Kimono Princess For A Day!

Ever since I discovered that one of the most inspiring kimono stylists I know offers private tour and photo sessions, I’ve been dying to swan around Tokyo in a gorgeous ensemble, styled down to the last deco bracelet by modern kimono maven Anji Salz. (If you don’t already follow @salztokyo on Instagram, check these photosContinue reading “Kimono Princess For A Day!”

The One Word Saint

As the old year draws to a close (and we say good riddance to all that was disappointing and discouraging), and a new year is about to begin (along with the ever-springing hope that it will be better than the last), I find myself thinking about this odd little booth that sits in a quietContinue reading “The One Word Saint”

Fresh Acts Of Santa Blasphemy

Once again, Japanese costume purveyors are outdoing themselves with even more WTF ways to impersonate Saint Nick, which (I think you’ll have to agree) is a pretty heroic effort if you dispense with the red suit, the beard, and even the tiniest nod to jolly… Happy holidays, fellow Japan warriors! And don’t forget that… •

At The Mori Museum: 3D-Printed Sushi & Other Glimpses Of The Future

The Mori Museum’s current exhibit, Future and the Arts: AI, Robotics, Cities, Life – How Humanity Will Live Tomorrow pushes all my favorite buttons: food, fashion & WTF! It’s a satisfyingly huge show, with installations ranging from utopian plans that harness cutting-edge tech, to darker commentary on how we’ll use technology to evolve in a worldContinue reading “At The Mori Museum: 3D-Printed Sushi & Other Glimpses Of The Future”

Where To See The Best Holiday Illuminations In Tokyo 2019!

The frenzy of building bigger, newer, better illuminations with which to charm shoppers during the holiday season has died back a bit in Tokyo, but there are still plenty of amazing free displays, if you know where to look! Here are my must-sees for 2019: • New for 2019! HIBIYA MIDTOWN This is the firstContinue reading “Where To See The Best Holiday Illuminations In Tokyo 2019!”

The Shrine Maiden Vending Machine

Are ya feelin’ lucky? Because this vending machine dispenses fortunes, just like the ones you can buy at Japanese shrines! But that’s not all – it’s delivered by a little animatronic shrine maiden, who fetches if from the inner precincts and deposits it in the offering box for your future-divining pleasure. If you’d like toContinue reading “The Shrine Maiden Vending Machine”

Where To See The Best Autumn Leaves In Tokyo…Lit Up At Night!

The hot new trend of holiday illuminations in Tokyo has spread to the gardens and parks, with more and more lighting up their naturally spectacular autumn leaves and opening for special evening viewing! Here are my current favorites: • SHOWA KINEN PARK near Tachikawa Station There are two areas lit up at night: 1: TheContinue reading “Where To See The Best Autumn Leaves In Tokyo…Lit Up At Night!”

Killer Chrysanthemums 2019

It’s that time of year again, when the chrysanthemum wranglers of Tokyo liberate their flower-of-choice from ragtag funeral bouquets and show the world they can hold their own with far more glamorous blooms! Here’s what’s new for 2019: • YUSHIMA TENJIN SHRINE The rest of the displays at the Yushima Shrine are here: Where ToContinue reading “Killer Chrysanthemums 2019”

One Fried Noodle Sandwich, Please

From the land that junk food shame forgot, this. A yakisoba sandwich is basically the Japanese equivalent of cold pizza for breakfast, on a bun. This is what frugal Japanese fry up for breakfast if one of their fridge leftovers happens to be noodles, so it was rare to find this homely item for saleContinue reading “One Fried Noodle Sandwich, Please”

The Most Beautiful Autumn Leaves In Japan

Last fall on this exact day, I was ogling some of the most gorgeous autumn leaves in Japan, and I’ve been WAITING for the season to roll around again, so I can show you! All these places are within shouting distance of Tokyo, but while the leaves are still maddeningly green in the city, they’reContinue reading “The Most Beautiful Autumn Leaves In Japan”

