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This City in Japan is Encouraging Its Single Residents to Write Love Letters Instead of Using Dating Apps – Here’s Why



Miyazaki, a city in Japan, has begun encouraging its single residents to write love letters instead of using dating apps in a new program aimed to raise Japan’s declining birth rate.

To date, the letter writing program has resulted in over 32 face-to-face meetings and has brought together 17 couples after an estimated 450 sign-ups.

Rie Miyata, who heads the program, explained that they’re encouraging the practice of letter writing to help individuals develop deeper emotional, rather than superficial, connections.

Miyata said to Agence France-Presse, “It takes longer [than online dating], and inspires you to imagine the person you’re in communication with. It’s less about how good your penmanship is and more the fact that you write every single character sincerely and with care, thinking deeply about the person you’re writing to. That’s what makes letters so powerful.”

Applicants to the program are screened then paired with another individual based on their interests, such as hobbies and their taste in books. To encourage matches on personality, profile photos are forbidden. Individuals can then send and receive up to five letters before deciding if they want to meet in person.

A program flyer can be seen below.


This Cafe in Japan Will Offer Sleeping Pods That Allow You to Sleep While Standing



Nescafé Harajuku in Tokyo, Japan is planning to offer unique sleeping pods that will allow you to nap while standing up.

The sleeping pods, named Giraffenap, will feature pads and platforms that support your head, butt, shins, and the soles of your feet while you sleep.

Images of the pods can be seen below.

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Pokémon Sleep, the App Which Lets You Sleep Alongside Your Favorite Pokémon, is Now Available in the US



Pokémon Sleep, the app which lets you sleep alongside your favorite Pokémon, is now available in the United States.

The app, which functions as a sleep tracker, rewards you with scores tied to your sleep quality and consistency. The higher your sleep score, the higher Snorlax’s “drowsy power” becomes in the game, attracting a variety of other Pokémon.

A trailer for the app can be seen below.

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14 Must-See Cultural Festivals From Across Asia



With hundreds of festivals happening all across Asia throughout the entire year, picking just one festival to go to wouldn’t be easy! As the largest continent in the world, Asia is home to an incredibly diverse array of cultures, traditions, and religions, which are reflected through its festivals. COVID-19 may continue to affect if, when, and where we can travel, but consider adding some of these festivals to the top of your post-pandemic bucket list.

1. Sinulog Festival — Philippines

When: Third Sunday of January

Sinulog is celebrated every year in Cebu City to honor the Santo Niño, or the Child Jesus. Given that religion is a central part of Sinulog, this festival commemorates the introduction of Christianity into the Philippines. The word sinulog stems from the Cebuano word sulog, which roughly translates to “water current” — this describes the forward-backward movement of the Sinulog dance, which is a dance that was performed by Cebu natives even before the arrival of Christianity. The festival’s climax is the Grand Parade, an energetic celebration that includes live music and teams of dancers decked out in multi-colored clothing.

2. Tết — Vietnam

When: Between January and February (date varies)

Tết, or the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is celebrated each year at the end of January or mid-February depending on the Vietnamese lunisolar calendar. Fireworks are a popular part of the Tết celebration because the loud explosions ward off evil spirits that might try to enter the home and bring bad luck to the new year. Firecrackers, drums, gongs, and anything else that can make a loud noise are also used to scare off evil spirits. After a day of parades and other celebrations, friends and family come together for a feast of traditional Vietnamese dishes such as Bánh chưng, a sticky rice cake filled with mung beans and pork. Children also receive red envelopes with money from older relatives.

3. Bau Nyale Festival — Indonesia

When: February (date varies)

The Bau Nyale Festival, which means “to catch worms” in the local Sasak language, originates from the folk legend of Princess Mandalika. It is said that Princess Mandalika was so beautiful that princes traveled from every corner of the country to win her hand in marriage. However, the competition among the princes always resulted in bloodshed. The thought of her people fighting and risking their lives for her tormented the princess, which led her to throw herself into the ocean. When the villagers searched the water for the body of the princess, all they could find were thousands of sea worms. From this legend, the nyale, or sea worms, are now symbols of fertility and prosperity. During the Bau Nyale festival, the nyale, which only appear once a year on the beaches of Lombok, are caught and roasted, used in soups, or steamed before being eaten.

4. Taiwan Lantern Festival — Taiwan

When: Between February and March (date varies)

Every year in the Pingxi District of Taiwan, sky lanterns are released on the night of the first full moon of the lunar calendar. These breathtaking lanterns are said to carry the prayers and wishes of the people to the gods above, and visitors can write their own wishes on a sky lantern to release simultaneously with thousands of others. Further south in Yanshui, bottle rockets arranged in a beehive structure are set off directly into the crowd, with the rockets ricocheting off of people donned in heavy clothing and protective gear. Being hit by a rocket is a sign of good luck, with the more hits the better. The story behind this tradition is that the Chinese god of war, Guan Gong, warded off a cholera epidemic amongst the locals, so setting off these fireworks is a way to thank him.

5. Holi — India, Nepal, Pakistan, and more

When: March (date varies)

Signifying the beginning of spring and the triumph of good over evil, the Hindu festival of Holi has been celebrated across South Asia for centuries. On the night before the festival, people gather around a huge bonfire to burn an effigy of the demon Holika, perform religious rituals, and pray that the evil inside of them is defeated in the same way as Holika. The next morning, the streets transform into a colorful scene where people throw water balloons and colored powders at each other, which ultimately unites friends, neighbors, and even strangers together.

