Exploring the must-see sites of Tohoku, Japan

tohoku tourism portal In the twentieth century, tourism was a major industry in Tohoku, Japan, due to its array of unique cultural offerings and beautiful landscape. However, on March 11, 2011, the region suffered much damage due to a devastating earthquake and tsunami. Now, a year later, the area is recovering nicely, and travelers will have no problem visiting the museums, parks, mountains, hot springs, and heritage sites of Tohoku.

So what exactly does Tohoku have to offer? For starters, it is an excellent place to learn about an untouched side of Japan. In fact, in the late 1800s, writer and naturalist Isabella Bird was so moved by the region’s natural beauty, she nicknamed it “Japan’s Garden of Eden.” Additionally, there is something for everyone. Adventure travelers will love trekking the Kitayamazaki Cliffs, exploring Rikuchu Kaigan National Park and spelunking in the Ryusendo Caves. If you’re looking for comfort, relax in one of the natural and curative hot springs. History buff? Museums, castles, sacred temples, and excavation sites abound.

To get a better idea of the beauty, culture, and history that Tohoku has to offer, check out the gallery below.

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California cooking classes teach artisanal, local food-crafting

cooking classesCooking classes are nothing new, but how about learning how to roast your own coffee beans, brew beer at home, or even prepare a roast chicken from scratch, including catching the bird? The Southern California-area Institute of Domestic Technology brings farm-to-table eating to a new level with workshops focusing on hyper-local food-crafting of everything from dairy products to artisanal mustard.

Classes are currently posted for March and April, with a few more on the schedule for early summer. Most workshops are around or under $200 including ingredients and lunch, and held at or near the Institute’s headquarters at Mariposa Creamery, north of Pasadena. The coffee roasting class will be held on April 28 with fees of $95 for supplies and snacks. The classes are a tasty way to take a piece of California home, and learn how to eat locally, wherever you are.

Photo courtesy Institute of Domestic Technology Facebook page.

10 things you probably didn’t know about Holland

holland While Holland is well known for its bright flowers, the canals of Amsterdam, and wooden shoes, there are still many surprises to discover about this region. To help expand your knowledge, here are some things you probably didn’t know about Holland.

1. Rotterdam is the only Dutch city with a true skyline. In fact, it is so impressive the area is known as “Manhattan on the Meuse.” In terms of architecture, Rotterdam has a superb reputation, making it no wonder that the Netherlands Architecture Institute was also founded here.

2. Holland is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Schokland, the D.F. Wouda Steam Pumping Station, Wadden Sea, the Defense Line of Amsterdam, the Beemster Polder, the Rietveld Schröder House, the Mills of Kinderdijk, and the canals of Amsterdam.

3. In the late 16th century, gin was invented under the name jenever in the Netherlands and was sold as medicine.

4. Dutch people are the tallest in the world with the men averaging 6 feet 1 inch and women 5 feet 6 and one half inches tall.

5. The Dutch love cheese. Annually, they consume about 32 pounds of it.

6. Holland has more museums than any other region in the world. In fact, Amsterdam alone is home to over 50 of them.

7. In Holland, it is common for families to hang a Dutch flag and school bag outside their homes when children pass their exams.

8. Almost every person, regardless of class or status in Holland, owns a bike and there is double the amount of bikes as cars.

9. While Holland is known for its tulips, they were originally brought from Turkey in the 16th century.

10. Once every ten years, one of the largest horticultural events in the world takes place in Holland, Floriade. Luckily, the event will be taking place this year from April 5 to October 7 in Venlo.

For a more visual idea of Holland’s unique culture, check out the gallery below.

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10 museums that will make you feel like a kid again

jumpUsually when you hear about a “family-friendly museum,” you can assume that what the experience will be tailored around is children. But why should kids be the only ones who get to have fun?

With these ten museums, adults will be able to travel back to a time when playing with dolls, watching cartoons, riding rocking horses, and running through rooms full of fun-house mirrors was acceptable. Carefree days, heartfelt laughs and being immersed in a world where everything looks and feels brand new are easily attainable no matter how old you are.

To learn more about these museums and how to experience being a kid again for yourself, check out the gallery below.

[flickr photo via Hamad AL-Mohannna]

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Learning a new language made easy

learning a new language If learning a new language is on your list of things to do, there are several products out there to help make that happen. The trick seems to be finding one that will work for each individual and some are a better fit than others.

Back in 2007 Gadling’s Jamie Rhein introduced us to Rosetta Stone, an interactive computer software program that has been proven effective even in elementary school children. Still, the price tag of $449 per language for levels 1-5 may make many think twice. Just trying German, for example, takes $179 to get started.

Babbel, the browser based language learning program also has a mobile app for learning on the go. Both versions come with a speech recognition feature to give users a real time score on their pronunciation.
Perhaps just right to help prep for that next trip, there are various scenarios to learn from like culinary, shopping, urban, etc. Users can take beginner to advanced courses in up to 11 different languages.




Pricing is unique too. Babbel charges by the month for unlimited use starting at $12.95 with no long-term commitment or barely used box staring us in the face when our efforts fail. Prices go down by pre-paying with a six-month subscription priced at $7.95 per month.

Not sure? Babbel will let users try it for free.

The Babbel program has a good track record too with over 1 million users in 2011 in 200 countries. Planning a dream trip to Sweden, I tried a sample lesson and found that Dette kan fungere for mig (this might work for me).

Flickr photo by ob1left