Japan’s Hand Canon Fireworks Look Insanely Dangerous

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Out of all the impressive fireworks celebrations held annually all around Japan, Tezutsu Hanabi is by far the most eye-catching. Experienced masters hold large bamboo tubes filled with black powder in their arms as flames gush out towards the sky. Did I mention they explode at the end?

Tezutsu hand cannons are believed to have originated as a form of long-distance communication smoke devices called Noroshi. With the introduction of smokeless gun powder, these Civil War era tools started being used as fireworks and later as a form of prayer at Yoshida Shrine, in Toyohashi. The Tezutsu Hanabi fireworks display has been carried out for the last 300 years, as part of the Gion Festival, attracting tourists from all over Japan and beyond with columns of flames up to 20 meters-high piercing the night sky. Seeing dozens of men walking around nonchalantly with 80-cm-long, 10-cm-wide bamboo cylinders filled with over three kilograms of ignited black powder is indeed quite the spectacle.

Tezutsu-Hanabi

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The Future of Music – Japan’s New Robot Rock Band

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They are called Z Machinese and they are about to take the Japanese music world by storm. This unique rock band is made up entirely of futuristic automatons able to play guitar, drums and keyboards better than any human.

Z Machines is the brainchild of Yoichiro Kawaguchi, an IT professor at the University of Tokyo, and mechanical designer Naofumi Yonetsuka, who wanted to liven up the music scene by creating something futuristic and exciting. So they created Ashura, a six-armed drummer who can actually play 22 drums simultaneously and sounds like four people playing the drums at the same time, Mach, a metal-and-wire guitarist who uses 78 fingers and 12 picks allowing him to challenge even the most gifted human guitar players, and Cosmo, who is literally wired into his keyboard and shoots lasers from his eyes. Z Mazhines certainly sounds like a very impressive band, but can they really play a gig? They answered that question on Monday, when they teamed up with Japanese human duo Amoyamo, for an electrifying performance at one of Tokyo’s most popular night clubs.

Z-Machines-robots

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Japanese Shop Sells Perfect Fruits as Luxury Items

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Tokyo’s Sembikiya Fruit Parlor looks like a luxurious jewelry store and the prices of the items on offer aren’t too far off either, only instead of diamonds and gold this place sells fruits. If you’re looking for perfectly shaped, delicious-tasting cantaloupes, apples, grapes or any other Japanese fruits, Sembikiya is where you’ll find them, but you’d better stop by the bank first, because they don’t come cheap.

In Japan, it’s customary to give high-quality fruits for formal occasions like weddings, business meetings or hospital visits. But we’re not talking about fruits you usually find at the local market or grocery store. Specialized fruit shops like Sembikiya sell only the rarest, most perfect products, grown in special conditions to ensure they look and taste as good as possible. Take the Yubari muskmelons, also known as Yubari King melons, priced at ¥15,750 ($160) for one, or ¥26,250 ($265) for two, at the exclusive Tokyo fruit parlor. That’s a small fortune for produce, wouldn’t you say? But these Japanese cantaloupes are pretty special. The Yubari King sold at Sembikiya only come from Shizuoka prefecture, where they get the most sunshine. They are grown in specially-designed greenhouses with air-conditioning and paper hats in the hot summer months, and heaters during wintertime. Farmers prune the less perfect fruits early on, leaving just one melon to ensure it gets the best flavor possible. A 12-pack of Queen Strawberries sells for ¥6,825 ($68), a box of perfect cherries costs ¥15,750 ($159), and a Senkai-ichi (Japanese for “world’s best”) apple will set you back ¥2,100 ($21). They might seem like outrageously-priced fruits to most people, but with 11 parlors opened in Japan, at Sembikiya business is booming.

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The Breathtaking Flower Hill of Hokkaido

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Home to nearly one million pink shibazakura flowers, spread over an area of 100,000 square meters, on a hillside overlooking the picturesqe town of Takinoue, the Higashimokoto Flower Park is a must-see attraction for flower lovers.

