Apricot blossoms bloom in Pyongyang

Local art enthusiasts in Pyongyang capture scenes of spring, enjoying the capital’s blossom season. Unlike in South Korea and Japan, where residents and tourists flock to see the cherry blossom, the white and pink flowers seen in the North Korean capital’s parks and along main roads are from apricot trees.

Valley of dolls: scarecrows outnumber people in Japan village

Life-sized dolls are dotted around the tiny village of Nagoro, deep in the mountains of western Japan. The dolls here outnumber humans ten-to-one, the product of a one-woman bid to counter the emptiness and loneliness felt in Nagoro, like many Japanese villages decimated by depopulation.

Japan: Sumo wrestlers take part in annual one-day exhibition

Thousands of spectators watch sumo wrestlers take part in a ceremonial sumo exhibition ‘honozumo’ on the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

Nuclear fuel finally removed from crippled Japan plant

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima power plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), begins removing atomic fuel from inside a building housing one of the reactors that melted down in 2011. Due to high radiation levels, technicians use remote-controlled equipment to haul fuel from a “storage pool” inside the building.

Fukushima chronology

Videographic illustrating the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The operator of Japan’s crippled power plant on Monday began removing atomic fuel from inside a building housing one of the reactors that melted down in 2011.VIDEOGRAPHICS

Japan’s ‘Miracle’ Suzuki takes darts world by storm

She’s been described as the Phil Taylor of women’s darts and Japan’s Mikuru Suzuki is hungry for more success after becoming the first Asian player to capture a world title.

Japan’s cultured pearl farms still glisten

Cultured pearl farming was first invented in Japan’s Ago Bay in the late 19th century and spread throughout the world. There are still dozens of farms plying the trade there, which from the sky look like a series of rafts floating between the steep coast and a string of tiny islets.

The Sumo Retirement Plan

“At first, they’re thinking it’s just big fat guys pushing each other,” says Byamba Ulambayar.

“But after they see our show, they respect us.”

Los Angeles wouldn’t seem like an easy place to make a living as a sumo wrestler, but Byamba is proof that it can be done. He’s slowly watched the American appetite for sumo grow over the past few years, both as an athlete and an actor.

Byamba left the Japanese pro circuit long ago, so his most high profile matches now take place in Long Beach, California, which has turned into a kind of sumo Mecca. For the last 19 years, Long Beach has been the home of the U.S. Sumo Open, the longest-running annual sumo tournament outside of Japan. This year’s event was bigger than ever, packing a stadium with over 5,000 people.

Visiting a tournament is like a crash course in Japanese sumo culture – the program booklet handed to patrons contains a brief rundown on sumo rules, and Andrew Freund, the head of the U.S. Sumo Organization, also acts as an evangelizing hype man during the tournament, explaining sumo techniques to the crowd. But as novice-friendly as the tournament is, Freund takes tradition seriously, and regularly makes competitors re-enter the ring after a match is over bow to each other if he thinks they didn’t bow properly the first time.

But amateur sumo trophies don’t pay the bills – which is where Byamba’s second career as an actor comes in. He’s already been in Oceans 13, and plenty of commercials, starring him as, well, a sumo wrestler. And both he and Andrew Freund are hoping that he’ll soon be able to find a career outside of the ring.

VICE News visited this year’s tournament to find out how an American organization may hold the key to an alternative career path for retired Japanese sumo wrestlers.

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Symbolism and silk: The traditional garb of Japan’s enthronement

The abdication of Japan’s outgoing Emperor Akihito and the enthronement of his son Naruhito will be solemn, ritual-bound affairs complete with sumptuous clothing and sacred paraphernalia. But behind the layers of silks are layers of symbolic meaning.