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Take A Tour Through The Gorgeous Castles of Japan! 

When most Westerners think of castles, they think of medieval fortifications built at the edge of chilly cliffs, but Japan has many beautiful castles, each with their own interesting story to tell. Many were built during the Sengoku, or "warring states" era of Japan, where warlords battled for control of the country. Here are some of our favorite castles and the tales behind them.

Matsumoto Castle 

Known as the Crow Castle because of its black panels and winged roofs, Matsumoto Castle has a great ghost story attached to it. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, a farmer named Tada Kasuke lead an uprising of farmers in protest of the regions high taxes. The revolt failed and Tada Kasuke was executed, but his ghost has since been seen of the castle ground and his curse has been blamed for structural damage during the reconstruction. The castle is a regular tourist attraction and known for its weapon exhibit.

Osaka Castle 

The majestic Osaka castle played a central role in the unification of Japan during the 17th century. Built by the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in imitation of Oda Nobunaga's castle, the site became the center of two major battles between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his former ally Tokugawa Ieyasu. In the first battle, Toyotomi forces inside the castle were able to fend off the numerically superior Tokugawa forces. The second battle lead to the death of the Toyotomi line. The castle was regularly used as an armory and munition storage through both the Meiji restoration and WW2. Today it's a favorite site for visitors who come to watch the cherry blossoms bloom. Also, Godzilla destroyed it in the 1955 film Godzilla Raids Again.

Odawara Castle 

This beautiful castle, located in Kanagawa Prefecture, has been touched by some of the most dramatic events in Japanese history. 

Built during the Kamakura period of Japan, the era marked by the rule of the first shogun and the formation of the samurai class, the castle saw several new owners as fortunes changed through constant warfare. It was in regular use during that era. In the 19th century, when the Meiji government worked to modernize the country, Odawara castle was torn down and a Shinto shrine was built in the castle's memory. It was later listed as a historical site and several of the buildings were restored to pristine condition.

Takeda Castle 

The Takeda castle ruins stand on the mountains to the northwest of Kyoto and is known as the Machu-Picchu of Japan. 

Originally built as Izushi castle in 1441, the castle fell under the control of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1577. The castle changed hands through the years until it fell into the hands of its final owner, warrior Hirohide Akamatsu. He fought on the side of Tokugawa Ieyasu but was accused of arson and ordered to commit ritual suicide. Takeda castle fell into ruin shortly thereafter.

Gifu Castle 

Gifu castle has a very long, colorful history. A constant battleground, the castle was considered one of the most formidable castles in the Sengoku era but was once captured by only sixteen men! 

The first story involved Takenaka Hanbei, a samurai who entered the castle on the pretext of visiting his sick brother. In reality, he came to kill Saitō Tatsuoki, the lord of the castle at the time. Tatsuoki believed that a large army was attacking him and he fled the castle. The castle was eventually returned to him but Tatsuoki suffered a loss of face for his cowardice. 

The second story involved the siege of Gifu castle, which involved an assault very similar to a Special Forces raid! The castle is built on top of a very steep hill which helped keep invaders at bay. When Oda Nobunaga laid siege to the castle, he sent his retainer Kinoshita Tōkichirō to scale the mountainside to attack the undefended rear of the castle. His team opened the castle gates and let the rest of the army through.

Himeji Castle 

The largest and most visited castle in Japan, Himeji castle is a massive structure comprised of 83 buildings. Known as the White Heron Castle because of the wing shape of the buildings, the fortress features views of the surrounding areas and elevated defense positions for soldiers to fire down on attacks. Himeji castle has been featured in film and TV for years, most notably in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. 

The castle is full of legendary tales, from the master carpenter who killed himself over dissatisfaction in his work to the old woman who turned over her millstone to help with the castle construction to the ghost of the poor servant woman whose spirit still haunts the well her body was thrown into. Visitors to this magical castle can see a rich tapestry of Japanese history.

Did we miss any favorites? Let us know in the comments. And please share this article with anyone interested in Japanese history or castles of yore.

All You Need to Know about Tesla's New Solar Roof 

Ahead of the curve as usual, Tesla announced some very exciting news in the arena of solar energy. In its fourth-quarter investor letter, Tesla announced that it will begin selling and installing its solar roof later this year. 

In October 2016, Tesla unveiled its solar roof product, which was about a month before the company acquired SolarCity in a deal worth $2.1 billion. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said it looks "quite promising" that the solar roof could be cheaper than a normal roof, factoring in the price of labor. 

Here's everything we know about the new solar roof product: 

Tesla will offer four types of shingles to match different housing aesthetics in an effort to get homeowners to ditch clunky solar panel add-ons in favor of a beautiful roof.



"First of all, I’ve never seen a solar roof that I would actually want… they're weird," Musk said on a conference call Nov. 1. "Every one of them that I’ve seen is worse than a normal roof, without exception. So unless you’re going to beat a roof on aesthetics, why bother?"


Here you see Tesla's textured glass option.

