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Is the ‘Sky Cycle’ Japan's Weirdest Theme-Park Ride?

seto ohashi

The Great Seto Bridge, looking south towards Takamatsu on Shikoku. Image: Nevin Thompson.

If you're looking for a breathtaking view and aren't afraid of heights, the “Sky Cycle” in Okayama Prefecture's Brazilian Washuzan Highland park is definitely worth a ride.

Photos of the Sky Cycle have been appearing on Twitter recently, thanks likely to the striking image found below of a tandem bicycle overlooking the park from an elevated railway.

Washuzan is located at the northern end of the Great Seto Bridge, a massive structure that spans Japan's Inland Sea to connect the island of Honshu to the north with the island of Shikoku to the south. The bridge is a true marvel of engineering, stretching more than 13 kilometers (8 miles) over the ocean.

The bridge is also a beautiful site, which of course is why an amusement park was built at its base.

The soaring, slightly scary Sky Cycle ride, with its magnificent view, is perfect fodder for Japanese prime time television:

Caption: The fearsome Sky Cycle of Washuzan

While Brazil's connection to the area (and hence the name) remains unclear, it is worth nothing that many Brazilians of Japanese ancestry were recruited to work in nearby industrial areas.

Japan's countryside is dotted with large amusement parks, many bearing ethnic themes, that date back to the affluent years of the Bubble era. International travel was still a novelty for many Japanese people then, and ethnically named theme parks provided a glimpse of foreign cultures without the expense of traveling abroad.

The remote area of Niigata, for example, was once home to the Kashiwazaki Turkish Culture Village. Meanwhile, visitors to Nagasaki in Japan's far west could visit a theme park filled with life-size replicas of Dutch heritage buildings.

It's also customary in Japan to include an amusement part at prominent national landmarks like the Great Seto Bridge. Even Mount Fuji has its own park, Fuji-Q Highland. There, thrill-seekers can gaze upon Mount Fuji's slopes as they endure punishing g-forces aboard the park's famed roller coasters.

We made it to Fuji-Q!

@tamiho_29

Okayama Prefecture's Brazilian Washuzan Highland seems to take the cake, however. Japanese Internet users are dubbing it the world's weirdest theme park.

Japan's Internet Runs on Cats and Dogs

It's said that the Internet runs on cats. Japan is no different, although cute dogs can quickly become the subject of massively popular memes too.

One of the most popular omoshiro neta (cool internet memes) in Japan at the moment is a dog with an unusual coat:

While I thought for the longest time this was a Husky with an unusual markings, it turns out this doggy is actually a breed called a Yakutian Laika. I think I'm in love!

In just two days, @LoupGarou12′s post about the Yakutian Laika has been re-tweeted 8,500 times and has been marked as a favorite 12,000 times on Twitter.

Another popular Twitter meme is this cat:

Cat being sucked face-first into car.

So far the image has been re-tweeted 26,000 times since the beginning of the week and has 36,000 favorites.

Meanwhile, this cat has also become Internet-famous in Japan:

Looks more similar than I had ever imagined.

Dogs that behave like cats are also popular on the Japanese internet.

For two years our Husky has acted just like a cat. (`・ω・´) Too cute! (p`・ω・´) q 

VIDEO: How a Laos Dam Project Could Endanger Communities in Cambodia

EarthRights International has uploaded a video about the threat posed by a mega dam construction in Laos to communities situated along the Mekong River in Cambodia. Laos and Cambodia are neighbors in the Southeast Asian region.

Comic Explains the ‘Cold War’ Between Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Protesters and Their Parents

Jason Li has translated a letter written by a web user named Cherish to her parents, which was published on citizen media website inmediahk.net, and turned it into a comic. The letter addresses the generational conflict triggered by the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong.

Most of the pro-democracy protesters are under the age of 45 and grew up in a politicized Hong Kong society following the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. On the other hand, those older than 45 are mainly migrants from mainland China who settled in Hong Kong with a hope of improving their family's living conditions.

Take a look at what Cherish said to her parents:

UMHKComicEnglish

Hirotan Forest, an Increasingly Rare ‘Satoyama’ School Connecting Rural Japanese Kids to Nature

生まれて初めてのこぎりで竹を切り、手作りした装置や食器を使って流しそうめん体験。外で食べるそうめんの味は最高! 撮影は2014年8月2日、SanoRieによる。使用許可済み。

Children are being taught how to make use of an abundent satoyama resource, bamboo. Bamboo can be used for tools, food, or in this case, a sluice for slurping noodles in the summertime (eating noodles outside in summer is always fun). Photo taken in August 2014. Image credit: SanoRie.

A satoyama school in rural Toyama Prefecture Japan's Hokuriku “north lands” that was closed down earlier this spring has been given new life.

