Japanese Attend Crying Seminars to Improve Physical and Mental Health

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I’ve heard of laughter therapy for relieving stress, but I didn’t know the reverse existed as well. In Japan, people gather in groups to let the boo-hoos out. These ‘crying seminars’ are conducted by Takashi Saga, who calls himself a ‘tears sommelier’. “Selecting wines that matches food is similar to my job,” he said. “I introduce books, movies and videos that touch the people’s emotion.”

“Crying doesn’t have a good image in Japan,” Saga added. “People believe you should not cry in front of people, that it’s weak.” So twice a month, Saga organizes a ‘ruikatsu’ – a crying for joy seminar. When people get emotional and cry, he believes that life’s burdens, tensions and frustrations melt away. “Laughing can only release stress at that moment. But studies show the stress release from crying lasts for a week. Crying is better for your physical and mental health.”

It turns out that Saga might actually be right. Some scientific studies have proven that when we cry for emotional reasons, our tears contain the same kind of hormones released by the body during physical stress. Most people start his sessions with a poker face and a ‘try and make me’ kind of attitude. But the activities that Saga plans for his class always ensure that no one leaves dry-eyed.

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Cambodia’s Rickety Bamboo Trains

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Although Cambodia has a fine network of railway tracks dating back to the French colonial days, there are hardly any trains running these days. Real trains, that is. The locals get by perfectly well with their own indigenous invention – bamboo trains.

The Cambodian railway system never really recovered from the horrors of war and the Khmer Rouge genocide that happened decades ago. They have just one proper train line in service and the rest of the tracks were covered for years by homemade trains called ‘norrys’. These weird contraptions aren’t exactly what you’d call luxury transport. But they are cheap – about 50 cents a ride. And that suits the locals just fine.

Norrys are made of bamboo, wood and sometimes even parts of old tanks. The first one was built in the 1980s by 73-year-old Pat Oun, or so he claims. The earlier versions didn’t have any engines. Drivers just stood in the train and used long bamboo poles to propel the vehicle down the tracks. “I did this for 20 to 30 kilometers in the past,” said Pat, as he demonstrated the motion.

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Taiwan’s Notoriously Dangerous Beehive Rocket Festival

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When I light a firecracker, I make sure to run at least 10 yards away before it pops. That’s how terrified I am of the noise and sparks. So when I watched a video of Taiwan’s Beehive Rockets festival, I was quite shocked. These crazy people deliberately run into bursting firecrackers. They dance in clusters as hundreds of crackers go off, allowing the sparks to rain on them. Like I said – crazy!

The Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival is one of the oldest folk festivals in Taiwan and the third largest in the world. It has been celebrated for over 180 years in the southern district of Yanshui. Its origins date back to 1885, when a cholera epidemic had gripped the district. Due to primitive medical facilities, the disease consumed thousands of victims. Locals lived in a state of fear and prayed to Guan Di, the god of war, to save them.

So what exactly is a Beehive Rocket? Essentially, it is a multiple launcher of bottle rockets. Thousands of bottle rockets are arranged in rows in an iron-and-wooden framework that looks like a beehive. When the contraption is ignited, the rockets shoot out rapidly in all directions. A deafening, bee-like buzzing sound fills the air. The dazzling explosives whiz and whirl across the sky and into the crowds of dancing people surrounding the beehive.

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In South Korea People Pay to Watch Live Broadcasts of Other People Gorging on Food

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I’m not sure why, but some of the strangest trends seem to emerge from South Korea. The latest one is dinner porn – people watching other people stuffing themselves with food. The Korean term for it is ‘mok-bang’, which roughly translates as ‘dinner broadcast’.

The dinner porn stars of South Korea film themselves eating copious amounts of food. They also provide moaning noises and a running commentary of their meals. The entire event is live-streamed and the protagonists end up making serious money.

Mok-bang isn’t about people eating a plate or two of food. We’re talking about humongous portions here. Like this one ‘broadcast jockey’ who calls herself The Diva. Consultant by day and food-porn star by night, this beautiful glutton wolfs down two medium pizzas, or 30 fried eggs and a box of crab legs, or five packets of instant noodles in one go. One night, she ate 12 beef patties, 12 fried eggs, three servings of spicy pork kimchi soup and a salad.

