• NAKASAKI, Japan - Colorful lanterns are lit up in Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, as the Nagasaki Lantern Festival begins on Feb. 16, 2018, coinciding with the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
    2018.02.19 | Nagasaki
  • FUEFUKI, JAPAN - Children look at peach trees in bloom at a park in Yamanashi Prefecture that opened to the public on Feb. 14, 2018 for peach-tree viewing. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
    2018.02.14 | Yamanashi
  • TOKYO - Around 1,200 people queued up on Thursday at a Tokyo zoo to see giant panda cub Xiang Xiang and mother Shin Shin, as display rules were changed to a first-come-first-served basis from pre-selected visitors.   According to the Ueno Zoological Gardens, people started to line up from around 3 a.m. Thursday until 9:30 a.m., the time numbered tickets are distributed to visitors wishing to see the pandas.   The display time for the animals has been expanded by two and a half hours until 4:45 p.m. from 9:45 a.m., with up to 9,500 visitors per day allowed.   In the previous public display format, which started on Dec. 19, the zoo limited the number of visitors to see the cub, born in June, and its mother, to about 2,000 lottery winners per day.   An outside playground area for the pandas was also made public for the first time on Thursday, allowing visitors to watch Xiang Xiang actively climb trees and logs.   Yutaka Shimizu, a 15-year-old junior high school student, who visited the zoo with his friend said, "My friend queued up from 4:30 a.m. The cub played innocently with a log and was so cute."   Susumu Nakamura, 29, and his wife, Mana, 30, from Yamato in Kanagawa Prefecture, came to the zoo with their 1-year-old son. After losing lotteries to see the cub a number of times, they stayed overnight at a nearby hotel.   Mana said that while her son Rikuto appeared happy to see Xiang Xiang, "Perhaps I was more excited."   Xiang Xiang has been hugely popular with the public, attracting some 59,000 visitors by Jan. 31. As of Jan. 25, Xiang Xiang, born on June 12, weighed 16.4 kilograms, the zoo said.   ==Kyodo
    2018.02.02 | Tokyo
  • KYOTO, Japan - Apprentice geisha called Maiko practice sutra copying at Daikaku Temple in Kyoto on Jan. 31, 2018 as part of their one-day session sponsored by a Kyoto traditional art promotion foundation to teach them the history and culture of Kyoto. (Kyodo)
    2018.01.31 | Kyoto
  • HASHIOTO, JAPAN - A performer dressed as a Tazume comic female character entertains spectators during the Onda Festival at Niutsuhime Shrine, a World Heritage site in Katsuragi, western Japan, on Jan. 21, 2018. Agricultural actions are performed at the festival to pray for a good harvest. (Kyodo)
    2018.01.30 | Wakayama
  • Around 50 children aged from four to six join the autumn festival at Daisenji, a Buddhist temple in the town of Daisen in Tottori Prefecture, western Japan, on Oct. 24, 2017. The participants prayed for the healthy growth of the children. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
    2017.10.24 | Tottori
  • TOKYO - A central Japan city that appeared in the popular animation film "your name.," and Kyoto, which has inspired several anime and manga comic works, were among 88 "holy sites" for anime fans selected in a vote, organizers said Saturday.   The Anime Tourism Association, which aims to promote tourism at places that inspired or were the real-life locations of animation works, picked the 88 sites for fan "pilgrimages" based on the online vote conducted worldwide since July last year.   The city of Hida, Gifu Prefecture, has drawn many fans of the hit film "your name.," which has been shown in such countries as China and the United States. The city of Kyoto hosts the Kyoto International Manga Museum and sites featured in works including "Hakuoki" and "Shonen Onmyoji."   The 88 spots also include the city of Ueda in Nagano Prefecture, where the animation film "Summer Wars" was set, and Kuki in Saitama Prefecture, home of a shrine that inspired the animation "Lucky Star."   The association is headed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, the director of animated television series "Mobile Suit Gundam," and its executives are from such companies as content and media producer Kadokawa Corp., travel agency JTB Corp. and Japan Airlines Co.   "I hope (fans) will deepen their understanding (of selected sites) starting from their interest based on animation," Tomino said.   ==Kyodo
    2017.08.28 | Chiba
  • Two Himalayan black bears at Sapporo Maruyama Zoo in Hokkaido, the northern main island of Japan, are gaining a reputation for relaxing in an empty water tub. The female bears Minami, 22 and Tomo, 19, both 1.6 meter tall, love the stainless steel tub, which is around 1 meter long, 50 cm wide and 30 cm deep. They began taking turns sitting in the tub from late last year after zoo workers emptied it of water. "They look almost like humans lazing about at home," a zoo official said. Showing no trace of self-consciousness, the bears yawn and scratch their heads and legs. "How lazy," laughed one visitor, among many who have been lapping up the sight of them. Ayako Nagano, who works at the zoo, said the bears may find the temperature inside the tub comfortable and like how they fit into it. Although staff fill the tub with hay, the bears remove it so they can climb inside, according to the zoo. The Himalayan black bear is classified as the same species as the Asian black bear. They make their habitat in Nepal and China and are known to be good at climbing trees. But Minami and Tomo rarely exhibit any inclination to show off their climbing prowess, according to the zoo, preferring instead to laze around in their tub. ==Kyodo
    2017.08.03 | Hokkaido
  • A Japanese city boasting one of the world's largest hot-spring resorts opened a special amusement park on Saturday with a hot-tub merry-go-round and other rides featuring immersion in its famous thermal water. The "spamusement park" will operate for just three days at an existing amusement park in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, after the southwestern Japan city successfully raised funds to set up special rides featuring the local hot-spring water. The attraction became a reality after Beppu Mayor Yasuhiro Nagano committed to open such a park in a YouTube video uploaded last November. The local representative pledged to go through with the idea if the video got more than 1 million views, a goal achieved in just three days. The video's conceptual footage showed men and women of all ages wrapped in towels having fun at a park combining bathing and rides, which was originally an idea to promote tourism in the city. The roller-coaster was depicted in the video as having seats filled with hot water, but the city opted to use bubbles made from hot-spring ingredients instead of water, due to safety concerns. "I got so excited. This is something extraordinary you can experience only here," said visitor Yuko Akagi, 28, after riding the roller-coaster. Wrapping her bathing suit-clad body with a towel, she said the bubbles felt nice. "I felt refreshed," said Akagi, who lives in Beppu. The city, which crowdfunded about 82 million yen ($740,000) for the project, is letting only those who donated a certain amount of money enter. About 12,000 people are expected to ride the park's eight attractions in the three days it is operating, city officials said. ==Kyodo
    2017.07.31 | Oita
  • The mayors of two Japanese cities known as the home of ninja, or feudal mercenaries, launched a ninja council Tuesday to boost tourism in cooperation with private businesses. Clad in ninja costumes, the mayors of Iga in Mie Prefecture and neighboring Koka in Shiga Prefecture signed an agreement at the inaugural meeting of the council at Aburahi Shrine in Koka. The shrine is believed to have been a gathering point for the Koka ninja clan in medieval times. The two cities are planning to disseminate information on ninja by setting up a common website or video footage to attract foreign tourists in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Koka Mayor Hiroki Iwanaga called the event "a historic moment that revived collaboration" between the two areas, while Iga Mayor Sakae Okamoto said, "I'm filled with deep emotion when I think about our ancestors who came together like this. We are good friends." The Koka ninja clan and Iga ninja clan are often depicted as hostile to each other in films and animations but the cities said they were in a collaborative relationship. In April, the two cities were selected as "Japan Heritage" properties to promote tourism. ==Kyodo
    2017.06.28 | Shiga
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