You may have already heard about rice field art: Those complex works that use dyed or naturally colored rice grains to create gorgeous patterns, or that turn the whole rice field into a canvas for a massive “painting” that can only be fully appreciated from the skies. Also, because Japan, Ultraman is sometimes involved.
But the phenomenon, once a niche practice for small Japanese cities that otherwise had nothing in the way of tourist destinations, has caught on to the point that the Guinness Book has actually recorded, for posterity, the current world’s largest work of rice field art.
Japan is well-known for its unique hospitality culture, which partially stems from the concept of “ichigo-ichie” (lit. “one time, one meeting”), the tea master’s philosophy that every encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime moment to be cherished.
Now, Japan is flexing its hospitality muscles in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by rolling out new services and products to help visitors and reduce the stress that comes with travelling in a country where things can sometimes get lost in translation. The latest display of impressive hospitality comes from Saitama City, where the city council is offering free SIM cards to its foreign visitors.
Back in 2003, the world was introduced to the first Siren, a survival horror video game which told the story of a mysterious secluded village caught between time and space. Like the best games of its genre, the setting played a pivotal role in captivating the player, sucking them into an eerie atmosphere made all the more scary by the tremendously creepy town.
It turns out that the fictional town of Hanuda is based on an actual town in Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. Life imitates game as a camera crew heads to the abandoned town, just like how a crew did in the third Siren game. Take a look at the footage they captured after the break. If you aren’t too afraid…
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.
In the land of earthquakes, typhoons, blistering summers and mountains of snow in the winter, Japan’s plentiful and luxurious hot springs are Mother Nature’s way of letting us know that she doesn’t totally hate us.
But the number of true hot springs – where water naturally comes from the ground rather than being pumped in and then heated – is lower than you might imagine. Many places such as the new “hot spring” being built in Shinjuku have their water shipped in from a real hot spring source.
And now, if you live in the Kanto area, you can ship in your own hot spring water too! Why pay entry into some huge complex when you can soak in your own home bathtub away from the leering eyes of RocketNews24 journalists or tattoo-prudes. Oh, and did we mention it’s ridiculously cheap?
Over two years ago, the Finnish Ambassador to Japan announced that a Moomin theme park was being developed in Japan with the expected opening date in 2015. Some of our readers might be asking, “What the heck is a Moomin?” but these hippo-like fairies who originated in Finland have a very strong following and fan base in Japan. You might not be familiar with Moomin before you come to Japan, but once you get here, you grow to welcome them at your dining table.
Well, it’s already halfway through 2015, and there is still no Moomin theme park ready to take our money. Or is there? There might be a forthcoming announcement that has us all in a tizzy.
As Japan gets ready to flip the calendar from May to June, it’s a perfect time to get out of the house and spend some time outdoors. If you’re the sort who hates cold weather, it’s finally warm enough to spend the afternoon outside with no need of a jacket, and if you can’t stand the heat, you’ve only got a few weeks left until the onset of the steamy rainy season and sizzling midsummer weather patterns.
And to sweeten the deal, right now there’s a perfect spot for your sojourn with nature, this breathtaking field of over 15 million flowers in Saitama Prefecture known as the Heavenly Poppies.
Running underneath Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture, lies the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel – a sprawling network of waterways as long as its name. Its 6.3 kilometers (3.9 miles) of tunnels are intended to divert flood water from area rivers.
Also, since the massive project was completed in 2009 its enormous columns and walls are in relatively pristine condition giving the place an almost magical atmosphere. As a result it’s earned the nickname of the “Underground Temple” and has been frequently used in movies and music videos.
Tours run regularly for free which you can join, or just take a peek right now from the comfort of your browser with Google Street View.
Ask Japanese kids what their favourite foods are and you’re as likely to get the answer “hamburg” or “curry rice” as you are “sushi.” Japanese food is popular around the world, but less well known to foreigners is the proliferation and popularity of yōshoku dishes – Japanese western food. Yōshoku makes up a sizeable part of the menus of family restaurants in Japan, as well as being popular home-cooked food. Staples include the aforementioned hamburger steaks (no buns) served with demi-glace; curry and rice, eaten with a spoon; naporitan spaghetti in a ketchup-based sauce; and of course omurice, chicken-and-ketchup rice topped with a thin yellow omelette.