Satoyama is a term rich with meaning in Japan, and broadly refers to an intensively cultivated land that blends in with the surrounding environment. Much of rural Japan was once such satoyama, where wet rice cultivation not only depended on clean water flowing from the surrounding hills, but the rice fields played a keystone role in supporting a rich, vibrant ecosystem.

A satoyama school, then, resided at the heart of a community, serving as a method for transferring important lessons about land stewardship to future generations who would continue to live in and help sustain the satoyama. As Japan's rural population declines, over the past two decades these schools have continued to shut down.

In the case of the Toyama school, a group of local parents, caregivers and other volunteers have resurrected the school and have called it Hirotan No Mori, or Hirotan Forest. The repurposed school, now a community NGO, posts photos and information about classes and events on their Facebook page.

The purpose of Hirotan Forest is to provide local children of all ages the opportunity to experience nature. The school is located about 30 minutes by car from the small rural city of Takaoka in Toyama, quite close to the Japan Sea coast.

Hirotan Forest gives kids a chance to experience the traditional pursuits of rural kids: digging up bamboo shoots, gathering to watch fireflies in June, and making traditional crafts out of bamboo. In November there are plans to give children the opportunity to build a treehouse in the forest.

The idea is to teach children about rural traditions while allowing them to experience a deeper connection with the natural world. The hope is to pass on methods of living within and protect their satoyama and at the same time learn how to enjoy both working and passing time in the surrounding forest.

Ultimately, the satoyama school and Hirotan Forest are also all about preserving a way of life that is vanishing in the rest of Japan as the population ages.

Why Obama is Wrong About Myanmar

Young Burmese activists displayed banners during a forum attended by United States President Barack Obama in Myanmar. The activists reminded Obama that the so-called democratic reforms implemented by the military-backed government are either fake or illusory.

The Poetry and Brief Life of a Foxconn Worker

Foxconn, a Taiwanese company and Apple company's subcontractor in China, has been criticized for its labour management policy, which has resulted in high number of workplace suicides. Nao, a pro-grassroots group, translated poems of Xu Lizhi, a Foxconn worker who committed suicide on 30 September 2014, at the age of 24, in Shenzhen, China. Below is one of the poems:

《谶言一种》
“A Kind of Prophecy”

村里的老人都说
Village elders say

我跟我爷爷年轻时很像
I resemble my grandfather in his youth

刚开始我不以为然
I didn’t recognize it

后来经他们一再提起
But listening to them time and again

我就深信不疑了
Won me over

我跟我爷爷
My grandfather and I share

不仅外貌越看越像
Facial expressions

就连脾性和爱好
Temperaments, hobbies

也像同一个娘胎里出来的
Almost as if we came from the same womb

比如我爷爷外号竹竿
They nicknamed him “bamboo pole”

我外号衣架
And me, “clothes hanger”

我爷爷经常忍气吞声
He often swallowed his feelings

我经常唯唯诺诺
I'm often obsequious

我爷爷喜欢猜谜
He liked guessing riddles

我喜欢预言
I like premonitions

1943年秋,鬼子进
In the autumn of 1943, the Japanese devils invaded

我爷爷被活活烧死
and burned my grandfather alive

享年23岁
at the age of 23.

我今年23岁
This year I turn 23.

– 18 June 2013

VIDEO: International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

The Public Liberties and Human Rights department at Aljazeera, in co-operation with several international organizations have produced a video about the campaign to end impunity for crimes against journalists:

The video supports the UN resolution on the “Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity”:

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th session in 2013 which proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’. The Resolution urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.

5 Muslim Countries Where Gays Are Not Prosecuted by the Law

The LGBT Muslims blog identified 5 Muslim nations where the legal system does not outlaw homosexuality. The 5 countries are : Mali, Jordan, Indonesia, Turkey and Albania. While the law in these countries does not criminalize gay lifestyles, the LGBT Muslims blog points out that LGBT communities still suffer from discrimination and non-negligible pressure to remain discreet regarding their lifestyles. Still, the main take away lesson is that gay rights may be more advanced than most would believe in the aforementioned countries. 

Hong Kong Lion Rock Occupied

A group of mountain climbers hang a huge banner, "I want genuine universal suffrage" in Lion Rock, one of the most well-known landscape in Hong Kong.  The group explained their action to local media: “We were shock[ed] by CY Leung’s viewpoint that the poor should not have equality in election[s] and hope this action would be able to call public attention on the importance of universal suffrage.” Image from Hong Wrong.

A group of rock climbers hang a huge banner, “I want genuine universal suffrage” in Lion Rock, one of the most well-known landscape in Hong Kong. The group explained their action to local media: “We were shock[ed] by CY Leung’s viewpoint that the poor should not have equality in election[s] and hope this action would be able to call public attention on the importance of universal suffrage.” Image from Hong Wrong.