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Cooking Toys Promote Communication

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Cooking toys are attracting attention as a new communication tool. These toys make it fun to cook foods and make desserts. They range from simple toys that can make treats like cotton candy to ones that make authentic breads and sushi. Many cooking toys do not use heat to prevent burns and other injuries. These toys allow children to have fun while learning about the work that goes into making food.

Manhole Cover Art

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Manhole covers found on streets throughout Japan portray the famous landmarks, animals, flowers, and other symbols of the local area. With many featuring unique designs and bright colors, the manhole covers are finding popularity as so-called manhole cover art not only in Japan but around the world. When you visit Japan, please take a look at the ground and enjoy the manhole cover art.

Japanese Fast Food: Stand & Eat Soba

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Soba is a traditional Japanese dish. Soba restaurants with counters where you stand up and eat can be found on train station platforms. These are stand and eat soba restaurants. The popular and convenient stand and eat soba takes about 30 seconds to prepare, making it truly a Japanese fast food. Even on a trip, you can eat a traditional Japanese dish that is quick and convenient.

Eyeglass Capital Sabae Leads Innovation

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The eyeglass capital of Japan, Sabae City in Fukui Prefecture produces about 90 percent of the eyeglass frames made in Japan. Eyeglass frame production began about 100 years ago in Sabae, which has continually led new industry innovations, including making the world’s first titanium eyeglass frames. In recent years, more companies in Sabae are attempting to make eyeglass frames using unique designs and materials that are even better than titanium. Companies have also set up stores to jointly sell their products and are continuing to explore global markets.

A Seven-Minute Miracle! The Shinkansen Cleaning Theater

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More than 300 high-speed Shinkansen trains are in service in a single day. The inside of the Shinkansen cars are meticulously clean. It is the cleaning team that makes this possible. A Shinkansen’s average stop time is 12 minutes. It takes five minutes for passengers to get on and off. Once all the passengers have gotten off, there is only seven minutes to completely finish cleaning the cars and taking out the garbage. Here we show how the Shinkansen cars are cleaned, which is attracting attention from overseas as the seven-minute miracle.

Becoming More Useful: Innovative Food Containers

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We use condiments and dressings every day during meals. A lot of thought is put into the containers that hold them. There is a cap that can be easily opened using little force, even by the elderly. A food package has also been developed that retains the freshness of soy sauce, and is easy to use. Japanese food containers continue to be innovated to make them easier to open, easier to use, and make what they hold more delicious.

High School Students’ Challenge! Revitalizing the Town with the B-1 Grand Prix

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The B-1 Grand Prix event gathers together groups from around Japan that conduct community PR activities to revitalize their towns through cooking and serving local specialties. The group Towada Barayaki Seminar from the town of Towada in Aomori Prefecture won second place in the 2013 B-1 Grand Prix. High school students work together with the adult members of this group in activities to build excitement for their town. We take a closer look at what they are doing.

LED Fishing Lights: Revolutionizing the Fishing Industry

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Pacific saury have long been known to be attracted to light at night. Now the fishing methods used to catch Pacific saury are undergoing dramatic change. Fishermen are switching to blue-green LED lights from the conventional fishing method of using incandescent lights. The blue-green LED lights reduce energy consumption and improve the efficiency of the fishermen’s work. In addition, LED lights allow the Pacific saury to be caught without damaging their scales. The fishing industry revolution led by LED lights has only just begun.

What is Spochan? An extremely safe sword sport from Japan

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This sport is called Sports Chanbara, or spochan for short. Created about 40 years ago in Japan, Spochan is a safe sport where competitors use equipment filled with air. Matches are held with participants wearing padded helmets and using swords of various lengths. Competitors face off against others with swords of the same length. A win is scored when a sword touches any part of the opponent’s body. The Sports Chanbara Association is seeking to increase its popularity internationally with the aim of ultimately making it an official Olympic sport.

Chopstick Culture in Japan

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Each day the people of Japan use a pair of stick-shaped implements known as hashi, or chopsticks to eat. Chopsticks are also used in other countries of Asia, but it is thought that Japan is one of the only places where only chopsticks are used when eating. Accompanying the growing global interest in Japanese cuisine, more and more people around the world are taking an interest in chopsticks from Japan. This is all the more reason why it is important for the people of Japan to learn about chopsticks and how to use them correctly.

Powered Suit Helping Farmers

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Japanese farmers do most work by hand. Many farmers are of advanced age, however, and this work can be grueling. To solve this problem, devices have been designed to make the work of farmers easier. This is a powered suit designed for agricultural work. These suits are capable of holding a farmer's arm in a fixed position or lifting heavy items with half the amount of power normally required. These powered suits have been developed with cutting-edge technology to ease the lives of farmers in Japan. If they find traction and spread around the world they can surely do the same for farmers everywhere.

