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geography

Yasukuni Shrine, Where War Criminals Are Revered

The Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni, in Chiyoda, Tokyo, is a beautiful spiritual place for remembering those who died in service for Japan. As many as 2.4 million men, women and children, and even various animals, are enshrined here. These people (and animals) lost their lives in numerous conflicts involving Japan spanning nearly a hundred years—starting from the Boshin War of 1868–1869 to the Second World War, including the First Indochina War of 1946–1954.

Those enshrined are mostly military men, but there are also civilians who died while taking part in various activities involving war, such as Red Cross nurses and air raid volunteers, factory workers and those who died in Soviet labor camps and those killed in Merchant Navy vessels, and so on. In addition, Yasukuni Shrine honor thousands of Taiwanese and Koreans who served Japan and were killed in action. In Shinto religion, anyone who died fighting for the emperor is an eirei, or “hero spirit.” The enshrined souls themselves are believed to have transcended into kami or deities. No wonder, the Yasukuni Shrine is a very holy place for remembering, reflection, and prayer.

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Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo. Photo credit: Toshihiro Gamo/Flickr

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geography

Shin’s Tricycle

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Behind a glass case at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a battered and rusted tricycle. The seat is missing, and so are the pedals and the handle grips, and the entire metal frame of the cycle is caked in rust. Like many of the artifacts preserved at the museum dedicated to the world’s first nuclear attack, the tricycle has a heart-wrenching story.

Tokyo Is Having Way More Fun Than Us at Fashion

Tokyo Is Having Way More Fun Than Us at Fashion

Joseph, a civil servant.

In Tokyo, there are no rules when it comes to street fashion. Current trends have little or no influence and you certainly don’t have to work in the fashion industry to throw down some serious looks.

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geography

Chindōgu: The Japanese Art of Unuseless Inventions

You have definitely seen a chindōgu. They are those ridiculous Japanese inventions designed to solve a particular problem but are, in fact, so clumsy and inelegant that they are an inconvenience to use, and generate a whole lot of new problems. A few examples of chindōgu are: chopsticks with a miniature electric fan to cool noodles on the way to the mouth; glasses with attached funnels that allow the wearer to apply eye drops with accuracy; tiny umbrellas attached to cameras to take picture in the rain; a toilet plunger with a ring at one end that attaches to train-car ceilings and functions as a handrail in crowded carriages, and so on.

“Basically, chindogu is the same as the Industrial Revolution in Britain,” says Kenji Kawakami, who coined the term chindōgu, which means “weird tool” in Japanese. “The one big difference is that while most inventions are aimed at making life more convenient, chindogu have greater disadvantages than precursor products, so people can’t sell them. They’re invention dropouts.”

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A 360-degree camera hat for taking panoramic pictures.

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geography

The Mountain That Japan Hid From The World

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Photo credit: 663highland/Wikimedia

Inside the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, in the island of Hokkaidō, not far from the active stratovolcano, Mount Usu, there is a 400-meter tall volcanic peak called Shōwa-shinzan. Shōwa-shinzan is Japan’s youngest mountain. It appeared on 28 December 1943 out of a wheat field accompanied by strong tremors and hot lava. As the molten magma broke through the surface, it uplifted the field and over the following two years the lava dome continued to rise until it reached a height of 398 meters.

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Design

This ingenious typeface seamlessly blends Braille and text

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Japanese designer Kosuke Takahashi created a universal typeface that acts as Braille for everyone. Read more…

More about Design, Mashable Video, Japan, Social Good, and Braille

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geography

Osaka Stadium’s Housing Expo

Where the magnificent Namba Parks stand today at Naniwa-ku, in Osaka, Japan, once stood Osaka’s baseball stadium. Opened in 1950 with a capacity of 32,000 people, the stadium was home to the Nankai Hawks baseball team, but when the Hawks moved to Heiwadai Stadium in 1988, the stadium was sold to Fukuoka City. For the next two years, Osaka Stadium became the temporary home of the Kintetsu Buffaloes, who played about a dozen games here. The last official baseball game was held on August 2, 1990. Despite being a weekday, some 29,000 visitors came to watch the final game.

Long before the stadium was sold to Fukuoka City, it had been decided that the sporting venue had to go as part of the Namba district redevelopment project. But the inevitable was delayed until the late 1990s. During this time, the bowl-shaped stadium continued to function as a venue for baseball—amateur, this time. The National High School Baseball Championship was held here, and as many as 72 games were played during the season.

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A residential neighborhood inside Osaka Stadium. Photo credit: Naoya Hatakeyama, 1998

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Categories
culture

Japan’s Radiohead transcend all notions of a tribute band

Radiohead fans like to debate exactly what the song ‘Videotape’ is about. Its wistful, trembling sound concludes 2007’s In Rainbows, slowly peeling apart until all that’s really left is a series of indelible piano chords and Thom Yorke’s near-isolated falsetto. It’s one of their finest moments, even if its meaning is somewhat opaque.