Smart Illumination Yokohama 2019: WOW

This year, there were fewer artworks at the Yokohama Smart Illuminations, but the ones on exhibit were SO worth seeing! Or – more accurately – worth DOING. Because this year the participation element was front and center, and quite a few of them required serious athletic juice from the audience to power them. Here’s aContinue reading “Smart Illumination Yokohama 2019: WOW”

Insanely Detailed Sculptures Made From Japanese Snack Packages

From the nation of insane Japanese modelmakers, this. The artist known as “Karabako Shokunin Harukiru” (That’s “Empty Box Craftsman Harukiru” to you), snips and folds and glues the unlikely medium of Japanese snack food boxes into unbelievably intricate sculptures, and right now there’s a killer exhibit of his work at the Ikebukuro PARCO museum. AndContinue reading “Insanely Detailed Sculptures Made From Japanese Snack Packages”

The Most Only-In-Japan Halloween Costumes Ever

Tired of being the same old sexy skunk or slightly NSFW goose in a tutu for Halloween? Keep your fellow costume partiers guessing with these only-in-Japan puzzlers! I found these at the always-entertaining Don Kihote megastore in Shibuya. And if you still haven’t hit on your dream costume, you can always check out what theContinue reading “The Most Only-In-Japan Halloween Costumes Ever”

Tokyo Cake Show: So Gorgeous, So Japanese

How can you tell a professional baking conference is in Tokyo? Because among the fantasy wedding cakes, there’s a Shinto shrine wedding, complete with marzipan bride and groom. And then there was the “marzipan cake” category. But the Japanese themes didn’t stop with the cakes – check out these king-sized decorations made of chocolate. AndContinue reading “Tokyo Cake Show: So Gorgeous, So Japanese”

This Year’s Burning October Question: What’s The Peeing Statue Wearing For Halloween?

I had to go check to make sure that the best-dressed nude statue in Tokyo made it through the typhoon safely. And he did! Not only that, he already knows what he’s going to be for Halloween. But…huh? As you can see, “witch” costumes in Japan are subject to the same considerable creative interpretation that hasContinue reading “This Year’s Burning October Question: What’s The Peeing Statue Wearing For Halloween?”

Typhoon Aftermath

Today when I woke up, it was hot and sunny. It didn’t seem possible that twelve hours ago, the biggest typhoon in sixty years was raging through Tokyo. So I went out to take a look at one of the places that had been evacuated – a neighborhood next to the Tama River. The topContinue reading “Typhoon Aftermath”

In Which We Report On Being Hammered By Typhoon Hagibis In Tokyo

FRIDAY Pre-typhoon festivities: At Meidi-ya (the swanky “Japanese” supermarket): Lines fifteen deep with bulging baskets as every Japanese person in my neighborhood panic-buys foods that still qualify as gourmet without cooking or refrigeration. Meanwhile, at National Azabu (the “foreign foods” supermarket): Business as usual (except with rather more wine bottles in the baskets ahead ofContinue reading “In Which We Report On Being Hammered By Typhoon Hagibis In Tokyo”

Dahlia Bonanza At The Toshogu Shrine

Every fall, this exquisitely curated exhibition happens at the Toshogu Shrine in Ueno Park, at the same place that hosts the eye-popping peony specimens in May. If you haven’t got your dahlia fix quite yet, check out these beauties from when I went to the same exhibit two years ago: In The Japanese Dahlia GardenContinue reading “Dahlia Bonanza At The Toshogu Shrine”

The Eleven Strangest Shrines In Tokyo

Tokyo is stuffed with gorgeous shrines and temples, but some of the gods in residence have hilarious and entertaining specialties! Here are the ones dedicated to my favorite kami-sama and how to snag some of their favor for yourself: • THE WART SHRINE Resident kami-sama’s superpower: Curing warts How to get your warts cured: Throw aContinue reading “The Eleven Strangest Shrines In Tokyo”

Giant Paper Lanterns On Wheels

Usually you’d have to hie yourself all the way up to rural Aomori* to catch a glimpse of these epic glowing floats, but lucky for me, last fall I happened across an outpost of the Nebuta Festival right in my own backyard! For some mysterious reason, six of the outrageously great floats were swanning down the shopping street near NakanobuContinue reading “Giant Paper Lanterns On Wheels”

I Saw Another New Wild Animal In Tokyo!

