“Digitized Lakeside and Forest” Outdoor Art Installation

If ogling giant resonating eggs and gawking at color-changing trees isn’t what you’re planning to do this weekend, cancel your plans and get thee out to Hanno to see this new digital art installation instead! It meanders halfway around the small lake in the Metsa Village recreation area, and it’s everything glow-in-the-dark entertainment should be.Continue reading ““Digitized Lakeside and Forest” Outdoor Art Installation”

Tokyo International Quilt Festival 2019 PART ONE: Eyepopping Japanese Motif Quilts

I didn’t think it was possible to be more blown away than I was in 2016, by the sheer artistry and sewing chops I ogled at the Tokyo International Quilt Festival, but yesterday it happened again. In fact, there are so many quilts I want to show you, I’m going to break this into twoContinue reading “Tokyo International Quilt Festival 2019 PART ONE: Eyepopping Japanese Motif Quilts”

Lighting Up The Winter Night

Because I’m helplessly drawn to things that glow in the dark (gee, ya think?), I recently returned to two of my favorite lit-up-for-winter amusement parks, because I’d heard that they’d updated their gazillion-fairy-twinkle extravaganzas. (And you can check them out too, if you’re anywhere near Tokyo, until Valentines Day!) SAGAMIKO “ILLUMILLIONS” THEME PARK Fair warning:Continue reading “Lighting Up The Winter Night”

Dogs In Kimonos: Shiba Edition!

The only thing in all of Japan that might be cuter than huskies in kimonos is a parade of shiba inus in kimono. Shibas are well-known for making like the Petrified Forest and refusing to budge until even the tiniest hint of humiliating costumery is removed, but the noble beasts I caught making their first shrineContinue reading “Dogs In Kimonos: Shiba Edition!”

And This Year’s Winners In The Tournament Of Weird Japanese Appliances Are…

In for the gold by a mile: the Electric Sweet Potato Roaster In the steamy competition for Most Japanese Appliance Ever, I think you’ll have to agree that the electric sweet potato roaster owns the podium. Not only is it good for making one thing (and one thing only), that thing is the most Japanese winterContinue reading “And This Year’s Winners In The Tournament Of Weird Japanese Appliances Are…”

How To Survive New Year’s In Japan

Seriously. The fear is real. New Year’s is one of those times in Japan when it’s a real liability to be thousands of miles away from people who might loan you embarrassing essentials or feed you in a pinch, because everything – and I do mean everything – shuts down from December 31 to JanuaryContinue reading “How To Survive New Year’s In Japan”

Top Ten Crazy Holiday Gifts From Japan 2018

These days, everyone wants “experiences,” not “stuff,” so how about digging into your Santa sack for presents that deliver #youllneverguesswhatwedids that could only come from (where else?)…Japan! This year, give the gift of… 1 …making your own Panda Face sushi and finding out who’s the fastest panda-grabber in the land Level up by slipping in aContinue reading “Top Ten Crazy Holiday Gifts From Japan 2018”

Department Of Seasonal Pet Humiliation: This Year’s Santa Cat Costume

Sporting all the premium quality you’d expect from a ¥400 vending machine, this Santa Claws capelet just might be the perfect gift for someone who dreams of #catsofinstagram glory (and is willing to risk the kind of revenge that will certainly be extracted after uploading Growler’s humiliation for all the world to see). •

Cat Feet Chair Socks!

I know that you’ll be super envious to hear that my kitchen chairs are now prancing around on little cat feet! Gone are the days when the awful screeching sound of chair on floor could drive guests away faster than a pot of soup generously endowed with all four kinds of cow stomach. These “Tiger Feet”Continue reading “Cat Feet Chair Socks!”

Where To See The Best Illuminations In Tokyo 2018

Free displays of holiday illuminations have become a huge attraction in Tokyo  – probably because they’re the most instabae invention since selfie sticks – and every year they get bigger and better. Here are this year’s offerings from my favorite places to see them… • • Most Entertaining • TOKYO MIDTOWN But let’s not mess aroundContinue reading “Where To See The Best Illuminations In Tokyo 2018”

Gateway To Chrysanthemum Bliss?

Okay, what do you think THIS floral designer got in trouble for drawing in the margins of his schoolbooks…? If I’d come in through this portal, I might never have made it to the annual Shinjuku National Garden chrysanthemum displays, because I’d have died laughing, so it’s a good thing I entered from the otherContinue reading “Gateway To Chrysanthemum Bliss?”

