Let’s walk out to Miyajima’s famous floating gate!

Before now, you’d have to be able to walk on water to see Miyajima’s famous “floating torii gate” up close and personal, but thanks to a brief window of lingering construction access, the only superpower we mere mortals need is the ability to stand in line! For the past three years, this World Heritage siteContinue reading “Let’s walk out to Miyajima’s famous floating gate!”

Epic Japanese Cake Show: Part 1

No Japanese apartment comes equipped with an oven. That shocked me, until I stopped to think about it, and realized not a single traditional Japanese dish requires baking. Which doesn’t keep them from being some of the most skilled bakers in the world. Like the fiber artists of the Tokyo International Quilt Festival, the pastryContinue reading “Epic Japanese Cake Show: Part 1”

Yes, all these origami cranes were folded from ONE sheet of paper!

I don’t know about you, but I have to lie down and rest after wrestling one square of origami paper into a crane, let alone folding hundreds, none bigger than a quarter and all connected because they’re made from a single sheet of paper! The insane art of renzuru has been practiced in Japan sinceContinue reading “Yes, all these origami cranes were folded from ONE sheet of paper!”

This Does Not Make Me Want To Eat That Cheesecake

From the Tokyo bakery that has been indicted for misusing the Universal Garnish on previous occasions comes this inexplicable frippery. I had to press my nose right up against the glass to figure out that this cheesecake is decorated with… …shriveled grapes and pine needles? •

Art Aquarium Lives!

If Japan had a shrine dedicated to goldfish, the new Art Aquarium Museum would be it. It’s fitting that as you enter the new, permanent home of my favorite summer event, you really feel like you’re stepping into another dimension, a world where goldfish are elevated to art… Countless varieties of fancy fish are displayedContinue reading “Art Aquarium Lives!”

Guess that flavor, J-style

Most Japanese people hate the taste of root beer (WHY?) so if it’s a hella hot day in Tokyo and you’re craving a root beer float, a soda topped with soft serve (and blasphemously adulterated with ice cubes) is about as close as you’re going to get. But how close is it? Well… The blueContinue reading “Guess that flavor, J-style”

Japan’s borders are finally opening! When are YOU going?

After two and a half looong years, the Japanese government finally announced that from October 11, 2022, you don’t have to be on a tour or book your tickets through a Japanese travel agent or get a visa, as long as you can prove you are vaccinated and boosted!* If you’ve been itching to goContinue reading “Japan’s borders are finally opening! When are YOU going?”

J-swag giveaway, the insanity of a Japanese bus tour & nutty noodles

Hi, it’s me, Jonelle.Now that I’m back in post-pandemic Japan, please sign up for the (free) Japanagram e-magazine if you’d like to get each month’s Japanese Home Cooking recipe, Beyond Tokyo travel destination, Why, Japan, Why dive into cultural oddities, Seasonal Secret, and Japan Swag Giveaway. Click on the button below to become one ofContinue reading “J-swag giveaway, the insanity of a Japanese bus tour & nutty noodles”

Japan’s funniest Mundane Halloween costumes 2021!

This year, pandemic-emergency bar, restaurant and movie theater lock-downs and working from home all came together to create the ideal conditions for an excellent crop of new Mundane Halloween costumes! Here are my favorites, and links to much, much more… ••• These are from @dailyportalz Twitter feed—he took these photos at a Mundane Halloween costumeContinue reading “Japan’s funniest Mundane Halloween costumes 2021!”

What do you need for cherry blossom season? Your own light-up Lego cherry tree!

Remember when I ordered all those fab Lego village kits? Well, the Buildiverse folks sent me one that I missed (or I would have already bought it instantly): this light-up pinkness of pinknesses! If you can’t be in Japan right now to see the real cherry trees put on their signature splendor, this is totallyContinue reading “What do you need for cherry blossom season? Your own light-up Lego cherry tree!”

Girls’ Day dolls with a side of quirky

Every March 3rd, families with daughters display a set of Girls’ Day dolls that represent the Imperial court at its Heian Era finest… …but these days, you don’t have to be a nobleman or a shrine maiden to ascend the vermilion steps! I saw all these sets in the town of Katsuura, which is famousContinue reading “Girls’ Day dolls with a side of quirky”

In Japan, You’re Never Too Young To…

…learn to charge your devices • …eat instant ramen • …get addicted to those coin-gobbling, impossible-to-win claw machines • …learn to drive a train • …drink tea • …start your own maid cafe • …organize your action figures’ weapons neatly on a 1/2 scale gun rack • …summon the forces of darkness •

