Hasekura Tsunenaga: the samurai who became a Roman citizen

Open Culture delved into the history of Hasekura Tsunenaga, a 17th century samurai who had an incredible life of travelling which included meeting Pope Paul V:

Sent on a mission to Europe and America by his feudal lord, Date Masumune, Hasekura “set off on a quest to earn riches and spiritual guidance,” Andrew Milne writes at All that’s Interesting. “He circumnavigated the globe, became part of the first Japanese group in Cuba, met the Pope, helped begin a branch of Japanese settlers in Spain (still thriving today), and even became a Roman citizen.”

Hasekura was a battle-tested samurai who had acted on the daimyo‘s behalf on many occasions. His mission to the West, however, was first and foremost a chance to redeem his honor and save his life. In 1612, Hasekura’s father was made to commit seppuku after an indictment for corruption. Stripped of lands and title, Hasekura could only avoid the same fate by going West, and so he did, just a few years before the period of sakoku, or national isolation, began in Japan. Traveling with Spanish missionary Luis Sotelo, Hasekura embarked from the small Japanese port of Tsukinoura in 1613 and first reached Cape Mendocino in California, then part of New Spain.

He went on to convert to Catholicism and became Philip Francis Faxecura.

Samurai related: A samurai made out of a single piece of paper, Indo apples, samurai, and Japanese farmers, Yasuke, the African samurai, and Samurai Pizza Cats.

Liam Wong – After Dark

Liam Wong's After Dark book

We’ve featured Liam Wong previously and now he’s back with a new book called “After Dark”.

After Dark is a one-of-a-kind publication documenting Wong’s nocturnal journeys through the world’s most captivating cities. Following his début monograph, TO:KY:OO, which captured Tokyo’s beauty at night, Wong widens his lens from the city that became his spiritual and photographic muse to Osaka to Kyoto, London to Seoul, Paris and Rome. But he goes still further, seeking the rich tapestries of night-life in the foggy historical streets of his hometown Edinburgh, penetrating the backstreets of the megacity Chongqing, seizing the verticality of Hong Kong from its rooftops.

In classic Liam Wong style, the book has been crafted with a meticulous eye for detail. I particularly like the cinematic feel of the shots and the custom typeface, designed by Toshi Omagari exclusively for the book. 

If you love photography or cinematography, you’ll love After Dark. A crowdfunding project was set up by Volume and met its goal within 48 hours. You can still pledge for a copy here.

An immaterial sculpture sells for €15,000

The artist of the empty space is Salvatore Garau from Italy. This is what he said about the expensive void:

The successful outcome of the auction testifies to an irrefutable fact: The void is nothing but a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and nothing remains, according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle that nothingness has a weight. It, therefore, has an energy that condenses and transforms itself into particles, in short, in us! When I decide to “exhibit” an immaterial sculpture in a given space, that space will concentrate a certain quantity and density of thoughts in a precise point, creating a sculpture that from my title alone will take the most varied forms. After all, don’t we give shape to a God we have never seen?

For more of Garau’s art, check out his Instagram.

How is supermarket pesto so cheap?

How is Supermarket Pesto so Cheap when the Ingredients are so Expensive? | Food Unwrapped

I wasn’t aware of the costs of pesto ingredients but apparently they’re more expensive than the jarred foodstuff suggests. The Food Unwrapped team travelled to Italy to investigate why supermarket pesto is so cheap considering the price of the ingredients.

Spoiler alert: it’s not as shady as it might seem. They use cheaper ingredients so supermarket pesto doesn’t always have fresh basil, fresh pine nuts, etc. This won’t surprise many but it’s nice to see how it’s made I guess. And that bit where they were picking the basil by hand made my body hurt just watching them.

How about some moose cheese to go with your pesto? Or Swiss gruyère?

La California: Italy's home of unofficial US polling stations

In a small Italian village called La California, people set up fake polling stations every 4 years for US elections. Atlas Obscura published an article about the settlement and its origins on Tuesday.

With a population of just over 1,000, as a settlement it dates back to the Paleolithic, and reached a peak during the Etruscan civilization in the first millennium BC. But it wasn’t until around 1860, when Tuscany joined the Kingdom of Italy—just a decade after California became America’s 31st state—that Italy’s own California was born. Eventually it would come to feel a kinship with its much larger namesake half a world away.

There’s a debate over where the name came from—the most famous related to Italian conmen promising Sicilians the joy of California, only to take them to Tuscany and keeping their money.

Lost and bamboozled, it is said, the Southern migrants named the town after their hoped-for destination. But Andrenacci has proven this story wrong, with evidence that the village called La California before that time.

There’s also a story starring Buffalo Bill:

Another legend involves the 1890 European tour of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West circus, and a challenge to local cowboys, called butteri. Andrenacci throws cold water on this one as well, and in his book California, Oltre il mito (California, Behind the Myth) offers another solution to the mystery: a man named Leonetto Cipriani.

Whatever the origin, the genesis of the unofficial polling stations started in 2004 and they’ve been going ever since. I wonder whether Las Californians will vote for Trump or Biden.