Japan’s Ear-Cleaning Parlors Bring Back Childhood Memories

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Japanese associate ear-cleaning with their childhood and many of them are willing to pay to return to those carefree days if only for just a few minutes. That’s what makes ear-cleaning salons one of the most popular businesses in Japan, right now.

Ever since Japan authorities decided to deregulate ear-cleaning as a medical profession, making it available without a medical license, hundreds of salons offering the service started popping up all over the country. The vast majority of clients are men looking to relax their minds after a stressful day, and travel back to the days when they used to rest their heads on their mothers’ laps for the occasional ear cleaning session. Three out of four clients claim it’s so relaxing they actually fall asleep while the kimono-wearing cleaners excavate the wax out of their ears. Some say their wives clean their ears at home, but it’s just not the same without the traditional Japanese style room and the tatami mats.

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Panama’s El Valle de Anton – Where Trees Are Square

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A few miles north of the Panama Canal Zone is the Valley of Square Trees a unique tourist attraction where trees of the cottonwood family have rectangular trunks.

Unique in the entire world, this group of square-shaped cottonwood trees grow in a valley created from the ashes of a giant volcano – El Valle de Anton. Featuring hard-right angles, the trunks of the square trees have baffled tourists and scientists alike, for several years. Experts from the University of Florida took saplings of the mysterious trees to see if they retain the same characteristics in a different environment, and concluded that their square shape must have something to do with conditions unique to the valley in which they grow. Evidence that the cause of this bizarre phenomenon is deep-seated is indicated by the fact that their tree rings, which represent its growth, are also square.

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Japan’s Anti-Groping Women-Only Train Cars

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Groping on public transportation is an international problem, but Japanese railway companies have found an effective way to stop it by introducing women-only train and subway cars.

It’s a known fact that Tokyo is overcrowded and that is most obvious during rush hour, when professional pushers shove people into train cars so the doors can close properly. Unfortunately this is the kind of environment where perverts thrive. Usually most people mind their own business, reading a magazine, checking their email or talking on the phone, but some men prefer to talk dirty to the women next to them and groping them. This kind of molestation or “chikan” as the Japanese call it, happens every day in Japanese major cities, and lost of women choose to be quiet and bear it, because of the way male-dominated Japanese society functions. But ever since Japanese railway stations introduced the women-only train cars, they don’t have to, anymore.

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A Walk through Shanghai’s Marriage Market

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Feeling lonely? Head over to Shanghai’s Marriage Market, a regular city institution where lonely souls, and especially their parents, come to find suitable partners.

“Female, born 1981, 1.62 meters tall, bachelor’s degree, project director at a foreign company, monthly salary above RMB 10,000, looking for someone born between 1974 and 1982, bachelor’s degree or above with a sense of responsibility for the family.” This is just one of the thousands of sheets of paper that decorate Shanghai’s lively People’s Square on weekends, when hundreds of local parents come here to “advertise” their single children. In a city where being single is a real stigmata, this little matchmaking corner is a last resort for lonely people and parents who hope to see their offsprings settled down. But it’s not about finding someone, it’s a bout finding the RIGHT one, a person who fits a certain description, both physically and socially.

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The Wedding House – World’s Smallest Five-Star Hotel

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At 2.5 meters wide and with just 53 square meters of floor space, the Eh Häusel (Wedding House) in Amberg, Germany is the world’s smallest hotel, and a five-star one at that.

From the outside, the Eh Häusel looks like it’s been pushed into the narrow space between two neighboring buildings, but it’s the interior that’s supposed to impress its guests. The hotel is set up on 6 staggered floors and has all the features you’re used to finding in a luxury hotel, including a very comfortable bed, fireplace, fine furniture, flat screen TV and spa bathroom. Guests from as far as China or Mexico pay 240 euros to spend a night at the world’s smallest hotel, and believe it or not the Eh Häusel is fully booked many months in advance. Of course that’s partly due to the fact that’s it’s so small it can only be occupied by one couple at a time.

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The Camel-Riding Robot Jockeys of Arabia

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Camel racing is a really popular sport throughout the Arab world, and owning a heard of specially-bred fast camels is apparently considered a symbol of wealth and power. But it’s not the animals we should be talking about, it’s their weird-looking robot jockeys.

Obviously, robot jockeys aren’t exactly an integral part of the old camel racing tradition. In the old days, children and light young men were used to whip the camels to victory, but in recent years things had  really gotten out of hand, and crackdowns on the black market revealed around 40,000 kids from South Asia had been kidnapped or sold by their families to become, among other things, camel jockeys. Welfare organizations started reuniting the children with their families, offering them shelter and food until they could return home, but a solution to camel jockey trafficking had to be found urgently. The United Arab Emirates banned children under the age of 16 from competing in camel races, and a Swiss company called K-team realized the business opportunity and began creating light robot jockeys known as “Kamal”, in 2003.

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World’s First 7-Star Pet Resort Opens in Dubai

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Urban Tails Dubai, the world’s first seven-star resort for pets, was inaugurated this summer and owners say it was such a big hit they’ve been full all season.

Just think of this place like an equivalent of Burj al Arab for cats and dogs. It was created by Irish ex-pat Aideen O’Mara who moved to the UAE in 2004, where she worked at an international school before opening her luxury pet resort. She speculated the fact that dogs aren’t allowed on Dubai’s public beaches or in parks and decided to create an environment where cats and dogs could “socialize in luxury surroundings”, while their European masters went home during the hottest time of the month. This way, the poor animals didn’t have to be confined inside for five months, due to unbearable heat. ”I have always had pets and I feel that animals are given a bit of a raw deal in the UAE in terms of pet services on offer and they do not have much freedom in comparison to dogs in Europe.” Aideen says.