There are lost of impressive tourist destinations on Japan’s Hokkaido island, but the hillside flower park overlooking the town of Takinoue stands out as the most colorful. Every year, from early May to mid June, the hill is covered with a pink carpet of Moss Phlox flowers, commonly known as shibazakura. Winding paths lead visitors from the base of the hill to the very top where they are treated to a magnificent view of the surrounding sea of flowers. Higashimokoto Park was founded in 1956, with only a box full of shibazakura seeds, but a growing number of plants have been planted every year since, and today the pink flowers cover an area of over 100,000 square meters. During the month-long blooming season, the bright pink flowers fill the air with a sweet scent that complements the amazing view. At the height of the moss phlox season, locals hold an annual festival dedicated to the flowers, featuring all kinds of themed events, and stalls selling snacks and souvenirs.

Takinoue-Flower-Park

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Japanese Man Completes 40,000Km Walk Around the World

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Masahito Yoshida, 32, recently returned to Shanghai, the city where he started his epic walk around the world, four and a half years ago. He walked a total of 40,000 kilometers across four continents carrying with him a two-wheeled cart full of baggage.

On New Year’s Eve, in 2009, Masahito Yoshida, an average Joe from the city of Tottori, Japan, set out from Shanghai to explore the world on foot. He had always wanted to travel and see all the wonders of the globe, but knew that doing it by plane or train, he would miss the small, sometimes isolated towns of the world, and the people that live in them. So he decided to walk instead. His first destination was Cape Roca, on the Portuguese coast, where he arrived in August of 2010, after covering 16,000 kilometers through central Asia and Europe. He then hopped on a plane to America, where he spent another year walking 6,000 km from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Vancouver, Canada. By the end of 2011 he exhausted most of his travel funds, so he started taking part-time jobs to finance the rest of his trip. From Canada, he flew to Melbourne, Southern Australia, and made his way north, to Darwin, then Singapore and back to Shanghai, China. During his memorable journey, Masahito worn off seven pairs of walking shoes.

Masahito-Yoshida

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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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Experience Space Travel in the Back of a Japanese Bus

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Long bus tours can be pretty boring, but Japan’s Star Fighter buses are so incredibly cool they just don’t give you a chance to get bored. If you think they look impressive on the outside, wait until you see what’s in store for passengers inside.

Going on a Tokyo bus tour usually gives tourists a chance to catch a glimpse of Japan’s fascinating metropolis, but that’s not what the Star Fighter Tour operated by Willer Travel is about. In fact, their futuristic-looking buses don’t even have windows. So if it’s sightseeing you want, look elsewhere, but if you fancy an interactive space adventure right here on Earth, this is one Tokyo attraction you don’t want to miss. As you can see in the photo below, Star Fighter buses don’t look like ordinary tour buses. Their shiny silver paint job  is somewhat reminiscent of Star Trek, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg, because the real exciting stuff is on the inside. As you step aboard, the space shuttle-themed decor makes it hard to tell if you’re on a bus or a ship ready for take-off. There are hatches on the floor and air locks on the walls, and the normal windows have been replaced with “Hyper Windows”, which are really LED screens that show the infinite space outside, as soon as the tour starts.

Space-Fighter-tour

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Japanese Cafeteria Offers Curious Eaters a Taste of Prison Food

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In Japan, you don’t actually have to get thrown in jail to get a taste of prison food. The Prison cafeteria, in Abashiri, Hokkaido, specializes solely in food actually served inside Japanese prisons.

I’ve often wondered what jail food tastes like, but I was never curious enough to commit a crime and find out. Luckily, for like-minded Japanese, there is a place where they can sample prison-quality meals without having to give up their freedom. The Prison Cafeteria, at the Abashirishi Prison Museum, serves the same food that the genuine inmates of Abashirishi prison eat for lunch each day. As you can imagine, it’s pretty cheap, but the guys at RocketNews24, who visited the place and tried some of the courses on the menu say it’s also pretty tasty. I’ve heard some awful things about prison food, but it seems Japanese inmates have it pretty good. To be fair though, having to constantly keep an eye out for someone trying to shank you at lunch time, is just not worth trying this decent food in actual prison.

