The zoo wanted to show tourists that the animals can swim, a fact that many didn’t know The 213-foot aqua arena was erected at the Fuji Safari Park in Shizuoka, at the foot of Mount Fuji.
Not only have the majestic mammals been enjoying the giant pool, but staff say that after three laps of the pool, their appetites have grown considerably.
Zookeeper Daiki Takeuchi said the transparent sides provided a surprising glimpse into how elephants use their powerful legs for propulsion as they poke their trunks above the surface. The inspiration behind the glass swimming pool came from images of elephants in the ocean.
The zoo wanted to show tourists that the animals can actually swim, something many were unaware of.
The unusual attraction opened to the public on July 11 and joins other attractions such as visitors controversially being able to take pictures with young lions. Though they are supervised by staff.
Today we introduce you to five icons of Japan that you need to see now before these few vestiges are completely lost!
1. Sento–local public baths 銭湯
Up until WWII, most houses in Japanese cities were built without baths (even if you did have your own bath, you’d probably have to share it with your neighbors). Instead, local sento, (public baths) were located within walking distance in the neighborhood. People would change into their yukata or pajamas and head to perform their ablutions at the end of the day. With the day’s activities finished and nothing left to do but sleep, people spent a long time in the large, steaming-hot baths that soaked out all the stress of the day, both mental and physical. The size of the tubs and the socializing aspect would have been impossible to replicate at home even if you did have your own bath.
I also enjoyed this aspect of the public bath house when I first moved to Japan and lived in a small six-mat tatami room near the university. Over four years I got naked with my neighbors. The large bath hall with its high acoustic ceilings reverberated with ladies’ laughter that spilled out onto the evening streets as neighbors caught up with the day’s gossip. I learned to speak Japanese with a distinct echo.
But nowadays houses are all built with private baths, so the sento culture is dying out. Only the old lady who lives in that decrepit old house on the corner still goes to thesento–if there is one left in the neighborhood.
Japanese bathing rituals are still carried out at the onsen, where you’ll get a more modern, luxurious hot bath experience in natural hot spring water, but you’ll probably have to drive there, pay a lot more money for the privilege, and the socializing aspect will be almost non-existent. The onsen will also be much cleaner and beautiful because they are made to attract local tourists. Thus they will not have a mural of Mount Fuji hand-painted on the inside of the bath house wall, revealing faded colors and cracked lacquer paint. Nor will they have aging, coin-operated message chairs that look more like torture devices with the rollers sticking out to jab into your back. And they certainly won’t have hair dryer chairs that require a large glass globe be lowered over your head and a tornado-producing wind that hovers over your head while your locks stand up and whip around as if they’re inside a blender. Doesn’t the sento sound much more interesting than the onsen?!
Local sento are few and far between these days but you can still catch a part of this Japanese bathing history if you search the oldest neighborhoods of any city. Look for a chimney that looks more like a smoke stack coming out of the top of the building (remember Spirited Away?) or a noren curtain out the front with the ゆ mark on it, the symbol of a sento.
2. Ama Divers 海人
▼Mikimoto pearl divers
While the above photo may look like surgeons ready to operate on a whale in its own aquatic environment, they’re actually ama pearl divers, a distinctly female Japanese profession. The ama divers have a two-thousand-year-old history and used to dive in fundoshi loin cloths while tethered to a wooden barrel that floated on the ocean’s surface. Nowadays they wear white outfits but still dive–sometimes as deep as 25 meters (82 ft)–with just a mask, unassisted by oxygen. They must be able to hold their breath for up to two minutes, and expel the air gradually as they resurface. While in the 1950s there were still some 17,000 ama divers in Japan, there are only around two thousand left, most penetrating the waters of Ishikawa and Mie prefectures. These days they retrieve abalone and other shellfish from the bottom and almost all of the divers are over 40 years old.
Mikimoto Pearl company made the ama famous when they started using them to retrieve oysters so they could plant irritants into their mantle cavities to create pearls. The ama then returned the mollusks to the sea bottom. Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba (Mie Prefecture) holds demonstrations for tourists. Although it is just a demonstration, at least you can still see the divers while they are extant.
