often the highlight of breathtaking photography. Any given angle or time of day can produce something as beautiful as the the image of the snow-capped mountain looking as if it is floating on top of clouds or uncannily like a water painting.
Japanese photographer Box (@box_box_you) has recently wowed Twitter with a stunning photo that shows sometimes the best shot comes when you have just the right timing, and a little help from surrounding nature.
Take a look at this perfectly timed photo Box took from Lake Yamanakako, one of the Five Fuji Lakes, that showcases the splendor of Mt. Fuji along with a special guest!
Box shared the photo with the caption “A fleeting superb view“, and it’s very fitting. The moment Box snapped the photo, one of the swans that frequent the lake moves out of the water and spreads its wings with as graceful a photobomb as there can be.
Many of those who follow pop culture news from Japan will be familiar with the life-sized Gundam, the first which actually moves, unveiled last year in the Gundam Factory Yokohama complex and reported on grape Japan. The life-sized mecha, known as RX-78F00, is based on the RX-78-2 piloted by Ray Amuro in the Gundam anime series.
The sight of this Gundam in motion is already impressive no matter how you view it, but as you can imagine, under the right weather and light conditions and in the hands of a talented photographer, the famous giant manned robot can appear even more impressive.
Case in point. Stunning new photos of the Gundam taken by the talented Japanese photographer Hiroki Tashiro, who goes by the pseudonym ひろカメラ Hiro Camera (@hiro_cameras), have gone viral, and it’s not hard to see why.
Take a look at these dramatic images which he posted on his Twitter account:
“I was able to take dramatic shots of Gundam.”
Captured together with the Gundam Dock-Tower and Yokohama’s skyscrapers all in the same shot thanks to Tashiro’s wide-angle lens, a kneeling Gundam seems to rise up as if to accept the challenge posed by the foreboding dark clouds. What a dramatic, inspiring image to give us courage in the face of the adversities we face, no matter what they may be.
You can almost hear Ray Amuro saying: “Don’t mess with me!”
Tashiro also took another shot of the Gundam after it had risen up. Here it appears triumphant, ready to face any challenge!
Japan has a long-standing reputation for achieving astonishing feats of miniaturization in mechanical devices and electronics, but it’s also an aesthetic principle found in such artforms as bonsai trees, for example.
Japanese artist (and doll enthusiast) よもぎの幸せ Yomogi no Shiawase (@yomogiminiature), which literally means “Yomogi’s Happiness,” specializes in making miniature replicas of Japanese food and drink, with a particular affinity for Japanese sweets, bread, and the drinks that accompany them. She also makes intricately detailed tea sets, trays, plates, and more. Completely self-taught, and using resin clay and UV resin, she makes 1/8 size miniatures that look so delicious they could make any doll, doll collector, or miniature collector drool!
Let’s take a look at some of her gorgeous Japanese sweets. The 10 yen coin provided for scale measures just under an inch (23.5 mm) in diameter.
You’ve surely seen them in manga or anime. Dango are chewy round dumplings made from rice flour mixed with uruchi rice flour and glutinous rice flour and usually bought in sets of three to five on a bamboo or wood skewer and served with various seasonings.
Here we have a mitarashi dango みたらし団子 basted in a sweet and salty soy-based syrup on the left, followed by a Botchan dango 坊っちゃん団子 and a Madonna dango マドンナ団子, two specialties from Ehime Prefecture. Behind them are two examples of nerikiri 練り切り, a type of Japanese wagashi made by kneading and mixing sweetened white bean jam, Chinese yam, and glutinous rice flour, and a popular medium for wagashi artists to express their artistic skill with beautiful colors and designs. The one on the left is asagao 朝顔 (Morning Glory) and the one on the right is himawari ひまわり (Sunflower). There’s also an elegantly decorated cup filled with Japanese green tea. Of course, the lacquer tray and plate …continue reading
Aizu Wakamatsu is a former castle town located in the Fukushima Prefecture with a long and eventful history. Nowadays, it brings in tourists in droves due to its wonderful variety of local landmarks and attractions that highlight its history (which is entangled with samurais!) as well as reputation for producing award-winning sake.
During the Boshin War in the mid-1800s, Aizu-Wakamatsu actually became the very last stronghold for the last samurais battling the Meiji government reign. You will get to witness many aspects of samurai lifestyle in this region, something that we think will appeal to many people of the masses.
The region itself is surrounded by many mountains, and thus hiking and skiing are popular activities during the appropriate months because not only do you get to do what you love, but to do so whilst being surrounded by the epic scenery around here will make all your friends and family absolutely envious.
How To Get To Aizu Wakamatsu
From Tokyp, take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Koriyama Station, and then transfer to the JR Banetsu-sai Line for Aizu Wakamatsu. It will take approximately three hours and cost 9,000 yen. If you have a JR Pass, this entire trip will be covered. For itineraries and timetables, check out Hyperdia website.
If you’re looking to save some money, there are buses that operate between Tokyo and Aizu Wakamatsu Station. The trip will take 4.5 hours and cost roughly 4,800 yen one-way. You can book it at kosokubus.