Ise Jingu Shikinen Sengu Reconstructing Tradition

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This is Ise Jingu, located in Ise City, Mie Prefecture. This shrine, with its distinguished history, has long been visited by many people over the centuries. Every 20 years, the shrine pavilion is rebuilt, the contents moved to or recreated in the new structure. This practice is called Shikinen Sengu and has taken place for the past 1300 years. One objective behind this is to pass on traditional shrine carpentry knowhow to future generations. The kigumi construction technique does not use nails. This process helps to transmit traditional Japanese construction techniques to future generations to ensure that this wisdom accrued over 1300 years will be carried on into the future.

Landscape Gardener

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Japanese gardens express nature using seasonal colors from planted trees, rocks, and ponds. They are a leading symbol of Japanese culture. Eleventh-generation gardener Jihei Ogawa from Kyoto is one of the Japanese Landscape Gardeners who performs the planning, maintenance, and carries on the ancient tradition of landscape gardening, as well as teaching the techniques he has learned to the next generation. It is the daily maintenance that produces a feeling of comfort similar to being in nature, and gives Japanese Landscape Gardens their universally appealing beauty.

Getting Together ! The Latest Cafes and Bars

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Japanese towns feature many unique cafés and bars that are distinctly Japanese. A cat café on a busy downtown street. People come here who cannot keep cats. At a sewing machine café, people come who want to make various clothing using a sewing machine. People gather at train bars who like trains. Japan’s cafés and bars are sure to continue evolving as people’s interests diversify.

The Japanese Crested Ibis Starting Over from Zero

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The Japanese Crested Ibis. Its scientific name is Nipponia nippon. This bird holds a special place in the hearts of Japanese people. However, this bird went extinct in Japan. Efforts are underway to bring the Japanese Crested Ibis back. The Japanese Crested Ibis is being brought back in Sado City, located on an island in the Sea of Japan. This Japanese Crested Ibis Conservation Center breeds and protects the birds. Furthermore it trains them to live in the wild, and then releases them. Currently, as of 2013 there are about 80 Japanese Crested Ibises living in the wild.

Communication Robots

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In Japan, the land of the robot, development of robots that focus on communication is advancing in a number of ways. There are robots that take part in experiments in conversation with an astronaut on a spacecraft, robots that connect hospitals and homes, and robots that communicate with the elderly at facility homes. With their potential to increase communication among others, expectations are rising for the benefits of communication robots.

Ultra-Lightweight Vehicle

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In Japan you can find a new type of transport in between the motorcycle and the compact car, the Ultra-Lightweight Vehicle. Ultra-Lightweight Vehicles are powered by electricity, and as such are environmentally friendly. What’s more they are easy to drive, and it’s hoped that more people will use them for local transport. Various companies now use them to make door-to-door deliveries, and even public housing corporations can use them while they perform their everyday duties, and it is hoped that this environmentally friendly car will be in use more in the near future.

Tatami and the Japanese Lifestyle

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Tatami mats have been used in Japanese houses since the days of old. The surface of the tatami mat is made by carefully weaving together rush grass much of which is grown in Yatsushiro city in Kyushu. Rush grass gives off a pleasant aroma, which freshens the air, and covers the smell of sweat and unpleasant odors. Japanese people eat, relax and even sleep on tatami mats. Life lived on tatami mats was born from the knowledge of how to live in the hot and humid country of Japan.

Sightseeing Train

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Out of the four main islands that comprise the Japanese archipelago, the farthest south is Kyushu, where sightseeing trains are gaining popularity. The countryside can be enjoyed by peering out of the large glass windows in the car up front, and there is even a play area for children that’s been built. There’s also another kind of train where Jazz is played, and a bar counter has been set up. The attraction of traveling via these new sightseeing trains is the fun time spent riding on the trains itself.

Sushi Academy

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Sushi. A traditional Japanese food. Because no oil is used during its preparation, it is a low calorie, healthy food that has become known worldwide. It used to take many years to become a sushi chef, but now there is a private academy where the technique of sushi can be learned in a short period of time. Many young students who wish to work overseas at sushi restaurants come to the school. Through sushi, this traditional Japanese cuisine, Japan’s culture is spreading throughout the world, and helping to promote mutual understanding worldwide.

Koban (Japanese Police Box)

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Japan’s capital city of Tokyo. It has one of the best records for safety in the world. Supporting this is the Koban, or Japanese Police Box, an installation where the police officers not only work from to protect their cities and towns but where they also sometimes live. The Koban has a history of over 130 years, and they can be found anywhere in the country. The trusted police officers of Japan work to keep the peace as well as provide other essential services and ensure that life in Japan is safe and harmonious.

Tsunami Simulation Helping Limit Damage

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Japan, a country with many earthquakes. To help limit the damage, researchers in Japan are taking action. By placing a large-scale monitoring system on the ocean floor, and using a supercomputer to create simulations with the data that is gathered, researchers can find the safest ways to evacuate in an emergency. Japan is on the forefront of developing technology to limit damage, and save lives when disasters strike.

Hydroponic Farming

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Dome-shaped hydroponic farms have appeared in farmland areas that were damaged during the tsunami of 2011. With a computer controlling the climate conditions, just a small amount of land and minimal water, hydroponic farms allow farmers to grow fresh vegetables all year round. These farms also provide needed work for those who lost their homes and farms to the devastation. Hydroponic farms are drawing attention from around the world!