3. Seto Inland Sea Islands 瀬戸内海／瀬戸内
▼Four-hundred-year-old bon dance, Shiraishi Island, Okayama Prefecture
Out of approximately 700 islands in the Seto Inland Sea (also called the setonaikai or setouchi in Japanese), the largest is Shodoshima with a population of around 20,000. But the majority of the Inland Sea islets support traditional fishing communities of less than 500 citizens. With the decline of the fishing industry in the Inland Sea coupled with the push in education after the war, the islands are losing their populations to the cities that offer higher paying jobs and more modern lifestyles. The islands have been left with aging and stagnant populations. The government has attempted to make the islands more accessible by building bridges to connect them with the mainland. While bridges ensure the survival of these islands, the traditional lifestyles are disappearing due to the proximity of outside influences.
But what about the other islands? Those without bridges and that you still need a ferry to get to?
These islands, because they are still fairly isolated, still maintain their traditions. But with no focused plan to revive island economies, these communities are fading away.Ferry services are cut back (or stopped completely), and the few remaining families move to the mainland due to lack of services. Yet each of these islands has its own unique culture: folkloric traditions, bon festivals and Shinto rites. Each island that dies takes an entire set of unique cultural values with it.
It is still possible to see the traditional Japanese island way of life and experience 400-year-old ceremonies as the sole outsider (as well as the only foreigner!) present. In fact, a few tourist-friendly islands are hoping to survive by inviting sightseers, including foreigners, to come out and experience island life. Islands like Manabeshima (population of 230), Shiraishijima (pop. 556) and Kitagishima (pop. about 1,000) in the Kasaoka Island chain (Okayama) are island gems that are dropping out of sight fast and taking their ancient traditions with them. Naoshima (Okayama) and the lesser islands of Kagawa Prefecture are supported by the Benesse Art Site Naoshima and the Setouchi Triennial Art Festival (the next one is 2016) which offer the chance to see art against the background of traditional island scenery. So get out and see the Inland Sea islands before it’s too late!
4. Terraced Rice Fields 棚田
▼Terraced rice field, Mie Prefecture
Terraced rice fields are a scene reminiscent of South East Asia such as Bali or Vietnam, but before Japan’s industrial revolution in the ’60s, they could still be seen all over the country. At that time, rice was the main agricultural product and the grains were planted, cultivated and harvested by hand. With so many mountains, terraced paddies allowed rice to be grown on places that were otherwise considered unusable. The rice fields offered other benefits including maintaining biodiversity in the environment, holding back water during the rainy season to prevent landslides, and adding to the greenery and scenery around Japan. The industrial revolution not only lured people to the cities, but it also rendered the terraced rice paddies unfit for sowing since machinery could not easily reach or be used in such narrow, sometimes very steep, stacked fields.
While the tanada have been almost completely abandoned, there has been an effort to preserve some of them recently via government subsidies and non-governmental campaigns.
5. Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場
Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, established in 1935, is the largest wholesale fish market in the world. It is here were a single Blue Fin Tuna sold for a record US$1.7 million. The market is also one of the top five sightseeing spots in Tokyo for Japanese tourists. But this icon is scheduled to be relocated to make more room for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. This has created great controversy, especially since the move has been delayed by two years already due to decontamination efforts of the new 40.7-hectare site, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay where previously a refinery was located. Recently, additional tainted ground was discovered leading to more time needed for clean-up safety measures. Although the new venue will be twice as big as the current 230,000 square meters (around 2.5 million square feet), many people will miss the old atmosphere and the quaint restaurants that have thrived around the current market for so many years, including Dai, Japan’s highest-ranked sushi restaurant. And while everyone understands the need to update and innovate, we all know that not all the charms of the past are necessarily transferred to the newer more futuristic establishments. Nor will all of the old restaurants be able to weather the move.
Current Location: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.
Have you ever doodled in the dirt on your car before you finally got around to washing it? Or perhaps when you were younger you wrote something rude in the dust on the neighbour’s rear window? American artist Scott Wade took his doodling many steps further and now creates this stunning Dirty Car Art that you’d never want to wash off.
Born and raised in the US, Scott is an artist and musician who has spent his life nurturing his creativity. He discovered Dirty Car Art as he was living on a long dirt road in Texas where his cars were always covered in dust and grime. His natural instinct was always to doodle in the dust, and this led to him experimenting with various techniques, and eventually evolved into the art we see from him today which he’s been working on since 2003. It’s reminiscent of the chalk art that’s popular in Japan right now with the use of subtle shading to create almost photographic realism.