Live eel sushi rolls

Just in time for Setsubun—the Japanese holiday on which demons are exorcized with dry beans and smelly sardines—the Sendai Umino-Mori Aquarium built this hilarious (and twisted!) ehōmaki sushi roll hideout for its garden eels. You’ll get the joke immediately if you know that ehōmaki rolls are only sold on Setsubun (which happens to fall onContinue reading “Live eel sushi rolls”

Speed Tribes come of age, Yanki style

Every year in the city of Kitakyushu, Coming-of-Age Day is celebrated in over-the top style by 20-year-olds kitted out in outlandish versions of Japanese formalwear. The second Monday in January (the holiday on which all Japanese twenty-year-olds become legal adults) is well known by kimono-spotters all over Japan as the best day all year toContinue reading “Speed Tribes come of age, Yanki style”

The best winter gift of 2020? A Japanese stomach warmer!

Don’t laugh! The humble haramaki is making a comeback, because nothing—and I mean nothing—keeps you warmer while sitting at your desk fielding endless zoom calls than this legwarmer for your midriff. Major tip o’ the blog beanie to my journalist friend Helen Foster from Down Unda, who reminded me that it’s haramaki season again! HerContinue reading “The best winter gift of 2020? A Japanese stomach warmer!”

Tokyo’s best-dressed nude statue: It’s that Santa time of year

Tokyo’s best-dressed nude statue changes into the jolly old elf for the month of December, but sometimes his costumers get a bit…creative. When they started in the year 2000, the first few years were pretty tame… Then someone gave him a pet reindeer Which ushered in a period of hog-wild experimentation… that provoked some sortContinue reading “Tokyo’s best-dressed nude statue: It’s that Santa time of year”

Japanese Lego Town Kits

If you don’t have someone on your list who would kill for one of these, you need new friends. These Lego kits for building your very own Japanese town populated by Japanese minifigs from all walks of life are hilariously accurate, and they keep delivering the delight, right down to the tiniest details. For example…Continue reading “Japanese Lego Town Kits”

Uber Dandy Kimono: Wildly modern, breathtakingly bold, insanely stunning

I’ve been a fan of the divine Tia Oguri since long before she began designing kimono with traditional African fabrics, because her kimono styling has always been out-of-this-world fresh and exciting. Her latest venture, though, is pure WOW. Take a look at her Uber Dandy Kimono designs, and I think you’ll agree that they showContinue reading “Uber Dandy Kimono: Wildly modern, breathtakingly bold, insanely stunning”

Perfect 2020 Halloween costumes from Japan

If you’re desperate to get out after months of quarantining and can’t resist that invite to a good old-fashioned Halloween party, the ace variety store Don Kihote suggests some costumes that will enforce that social distancing with a vengeance! •

When Nothing But Unnecessarily Large Tanuki Testicles Will Do

You’ve probably seen these adorable tanuki figures outside of your favorite Japanese bar or restaurant, but did you happen to notice how, er, well endowed they are? Yeah. Can’t unsee. Now that you know to look, it’s amazing you never noticed before, right? But nobody celebrated these giant gonads more inventively than Edo period artists.Continue reading “When Nothing But Unnecessarily Large Tanuki Testicles Will Do”

The World of The Last Tea Bowl Thief

The new book is a two-timeline tale, with one thread taking place in the samurai era, and the other unspooling in modern-day Tokyo, where two women from opposite sides of the globe discover that both their futures depend on possessing a cultural treasure that’s been missing since before they were born, but neither can getContinue reading “The World of The Last Tea Bowl Thief”

Subway manners meet covid—with a side of prejudice—in these new posters

Subway manners posters have admonished commuters not to whack fellow commuters onto the tracks with their rockabilly hair, avoid grabbing the station employees by their neckties, and stop dying from overwork, but this is the first time they’ve taken on rudeness in time of pandemic. Dashing onto a car just as the doors close andContinue reading “Subway manners meet covid—with a side of prejudice—in these new posters”

Entertainingly altered missionary signs elevate cats to their rightful place

Twitter user Derek Wessman is a genius to have spotted (and appropriately translated) these brilliantly vandalized Japanese missionary signs that change the word “god” into the word “cat” by removing a few small strokes. “The kingdom of Cat is close at hand” And they just get better! • “Both earth and man are Cat’s” •Continue reading “Entertainingly altered missionary signs elevate cats to their rightful place”

Amazing scenes emerge as you use this notepad

The Japanese design firm Triad just released one of the most Japanese products ever: the Hogwarts Castle notepad. Wait, that’s not Japanese! But…it is. Obviously, people who just need to jot down their grocery lists aren’t going to shell out nearly two hundred bucks. This is about buying an experience, paying for the delight ofContinue reading “Amazing scenes emerge as you use this notepad”

How lucky is YOUR name?