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27-Year-Old Woman Marries 72-Year-Old Man, Proves Love Doesn’t Have Age limits

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Zhang Feng was 23 years old when she declared her love for 68-year-old Wen Changlin. The unusual couple, now 27 and 72, have a beautiful baby boy named Tian. Although they look very odd together, their smiles show how happy they are.

The couple from Hunan province in China have been making TV headlines ever since baby Tian was born. Changlin admitted that their age makes them an unlikely pair. “Yes, I look like her grandfather, but I am used to the stares. What is important is our love and the fact that I was able to give her the child she so desperately wanted to cement our union,” he said.

The story of how they got together is a very unusual one. In 2001, Zhang and her father were suffering from a medical condition. Changlin, a Chinese doctor, moved into their home to care for them. He lived there until 2006, when Zhang’s father passed away. During this time, Zhang began to feel safe around the doctor, trusting him more than anyone else. “He took such good care of me that I began having feelings that he was Mr. Right,” she said.

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Androgynous Male Model Understandably Mistaken for a Girl on Asian Websites

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Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, is abuzz with photographs of 18-year-old Yiming Zhao. This beautiful young model and make-up artist captured the hearts of millions of Asian netizens. Unfortunately, their hearts broke when the truth was revealed to them – their dream girl is, in fact, a boy.

Yes, Yiming might be effeminate, but is very much a boy. It’s easy to see why so many people were fooled, though. His slender figure, sweet smile and mesmerizing gaze make it very hard to believe he’s not a girl.

The photographs show Yiming in a variety of costumes and hairstyles. Some pictures are selfies, while others show him modelling for big brands like Club Monaco. In some of them he’s deliberately dressed like a girl, wearing long wigs and wedding gowns. In others, you can spot right away that he’s male. Yiming is incredibly skinny, so I suppose that helps him pass off as male and female, if he so wishes.

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Indonesian Villagers Beat Each Other with Rattan Brooms in the Name of Brotherhood and Friendship

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Every year, a week after the end of Ramadan, the Indonesian villages of Morella and Mamala hold Pukul Sapu, a unique ritual that has men from the two villages beating each other across their bare backs with rattan broomsticks.

There’s nothing like a good beating to strengthen the bond between members of a community, at according to the people of Morella and Mamala, two villages in the Maluku province of Indonesia. Seven days after the end of Ramadan, the local young men take part in Pukul Sapu, an ancient ritual that translates as “Beating Brooms”. A fitting name, considering it involves participants hitting each other with strips of rattan across their backs until they are all covered in bloody scars. Before the actual beating begins, the men gather to receive the prayers of the village elders which are supposed to provide protection from serious injury during the proceedings. Wearing only short pants and headbands, the brave men enter the arena and split into two groups, facing each other. They then take turns in hitting each other across the back and chest with hard rattan brooms, with the one taking the beating lifting his arms into the air to proudly display his bloody wounds. This is not a mock battle, and the traces left by each lash is more than enough proof, yet the participants take the beating without so much as a flinch or cry of pain.

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Real-Life Tarzans Found Living Deep in Vietnam’s Forests

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40 years ago, during the Vietnam War, Ho Van Thanh was seen running into the woods with his then-infant son Ho Van Lang. They hadn’t been seen since, until a few days ago when two villagers accidentally stumbled upon their bamboo hut deep in the forests of Vietnam’s Quang Ngai province.

No one imagined Ho Van Tranh could have survived for 40 years, after he disappeared into the jungle in 1973. A bomb exploded in his home during the war with the United States, killing his wife and two other children, and eye-witnesses reported seeing him grab his two-year-old sun Ho Van Lang and running into the forest. But just a few days ago, the impossible happened. Two villagers from the Tay Tra district who had ventured 40 kilometers into the lush jungle looking for firewood noticed a strange bird-nest-like hut built in a small clearing, near a stream. Curious about its origin they decided to investigate and found two men living inside. The weak 82-year-old man could communicate in the in the Cor ethnic minority language, but his 41-year-old son, who was wearing a loin cloth made from tree bark, only spoke a few words. The villagers alerted the authorities who later confirmed the two mysterious jungle dwellers were indeed Ho Van Tranh and Ho Van Lang.