Remote Control Hell At The Traditional Inn

On Tuesday I arrived at a fabulous onsen in Tateshima, expecting to simmer in their hot spring, gaze at splendid autumn leaves in luxurious quietude, and stuff myself with regional specialties, but when I got to my room I found…this. I mean, what the heckin’ heck? Five remotes to control a tatami-floored room at aContinue reading “Remote Control Hell At The Traditional Inn”

Chrysanthemums Like You’ve Never Seen Before

The fall leaves aren’t winning any awards this year in Tokyo, so thank whatever gods are in charge of making autumn insta-worthy that there are still chrysanthemums! Yes, it’s time once again for your socks to be knocked right off, with… These photos are from the 2018 displays at the Yushima Shrine and Kameido Tenjin,Continue reading “Chrysanthemums Like You’ve Never Seen Before”

Smart Illumination Yokohama 2018: ALL THE YES

Woo hoo, it’s time for the annual art-as-entertainment Yokohama Smart Illumination 2018! This year, for some reason it took a giant leap in quality, and although the artspeak “explaining” each piece is equally opaque in Japanese and English, you don’t need to know what the artist was trying to say in order to have aContinue reading “Smart Illumination Yokohama 2018: ALL THE YES”

The Shiba Inu Vending Machine

Finally! A series of shiba inu gachagacha toys made by an artist who understands that these devilish dogs are not just unbearably adorable, they come packed with a level of eccentric that makes eel-flavored ice cream look like vanilla. This series may be sold out by the time you’re next in Tokyo, but there willContinue reading “The Shiba Inu Vending Machine”

Failed Rock Gardens Of Japan

Nobody’s going to deny that rock gardens are one of the great art forms of Japan. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy an exquisitely designed miniature landscape of meticulously raked gravel… …swirling around a few mindfully placed boulders? Plus, compared to even your most basic Japanese garden, they’re really low-maintenance. I mean, once you plant aContinue reading “Failed Rock Gardens Of Japan”

The Fox Wedding Vending Machine

Move over Angry Ghost Cats and Drunken Pets! The Fox Wedding vending machine takes tiny collectible toy obsession to a whole new level. Take my coin purse, foxen! Take all of it! And by the way, if you don’t already have a name for that thing where it rains while the sun is shining, fromContinue reading “The Fox Wedding Vending Machine”

Totoro Cream Puffs

I feel kind of sorry for the staff at the Tolo Bakery & Cafe, because how many times can you hear, “Kawaiiiii!” in one day without checking yourself into the loony bin? Seriously, even if you’re not at all the sort of person who squeals it all over everything from coffee foam to pit bullContinue reading “Totoro Cream Puffs”

Things I Never Envisioned Myself Owning

Yes, it’s exactly what it looks like. A fuzzy green polka-dot toilet seat cover. Because Japan delivers a whole new level of hurt to the concept of freezing your butt off: the fact that I actually went out and bought this is a testament to the truth that no toilet seat is as cold asContinue reading “Things I Never Envisioned Myself Owning”

More Hilarious Haiku About The Small Mysteries Of Modern Life

I know you’ve just been WAITING for more amusing observations and subtly ironic drawings about modern life from Yamada Zenjido (the artist who goes by y_haiku), so for those of you who (like me) are not exactly goddess-like at reading handwritten Japanese, here are a few choice ones in translation! May it perk up yourContinue reading “More Hilarious Haiku About The Small Mysteries Of Modern Life”

Are Ya Feelin’ Lucky?

Ah, New Year’s, when everyone in Japan visits their local kami-sama for the first time and gets a glimpse of their fortune for the coming year! But if you’re geographically challenged, and visiting your closest shrine would involve a butt-numbing plane flight, here are some dai-kichi (best luck ever) fortunes you can toss into aContinue reading “Are Ya Feelin’ Lucky?”

Top Ten Crazy Holiday Gifts from Japan 2017!

It’s that time of year, when everyone who’s easy to buy presents for already has a big satisfying check mark next to their name, but the ones who don’t are driving me crazy, because I just can’t think of anything that will surprise and/or delight them. Or at least make them scream when they openContinue reading “Top Ten Crazy Holiday Gifts from Japan 2017!”

