nature

Japan’s 7 most beautiful views in blue

Japan’s 7 most beautiful views in blue

If you try to think of a natural vista featuring the color blue, chances are the first image to pop to mind is a tropical ocean view or maybe a glacial ice-scape. Despite being somewhere in between those to climate extremes, Japan has some beautiful blues to offer as well. Here are seven of the most impressive blue landscapes in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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There’s something about sakura: It’s hard not to fall in love with Japan’s cherry blossom【Videos】

There’s something about sakura: It’s hard not to fall in love with Japan’s cherry blossom【Videos】

Spring has arrived in Japan, and that can mean only one thing: Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties! But what is it about hanami, and those pretty pink petals in general for that matter, that manages to capture the hearts and minds of so many?

Let’s take a look at a handful of videos that capture the mood of hanami season perfectly and see if we can pinpoint exactly what it is that makes the season so special!

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Know your sakura: Japan’s three best cherry blossom trees

Know your sakura: Japan’s three best cherry blossom trees

In Japan, cherry blossoms, or sakura, are the rock stars of the plant kingdom. People obsess over them, their rare public appearances send fans into a frenzy, and the most devoted enthusiasts will even follow their flowering tour as it spreads from Japan’s warmer southern prefectures to the chillier north.

But just as some music acts draw larger crowds than others, these three sakura trees are considered to be the absolute peak of the pink-flowered crowd.

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Internet users can’t decide on Japan’s most beautiful village, and we can totally see why

Internet users can’t decide on Japan’s most beautiful village, and we can totally see why

The flipside to Japan’s major cities being so crowded is that large patches of the country are hardly developed at all. The need to be close to an urban center for work or school means that if you’re willing to spend a couple hours getting out of town, you can find scenes of pristine natural beauty.

Recently, a group of Japanese Internet commentators engaged in an impromptu debate about which of Japan’s rural villages is the most beautiful. They haven’t come to a consensus yet, and after looking at photos from the numerous contenders, we can see why they’re having trouble deciding on just one.

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Nature photographer in Hokkaido captures beautiful sun pillar 【Video】

Nature photographer in Hokkaido captures beautiful sun pillar 【Video】

This winter brought record snowfalls to the Tokyo area, causing residents to alternatively let their creative sides run wild and panic-horde groceries.

Meanwhile, residents of Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, sat back and chuckled at the weather-based hijinks of their urban cousins in the capital. After all, this sort of thing is no big deal in Japan’s coldest prefecture. It takes something really special to make people in Hokkaido stop and take notice of the snow. Something like an angelically beautiful pillar of light.

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Volcano Spawns Terrifying Tornado-Like Twisters【GIFS】

Volcano Spawns Terrifying Tornado-Like Twisters【GIFS】

A volcanic eruption is terrifying on its own, but we just learned that, even more terrifyingly, the avalanche of hot rocks, ash, and gas that volcanoes spew can spawn giant tornado-like twisters.

This was caught on video after a pyroclastic flow from Mount Sinabung, a volcano in Indonesia that’s recently started spewing again after more than 400 years of dormancy.

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How many abandoned bicycles can fit in just one Tokyo pond?

How many abandoned bicycles can fit in just one Tokyo pond?

One of the odder problems you run into living in Japan is how to throw large things away. Say you’ve just bought a new bicycle, for example. In many countries you could find a charity to donate it to, or perhaps a relative or friend of a friend who’s just starting college or a career.

Japan’s predominantly middle-class society and general dislike of used durable goods means you’re unlikely to find someone willing to take your old bike off your hands, though. Trash collectors won’t haul off something that big unless you shell out an additional fee, either. In some cases, people will simply abandon their bike somewhere, such as a back alley or deserted parking lot.

Or, apparently, in a lake in one of Tokyo’s most beloved parks.

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This horse conch left us both disgusted and fascinated

This horse conch left us both disgusted and fascinated

Nature is just…weird. There are no two ways about it: once you get out of the “normal” human areas of habitation, nature turns out to be absolutely freaky. And nowhere is it more bizarre, baffling, and unsettling than in the ocean.

