Cherry Blossom-Flavored Treats Are the Pumpkin Spice of Japan

According to Square, the sale of pumpkin spice-related products in the United States increased 1200 percent from August to October of last year. Some might find that trend baffling, but the truth is, we're not alone in our seasonal flavor obsessions. In Japan, the annual taste sensation is sakura, also known as cherry blossoms, and both Starbucks and Baskin-Robbins have gotten an early start on selling their own variations on the theme.

Cherry blossoms bloom at different times throughout Japan, but they largely appear between March and May. According to Japan Today, Baskin Robbins (known locally as B-R Thirty One Ice Cream) is bringing back sakura-flavored ice cream after a 24-year hiatus. The ice cream will include cherry blossom leaves as an ingredient, and is described as having a cherry blossom rice cake taste with what Japan Today describes as “just a hint of salt.” The Japan Times describes cherry blossom leaves as having a “fragrant, salty-sour taste,” and as any foodie knows, the salty/sweet combo is a winning one.

The flavor became available today and will stick around until May. The launch comes just a week before Sakura Pepsi, but nearly a month behind Starbucks and its "Sakura Blossom" frappuccinos and lattes (seen above), which launched on February 15. As Japan Today points out, the Starbucks rollout missed Hina Matsuri, a holiday where eating a treat called sakura mochi is customary, and was too early for the actual bloom season, but given the country’s history of sakura-flavored cuisine, timing probably isn't everything.

If cherry blossom sweet treats aren’t your style, there's always hope that McDonald’s will bring back its limited edition Sakura and teriyaki pork burger.

Images via iStock.

[h/t Japan Today]

China Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Restore the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China has been standing proudly for thousands of years—but now, it needs your help. CNN reports that the wall has fallen into disrepair and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money for restorations.

Stretching 13,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built in stages starting from the third century BCE and reaching completion in the 16th century. To some degree, though, it’s always been under construction. For centuries, individuals and organizations have periodically repaired and rebuilt damaged sections. However, the crowdfunding campaign marks the first time the internet has gotten involved in the preservation of the ancient icon. The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation is trying to raise $1.6 million (11 million yuan) to restore the wall, and has so far raised $45,000 (or 300,000 yuan).

Fundraising coordinator Dong Yaohui tells the BBC that, although the Chinese government provides some funds for wall repairs, it’s not enough to fix all of the damage: "By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

[h/t CNN]

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YouTube // Deep Look
These Glowing Worms Mimic Shining Stars
YouTube // Deep Look
YouTube // Deep Look

The glow worms of New Zealand's Waitomo caves produce light, mimicking the starry night sky. Using sticky goop, they catch moths and other flying creatures unfortunate enough to flutter into the "starry" cavern. Beautiful and icky in equal parts, this Deep Look video takes you inside the cave, and up close with these worms. Enjoy:

There's also a nice write-up with animated GIFs if you're not in the mood for video. Want more glow worms? Check out this beautiful timelapse in a similar cave, or our list of 19 Places You Won't Believe Exist topped by—you guessed it—New Zealand's Glowworm Caves!


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