Some argue that it’s written from the perspective of a dying man saying goodbye to his family. Others believe that it’s a lover contemplating the end of a relationship. But one of the more intriguing takes on the song is that it’s about a memory; a brief section of time so inexpressibly perfect that the speaker, whoever they may be, wants to capture it forever: a ‘videotape moment’.

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For Yasuko Otani, these kind of moments happen a lot. Since 2004, she has been playing in On A Saturday (OAS), a Radiohead tribute band based in Yokohama, Japan. Adapting their name from Radiohead’s original name – On A Friday – the five-piece transform into their heroes every time they take to the stage. For Yasuko, the group’s founding member and “boss”, those nights remain just as beautiful as the first time.

“I bought a Macintosh in 1999 and I needed something to do with it,” she says, over a Skype connection so shaky that it gives her soft voice an ethereal crackle. “So I started a Radiohead fan site called Through the Broken Mirror.

“In 2004, we decided to have an event – Radiohead Night: Volume One. I was in a band at the time so, a few weeks before, I asked my bandmates if they wanted to play some Radiohead songs on the night. They looked at me and said, ‘Okay, why not?’”

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In the country that invented karaoke, dedication to musical imitation is a given. When OAS are on stage, however, the self-identified “tribute band” don’t just mimic their British counterparts – they become them.

From the haircuts, the clothes and stickers on their instruments, to the blink-and-you’d-miss-them mannerisms, every single idiosyncrasy has been absorbed and perfected. Over the past 13 years, whenever Radiohead have changed – visually or musically – their Japanese counterparts have mirrored them.

In conversation, some of Yasuko’s answers naturally get lost in translation. Her passion is tangible – she directs her stories like an orchestra conductor – but digging beneath the surface is difficult. Asked, “Why Radiohead?”, she almost bursts with excitement. “They’re just the best!”

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“Radiohead only come to Japan every four years – we can’t wait that long!” she goes on, brushing her fringe out of her eyes. “I usually go to see them overseas, but [there are some] Japanese fans who never see Radiohead, so we want to share everything we can with them.”

That desire to bring the band’s music to the masses has seen them come a long way since their debut show. That first night, they played to just 30 people, choosing to perform all but one song as instrumental numbers, “too afraid” to even consider incorporating lyrics.

Now they perform intricately honed renditions of Radiohead classics at festivals, parties, exhibitions and gigs, as well as consistently headlining Yasuko’s annual Radiohead Night.

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Their best moment so far has been meeting Jonny Greenwood when he visited Japan last year – “He was super nice” – and presenting him with a brand new Ondomo keyboard. The only thing that could top that, Yasuko says, would be a headlining show in the band’s hometown of Oxford.

When asked how many times she’s seen Radiohead perform live, Yasuko admits that she stopped counting after 100. Her home, adorned in technicolour Radiohead paraphernalia, is less of a shrine and more of an entire decorated history of the band.

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It’s one she shares with Yasuhiko ‘Yama’ Yamakawa, the Thom Yorke of the group. They’re both in their late forties, work in a used-parts store and have been in a relationship for 23 years. (Guitarist Yuta Yamazaki and drummer Takuro Fukuda are students in their twenties while Daiju Wadu, Jonny Greenwood’s doppelganger, is a 32-year-old working in business administration.)

Yasuko met Yama at a punk event and heard ‘Creep’ for the first time in his car. There is no part of their life that doesn’t – in some way, at least – incorporate Radiohead.

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But when the audience clap, cheer and sing along at their shows, the band know that it’s not for them. It’s a mutual coming together of adoration; not a tribute, nor a selection of covers, but something transcendent.

“When I’m playing, I feel exactly how the audience are feeling – how I would feel if I was there with them,” she says. “Sometimes I forget that I’m supposed to be playing and just stop, because in that moment I’m taking it all in. The music, the sound, the lyrics.”

And which of these lyrics from Thom Yorke’s repertoire resonates with her the most? She pauses for a moment, before smiling. “Videotape.”

This article appears in Huck 63 – The Fantasy Issue. Buy it in the Huck Shop or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

Find out more about On A Saturday.

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The post Japan’s Radiohead transcend all notions of a tribute band appeared first on Huck Magazine.

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Making Stories Videos

Biisuke Ball’s Big Adventure Part 2

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geography

Underwater Mailboxes Around The World

Remember the last time you were diving underwater and suddenly remembered an important letter that you had to post that very instant? Yup, it has happened to all of us. Fortunately, these five places has us covered.

Hideaway Island, Vanuatu

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The underwater post office off the coast of Hideaway Island in the island nation of Vanuatu is one of the most famous in the world. It was established in 2003 and is located in 3 meters of water. The post office provides special waterproof postcards that tourists can drop into the submerged post box with their own hands, or ask the staff to do so.

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