Friday, July 18, 2014

The Annual "Hand Made in Japan" Festival Houses Japan’s Finest Artists Under One Roof

Starting tomorrow and going until the 20th of July is the “Hand Made in Japan” Festival. The huge festival celebrates Japan’s most beautiful arts as well as the artists behind them. Taking place in Tokyo Bay, the annual festival introduces over 3,000 of Japan’s finest artists.

Attendees are given the chance to not only look at, but purchase, a wide variety of arts and crafts, as well as attend demonstrations and participate in workshops. Once visitors have explored the seemingly endless selection of already made crafts, they can test out their own inner-artists at any of the 20 themed workshops provided in the Tokyo Big Sight Atrium. 

After trying out one (or all) of the workshops, attendees can continue through the halls of artwork towards the West Exhibition Hall. This area of the festival houses around 2,200 booths all offering original works ranging from fashion accessories to household decorations. Finish out the amazing day by attending one of the live concerts or a paining session. And would any Asian festival be complete without food? Absolutely not! A wide array of food and beverages from different regions of Japan are also provided while visitors explore the halls. 

One of the special elements about Japanese art is the rich history behind it. With almost all ancient Japanese art, there is a story that comes with it. Those stories are woven through the Japanese people and their culture- thus making their art feel more personal. And what better way to display hand-crafted ornaments with a history than through a large festival where thousands of eyes can appreciate it. Often it is festivals like these that keep culture alive as time goes on. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Child Salsa Dancers Become Internet Sensations Thanks to their Incredible Moves

Two adorable kids have stolen the Internet, receiving over 2 million views on YouTube in just a month, but not just due to their cuteness but also their dance moves. The pint-sized pair blew away the crowd at the Israeli Salsa Congress with their incredible salsa moves. The routine wasn’t just impressive for small children, but for even an adult dancer, which makes it all the more awesome. 

Since they went viral, the two, named Kevin and Beberly, have won international competitions and even made an appearance on the Ellen Show. 

Click below to watch the video that made Kevin and Beberly an overnight internet sensation:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

DKNY Features a Clothing Line Specific for Muslim Women During Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. All over the world, Muslims honor this special time through a month of fasting. Beginning June 28th and lasting through July 28th, Muslims have been fasting from sunrise to sunset. 

Other observations of Ramadan include increased prayer and recitation of the Quran. The purpose of such activities is to improve and increase worship and devotion, as well as participate in spiritual reflection. Exercising restraint from other activities, such as drinking, arguing, or engaging in sexual activities, enables the mind to focus more on their spiritual improvement. 

Although Ramadan is a time of great spiritual development, it is important to be cautious when eating and drinking so little in the hot temperatures of summer. But often, it can be difficult for Muslim women to stay cool while meeting the Islamic guidelines. DKNY has tried to combat this issue by releasing a line of clothing designed specifically for Muslim women, not just during Ramadan, but for all year round. 

The best part is that the designers were Muslim women themselves. And in addition to being Muslim, these women are also professionals in the fashion industry. So they not only are up to speed on all the latest trends, but they are experts in the context and requirements of Islamic dress. 

The collection is stunning without crossing any lines. Arms and legs are covered, plunging necklines are not a problem, and slips are added so light doesn’t shine through- all while being chic and trendy. One of the major complaints of a lot of the fashion choices given to Muslim women is that they are bag-like and plain, but these clothes drape around the body, encasing the curves nature gave women without making them obvious or inappropriate.

DKNY has opened the doors of designer fashion to something amazing, and it is my hope that other big name companies will soon follow suit. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How Fireworks Came to be Part of Our Fourth of July Celebrations

One of the most memorable parts of summer is only days away. Since I live in a beach town, I’m mentally bracing myself for the influx of tourists, vacationers, and partiers that is sure to happen tomorrow. On Friday thousands of people across the country are going to be hitting the beach, barbecuing, attending carnivals, getting well acquainted with beer, and celebrating all that is America. Aside from hot dogs, hamburgers, and beer one of the most common (and most looked forward to) aspects of the Independence Day holiday are fireworks. Without fireworks the Fourth just wouldn’t feel complete. But where did our explosive entertainment come from?

While some argue their roots can be traced back to India or the Middle East, most historians believe fireworks originated in China. As early as 200 B.C. Chinese villagers stumbled upon naturally occurring firecrackers and began using them during rituals and cultural ceremonies. To make the delightful noise that everyone seems to love, they would roast bamboo, which explodes and creates a loud bang when it is heated due to its hollow air pockets. The people believed that these loud explosions would scare and ward off any evil spirits lurking nearby. 

As with many people throughout history, eventually curiosity and science came into play and Chinese chemists mixed together saltpeter, charcoal, sulfur, and other things to create an early form of gunpowder. They then stuffed the new substance into their bamboo sticks before throwing them into a fire. Thus, the first fireworks were born. 

From that moment on, fireworks became a huge part of celebrating events, particularly military victories and religious ceremonies. So how did they make their way overseas and become part of our Independence Day celebration?

Fireworks have been a part of our Fourth of July since the very first one. It was John Adams who was the first to propose having fireworks become part of the celebrations. In a letter to his wife he wrote, “The day will be most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…bonfires and illuminations (a term for fireworks)…from one end of the continent to the other, from this time foreword forevermore.” 

And it looks like John Adams was right because on each anniversary of the 4th to this day fireworks have lit up our sky in celebration of our independence as a nation.  

