Try Before You Die – Macabre Festival Lets Japanese Try Out Coffins and Funeral Makeup

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Trying out a coffin while you’re still alive can be a rather unnerving experience. But the Japanese seem to love it!  They even have a creepy ‘try-before-you-die’ festival where people can lay down in coffins, try out funeral garments and even get a morbid makeover.

Called ‘Shukatsu Festa’, the unique event has become very popular in recent years. In fact the whole ‘shukatsu’ trend, which translates as preparing for one’s end, has become really big in Japan. Apparently, people no longer think it’s bad luck to prepare for their death. Participants can choose their funeral outfit, put it on, slip into the flower-filled casket they like and have a picture taken. That way, they get to know exactly what they’ll look like on the day of their funeral. They can even have funeral make-up applied on their faces for a deathly pallor. They can also choose to be covered with white blankets have have the attendants softly close the lid.

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Hitofude Ryuu – The Japanese Art of Painting Dragons with a Single Brush Stroke

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The talented Sumie painters of Kousyuuya Studio in Nikko, Japan can paint the body of a dragon with a single stroke of the brush. The delicate technique is known as ‘hitofude ryuu’, which literally means ‘dragon with one stroke’, and it’s been around for four generations.

Watching these painters create a perfect dragon – with all the shades and scales – in just a couple of seconds is a true delight. It all looks so effortless, but there’s a lot of hard work and practice involved in getting the stroke right.

To create a single dragon painting, the Sumie artists first make the ornate head with various flourishes, using a smaller brush. Then, they dip a much larger sumie brush into the desired paint color and simply swipe it across the canvas in one swift movement. You really have to watch a video to realize the brilliance of the technique.

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Yet Another Crazy Facial Exercise Gadget from Japan

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When we wrote about the creepy Facewaver Exercise Mask last year, we thought we’d seen the worst of bizarre Japanese inventions. But now they’ve come up with an even weirder gadget – a silly-looking new product called the ‘Facial Fitness PAO’.

The PAO was designed by Japanese beauty company SHLAB – it consists of a round plastic mouthpiece with plastic paddle wings on either side. In order to use it, you simply hold the device firmly in your mouth and bob your head up and down to swing the paddles.

The company claims that performing this exercise for 30 seconds, twice a day, can significantly tone up facial muscles, making a person look much younger. They demonstrate its correct use in their two-minute advertisement, which is so absurd, I dare you to watch it with a straight face.

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Small Japanese Village Turns Rice Paddies into Awe-Inspiring Works of Art

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Inakadate village, located near Hirosaki city in Japan’s Aomori prefecture, is one of the few places in the world where farming and art go hand-in-hand. The village is renowned for its unique form of landscape art created in paddy fields. These artistic paddies are so popular that they attract over 200,000 tourists a year.

For centuries, farming has been the main source of income for the people of Inakadate. The amount of farmland available to the relatively small population of 8,000 villagers is massive. Paddy fields make up over fifty percent of the entire village land. The soil in these lands is so fertile that the yield from the rice crop has consistently been higher than any other village or town in Japan.

In the early 1990s, archeologists discovered that the rice strains of Inakadate were over 2,000 years old. To celebrate this fact, and to make the village more attractive to visitors, the local tourism office hatched a plan – to make use of their abundant production of rice to attract more tourists. And that’s how their amazing rice paddy artworks were born.

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Lonely Japanese Teen Turns Shower Head Creepy Girlfriend

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Most DIY projects are fun and interesting, but here’s one that’s downright disturbing – a lonely Japanese kid converted his shower head into a doll that he now claims is his girlfriend. He recently posted step-by-step pictures of his project on the popular Chinese social networking website Weibo, where they went viral almost instantly. Some of the photographs of the ‘girlfriend’ are actually pretty creepy, so viewer discretion is advised.

To create his bizarre mannequin-girlfriend, 19-year-old Kiyuu Oikawa first taped a human mask onto his shower head. He then attached a balloon-stuffed piece of lingerie for the body and made stringy arms out of packing tape and wire. He painted the face pink, threw on a wig, and his girlfriend was pretty much ready.

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Did You Know Late-Night Dancing Can Get You Arrested in Japan?

