It was Mayberry transformed into a Kurosawa movie.
Smiling Japanese grannies in smocks sold fruits and vegetables out of wooden boxes along a mountain path, while unmanned kiosks had merely change bowls and signs saying "100 yen for anything." Scarecrows in tidy rice fields wore doll costumes and name tags. Dogs and cats strolled from tile-roofed, wood-beamed homes and sidled up to strangers for a pat on the head.
This was my welcome to the farmlands of central Japan. The scene was a world away from the crowd-filled steel-and-concrete metropolises such as Tokyo or Osaka, and the reason why I joined a hiking trip through these quiet hills. I wanted to get a different view of the country, a more traditional perspective devoid of Hello Kitty and bullet trains.
And the key to it all was "SPAM."
This acronym is a quick way students remember the hierarchy of medieval Japanese society: samurai, peasant, artisan, merchant. On my tour, I followed their paths, literally, and discovered how the modern world has reinvented this SPAM sandwich of vocations.
Yoko Ono says her own bitter experience in Japan during World War II inspired her to support WhyHunger's "Imagine There's No Hunger" campaign to fight childhood hunger around the world. (abcnews.go.com )
Japanese police arrested former sumo ozeki Kotomitsuki on Wednesday on suspicion of violating the immigration law by employing foreigners illegally at a barbecue restaurant he runs in Nagoya, central Japan. (Jiji Press )
A thousand days have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. However, only 1.2 percent of the planned land development for collective relocation of disaster-affected communities and construction of publicly operated housing have materialized, according to a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun. (Yomiuri )
There is a fairly well-documented sex doll subculture in Japan, and one of its leading manufacturers is Orient Industry. Gaga and Universal Music Group's Japanese branch recruited the company to make replicas of the pop star. (businessinsider.com.au )