When your parents agonized over the perfect name for you, I hope they avoided all the usual pitfalls—initials that accidentally spell swear words, traumatizing nicknames, monikers that belong to disgraced celebrities or lame people they knew growing up—but if they aren’t Japanese, I bet they didn’t think about the numbers. Wait, what? Numbers? What numbers?Continue reading “How lucky is YOUR name?”

Hilarious haiku ask those burning questions about modern life

The talented artist known as y_haiku on Twitter and Instagram does it again! Why is it that… Movie hackersalways commit their crimesin dark rooms? • Why is it that… I don’t need that discarded manualuntil it’s timeto find the right charger? • Why is it that… I can never make it looklike I remembered toContinue reading “Hilarious haiku ask those burning questions about modern life”

When you wish upon a…monk?

I don’t know about you, but this year has given me a lot more respect for luck than I used to have. In Japan, people are a lot more comfortable with acknowledging that stuff we can’t control—aka Fate—plays a huge part in determining the course of our lives. But, of course, they still try toContinue reading “When you wish upon a…monk?”

Six Surprising Reasons Japanese People Wear Masks, Even When There’s No Pandemic

If you’ve been puzzling over why Japan is such a “mask-wearing society,” it’s not because they’re all super-OCD about germs. Here are six excellent Japanese reasons to wear a mask that have nothing to do with the dread COVID: 1 – You overslept Because if this is your typical morning routine… …you can cut yourContinue reading “Six Surprising Reasons Japanese People Wear Masks, Even When There’s No Pandemic”

Live Your Best Miniature Life for a Year in Tokyo’s Small Worlds Theme Park

If you’ve ever wished you could shrink yourself and live in one of the amazing model worlds Japan is so famous for…now you can! Small Worlds—a vast, animatronic, model-trains-on-steriods theme park that not only reimagines Tokyo, but the Sailor Moon and Evangelion versions of it—offers a one-year “residence permit” that allows a tiny 3D-scanned modelContinue reading “Live Your Best Miniature Life for a Year in Tokyo’s Small Worlds Theme Park”

An Only-In-Japan Problem If There Ever Was One

We’re coming into high matsuri season, when the local Shinto gods are paraded through the neighborhood to remind them of all the people and businesses they’re supposed to be keeping a lucky eye on, but these sake-filled summertime festivals that feature scantily-clad men rocking that shrine through the streets… come with their own peculiar anxiety…Continue reading “An Only-In-Japan Problem If There Ever Was One”

Japanese Emoticons: So Many Feels Beyond Emoji

You know how they keep adding emoji, but there never seems to be one that matches exactly how you’re feeling? Do you ever find yourself wishing that, for example, there was one to represent the happy you feel when the shoes you ordered online turn out to be cute AND comfortable, and a different oneContinue reading “Japanese Emoticons: So Many Feels Beyond Emoji”

Modern Kimonos To Die For: These Designers Are Giving An Old Artform New Edge

Hello, fellow kimono lovers of all shapes, sizes, colors, & geographic persuasions! Kimono princessing is all about mixing East and West, colors and patterns, styles and eras, and it warmly embraces vintage, second-hand delights as well as new. But there are a growing number of talented designers who have boosted the ancient artform onto modernContinue reading “Modern Kimonos To Die For: These Designers Are Giving An Old Artform New Edge”

Tweets from the Pillow Book: Pandemic Version

If Sei Shonagon (author of that famous tenth-century snark-bible The Pillow Book) had been alive today and quarantined with the rest of us, I’m pretty sure she’d have tweeted these: @seishonagon The flowers in full bloom at a closed park #thingsthataredistantthoughnear • @seishonagon You finally make it to the front of the line for the supermarket, but realizeContinue reading “Tweets from the Pillow Book: Pandemic Version”

J-style Social Distancing Measurements for the Rest of Us

Yesterday I posted about Japan’s highly amusing subway posters that tell people to stand one tuna away from fellow pandemic commuters… But in the rest of the world, giant tuna are not exactly an everyday sight. I heard that Florida was suggesting a more familiar local measurement: Lol. But how big is an alligator, really?Continue reading “J-style Social Distancing Measurements for the Rest of Us”

How To Measure Social Distance, J-Style

Those of us who’ve been under quarantine for a month have stood in enough lines by now that we’ve probably got a pretty good eye for the “six foot” (two meter) guideline, but in crowded Japan, not so much. So they’ve plastered the subways with posters giving hilariously helpful hints for judging how close notContinue reading “How To Measure Social Distance, J-Style”

