nature

Australia mulls koala cull, Japan’s whaling advocates eat up the irony like delicious whale meat

Japan and most of the rest of the developed world don’t exactly see eye to eye on whaling. Sure, Japan has a couple of mammal-fishing buddies in Norway and Iceland, but most other nations with a comparable scientific and economic footing take a dim view of Japan’s professedly research-based whaling expeditions, especially in light of how you’re much more likely to come across a restaurant in Japan serving whale meat than a significant biological discovery about whales coming from one of the country’s scientists.

One of the most outspoken opponents has been Australia, which is particularly upset about Japanese whalers hunting the creatures in the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica, an area much closer to Australia than Japan. Now, though, some Japanese Internet commenters are launching snide jabs right back at their critics from Down Under in regards to the Australian government’s consideration of a plan to kill off a portion of its koala population.

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Strange lights appear in the skies of Japan, but thanks to fish, not aliens

Way at the western tip of Honshu, the main island of Japan, you’ll find the town of Shimonoseki. Shimonoseki is especially famous for its always delicious, naturally poisonous, and occasionally canned blowfish, but fishermen catch all manner of tasty seafood there in the waters off the edge of Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Wherever you have boats and coastlines, you’ll also want to put a lighthouse too. But on a recent night the beacon of Shimonoseki’s Tsunoshima lighthouse wasn’t the only thing shining in the darkness, as observers also roughly a dozen mysterious-looking lights in the night sky.

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Recently discovered Japanese pufferfish included in list of top ten new species

The ocean is full of a massive array of undiscovered species, so scientists are always finding new types of creatures lurking offshore. The circle-making pufferfish discovered in 2013 are one great example of a species mankind only recently encountered for the first time.

But you don’t have to take our word for it — the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) even included it in their 2015 Top Ten New Species list!

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Kitakyushu’s spectacular wisteria tunnel is blooming! You don’t want to miss it!

You guys, it’s May, so that means you can finally go see the beautiful wisteria tunnel that we told you about last October! If you find yourself anywhere near northern Kyushu or have time for a weekend getaway, head to Fukuoka Prefecture’s Kitakyushu City. If you think we’re exaggerating or doctoring the pictures to make them more beautiful (we’re not), at least trust the opinion of the Japanese Twitter users gushing over the wisteria’s beauty! 

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Spring walking event provides guided tour around Totoro forest loved by Hayao Miyazaki

Just north-west of Tokyo, in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, there’s a beautiful stretch of greenery known as Totoro’s Forest. Containing fields, hills and rice paddies, this is hallowed ground for any Ghibli fan. Not only is this the actual inspiration for the animated film My Neighbour Totoro, the land itself is so beloved by Studio Ghibli legend Hayao Miyazaki that he’s made a generous donation to protect the area from housing developments, participates in regular volunteer events and is said to take daily walks through the woods.

Now, for two days this spring, you too can take a stroll through Totoro’s magical forest, with a walking event organised by the Totoro no Furusato Foundation. Stopping at a number of scenic locations and covering a distance of 15 km each day, you never know who you might meet during this special event!

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There’s a rather pedestrian explanation for these gravity-defying traffic cones

Imagine yourself out for a hike. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself; you’re about to crest the top of a pretty tough mountain, the cool spring air on your skin, the wind blowing through your hair, the traffic cones towering above your head.

Wait, back up… Traffic cones?

There’s been a spate of gravity-defying traffic cone sightings throughout Japan, if photos making the rounds on social media are to be believed. But, there may actually be a pretty reasonable explanation for them…

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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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