Hakone A Relaxing Retreat

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Mt. Fuji. This World Cultural Heritage site is a symbol of Japan. One getaway spot where you can view this breathtaking mountain is Hakone. Just an hour and a half from Tokyo by car or train, this historical city is a popular destination for tourists. Hakone is located in a volcanic region, as such you’ll find plenty of hot springs here. Hotels featuring their own private hot springs where travelers can relax line the streets. Hakone a relaxing getaway, just a stone’s throw from Tokyo, where you can enjoy the many faces of beautiful Mt. Fuji.

Spring

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The traditional start of spring is marked by the mame-maki custom of throwing beans to drive away evil spirits. There are special events to pray for good health in children, and of course the custom of partying under the cherry blossoms – symbols of spring. We also see farmers start the rice planting, and the traditional ceremonies that accompany it.

Summer

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The star festival of Tanabata is widely celebrated in early July. Now the rains have passed and sunny skies are here, the Japanese head for the beach. There are fireworks displays and many summer festivals such as the lively bon odori. We also see some traditional methods for bringing a little coolness into the hottest part of their summer.

Autumn

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As cool weather returns, the famously beautiful autumn harvest moon brings with it its own traditions and ceremonies. Then the forested mountains begin to turn red and gold. It’s the season for chrysanthemum festivals, the traditional children’s festival of Shichigosan, and of course every region has its own unique harvest thanksgiving events.

Winter

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In winter, you can enjoy events like the November markets selling kumade traditional lucky charms, spectacular street illuminations in the major cities, and skiing and snowboarding on the snow-covered mountains. New Year customs include eating special food, ringing temple bells, and decorating the house with traditional symbols.

The School Day

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Japanese children must attend elementary school from age six to age 12. We see a typical school day, with pupils learning core subjects like Japanese language, math, science and social studies in their homeroom classroom, and then moving to dedicated rooms to study music, crafts or home economics. The distinctive Japanese approaches to school meals, cleaning and school club activities are also shown.

School Meals

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Japan's elementary schools provide school lunches, and everyone eats from the same menu. Children from each class are assigned the task of bringing food from the kitchen and serving it. This unique system is not only valued for providing correct nutrition – it is designed to teach children the importance of a balanced, healthy diet, and to introduce them to different culinary traditions from other Japanese regions and from all over the world.

School Events

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Events held throughout the elementary school year to deepen and round out pupils' educations include day visits to interesting local places and longer trips to further regions. The annual sports day is a major occasion, as are traditional cultural events like brush calligraphy contests. And all schools hold regular drills to prepare their pupils to react safely in case of emergencies like earthquakes or fires.

Summer Vacation

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The Japanese school year starts from April, and there is a long mid-year vacation in the heat of the summer from late July to the end of August. We see how pupils are encouraged to take the opportunity of this long summer break not only for leisure, but also for special studies, sports and other training that is better done independently out of class times.

Trendsetting Tokyo

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Idol group AKB48, now extending their fame to the world stage through performances in Paris, New York, Singapore and elsewhere, began - and still perform every day - in Akihabara, an area of Tokyo that's home to many dynamic youth subcultures like anime and manga. On the other side of the metropolis, Harajuku is the center for Tokyo's thriving street fashion scene and many small design houses whose Japanese brands regularly become international hits. Tokyo has a very long history of setting trends domestically, and its influence on world trends continues to grow.

Tokyo's Latest Landmark

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Opened on May 22, 2012, the 634 meters tall Tokyo Sky Tree is the world's highest free-standing communications tower. The tower's observation decks are hugely popular with people who come to enjoy the combination of this ultra-modern structure and the old-world atmosphere of the surrounding commercial downtown area with its many traditional shops. This new landmark promises to spur a revival of the old downtown, attracting visitors to this area and its unique, historically vibrant culture.

Tokyo – City of Sports

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The image of Tokyo is of a giant metropolis dominated by towering skyscrapers, but this huge city also takes pride in its world-class sports facilities, ranging from enormous athletics stadiums to football grounds, gymnasiums, swimming pools and martial arts dojos. Tokyo hosts many annual international events in a wide variety of sports, and even the great earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 did not interrupt the regular flow of world athletes eager to show off their skills here. It's not just the quality of the facilities that draws athletes and sports fans from around the world - packed with tourist attractions, Tokyo is a great place to experience Japanese culture.

Gourmet Tokyo

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Fresh foodstuffs from all over Japan are readily available in Tokyo, and this is also a wonderful place to discover the nation's huge variety of regional cuisines. You don't need to travel to the farthest parts of these islands to try rare local delicacies or cooking styles - there's sure to be a specialist restaurant serving them somewhere in Tokyo. International cuisine is also readily available - part of Tokyo's charm is the ease with which you can dine on dishes from any part of the globe. All of Asia's famous cuisines are well represented, of course, but food from places as far off as Latin America and Africa is easy to find.

