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!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Author Eileen Wacker Incorporates the Japanese Legend of the Kappa into her Recent Children's Book

One of the characters OnceKids’ author, Eileen Wacker, features in her most recent addition to the Fujimini Island Adventure Series, “Blue Penguin and the Sensation Surf”, is the Kappa. The Asian inspired Children’s series features many themes and terms from Korean, Chinese, and Japanese culture, so not all of the terms may be familiar to you. One of which is probably the Kappa, at least it was for me. 

The Kappa, which translates to “river-child”, is found within Japanese mythology and folklore. Also referred to as Kawataro or Kawako, the Kappa represents a mythical creature depicted as water-dwelling, about the size of a child with scaly, reptilian skin ranging from green to yellow in color. Their appearance ranges greatly from region to region but certain consistencies can be found, such as a carapace, a beak, and a flat hairless region on the top of their head filled with water. The water-filled plate on the top of their head is claimed to be their source of power. If the region dries or loses some of it’s water, the Kappa will be weakened and lose it’s power. Although mischievous, Kappas are notoriously polite, so according to legend, you can trick him into bowing low enough to spill his water. 

Kappas are generally regarded as troublemakers who like to do pranks on people. The Kappas pranks can range from innocent to malevolent depending on the type. Historically parents warn their children about the Kappa who will pull naughty children under the water. It was not uncommon for people to throw cucumbers into river waters to please the Kappas, who love to eat cucumbers almost as much as children, and avoid any trouble.

But not all Kappa are viewed as bad or trouble, some quite the opposite. Many are said to be curious about human civilization and are able to speak Japanese. If one was able to befriend a Kappa, they allegedly would help farmers irrigate land and bring gifts of fish. They are traditionally said to be intelligent creatures highly knowledgable in medicine, and were even responsible for teaching bone setting to humans.