beautiful

Tiny town in northern Japan creates gorgeous, gigantic artwork out of rice paddies 【Video】

Tiny town in northern Japan creates gorgeous, gigantic artwork out of rice paddies 【Video】

For most of the year, the tiny town of Inakadate in Aomori Prefecture doesn’t get a lot of visitors. With only some 8,000 residents, most of whom make their living through agriculture, there’s not much to do there, unless you feel like staring at the farmers’ fields.

Every summer, though, droves of visitors come to do just that, as Inakadate’s rice paddies transform into gigantic works of art. And this year is no exception.

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We spend an afternoon in the park with the King of the Monsters at Kurihama’s Godzilla Slide

We spend an afternoon in the park with the King of the Monsters at Kurihama’s Godzilla Slide

Every summer, as part of our effort to see as many brightly colored explosions as possible, my wife and I head to Kurihama in Kanagawa Prefecture to watch the neighborhood’s annual fireworks festival. In the past I always had to work on the day of the event, so we’d arrive just as they started launching the rockets, but this year I had the day off, so my wife suggested heading down early to do a little sightseeing. “We can go to Kurihama Flower World!” she offered, referring to the area’s expansive garden.

Sure, I thought, that might be kind of nice and romantic. I was a little surprised by her enthusiasm, though, since early July isn’t exactly the best time for flower viewing in Japan. It’s right in the gap between when hydrangeas and sunflowers are at their most beautiful, so what exactly did she want to check out there?

“We can see Godzilla,” she explained, which just might be the most convincing argument for going someplace ever.

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Beautiful new luxury train for Ishikawa dazzles with gold leaf and lacquer interior

Beautiful new luxury train for Ishikawa dazzles with gold leaf and lacquer interior

For the past few decades, getting around Japan has been a snap using the extremely efficient rail network that crisscrosses the country. Even better, in just a few years, not only will you be able to go anywhere on the main island of Honshu by train, but you’ll be able to do it in style, thanks to luxurious new trains servicing the Chugoku, Kanto, and Tohoku regions.

Hokuriku, the part of Japan running along the central northern coast of Honshu, isn’t about to be left out though, and its upcoming train may be the most opulent of all, with an interior decorated with traditional lacquer and gold leaf.

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Celebrate the Tanabata star festival with beautiful Milky Way red bean gelatin

Celebrate the Tanabata star festival with beautiful Milky Way red bean gelatin

Recently we talked about a shop in Kanagawa Prefecture that sells styish kamaboko fish cakes decorated to look like the beautiful hydrangeas that bloom during Japan’s rainy season. But what if your palate runs more towards the sweet than the fishy, or your ideal of natural beauty isn’t the flowers growing from the soil, but the stars above?

In that case, one Kyoto confectioner has just the thing: sweet bean gelatin modeled after the Milky Way.

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Why climb Mt. Fuji when you can eat it with these special Fuji foods in Yamanashi?

Why climb Mt. Fuji when you can eat it with these special Fuji foods in Yamanashi?

Although Mt. Fuji has been around for thousands of years, and the subject of countless paintings and photographs for hundreds, Japan has taken a new interest in its most famous mountain following its 2013 designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Filled with pride, designers have spent the past year churning out Mt. Fuji merchandise, with everything from umbrellas to masking tape on offer.

But if you can’t find the time to go to the mountain, now the mountain can come to you, or your dinner table, at least, with one hotel’s special Mt. Fuji menu items.

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Beautiful hydrangea pattern adds a touch of elegance to traditional Japanese fish cake

Beautiful hydrangea pattern adds a touch of elegance to traditional Japanese fish cake

Certain types of Japanese food, like tempura or grilled yakitori chicken skewers, are pretty agreeable to Western palates. In recent years, sushi has made inroads into the international dining scene, too.

Many non-Japanese diners, though, still feel a little hesitant about kamaboko, or fish cake. Despite its mild flavor, there’s just something incongruous about it in many people’s minds. It’s actually pretty tasty stuff, though, and if you’re on the fence about trying it, we should point out that it has a surprisingly mild flavor.

Or, perhaps we could entice you with this special variety of kamaboko that, when cut, reveals an elegant hydrangea pattern.

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The beautiful flowers of Hydrangea Temple: Possibly the best thing about Japan’s rainy season

The beautiful flowers of Hydrangea Temple: Possibly the best thing about Japan’s rainy season

As much as I look forward to summer every year, I’ll admit it can be a little hard getting excited about the early part of the season in Japan. The humidity rises, mosquitos come out in force (although we’ve got a secret trick for dealing with them), and the weather is rainy enough that going almost a week without seeing the sun isn’t that unusual.