Of course when turning up to work at a fancy motor event it’s unlikely that any of the cars there will be waiting for him covered in dirt. While he prefers to work on ‘natural’ canvases, in other words cars that have got really dirty from driving for miles along dry dirt roads, he has also developed a technique for creating an ‘artificial’ canvas. The simple process involves spreading a thin, even layer of oil over the window then using a hair dryer to blow handfuls of fine dirt or other powder across the whole thing, which sounds easy enough for anyone to do. The hard part is the bit where you actually have to be able to draw.
▼Here is a recreation of the iconic woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai from his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series that Scott created for Japanese television.
In response to the question of whether it makes him said that his work is washed away when it rains, he answered with a very Japanese outlook, saying: “The impermanence of this art form is one of the things I really love about it. For one thing, it helps me to not take it too seriously and to really have fun with it. But most important, it reminds me that all of life is transient, that we won’t be here all that long, and to really enjoy the wonder and beauty while we’re here.”
▼Another piece done for a Japanese TV show, this time featuring a heron.
▼He was commissioned to draw this fantastic dragon for a Nokia commercial.
And it’s not just oriental styles – Scott creates a wide range of scenes from his own original work to incredible recreations of familiar and famous pieces. Check them out below.
▼A recreation of English romantic painter John Constable’s The Hay Wain.
▼M.C. Escher’s impossible architecture.
▼A beautiful wildflower meadow created for a South Korean TV show.
▼He drew a car on his car! Xzibit would be proud.
▼The Boy Who Lived.
▼Awww! Polar bears!
▼One of C.M. Coolidge’s famous paintings of dogs playing poker.
▼And last but not least, something seasonal.
You can see more from Scott over at his official website. And next time you think your car really could do with a clean, why not have a little doodle on it beforehand? If it goes terribly then you can wash away all the evidence!
When choosing a place to stay while traveling, most people look for very specific things in hotels: location, price, continental breakfasts that are open until ten so that lazy people like us can still get some food.
But others want a little bit more out of the their hotel, like intricately detailed themed rooms!
Here are some of the best themed hotel rooms Japan has to offer! (Note: links to Japanese-language websites.)
Room G – Hotel Grand Pacific Le Daiba meets Gundam
Gundam, of course, is one of Japan’s most beloved anime, and it provided the inspiration and decoration for these lavish rooms. The rooms feature murals of Gundam battles, various Gundam flags and character models.
The Hotel Grand Pacific Le Daiba in Tokyo boasts a variety of Gundam rooms, with the simplest only featuring framed wall posters, pillows and sheets matching the faction of the room. Guests can choose from Jaburo, E.F.S.F., and the Principality of Zeon. The more lavish rooms, of which there are only three, feature massive murals, potted plants, a special morning call service, and figures from the show. There’s even a cockpit photo spot!
The “standard” rooms start at 15,900 yen (about US$159) per person per night, while the large, more extravagant rooms start at 27,000 yen (around $270). That doesn’t include breakfast, but it does include some special Gundam amenities, like embroidered bath towels!
Dokidoki Precure – Ikenotaira Hotel
If you’re looking for something a bit cuter, then it’s time to head to the Ikenotaira Hotel at the Shirakaba Resort in Nagano Prefecture. There, you’ll find two Dokidoki PreCure rooms available: the Lovely room and the Premium room.
In addition to every inch being covered with Dokidoki PreCure imagery, customers get some special good to take home with them! For example, the hotel offers a Precure handkerchief, a special cup and toothbrush, a letter set, and a shitajiki, or plastic sheet to put under paper when writing, all emblazoned with Dokidoki PreCure characters. There are even costumes for children to dress up in!
The rooms are for two to three people, and pricing starts at 12,000 yen (about US$120) per night, though you can expect to pay significantly more during busy periods.
Kamen Rider Wizard – Ikenotaira Hotel
If you’re looking for something a bit more action oriented, the Ikenotaira Hotel also offers a Kamen Rider Wizard room. Again, guests receive special goods to take home with them like a toothbrush, mask and juice cup.