There I was, drinking in the serene green at the Kiyosumi Garden… …when I nearly stepped on this. It’s (weirdly) classified as “invasive” (because China) and “threatened.” Which shouldn’t surprised me, after hearing what Japanese visitors talk about at the aquarium. In these here parts, this unlikely snack is better known as suppon. •

Jazz Age Paintings Of Beautiful Women And The Real Kimonos They Were Wearing

If you love kimono – and especially if you love Taisho and Showa-age kimono – don’t miss this exhibition! Right now, the Yayoi-Yumeji Museum – where over 3,000 of artist/illustrator Takehisa Yumeji’s works are archived – is displaying the actual kimonos and accessories worn in his paintings, side by side. I’m a huge fan of TaishoContinue reading “Jazz Age Paintings Of Beautiful Women And The Real Kimonos They Were Wearing”

The Tool For All Your Chrome-plated Outdoor Needs

The must be the tool you’d need when pulling into the glamping spot in your pristine 4-wheel drive, to, I dunno…shovel a few more steaks onto the barbie? Return your cocktail garnishes to the earth from whence they came? Bury bodies above your pay grade? •

3-D Goldfish Art: Wait, Those Are PAINTINGS?

Riusuke Fukahori paints 3-D goldfish so real you can’t believe they’re not wriggling. And I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but the exhibit of his work going on RIGHT NOW at the Sano Art Museum in Mishima is so astounding, that in real life, the fish look more real than in the photos. HisContinue reading “3-D Goldfish Art: Wait, Those Are PAINTINGS?”

When The Gods Decide To Plant A Lotus Garden, They Don’t Mess Around

It was construction as usual in the town of Gyoda, until an excavation for a new building hit a layer of lotus plants that had been dead for thousands of years. They didn’t think much of it, until the rain came, and the ancient lotus seeds began to sprout. When the plants bloomed, the flowersContinue reading “When The Gods Decide To Plant A Lotus Garden, They Don’t Mess Around”

If Only Japanese Rock Gardens Were Filled With Cooling Mist & Illuminations…

Oh. Wait. At Tokyo Midtown this summer, they are! On the lawn that hosts those amazing winter illuminations, they’ve constructed a wide wooden veranda enclosing a “rock garden,” complete with clouds of mist and a fireworks-themed lightshow. And the best part is, you can sit and dangle your feet for as long as you like,Continue reading “If Only Japanese Rock Gardens Were Filled With Cooling Mist & Illuminations…”

Rice Field Art

In what has to be the weirdest creative medium next to the Seed Art Pavilion at the Minnesosta State Fair, Japanese farmers have taken to making large-scale art by planting some of their fields in different strains of rice. The only problem is, in order to even see what the picture is of, you haveContinue reading “Rice Field Art”

Floating Lanterns

Candle-lit lanterns floating across a pond in the moonlight? Yes, please! This Toro Nagashi lantern ceremony was at the Ueno temple that sits amid the nodding lotus heads of Shinobazu Pond, and it was lovely. What I didn’t know was that it signals the end of annual O-bon festivities, the three days in summer when theContinue reading “Floating Lanterns”

Viva la Revolućion…Diva Style

I’ve got to hand it to the fearless players of Takurazuka – they might be the only women in the world who regularly get up on stage and play the parts of men with iconic beards and legendary moustaches. Their current musical production features everyone’s favorite Cuban revolotionary, who rocks the glam eye makeup aContinue reading “Viva la Revolućion…Diva Style”

Where To See The Most Divine Lotus Blossoms In Tokyo

Most flower seasons in Japan are like hitting the jackpot, but lotus season is more of a treasure hunt. Instead of fields of I-can’t-believe-my-eyes color, you have to hunt for the sublime pinkness amid a sea of green. But when you find it… Lotus flowers open at first light, are at their best from aboutContinue reading “Where To See The Most Divine Lotus Blossoms In Tokyo”

