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Holy Deer of Nara

The city of Nara once used to be the proud capital of Japan. It is well known for temples from the 8th century and large Buddha statues. But the most famous sights of Nara are not built of stone or wood but rather of flesh and blood. Among the temples, parks and tourists there are around 1,200 Japanese deer (or sika deer) sleeping, eating and running around. They are all but shy and like to eat corn from the hands of visitors and like to be pet by children. The animals have a symbiotic relationship with people for a long time already and are seen as holy. The legend says that once a mythological god arrived in Nara on a white deer and began to guard the new capital. Since then the animals are regarded as heavenly and are protected by the city and the country.

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Streets of Japan

Walking the streets of urban Japan some things strike you immediately. First and foremost it is busy! People everywhere, many in a hurry while walking to the office or buying some quick lunch. There is a constant flow of people and traffic and not just on the main roads. Despite this there is no mess and there are hardly any jams. Of course Japan is known to be very organised, but still it is surprising to see it by yourself. So for example at the metro stations or at the bus stops people are lining up calmly well before the train or bus arrives. Also the streets are incredibly clean, you hardly see any garbage. And this again despite the masses of people and maybe even more surprisingly without there being any public bins.

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Akihabara: Electric Town

With beginnings as a market place for electronics after Word War II today Akihabara is known as hotspot for anime and gaming culture around the world, here you’ll find five story high Sega arcades, as well as gaming stores which still sell Super Nintendo consoles and comic book shops with every anime figure in existence for display. You wander through streets with shining towers and large advertisements of virtual characters, while girls dressed as Anime figures invite you to themed restaurants. For relaxing you can also go to one of the cat cafes, where you can drink your Matcha coffee and play with pets. Japanese people though prefer to go to Pachinko places where they gamble for physical prices. Officially gambling is forbidden in Japan, so close to the Pachinko stores there are always small vendors where you can sell your prices and so transform them into cash. Yes it is a weird place and very much corresponds with the picture of weirdness we have of Japan. At the same time it seems unreal like something out of a Blade Runner movie. Though Akihabara certainly doesn’t represent the whole of Japan it is a physical manifestation of it’s modern popular culture and thus should be planned in for your Japan trip.

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Perspectives on Japan

Travelling through Japan one is noticing certain reoccurring shapes and symmetries which are mirrored in nature. Some being more obvious like the traditional roof shapes (pictures 1,2,3), which resemble the most famous mountain of the country Fuji-san, others are hidden and have to be found by the foreign visitor. While in general the Japanese prefer strong lines and square patterns over round ones, the curated gardens feature very often soft and oval shapes making for a relaxing and nice atmosphere (pictures 4,5,6).

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The Art of Sumo

Sumo is a Japanese form of ring fighting, where one massive wrestlers tries to force the other one out of the ring. The fight is part of the Japanese cultural heritage and the Sumo ringers are regarded as stars and national heroes in the country. The Sumo Ring hall of Ryogkoku is commonly understood as the birth place of the sport and is still the most important competition site. Once a year at the day of the Tenno on April 29th the hall is open to the public free of charge. On this day it is possible to watch the most famous Sumo ringers of the country on training. The following pictures were taken in 2016.

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