The Kamen Rider Wizard room is priced similarly to the Dokidoki PreCure rooms and is decorated with special bedspreads, wall murals, and an intimidating cut-out “guarding” the room. We wonder how many kids have woken up in the middle of the night to see Kamen Rider’s bug-like face and screamed so loud they woke the whole floor.
Hello Kitty/Cinnamoroll – Royal Hotel (various locations)
Well, you had to know that this was coming! The Hello Kitty hotel room was bound to be on this list somewhere, and, holy cow, does it ever live up to its name.
The Royal Hotel actually offers a few different rooms to choose from: the Grand Kitty room, the Cinnamoroll Room, and the Hello Kitty room. The Grand Kitty room is only available at the Beppu Royal Hotel in Oita Prefecture, though the others are available at multiple locations around Japan in addition to Beppu. The rooms start at 11,100 yen per night for adults, 7,700 yen for elementary school students, and 6,400 yen for anyone younger. The Hello Kitty dinner for children is, of course, extra—though it’s also extra cute!
Like others on this list, guests get some goods to take home with them including stuffed toys.
One Piece – Hotel Amsterdam
If you do end up in Beppu, you might as well do some sightseeing around Kyushuu, which means a visit to Nagasaki. And if you’re going to go all the way to Nagasaki, you might as well stay in a One Piece-themed hotel room!
▼Let the characters of One Piece gang watch as you shower!
A fan favorite, we imagine that the room gets booked quickly, especially with the One Piece rides and attractions right next door to Hotel Amsterdam! Starting at 20,000 yen a night per person, the room is covered in One Piece images and comes with breakfast and special goods.
Miffy – Hotel Amsterdam
If rubber-limbed pirates don’t captured your heart, maybe you’d rather stay in Hotel Amsterdam‘s Miffy room!
Miffy, the adorable Dutch rabbit with a crossed mouth, has her own room, complete with a Miffy doormat, sheets, pajamas, and take-home goods. The room starts at 19,500 yen per person per night and can accommodate up to four.
The hotel also features an enormous Miffy store with more stuffed animals than anyone could possibly hug in a week. Though that won’t stop us from trying!
Gegege no Kitaro – Kaike Saichoraku
If cute or action-packed isn’t quite your groove, how about something a bit…scarier.
Decorated with images and props from the yokai (Japanese ghosts and monsters) anime/manga Gegege no Kitaro, these four rooms don’t exactly seem like the best place to get some shut-eye! Though we imagine fans of the show are probably used to ghosts staring at them.
The rooms are bit more moderately priced than some others on the list, starting at 9,800 yen (about $98) for adults—and that comes with two meals per day! Located in Tottori Prefecture, the Kaike Saichoraku hotel is a bit out-of-the-way, but it does feature two hot springs nearby!
Evangelion: Room – Highland Resort
It should come as no surprise that this list features a room based on Evangelion, simply one of the most famous and well-known anime in recent history. And the life-size statue of Rei is one of the most ambitious interior decorations we’ve seen yet!
The Highland Resort in Yamanashi Prefecture is located near both Mt. Fuji and one of Japan’s most famous amusement parks, Fuji-Q, which features a 79-meter-tall roller coaster. But you’re not here for the sightseeing, are you?
You’re here to sleep in THIS:
The Evangelion room features a capsule-like bed in addition to pictures of the show’s characters on the wall. There’s also a special “morning call” phone and DVDs available for the die-hard fan who can’t go a night without watching the show. There are even blacklight graphics and quotes on the walls! We guess no one ever told them about the unfortunate results of looking at hotel bedsheets under a blacklight…
The hotel also provides, as you may have guessed, special Evangelion amenities, in addition to an Evangelion ID card.
No word on whether or not there’s an angst requirement for guests, though the room starts at 37,000 yen (about $370) a night for one or two people on weekdays and goes up, up, up from there. The special dinner will only set you back 8,000 yen ($80). On the other hand, you can get into Fuji-Q for free, if you feel like leaving the room.
Gaspard and Lisa – Highland Resort
Not wanting to rest on their giant mechs, Highland Resort has two special rooms for the more child-like among us. Based on the British cartoon Gaspard and Lisa, there’s a Lisa room and a Gaspard room—leaving it to you to choose which you love more! You’ll want to pick the Gaspard room though–it has glow-in-the-dark paintings on the ceiling!