The Spirit of Budo

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World famous as sports, judo, kendo and karate are some of the Japanese martial-based arts known as budo. Developed from the mental and spiritual training systems used by the samurai, budo aims to perfect the character through constant training in technique, and to focus and unify the mind, practitioners will often sit in meditation before training sessions. The spirit of budo is developed by simultaneously training one's mind, technique and physical strength.

Budo Techniques and Power

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Japan's national sport of sumo originated from ancient Shinto religious rites to ensure good harvests. Sumo wrestlers attempt to unbalance their opponent for a power technique, even in the sudden opening clash of bodies. Judo, where the opponent's own force is used to throw him, allows small people to defeat larger ones – the soft overcoming the hard. Aikido, based on defensive techniques, interprets an opponent's strength, movements and intentions to lead and reverse an attack back. In karate one learns to fight by practicing set patterns of attack and defense called kata.

Traditional Budo Equipment

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The budo arts that maintain the samurai warrior spirit and martial techniques also preserve many unique weapons, implements and equipment. For example, there's the bamboo sword called shinai used in kendo, and the traditional bamboo bows and 3-feathered arrows of kyudo. These traditional implements and equipment are essential in the various forms of budo to help focus the practitioner's concentration and strengthen the power of the will.

Budo Today

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Budo continues to have a profound influence on Japanese life. Considered an excellent form of character training for children, classes in a budo art such as sumo, kendo or judo are compulsory in Japanese schools. Budo techniques originally developed to revive and treat injuries in combat are now valued and widely used in regular clinics. At festivals throughout Japan, budo displays often play a central role. Offering far more than just sophisticated fighting techniques, the spirit and heart of budo is alive and well today.

Kamakura – Home of Samurai Culture

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About one hour by train from Tokyo, Kamakura came to prominence 800 years ago as the capital of the first samurai government. Today it's a popular tourist destination, welcoming over 19 million visitors every year. Set in a unique geographical location, Kamakura forms a showcase of samurai culture with its numerous and magnificent temples, shrines and historical remains. Two of Kamakura's most famous attractions are Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and the Daibutsu Great Buddha statue.

Jomon Archeological Sites in Tohoku

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During the 10,000 years of the Jomon Period, starting about 12,000 years ago, the people of the Japanese islands gave up their nomadic lifestyle to live in fixed settlements. Instead of farming or breeding livestock, the Jomon people lived by hunting, fishing and gathering nuts and fruits. They made pottery and ornaments and ceremonially buried their dead. Of the many Jomon sites in the Tohoku region the most famous are Goshono (Iwate), the Oyu Stone Circles (Akita) and Sannai-Maruyama (Aomori).

Okinawa World Heritage

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The subtropical islands of Okinawa Prefecture attract over five million tourists a year with their sparkling seas, vibrant local culture, and many historical remains, now a World Heritage. There's the magnificent 15th century Shuri Castle, the royal palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Unique Okinawan castles with beautifully curved stone walls. And mysterious sacred groves, naturally formed in the forests and rocks. The World Heritage Sites of Okinawa are a living legacy of this region's rich history and cultural traditions.

Mt. Fuji, Japan's Sacred Mountain

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With its distinctive symmetrical outline, Japan's highest peak is surrounded by magnificently varied scenery. In the summer season, around 300,000 climbers scale Mount Fuji. The mountain was venerated as a holy place since ancient times, and the summit is considered especially sacred. Mount Fuji has profoundly influenced much Japanese art and culture, used as the theme of many prints and paintings, for example. The timeless beauty of this towering peak never fails to stir the hearts of all who see it.

Tohoku's Eco-friendly Reconstruction

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Japan is making rapid progress with environmentally-friendly urban development, notably by expanding use of renewable energy. In the Tohoku region, hard struck by the 2011 disaster, such initiatives include the construction of large scale solar power generation facilities, plans for local energy independence and urban developments designed to minimize energy consumption. Eco-friendly urban development is slated to play a major role in the reconstruction of the Tohoku region.

Geothermal Energy in Japan

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Geothermal is a long utilized source of renewable energy in Japan, a land of volcanoes and therefore abundant geothermal resources. Japan leads the world in geothermal technology, producing about 80% of all geothermal generating equipment. In this video, we see both advanced geothermal power plants and private enterprise initiatives to exploit this resource at the local level. Renewed focus on the importance of this energy resource is driving Japan's current enhanced development of geothermal power.

Pioneering Disaster Technology

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Learning from its long experience in coping with natural disasters, Japan is implementing a wide range of initiatives aimed at disaster prevention and reduction. These include the early earthquake warning system of the Japan Meteorological Agency and the seismic detection systems of the Shinkansen and other railway networks. Technology such as base-isolated construction and airlift systems are making buildings more resistant to earth tremors, and we also see high tech robots for rescue work at disaster sites.

New National Park for Sanriku

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Stretching for 600 kilometers along the Pacific coastline of the Tohoku region, Sanriku is one of Japan's most scenic areas. An enormous range of plant and animal life flourishes in this beautiful natural ecosystem, but Sanriku was hard hit by the great disaster of 2011. As part of the post-disaster reconstruction, there are now plans to designate the entire Sanriku area as one huge national park in order to revive a region where humankind and nature have long lived in harmony. The unique nature of this area is helping the regional reconstruction effort.

