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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.

Can You Believe These Incandescent Flowers Are Real? 

                    BEE BALM - PHOTO BY CRAIG BURROWS

WHEN YOU INITIALLY look at the plants that Craig Burrows’ photographs, you might think that they are from an alien planet because of their wild, incandescent quality and the astounding colors they give off. They definitely don't look real. You might be surprised to learn though that both the plants and the colors are real. 

When we generally look at flowers and plants, we see them with sunlight or another form of white/yellow light. The colors that we generally perceive are based off of the light that the plants and flowers reflect back - green, yellow, red, purple, etc. What Burrows discovered and takes advantage of with his photography is plants ability to fluoresce, which means that  when plants absorb ultraviolet light, they emit longer wavelengths visible to the human eye. To put it in terms you might understand - this is the same thing that happens with a black-light poster. “The flower literally glows,” Burrows says. 

In order to capture the glowing light of the flowers requires Burrows to use ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence photography. Burrows discovered this technique online three years ago. The concept fascinated him, so he read a tutorial and immediately set to work. Burrows has shot more than five dozen plants since then, including: Mexican sunflowers, calla lilies, and silk floss tree flowers. 

Burrows finds the process of capturing the fluorescent glow of the flowers and plants so engrossing that he often loses track of time. “I usually tell myself it will only be an hour, but by the time I finally quit it’s usually been three or four,” he says. 

After taking the photos - Burrows does put in several hours on Photoshop, adjusting white balance, contrast, noise and sharpness, and removing dust. It’s tedious, but it yields big dividends. The plants truly glow, each leaf, petal and stem blooming in otherworldly colors. 

What do you think?










Project Mermaid: How these Mermaids are Saving the Oceans! 

                  Image Courtesy of Project Mermaid

Have you ever dreamed of being a mermaid or merman for a day? Well, you're in luck: There is currently a world-wide project taking place entitled "Project Mermaid Tour", where you can pay and sign up to have your very own Project Mermaid Photoshoot.

                  Photo Courtesy of Project Mermaid

In 2012, the renowned photographers Chiara Salomoni  and  Angelina Venturella came together with their shared love of the ocean to create a project that would raise global awareness about the ever-increasing need to protect our oceans. Since then, the two founded Project Mermaid and have travelled the world, photographing lovely mermaids and mermen in order to "bring awareness as to how precious the ocean and beaches are, and to keep this beautiful environment healthy and clean."

                  Photo Courtesy of Project Mermaid


Their work is being turned into a beautiful, educational coffee table book and will be shown on June 8, 2016. The project's art show and art book will benefit with 50% percent of all proceeds. 

For more on the project and tour, check out their websites: 

Article by Rajmani Sinclair, May 25, 2016

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

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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Photographer Spends 14 Years Searching for World’s Oldest Trees: The Results are Breathtaking! 

The San Francisco-based photographer, Beth Moon, in search for the world’s most ancient trees, embarked on a fourteen year quest that took her across the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Over the course of her long and far-reaching travels, Moon managed to capture captivating, moving and majestic images of trees that truly feel as old as time.  

In 2014, Abbeville Press published a collection of sixty of Moon’s duotone photos in the book, “Ancient Trees: Portraits Of Time”.  The work ranges from isolated trees, found in various types of remote locations, to full-bodied ones standing proudly among civilizations. 

The book contains captions with the photographer's narrative that describe both the natural and cultural history of each pictured tree. The book of photographs is also accompanied by writings by other experts in their respective fields that shed more light on various aspects sorrounding ancient trees such as their preservation and as an art form.

In choosing what to photograph, Moon follows the criteria of age, size and history. Using history books and botany references, tree registers and newspaper articles, she tracks down tree survivors in various locations. Some trees are even aged at over a thousand years old!


Thanks to the beautiful worlds captured by Moon’s lens and her special platinum process, we are reminded of the power of time and nature.  


In her artistic statement, Beth Moon expresses her motivations and aspirations for the prints: “Standing as the Earth’s largest and oldest living monuments, I believe these symbolic trees will take on a greater significance, especially at a time when our focus is directed at finding better ways to live with the environment”.


Beth Moon’s work can also be seen in the VERVE Gallery of Photography  

Author: Gal Shyli Dayan


This Artist Replaced Classic Disney Characters with the Internet's Favorite Grumpy Cat. The Results will Crack You Up! 

Thank God for illustrator and designer Eric Proctor! Known online by his pseudonym TsaoShin, Eric's artistic genius has the internet loling over a series called "Grumpy Disney." Chances are you've met the purrlific Grumpy Cat (see above), but now you can see her frown her way into your favorite Disney flicks! Check out Eric's hilarious and inspired creations below.

1. Part of Your No

Grumpy Cat makes a splash as Ariel in the Little Purrmaid. "Look at this stuff, isn't it vaguely interesting at best?"

2. Circle of No

Grumpy Cat CANNOT feel the love tonight. 

3. He Mele No Lilo

The lovable blue alien has never been more hated.

4. A Whole New No

Because I'm lazy, I'll refer you to the revised, Grumpy Jasmine lyrics here.

5. When Will My No Begin

"You mean I have to live alone in a tower for the rest of my life?.... Sign me up!"

6. Bella No

Lady and the Grump. "Don't even think you're getting in on this spaghetti."

7. Let It No

The ultimate ice queen. As if the original Elsa wasn't grumpy enough! 

8. Tale As Old As No

Under an eternal curse? Good, Grumpy Belle will make sure it stays that way. 

9. When You Wish Upon A No

Loos like Gepetto wished upon the wrong star!

10. One Day My No Will Come 

Finally a plot point that Grumpy the Dwarf actually approves of.

11. Evil Has A Beginning...

Probably the most suitable role for Grumpy Cat! Except, unlike Ms. Jolie's portrayal, she'd be a total, unsympathetic biatch.

You can check out Eric's art tutorials here, or watch videos of his adorable kitty Grendel here.

Text by Nate Morgan

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