Before you check out, be sure to stop by the Gaspard and Lisa-inspired restaurant. Staying in the rooms will also get you a free pass to Gaspard and Lisa Town, which features a replica Eiffel Tower among other attractions.
The Lisa room starts at 48,000 yen (about $480) while the Gaspard room starts at 58,000 yen (about $580), and both prices are for one to three people.
Thomas the Tank Engine – Highland Resort
We’re not sure if the Highland Resort is crazy, genius, or both, but here they are making another appearance on our list! This family-oriented room features three beds with detailed murals of Thomas and his friends, in addition to a Percy sofa!
Of course, the room comes with special amenities and a unique “Thomas Party Set” meal. It costs 10,500 yen (about $105), but comes with enough food for two adults and a child.
The room also sports a map of Sodor, the fictional island on which Thomas lives and works, and an absolutely magnificent view of Mt. Fuji.
Honestly, that view alone might very well be worth it. Well, unless this happens…
Pokemon Room – Various ANA hotels
After flying on ANA’s Pokemon airplane, wouldn’t it be great if you could crash into a Pokemon hotel room, snuggle up with a Pikachu stuffed-animal, wrap yourself in Poke-sheets and fall blissfully asleep, trying to catch them all in your dreams?
Well, surprise! You totally can! And not just at one hotel either: there are Pokemon rooms at over 20 hotels throughout Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Okinawa.
In addition to the bed sheets and abundance of super-powered stuffed animals, there are also Pokemon curtains and meals packed into plastic Pikachu heads at some locations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there are any wall murals.
Kumamon – Hotel Verde
If you’re in Kumamoto Prefecture, you might as well stay in a Kumamon room, right?
Kumamon, in case you’re not familiar with the rosy-cheeked bear, is the mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, created originally for the Kumamoto Surprise campaign. We’re not sure about using a bear in a “surprise” campaign, but it certainly worked—Kumamon is now famous right across the country!
The Hotel Verde room features Kumamon wall paintings, bedsheets, pillows, stuffed animals, and lamp shades.
The hotel features various “staying methods,” with plans geared towards families, (quiet) lovers, friends, and events, which all affect pricing differently.
Ultraman – Hotel Verde
Hotel Verde also has an Ultraman room…though we have a feeling it probably doesn’t get much use for those visiting on the “lovers” plan.
The room is covered with posters, murals, and features multiple life-sized statues of Ultraman, one of Japan’s most well-known masked heroes.
The hotel claims that this is the only place in Japan to stay in an Ultraman room, so if you’re a fan of the character, it’s time to head to Kyushuu!
Woody Woodpecker – Hotel Kintetsu Universal City
For those of you taking a trip to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, you might as well go the whole nine yards and stay in a Woody Woodpecker room!
In addition to Woody Woodpecker paintings, lights, and sheets, guests also get Woody Woodpecker stuffed toys as presents! As the rooms accommodate up to four people, the hotel recommends these rooms to families, rounding out the amenities with games to keep your little tykes entertained while you soak your feet after a day running around USJ!
The rooms start around 53,000 yen (about $530) for two people, but that includes two one-day tickets to the park for each person and some goods to take home with you.
Suica Penguin – JR East Japan Hotels
Perhaps the most random (but cool nevertheless) room on our list today is the room based on Japan Rail’s adorable Suika Penguin. We have to say this mascot may very well be the cutest thing ever to sell train tickets, so we can’t say that we blame anyone for wanting to relax in a Suica Penguin hotel room after a long day on the bullet train. And check out this bed!!!
In addition to the soothing penguin smile watching over you as you sleep, the room comes with more take-home presents than a Christmas party! Slippers, a USB thumb drive, and a toothbrush set are just some of the goods you’ll get—all of them featuring the happy bird!
Premium rooms—which is what you’ll need to book to get all the goodies—start around 16,000 yen (about $160) a night per person, coming to 32,000 yen ($320) for two. If you’re planning on going by yourself, it’ll start at 23,000 yen (around $230) per night.
Mickey Mouse – Disney Ambassador Hotel
When they’re not going up in flames, Disney theme parks are quite the hit in Japan, and no one loves Mickey Mouse quite the same way as Japanese Disney fans. So it’s hardly a surprise to find Mickey Mouse-themed rooms at Disney hotels in Japan!