The Camellias of Hagi

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Hagi, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, is an historic city set among beautiful scenery, containing many fascinating relics and reminders of the key role it played in Japan's 19th century modernization. Hagi's major attraction for visitors, though, is its camellias. Over 25,000 camellia trees grow in a natural hillside forest, and the simple beauty of these blossom-covered trees is an irresistible magnet for the flower-loving Japanese.

Arita Porcelain

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Arita, in Saga Prefecture, was where Japanese ceramics began, about 400 years ago. Arita ware is made in many variations, from simple blue and white pieces hand colored using the sometsuke process, to gorgeously colored, richly ornamented items. Arita also produces the world-famous style known as Kakiemon. From a shrine gateway tiled in porcelain to walls of old kiln bricks, a visitor will see reminders of Arita's proud past everywhere.

Leading-Edge Desalination Technology

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In Japan's modern water-purification facilities, leading-edge technology converts seawater into drinking water. The secret is ultra-thin membranes wound in many layers. These Japanese developed membranes are finer than any other, able to block 99.8 percent of all viruses, chemicals, organisms and even ions. Supplying 70% of membranes used in water treatment plants worldwide, Japanese technology is helping to solve the global water shortage.

Wadaiko Drumming

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Producing a powerful sound that resonates throughout the whole body, wadaiko drums have been an important part of Japanese culture since ancient times. A mainstay of traditional Japanese music, wadaiko are also sacred instruments in Shinto and Buddhism. Today, the wadaiko is known worldwide thanks to a number of famous professional groups who are interpreting this traditional instrument in fresh and unique ways.

Meiji Jingu - A Tokyo Oasis

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An oasis of green deep in the heart of the Tokyo megalopolis. The Meiji Jingu Shrine, located near the fashion districts of Omotesando and Harajuku, has over 170,000 trees in its 700,000 square meter grounds. These woods, originally planted by hand, have grown into a natural forest environment. A wonderful spot to relax among greenery, it's popular with tourists as well as Tokyo locals, and with five nearby stations couldn't be easier to get to.

Amezaiku Candy Sculpture

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In this traditional street stall skill, the artist works swiftly, squeezing, stretching, twisting and cutting the candy with bare hands before it cools and hardens. In just three minutes, a tiny, lifelike – and edible – sculpture is born. It takes many years of practice to become a good amezaiku artist, able to craft any shape a customer orders – even recognizable portraits. Young and old love to watch them at work, before enjoying the resulting candy.

Saving Energy with Sensors

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Japan is home to some of the most advanced infrared and ultrasonic sensor technology, producing 70% of the world's sensors. Sensors play a vital role in energy-saving, preventing waste in everything from escalators to microwaves. Used in automatic taps, they reduce wasted water too. Now often combined with other technologies, sensors continue to evolve and change our world, and Japanese technology leads the way.

Kyo Yuzen Kimono Dyeing

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Kyo Yuzen is a famous traditional kimono dyeing technique from Kyoto. It is notable for the beauty of the elaborate and colorful scenes from nature, often of flowers and birds, that are used to decorate the kimono fabric. This method requires a great many processes to complete a single piece, each being done by a separate specialist artisan. With a history of over 300 years, Kyo Yuzen is as popular as ever today.

Gokayama's Thatched Farmhouses

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The mountain village of Gokayama lies in a region of heavy snows. To counter this, a special kind of thatched roof design developed here. Gokayama was made a World Heritage Site because of the beauty of this gassho-zukuri architecture, and its perfect preserved view of old Japan. The village is also famous for traditional folk arts, including dance, handicrafts, unique musical instruments and some of Japan's oldest folk music.

Another Taste of Japan

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A whole style of cooking, very popular in Japan, uses a base of batter cooked on an iron griddle. The best known of these dishes is okonomiyaki, in which a batter mix made from flour and dashi stock is cooked together with vegetables, meat or fish and then given a coating of thick sauce. 500 years ago it was a simple recipe – today many different ingredients are used. Other delicious dishes in this style are monjayaki and takoyaki.

Stronger and Lighter than Steel

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Japan leads the world in cutting-edge carbon fiber technology, and has developed reinforced fibers so strong that they can now be used to construct every part of an aircraft, tail, wings and fuselage. Because these materials are lighter as well as stronger than metal, flight distances can be 1.3 times greater. High-quality Japanese carbon fiber now accounts for 70% of world production, and demand continues to increase.

Maki-e – Gold on Lacquer

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Since ancient times, the Japanese have been fond of lacquer, especially for furniture and eating utensils. Many of these items are gorgeously decorated using a unique Japanese technique for applying gold dust called maki-e. By using dust rather than foil, the designs can be painted on the lacquer in much finer detail. The beauty of maki-e is widely admired, although it takes many years for an artisan to master this skill.

