nature

The not-so-fleeting beauty of the cherry blossoms: An alternate perspective

I used to work nights and weekends at my old job, and one particularly unlucky year I was missing all the cherry blossom parties friends were having while I was stuck in the office. I managed to catch a break, though, because right at the tail end of sakura season a girl I knew had a day off that matched up with one of mine, so we decided to go check out the flowers together.

We met at the station, walked down to the river, and the scenery was drop-dead gorgeous, like something out of a travel guide or some trendy Japanese TV drama or anime. After walking down a lantern-lit path lined with cherry trees in full bloom, we bought some snacks from a food stall in a park, sat down, and spent an hour or so soaking up the atmosphere.

It’s weird to think that in just a few days, all those achingly captivating pink petals would fall from their branches and be blown away by the wind. But hey, that’s what makes the sakura so special, right? Their beauty is that much greater because it’s so fleeting, right?

Yeah…I’m not sure I buy that.

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River in China turned into carpet of green leaves

This beautiful yet unsettling scene took place in Huizhou City recently as countless little green plants began rapidly sprouting up in the river giving it the appearance of a lush green meadow.

This is actually an annual occurrence in the city and officials are at a crossroads of how to deal with it this plant which may luckily turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

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Snow sakura! Spring and winter collide as frost and cherry blossoms mingle in Japan 【Photos】

As I sit here writing this, it’s been a solid four days since I’ve seen a patch of blue sky. That’s hard enough on someone who grew up in sun-drenched southern California, but what makes it worse is that right now the cherry blossoms are blooming across Japan, and the week-long forecast of cold and precipitation isn’t what many were hoping for as they made plans to head out and admire the short-lived flowers.

But while sakura in the sun are always preferable to sakura in the rain, once the temperature dips down low enough, the flowers become captivating in a whole new way, as shown in these beautiful photos of cherry blossoms in the snow.

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Couldn’t catch the cherry blossoms in full bloom? We’ve got a unique idea for you!

Of all the beautiful sights in Japan, there is nothing quite like cherry blossoms blooming in spring. As soon as the winds of winter end, these tiny buds start growing and cities are filled with various shades of pink. However the cherry blossom season is very short, and just as soon as the sakura have come, they’re falling off the trees in a downpour of petals.

But when these petals fall into a river, or cover a paved street, another magical sight can be enjoyed. Let us show you another way you can enjoy cherry blossoms once they have blown off the tree with breathtaking pictures of hanaikada, cherry blossoms floating atop a river.

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Company wants to put electric lights on Mt. Fuji, everyone else in Japan says “Please don’t”

In Japan, things that are receiving a lot of love and attention are sometimes described as “shining.” These days, that’s a description you could apply to Mt. Fuji.

After receiving UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2013, Japan has rekindled its love affair with the country’s highest mountain. But just because Mt. Fuji’s star is brighter than usual these days doesn’t mean everyone wants the mountain to be literally shining, as angry online commenters are speaking out against one company’s proposal to light up Mt. Fuji’s summit at night.

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Our Japanese staff members pick the top places in Japan they’d like to visit again someday

Figuring out where to go during your stay in Japan can seem like an insurmountable task. For first-time visitors to the country, there are so many famous places to visit that the task of deciding becomes overwhelming. On the other hand, if you’ve been living in Japan for a while, you’re probably tired of all the crowded, touristy places and would like to go somewhere off-the-beaten path.

To help out our readers who are struggling with this internal dilemma, we’ve asked three reporters from our Japanese-language RocketNews24 team to share with us the top three places in Japan they’d definitely like to visit again someday. These three have had ample opportunities to travel to various places around the country and experience the local scenes in the name of eclectic journalism, so you can think of them as seasoned experts on the matter. Let’s see what little-known travel recommendations they have waiting for us!

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The top 10 rural regions of Japan that Tokyo residents would like to move to

There’s a widespread belief in Japan that if you want to achieve educational or economic success, you come to Tokyo. As a matter of fact, it’s such a common move that Japanese even has a verb for it, joukyou, or to “move on up to the capital.”