The rooms come with complimentary welcome drinks, a treat for parents already exhausted by their kids, as well as a special check-in lobby. Once you get to the room, you’ll find Mickey Mouse bed sheets, wallpaper, and amenities, in addition to old-style Mickey Mouse posters. Mickey’s even painted on the bathroom door, in case you’re scared to shower alone!
The rooms start between 26,667 (about $266) and 40,000 yen (around $400) a night, depending on room size and number of guests.
Ryujin Mabuyer – Solare Hotels and Resorts
If you’re heading to Okinawa to cool off on the beach this summer, you have a number of options for action-packed hotel rooms thanks to a collaboration between Ryujin Mabuyer, a show similar to the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, and Solare Hotels.
Starting at 4,550 yen ($45.50) per person, rooms are furnished with giant posters, stand-up cut outs, Ryujin Mabuyer body pillows, special printed bed sheets, plush toys, and Mabuyer DVDs to watch after a long day on the beach. Guests also get some themed presents like Mabuyer papercraft, a puzzle, and a notebook.
Koala’s March – Lotte City Hotel Kinshicho
Yes, this really is a room themed on cookies. For those with a sweet tooth and love of cuddly koalas, here’s the perfect room for your Tokyo travels!
Taking the chocolate treat Koala’s March as its inspiration, this hotel room is furnished with koala stuffed animals, koala pillows, koala wallpaper, and koala amenities in your bathroom. Lotte City Hotel also promises special souvenirs for guests and says that you just might be able to meet some of the cute critters in your dreams if you stay here. With rooms starting at 23,300 yen (around $233) a night for one person, we sure hope you’ll see some adorable faces in your sleep!
Pandas – Mitsui Garden Hotel Ueno
If koalas aren’t quite cute enough for you, then you’ll just have to stay in the Panda Room at the Mitsui Garden Hotel, located in Ueno where you can also find real pandas at the Ueno Zoo!
In addition to panda bedspreads, panda pillows, panda shower curtains, and panda teacups, you’ll also find…panda toilet paper? That just seems…uhh…
Anyway, the room holds up to two people and starts at the surprisingly reasonable 7,500 yen (about $75) per person.
Wicked – Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel
A major Broadway hit, Wicked has gained quite the following in Japan as well. And if you happen to be a fan of the show, you’ll definitely want to book this room at the Associa Hotel next time you’re passing through Nagoya.
With an interior design based on the musical, flying monkey plushies, and a signed wall poster, this room is sure to bring you the wickedest of sweet dreams. The room also has its own special breakfast, called “Wicked Morning,” and a chance to enter a drawing to win goods signed by the musical cast. The room starts at 29,000 yen (around $290) for one person per night.
Model Trains – Akihabara Washington Hotel
Well, if you’re going to stay in Akihabara, you might as well go crazy, right?
This room doesn’t feature any unique decorations—instead it sports an impressive, working model train diorama and a view of the downtown train tracks!
For those of you who don’t quite have a high enough geek level to get into the tecchan house, this might be your best chance to live with trains. However, while the diorama is functional, you’ll need to bring your own N-gauge train cars, though the hotel will let you rent theirs for 1,000 yen (about $10).
If you’re interested in staying in the Washington Hotel‘s model train room, you’ll have to book it through the web though, as they won’t accept reservations over the phone. Only one room exists, and it can only accommodate up to two people—though it looks pretty cramped! Pricing varies on a daily basis, but it seems to start around 15,000 yen (around $150).
Sources: Naver Matome
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A worker pulls a passenger cart over a wooden bridge, Mount Fuji’s snowy peak rising in the background. Men wear long dark robes as they catch fish from traditional Japanese boats, and women dive for pearls in the river. Looking at these photos of rural Japan, it’s hard to believe they were only taken 100 years ago.
The photographic techniques, however, are deliciously retro. Tinted in blue or sepia, the photos are overlaid with multiple exposures, soft-focused for a hazy glow. At the turn of the 20th century, this so-called “pictorial photography” was enjoying a brief international boom. Japan, meanwhile, was experiencing a period of rapid industrialisation which would see it move from a feudal to a modernised nation. These fascinating photos offer an insight into a way of life that was already disappearing.
