Uso, or Eurasian Bullfinch, is the size of a swallow with characteristic short beak and, in case of a male bullfinch, a light pink color in his cheeks.
The Japanese name, uso, came from “usobuku” which means “to pretend not to know”. The bird’s short beak and pink cheeks must have reminded ancient people of people who whistle when they feign ignorance.
Uso, utilizing their short, wide beaks, eat leaves and nuts as well as insects and spiders. They are especially fond of eating flower buds just when cherry and plum trees start shooting out the new season’s growth.
Uso was regarded as a useful bird and is protected by many farmers because by eating the buds of fruit trees they play a role thinning out excess buds thereby helping others grow bigger.
However, more recently some fruit trees eaten by uso don’t grow any fruit at all. It can cause serious damage to the crop and uso may be considered a harmful bird when this happens.
Dazaifu Tenmanguu Shrine in Fukuoka, Kyuushuu, which is famous for its plum trees, still protects uso and preserves a special place for the birds. The shrine holds a religious event called “Usokae” in which visitors bring their own wooden uso birds and exchange them with one another. It is said that the person who receives a golden uso will be blessed with happiness.
Facing the Sea of Japan in Kaminokuni, Hokkaido, are the remains of a medieval fort-mansion ('tate'). The fort comprised three halls: Hanazawa, Suzaki and Katsuyama halls, all of which are located in Kamino and which have been designated as an important asset of Hokkaido. The remains of Katsuyama hall, the largest of the halls, have helped solve several mysteries about Hokkaido in the middle ages, following excavations and studies of important artifacts since 1979.
Katsuyama hall was built by the father of the Matsuyama clan, Takeda Nobuhiro. In 1457, he overpowered the local Ainu people, and built this fort-mansion as a feudal residence. Excavation of the hall ruins revealed a trench, the remains of a dwelling and some crockery, as well as records showing that more than 200 people of both Japanese and Ainu race lived together here. Such evidence of racial harmony has drawn a lot of attention.
Some 45% of the ceramics and pottery unearthed here was made in China, which shows that there was active trading and exchange with China.
The Kaminokuni fort-mansion is a very important ruin, which not only has an aura of romance, but has helped historians fill in missing links in Hokkaido's past.
Bunaco is a technique where rolls of thinly sliced wood from a Japanese beech (‘buna’) are coiled, and then pushed by hand little by little to create solid geometric shapes. The buna tree, which made up much of the original forests of Japan, was used to create boxes for exporting apples before the development of the ‘bunaco technique’. However, as the bunaco technique developed, the buna began to be used in many other ways, such as for dishes and lighting instruments. The lamp above is actually two bunaco lights shaped like trumpets, attached together by a roll of buna tape. This lighting instrument is completely symmetrical at the point where the red beam of light is seen. What is unique about this bunaco lamp is the red light that delicately shines out from the middle part. This is because the central part of this lamp has fewer layers, making it thinner than the other portions of the lamp, and thus allowing the light to break through. The lamp was designed for a club called Lounge O. Perfect for interiors with dim lighting, this lamp releases magical and enchanting beams of light that give a room a unique feel. There are holes on the top and bottom of this lamp to release heat, and the bunaco can be detached from the metal base when changing the light bulb.
Size W×D×H (mm)400×400×1800
Produced by: Ubushina,Yudai Tachikawa
At one point along the Tozawa road in Yamagata Prefecture, a foreign and exotic mood and space suddenly appear then spread over the green mountains. This is the Kouraikan. The Kouraikan is a complex of buildings filled with an exotic mood, which was built to introduce Korean culture and history to Japan, as well as deepen mutual understandings between the people who visit.
The Kouraikan was opened in 1997 as a symbol of friendship between Korea and Tsutsumigawa-shi and to get in touch with the ancient culture of the Korean Peninsula. All kinds of buildings and shops can be found within the Kouraikan, including a product hall that exhibits and sells traditional articles of everyday use. There are also handicrafts on display, a food culture hall introducing Korean food, an ethnic culture hall introducing Korean customs and arts, as well as a Korean garden filled with Korean flowers, such as the 'mukuge' and the 'klein'. Another area is the Norimadan, where the townspeople gather for amusement. All of these facilities help create a real Korean atmosphere.
The Kouraikan exquisitely replicates aspects of Korean history and culture, and shows the fondness and harmonious relationship that Korea and Japan have, at the same time giving visitors a feeling of compassion and excitement.
The Urauchikawa (Urauchi River) flows for 39 kilometers through the island of Iriomotejima and is the largest and longest river in Okinawa.
Iriomotejima is called the 'Galapagos islands of the east' because of its diverse subtropical flora and fauna, especially around the Urauchi River. The wide variety of plant life includes mangrove trees, an array of tree ferns such as the 'hikagehego' (Cyathea spinulosa) and 'shida' (Pteridophyta), as well as flowers such as the 'sagari bana' (Sagari flower) and the rare 'seishika'.
The island is ideal for birdwatching, and also features the Maridhu waterfall and the Kanbire waterfall, both of which are included among Japan's top 100 waterfalls.
Other places of interest include the Unan Rock, symbol of a popular belief that a cow was traded long ago for possession of the island and its rich fishing grounds. Another famous spot is the Inunoko-sanbiki (Three Puppies), which is named for a myth about three little puppies that were devoured by a monster.
Iriomote Island’s landscape makes it hard to believe that it is in Japan, due to the rich, exuberant lushness and the range of animal life here.
Sapporo Clock Tower was built in 1878, originally as an indoor practice area for military arts by the Sapporo Agricultural College. At that time, it was called ‘the big clock of the agricultural college’.
The official name of the tower is the Old Sapporo Agricultural College Enbu-jou and it is one of the oldest existingclock towers in Japan. The clock has a system where the weight of the chimes power the clockworks. Themain parts of the clock have never been replaced and have run continuously since they were installed.
The appearance of the big clock on the gabled roof gives the structures an original and exotic appearance.
The entire two-storey building is made of wood, except for the clock. Today, the first floor is an exhibition hall,and the second floor is a hall that can be rented for private functions. In the past, it was used as the main government building of Sapporo, as well as a court and library.
The third to fifth floors house the clock and its mechanisms. On the hour, the pure sounds of the clock chimes can be heard ringing out.