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China’s Dead Sea – Probably the World’s Most Crowded Swimming Pool

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If you think your local swimming pool becomes unbearably crowded on hot summer days, just check out these photos of the so-called Dead Sea, a salt-water swimming pool in China’s Daying County where thousands of people gather every weekend to escape the heat.

Inspired by the real Dead Sea in the Middle East, the Chinese resort build around an underground salt-water lake in Daying County covers an area of 30,000 square meters and is able to accommodate up to 10,000 swimmers at one time. It’s pretty big even for Chinese standards, but apparently not big enough. According to the Chinese press, over 15,000 people, most of them equipped with large swim rings, descended upon this popular summer retreat last Sunday making it look like a giant bowl of human cereal. I’m not even sure the term “swimming pool” even applies to this place on such occasions, considering it’s nearly impossible to move without hitting somebody, let alone flap your hands and feet to swim. The good thing about this place is the high salinity of the water which makes “swimmers” float freely, so there’s no real risk of going under. If that were to happen I can’t see how a person could rise up again…

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46-Year-Old Korean Mom Proves Weight Loss and Fitness Really Do Turn Back the Clock

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It’s hard to believe the woman in the photo below is actually 46-year-old and a mother of two. Jung Da Yeon is known as momjjang ajumma in her native land of South Korea which means “mom with a striking figure”, and it’s easy to see why.

But Jung Da Yeon didn’t always look like this. In 2003, after going through two pregnancies, she weighed 70 kilograms and looked like a normal housewife. According to most media reports, she just woke up one day and decided to do something about her dissatisfaction with her figure and weight, and I don’t mean not looking in the mirror for a very long time but strict dieting and physical exercise. However, Jung told the Wall Street Journal she was actually motivated to lose weight to relieve back pain, and that the perfect figure was only a side-effect.  She managed to lose 20 kilograms in just three months, and after posting some photos of her new self, the ambitious mother triggered what came to be known as South Korea’s “momjjang syndrome”. Housewives all around the country followed her example and started working out in an attempt to achieve the same toned physique. Before she knew it, Jung Da Yeon was making appearances on television, launching weight-loss books and videos, and building her very own fitness empire. The 46-year-old’s fame spread beyond Korea’s borders to Japan, where she launched an exercise-themed video game for the Nintendo Wii and opened an education center to train Figure-robics specialists.

Jung-Dae-Yeon

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The Dancing Inmates of the Philippines

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The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, in the Philippines, has become internationally famous for using choreographed dancing to rehabilitate dangerous inmates. Videos of their dance routines have registered tens of millions of views on sites like YouTube, and the prison itself is now a tourist attraction of sorts.

Prison life is tough everywhere – well, maybe except Norway – and the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center is no exception. Inmates sleep on hard pallets, share their cells with around a dozen other roommates and have a very strict schedule of work. But at least they get to dance. The truth is they don’t have a choice, because apart from the elderly and the sick, every one of the almost 2,000 prisoners is required to take part in the jail’s now-famous dance routines. Most of them enjoy doing it, because it takes their minds off their problems, keeps them away from drugs and violence, and teaches them discipline. In fact, two former inmates went on to become professional dancers when they got out. Introducing dancing as a rehabilitation technique was the idea of security consultant Byron Garcia. He was brought in to Cebu Prison in 2004, to deal with the constant riots. He moved the prisoners from an ancient stockade to a larger, more modern facility, fired dozens of corrupt guards, broke up gangs, banned the use of cash and introduced dancing. That last measure made the biggest difference. Violence subsided and the inmates health and behavior improved dramatically. Yet no one took notice…

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Japanese Prosthetic Expert Makes Fake Fingers for Ex-Yakuza Members

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Shintaro Hayashi, a prosthetics maker from Japan, is helping out former members of the Yakuza, or Japanese mob, by creating fake fingers they lost during their life of crime, so they can get normal jobs easier.