Kanji Drill Toilet Paper: For All Your Japanese Study Needs

Take care of two pressing needs at once with the ideal Japanese product for these troubled times: Professor Poop kanji-studying toilet paper! Schools are closed, but that doesn’t mean kids have an excuse to slack off – anyone who stops relentlessly memorizing those complicated kanji characters every week won’t be able to read the dailyContinue reading “Kanji Drill Toilet Paper: For All Your Japanese Study Needs”

Kawaii Masks

Hey, just because we all have to wear masks now doesn’t mean we have to look like grim extras from ER. In Japan, face masks have been a fashion go-to forever, because everyone still wanted to look kawaii while not spreading around their sneezy, cough-y plague-droplets in public. But it wasn’t long before the mastersContinue reading “Kawaii Masks”

Artist Turns The Best Pet Tweets Into Hilarious Tiny Sculptures

If I had to nominate one artist for Most Sanity-Saving In The Time of Coronavirus, it would absolutely be @meetissai, whose miniature sculptures inspired by pet tweets never fail to make me laugh out loud. Step away from your keyboard if you’re drinking tea, because I now present, for your spench-worthy enjoyment, these. If youContinue reading “Artist Turns The Best Pet Tweets Into Hilarious Tiny Sculptures”

These lovely Tokyo sites light up at night

One of the most entertaining things you can do in Tokyo is wander around the city after the sun goes down, if you know where to look. The wizards of stagecraft have worked their magic all over town, and all kinds of interesting stuff lights up after dark, in dramatic and technologically inventive ways. AndContinue reading “These lovely Tokyo sites light up at night”

Cutest Curry Rice Molds On The Planet

I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to Japanese curry rice molds, but these two cuties redefine ADORABLE. The only problem is that it comes in both cat and panda, and it’s too hard to decide (would it be greedy to get both? SHUT UP) •

Five Japanese flower seasons that will make you happy you missed the cherry blossoms

If you have to postpone your Japan trip and miss the cherry blossoms this spring, don’t despair! There are other flower seasons you can catch after the current contagion dies down that deliver just as much flowers-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see amazement, without the crowds. If eye-popping flowers are what you’re longing to see, here are my five favorites,Continue reading “Five Japanese flower seasons that will make you happy you missed the cherry blossoms”

More Haiku Musings On The Ironies Of Modern Life

Elderly uncle buying sake. Do I really have to Check his ID? • This odd store. I’ve never seen a customer here, Yet, it survives. • The forecast changes To match the weather. Sneaky. • Why was my prayer So much shorter? I’m embarrassed. • That gangster Would be more frightening Without the child seats.Continue reading “More Haiku Musings On The Ironies Of Modern Life”

Feast Your Eyes On This: A Shop Full Of Taisho, Meiji & Showa Era Kimonos

Today I was beelining toward a garden, through a neighborhood I never visit, when I was stopped cold by the kimono lovers’ equivalent of Aladdin’s Cave. Before I knew it, I was inside, powerless to resist. Which is a good thing, because otherwise I never would have discovered that this emporium of jazz-age kimonos, obis,Continue reading “Feast Your Eyes On This: A Shop Full Of Taisho, Meiji & Showa Era Kimonos”

Spring Arrives Early: Flowers by Naked 2020

Just when you’re beginning to long for spring but it’s still shivery and damp and gray outside…Flowers By Naked arrives! The projection-mapping environment group Naked is staging its annual flower-themed extravaganza again for the whole month of February, so hop on over there and get a dose of spring fever. Open: Every day from January 30Continue reading “Spring Arrives Early: Flowers by Naked 2020”

How Did I Survive Before There Were Standing Cat Toys?

The question isn’t really “Do I really need more gachapon capsule toys?” but “How did I ever communicate without them?” This series may be sold out by the time you’re next in Tokyo, but there will be plenty more to take its place! If you’d like to discover the latest, greatest, gachagacha, a guide to the best gachaponContinue reading “How Did I Survive Before There Were Standing Cat Toys?”

If You Miss The 2020 Tokyo International Quilt Festival You Will Have REGRETS

I won’t be in town for the Tokyo International Quilt Festival next week <sob!> but if you are, go. The hundreds of quilts on display will be world-class quality, and you will alternately sigh with admiration at the stitchery, boggle at the colors, laugh at the humor, and shake you head in wonderment at theContinue reading “If You Miss The 2020 Tokyo International Quilt Festival You Will Have REGRETS”