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Onbashira – Japan’s Riskiest Celebration

Held every six years, in the Nagano area of Japan, Onbashira Festival is believed to have continued uninterruptedly, for the last 1200 years.

Onbashira, literally translated as “the sacred pillars”, is a Japanese tradition that symbolizes the renewal of Suwa Grand Shrine. It consists of two phases: Yamadashi and Satobiki, the first held in April, and the second in May. Before Onbashira begins, 16 tree trunks, cut form 200-year-old Japanese fir trees are cut down. Each tree can be up to 1 meter across, 16 meters tall and weigh up to 12 tons.

Yamadashi is translated as “coming out of the mountains” and is the most popular part of the festival. Teams of men have to drag the logs down the mountain, to Suwa Shrine. At some points they encounter steep slopes where they must slide the tree trunks. In a ceremony called Ki-otoshi, brave young men risk their lives by climbing on the trunks and riding the all the way down the muddy slopes. It takes 3 days to move the sacred tree trunks, over 10 kilometers, to the shrine.

Satobiki involves placing the logs at the four corners of the four buildings that make up Suwa Grand Shrine. Using ropes, teams have to pull up the giant tree trunks in a vertical position, with young men sitting on them. Those still on the logs after they are positioned, perform all sort of feats.

On Sunday, during the 2010 edition of Onbashira Festival, a man was crushed to death by a tree trunk, during Satobiki. One of the ropes came loose and hit the 38-year-old man in the head. Several others were injured in the accident.

Photos via Daylife

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Make Your Own Edible Insects with GUMMIX

Produced by Japanese company Megahouse, the GUMMIX kit allows kids and grown-ups to make their own jelly insects, as pranks or food decorations.

GUMMIX is part of the Megahouse 2010 Shokking lineup, and consists of special gelatin powder and insect molds. It’s as simple as it is fun. Just mix the gelatin with fruit syrup, ketchup or soy sauce, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, and pour the mixture into the molds.  When the jelly starts to harden, attach the limbs with the included tweezers, and there you have it, an edible bug.

The GUMMIX insect kit comes with a mixing cup, recipe cards, and 4 moulds of a beetle, a crawfish, a stag beetle and a sow bug. It costs 3675 yen ($40) and you can purchase 3 extra moulds, for 1570 yen each ($17).

via Gigazine

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Japanese Invent Bionic Potato-Chip Grabber

Yup, leave it to the Japanese to invent something completely useless, yet totally cool. This time it’s a grabbing device for potato chips.

Potato chips may be delicious, but you can’t really enjoy them without getting grease all over your fingers and then the keyboard. Well the Japanese have finally come up with a solution to this pressing problem. Potechi ( a Japanese neologism derived from the English “potato chip”) is an ingenious device manufactured by Takara Tomi, that grabs potato chips, so you don’t have to.

Featuring groundbreaking technologies like NBCS (No Broken Clutch System), NTTS (No Touch Table System) and FECS (Finger Easy Cleaning System) allows you to gently pick up potato chips without breaking them. Simply press the button and let Potechi do the rest of the job for you.

The ingenious Potechi chip grabbing tool is available in japan, for just $7. Come on, a clean keyboard is worth at least that much.

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Temari Balls – Mesmerizing Artworks Made of Yarn

The folk art of Temari Balls began in China, but it was introduced in Japan roughly 600 years ago, where it flourished and evolved into a true art-form.

Legend has it, the first Japanese Temari Balls were made from old kimono threads, by mothers who wanted to make their kids something to play with. Silk strings would be wadded up to for a ball that would be wrapped in layers of string. In time, Temari makers started making intricate patterns and Temari slowly turned from a toy into a form of artistic expression.

Traditionally, Temari balls are given to children on New Year’s Eve, by their mothers. Inside the balls, women would put a small piece of paper with a written wish for the child. Since the kid could never find out what the wish was without him destroying the toy, the wish had a greater chance of coming true.

Also known as “gotenmari”, some Temari Balls have a variety of noise-makers inside, to make them more fun. They can be used in handball games and it is said the old Temari Balls were so tightly wrapped, they would bounce.

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World’s Fishiest Wedding Cake

I’m all for originality, but replacing a wedding cake with a smelly tuna seems a bit too much. But in a country like Japan, where people fight each other with neon lamps, anything goes.

A wedding-planning company in Kanagawa has been offering tuna fish instead of traditional wedding cakes for over ten years now. The couple you see below has opted for a 100 kg-heavy BigEye Tuna as treat for their guests, but clients have a wide range of packages to choose from, depending on the number of guests.

I don’t know about you, but I always look forward to the cake when attending a wedding, and this tuna doesn’t look very delicious.

via Japan Probe

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The PL Peace Tower – World’s Coolest Tower?

The PL Peace Tower in Tondabayashi, a town close to Osaka, Japan is by far one of the most “bizarre yet cool” buildings I have ever seen.

One of the many structures located in the PL Holy Land, the PL Peace Tower was built back in 1970, using the newest construction technique at the time. It belongs to the Perfect Liberty Church, a religious movement founded in 1924 that teaches its followers that “Life is Art” and they should express themselves in everuthing they do.

The shape of the PL Peace Tower, resembling a single finger pointing at the sky, symbolizes one of the church founder’s revelation that ” the truth is one”. It’s also an international symbol of world peace. Inside the Peace Tower you’ll find an unlimited list of people who lost their lives because of human wars.

The PL Peace Tower is 180 meters high and thanks to a low center of gravity (only 12 meters above ground), it can tilt up to 45 degrees and swing back to its original position. This makes it extremely resistant to earthquakes. Its strange but fascinating shape was achieved through the use of shotcrete, spaying concrete onto wire netting.