6. Songkran — Thailand

When: April 13-15

Songkran is Thailand’s celebration of the Buddhist New Year. It’s no ordinary New Year’s celebration though — major streets in Thailand close down for people to splash, shoot, and spray water at each other, where getting soaked is guaranteed. Throwing water is meant to represent washing away the bad luck of the previous year, and the three-day celebration begins with religious rituals like washing images of Buddha and sprinkling water over the hands of elders and monks before moving to the biggest water fight in the world. Keep an eye out, or you might be hit by a Super Soaker!

7. Boryeong Mud Festival — South Korea

When: Two weeks in July (date varies)

Since 1998, thousands of people have flocked each summer to Boryeong, a small town on the west coast of South Korea, for the yearly Boryeong Mud Festival. Mud is trucked over from the mineral-rich Boryeong mudflats to the Daecheon beach, where it’s used for mud pits, mud pools, mud obstacle courses, mud massages, and many more activities. The mud itself is supposed to be great for your skin too, as its high level of natural minerals helps to moisturize and smooth the skin. The two-week-long festival also includes live music, parades, and a spectacular fireworks display to end the event in a bang.

8. Naadam Festival — Mongolia

When: July 11-15

Naadam is Mongolia’s centuries-old sports festival devoted to the “three games of men”: wrestling, archery, and horse racing. People from all over Mongolia travel to the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, dressed in outfits traditional to the different regions of the country. An opening ceremony kicks off the festival with song, dance, and parades, and then the games begin! For many, the festival’s main attraction is wrestling, with hundreds of men competing to be crowned as the “Lion of the Nation” in a single-elimination tournament. For others, horse racing is the most exciting part of the festival, where jockeys between the ages of 5 and 13 race up to 19 miles (30 km) to the finish line after having trained for months.

9. Gion Matsuri — Japan

When: July

Every July, the Gion Matsuri festival in Kyoto brings out huge crowds to watch beautifully crafted parade floats known as “yamaboko” be pulled through the streets. Of these yamaboko, there are nine multi-storeyed “hoko” floats that can soar up to a staggering 25 meters tall and must be moved by teams of dozens of men, and 23 smaller but still awe-inspiring “yama” floats. Along with the procession of parade floats, Gion Matsuri features vibrant street parties during the evenings where visitors can enjoy a multitude of different street food sold at night stalls and view heirloom items such as kimonos and armor that families display outside their homes. 

10. Kandy Esala Perahera — Sri Lanka

When: Ten days in August (date varies)

Legend has it that when Buddha died, his body was cremated, leaving behind a single tooth that remained uncharred. This tooth, called the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha, is said to have survived for centuries and is now housed in the Temple of the Tooth in the city of Kandy. When August rolls around, the streets in Kandy come alive with musicians, dancers, acrobats, and elephants adorned in ornate attire to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic. During the Perahera (procession), a replica of the relic travels through the streets on the back of a specially chosen elephant called the Maligawa Tusker, with more elephants, drummers, and dancers following behind.

11. Bon Om Touk — Cambodia

When: Between late October and early November (date varies)

For three days, crowds of people convene on the banks of the Tonlé Sap River to celebrate Bon Om Touk, or the Cambodian Water Festival, which commemorates the seasonal reversal of the flow of the Tonlé Sap River. For most of the year, this river empties into the Mekong River, but when the monsoon season arrives in June, the Mekong River rises so much that the flow of the Tonlé Sap River actually reverses direction and floods into the Tonlé Sap Lake. Then, when the monsoon season ends in November, this lake drains back into the Tonlé Sap River, causing the river´s flow to reverse once more. This reversal brings about fireworks, parades, and feasts, but the stars of the festival are the hundreds of richly decorated boats that gather to race each other in the river.

12. Tazaungdaing Festival — Myanmar

When: November (date varies)

In the city of Taunggyi, thousands of homemade hot air balloons decorated with paintings, candles, and even fireworks are released on the full moon day of Tazaungmon, the eighth month of the Burmese lunisolar calendar. This day marks the end of the rainy season, and thousands of spectators gather in the city to watch the annual balloon launch. These balloons come in all sorts of colors and shapes, with many taking the form of animals and various mythical creatures. The balloons are made out of Shan paper, a special type of paper made out of the bark of the mulberry tree, and when the balloons are released into the night sky, they are said to drive away evil spirits.

13. Pushkar Camel Fair — India

When: November (date varies)

In the small desert town of Pushkar located in Western India, thousands of camels, horses, and cattle arrive on the banks of the Pushkar Lake to be traded at the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. In addition to the camel trading, camel races, camel parades, and even camel beauty pageants can be found at the fairgrounds, along with a mustache contest, where men with mustaches of all lengths compete for the title of having the most beautiful mustache. Pilgrims also come to the festival to bathe in the sacred Pushkar Lake, as the festival coincides with two full moon days that are considered the most auspicious times to take a dip in the lake.

14. Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival — China

When: December to February

Located in Northeast China, the city of Harbin transforms into a kingdom of ice and snow every winter. This “Ice City” features beautiful sculptures ranging from dragons and other mythical creatures to literal palaces made out of ice. Visit at night, and you’ll see the buildings constructed out of ice illuminated by colorful neon lights. Check out some of the winter activities hosted by the festival too: there’s a winter carnival, alpine skiing, speed skating, ice hockey, and even ice football (it’s a thing!).

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