Prison-Cafeteria

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Honebana – The Detailed Animal Bone Flowers of Hideki Tokushige

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Excavated Neanderthal bones often had traces of pollen around them, indicating that even back then flowers were used to celebrate the deceased. Japanese artist Hideki Tokushige uses animal bones to recreate various flowers, thus honoring the longstanding connection between the two.

“We’ve been creating paintings and sculptures for over 70,000 years and our relationship to bones is just as old,” Tokushige explains. “Everything around us – clothes, nuclear power plants, internet – can be traced back to the structure of bones.” Inspired by the cycle of life and death and the relationship between flowers and death, the Japanese artist started creating stunningly detailed Honebana, or bone flowers. It all started one day, when Hideki Tokushige was coming home from work. He saw a dead raccoon in the middle of the street, and instead of simply ignoring it or throwing it in a waste bin, he took it home, removed the bones and used them as an art medium. Originally trained in photography, Hideki found a way to assemble the bones into intricate floral sculptures that are shockingly beautiful to look at.

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Amazing Model of Matsumoto Castle Made Entirely Out of Corrugated Cardboard

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A Japanese artist known only as “Upunushu”, has created an amazingly detailed replica of Matsumoto Castle, a National Treasure of Japan, using only pieces of corrugated cardboard.

Cardboard is certainly not the easiest medium to work with when trying to recreate an architectural wonder like Matsumoto Castle, but Japanese artist, Upunushu, proves it can definitely be done. According to footage posted on Japanese video sharing site NicoNicoDouga and other media reports, this young master spent an entire week just planning the project, and another six months cutting out all the necessary pieces and assembling them as a model of the famous Crow Castle. It certainly wasn’t the shortest modelling project, but in terms of cost, this stunning piece of art couldn’t have been cheaper. Using cardboard boxes as the main material of her build, the talented artist spent just ¥300 ($2.95) on supplies. Apparently, just getting the castle’s stone base right took Upunushu two months to complete, as she had to glue each cardboard brick individually. The talented Upunushu has been creating incredible cardboard models ever since she was in fifth grade. Now in her mid-twenties, the artist has improves a lot since her early years, and plans to build even more intricate replicas.

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Executive Boxing Takes Corporate Rivalry to a New Level

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The gloves were on at the second ever Executive Fight Night, in Tokyo, last week, as 14 corporate executives from seven different countries went into the boxing ring for some good, clean fun and settling rivalries between companies.

“To usher in a new era of fitness amongst stressed-out Tokyo executives and stage a safe, professional and unprecedented, Vegas-style Boxing event that would become a regular hit on the annual Tokyo social calendar.” This is the mission of Ginja Ninjas, the offbeat company behind Executive Fight Night. It was founded by three corporate employees who after a stressful week at work got together and decided that enough was enough, executives needed a way to let off some steam, and what better release valve than boxing? Bringing a unique form of entertainment to the masses wasn’t enough for the “ninjas”, who decided to donate all the proceeds from the event to various charities. It also made it harder for corporate bosses to say no to a boxing invitation, but according to organizer Dave Thomas, the rivalry between Tokyo companies is enough to get people into the ring.

Executive-Fight-Night

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Making See-Through Wood at Japan’s Unique Planing Competition

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Every year, wood planing experts from all over Japan meet up for a very unique competition in which everyone tries to shave off the thinnest piece of wood possible. I don’t know how skilled you are with a hand plane, but these guys can actually peel off see-through slices of wood that are measured in microns.

If you’re not familiar with the hand plane, it’s a tool used to smooth out the surface of lumber and timber. But at the wood planing finals held during the annual Kezuroukai exhibition in Japan, participants use it not to show off their wood smoothing skills, but to shave off the thinnest strip of wood possible. They are each assigned a bench to use for about two hours, during which time they exercise their planing technique, adjusting and sharping their tools for when it matters most. When the contest starts, each competitor has three tries to shave off the thinnest piece of wood in front of a judge who uses a special tool to measure the thickness. But producing strips of wood thin enough to see through doesn’t require only proper tools and practice, but also great wood, so planers are allowed to bring bundles of whatever wood they think yields the best result. Last year, the wood planing competition was held in the port city of Uwajima, on the island of Shikoku, and the thinnest shaving was only 9 microns thick. A micros is one-thousandth of a millimeter…Just to give you an idea of how impressively thin that is, the average human hair is 100 microns across, a cloud water droplet is 10 microns in diameter, and a human blood cell measures 8-9 microns. Even more incredible is the fact that the record for the thinnest shaving currently stands at 3 microns.