Sweet Selfies On A Stick

There’s a little shop near Sendagi Station called Amezaiku-ya where you can order the ultimate sweet selfie! Most often commissioned for wedding cake toppers, all the resident artists need is a photo and a little time to craft a mini-you out of sugar. This kind of candy sculpting is a very old Japanese art, andContinue reading “Sweet Selfies On A Stick”

The Best Tokyo Illuminations 2017

It’s time again for the best free holiday light show ever! Here are this year’s Tokyo Illuminations offerings, some of them even better than before: • TOKYO MIDTOWN This year’s “Starlight Garden” extravaganza is super lavish, with different shows for each night of the week. There’s a four-minute blue and white spin around the galaxy,Continue reading “The Best Tokyo Illuminations 2017”

Instabae

That’s what you call this in Japan. It’s an experience that looks way better shared on social media than in real life. But I gotta say, Japan is genius at it. But even though they did a pretty decent job of selling orange as the new amber, this team gets a certain number of #instabaeContinue reading “Instabae”

A Feast Of Autumn Leaves

The season has arrived, and in somewhat strange order this year. The ginkgo trees are full-on gold and already carpeting their surroundings with fallen leaves, but most Japanese maples are still just showing a mere tinge of red. Here’s what’s happening right now, and here are the best places to see them. These are actuallyContinue reading “A Feast Of Autumn Leaves”

Poppins-san

In the land where nannies are nearly as scarce as chimney sweeps, this all-Japanese celebration of bygone British privilege is about to hit the stage. It’s too bad they don’t adapt these things for the local audience the same way they “improve” pizza, because I would pay good money to hear someone sing such hitsContinue reading “Poppins-san”

Most Useless Subway Poster In The History Of Useless Subway Posters

Yesterday I was walking through Ueno Station, and I spotted this I’ve posted before about silly subway posters that warn against kicking the ticket wicket, pitching a beer in the station attendant’s face and walking while rockabilly, but this one takes the cake for sheer WHAT THE HELL? Because some faceless bureaucrat (yes, this is aContinue reading “Most Useless Subway Poster In The History Of Useless Subway Posters”

Yokohama Smart Illumination 2017: Even More & Better Than Before

I know it seems like all I do these days is frant about looking at stuff lit up at night, but there’s been a sudden rash of illuminations events in & around Tokyo lately, and they’ve all been worth staying up way past bedtime for! Last time I went to the Yokohama Smart Illuminations, youContinue reading “Yokohama Smart Illumination 2017: Even More & Better Than Before”

The Digital Greenhouse

Level up, holiday lightshow fanboys & girls! This digital greenhouse ups the ante in the illuminations game, bigtime. First of all, you can go inside and LIVE THE KALEIDOSCOPIC DREAM. But that’s not all. You can trigger new musical sounds and light patterns by touching the live veggie plants inside. (Yes. Dying. Going to heaven.)Continue reading “The Digital Greenhouse”

Modern Day Tweets From The Pillow Book

If Sei Shonagōn were alive and well and living in Tokyo… • @seishonagon A latecomer pushes in front of you at a festival and holds up his huge iPad to take pictures #hatefulthings @seishonagon Someone wearing a bright orange jacket is standing around texting on his phone, smack in the middle of a famous cherryContinue reading “Modern Day Tweets From The Pillow Book”

In The Japanese Dahlia Garden

There’s a secret walled garden at the Ueno Toshogu Shrine that’s only open once a year for peony season, but guess what? This year they’re letting us come in to see the dahlias too! Bring your thesaurus, though, so you don’t wear out the word WOW. Open: Every day from September 30 – October 29Continue reading “In The Japanese Dahlia Garden”

Mobbed By Lemurs At The Exotic Animal Petting Zoo!

Who can say they never clutched the fence at their local zoo’s lemur exhibit and didn’t long to sneak over the top just for a few minutes (or, okay, in my case, A FEW HOURS) to cavort with those frisky, big-eyed, long-tailed cuties? Admit it – you’ve always secretly wanted to, haven’t you? Well, nowContinue reading “Mobbed By Lemurs At The Exotic Animal Petting Zoo!”

Obsession, Thy Name Is This Exhibit

Okay, I really want to hate the Mitsui Memorial Museum (because see below) but they keep putting on shows like this. The idea behind “Amazing Craftsmanship!” is to pair mad Meiji-era woodwork, metalcraft and even (who knew?) embroidery with contemporary artists whose mindbending skillz rival those of the obsessed artists past. But don’t take myContinue reading “Obsession, Thy Name Is This Exhibit”

Butterfly Season In Tokyo

Went to check on whether the cosmos were blooming yet at Hama-Rikyu Teien garden last week and discovered that the lovely fields of gently nodding multicolored blooms I remembered were looking vastly overgrown and (honestly!) kind of ratty. I was about to stalk away muttering, “Disappointment, thy name is Hama-Rikyu” when the corner of my eyeContinue reading “Butterfly Season In Tokyo”

Roppongi Art Night 2017

All art, all night long. That’s the idea behind Roppongi Art Night, and although past years have been a bit meh, this year it was totally worth staying out late! These were my favorite bits: Stills can’t really do this thing justice, so here’s a one-minute video for your mesmerizing pleasure: But of course, it’sContinue reading “Roppongi Art Night 2017”

Square Fruit Balloons

In the I-totally-don’t-need-this-but-am-strangely-compelled-to-buy-it-anyway category, these square fruit balloons are a quirky modern take on kami fusen, a cheap, Meiji-era toy. Of course, in true ultra-Japanese style, they’re made of paper! If you’ve become remotely infected with the burning desire to buy some square fruit balloons  for yourself, they’re sold at the Cibone store in the (otherwiseContinue reading “Square Fruit Balloons”

Giant Gundam Is BACK!