But for some people, always-lively Tokyo is just too bustling. It’s not just the elderly who feel the appeal of a rustic lifestyle, either. Even some residents in their 20s find themselves wanting to move away from the constant hum of the big city, and a recent survey reveals the top 10 rural regions of Japan that Tokyoites would like to move to.

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Ever wanted to take a trip to Ghibli’s Laputa? Tokyo Bay island might just be the next best thing

If I told you there’s a place in Tokyo Bay called Sarushima, and that its name means Monkey Island, how many of you would be ready to get on the boat right now? And how many of you would then be crushingly disappointed you made the trip when you found out there aren’t actually any monkeys living there?

I’m guessing the answer to the first question would be “most of you.” As for the second? Only as many of you who, heartbroken at a lack of monkeys, didn’t walk far enough into the island’s interior to see that what Sarushima lacks in monkeys it makes up for with a mix of natural beauty and preserved architecture that makes it look like it’d be a suitable filming location for a live-action version of Studio Ghibli’s classic anime Castle in the Sky Laputa.

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Mother Nature gets a little artsy: Miraculous snow piles found around Japan

According to Pennsylvania’s famed groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, the U.S. has another six weeks of winter ahead of it. The States aren’t alone though; February is a cold, dreary month all over the freeze-inflicted parts of the northern hemisphere, including much of Japan. One thing that makes the cold a little better though, is having some pretty snow on the ground to play in and to make the shivering cold (almost) worth it.

The only thing better than snow on the ground is finding snow in weird formations that might make you stop in your tracks, take a second look or like many Japanese netizens, take pictures to post on the Internet. Some of these strange snow formations from around Japan are pretty mind-boggling, so get ready!

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When nature is so beautiful you can’t tell whether it’s real or a painting

There are some places on earth that are so stunningly beautiful it’s hard to believe they really exist, especially when you’re just looking at photos of them. China’s “rainbow mountains” are one such example that needs to be seen to be believed.

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The 6 volcanoes most likely to destroy, like, everything (guess which country has the most)

If volcanoes were comic or fantasy villains, they’d be more akin to Marvel’s cosmic entities or Lovecraftian horrors than the puny likes of Magneto or, uh… The Slug (I don’t know many Marvel villains). They strike only every few thousand years before slipping back into a long slumber, lurking for centuries as humanity slowly forgets the horrors they can inflict, inching closer to the looming mountains with each passing year, setting up cities at their very feet. Then, when mankind least expects it – just chillin’ ‘n shit as Dave Chappelle might say – the volcano strikes again, blasting molten rock and ash over miles and miles, smothering out whole cities in the (cosmically speaking) blink of an eye.

Yet, even as we know intellectually that volcanoes are kind of a big deal, we tend to look up at them less with abject horror and awe and more with shouts of, “Hey, check out that big-ass rock!”

Well people, we’ve got news for you: There are at least six big-ass rocks capable of blotting out not just entire cities, but entire civilizations and possibly humanity itself and you’ll never guess which disaster-prone island nation has the most.

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Japanese convenience store FamilyMart inadvertently gives away pearl in pack of seafood snacks

In a lot of ways, convenience stores in Japan are more like miniature supermarkets. So while they still sell a lot of the candy and canned beverages their counterparts in other countries specialize in, you can also find plenty of edible, even gourmet-sounding food.

For example, the chain FamilyMart sells pouches of fried scallop meat, specifically the mantle, or part of the animal that attaches it to its shell. There’s a certain level of risk that comes with eating any mass-produced foodstuff, though, as one customer found out when he found what he felt was a foreign object in his pack of marine mollusks. And while generally the only thing you want to find in your food is, well, food, we suppose if we had to find something else mixed in there, we’d want what he discovered hiding in his snack: a pearl.

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Expat’s video says “Welcome to My Japan,” and you ought to take him up on the awesome invitation

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who moved to Japan and stayed for exactly two years. Most of the study and work opportunities that initially bring people here are 12-month programs, and while plenty of people decide that’s enough Japan for them, most people who manage to adapt and thrive during that first year reup for an even longer stay.