Case in point, the above photo is entirely safe for work–but only if your job is in a nightmare factory. Click below to see exactly what this monstrosity is. Just don’t blame us if you don’t sleep or enjoy your dinner tonight.

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Five awesome hot springs in Taiwan (one of them has been on fire for 300 years!)

Five awesome hot springs in Taiwan (one of them has been on fire for 300 years!)

Japan is famous for being an onsen (hot spring) nation, so much so that a friend of mine preaches that “if you’ve never been to an onsen, then you’ve never been to Japan”. Quite the extremist, but you get the idea. Japanese hot springs come pretty close to “heaven on earth”.

But Japan’s neighboring country, Taiwan, also has some fabulous hot springs to boot! The fact that there are onsen-loving Japanese people who travel to Taiwan for a soak is sufficient to vouch for the quality of these bubbling hot baths. Here’s a list of five onsen hot spots you wouldn’t want to miss on your trip to Taiwan!

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Real-life Winnie the Pooh caught stealing honey, on run from the law

Real-life Winnie the Pooh caught stealing honey, on run from the law

When wildlife researchers in Kochi Prefecture set up an unmanned camera in a local forest to find the cheeky wilderness creature stealing honey from an animal trap they’d set up, they probably expected to find a clever squirrel or some other creature too small or quick to set off the trap door.

Instead, what they found in video footage was what can only be described as real-life Winnie the Pooh turned to petty crime to fund his hopeless honey addiction.

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Take a peek inside the private lives of giant pandas!【Video】

Take a peek inside the private lives of giant pandas!【Video】

Let’s face it, the world has a giant love for giant pandas. The cuddly endangered species are easily the most popular bears on earth, thanks to their unique monotone hide and laid-back nature. Sometimes we wonder if they know that they are almost like superstars, with a huge following of humans creating (and eating) foodstuffs inspired by them, and live streaming cameras allowing people across the globe to watch them like the paparazzi keeping a tab on some Hollywood star.

While we’ve seen videos of the adorable animals enjoying their day in enclosure, the folks in Sichuan province in southwest China have managed to capture rare footage of pandas in the wild for the first time after more than 10 years of observation. Watch this big fuzzy bear do a handstand while he thinks no one’s watching.

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Angry landowner fights tree-loving boy band fangirls with the ultimate weapon: More trees

Angry landowner fights tree-loving boy band fangirls with the ultimate weapon: More trees

Due to the unique nature of Japanese advertising, you haven’t really arrived as an entertainer until you’ve appeared in at least a half-dozen commercials. The symbiotic relationship is amazing to behold, as the general trust for domestic celebrities and corporations means that when, say, a popular actress appears in an ad for energy-efficient plasma TVs, viewers tend to come away feeling more positively about the product because of the endorsement, and at the same time more impressed by the endorser because of her growing career portfolio.

But sometimes commercials can be a little too effective, as Japan Airlines is finding out with one of its recent TV spots featuring popular boy band Arashi.

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Japan’s 20 best free sightseeing spots

Japan’s 20 best free sightseeing spots

Even with the falling yen making Japan more affordable for international travelers, the country still isn’t exactly a bargain destination. Likewise, even local residents, who recently went through the double whammy of paying quarterly resident taxes and an announcement that sales tax will jump to 8 percent next year, are looking to stretch their entertainment budgets.

Thankfully, travel site Trip Advisor recently announced the results of its survey regarding the top 20 free sightseeing locations in Japan.

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The otherworldly, anime-like beauty of California’s Mono Lake

The otherworldly, anime-like beauty of California’s Mono Lake

Despite the perception of Japan as a high-tech wonderland, the country is filled with natural beauty as well. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve turned a corner on a hiking trail and been greeted by a towering grove of bamboo, flurry of cherry blossom petals, or some other perfectly picturesque sight that made me stop and think “Wow, that’s something I’d never have seen back home in California.”