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Most Desirable Destinations in Asia You Haven’t Already Heard Of

There are countless amazing destinations to visit in Asia, whether you are looking for a luxurious vacation, a cultural festival, or an adventure- but some of Asian’s most incredible places remain hidden gems among tourists. But just because they aren’t as popular to foreigners doesn’t mean they aren’t as amazing- they simply just aren’t as advertised. 

1. Vientiane, Laos
The country of Laos is a place for “pure, unadulterated splendor” within Southeast Asia. It has endured much hardship in the past, including warfare, abuse by border regimes, and colonial rule, but the people there are kind, spiritual, and resilient people who welcome visitors. Vientiane brings the small city feel with many leisurely activities for visitors and residents. First, visit the famous Buddhist temples and stupas, such as Wat Si Saket, and for lunch feast on delicious Laotian cuisine. Later, gather with friends or family to watch the sun set over the Mekong river that snakes through the city or congregate with the locals at the beer gardens to enjoy the finest beers the area has to offer. 

2. Fukuoka, Japan
Fukuoka is often overlooked by tourists visiting Japan because of cities such as Tokyo, but Fukuoka has many unique things of its own to offer to visitors. It is a place legendary for its food, including the ramen noodle, which was born in this city. As a place known to be easy and safe to travel through, it might serve as a nice break from some of the chaos of cities like Tokyo. It is home to endless cultural attractions such as breathtaking gardens, museums, art galleries, sports events, and festivals. 

3. Dalian, China
Often living in the shadows of places like Hong Kong and Shanghai, Dalian is not known to many foreigners. But a place dubbed as the “most livable place in China”, ought to get more attention. Incredible architecture is one of the things that stands out most in this once sleepy city. The food is primarily seafood, heavily based on fish and sashimi-style dishes. Complete with a gorgeous coastline and beautiful beaches, this place is definitely worth taking a look at.

4. Sri Lanka
If you and your partner are in need of a romantic getaway, Sri Lanka is just the place. The southern coast surrounding the city of Galle is filled with boutique hotels, ancient temples, incredible beaches, and wildlife sanctuaries, home to wild elephants and leopards. Not to mention the mouthwatering food!

5. Shodoshima, Japan

Although it is extremely popular among Japanese tourists, Shodoshima remains a hidden gem within Japan due to it’s lack of foreign visitors. This reality can only be attributed to lack of knowledge because it is a breathtaking place full of fun and exciting activites. Known for its olive groves, hot springs, and wild monkeys, Shodoshima is a perfect destination spot for families, friends, and couples. Spend the day exploring the scenic landscape and then unwind at night with dinner and a soak in one of their famous hot springs.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

PSY Trades in Gangnam Style for Hip Hop

Psy, who we all know and love for his intentional sensation known as “Gangnam Style” has made a surprising change with his new song, “Hangover”

The track is hip hop in its nature and-  another surprise-features Snoop Dogg. Whether it is out of curiosity or just love for the song, the music video’s popularity is clear with a whopping 78 million views in two weeks of being released on YouTube. After watching the video, I concluded that despite adopting a new sound, Psy has not abandoned the eccentric style and dance moves that we have come to expect. The video takes us on a night of Psy and Snoop Dogg hitting the town and partying, followed by the painful next morning that comes with it. If your favorite part about “Gangnam Style” was the music video, then you won’t be disappointed with this new single. 

Initially, Psy and Snoop Dogg seem like an odd match but after watching the video, the two different styles come together in a way that is much more entertaining than odd. During an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Psy said that he and Snoop Dogg wrote the song through online collaboration before meeting up in Seoul and filming the music video in just 18 hours- without breaks. He adds that to get Snoop Dogg on board he simply made a phone call and after telling Snoop Dogg the title was “Hangover”, he agreed to do it on the spot. 

 One can’t help but wonder if the K-pop star’s new style will be a hit or miss after the 2 billion views received for Gangnam Style and 700 million for Gentleman. What do you think? Do you like Psy’s dabble into the world of hip hop or prefer his original K-pop style? 

Click Below to view the official music video for "Hangover"

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fireflies Light Up the Night Sky During Japan's Annual Firefly Festival

From young children to adults, fireflies fascinate and entertain many. Whether it is for catching, inspiring music and art, or simply to look at-everyone loves fireflies! And why wouldn’t you? They are harmless creatures with a beautiful glow that is delightful to look at. Unfortunately, the firefly population continues to decline due to the destruction of their habitats and clean water. 

But the community of Higashiizu in Shizuoka, Japan is working hard to conserve the delicate insects. These people dedicate an entire year to the nurture and conservation of fireflies. They do this by catching and feeding water snails to larvae through the summer and then carefully protect them through their nine month long hibernation. Once the nine months are up, local elementary students volunteer their services by returning more than 5,000 larvae back into a pond so they can pupate and complete their transformation into a firefly. 

Besides making efforts to preserve their populations, the Japanese community of Higashiizu celebrates the life and beauty of the firefly with an annual festival. Each June for 10 days “Hotaru Kansho no Yube”, or an Evening of Firefly Viewing, takes place. It has been a tradition in the Higashiizu community for the last 30 years.

Visitors gather to view the hundreds of fireflies in the area and then lit lanterns guide them to the festival’s event of the night- with a different one for all ten days. Any tourists staying in the area for the event have their pick of six different hot-spring hotels nearby. 

It is a truly beautiful site and an exciting summer festival worth checking out at least once in your life if you get the chance!