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Japan’s Unusual Obsession with Moss

As a very insular society, Japan has developed a culture that can be very interesting and sometimes bizarre to the outside observer. For example, in recent years, many Japanese have become infatuated with moss. Nature excursions centered around observing the thousands of species of Japanese moss have exploded in popularity to the point that the demand for a place on these trips far exceeds availability.

Selling moss-related products like moss-containing jewelry has also become a lucrative market. You can buy rings that have tiny containers holding moss instead of stones. For many young women in Japan, love of these plants has become a part of their identity. These young enthusiasts call themselves “moss girls” and organize moss-themed events such as viewing parties, where they make drinks inspired from the plants.

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Moss Viewing – A Strange Yet Increasingly Popular Japanese Pastime

A lot of people walk by moss all the time, without even giving the time of day, but in Japan, they actually have this thing call moss viewing that involves going on trips to damp places and staring at moss for hours, as a means of relaxation.

According to Takeshi Ueno, a plant ecology expert at Tsuru University, the activity is particularly popular among women, because “they are rich in emotions”. “They can innocently enjoy changes in the shapes and colors of leaves, for example, so they are well-suited to moss viewing,” Ueno, who usually leads the moss viewing trips near Lake Shirakoma, added.

It all started in 2013, when Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel in Aomori Prefecture introduced a one-night program that included an observation tour of the moss colonies in a riverside forest. It was an unsuspected success, and after the Bryological Society of Japan named the area around Lake Shirakoma a ‘precious moss-covered forest’, moss-viewing became a regular affair. The event has become so popular among female travelers that it is held about eight times a year.

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