The Yakuza organized crime syndicates are renowned for their strict codes of conduct and organized nature. When a member causes serious offenses, he is required to perform a ritual known as “yubitsume”, which implies cutting off his own fingers as a form of atonement. Usually, the left pinkie is the first one to go, but repeated mistakes can cause a sloppy Yakuza to lose several digits. It becomes a stigma that signifies current or former membership in the Japanese mafia, and those who manage to leave their troubled past behind and become reformed citizens have a hard time finding jobs because of it. Most Yakuza try to conceal their missing fingers in public by keeping a fist, but there comes a time when they can’t hide their defects anymore, and that’s where prosthetics maker Shintaro Hayashi comes in. For the last 10 years, he has been creating fake fingers to mask Yakuza amputations.

yakuza-fingers

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The Ancient Art of Tibetan Butter Sculpting Is Melting Away

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For the last 400 years, Tibetan monks have been using butter from yak milk to create large and intricate sculptures inspired by stories of Buddha, animals or plants and putting them on display during the annual Butter Lantern Festival. Unfortunately, the long and difficult process of making these exquisite works of art has led to a shortage of gifted lama artists.

The art of butter sculpting was born from the Tibetan tradition of giving Buddha everything they got from their domestic animals. Nomadic tribes with large herds of sheep and yaks regarded the first butter from each dri (female yak) as the most precious one and offered it to Buddhist monasteries, where monks shaped it into beautiful colored sculptures and offered it to the enlightened ones. The tradition was passed on from generation to generation, and even today, dozens of Tibetan monks work for months on a single giant butter sculpture that must be ready before the 15th of January, the climax of celebrations of the Tibetan New Year, as it mark the triumph of Lord Buddha over his six non-Buddhist teachers who challenged him in performing miracles. During the day, people pray in temples and monasteries, and as the night comes they head to Lhasa’s Barkhor Street to admire the hundreds of artistic butter sculptures, ranging from just a few centimeters in size to several stories high. This colorful display attracts millions of tourists both from Tibet and abroad.

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Hari Kuyo – Japan’s Unique Memorial Service for Broken Needles

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Hari Kuyo is a Japanese festival dedicated to old and broken needles. Celebrated every year on the 8th of February, this festival sees hundreds of women dressed in colorful kimonos, gathering at various Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples in and around Tokyo. This 400-year-old ritual involves sticking old and broken needles into soft chunks of tofu or jelly as a way of showing thanks for their hard work. I suppose this tradition springs from the Eastern system of displaying gratitude towards objects that are a source of livelihood. It also reflects on the animist belief that all beings and objects have a soul.

It’s not just about needles, several Japanese women consider Hari Kuyo as a time to value the small, everyday objects of daily life that are otherwise forgotten. Mottainai is the concept of not being wasteful about small things. Burying needles in tofu is said to symbolize rest for the needles, as they are wrapped with tenderness. It’s also about the many sorrows that women are believed to carry in their hearts, the burdens of which are passed on to the needles during many hours of sewing. So the needles do deserve a proper farewell and rest at the end of their service. According to Ryojo Shioiri, a Buddhist monk, “Sometimes there are painful things and secrets that women can’t tell men, and they put these secrets into the pins and ask the gods to get rid of them.”

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Kids Toughen Up at Brutal South Korean Winter Boot Camp

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When the South Korean Army announces its biannual boot camp for civilians above the age of 13, there are lots of people who are more than happy to attend. Held at the command base in western Seoul, the 4 to 14 day camp offers basic military training to anyone able to pay the entry fee of 40,000 won (that’s about $36). Teenage boys and young women are seen attending the camp, sometimes along with their families. This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, given that military culture is quite deeply ingrained in South Korea, a country ruled by army-backed regimes till the mid 1980s.

Apart from the ones run by the army, there are privately-run boot camps as well, which have become quite popular in recent times. People from various walks of life, ranging from school kids to nostalgic war veterans, company employees to families on vacation attend this kind of events. The army says the boot camp is an opportunity to test your limits, enhance your physical ability and learn to adopt the strong spirit of ‘making the impossible, possible.’ Major Lee Joo-Ho, a boot camp spokesperson says: “Boys obviously make up the biggest part because they have the mandatory service coming up.” What he’s referring to is the two years of mandatory conscription that all able-bodied South Korean men have to attend, in order to  train themselves in case of an attack from North Korea. “But more young women are showing an interest, since they were allowed to join a college-based officer commissioning program last year.”

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