Things I Did Not Know You Could Do With A Lotus Leaf

This morning I was at the Sankei-en garden in Yokohama at the ungodly hour of 7:00 a.m. to see their field of lotus in bloom, but it was the bonus attractions that really made my day! Sankei-en has special early weekend opening hours during The Season, because (who knew?) lotus flowers only bloom in theContinue reading “Things I Did Not Know You Could Do With A Lotus Leaf”

The Enchanted Hydrangea Forest

The spring rainy season isn’t the most delightful time to be in Japan…unless you’re hiking through a shady forest, surrounded by heaps and heaps of blue hydrangeas! Minamisawa Ajisai Mountain’s groomed trails wind up the side of a mountain, through a silent and stately cedar forest that’s robed in countless poufs of cooling blue andContinue reading “The Enchanted Hydrangea Forest”

Under The Umbrella Sky

If there’s a better way to celebrate Japan’s summer rainy season, show me! This is the latest environmental art exhibit at Metsa Village, the same place where Digitized Lakeside and Forest happened last winter. And best of all…it’s free! This path is the entrance to the paying areas of Moomin Village and other attractions, butContinue reading “Under The Umbrella Sky”

The Cat Shaming Vending Machine

How did you guess that the moment I caught a glimpse of this vending machine filled with cat shaming gachagacha, all my laundry coins would be history? There was only one problem… I got the first four before running out of coins, but how could I not come back to try for the mystery cat?Continue reading “The Cat Shaming Vending Machine”

The Secret Facelift Belt

Not content to merely give people taller noses, smaller faces, and glued eyelids, now there’s a Japanese beauty appliance that irons out saggy face parts! Depending on which wrinkly bit most offends you, the elastic “facelift” belt comes in both “face” and “eye” packages… …although it looks like it’s the same product inside, just withContinue reading “The Secret Facelift Belt”

Japanese Gift Boxes of Overwhelming Cuteness

Gifting in Japan requires that the wrapping be nearly as precious as what’s inside, but I can never remember how to tie a traditional silk furoshiki without the book that reminds me how to fold and tuck the corners so it doesn’t turn out looking like I’m offering someone a wad of laundry. But evenContinue reading “Japanese Gift Boxes of Overwhelming Cuteness”

Move Over, Monkeys! See-no Evil, Hear-no-Evil, Speak-no-Evil Cats Are Here

Sticking to the straight and narrow has never been cuter, thanks to these adorable kittycat gacha-gacha toys, and the vending machine that dispenses them on the Yanaka Ginza shopping street. But most of all… This series may be sold out by the time you’re next in Tokyo, but there will be plenty more to takeContinue reading “Move Over, Monkeys! See-no Evil, Hear-no-Evil, Speak-no-Evil Cats Are Here”

Crispy Intestine Snacks

Despite the fact that this new snack is called “Addictive Intestines,” I’m afraid you won’t find me bingeing a bucket ‘o crispy innards while Netflixing my way through a Saturday night, even though they boast not just one, but two kinds of squicky bits. They do make it easy to pick through the mix forContinue reading “Crispy Intestine Snacks”

How Superheros Find Their Perfect Match

I had to laugh when I saw these ads on the subway for the Partner Agent dating service. It features famous manga characters who ordinarily would never meet because they occupy totally different Japanese comic book series. She’s a villain named Doronjo, known for being smart, take-charge, and vain. He’s an renegade medical mercenary, whoContinue reading “How Superheros Find Their Perfect Match”

Azalea Pilgrimage 2019

I know you’re exhausted after elbowing your way through the crazy crowds instagramming the cherry blossoms, which is why you should take a deep breath and go see the azaleas. Like cherry blossoms, the all-flowers-all-the-time spectacle will knock your socks off, but unlike the famous fluffy things, you can enjoy them in blissful near-solitude. HereContinue reading “Azalea Pilgrimage 2019”

