history

Is this 1,300-year-old dish found in Nara actually cursed?

Is this 1,300-year-old dish found in Nara actually cursed?

Though the current capital of Japan is Tokyo, many would argue that its traditional capital, Kyoto, is the real heart of Japan–at least culturally speaking. That said, if you you’re looking for the original capital of Japan, you’d probably be better heading south from Kyoto to Nara Prefecture. But while you should definitely stop and see Heijo-kyo in Nara City, you’ll have to keep heading south to Asuka Village to find the “real” original capital of Japan: Asuka-kyo. Of course, in the 1,300 years since the end of the Asuka Period, the capital has essentially been lost to time–all that’s left are stony remnants like those pictured above.

But that’s not the only patch of old ruins to be found in Asuka area–there are so many, they can actually get in the way of building a house! But with the news of the discovery of a piece of “cursed” earthenware, we have to wonder if maybe it’s just time for everyone to pack up and head for a slightly less historically significant area!

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Beautiful, 100-year-old Japanese guest house is so cheap, for some guests it’s free

Beautiful, 100-year-old Japanese guest house is so cheap, for some guests it’s free

For a lot of travelers, staying in a Japanese-style inn is high on their list of things they want to do in the country, and with good reason. The austere elegance of traditional accommodations provides a uniquely soothing atmosphere, giving you a connection to a culture thousands of years old even as it provides the opportunity for a quiet moment of self-reflection.

What’s not nearly so relaxing, though, are the rates many inns charge, which can run to hundreds of dollars per person in mandatory packages that include overly extravagant meals. But if you’re looking for a place to stay that doesn’t go overboard on either the amenities or prices, the hostel K’s House will provide you a 100-year-old roof over your head, friendly service, and even a natural onsen hot spring bath, all for as little as 2,950 yen (US$27) a night, or, if you don’t mind a few hours’ work, nothing at all.

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Funny old-timey Japanese photo is a blast (of silly faces) from the past

Funny old-timey Japanese photo is a blast (of silly faces) from the past

It’s natural to think of people in the old-timey days as having no time for joviality, what with being tied up in battling polio, Kaisers, and other threats most of the developed world doesn’t run into so much anymore. Likewise, in a lot of ways Japan is a no-nonsense kind of place, where work, school, and family responsibilities generally take precedent over everything else.

So you’d think a picture taken in Japan around a century ago would be a double-exercise in dourness, but as this photograph shows, while fashion and technology may change with the times, silliness has always been a part of life.

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Travel back in time to the Sengoku Era at Sekigahara War Land

Travel back in time to the Sengoku Era at Sekigahara War Land

On October 21, 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu won the famous Battle of Sekigahara which secured his way to rule the shogunate of Japan.

Today, the battlefield where more than 200,000 people perished is but a remnant of ancient history. It is an ordinary town, and only the most maniacal of history buffs would show up to trace the roots of Sekigahara. However, in the center of that town, there is actually a ‘theme park’ where you can learn about history and the famous battle right where it took place, known as the somewhat awkwardly named “Learn! Play! The Immersive War Museum – Sekigahara War Land”.

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Scholars confirm first discovery of Japanese sword from master bladesmith Masamune in 150 years

Scholars confirm first discovery of Japanese sword from master bladesmith Masamune in 150 years

Should you visit a history museum in Japan, and, like I do, make an immediate beeline for the collections of samurai armor and weaponry, you might be surprised to notice that Japanese swords are customarily displayed with the stitching removed from the hilt. Visually, it sort of dampens the impact, since the remaining skinny slab of metal is a lot less evocative of it actually being gripped and wielded by one of Japan’s warriors of ages past.

The reason this is done, though, is because many Japanese swordsmiths would “sign” their works by etching their names into the metal of the hilt. Some craftsmen achieved almost legendary status, becoming folk heroes whose names are widely known even today.

The most respected of all, though, was Masamune, whose reluctance to sign his blades has made identifying them difficult. But difficult and impossible are two different things, and for the first time in over a century, a sword has been confirmed by historians as being the creation of the master himself.

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Rare Namco robot for sale with all its junk hanging out【Photos】

Rare Namco robot for sale with all its junk hanging out【Photos】

An interesting auction popped up last week and at first glance it just looked like an old junkie decorative statue. But further investigation revealed it to have a bit of gamer cred. This robot was designed and built by Namco, yeah, that Namco, the one of Pac-man, Tekken and Soulcalibur fame. Unfortunately, this robot isn’t going to do some super duper awesome game playing for you. However, it is a piece of Namco history on the auction block. If you claim to be the biggest Namco fan in the world, then maybe you NEED this robot.

