history

We explore the evolution of the toilet at Kitakyushu’s newly opened TOTO Museum

What would modern life be like without the humble toilet? Actually, we’d rather not think about that.

Many of us around the world should direct our thanks to TOTO Ltd., the world’s largest manufacturer of toilets and the very company that invented the washlet. In fact, Friday, August 28 marked the grand opening of the new TOTO Museum in Fukuoka Prefecture, where the company was originally founded in 1917.

Takashi Harada, our Japanese reporter who proclaims that he couldn’t survive a day without a washlet, immediately made a bee line to the new sanctuary to give thanks to the toilet gods and to learn a bit about the historical evolution of the toilet.

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Even samurai ran late! Newly discovered document shows one warrior’s excuse to his boss

We’ve all been there, waking up late after the alarm didn’t go off or just hitting the snooze button a few hundred times too many. Sometimes the excuses are legitimate and sometimes everyone knows you didn’t actually get food poisoning while rescuing a Girl Scout troop from a box of bad cookies. Still, calling in sick has a timed-honored tradition of hard (and lazy) workers for decades — and, in fact, for centuries!

A recently discovered document on display at the Tochigi Prefectural Museum reveals the reason why one daimyo (samurai warlord) was late to an important meeting with his boss, the famous Toyotomi Hideyoshi. We’re guessing “Sorry, boss, I have a sore throat!” probably didn’t cut it with one of Japan’s great unifiers…

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World War II ended 70 years ago — here’s the planned US invasion of Japan that never happened

On August 14, 1945, US President Harry Truman announced the unconditional surrender of Japanese Emperor Hirohito, thereby ending World War II.

The surrender came after months of bombing raids across the Japanese countryside, two atomic bombs, and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on the island nation.

The iron resolve of the Japanese was a major factor the US anticipated while planning the invasion of mainland Japan. The culture known for literally putting death before dishonor with practices such as hara-kiri would not, by any stretch of the imagination, go softly into surrender.

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Disney’s Japanese Twitter account calls anniversary of Nagasaki bombing “Nothing Special Day”

It’s hard to overstate what an excellent job Disney does with its marketing in Japan. In a country that produces more mainstream animation than anywhere else on the planet, Disney still manages to stand out from the domestically made competition, winning the hearts of Japanese audiences and turning them into life-long fans.

At least part of that success is thanks to the company’s willingness to adapt to local tastes, as Disney’s two Tokyo-area theme parks put a greater emphasis on shows, parades, and seasonal events than their counterparts in the U.S. On the merchandising end, there are not only high-class items created specifically for Japan, but entire retail divisions.

Still, everyone makes mistakes, and Disney made a big one when it sent out a message from its official Japanese Twitter account declaring the date of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki to be Nothing Special Day.

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Declassified photos show the US’s final preparations for the only nuclear weapons attacks in history

On August 6th and 9th of 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing significant death and destruction in both places. To this day, the bombings remain history’s only acts of nuclear warfare.

A lot has been established about the immediate preparations for the dropping of the bombs, known as “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” which were loaded onto airplanes on the North Field airbase on Tinian Island, part of the Northern Mariana Islands to the south of Japan.

Until recently few photographs were available of the final hours before the bombings. But newly declassified pictures shed additional light on the procedures leading up to the nuclear attacks, giving a chilling glimpse into how and where the most destructive bombs ever used in warfare were loaded.

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History crash course: Charming animation shows 80 years of Singapore history in 16 minutes【Video】

Singapore is an island country so small you can barely see it on the world map. But despite its modest size, Singapore is among the most globalised countries you’ll ever visit, one of the world’s major commercial hubs, and sees over 15 million tourists each year. And no, in case you were wondering, Singapore is not a part of China.

Some of you may have visited the city-state on a vacation or business trip, but do you know Singapore beyond its modern, bustling cityscape? In celebration of the nation’s 50th National Day, animation director Ervin Han and team created a 16-minute animation that looks back at the 80 years of ups and downs Singapore went through to get to where it is today. Get your history crash course after the break!