Tesla tucked the solar cells behind the glass...

... And in doing so, you can't really tell the roof has solar cells. That's the crux of Tesla's solar roof vision: to create something that's both aesthetically appealing and efficient. 

Musk has been emphasizing the importance of competing on an aesthetic level when it comes to the new solar product offering.


Musk seemed most excited about Tesla's French slate tile offering, saying the style is "one of the hardest things to do." This photo gives you a nice look at the solar cell hidden in the tile.


"My roof is a French slate roof, that’s one of the tile styles I wanted to do," Musk said on the conference call. "And we were able to get that. Super hard.”



Musk said at the event that each French slate tile was made using a process known as hydrographic coloring, a process that uses water to apply printed designs.


"The production process itself makes each tile specially unique, it’s sort of a special snowflake tile," Musk said at the solar roof unveiling.

 

Tesla's hydrographic process is being overseen by a brand new Tesla glass tech division, Musk said on the Nov. 1 call. He said the process is "using a lot of techniques from the automotive glass business." 
Musk said the solar roof could cost less than an actual roof, but still hasn't given specific pricing information. However, Lyndon Rive, SolarCity's former CEO, said on the Nov. 1 call that "we think we can get to that price point of 40 cents a Watt over time in large scale" for the solar cells, which would put it in line with the competition.
"We’ll have the best cell at the lowest price. Just as we have the best battery cell at the lowest price," Musk said on the Nov. 1 call. "We have the highest energy density cell at the lowest price."


Rive said on the call that the solar roof would most likely not fall under a lease or power purchase agreement, but instead as a straightforward loan. "In that case, there is no asset ownership challenge. We would just transfer the ownership to the new homeowner," he said.

Tesla's smooth glass tile is meant to offer "more of a modern look," Musk said at the event.
Unlike the textured glass tile and French slate offering, the smooth glass tile seen here was purposefully designed so you could see the solar cells from certain angles.


"From the vantage point of the street or anywhere near the house it looks completely opaque, but to the sun it’s transparent," Musk said. Although, it's hard to imagine why a feature you can only see from an aerial vantage point would be a huge selling point.
Lastly, Tesla's Tuscan glass tile offering. The roof shown at the event wasn't exclusively made up of Tesla's Tuscan tile. Instead, only the darker tiles seen here come with the solar cells.
Like the smooth glass tile, Musk made a point of showing how looking at the Tuscan tile from different angles will determine whether you can see the solar cell.

Here's a better shot of how the Tuscan glass tiles look once they're installed.

Musk also made a point of showing the durability of Tesla's glass tiles with a weight taste. He also wrote in an Oct. 28 tweet that you can walk on the tiles like you would with regular asphalt shingles.

Musk also tweeted that the solar glass tiles can incorporate heating elements to clear snow while generating energy. He said it wouldn't be energy intensive to melt the snow, but "strongly net positive" in an Oct. 28 tweet. 

The solar cells will be produced at a plant in Buffalo, New York. Tesla and Panasonic will produce the solar cells at the Buffalo manufacturing facility in mid-2017. Tesla is referring to the Buffalo plant as Gigafactory 2. 

Musk's solar roof product is one of several energy products Tesla is offering now that it's merged with SolarCity.


 

This Home Looks Like Something Out of a Fairy Tale- And It's On the Market! 

Nestled in the scenic slopes of Ashland, Oregon, there sits a house that looks like it materialized right out of a fantasy story book. This unique homestead is truly fit for a king, queen, wizard, hobbit, fairy, unicorn... You get the idea. It's magical, to say the least. 

Surrounded by hills, mountains and rivers, this custom-designed residence features an impressive 700 acres of land, sweeping views, hand-carved Brazillian Mahogany detailing, and a structure that mimics the graceful forms found within nature. Just take a look:


You'll have plenty of room to conjure spells or what have you in this 8,880 sq. ft work of art. Completed in 2016, the house features rounded edges and broad curves that resemble its organic surroundings. Behold the foyer! (Above) Lovely granite floors welcome you into the space, and the giant mahogany door depicts the local fauna (eagles, salmon and coyotes) in traditional Native American style.

                                             The hardwood floor sweeps you into the interior with its river-like aesthetic.

                                              This gorgeous curved staircase features hand-carved bannisters that resemble young trees growing side by side.

                                              Natural light floods through a glass segment as you ascend.

                                        The hearth boasts a beautiful mosaic of two dragons intertwined, forming the shape of a heart with their glistening bodies.

                                              Manzanita tree trunks support a huge granite island underneath bright, floral lights.

                                              Many of the windows have unconventional shapes, giving the house a unique, whimsical vibe.


                                              Just look at those views!
                                              The sloped cedar ceiling makes this giant room feel even more spacious.

                                Ready for the damage? As of now, this real estate gem will cost you 8.2 million buckaroos. If we had that kind of money, we'd be sold! 

                                What do you think? Is it worth all that money, and would you live here? Let us know in the comment section below!