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Tokyo used to have one of the best nightclub scenes in the world, but all that has changed dramatically ever since the local police started enforcing a very old law that had been ignored for at least half a century. According to this law, commercial establishments cannot host dance parties unless they have a valid license.

In order to obtain such a license, venues must have at least 66 square meters of unobstructed floor space for dancing. They also need to make sure that all dancing stops at 1 am, which the law says is the curfew. Failure to comply with the rules could get club owners into serious trouble, including getting thrown in jail for weeks, or having their businesses closed down.

“Dancing is not a crime,” pointed out Ryo Isobe, a music writer from Tokyo. “But the current situation can easily make people believe that dancing is a crime. Under this law, there are almost no legal nightclubs in Japan. All-night dance parties are against the law.”

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Ukai – The Fascinating Ancient Art of Fishing with Cormorants

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Ukai is a traditional Japanese method of fishing that employs trained cormorants to catch freshwater fish called ‘ayu’. For the past 1,300 years, fishermen along the banks of Nagara River have been spending the summer months catching fish with the help of the highly skilled birds. Some of the other rivers where ukai is practiced include the Hozu River and Uji River.

Fishermen who are skilled at ukai have patronage from the emperor. According to legend, samurai warlord Oda Nobunaga took the ukai fishermen under his wing, conferring upon them the official position of ‘usho’ (Cormorant Fishing Master). He is said to have enjoyed watching ukai in action and vowed to protect the art.

When the famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho witnessed ukai fishing, he wrote a poem to honor the tradition: “Exciting to see/but soon after, comes sadness/the cormorant boats.” In modern times, the master fishermen are still the official Imperial fishermen of the emperor of Japan. The sweetfish (ayu) they catch are sent to the Imperial family several times a year.

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Did You Know Japan Has a Quirky Shrine Dedicated to Curing Hemorrhoids?

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Weird shrines are not uncommon in Japan. In the past we reported about Karube Shrine, where people go to worship breasts, and the Shinto shrines where they bury broken needles in tofu. But the weirdest one we found so far has to be the Kunigami Shrine, in Tochigi Prefecture, that allegedly prevents and cures hemorrhoids.

So how does a shrine manage to cure a painful medical condition? Well, our guess is as good as yours. All we know is that according to an ancient tradition, people who wash their backsides at a nearby river and eat egg offerings are completely cured of hemorrhoids.

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The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei Put Olympic Athletes to Shame

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In the foothills of Mt. Hiei, to the northeast of Kyoto City, lies a huge, 1,200-year old temple complex called Enryakuji. The Tendai-shu monks who inhabit this place are better known to the world as ‘marathon monks’ for their amazing physical feats that put Olympic athletes to shame

Not all the Enryakuji monks are Tendai-shu; only some of them get special permission to participate in the sennichi kaihogyo, or the Thousand Day Challenge – one of the most rigorous spiritual challenges in the world. The trial lasts for seven years and involves walking a distance that is equal to circling the globe once over. During this test of physical and mental endurance, the monk sets on a journey to venerate Fudo-myo-o, the central deity of the Tendai, by visiting a series of religious sites located on Mount Hiei.

The selected monks are called ‘gyoja’ and their challenge consists of seven long years of pilgrimage  to over 250 sites on Mt. Hiei, which is one of the top three sacred places in Japan. During their visits, they need to cover a total of 1,000 long marathons, a feat that seems humanly impossible to accomplish.

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Japan’s Super Speedy Bullet Train Cleaners Have Just Seven Minutes to Do Their Job

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Japan’s shinkansen (bullet train) is one of the fastest in the world, covering a whopping 200 kilometers in just one hour. But few people outside Japan know that the high-speed train service comes with a high-speed cleaning service to match, which ensures that the shinkansen have virtually no delays. The cleaning crew manage to cover every inch of the train’s interior in just seven minutes flat! The cleaners’ performance is so efficient and impressive that it is known in Japan as the ‘7-minute shinkansen theatre’.

TESSEI is the rail service company in charge of keeping the fleet of bullet trains clean when they make their final stop at Tokyo Station. Their employees are responsible for preparing the trains before the next wave of customers arrive, and they have only seven minutes to do it. The manner in which they’ve organized themselves to complete the job is really quite impressive.