Niihama Taiko Festival

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The city of Niihama in Ehime Prefecture developed along with the Besshi Copper Mine, which played a significant role in 19th-century Japan's industrialization, and which today is an industrial city with many chemicals and machinery factories.
Every year in October, the city holds the Niihama Taiko Festival, a magnificently spectacular event with a long tradition and history behind it.

Japanese Rice Snacks

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The Japanese enjoy an enormous variety of food products that use rice as their raw material. There are mochi rice cakes and dango dumplings, and recently even rice bread. But perhaps the oldest and best loved of rice snacks are the crackers known as senbei. These crisp, crunchy crackers are traditionally round and flavored with soy sauce, but they are also made in many other shapes and flavors.

Shaping Our World with Plastics

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Japan has many unique technologies for mixing and processing synthetic resins. Ears, arms, fingers and other prosthetic body parts are made ultra-lifelike using multiple types of resin, while innovative methods for resin mixing and coloring produce the realistic model dishes displayed outside restaurants. There is a worldwide demand for the high quality products made using these unique technologies, which can even create resins harder than steel. They can also combine durability with crystal clear transparency, and most large aquarium tanks worldwide are Japanese-made.

The Puppet Art of Bunraku

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The history of Bunraku began when a traditional performing art called Joruri, where the story was told through chanting and shamisen music, was enhanced by the addition of puppets. Bunraku is unique among the puppet theaters of the world in that each puppet is controlled by a team of three puppeteers, a method that produces an amazingly lifelike effect. Bunraku remains popular with modern audiences, and is listed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, along with Japan's other theatrical traditions of Kabuki and Noh.

Solar Power in Japan

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Solar power is widely and increasingly used in Japan in power stations and public facilities, and its advanced technology has given Japan an almost 25% world share in solar generating equipment. High energy conversion solar panel systems are installed on many private homes, and new household-use, high-capacity lithium storage batteries now allow energy generated in daytime to power homes at night. Semi-transparent solar panels provide illumination as well as generating power, eliminating a common problem of overhead panels blocking sunlight. New panels use lenses to multiply solar power conversion efficiency three to four times. Japanese research continues to improve solar technology, lowering costs and increasing generating capacity.

Ise-Shima – Ancient Shrines and Pearls

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Sited at the heart of Japan, the beautiful coast of the Ise-Shima peninsula is a famous tourist destination, attracting 10 million visitors every year. Over 80% of them come to visit the 1,800-year old Ise Jingu, Japan's most important Shinto Shrine. Through all those centuries, believers never ceased to travel from all over the nation to Ise to give thanks to the kami, or deities, enshrined here. The Ise-Shima coast is also famous for its abundant marine life, and this area was the birthplace of the world's cultured pearl industry. You can still see the traditional women divers, who gather shellfish from the sea bed using no breathing equipment.

Stationery Moves with the Times

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Japanese stationery products are known the world over for their ingenious design and for their practicality. For example, scissors fitted with a special cap to make them safer to handle, and an environmentally-friendly stapler that doesn't actually use staples. Very popular among collectors is the vast range of erasers that are perfect replicas – just 3 cm in size – of animals, foods and almost any object you could imagine. Such ideas could only be born in Japan, with its long tradition of meticulous miniature craftsmanship. At the other end of the scale, we also see cutting-edge high-tech stationery such as a ball point pen using ink that can be erased using only friction.

The Ukiyoe Tradition

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Ukiyoe is a genre of Japanese popular art dating back to the late 17th century that mostly depicts scenes from daily life or seasonal motifs. Whether hand painted or woodblock printed, ukiyoe is distinguished by bold, dramatic designs and vibrant colors. These prints are known and loved worldwide, and right from the start had a deep influence on artists in many countries. Ukiyoe prints are made by a sophisticated work-sharing process in which each print passes through the hands of three highly skilled artisans: an artist, a woodcarver and a printer.

A Festival of Festivals Tohoku Rokkon Sai

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Held in Sendai, the biggest city of the Tohoku region, the Tohoku Rokkon Sai is an event showcasing the region's six most famous festivals. This region was the area worst hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March, 2011, and the new event was planned to revive the spirits of the people, help them overcome the effects of the disaster, and show the rest of Japan and the world that Tohoku is as exciting and dynamic as ever. The featured festivals are Nebuta (Aomori), Kanto (Akita), Sansa (Morioka), Hanagasa (Yamagata), Waraji (Fukushima), and Tanabata (Sendai).

800 Years of Tradition Aizu Tajima Gion Festival

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With a history going back over 800 years, this is one of the great summer events in Tohoku's Fukushima Prefecture, and one of the most famous of Japan's Gion festivals. The daytime part includes a parade of about 30 women dressed in gorgeous bridal kimonos carrying traditional offerings to the local shrine. At night, there is a parade of huge floats that stop at various points to act as stages for kabuki performances. The kabuki actors are children, and each time the floats move on, children from the audience ride along, chanting encouragement to the teams of haulers.