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Johnson Town: A little piece of America in Japan… where all the residents are Japanese 【Pics】

Groups of people moving to a new country often settle in the same area together, creating a little neighborhood reminiscent of their old lives in their new homes. In the U.S., we have a Chinatown or Little Italy in almost every big city, and Japan has the same thing too. They even have something you may have never heard of: Little America towns that used to house U.S. military personnel.

But what happens when the military decides they don’t want to live there anymore? Then you get a place like Johnson Town in Saitama Prefecture, where you’d swear you were walking around rural America, if not for the fact that it’s entirely populated by Japanese people.

What is one of these Little America towns in Japan like? And, most importantly, do they have good American-style food? A reporter from our Japanese sister site went to investigate and bring you all the answers, some of which may surprise you.

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This just in: Historical Japanese figure Sakamoto Ryoma may not have been human at all…?

Japanese history buffs are sure to recognize the name and face of Sakamoto Ryoma, who had a huge effect on the feudal Japan of his time. But as one Japanese Twitterer has discovered, the Sakamoto we are all familiar with may not be what we had imagined at all

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The star chart in Kitora Tomb in Nara is the oldest in the world…but where was it made?

Japan’s kofun are ancient burial mounds that can be found throughout the country in a wide range of sizes and shapes. They’re great sources for learning about the past, covering multiple centuries of Japanese history. Collectively, they offer remarkable glimpses into the life of Japan from the third to the seventh centuries CE.

Kitora Kofun is one of Japan’s smaller kofun, but since its discovery in 1983, it’s proven to be incredibly valuable for historians. With an exhibit focusing on the tomb coming up later this year, some extra work has gone into analyzing the star chart used to decorate one of the walls — and researchers have come to some surprising conclusions about its origin!

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Accessories inspired by samurai armor blend traditional Yamanashi designs and crafts

Yamanashi Prefecture is perhaps most famous for its beautiful scenery – which of course includes Mt. Fuji – but the prefecture is also home to a number of traditional crafts. One technique in particular, called “koshu-inden,” has been widely praised. Pioneered by a company established in the 16th century, this leather-working art was once used to decorate samurai armor and is considered by some as emblematic of samurai bravery.

Now, you too can wear accessories bearing this symbolic design and crafted by that legendary company thanks to a collaboration that has produced a number of beautiful bracelets. Check out some of the items below.

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How have Russian beauty trends changed over the last hundred years?【Video】

Cut Video’s 100 Years of Beauty series has been updated with a new video focusing on Russian beauty trends. In the popular video series, we see one model transformed by a team of makeup artists into a woman representing different historical eras from the 1910s to the 2010s, all set to a great soundtrack.

It’s not just fun to see how makeup and hair trends have changed through the ages, it also serves as a lens through which to look and learn about a society at different periods in its history. The social conditions of a country are reflected in its people and the trends of the time, and Russia is particularly interesting due to its wildly fluctuating political situation which led to big changes from decade to decade.

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Japanese team discovers 24 new geoglyphs at Nazca, including llamas

A team of researchers from Yamagata University in Japan announced this week that they have identified 24 new geoglyphs in Nazca, Peru, site of the UNESCO World Heritage Nazca lines.

The newly found geoglyphs are smaller than their famous peers, but estimated to be several centuries older.

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Weapons, drugs and racism among 15 things a minor could buy in Showa Japan

History in Japan is divided into the eras over which certain emperors reign. For example, now we are in the 27th year of the Heisei Era under Emperor Akihito. Before 1989, Japan was in the Showa Era, which began in late 1926.

Japan went through a series of major social changes during this period, which runs right through World War II and the saw the growth of the bubble economy. Fans of history are probably familiar with the political and business aspects of these changes, but not as much is seen of daily life in Japan during this tumultuous time.

So, here’s a little look at what things were like back then in a list of 15 things that a child could purchase during the Showa Period. Cue the Breaking Bad steel guitar riff.