Photos via Juergen Specht

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Giant Gigantor Unveiled in Japan

Two weeks after the Tokyo Gundam statue was dismantled, a new robot statue was unveiled in Kobe, Japan. This time it’s the Tetsujin 28-go aka Gigantor.

This mean looking machine was set up in Wakamatsu Park, Kobe and unlike the RX78 Gundam statue it will remain here permanently. The funds for the construction of Gigantor were not supplied by big-time corporations either. The approximately 1.5 million dollars were raised by local shop owners, in hope that it will bring commerce and people to Kobe.

The city of Kobe was seriously damaged by an earthquake, in 1995, and its population has decreased to around 80% of what it was before the cataclysm. Mitsuteru Yokoyama, a legendary manga artists, was born in Kobe and helped design Tetsujin 28-go.

via Mainichi

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Rice Field Art in Rural Japan

You may think crop circles are cool, but they nothing compared to the rice field murals found in villages like Inakadate, Japan.

Using purple and yellow-leafed rice, combined with the more traditional green variety, the villagers of Inakadate create true agricultural masterpieces. This all began in 1993, when people thought of doing something spectacular, to revitalize the area.

During the first nine years, people only created a rice representation of Mount Iwaki, but then started plating intricate models. Landowners in the area agreed to use their parcels to create a 15,000 square meters “canvas” and, using a computer to pinpoint where every rice seed would be planted, managed to create some extraordinary works of art.

This year, in the village of Inakadate, people could see Napoleon and a Sengoku warrior, both on horseback, coming to life in the rice fields. The artworks are invisible from ground level, so the curious have to climb the village’s mock castle tower to admire them.

More than 150,000 people visit Inakadate every year, to see its amazing rice field art. That’s an impressive number of people considering the village has a population of just 8,700.

via Daily Mail

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World’s Most Amazing Paper Craft Castle

Wataru Itou, a talented art student from Tokyo, spent 4 years of his life building this trully incredible paper castle.

Named Umi no Ue no Oshiro (A Castle on the Ocean), this paper craft castle features electric lights and even a moving train, made of paper. It is set on exhibit at Uminohotaru, a service area between Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture and you can check it out with Google Earth.

Whether you’re a fan of paper craft or not, you must admit this paper castle is wonderful work of art. The Japanese like to take their time (see the LEGO Yamato Warship), but at least they deliver.

via Tokyobling

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Gundam Meets Hello Kitty

With the unveiling of the real-life RX78 Gundam in Tokyo, people have been going crazy over this Japanese icon, but some of them have really lost their minds.

Like the guy who made this girly, pink Gundam action-figure. All I can hope for is that a girl is behind this, maybe she was inspired by a trip to the Hello Kitty Castle…But if it’s a guy, the only thing I can say is WTF DUDE?!?

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Cool Coffee-Making Manga Robot

This isn’t some kind of coffee filter designed to look as a robot. This thing really makes coffee just like we humans do.

Designed by Clockwork,  a Japanese dude who’s into manga and robotics, the coffee-making robot uses 20 digital KRS-788HV servos, a servo motor, both controlled by a PCB located in its head. The photos don’t say much about this little Japanese coffee making robot, but you can see it in action if you scroll to the video at the bottom.

Also head over to clockwork.shikisokuzekuu.net for more pics and info (if you speak Japanese).

via Geek Alerts

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Tokyo’s Real-Life Gundam at Night

We’ve already posted some photos of the completed life-size RX78 Gundam, during the day, now we though you might enjoy seeing it in action at night.

Just like the Japanese said, the real-life Gundam in Odaiba’s Shiokaze Park has lights radiating from various body-parts, which make it look way much cooler when the sun sets. Check it out:

via Pink Tentacle

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Tokyo’s Real-Life RX78 Gundam

Gundam fans all over the world, rejoice! The life-sized RX78 Gundam robot has been completed and is expecting visitors.

Just like the Hello Kitty Castle in Shanghai, China, might become a pilgrimage site for pink-loving girls, Tokyo’s RX78 could turn into the same thing for robot-anime enthusiasts. Announced back in March, as a way of celebrating 30 years since the debut of the Mobile Suit Gundam anime series, the 1:1 sale Gundam has just been completed.

The RX78 Gundam towers 18 meters, features a movable head, 50 light-radiating points on his body, and shoots smoke from various fiberglass-reinforced plastic parts. The popular mech will be watching over Odaiba’s Shiokaze Park until August 31st. Hopefully they’ll just move it somewhere else after that, because depriving Gundam fans of such a symbol would be a regular crime.

Some might think the RX78 Gundam looks a bit too retro for 2009, but it’s a regular icon in Japanese culture, so choosing what model to build was never in question.

See even more photos at pyunari part 1 and pyunari part 2

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Harbin Snow Sculpture Festival

I have to be honest and start by saying I’m a huge fan of winter and all that it implies, snow, ice, cold weather, the whole enchilada, so I guess I was a little subjective in picking this piece over others. But even you sun worshipers have to admit that these snow sculptures, especially the castles are simply amazing.

These were all sculpted in blocks of snow and ice, during the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, in China by the most talented sculptures in the world. The festival dates back to 1963 and is one of the four largest ice and snow festivals, along with along with Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway’s Ski Festival.

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Japanese mud festival

Hundreds of Japanese grown-men wrestle each other in the mud water of Mimusubi shrine in Yotsukaido, a settlement near Tokyo. Every year on February 25 these men take part in this strange yet fun looking rite, believed to bring good harvest for the whole year

and good health for babies.

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