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The Japanese Bar Where Waiters Are Princes, Customers Are Princesses and Everyone Is a Girl

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Japan really does have some of the most interesting bars and restaurants that cater to a large variety of customers with strange interests. We’ve heard of restaurants catering to airsoft lovers, offering great discounts to bald patrons, using monkeys as waiters, and even a bar run by a monk. Now we’ve found out about a cross-dressing Tokyo bar that caters only to a female clientele. The waiters are women too, dressed as dashing young princes, while the customers get to be princesses for the day.

The aptly named ‘Bar Prince’ is located in Tokyo’s Nakano ward. They have a strict women-only policy for the staff as well as patrons. The boyish-looking staff don ruffle-trimmed prince outfits and swept-over hairstyles – they’re all crossdressers. Their mission is simple – to make every woman who walks through their doors feel like a princess. They even have a special name for their customers: ‘o-hime-sama’, which, obviously, means princesses.

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This Japanese Water Cake Looks and Tastes Unlike Any Sweet You’ve Tried Before

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It looks like a large drop of water, but it’s actually a cake. This Japanese invention is as delicate as it looks and sounds, but it needs to be consumed in only 30 minutes, after which it will simply turn into a sweet puddle of water.

The water cake looks like a large bowl of jelly without the color, but its makers insist that it’s cake. The strange dish is a variation of the well-known Japanese rice-cake confection, shingen mochi. Mochis are trademarked desserts, only created by the Kinseiken Seika Company. A regular type of shingen mochi is made from a particularly soft type of mochi rice cake, sprinkled with kinako soybean powder and eaten with brown sugar syrup. Traditionally, it is yellow in color, with a sticky and soft jelly-like consistency.

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Japanese Artist Carves Realistic-Looking Lobster Out of Boxwood

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25-year-old Ryosuke Ohtake is a master craftsman who recently tried his hand at ‘jizai okimono’ – the Japanese art of carving realistic wooden animals, complete with movable joints. He created a near-perfect lobster entirely out of boxwood. The sculpture is so life-like that when lifted, its claws, legs and tail move in the exact same way that a real, live lobster would.

A three-minute video clip that shows Ohtake working on the lobster with his various sculpting tools and blocks of wood, has become very popular online. In the video, he lifts the finished sculpture in his hands and shows exactly how each part moves. The details are simply mind-blowing.

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Japanese Actor Who Specializes in Getting Killed by Samurai Has Died More Than 50,000 Times on Screen

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If you’re a Japanese samurai movie buff, you know that there’s always at least one guy who dies in the most peculiar manner. He’s stabbed, or slashed, or sliced with a Samurai sword, and then he twists into weird shapes before he keels over and dies. Well, now you get to know the man himself – Seizo Fukumoto. He’s been dying in Japanese cinema for over 50 years now, and he’s one of the top ‘kirareyaku’ actors – stuntmen who specialize in being killed by the hero samurai.

Being the bad guy who always gets might not sound like much, but Fukumoto says that it’s a crucial part in the movie. “The way my characters die has a huge impact on the impression the lead character gives in a film.” The more ‘cringe-worthy’ the death, the better the hero looks. According to the 71-year-old thespian, a true kirareyaku is “the one who can make them ask, ‘Is he okay?’”

He deliberately adds an awkward grotesqueness to his movements while dying; this is called ‘buzama’ in Japanese. “Whenever we die, we have to do it in a way that is unsightly or clumsy, not graceful,” he explained. “In this buzama, we find beauty. To die in an uncool way is the coolest.”

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Heaven Is in Japan – Cafe Specializes in Mouthwatering Giant Ice-Cream Parfaits

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Cafe Olympic, a small restaurant in Nagasaki, Japan, is better known as ‘Parfait Heaven’. And for good reason – they serve a variety of jumbo-size parfaits that range in height from 1.5 ft. to a whopping 4 ft. tall.

The tallest parfait, the Nagasaki Dream Tower (120 cm), is filled with all kinds of wonderful things – ice cream, ice cream cones, chocolate cake, sherbet, soft serve ice cream, fruit, chiffon cake, coffee jello, whipped cream, corn flakes and even a slice of cheesecake. All these ingredients and more are stuffed into an extremely large parfait glass and topped off with Olympic Rings, to match the name of the restaurant and also mark the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The sinful dessert is served with a giant spoon to reach all the sugary goodness down to the bottom of the glass.

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