Still, there’s at least one nice part about June in Japan, which is the blooming of the hydrangeas. The bundles of blossoms are blooming right now, and if you’re in the Tokyo area, there’s no better place to see them than at Meigetsuin Temple in Kamakura.

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Pair of Chinese men perfect the art of cosplay, steal hearts of fangirls everywhere

Pair of Chinese men perfect the art of cosplay, steal hearts of fangirls everywhere

“There’s nothing more beautiful than these two cosplayers,” sums up the general consensus of fans around the world. But they’re not talking about a pair of women–they’re talking about two men.

Photos of a Chinese duo recreating perfect snapshot scenes from hit anime series such as Kuroko’s Basketball, Free!, Detective Conan, Reborn!, and Sailor Moon, among others, have recently been taking the internet by storm. It’s not hard to see why–their combined skill at convincingly portraying fictional characters in real life, along with their attention to detail in everything from costume to facial expression, is unparalleled. Unsurprisingly, they’ve also picked up more than a few female fans along the way, who can’t stop gushing things like “They’re so cool I’m gonna explode!” and “GODS!” in comments online.

Prepare to be dazzled by these ultimate masters of cosplay!   

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Desserts in Wonderland – Our lesson in decorating storybook sweets

Desserts in Wonderland – Our lesson in decorating storybook sweets

The relatively small size of Japanese kitchens, and ovens for that matter, mean the average person doesn’t get many opportunities to bake desserts. Sure, once a year a lot of women will whip up a batch of chocolate or some other sweets, but February 15 is usually the beginning of a 364-day streak of no homemade goodies.

Looking to break this cycle was our Japanese-language correspondent Momo. But how would someone who charred all of her attempts at Valentine’s Day sweets to a crisp as a schoolgirl, fare at her Alice in Wonderland cookie and cake decorating class?

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Day Two of our cycling trip across the Inland Sea on Japan’s amazing Shimanami Kaido

Day Two of our cycling trip across the Inland Sea on Japan’s amazing Shimanami Kaido

Between the mentally satisfying sense of accomplishment and physical exhaustion of spending a whole day crossing three islands by bike, plus the after-dinner beer we treated ourselves to, we slept like babies after covering 30 kilometers of the Shimanami Kaido cycling course on day one. We still had more than half the distance to go before we were back on Japan’s main island of Honshu, though, and between us and our destination in Hiroshima Prefecture lay breathtaking vistas, historical artifacts, delicious food, and even a dinosaur.

We recently journeyed by rental bike across the beautiful Shimanami Kaido, the cycling road that island hops across Japan’s Inland Sea between Ehime and Hiroshima Prefectures. If you missed the first day of our 70-kilometer (45.5-mile) ride you can find it here, or read on for the second and final day of the trip.

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Island-hopping by rental bike on Japan’s awesome Shimanami Kaido cycling road

Island-hopping by rental bike on Japan’s awesome Shimanami Kaido cycling road

The Setonaikai Inland Sea is wedged between the north coast of the island of Shikoku and the southern edge of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Particularly in the island-dotted strait that separates Ehime and Hiroshima Prefectures, you’ll find some of the country’s most beautiful views and delicious seafood.

Unfortunately, there’s no train line that runs through the area, and bus service is infrequent. Ideally, you’d get around by boat, just like the merchants and pirates who used to sail the Setonaikai did, but sadly, the RocketNews24 company schooner is currently having its hull patched.

Fortunately, there’s one more way to get around the Inland Sea: the island-hopping 70-kilometer (43.5-mile) cycling road called the Shimanami Kaido.

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Tokyo Tower celebrates Tanabata with a beautiful case of the summertime blues

Tokyo Tower celebrates Tanabata with a beautiful case of the summertime blues

Since the opening of the Tokyo Skytree in 2012, Tokyo Tower is no longer the tallest or most fashionable structure in Tokyo. Still, the 56-year-old steel giant has managed to hang onto its reputation as one of the city’s most romantic locales, thanks in part to its location in quiet, sophisticated Shiba-koen as opposed to the boisterous Shitamachi district where the Skytree stands.

This month, Tokyo Tower is doing a little more to set the mood, with a beautiful light display that ties in with Japan’s Tanabata star festival.