Photography is now a well-established art form, celebrated around the world. In the 19th century, however, it was commonly claimed that a photograph could not be art because it was only a depiction of reality. Pictorial photography, which came about as a direct reaction to this criticism, typically includes deliberate artistic effects such as soft focus, sepia tinting, or the addition of brushstrokes.
The photos of everyday life in Korea 100 years ago we brought you this week serve as a reminder of the unprecedented social and industrial change that has occurred in the last century. The unknown photographers who took and developed these images of Japan, which were collected by Flickr user Okinawa Soba, could never have imagined the explosion of photography that would occur in the following 100 years.
Over 150 million people now use Instagram each month, editing cellphone photos with pre-set filters and immediately sharing them online. Digital platforms and social networks now allow users to enhance photographs automatically when uploading them. When we use digital filters to alter colour or focus, in just a few seconds we have completed photographic techniques that took these 20th-century photographers hours to achieve.
▼ Cormorant fishing.
▼ In this multiple-exposure shot, the photographer has overlaid images of clouds.
▼ Female divers (“ama”), who free-dive for seafood or pearls.
▼ Men in boats light torches.
▼ A man pulls a rickshaw, with Mount Fuji in the background.
▼ A man dressed in fur.
▼ Another double-exposure shot with clouds gives a hazy effect.
▼ Winter mountain climbing.
The pictorialism boom died out around 1920, when people’s attention shifted to new photographic modernism. Sepia and manipulation were out; sharp-focused images became the vogue. But through the painterly, mysterious qualities of these unknown photographer’s art, we can see a fascinating glimpse of a Japan now lost.
Source: DDN Japan
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A view of Dotonburi Canal in Osaka, Japan via Google Street View.
The intimate looks at locations around the globe made possible by Google Street View has changed the way many of us look at the world. But according to a new piece of information revealed by Google, it turns out that our virtual tourism habits aren’t necessarily aligned with some of our real-world pursuits.
According to Street View program manager Ulf Spitzer, the top virtual tourism destination in Asia using Google Street View is Japan, with Mount Fuji at the head of the list. In fact, Japan occupies the top six most visited Street View location slots, followed by Taiwan and Singapore.
“What’s surprising is how many sites that haven’t been popular offline became online hits,” said Spitzer in a statement on Google Asia Pacific blog.
Spitzer’s observation is borne out by the 2013 MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, which listed Bangkok, Thailand as the top Asia destination for real-world tourists, followed by Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai and, way down at number seven, Tokyo, Japan.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the study found that, among all destinations around the world, Bangkok held the number one slot, followed by London, Paris, Singapore and New York. Globally, the MasterCard study ranked Japan (specifically, Tokyo) at a lowly 16th place.
Such a large disparity between the obvious online interest in Japan via virtual tourism versus travelers spending real world cash to explore other parts of Asia presents something of a conundrum that may be rooted in perception.
“We don’t believe that Japan is more expensive than other locations, but we understand that some people might have the impression that it is because it’s so far away,” Nori Akashi, public relations manager for the Japan National Tourism Organization, told Mashable. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how manageable the flight is in terms of time.”
At just 13 hours flight time from New York to Tokyo, compared to 17 hours for the same trip to Bangkok, the difference between online interest in Japan and actual trips makes the disconnect even more stark.
However, a 2013 World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report sheds some light on at least one of the reasons behind these seemingly incongruent data points.
Using figures culled from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the report found that Thailand ranked 24th in terms of “tourism openness” as measured by tourism expenditure and receipts as a percentage of the country’s GDP. Japan’s rank? Only three slots from the bottom of the list at 137th .
And while the same report gives Japan overall higher marks within its competitive index, the report also ranks Thailand ahead of Japan with regards to the attitude of the local population toward foreign visitors (although Japan did rank ahead of the U.S. in that respect).
Despite these numbers, a recent local tourism traffic achievement, as well as Tokyo’s selection as the site of the 2020 summer Olympic games has given the country’s tourism officials cause for optimism.
“We set a goal for 2013 to bring in 10 million travelers and we reached that goal,” says Akashi. “Our next goal, with the Olympics in sight, is probably 20 million.”
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