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Beautiful 400-year-old garden in Okayama about to be replaced with condominium complex

Beautiful 400-year-old garden in Okayama about to be replaced with condominium complex

Japan loves to devise top three lists, and Okayama City’s Korakuen is held to be one of the country’s three best gardens. Anyone who’s visited will tell you that it’s indeed beautiful, but Korakuen isn’t the city’s only garden, or even its oldest.

Okayama is also where you’ll find Tokoen, a garden with a history that stretches back to the early days of Japan’s feudal Edo era. Tranquil and easily accessed by public transportation, Tokoen would make an ideal spot for history buffs and nature lovers looking for a less crowded, quieter urban oasis than Korakuen.

Sadly, though, after roughly four centuries, Tokoen has closed down, and is soon likely to be demolished and replaced with a condominium complex.

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The many twists, turns and trapdoors of Kanazawa’s incredible Ninja Temple

The many twists, turns and trapdoors of Kanazawa’s incredible Ninja Temple

Ishikawa Prefecture is a little off most tourist itineraries of Japan, since it’s located along the north coast of the main island of Honshu. If you’ve got the time to spare, though, the capital city of Kanazawa has more than enough attractions to fill a day or two.

The city is home to Kenrokuen, considered one of Japan’s top three gardens and recently voted to be one of the 30 best sightseeing spots in the country. The Omicho Market is also a great place to enjoy delicious seafood, including the shrimp that Ishikawa is known for.

Or, if neither of those pique your interest, there’s also the ninja temple, whose layout is said to be so confusing that few could make it out without a guide.

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Hello Kitty’s workload about to get even heavier with the introduction of Battleship Kitty

Hello Kitty’s workload about to get even heavier with the introduction of Battleship Kitty

Hello Kitty’s lengthy list of endorsement contracts must be a source of constant pressure for her. The success of products as diverse as contact lenses, melons, and even fire extinguishers riding on her marketing appeal must be an enormous weight on the shoulder’s of Japan’s favorite feline.

Now, Kitty-chan’s about to add an enormous weight to her head, as part of a new tie-up with the city of Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture.

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Soccer: Made in China?

Soccer: Made in China?

It’s easy to trace the roots of American football and basketball, as they’re both comparatively recently developed sports. Things get a little more difficult with soccer, though.

While the world’s most popular sport got its first set of standardized competition rules in 1863, courtesy of England’s Football Association, the game had existed in various forms for some time before that. Several countries have since claimed to be the birthplace of soccer, but one now has the official recognition of the president of soccer’s international governing body.

According to FIFA President Sepp Blatter, soccer originated in China.

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New video shows the link between the Force and Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces

New video shows the link between the Force and Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces

Anyone who is a serious Star Wars fan knows that George Lucas drew heavily on old Japanese Samurai movies, mainly Akira Kurosawa, when making his space opera. Even if you aren’t that into Star Wars, just from watching the movies you can see the samurai imagery screaming out at you. Just take one look at Darth Vader and his stormtroopers and you can see it. But it isn’t simply that Lucas drew his inspiration from those movies, the whole story behind it actually has a few more moving parts then that. A new video from the YouTube channel Film School’d has illustrated that connection with some pretty sweet white board art to boot!

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Hotties from history: the geisha of Japan’s first beauty pageant【Photos】

Hotties from history: the geisha of Japan’s first beauty pageant【Photos】

While the origins of the modern pageant are firmly rooted in 19th century America and P.T. Barnam’s popular photo competitions, Japan apparently didn’t take long to get on the bandwagon. The first beauty pageant was held in Japan in 1891, with a vote on Tokyo’s most beautiful geisha, and we just happen to have the winner and four runners-up in photo form for you here today.

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Who am I? 14 ways to say “I” in Japanese

Who am I? 14 ways to say “I” in Japanese

Long ago, when the majority of the Japanese vocabulary I knew came from reverse engineering the English subtitles on anime tapes, I was patting myself on the back for having figured out that “watashi” means “I.” So imagine my shock and disappointment when I came across a different scene showing a character so overcome with emotion he’d been reduced to stammering, with the subtitles saying, “I…I…I…,” even though he never once said watashi.

Nine times out of ten, you can make money betting against my deductive reasoning skills, but this was one of those rare occasions where my conclusion had been right, as watashi does indeed translate as “I.” It’s just that “I” doesn’t always equal “watashi,” because Japanese has over a dozen pronouns you can use to talk about yourself.