Article by Nate Morgan

This Home Looks Like Something Out of a Fairy Tale- And It's On the Market! 

Nestled in the scenic slopes of Ashland, Oregon, there sits a house that looks like it materialized right out of a fantasy story book. This unique homestead is truly fit for a king, queen, wizard, hobbit, fairy, unicorn... You get the idea. It's magical, to say the least. 

Surrounded by hills, mountains and rivers, this custom-designed residence features an impressive 700 acres of land, sweeping views, hand-carved Brazillian Mahogany detailing, and a structure that mimics the graceful forms found within nature. Just take a look: 

You'll have plenty of room to conjure spells or what have you in this 8,880 sq. ft work of art. Completed in 2016, the house features rounded edges and broad curves that resemble its organic surroundings. Behold the foyer! (Above) Lovely granite floors welcome you into the space, and the giant mahogany door depicts the local fauna (eagles, salmon and coyotes) in traditional Native American style. 

The hardwood floor sweeps you into the interior with its river-like aesthetic.
 

This gorgeous curved staircase features hand-carved bannisters that resemble young trees growing side by side. 


Natural light floods through a glass segment as you ascend. 


The hearth boasts a beautiful mosaic of two dragons intertwined, forming the shape of a heart with their glistening bodies.
 

Manzanita tree trunks support a huge granite island underneath bright, floral lights. 

Many of the windows have unconventional shapes, giving the house a unique, whimsical vibe. 

Just look at those views! 

The sloped cedar ceiling makes this giant room feel even more spacious. 


Ready for the damage? As of now, this real estate gem will cost you 8.2 million buckaroos. If we had that kind of money, we'd be sold! 

What do you think? Is it worth all that money, and would you live here? Let us know in the comment section below! 


Author: Nate Morgan

Dracula's Castle is for Sale and It Can Be Yours! Guess How Much It Is?  

Bran Castle, a 12th century fortress perched atop a hill in central Romania, is for sale. The castle is popular tourist destination—thanks to its most famous (but fictional) resident, Count Dracula. The current owners, however, are getting older, The Telegraph Reports, and hope to hand over the reins to a Dracula- and history-loving visionary who can breathe new life into the place. 

The castle is full of historical stories and not just the fictional kind. Indeed, as Smithsonian has written, Bram Stoker, who set his novel Dracula there, never even bothered to visit: 

English libraries provided all the maps and reference books he needed. His ghoulish imagination did the rest. Count Dracula, he of the “hard-looking mouth, with very red lips and sharp-looking teeth, as white as ivory,” inhabited “a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the moonlit sky.”

In real life, the castle has been home to Saxons, Hungarians and Teutonic knights, the Telegraph reports, and, perhaps, to the infamous Vlad the Impaler (Dracula's inspiration), who might have been briefly held prisoner there in the 15th century. Eventually, Bran Castle fell into the hands of Romania's royal family and was seized by the government in 1958. When the Ceausescu regime fell, the buiding once again came into possession of the remaining royal heirs, who have been tending to it ever since. 

Now well into their 70s, however, the owners are looking for a buyer who will continue their vision of maintaining and growing "the largest and most significant attraction in Romania," they told theTelegraph. Herzfeld and Rubin, the New York City-based law firm that's handling the sale, hasn't publicly revealed the asking price,—but rumor has it that the Romanian government had the first right of refusal, at a price tag of $80 million.


Below are some details of the property.  If you had the cash would you buy it?


It is lavish and royal and no detail was spared.


Please share with us what you think!
 

For 25 Years, He Isolated Himself In A Desert. What He Reveals Inside This Doorway Is Breathtaking 

Ra Paulette is an American cave sculptor based in New Mexico who digs into hillsides to sculpt elaborate artistic spaces inside mountains. Reviewer Martha Mendoza in the Los Angeles Times described the caves he created as shrines, as hallowed places, a "sanctuary for prayer and meditation" while others describe the caves as works of art.  The caves are finished with "scallops, molded curves, smooth ledges, inlaid stones, narrow pods and crusty ledges." His caves attract visitors worldwide.

Paulette is self-taught; he never studied architecture, sculpting or structural engineering in a formal school. He works with hand tools such as shovels, pick axes, and scrapers. According to one source, he is paid only $12 per hour. Paulette grew up in northwest Indiana along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Paulette created Windows in the Earth Shrine in northern New Mexico for a resort north of Santa Fe so that visitors could climb a third of a mile, enjoy the view, and step inside the sandstone cave space to "meditate, write", enjoy the art, or even hold a wedding ceremony. The shrine took Paulette two and a half years to complete. Paulette's sculpture was the subject of a 2014 documentary entitled Cavedigger.

In 2014, Paulette described his artistic approach:

It has a lot to do with the juxtaposition of opposites: the sense of being underground with the light streaming in; the intimacy of being in a cave, yet the columns end up very large, sometimes thirty to forty feet high.

You can see more of his creation at the video below:



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