Where To Stay in Aizu Wakamatsu
Guesthouse in Aizu Wakamatsu – Kakurega Guest House
As his pseudonym 我流切紙人 garyūkirigaminin (literally, “self-styled paper-cutter”) indicates, Japanese paper artist Toshiaki Kawasaki 川﨑利昭 (@garyukirigami) takes a unique approach to the art of paper-cutting. Instead of making flat paper cutouts, many of his intricate paper artworks look more like sculptures, combining paper-cutting with origami to create three-dimensional, colorful, and realistic works inspired by the beautiful specimens of flora and fauna found in the Natural Kingdom and imbued with his own artistic sensibilities.
Another way in which the creations of this self-styled paper artist distinguish themselves from that of other paper artists is in their size. Although some of his works are true to scale, others are miniatures, reproducing creatures in astonishing detail at unbelievably tiny dimensions.
Kawasaki has been commissioned by aquariums and other institutions for his delicate and realistic paper creations. As an event producer and organizer, he has also planned various exhibitions and workshops.
Let’s take a look at some of his work:
In one of Kawasaki’s oft-employed techniques, he combines the colorful markings of the living creature while also revealing its skeletal structure, in an interesting miniature specimen-like hybrid fashioned in kiri-origami (a combination of paper-cutting and origami). Here is a gorgeous group of colorful and translucent goldfish created in this technique. It’s truly hard to imagine that they’re made of paper. You can admire more of them on his blog here.
These Signal crayfish are examples of his realistic works (in contrast to his works designed to look like displayed specimens). As you can see, the attention to detail is remarkable. Incidentally, Signal crayfish are his favorite crustaceans.
Kurokawa Onsen was one of Kyushu’s best kept secrets, but we reckon time’s up for this humble and authentic onsen town to stop flying under the radar. Kurokawa is immensely popular amongst domestic tourists, but westerners are more likely to never have heard of this onsen town. In saying that, the number of people drawn to this onsen town is no joke.
And you’d think that, because of its growing popularity, there would be continuous high-rise hotels and guesthouse accommodation popping up left, right and centre answering to the number of tourists – but there isn’t (and this is a good thing).
One of the unique characteristics about Kurokawa Onsen is that the entire local community have made a sound effort to maintain the traditional look, feel, and ambience of the original town itself, so despite the number of visitors you see on the streets, you can look up and around, and all you’ll see are the original forms of the onsens dating back many years ago, built with wooden materials, earthen walls, cobblestone stairs, and curved roofs.
No commercialized hotels, no colourful signs, no skyrise buildings – pure and simple Japanese aesthetics, surrounded by luscious forests and mountains with a calming river running through the town.
Pro tip: general rule of thumb is that if you’re after a bit of space and uninterrupted views, book a ryokan outside of town, possibly alongside the mountain, but if you’re after rustic goodness with touches of culture and history, book the …continue reading
Shimabara is located at the eastern tip of the peninsula of the same name, in Nagasaki prefecture. This peninsula was formed following the eruptions of the Unzen volcano at the center of it. Shimabara is the most important city on the peninsula and a unique place I loved visiting!
One of its main characteristics is the amazing quality of its water springs. Shimabara’s spring water is so clean that Japanese carp can live in the city’s pipes! That’s why people call it Koi fish town by the way.
Let’s first find out how to get to Shimabara and where you can stay. We’ll talk more about the city’s cuisine and must-visit attractions later.
How To Go To Shimabara
To go to Shimabara from Nagasaki, the most convenient way is the train. You should first take the JR Nagasaki Line to Isahaya Station, then transfer to the Shimabara Railway and stop at Shimabara Station. The trip takes about 2 hours and costs 1940 yen.
From Fukuoka, it will be easier to take the Highway bus which goes directly to Shimabara in 3 hours, from the Hakata terminal. A one-way ticket costs 3040 yen and the round trip costs 4820 yen.
Where To Stay In Shimabara
If you’re planning to spend a few days in Shimabara, I recommend you book at the Nampuro hotel! It’s a seaside hotel where you can enjoy beautiful views from your room and the onsen.
The onsen of this hotel are a sight to behold! There are different types with indoor and outdoor baths (rotemburo) and a view of …continue reading
A Japanese version of the axolotl – an amusing amphibian with a round head and small eyes native to Mexico – has been discovered in Japan for the first time in 89 years.
The discovery was made after painstaking research by Hokkaido University. The little critters went on public display on December 14, 2021.
The amphibian has gills that resemble a mane, enabling it to breathe underwater. Yet, it is unable to live on land in its neotenic state. It is thought that a similar animal existed in Japan until the early Showa era, but then went off the radar due to environmental changes, taking on a phantom-like existence.
Unprecedented Showa Era Boom
The type of axolotl that many people are familiar with is the neotenic Mexican salamander.
In the same way that tadpoles develop into frogs, axolotls lose their gills and become slimmer if they grow normally, and they are ultimately able to live on land.
However, the axolotl that inhabits certain lakes in Mexico is neotenic, meaning it has evolved in a way that the characteristics of the juvenile are retained in the mature adults. About 100 years ago, they were used in medical research, which is believed to have affected their evolution, and ultimately led to the situation there today.
In Japan, the axolotl is referred to as a “wooper looper,” but this is not its official species name.
Yet, as soon as the term “wooper looper” appeared in a 1985 TV commercial for Nissin’s UFO yakisoba, it immediately became popular in Japan. Songs and merchandise in the Showa era (1926-1989) based on the character started to emerge, and the term fully entered the nation’s consciousness.