There’s always room for a little more innovation, though. Like this restaurant in Saitama that’s turned the old favourite, omurice, into a beautiful swirl of eggy perfection.
With famously low crime rates and an honest society that returns wallets full of cash, Japanese cops usually have it a bit easier than their overseas counterparts. But while they may have some extra time on their hands, Japanese police officers still are put in the line of danger catching the bad guys and keeping Japan safe.
One cop in Saitama Prefecture was reminded of this reality when he was got banged up pretty badly and broke his expensive Rolex watch a couple of years ago while pursuing a man suspected of exposing himself to a young girl. This cop shocked his colleagues and the public last week when Japanese media reported that, after arresting the suspect, the police officer took the man to court and sued for him for damages including more than 700,000 yen (US$5,949) to repair the watch!
Halloween may be over for this year, but the weather gods in Saitama clearly hadn’t got the message on Wednesday morning this week, as the city was shrouded in a mysterious thick fog – with an even more mysterious name!
There are certain topics that although you may be interested in, one just doesn’t bring up in polite company, the least of which being the regularity of a country’s bowel movements. But luckily our poop-curious friends over at Glico (as in the major Japanese snack company) recently completed a survey about constipation that gives us a very personal look at the health of Japan’s number two habits. The aptly named “Lifestyle and Constipation” survey has revealed which Japanese prefectures are keeping things downstairs regular and which ones are all clogged up.
On Tuesday evening, commuters at Urawa Station in Saitama Prefecture were in for a bit of a shock when an abandoned piece of corrugated cardboard suddenly burst into flames. The fire was soon extinguished by station attendants, but the question remains: what caused the mysterious incident?
On 2 July at approximately 5:30pm, a group of junior high school students were playing around the banks of the Ara River in Toda City, Saitama Prefecture when they spotted something floating near the river’s edge.
Thinking it was a soccer ball, the trio of 15 year olds began to pull it in with a tree branch. However, upon closer inspection the “soccer ball” turned out to be a human skull.
This horrific discovery has alerted everyone to a grim reality about Saitama Prefecture: it’s sorely lacking in physical education, especially competitive sports. Read More
For those who woke up in Saitama Prefecture this morning, you might have noticed something particularly pleasant in the air, like the entire region just got a little happier. That’s because on 22 May the Prefectural Police announced that they would be giving refunds and apologies to 2,400 people who were given tickets and demerit points because of an improperly conducted eight-year crackdown on driving violations.
A 7-Eleven convenience store in Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture was the scene of a daring late-night armed robbery earlier this week as an unidentified young man held clerks at knife-point and made off with a total of three onigiri rice balls, whose combined value came to approximately 300 yen (US$2.94).
He’d have gotten away with too, if it hadn’t been for the bread delivery guy…
Homeroom, that fateful time of day before real classes start where the teacher calls roll to see which kids successfully rolled out of bed that morning. Some countries don’t have an official “homeroom”. They just call your name and classes begin. But in Japan, homeroom is a whole different beast. And the surprise of one Twitter user at how homeroom is conducted in Saitama Prefecture versus the rest of the country makes for a good laugh, especially because of the comments from other people around Japan.
In the middle of this month, 41-year-old Kazunori Terashima must have felt some sense of satisfaction as his bankbook showed a transfer of 350 yen (US$3.33) from the Saitama Public Safety Commission. After struggling against the police for two and a half years over an improper traffic stop he had finally won his inalienable right to clean his ear in traffic.
We all have our vices. Some like a drink or a smoke while others fancy a wager on the ponies every now and again. No matter who you are there’s something you rely on to help get you through the day.
As bad as those previously mentioned habits might be, at least they don’t involve assault charges. The same can’t be said for one middle-aged man arrested for allegedly indulging in his irresistible pastime of throwing cups of urine at women from his car. If they don’t have a rehab for that one yet, they really should get on it.