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Amazing photography from the 1860s shows us some of Japan’s very last samurai

Amazing photography from the 1860s shows us some of Japan’s very last samurai

Between the way Japan has embraced technology and just how incredibly safe the country is, it’s easy to forget that it really wasn’t so long ago that the whole nation was still under the feudal system. Until 1868, “samurai” was still very much a viable career choice, as the ruling shogunate relied on a trained warrior class to keep the peace.

How much the traditions of Japan’s fabled swordsmen live on in Japanese society today is something scholars love to debate, and while there are points to be made both for and against their importance, there’s one thing that unquestionably remains, and that’s photography of real-life, genuine samurai.

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Classic Japanese painting “Picture Scroll of a Fart Battle” is exactly what it sounds like

Classic Japanese painting “Picture Scroll of a Fart Battle” is exactly what it sounds like

The earliest weapon associated with the samurai was the longbow, and many were also proficient with polearms. Neither is what first springs to mind for most people when they think of Japan’s warrior class, though. To many, the image of two opposing samurai grasping their swords, ready to duel, is by far the more iconic image.

But while the bow is technically the most traditional, the polearm arguably the most practical, and the katana certainly the most dramatic, none of these are anywhere near as funny as the depiction in this centuries-old scroll of samurai battling each other with their farts.

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That scene from “Frozen” and 10 other fascinating jobs that have gone extinct

That scene from “Frozen” and 10 other fascinating jobs that have gone extinct

Long before we had color television, microwave ovens, mobile phones and the all-mighty Internet, many things had to be done manually and took more time and effort to accomplish. While you may be reading RocketNews24 on your computer or mobile gadget now, the latest news and information used to be only available on handwritten sheets many moons ago.

In many cases, improvement and changes to traditional methods bring greater convenience to the masses, but gone with the olden ways of things are fascinating jobs that once existed to make life easier for the people of their era. How do you think people woke up on time for work before alarm clocks were invented?

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Step aside, Hachiko! Yamaguchi’s Cat Temple offers a samurai tale of feline fealty

Step aside, Hachiko! Yamaguchi’s Cat Temple offers a samurai tale of feline fealty

Nearly every guide book for Japan mentions Hachiko, the dog who patiently waited every day for nine years in the 1920s and ‘30s in front of Shibuya Station for his master to come home, never knowing that the man had passed away at the office. It’s a touching story of devotion, and one so well-known Hachiko now has his own statue near his waiting spot.

However, some argue that Hachiko didn’t come to the station every day because he was hoping for his master to return, but because of the free handouts of food he got once he became a local celebrity. Could it be that the friendly pooch actually isn’t the epitome of animal-human loyalty?

Maybe that title would be a better fit for a cat that lived hundreds of years before Hachiko was even born, and displayed such fealty to its samurai master that its entire species is honored at their own Cat Temple.

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Samurai grooming tips that kept Japan’s warriors looking their bushido best

Samurai grooming tips that kept Japan’s warriors looking their bushido best

A couple of weeks ago, we shared some historical photos of Japan’s most attractive samurai. Sure, with the arsenal of specialized soaps, lotions, and multi-bladed, razors available these days, it’s not unusual to find handsome models, movies stars, and Internet writers. But how did these guys manage to look so good without all these modern luxuries?

It turns out that along with sword fighting and horseback archery, a strict grooming routine has long been part of the samurai tradition.

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Why doesn’t Japan like first-person shooters? Old characters and World War II, says Sega exec

Why doesn’t Japan like first-person shooters? Old characters and World War II, says Sega exec

Not so long ago, Japanese developers absolutely dominated the console video game market. As time went on, though, developers from other nations started chipping away at that massive market share, particularly as consoles and PCs become more similar to each other in performance profiles.

In particular, Japanese studios haven’t responded to consumer demand for first-person shooters. Franchises such as Electronic Arts’ Battlefield and Activion’s Call of Duty are practically a license to print money, with incremental, near-annual updates that open the floodgates on huge revenue streams for their publishers.

But could the reason Japanese video game makers haven’t embraced the first-person shooter have something to do with Japan’s history?

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New Japanese energy drink designed to help samurai, salarymen accomplish mighty deeds

New Japanese energy drink designed to help samurai, salarymen accomplish mighty deeds

As part of a society where industriousness is prized above just about anything else, many people in Japan feel like they could use a boost in the middle of the day. Austrian Red Bull and American Monster have booth made headways into the Japanese market, but this month sees a new entry to the energy drink battleground with the indigenous Samuride, which promises to invigorate you with ingredients used by Japan’s famed warriors.

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