Showcasing Tohoku Dance Kitakami Michinoku Geino Festival

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Each year in early August, a festival of Tohoku regional performing arts is held in Kitakami, Iwate Prefecture. The whole town becomes a stage for a wide variety of traditional dances from all over the region, performed in Kitakami's shrines, department stores, plazas and parks. About 120 groups took part in the festival this year, held in the aftermath of the disaster that devastated this region. Lively performances were provided by dancers from Tohoku and beyond, including groups from towns and villages destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami.

Festival on Matsushima Bay Shiogama Minato Festival

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This festival was started after the second world war to pray for divine protection and inspiration as the people of the region struggled through the post-war reconstruction period. Deities from the two hilltop Shiogama and Shiwahiko Shrines are carried in procession in two mikoshi portable shrines to the harbor. Each mikoshi is then placed on its own special ship which sails around scenic Matsushima Bay, accompanied by dozens of fishing boats. The festival takes on a special significance this year, as the region once again faces the difficult task of reconstruction.

Hiraizumi - Once Again a Beacon of Hope

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Located in a fertile plain by the Kitakamigawa River, Hiraizumi became the political and cultural center of the Tohoku region in the 11th and 12th centuries, after the end of a period of civil war. The unique culture of its golden age was fostered by the ruling Oshu Fujiwara clan, who ordered the construction of many temples and gardens embodying the Buddhist concept of the Pure Land paradise. Many of these 12 century masterpieces have survived to this day, most notably Chuson-ji Temple with its Golden Hall and Motsu-ji Temple with its famous Pure Land garden. Magnificent representations of this Buddhist Pure Land concept, the gardens and temples of Hiraizumi are now a World Heritage site.

Fukushima's World-leading Aluminum Technology

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The small city of Shirakawa, in Fukushima, is home to some of the world's most advanced aluminum processing plants. One of these produces the world's most precise aluminum tubing using its own specialist drawing technology. The plant makes its own dies to draw the raw stock aluminum tube and achieve an incredible, almost distortion free precision of 1/100 mm. These finished tubes are used to manufacture precision parts such as camera lens rings and high-speed train doors. The tubes are the key to an Antarctic scientific drilling project now bringing up 800,000-year old ice samples from depths of over 3000 m in order to study climate change. These Fukushima plants have bounced back from the recent disaster and continue to keep global industry supplied with irreplaceable specialist parts.


The Magnificent Wooden Chests of Sendai

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Sendai City in Miyagi, one of the areas of Tohoku hard hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake, is home to a famous craft tradition with a history going back over one hundred years. This is the craft of making Sendai Tansu chests. Made from especially beautiful and durable wood, these chests are treated with a complex lacquering process that allows the grain to shine through, and decorated with fine ironwork fittings. Some of these artisans lost their tools and workshops in the tsunami but, typical of the resilient people of this region, they have overcome the disaster and work on, powered by a determination to keep their family craft traditions alive for future generations.

Keeping the Auto Industry on the Road

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The huge earthquake that devastated the Tohoku Region in March seriously affected the auto industry, which relies on many specialist component manufacturing plants located in this part of Japan. Most recovered rapidly and are now back in production, including a small manufacturer of extremely precise metal dies. This technology, with a product reject rate of less than 1%, is used to manufacture the high accuracy components required by automakers around the world. The expressway system, depended on by manufacturers for distribution, also recovered quickly - Japan's road engineers had 90% of the stricken highways open for traffic again just 13 days after the earthquake. The speedy response depended on knowhow and techniques employed and polished every day by the specialists who keep society's systems and lifelines running.


Takachiho - Land of Legends

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Takachiho, a small town in the mountains of northern Miyazaki, is the legendary home of some of Japan's most ancient myths. The landscape around Takachiho is filled with sacred spots, the best known being Gokase-gawa Gorge, a mysteriously beautiful ravine of sheer volcanic cliffs cutting through deep forest. Performed in Takachiho for over 800 years, the Kagura dance portrays the stories of the old gods, backed by the music of traditional drums and flutes.

Walking on Wood

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Zori and geta are two traditional kinds of Japanese footwear that are still popular and widely worn today. Since they don't enclose or restrict the feet, these sandals keep feet healthy and free from perspiration and various ailments like corns. Both styles are made in a wide variety of materials and designs, and geta in particular are often crafted by artisans and beautifully decorated using traditional methods such as lacquer and gold ornamentation.

Flea Markets for Fun

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In a recent new fashion style, young Japanese are remaking and redesigning store-bought clothing to reflect their own personal tastes and to project an image that's unique to each wearer. They use both purpose-made decorations and accessories and any everyday objects that happen to seize their fancy, sewing or sticking them to store-bought garments. Limited only by your imagination, it's an inexpensive and easy way to transform your appearance with clothes that are absolutely one of a kind.

Technology Inspired by Tradition

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Many of the electronic components at the heart of modern appliances are developed in Japan, and one of the most essential uses technology inspired by a traditional handicraft. Japanese companies have the world top share in ceramic capacitors thanks to a technique from Kiyomizu-yaki, a centuries-old Kyoto ceramic tradition. We also see how traditional methods for making ultra-thin decorative gold foil have made printed circuit board manufacture more efficient.

