Yesterday's dramatic simulation involved a Siberian tiger that escaped its pen following an earthquake. The mock animal wandered freely through the park, attacking zoo workers and visitors before it was surrounded with nets, shot with a tranquilizer dart, and transported back to its cage.
Theatrical exercises involving people in animal costumes are conducted each year in Tokyo at either Tama Zoo or Ueno Zoo. In addition to providing hands-on experience with capturing escaped animals, the drills force zookeepers to administer first aid, usher visitors to safety, and coordinate with local emergency services. Here are a few videos of past exercises.
Ghostly trees covered in snow and rime ice -- known as "snow monsters" or juhyou (frost-covered trees) in Japanese -- are a celebrated feature of the winter landscape in mountainous areas of northern Japan. Here are a few photos.
This year's Good Design Expo, which took place at Tokyo Big Sight over the weekend (Aug 27-29), showcased over 2,000 design-conscious items under consideration for the 2010 Good Design Award. Here are photos of a few items that were on display.
Goya de Goya: Goya (a.k.a. bitter melon) planter bag that resembles a giant goya (Protoleaf)
Tomato ni Tomato: Tomato planter bag that resembles a giant tomato (Protoleaf)
Sola Cube: Botanical materials encased in cubes of acrylic (Sola)
Gundam videographer darwinfish105 has captured some dazzling footage of the 8-meter-tall laser-shooting Hello Kitty spectacle at Odaiba Beach, which has appeared as part of a campaign to promote tree-planting activities in Tokyo.
A mysterious doll possessed by the spirit of a child has captured the curiosity of people across Japan for decades. The legendary Okiku doll, named after the girl who long ago used to play with it, is a 40-centimeter (16-in) tall kimono-clad figure with beady black eyes -- and hair that grows.
The Okiku doll has resided at the Mannenji temple in the town of Iwamizawa (Hokkaido prefecture) since 1938. According to the temple, the traditional doll initially had short cropped hair, but over time it has grown to about 25 centimeters (10 in) long, down to the doll's knees. Although the hair is periodically trimmed, it reportedly keeps growing back.
It is said that the doll was originally purchased in 1918 by a 17-year-old boy named Eikichi Suzuki while visiting Sapporo for a marine exhibition. He bought the doll on Tanuki-koji -- Sapporo's famous shopping street -- as a souvenir for his 2-year-old sister, Okiku. The young girl loved the doll and played with it every day, but the following year, she died suddenly of a cold. The family placed the doll in the household altar and prayed to it every day in memory of Okiku.
Some time later, they noticed the hair had started to grow. This was seen as a sign that the girl's restless spirit had taken refuge in the doll.
The fabled lost Ark of the Covenant -- described in the Bible as the sacred container of the Ten Commandments -- lies buried near the top of Mt. Tsurugi on the Japanese island of Shikoku, according to local legend.
The Ark, which was built according to instructions given by God to Moses in a prophetic vision on Mt. Sinai, is sacred to Jews and Christians alike and is said to possess great supernatural powers.
Many people also know it from the 1981 action film "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark," which follows the adventures of archeologist Indiana Jones as he thwarts Nazi efforts to obtain the Ark and harness its powers for evil.
Scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark"
But what really happened to the Ark? According to the biblical book of Kings, King Solomon -- a King of Israel -- built a large temple in Jerusalem to house the sacred object, and it was kept there during his reign (970-930 BC) and beyond. Centuries later, in 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Some historians suggest the Ark was probably carted off by the Babylonians or perhaps destroyed in battle, but nobody knows for sure. Its fate remains one of the world's great unsolved mysteries.
Since its disappearance, various groups around the world claim to have discovered or obtained possession of the Ark. The list of locations includes Jordan, Egypt, Ethiopia, southern Africa, France, UK, Ireland -- and Japan.
Did a lost tribe of Israel carry the fabled Ark to Mt. Tsurugi?
In Japan, the rumored site of the legendary lost Ark is at Mt. Tsurugi in Tokushima prefecture. At 1,955 meters (6,413 ft), the mountain -- known locally as "Ken-zan" -- is the highest on Shikoku and the second highest in western Japan. Mt. Tsurugi is listed as one of Japan's 100 famous mountains and is considered the most sacred peak on Shikoku. It is also regarded as one of the centers of Shugendo, an ancient ascetic religion that incorporates elements of Shintoism and Buddhism.
Tsurugi Jinja, a tiny shrine atop Mt. Tsurugi
Speculation surrounding the lost Ark at Mt. Tsurugi can be traced back to the work of Masanori Takane (1883-1959), a literary scholar with a deep interest in kotodama (lit. "word spirit") -- a Japanese belief that words and names hold mystical powers. Through his kotodama research, which involved the study of ancient history, philosophy, theology and cosmology, Takane came across a number of uncanny parallels between the Bible and the Kojiki ("Record of Ancient Matters"), an 8th-century collection of myths concerning the origin of the Japanese islands and Shinto kami (spirits).
In addition to suggesting possible links between the Bible and the origins of Shinto, Takane's research points to the Japanese island of Shikoku as the crucial bridge between the two. The Book of Revelation (7:1), for example, describes John's vision of "four angels standing at the four corners of the earth." Takane interpreted this as a reference to Shikoku (whose name literally means "four countries"), which is described in the Kojiki as having "four faces." After an exhaustive study of Shikoku's geography, climate, local names and folklore, Takane concluded that the lost Ark of the Covenant was buried near the peak of Mt. Tsurugi.
Here is a look inside a cave at Mt. Tsurugi, which may or may not be connected to a larger underground structure containing the lost Ark of the Covenant.
In 1936, Takane assembled a team of archeologists and began an excavation at Mt. Tsurugi. Over the next three years, they dug up an area measuring about 150 meters (500 ft) long and found stone artifacts, paving stones, a brick arch, and evidence of tunnels. The discoveries helped lend credibility to Takane's theory that ancient people modified the peak of Mt. Tsurugi in order to hide the treasure.
Takane and others conducted excavations on Mt. Tsurugi for the next 20 years. In 1952, a former naval admiral named Eisuke Yamamoto attracted national attention when his excavation team found what appeared to be badly decomposed mummies and evidence of marble corridors. Soon after the discovery, however, both Takane and Yamamoto mysteriously stopped searching for the lost Ark at Mt. Tsurugi.
Another treasure hunter named Yoshun Miyanaka began an excavation in 1956, but the effort was short-lived. In 1964, the Japanese government established the Tsurugi-san Quasi-National Park, a 210-square-kilometer (81 sq mi) nature preserve encompassing Mt. Tsurugi and the surrounding area. Excavations on the mountain were banned for environmental reasons.
The lost Ark of the Covenant was never found at Mt. Tsurugi, but the legend lives on.
In addition to stopping in for a snack at a maid cafe, the robot reportedly went shopping and paid a visit to Asimo at the Akihabara Daibiru Building. Tsutenkaku Robo, which weighs 30 kilograms (66 lbs) and stands 170 centimeters (5 ft 7 in) tall -- 1/60 the size of the actual Tsutenkaku Tower -- has been traveling the country to promote tourism to its hometown of Osaka ever since it was unveiled there last month.