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Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by Taliban reborn via Chinese couple, projection mapping

The giant stone Buddhas at Bamiyan were the tallest in the world at 55 and 38 meters (180 and 125 feet) in height. From their cliffside alcove, they watched a millennium and a half pass in Afghanistan, resisting the degenerative influence of time and the introduction of Islam, until religious fanaticism in the form of the Taliban and a great deal of explosives finally brought them down.

Their loss was a cultural and artistic tragedy, but this week the Buddhas were reborn through the magic of 3-D projection mapping and the efforts of a civilian Chinese couple.

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Upcoming photo book captures the postwar journey of recovery for Nagoya

A new photo book titled Nagoya in the Showa Era: Showa Years 20-40 (昭和の名古屋 昭和20~40年代) captures all of the struggles and efforts to rebuild the city, which is the capital of Aichi Prefecture, between 1945-1965. If you or someone you know has a connection to Nagoya, this book may provide an interesting and relevant glimpse into the past.

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Samurai fashion guide – Should you wear your sword blade-up or blade-down?

In any situation, it’s important to dress appropriately. It can be tough to get all the little details just right, though, especially when dealing with articles of clothing you don’t have occasion to use very often. If you’re still a student, for example, you might have trouble tying a nice, crisp knot in your necktie, and even if you’re an adult working in a suit-and-tie business environment, you might not know all the finer points for more formal accessorizing, such as where to position a tie bar or the proper way to fold a pocket square.

Or, if you’re going to meet up with your fellow samurai, should your sword point upwards or downwards?

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Wouldn’t it be great to travel back in time to feudal Japan? Eh, probably not, reveals poll

We are pretty lucky to be living in the 21st century with all the mod-cons at our fingertips. Spare a thought for poor Saburo, a character in the TV drama series Nobunaga Concerto based on the manga by Ayumi Ishii, where he finds himself traveling back in time.

The series is a comical depiction of what happens when Saburo jumps from the present day to Japan’s feudal era, but if we all suddenly found ourselves without the modern conveniences we love, would we really be laughing? Probably not, as revealed by a poll of what viewers would hate if they found themselves sent back in time.

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You won’t believe your eyes! Old opthalmologist’s shop in Taiwan is now an ice cream shop

One of the best things about taking a holiday abroad is basking in the glory of all the historical architecture of the area. Another amazing thing about it is eating delicious food and buying tons of yummy goodies to bring home. So if you’re thinking of visiting Taiwan any time soon, you’d be crazy to pass up an opportunity to visit this olde-world opthalmologist’s shop that’s been turned into a swanky ice cream, cake and sweets shop!

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Century-old cosplay photo exists for a reason as bizarre as its dog vs. monkey sumo match

With the rise of otaku culture Japan is in its golden age of anime events, which means that cosplay is bigger than ever. But it turns out that even before there were Internet forums, prop suppliers, and even dedicated themed cosplay photo studio complexes, people in Japan were dressing up in fantasy costumes and posing for the camera.

As a matter of fact, this photo from more than a century ago shows that the roots of cosplay predate Japanese animation itself. But with no anime conventions or social media outlets through which to show off their outfits, why did this group bother? Suffice to say the reason for this photo shoot is about as unexpected as the costumed scene itself: a giant monkey about to sumo wrestle a biped dog.

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Women, gamers, and foreigners all show up to be samurai for a day at Sengoku battle reenactment

Some people in Japan have no more than a passing interest in the country’s long and fascinating history, which is at least partly the fault of how the subject is taught in schools. Many history classes place a heavy emphasis on memorization of the exact dates and years of important events, leaving less time for studying the people and motivations behind them.

There’s been a recent surge in history buffs, though, especially in regards to the Sengoku, or Warring States, period which lasted from the mid 15th century until the very start of the 17th century. But it’s not crusty old historians leading this charge, as a recent samurai battle reenactment had women making up some 40 percent of the volunteers, whose ranks were also bolstered by video gamers and foreign residents of Japan.

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