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Belgian Man Makes His Own Amazing Samurai Armor

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Japanese samurai are famous all over the world, but one Belgian man has taken his passion for these medieval warriors to a whole new level by making his own authentic armor from thousands of custom metal pieces and hundreds of meters of cord.

Danny had always been fascinated by the history and culture of the samurai. He began collecting Japanese swords when he was 16 years old, and dreamed of one day owning his very own armor. He couldn’t afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars on an authentic samurai costume, and replicas, though cheaper, weren’t built for his impressive nearly two-meters-tall size. But he wasn’t going to give up on his dream too easily, and with the help of some supportive metalworking friends, the now 42-year-old bank teller set out to build his own samurai armor. Just like the Japanese craftsmen of old, Dennis assembled his protective suit out of traditional chainmail and 3,000 small pieces of metal, every one of which was hammered by hand to the correct shape and size, strung together with 225 meters of cord. It took two long years to finish the whole thing, but the end result is simply breathtaking.

DIY-samurai-armor

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Meet Hideaki Kobayashi, the Famous Japanese Man Who Dresses as a Schoolgirl

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Ever wondered what Mr. Miyagi would look like dressed as a schoolgirl? No?!? Me neither…Who does that? Anyway, you’ll get to see it anyway, as we take a look at one of Tokyo’s most iconic characters, Hideaki Kobayashi, better known as the “Sailor Suit Old Man” or the weird guy wearing a schoolgirl uniform.

As some of you may know, schoolgirl uniforms are very popular in Japan, but mostly it’s the girls who wear them. One man decided to turn the fashion trend on its head and started wearing the outfit himself, in some of Tokyo’s most crowded places. Hideaki Kobayashi is one of Japan’s most experienced cosplay photographers, meaning he’s been attending anime and video game themed events for over a decade, taking pictures of people dressed as their favorite characters. The flashy dress code must have rubbed off on him at some point, as he started making appearances in his now-famous sailor style school uniform. He was a bizarre sight to behold even at cosplay shows, but Hideaki decided to take it one step further and wear his girly uniform wherever he went. In the Western world, most people would probably be shocked and disgusted at the sight of a hairy old man walking around town in a schoolgirl uniform, but not in Japan. Here, the Sailor Suit Old Man became an internet celebrity, sought out by young girls who wanted to take pictures with him and post them online for everyone to see. He even bragged about being mobbed for photos “like a popular celebrity”, on Facebook.

Hideaki-Kobayashi

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Get Rid of Wrinkles with the Creepy Facewaver Exercise Mask

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Don’t feel like spending your hard-earned money on expensive Botox shots and plastic surgery to get rid of those nasty facial wrinkles? Then you might want to take a look at the Facewaver Exercise Mask, a new face stretcher from Japan that promises to give users a more youthful and energetic look. It’s cheaper and doubles as a great Halloween outfit.

It might not look like one, but the Facewaver Exercise Mask is actually a beauty product. The stretchy accessory wraps around your face and helps exercise your muscles while you make all kinds of weird facial expressions. This not only improves and increases blood circulation to your face, but also smooths out any wrinkles, lines and sags in just five minutes of daily use. Available only in pink, the Facewaver is made in Japan (where else?) out of out of nylon and polyurethane to fit most face sizes. Priced at $61, this bizarre invention is a more affordable way to tighten your face and cheeks, although there are yet no reports on whether it actually works. But even if it doesn’t at least you’re left with a great horror movie prop or a scary Halloween mask. So yeah, it’s a great investment any way you look at it.

Facewaver-Exercise-Mask

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