Gunma

Kindergarten class plays Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 better than most adults ever could

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 5 in D minor at a time of great tension in Soviet Russia. The looming threat of World War II was nothing compared to the Great Purge being conducted by Joseph Stalin in which 1,000 people were executed each day. Shostakovich too felt he was in the crosshairs for his previous “subversive” works.

And so it was something of a musical miracle that his Symphony No. 5 was unanimously well received by both the government and survivors of their brutality alike. Still today conductors and their orchestras struggle to properly capture all of the emotions such as irony, sympathy, and pride that Shostakovich may or may not have intentionally layered in this rich piece.

Taking a crack at it here are the kids of Isesaki Asuka Primary School’s kindergarten class.  To see whether they succeed is up to you, but I think we can all agree that they’re not just good for a kindergarten class – they’re just good.

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Gunma Prefecture automat diner serves surprisingly delicious hamburgers with a side of nostalgia

From corn soup to gold soda cans to stag beetles, you can find almost anything in vending machines situated on approximately every street corner in Japan. And not too long ago in Showa-era Japan, it was pretty common to see restaurants staffed entirely by vending machines serving bland, but hot food at an affordable price. Some savvy business owner decided to cash in on this nostalgia and recently opened up an automat diner where customers can relive a time when “dining out” meant putting coins into a vending machine and waiting for your food to pop out!

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Hello Kitty hot spring lets you fill two spots at once on your Japan bingo card

For most travelers in Japan, the highlight of a trip to the hot springs is the rotenburo, or open-air bath. The idea of an alfresco dip is so appealing that drawing visitors to your hot spring inn or hotel becomes several degrees harder if you don’t have outdoor tubs.

But you shouldn’t write off indoor hot springs entirely, as they boast a couple of advantages. Having a roof over your head makes them a good choice for a rainy day, and being climate controlled means less shivering once you step out of the water. Plus, if you’re heading to Gunma Prefecture, soon one indoor hot spring will give you the chance to soak in the company of Hello Kitty.

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Gunma-chan is named the champion of the 2014 mascot character contest

Have you ever wondered how Kumamon suddenly burst into the spotlight back in 2011? It was the result of his victory in the national mascot character contest, the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix. The contest has been held every year since 2010 and Kumamon was the first major winner in 2011.

Voting for the annual contest runs from August to October every year and people are eligible to vote for their favorite character (usually the one representing their town or prefecture) once a day for the duration of the contest. Well, the results for the 2014 contest are finally in, and it looks like a certain entrant took the win by a nose.

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Lucky #18! Japan gets another UNESCO World Heritage site

Japanese people love visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites. Good thing there are plenty of sites in Japan for people to pilgrimage to–17 before this week started. With the addition of Mt. Fuji in 2013, World Heritage site “completionists” finally had a new location to travel to after two years of waiting.

Well, the list just got a little bit longer, as another site has officially been added to bring Japan’s UNESCO sites to a total of 18. Pack your bags, we’re heading to Gunma!

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Group of Foreigners See Gunma Cycle Sports Center in a Whole New Light

Some of you may remember our report on Shigenobu Matsuzawa’s visit to Gunma Cycle Sports Center a few months back.  It’s the amusement park where everything has pedals including the roller coaster. While Shigenobu ultimately gave the place four out of five stars in his reviews, the photos he took looked kind of depressing.  However, now a video released on YouTube seems to have captured a totally new angle of Gunma Cycle Sports Center which gives it a much needed image boost.

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“The Life and Sex Museum” Welcomes You, But Remember It’s Not a Sex Museum!

Sex museums can be found all over the world exhibiting various kinky items.  Japan alone has quite a few.  According to Wikipedia Japan, there are six sex museums or hihokan in Gunma Prefecture.

This is much to the chagrin of the Life and Sex Museum who are listed among them, but don’t consider themselves a sex museum at all.

Thanks to Shigenobu Matsuzawa, the blogger scouring the heartlands of Japan for the oddest attractions like the bicycle theme park, we can take a virtual tour of this tribute to the miracles of life and sex and see what it has to offer.

But remember – It’s not a sex museum!

**That being said, a lot of it is probably not safe for work.**

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Human-Powered Roller Coaster and Other Thrilling Attractions Await at Japan Bicycle Theme Park

The Gunma Cycle Sports Center in Japan may be the most eco-friendly amusement park in the world. As you may be able to guess from the name, every attraction in the park, from the roller coaster to the “steam” locomotive, is human-powered.  

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Traditional craftsmanship meets the modern world

Need a little luck? You might be able to get it by using a Darumouse. A Darumouse is a combination of a computer mouse and a traditional Japanese round doll modeled after the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism, Bodhidharma. Legend says that Bodhidharma sat on a rock for nine years in a quest to reach enlightenment. Because of sitting in one place for so long, his arms and legs became paralyzed and useless. Thus the doll, or “daruma” has no arms or legs. The daruma is considered to be a symbol of good luck in Japan. Read More

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