history

How long does Kagoshima need to convince us to visit? With this video, just two minutes

A little over a year ago, one of my good friends in Tokyo got a job teaching philosophy at a university in Kagoshima, the prefecture at the southernmost tip of the island of Kyushu. Being that he’s now a seven-hour series of train rides, or a two-and-a-half-hour flight, away, we don’t get together so often anymore, but on the plus side, now I have a reason to take a trip to Kagoshima.

Well, actually, I’ve got about a dozen reasons to take a trip there, if you add in all of the nature trails, hot springs, scenic coastline, and more shown in this video of some of Kagoshima’s most achingly beautiful travel destinations.

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Author insinuates Hayao Miyazaki isn’t right in the head, says The Wind Rises is full of lies

In listening to people talk about anime director Hayao Miyazaki, there’s a collection of words you’ll hear over and over. Genius. Visionary. Legend.

So it was a little surprising to hear the man behind one of Japan’s most popular films from the last year instead voice his suspicions that Miyazaki isn’t quite right in the head.

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Giant statue built into station in northern Japan is historical, terrifying, and awesome

The major train stations in urban Japan almost seem like small cities, packed with restaurants, hotels, and shopping space. Things are usually pretty different out in the countryside, though, where many rail stops are little more than an awning with a short bench to sit on while you wait for the trains to roll in.

We say rural stations are “usually” simple, though, because in one town up north in Aomori Prefecture, you’ll find a station guarded by what looks like a massive alien.

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Japanese nerds pick the feudal warlord they’d most like to be their boss

Sometimes you just have to take a survey for the sake of taking a survey, no matter how seemingly random or inconsequential the contents of the survey may be.

For example, we now have the results of this survey, which we’re pretty sure no one asked for, that gauges which feudal warlord Japanese geeks would rather be working under. We presume this means in an office setting and not, like, on an old-timey Japanese Warring States-era battlefield.

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Travel through time with these old maps from the Zenrin Virtual Museum

While the average human has not yet come unstuck in time, it doesn’t mean we’re completely at a loss when it comes to time travel. Yes, we may only move in a singular direction, but at least have artifacts from the past to help us look back! Everything from old photos to old pottery help us dig through our murky cultural memory to see how things used to be.

And, thanks to Zenrin, a Japanese mapping company based in Oita Prefecture, now you can travel internationally with their collection of digital maps from the Edo and Meiji periods. Whether you think England is a conspiracy of cartographers or you know the name of every mapmaker since Babylonia, there’s something here for everyone!

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Presidential Pokémon have our vote as today’s coolest fan art

Japanese animation and video games have a long-standing tradition of creating cute and/or super powered versions of prominent figures from the country’s history. In the U.S., we don’t really do this as often, and you might jump to the conclusion that the deck is stacked in Japan’s favor, seeing as how so many of their rulers were also katana-carrying samurai.

But dig a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of action protagonist potential among American presidents, from Abraham Lincoln’s wrestling skills to Andrew Jackson’s well-documented love of shooting dudes. And as for making them adorable? Leave that to Utah artist Brandon Dayton, who’s reimagined nine Pokémon as U.S. heads of state.

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11 predictions Japanese people made hundreds of years ago about the future

For a large chunk of Japan’s history, there wasn’t much time to think about the future. Instead, most people’s days were filled with more immediate concerns, like trying to figure out how to survive the civil wars that were all the rage in the country during most of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

Things finally settled down in the early 1600s, though, and ordinary Japanese citizens entered into a long period of internal stability. Finally having enough time to muse about things to come, they came up with a list of predictions about Japan’s future, some of which are nowhere near how reality has turned out, and some of which were spot on.

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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

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

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

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

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】

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

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

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 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?

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

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】

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

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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