But sometimes the girl you ignored in high school shows up at your 10-year reunion looking so unbelievably hot you immediately regret not having spent more time with her when you had the chance. Recent Internet activity has brought to our attention California’s Mono Lake, a place of otherworldly beauty unlike anything you can find in Japan outside of a science fiction anime.

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Hello Kitty look-alike caterpillar is easily the cutest larva we’ve ever seen

Hello Kitty look-alike caterpillar is easily the cutest larva we’ve ever seen

Over the last few months, we’ve been tracking beloved Sanrio character Hello Kitty’s increasingly unusual endorsements. We were surprised enough when she appeared as a gigantic, plush tooth to promote dental hygiene products, but we suspect Kitty-chan polished off far too many cans from her line of Taiwanese beer before agreeing to her newest incarnation: a creepy (yet cute), crawly insect larva.

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Do not adjust your monitor – Hitachi Seaside Park really looks like this

Do not adjust your monitor – Hitachi Seaside Park really looks like this

I always have a tough time transitioning to autumn in Japan. Sure, the lower humidity means I can stop sweating for the first time in three months, but it’s a little disappointing leaving the office in the evening and finding the skies already completely dark. In my book, a persimmon is a poor substitute for a nice slice of watermelon. And while my wife does indeed look stylish in her snappy fall coat, if I’m being completely honest, I’d still rather see her in a bathing suit at the beach.

However, there is one saving grace to autumn: the dazzling array of fall colors. Hitachi Seaside Park may share part of its name with the electronics manufacturer founded in the same city, but there’s no technological wizardry going on here. The vivid vermillion of its foliage is 100 percent natural.

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We visit beautiful, bucolic Shirakawa-go to escape Tokyo’s hustle and bustle

We visit beautiful, bucolic Shirakawa-go to escape Tokyo’s hustle and bustle

Amazing as Japan’s metropolises are, after spending enough time in some of the most densely populated spots on the planet, urban fatigue starts to set in. There’s nothing like a getaway to the countryside to refresh your spirits after one too many days scurrying around downtown in packed train and subway cars.

The Shirakawa-go district, located in Gifu Prefecture, is close enough to Tokyo or Osaka that it makes an easy weekend escape for residents, as well as a simple side trip for overseas tourists crisscrossing the country. In terms of atmosphere, though, Shirakawa-go is worlds away from Japan’s largest cities.

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When dumplings fly: Japan’s most recent typhoon causes random objects to take flight

When dumplings fly: Japan’s most recent typhoon causes random objects to take flight

The wind wasn’t quite strong enough to pick up entire houses or bicycling old ladies, but Japan’s 18th typhoon of the season sent plenty of things flying onto balconies and outside windows. Twitter users across Japan were eager to post the evidence, giving us the following photo montage.

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Japanese couples pick their favorite World Heritage sites for dates

Japanese couples pick their favorite World Heritage sites for dates

With the recent addition of Mt. Fuji, Japan can now claim 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. The thirteen cultural and four natural locations that comprise the list represent an impressive set of historical and scientific significance.

When you combine Japan’s reverence for tradition with the nation’s masses of travel aficionados, it’s no surprise that these sites are popular sightseeing destinations, particularly during the numerous three-day weekends that pepper the work calendar here. Even better, several of these World Heritage sites are found in areas with breathtaking scenery, adding a bit of romance and making them the perfect retreat for high-minded couples, who in a recent survey selected the top 10 World Heritage sites they’d like to visit with their dating partner or spouse.

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Now that’s what we call a close one! Massive boulder nearly crushes car【Video】

Now that’s what we call a close one! Massive boulder nearly crushes car【Video】

We don’t know about you, but while driving around mountainside roads, we always ignore those “danger falling rocks” signs with their comical little circles sliding down a triangle. Sure, those signs are there for a reason, but we’ve never actually seen a “falling rock”…that is until now.

A recent video taken in Taiwan shows a massive boulder rolling down a mountainside and nearly flattening a car and his presumably screaming driver. Thank goodness for onboard cameras because if the vehicle in front hadn’t been equipped with one, the world would never witness this extremely close call.

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