The Giant Gundam is finally back! And it does not disappoint! I was super sad when I heard that the old giant robot outside the DiverCity shopping mall in Odaiba was going away last March, but am happy to report that Gundam 2.0 is bigger, badder and even more entertaining than Gundam 1.0! Here’s aContinue reading “Giant Gundam Is BACK!”

The Secret Innards Of The Catbus And Other Shocking Revelations

It’s not often that I walk through an art show where each piece is more surprising and delightful than the last, but Jason Freeny’s “Plastic Surgeon” exhibit at the Megumi Ogita Gallery really pushed my amusement meter into the red zone! I’m resisting the temptation to be Lady Spoiler of Spoilerfell by posting all theContinue reading “The Secret Innards Of The Catbus And Other Shocking Revelations”

Where To See Magical Red Autumn Lilies In Tokyo

These Japanese amaryllis bloom once a year for only a few days, right at the fall equinox. If you move fast, you can still catch the higanbana in their full glory right now! Here’s where: • KINCHAKUDA near Koma Station Kinchakuda is a little over an hour by train from Shinjuku Station, then a fifteenContinue reading “Where To See Magical Red Autumn Lilies In Tokyo”

Flower Dream 2017

Just when you need a little something to lift your wilted spirits, the dog days of summer fail to dish up a single Japanese flower extravaganza. Which is why I’ve been saving these snippets of last spring’s Flower Dream Expo for your reviving pleasure! •

The Lost Cat Shrine

Don’t you just hate it when your kittehs get a touch of the walkabout? Well now you can do something about it. A quick prayer at the Tachikawa Suitengu Shrine will have them back on your doorstep quicker than a twist of the can opener! And just for fun, here are the eleven strangest shrinesContinue reading “The Lost Cat Shrine”

Hilarious Haiku About The Small Embarrassments Of Modern Life

Last week I discovered Yamada Zenjido, an artist who pens haiku-like truisms paired with pitch-perfect drawings, and they are SO FUNNY…if you can read handwritten Japanese, that is. Fortunately, I have a friend who helped me with the more opaque characters (and because no good deed goes unpunished, will be pestered to do so maybeContinue reading “Hilarious Haiku About The Small Embarrassments Of Modern Life”

Why Are Tattoos Still Taboo In Japan? (Spoiler: It’s not because they think you’re a gangster)

It’s not news that you can get kicked out of hot springs, public swimming pools, and water parks in Japan if you’ve got visible ink, even if it’s a teeny, tiny, adorable Hello Kitty. But why? The usual explanation is that nobody wants their nice business infested with yakuza gangsters, which is the main JapaneseContinue reading “Why Are Tattoos Still Taboo In Japan? (Spoiler: It’s not because they think you’re a gangster)”

When You REALLY Hate Your Neighbors

Making my way back to Kamakura Station after tossing a  few plates at the Dish-Breaking Shrine, I was walking through a totally normal-looking neighborhood when I chanced upon this. A hedge. But not just any old hedge – isn’t this the freakin’ unfriendliest alt picket fence you’ve ever seen? I mean, it’s all thorns, all theContinue reading “When You REALLY Hate Your Neighbors”

The Host Club Vending Machine

When I first saw this gachapon machine filled with little plastic champagne towers, I thought WAT? Who needs a set of miniature, light-up, host club furniture? I mean, even though it’s pretty happenin’ how they change color and all… …I wasn’t instantly throwing all my money at the coin changer. Until… This series may beContinue reading “The Host Club Vending Machine”

Secret Flower Seasons of Japan

So, everybody knows about the cherry blossoms, and I bet you flower mavens even know about the glories of the plums, wisteria, azaleas and iris. But recently a bunch of parks & gardens have figured out that the best way to attract crowds of wallet-carrying camera-toters in the off-season is to plant lots and lotsContinue reading “Secret Flower Seasons of Japan”

The Dish-Breaking Shrine

This spring, the ever-impish kami-sama apparently thought I was in need of some sort of life lesson. Because every time I set out with a well-planned, perfectly-timed plan, it was like this: “You know that amazing thing you traveled three hours on four trains to see? Well, forget it. You’re not going to see it. InsteadContinue reading “The Dish-Breaking Shrine”