One such example is Canadian Thomas Simmons, who’s now been in Japan for four and a half years and counting. Given the country’s relatively small geographic size, you might think that’s enough time to see everything, but as the powerful video Simmons created about his experiences so far shows, he’s just getting started with his life in Japan.

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Japan’s Kawakami Dogs: Descended from wolves, adorable as puppies 【Video】

Many animal lovers are already familiar with Akita Inu and Shiba Inu, Japan’s two most prominent breeds of dog. But while they’re both popular choices as pets, there’s another special type of pooch in Japan, the Kawakami Inu.

Extremely rare, the Kawakami Inu are said to be descended from Japanese wolves. And while they have the courage you’d expect from such lineage, that doesn’t mean they’re not also adorable as puppies.

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Keeping Totoro’s Forest safe: Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki volunteers in conservation event

When Studio Ghibli’s classic anime My Neighbor Totoro first screened in the U.S., more than a few people assumed the titular forest spirit must be a traditional figure from Japanese myth or folklore. Considering how well-realized the character is, and the reverence the film treats him with, it’s not surprising that some people would arrive at that conclusion, but the fact of the matter is Totoro sprang directly from the active and ample imagination of Hayao Miyazaki.

The acclaimed director did have a little real-world help creating the film’s setting though, which is said to have been inspired by a patch of Japanese forestland called Fuchi no Mori. The forest helped light a creative spark in Miyazaki, and now he’s returned the favor by volunteering in an annual conservation event that helps keep the Fuchi no Mori green and healthy.

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Man discovers fluffy wild deer nestled under porch, turns to Twitter for help

If you head out to the countryside in Japan you’re likely to notice that there’s a whole lot of wildlife to be found on these myriad islands. Whether it’s brown bears (Hokkaido), venomous snakes (Okinawa), or stinging centipedes (Everywhere), it’s important to be aware of what might be lurking. It’s not all creepy crawlies and bitey-stingies, though – there’s a possibility you’ll bump into capering monkeys, wild boar trotting down residential streets, and other adorable and fuzzy members of the animal kingdom. If you’re extra-lucky, one might even seek you out as a special friend, which is what happened to one bloke on Twitter when a deer decided to take up residence under his porch!

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Water pipe bursts at Beijing art building, turns everything into a frozen winter wonderland

Nothing kills a great winter vacation more than coming back to find out your pipes have burst. That water can be flowing out of the broken pipe for days before you return home to find you have a new indoor swimming pool. It only has to happen once to forever taint your holidays with an extremely nagging “did we turn the water off?”

With temperatures dipping below zero in many parts of the world, each day is a potential pipe bursting tragedy. However, sometimes two wrongs really do make a right, and the horrible outcome of water soaking everything with Jack Frost blowing through create a really spectacular winter wonderland.

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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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Japan Post to give stamps cute animal makeovers including chipmunks, foxes, and an old man

Earlier this year as the Japanese government enacted a sales tax hike, the cost of mailing a letter also increased. As a result a new 2 yen stamp had to be issued to fill the price hike, and in an effort to quell public anger, Japan Post put a picture of a cute fluffy bunny on it. Surely that’d do the trick, right?

Of course it did! In Japan, cuteness is a rock-solid commodity and the bunny stamp was a huge success. It was so popular that people came out to buy some even though they had no mail to send. And so, Japan Post set a mandate to make all of their stamps pretty before fiscal 2015.

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Mount Aso: I heard you like volcanoes, so I put some volcanoes in your volcano【Photos】

Japan is a country with a whole lot of volcanoes of all shapes, sizes and persuasions. From the iconic Mt. Fuji to the recently erupted Mt. Ontake, you really can’t swing a koto around here without hitting a geological pressure cooker. And nowhere is that truer than the Aso-Kuju National Park in Kyushu, where they literally have volcanoes on top of volcanoes.

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