The Colorful World of Bentobako

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bentobako, the special containers for carrying these meals, also play a significant role in Japanese culture. Historically, they were made of wood, often lacquered. Today, bentobako are mad Bento (meals cooked and packed for convenient carrying) are an old tradition in Japan. And e in a variety of materials and in a huge range of designs aimed at offering greater functionality. A blend of traditional wisdom and ingenious technology, bentobako ensure that meals stay fresh and delicious, even after being carried for long periods.

Miniaturizing Medicine

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Leading edge micro-technology is now widely used in the medical field, and many innovative developments are coming from small Japanese factories. These include the world's thinnest hypodermic needle (0.2mm) and ultra-compact medical light bulbs just 5mm across. Thanks to the vastly increased power of recently developed Japanese microscopes, surgeons are now able to operate on blood vessels as thin as 0.5mm. And robots just one millionth of a mm long allow researchers to study even single cells.

Experimenting with Fashion

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In a recent new fashion style, young Japanese are remaking and redesigning store-bought clothing to reflect their own personal tastes and to project an image that's unique to each wearer. They use both purpose-made decorations and accessories and any everyday objects that happen to seize their fancy, sewing or sticking them to store-bought garments. Limited only by your imagination, it's an inexpensive and easy way to transform your appearance with clothes that are absolutely one of a kind.

Miyajima - Island Shrine to Nature

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The island of Miyajima lies in the Seto Inland Sea, near Hiroshima. The entire wooded island, 30 kilometers around, stands as a shrine symbolizing reverence for nature. The 1,400-year old shrine is built over the water and seems to float against a backdrop of green mountain. Each April over 400 Noh performers gather here from all over Japan for a special sacred event. The sense that they are performing in the midst of nature is especially intense at high tide, when the sea rises almost to the level of the shrine's Noh stage.

Izu – Paradise of Flowers

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The entrance to the Izu Peninsula is an easy one hour train ride from Tokyo. Tourists flock here for Izu's year-round mild climate, magnificent coastline and famous hot springs. The most popular destinations are the spots where many flowers bloom simultaneously in February – you can see plum, camellia, cherry, daffodil and rape blossoms. Plum and cherry blossoms flower earlier here than anywhere else in Japan, and early spring on the Izu coast is a picturesque sight.

Snow and Hemp in Ojiya

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Ojiya chijimi is a woven fabric that has been produced in Ojima, in Niigata Prefecture, for about 350 years. In this snowy area, weavers discovered that they could bleach their fabric to a distinctive hue by laying it out on the winter snow. They use a local variety of hemp called choma which is very absorbent and dries quickly. In combination with a special crimping technique to produce linen crepe, this makes a comfortable fabric that's ideal for summer kimonos. Hand woven on unique looms, these fabrics also feature very beautiful patterns.

Leave it All to the Movers

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Japan's home moving companies provide a service that's unrivaled for reliability and comprehensiveness. You don't need to make any preparations at all – from packing to unpacking, the movers will handle it all. Special packing materials protect fragile items like crockery, and prevent creases in clothing. Everything is unpacked at your new home and placed precisely where you're used to having it – you simply resume life with no interruption. This service is so complete that they even clean your home before they leave.

Hina-Ningyo Dolls

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Hina-Ningyo are dolls are dressed in the gorgeous costumes of Japan's 11th century court nobility. It's an ancient belief in Japan that dolls can absorb evil and misfortune, and in the Hina Matsuri (March 3rd) dolls are displayed to pray for young girls' health. Hina-Ningyo dolls come in many varieties, all with individual, distinctive faces. At the top of the stepped display sit emperor and empress dolls, backed by a gold or richly decorated screen. The number of steps varies, but a fine seven-step display has 15 dolls, including three court ladies and five musicians.

Japan's high-speed rail system

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Japan's high-speed rail network began in 1964 with the launch of the Shinkansen Bullet Train, at the time the world's fastest. The network now has over 2,000 km of track and links all the nation's regions. The trains too have continued to evolve, becoming faster, more comfortable and quieter. The latest in this evolution is the Hayabusa, a new design that debuted on the Tohoku Shinkansen route in March, 2011, with a maximum operating speed of 320 km/h.

Matsue — the water city

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Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture grew up around the castle built in 1611, and it still retains much of the look of that old period. Rivers and waterways crisscross the city, giving it much of its beauty, and a riverboat tour is by far the best way to enjoy the sights of old Matsue. Boats operate all year round, with old-style charcoal heaters to ward off the winter chill. Another popular boat tour is on Lake Shinji, to the west of the city, to watch the spectacular sunsets.

Speedy and safe — Japan's egg technology

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In Japan, highly advanced, computerized technology carries eggs from hen to shop. At the processing plant, eggs are first cleaned and externally sterilized with boiling ozonated water. Then come a series of computer controlled inspections for surface dirt, shell cracks and internal defects. Computerized conveyor belt systems clean, check and package about 120,000 eggs per hour with such high levels of hygiene that it's always safe to eat Japanese eggs uncooked.