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Japan’s 45-year-old “Lady of Eternal Youth” strikes again in new commercial

Japan’s 45-year-old “Lady of Eternal Youth” strikes again in new commercial

It’s been a couple of years since we featured something about Masako Mizutani (水谷雅子) on our site, but Japan’s Lady of Eternal Youth is back again and looking just as youthful as ever. Even now at 45 years of age, she’s still the envy of women everywhere with barely a wrinkle to be seen.

In fact, Ms. Mizutani’s age-defying looks are so legendary that she was (unsurprisingly) selected to star in a new commercial for Asahi’s line of  “Asahi Perfect Asta Collagen powder.” You can bet that with her endorsement, Japanese women will be flocking to stores to buy the new product. Keep reading to see the commercial now.  

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Japanese netizens are ready to visit a Final Fantasy world, and you can go too!

Japanese netizens are ready to visit a Final Fantasy world, and you can go too!

RPGs like Square Enix’s Final Fantasy take us to faraway worlds with extraordinarily picturesque locations; places that couldn’t possibly exist on this planet. Mother Earth would have to be a scenery designer to create locales as visually stunning as RPGs do.

But Earth is a much stranger place than we can imagine, and some of the craziest “must be photoshopped” places turn out to be just the simple strangeness of our planet. Luckily for us, if you ever wanted to visit a place that would fit perfectly into a Final Fantasy world, Earth has you covered. Watch yourself when you stand up, because your jaws are about to be all over the floor.

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These beautiful temple gardens are…15 minutes from Narita Airport?!

These beautiful temple gardens are…15 minutes from Narita Airport?!

For many visitors to Japan, their image of the city of Narita begins and ends with Narita International Airport. As such, most people plan their itineraries with the goal of spending as little time in the town as possible, unless they’re the type of odd sorts who just can’t get enough of waiting in airline check-in or customs lines.

In their rush to get into Tokyo or back home as soon as possible, though, they’re missing out on one of eastern Japan’s most visually impressive temples, Naritasan Shinshoji and its attached gardens.

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Japanese photographer captures tiny whimsical water worlds in macro【Photos】

Japanese photographer captures tiny whimsical water worlds in macro【Photos】

Photographer Miki Asai lives in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands. It’s an area known for its expansive natural beauty, and although Asai does sometimes turn her lens to the broad vistas Hokkaido has to offer, some of her most engaging work focuses on much, much smaller subjects like beads of water, bits of dandelion fluff and even the humble ant.

Says Asai, “Through a macro lens, I am trying to show the beautiful world of the small. I am always surprised when I look through the camera’s viewfinder to see things normally unseen.”

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Chinese beach glows beautiful blue in the dead of night 【Photos】

Chinese beach glows beautiful blue in the dead of night 【Photos】

More often than not when we come across photos of China’s rivers or sea these days, they are accompanied by tales of environmental destruction and depressing statistical data on recent pollution levels. So for once, it’s nice to see some photos being shared online here in Japan that show China looking pretty.

And it doesn’t get much prettier than a beach sparkling a magical blue at night.

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Simon Boulsson’s “Tokyo Reverse” is backwards, gorgeous 【Video】

Simon Boulsson’s “Tokyo Reverse” is backwards, gorgeous 【Video】

In the age of affordable digital cameras and programs that can make even photos and footage taken by a team of cavorting chimps look artistic and cool, footage of popular destinations like Tokyo are ten-a-penny online. But this video from Simon Boulsson is not just noteworthy by stop-and-gawp-worthy.

Titled “TOKYO REVERSE”, the video is set to a pumping soundtrack and takes us on a brief tour of some of the capital city’s most famous spots. The views are of course stunning, but as its title suggests there’s even more to the video than that.

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Japan’s 7 most beautiful views in blue

Japan’s 7 most beautiful views in blue

If you try to think of a natural vista featuring the color blue, chances are the first image to pop to mind is a tropical ocean view or maybe a glacial ice-scape. Despite being somewhere in between those to climate extremes, Japan has some beautiful blues to offer as well. Here are seven of the most impressive blue landscapes in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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How-to: Easy-to-make Capriccio rolls look like roses, make you look like a master chef

How-to: Easy-to-make Capriccio rolls look like roses, make you look like a master chef

My brother, who spent several years working as a seafood cook, is an extremely handy guy in the kitchen. Even still, one of his most popular dishes is the incredibly easy to make Lebanese staple called hushwe. He jokingly refuses to teach his friends how to cook the rice and beef dish, since he’s worried that if they knew how simple it is, they’d lose respect for him as a chef.

The secret’s out, though, on how our Japanese-language correspondent Kon crafts her gorgeous rose-shaped salmon Carpaccio rolls, and today we’re going to share the technique with you.

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