Under the Same Management for Over 1,300 Years

world's oldest hotel
In the Western world hotels frequently attract customers by advertising “Under New Management.” The family that owns the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan hotel hasn’t been able to do that for more than 1,300 years. 

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is a hot spring hotel in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. It opened in the year 705 and has been operated by 52 generations of the same family. 

Ironically, the second-oldest hotel, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, opened just eight years later and is not far away, in Yamanashi, Japan. 

Reservations at Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan start at about $400 per night and can be made through the hotel’s website: http://www.keiunkan.co.jp/en/

Pucker Up and Kiss Your Allergies Goodbye

hajime kimata
Dr. Hajime Kimata, who operates an allergy clinic in Neyagawa, Osaka (Phtoto: Hajime Kimata Clinic)

Countless songs, poems, and dramatic works have been written about the power of a kiss. You may have been unaware of one of the additional benefits of the exercise: allergy reduction.

Dr. Hajime Kimata, a Japanese scientist who specializes in allergy research, published the findings of his study on how kissing affected allergic reactions in patients in 2003. Writing for the Journal of Physiology & Behavior, Kimata explained the experiment involving three groups of people — two groups affected by either eczema or hay fever and a control group affected by neither.

All of the patients were Japanese, who “do not kiss habitually,” according to Kimata.

The groups had their skin tested for their reactions to Japanese cedar pollen, dust mites and histamine. After kissing for 30 minutes while listening to “soft music,” such as Celine Dion’s love ballad “My Heart Will Go On,” the patients had their skin tested again for allergic reactions.

Kimata found that for the groups of patients with eczema and hay fever, their skin did not react as much to Japanese cedar pollen and dust mites after 30 minutes of kissing. Their reaction to histamine, however, was not affected.

For this breakthrough research, Dr. Kimata was awarded the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine. The Ig Nobel Prize is awarded each year by Improbable Research and is dedicated to the concept, “First make people laugh, and then think.” For other recent Ig Nobel recipients, read this article.

“I wish that people will understand the new effect of kissing and I also hope that kissing will bring not only love but also attenuation of allergic reaction,” Hajime Kimata, who could not attend the 25th annual event, said in a videotaped acceptance speech. “I am honored to be awarded the Ig Nobel Prize and I appreciate it very much.”


Have a Finger-Lickin’ Good Christmas!

While visions of sugar plums may dance in the heads of children in most of the world on Christmas Eve, in Japan the dreams are more likely to be filled with images of crispy and original recipe chicken.

In 1974 Kentucky Fried Chicken launched an advertising campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!!” — “Kentucky for Christmas!!” Since then having KFC on Christmas Day has become such an important tradition that it became the biggest sales day of the year for the restaurant chain, frequently requiring customers to make reservations.  (See a video of the phenomenon here.)

The tradition started when westerners were unable to find turkey for their holiday feast and opted for fried chicken instead. The holiday special for Christmas dinner includes cake and wine and goes for 3,336 yen (about $40).


The Last Soldier

Private Teruo Nakamura (1919 - 1979)
Private Teruo Nakamura (1919 – 1979)

Officially, World War II came to an end on September 2, 1945 with the surrender of Japan. For Teruo Nakamura, the war would continue for another 29 years, 3 months, and 17 days.

Nakamura was serving as a private in the Japanese army in September 1944 and was stationed on the Indonesian island of Morotai when Allied armies took control of the island. Nakamura would not accept defeat, however, and went into hiding, determined to carry on the war.

Nakamura was declared dead in March 1945. Few could have suspected that he was alive and well, living in his personally-constructed camp on Morotai. There he remained, still fighting the war that he alone continued to recognize. It was a lonely war, since his camp was isolated from the rest of humanity.

When a pilot spotted Nakamura’s camp in mid-1974, it triggered a search mission by the Indonesian Air Force. Private Nakamura was taken into custody on December 18, 1974, becoming the last Japanese solider to surrender — 10,700 days after the surrender of his government.

Nakamura resettled in his native Taiwan, where he lived for five years before dying of lung cancer on June 15, 1979.


Lucille Ball: Mistress of Comedy and Counter-Espionage

Lucille Ball (1911-1989)
Lucille Ball (1911-1989)

Lucille Ball (1911-1989) was not only one of the undisputed geniuses of comedy, starring in I Love Lucy, Life With Lucy, and more than 80 motion pictures, but she also played an unplanned and unscripted role in counter-espionage.

In 1942 Lucy was driving home from MGM, where she was filming Du Barry Was a Lady with Red Skelton. It was about 2 a.m., when she suddenly heard music. She said, “I reached down to turn the radio off, and it wasn’t on. The music kept getting louder and louder, and then I realized it was coming from my mouth. I even recognized the tune. My mouth was humming and thumping with the drumbeat, and I thought I was losing my mind. I thought, What the hell is this? Then it started to subside. I got home and went to bed, not sure if I should tell anybody what had happened because they would think I was crazy.”

The next day she shared the experience with Buster Keaton, who asked her if she had been to the dentist recently. As a matter of fact, she had just received several temporary lead fillings a short time earlier. Keaton told her that she was picking up radio broadcasts on those fillings; one of his friends had a similar experience and traced it to the dental implants.

Lucy couldn’t wait to put this theory to the test. At the next opportunity she returned to the location, and again heard sounds, but this time it wasn’t music. She described it as starting softly, “…and then de-de-de-de-de-de. As soon as it started fading, I stopped the car and then started backing up until it was coming in full strength. DE-DE-DE-DE-DE-DE DE-DE-DE-DE!” She recognized it as Morse code.

This happened in the early days of the U.S. involvement in World War II. A Japanese submarine had been spotted off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, and everyone was watching for anything out of the ordinary that might suggest an attack on the U.S. mainland was imminent. Lucy immediately made a report to the MGM Security Office, who, in turn, reported the incident to federal authorities. The ensuing investigation revealed a covert Japanese radio station run by spies.

See Lucy tell the story to Dick Cavett here.