japan

Ueno Daibutsu in Tokyo, Japan

Japan is infamous for its education system involving challenging entrance exams not only for colleges, but high schools. A number of superstitions surround these exams, one of which is that it is bad luck to say words that could mean failing tests, such as ochiru(“to fall”), suberu(“to slip”) and korobu(“to stumble”). In spring, many families visit shrines dedicated to gakumon-no-kami, or the gods of studying, which are usually deified historical figures such as Sugawara no Michizane, Yoshida Shōin and Ninomiya Kinjirō.

Owaraji (Giant Straw Sandals) in Tokyo, Japan

Sensō-ji Temple of Asakusa is one of the most well-known spots in Tokyo, but if you walk under the iconic Kaminari-mon (“Thunder Gate”) and straight down Nakamise Shopping Street, and you’ll see the Hōzōmon, another big red gate with unusual decorations: a pair of ōwaraji, or giant straw sandals that measure 4.5 meters (14.5 feet) tall and weigh 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). The sandals are a larger version of a type of sandal made from straw ropes.