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Okinoshima, Munakata, Fukuoka, Japan
Okinoshima, Munakata, Fukuoka, Japan
National Land Image Information (Color Aerial Photographs), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism

Japan's Sacred, Men-Only Island is Up For UNESCO World Heritage Status

Okinoshima, Munakata, Fukuoka, Japan
Okinoshima, Munakata, Fukuoka, Japan
National Land Image Information (Color Aerial Photographs), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism

Visit Okinoshima—a speck of land off the coast of Kyushu, Japan's third largest island—and you’ll see no female faces. Only men are allowed to visit the island, which is home to a sacred religious shrine honoring a goddess of the sea. As BBC News reports, this men-only island is now up for UNESCO World Heritage status, along with four other culturally significant sites in Japan.

Long ago, between the 4th and 9th centuries, sailors conducted rites at the shrine to ensure that their ships remained safe at sea. The island was also the site of numerous cultural exchanges between the Japanese and people of the Korean Peninsula. Artifacts unearthed on the island have included glass cup fragments believed to be from Persia, gold rings from the Korean Peninsula, and other treasures, according to The Telegraph.

Nobody quite knows why women aren’t allowed on Okinoshima, but we do know that the rule dates back to ancient times. Multiple theories exist, including that it was too dangerous for childbearing women to travel from the mainland, or that female pilgrims were considered "impure" because they menstruated.

Male visitors have their own set of guidelines to follow: Once they've arrived on Okinoshima, they're required to take off their clothing and perform a cleansing ritual. They're also not allowed to take any items home—big or small—from the island, or talk about their trip once they've returned home.

This codified set of instructions isn’t exactly conducive to tourism, which will surely grow if Okinoshima ends up being registered on the World Heritage list. Religious officials say they’ll deal with any issues as they arise, but that they’re not making any exceptions for women visitors. (That said, we know of a UNESCO-recognized matriarchal island off the coast of Estonia that will welcome them with open arms.)

[h/t BBC News]

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Okinoshima, Munakata, Fukuoka, Japan
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
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Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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Okinoshima, Munakata, Fukuoka, Japan
Pol Viladoms
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architecture
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
Pol Viladoms
Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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