Subway Manners…For Ghosts

I’m afraid this subway manners poster isn’t going to do much to convince Things That Go Bump In The Night to stop harassing passengers – in fact, it’ll probably infuriate them to learn that they are merely as annoying as a wet umbrella or an overstuffed backpack, thus triggering a supernatural reign of terror. Don’tContinue reading “Subway Manners…For Ghosts”

The Best Places To See Pink Rivers of Cherry Blossom Petals

The leaves are greening, hangovers cured, blue tarps furled, the madness over. Right? Wrong! Because as soon as the petals begin to fall, it’s hana-ikada season: “rafts of flowers” that float atop cherry tree-lined bodies of water, turning them into pink rivers! It’s a little trickier to catch the magic of the fallen petals thanContinue reading “The Best Places To See Pink Rivers of Cherry Blossom Petals”

The Scourge Of The Orange Jacket

Okay, I know you think I’m a whiner because I went off on this guy wearing an orange jacket, sitting right in the middle of a shot I wanted to take during cherry blossom season at Shinjuku Gyōen. I mean, one guy, minding his own business—so what if his head’s inside his phone instead ofContinue reading “The Scourge Of The Orange Jacket”

Hacking Hanami: How To Get Yourself Invited To A Cherry Blossom Party

Kicking back under clouds of pink blossoms in the warm spring sun, eating a picnic and drinking with friends – it’s something you always dreamed of doing in Japan, isn’t it? And then you get here, and you discover that unless you’re a member of a work group that puts on a hanami party, you’ll beContinue reading “Hacking Hanami: How To Get Yourself Invited To A Cherry Blossom Party”

Soft Drink Flavors I Do Not Want To Try

This yogurt-banana mash-up surfs in on the enduring popularity of the local favorite soft drink, Calpis, which inexplicably established sweetened sour milk as a delightful flavor in Japan. Peach Coke is just a blatant season grab. Here, eating “seasonal” fruits and vegetables delivers wave after wave of short-term binge buying on the part of consumers,Continue reading “Soft Drink Flavors I Do Not Want To Try”

Spot The Elvis

If you’re looking for a country with absolutely zero junk food guilt, you found it. Behold the bagel sandwiches available at this shop I spotted while walking through Azabu Juban last week. Yes, in addition to the Elvis (#15: peanut butter/bacon/banana) they also offer The Rainbow Colored (#20), which features a multi-colored bagel filled withContinue reading “Spot The Elvis”

Plum Blossoms Lit Up At Night

The Yushima Shrine is famous for its plum blossoms, and until the end of February, you can see them lit up at night! Even if you’re a cherry blossom loyalist (in which case I sentence you to visiting all my favorite plum tree gardens and upgrading your flower preferences JUST SAYIN’) it’s a grand opportunity toContinue reading “Plum Blossoms Lit Up At Night”

Flowers By Naked 2019

This year’s Flowers by Naked (at the same Coredo venue that hosts Art Aquarium during the summer) was better than last year but not as engaging as the first year I saw it. The art of projection mapped animation has taken such huge strides in three years that it kind of amazes me how wowed I wasContinue reading “Flowers By Naked 2019”

Shirakawago In The Snow

For years, I’ve wanted to see the old-fashioned farmhouse hamlet of Shirakawa-go all lit up at night in the snow, and this week I got half my wish. It turns out that ever since it was named a Unesco World Heritage Site, viewing the farmhouses lit up at night has become such a crazy tourist madhouseContinue reading “Shirakawago In The Snow”

Tokyo International Quilt Festival 2019 PART TWO: Just Beautiful

It was so hard to choose only a few quilts to feature from the embarrassment of riches at this year’s Tokyo International Quilt Festival, but here are some of the overall stunners, and a couple that had details to die for. • You can see why this piece won the 2018 Machine Quilting Award… •Continue reading “Tokyo International Quilt Festival 2019 PART TWO: Just Beautiful”