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Forcadas – The Brave Bullfighting Women of Mexico and Portugal

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It takes a lot of guts to get in the ring with an enraged bull, even when carrying a sharp sword, but the forcadas (women bullfighters) are brave enough to take the bull head-on without any kind of protection or weaponry.

During the early days of bullfighting, the bullring had a staircase leading to the royal cabin, and a group of men called forcados was employed to make sure the bull didn’t go up the stairs. They used a long pole with a steel half-moon at the top, called a “forcado” (fork) to fight the bull, and that’s how they got their name. But nowadays they only use a symbolic forcado during opening ceremonies and historical demonstrations, as their main role in modern bullfighting is the “pega de caras” (face catch). The pega essentially involves challenging the bull with their bare hands and trying to win by immobilizing it.

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Akodessewa Fetish Market – Africa’s Voodoo Supermarket

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Togo’s Akodessewa Fetish Market is recognized as the largest fetish market in the world, a place where Voodoo practitioner can find anything they need for their rituals.

The practice of voodoo began in West Africa, before being taken to America by slaves, and in countries like Togo, Ghana, or Nigeria the religion is very much alive. Many people believe healers using animal parts and strange talismans can invoke spirits with their bizarre rituals, and solve their problems. And if there’s one place where voodoo priests can stock up on their creepy supplies, it’s the Akodessewa Fetish Market, in Togo’s capital city, Lome. Just think of it as an outdoor pharmacy where various animal parts, bone statues and herbs take the place of conventional medicine.

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Japanese Restaurant Serves World’s Largest Sushi Portions

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A restaurant in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture has become famous for serving arguably the world’s largest sushi dishes, up to 20 cm in diameter and nearly 6-kg-heavy.

The Umewaka Restaurant in Anjo City, Japan is unlike any other sushi restaurant in the world. Here the world-renown Japanese delicacy doesn’t come in bite-size servings, unless your name is Francisco Domingo Joaquim and you have the world’s largest mouth. At Umewaka, everything from the futomaki roll to the nigri zushi comes in super-sized servings no one man could hope to finish in one sitting.

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The Tipat War of Bali Is What I Call a Real Food Fight

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Every year the men of Kapal Village, in Bali, celebrate the rice harvest by throwing rice cakes at each other in one of the largest traditional food fights in the world.

Also known as the Aci Rah Pengangon ritual, the Tipat War is preceded by a collective prayer in the inner court of Kapal Village’s Pura Desa (the village temple). Here local men give thanks for the bountiful rice harvest and relax before the upcoming food massacre. After praying, dozens of bare-chested men start the first rice cake fight right in the middle of the temple courtyard. They are divided into two groups and throw tipat (cooked rice wrapped in a square shaped woven coconut leaf) at each other. This fight lasts for only five minutes and is a preliminary event to the full-scale war that is about to take place in the village street outside the temple.

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Monsanto – A Portuguese Town Built between Giant Boulders

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The charming town of Monsanto, an ancient settlement perched on the side of a mountain in the Portuguese countryside, boasts some of the most incredible sights on Earth. Featuring tiny streets carved from rock and granite houses squeezed between giant boulders, it looks like a real life Bedrock.

In 1938, Monsanto was named ‘the most Portuguese town in Portugal’ which seems strange, considering most buildings in Portugal aren’t sandwiched between two boulders, or have massive rocks hanging above them, but its awarded standing of open air museum, has allowed it to keep its outwardly appearance throughout the years. Due to building restrictions in the area, Monsanto’s appearance hasn’t changed in centuries and has managed to retain its original charm.

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Britain’s Mysterious Coin-Covered Wishing Trees

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Sticking hundreds of small denomination coins into tree trunks is apparently a popular way of getting rid of illnesses.

At least that’s what the staff at a holiday attraction in Gwynedd discovered after investigating the story behind several coin-covered tree trunks in the vicinity of Italianate village Portmeirion. The first tree was cut down four years ago, in order to widen the path to the picturesque settlement founded in 1925, and within only a few months it was covered with 2p coins. Now there are seven such tree trunks in the area, so estate manager Meurig Jones started an investigation to uncover the origins of this unusual habit.

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Computerspielemuseum – Berlin’s Computer Game Museum

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If you thought the Video Card Museum of Kharkov was a geek paradise, than the Video Game Museum in Berlin is really gonna blow your mind. It features vintage hardware, interactive installations, and over 300 video games, including the first ever arcade game, Computer Space, released in 1971, which by the way was a total commercial failure.

The Video Game Museum was first opened for a brief period at the end of the 1990s, but was eventually closed down in 2000. The new museum opened in January 2011 and is located in an east Berlin building formerly occupied by Cafe Warsaw. The exhibits in this geeky museum aim to document all the aspects of video games, including graphics, hardware, music, storylines, etc, since 1951 to current day. Apart from tracking the evolution of video games, the museum also explores the effects gaming has had on modern society, from positive ones like social networking to negative, like addiction and video-game-inspired violence.

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Japan’s First Reptile Cafe Opens in Yokohama

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The Subtropical Teahouse, a “reptile cafe” offering customers the chance to observe and pet dozens of species of reptiles, has recently opened in Yokohama, Japan.

The Land of the Rising Sun is notorious for a variety of wacky venues, like the relaxing cat cafes, or the Vampire Cafe in Ginza, but it didn’t have a reptile-themed one. Since a few days ago that’s no longer a problem, as the country’s first reptile cafe opened its doors in Yokohama’s Naka Ward. ”I wanted to create a venue for those reptile fans hiding in the closet to get together and freely talk about the charms of the creatures they love,” Mutsumi Nagano, the cafe’s 42-year-old manager said about his idea.

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