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”

Please Tell Me That’s Not Seaweed On My Ice Cream

The sticky rice balls I can handle. I could even get into the slightly gelatinous, traditional mitarashi topping that gets its brown from, uh, soy sauce. But I draw the line at nori. Yes, those suspicious-looking little black things on top are KILL ME NOW strips of the same kind of seaweed that holds your tuna roll together. AndContinue reading “Please Tell Me That’s Not Seaweed On My Ice Cream”

Endless Fields Of Blue

Every once in a while you discover a place where the photos that made you run to the nearest station and jump on godzilla-knows-how-many-trains to get there did not lie. Not even a little bit. Those pictures of hills swathed in an unbroken carpet of blue flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park? REAL. Where I come from, these little pieces ofContinue reading “Endless Fields Of Blue”

Where To See The Most Amazing Azaleas In Tokyo

From mid-April to mid-May, it seems like there are bright pink bushes whipping by the train window everywhere you go in Tokyo, but there are a few special places that just beg you to take the kind of snaps that make everyone scream “I want to go to there!” Here are my favorite places to take azaleaContinue reading “Where To See The Most Amazing Azaleas In Tokyo”

The Slippery Slope, Illustrated

See, this is where tolerance will get you. Let them get away with putting ginger pickles and fish shavings on pizza, say nothing when your spaghetti comes topped with sea urchin eggs, and next thing you know, you’ll be waking up to every child’s worst nightmare: SPINACH PANCAKES. •

Where To See The Most Beautiful Wisteria In Tokyo

It’s purple season again! Yes, the wisteria are blooming, and (did you even have to ask?) of course Japan has over-the-top displays of the good purple stuff. Peak season is mid-April to mid-May, so get thee to these spots right now to see the most eye-popping ones around… ASHIKAGA FLOWER PARK I admit that even if you totallyContinue reading “Where To See The Most Beautiful Wisteria In Tokyo”

The Hypnotic Tail-Wagging Cat Clock

Walking down the street in Ome, I discovered something that totally flipped my three-hour trip to see a garden filled with no blooming azaleas into the win column: the tail-wagging cat clock! BEHOLD ITS MESMERIZING POWER: Can’t. Stop. Watching. (Except to scurry around online like a crazed, tail-wagging weasel to figure out who makes these and where to buyContinue reading “The Hypnotic Tail-Wagging Cat Clock”

If I Were A Thousand Years Old, I Would Not Be Putting Out Like This

I mean, look at it. This tree is a THOUSAND years old. It has cranked out cascades of blossoms like this every spring, a thousand times. And if yesterday was any indication, the grand old lady is showing no signs of shirking anytime soon. Just imagine a fast forward of this tree’s life, with generations of cherry blossom viewers ebbing and flowing all around it, asContinue reading “If I Were A Thousand Years Old, I Would Not Be Putting Out Like This”

Pink Food Season Arrives In All Its WTF Splendor

It never fails – every time the big cherry things burst into bloom, I see foods that totally make me want to shout “What the pinkity pink?” I’m not talking about food that should be pink (like sakura ice cream) or is only slightly questionably pink (like strawberry lattes), I’m talking about the HELP EEK WHY IS THAT FOOD PINK specialties that appear everyContinue reading “Pink Food Season Arrives In All Its WTF Splendor”

Cherry Blossom Illuminations

Did you even have to ask? It’s not enough that famous cherry blossom spots are lit up at night, now Tokyo has electric cherry blossom extravaganzas that rival the ever-more-crazy holiday light shows! • TOKYO MIDTOWN in Roppongi Tokyo Midtown’s promenade of cherry trees is not only lit up in pink… …they also dumped a huge cone of dirt on the field where theContinue reading “Cherry Blossom Illuminations”

Why I’d Totally Follow This Guy’s Instagram If He Hadn’t Died In 1889

Kawanabe Kyosai. He’d have had the best instagram ever. Of course, these are just a small appetizer – the show is HUGE, and so full of great stuff, it took me over an hour to see it all. If you’re in Tokyo before “This is Kyosai: The Israel Goldman Collection” ends on April 16, 2017, GO. It’sContinue reading “Why I’d Totally Follow This Guy’s Instagram If He Hadn’t Died In 1889”

Where To Take The Best Cherry Blossom Photos In Tokyo

You know those “Top Places To See Cherry Blossoms In Tokyo” websites that always tell you to go to Ueno Park? Well, this is how Ueno Park actually looks during cherry blossom season: Lots of great flowering trees, not such great photos. The places on those lists do deliver the cherry blossoms, but if you want photos thatContinue reading “Where To Take The Best Cherry Blossom Photos In Tokyo”

Tamao Shigemune: Modern Kimonos That’ll Knock Your Socks Off

So you think you can’t rock a kimono because you’re not Japanese? Think again! Tamao Shigemune designs modern versions of traditional Japanese women’s wear with a distinctly Parisian twist, and guess what? You can see them (and try her new summer collection on!) right now in Tokyo, through Sunday March 26th. Tamao Shigemune will be showing her collection at thatContinue reading “Tamao Shigemune: Modern Kimonos That’ll Knock Your Socks Off”

What’s Blooming In Japan Right Now?

So, around this time of year, I get to thinking about how everybody is about to crowd into Japan to see the fluffy pink things, but that cherry blossom season is far from the only time that this place delivers yowzah-level flower extravaganzas. So I made a thing. Here’s what’s blooming when, and the best places to take photosContinue reading “What’s Blooming In Japan Right Now?”

Lost In A Forest Of Blooming Plum Trees

Yesterday I got to stumble around doing a 360˚ gawk in a forest of plum trees wearing all their favorite clothes at once. Kairakuen Garden in Mito was planted by a genius of a daimyo who totally got that too much of a good thing is never enough. 2,490 fluffy-branched trees later, I think I can safely say that this is the plum blossom extravaganza to end allContinue reading “Lost In A Forest Of Blooming Plum Trees”

Girls’ Day Dolls…On Steroids

There’s a little town about two hours from Tokyo called Katsuura, where one a year, dolls rule. 12,000 of them, to be exact. So, how did Katsuura get so many dolls? The truth is, pretty much every Japanese girlbaby is given a set on her first New Year’s, but if you run out of girls to hand them down to, they’re really hard toContinue reading “Girls’ Day Dolls…On Steroids”

Plum Blossom Countdown

All of February (and a little of March) is the best time to see fluffy pink and white and red beauties bursting like popcorn all over Tokyo. Here are the best places to see them, in order of when they bloom: Note: These photos were all taken from 2014-2016, so depending on how warm or coldContinue reading “Plum Blossom Countdown”

Tweets From The Pillow Book

The author of The Pillow Book mastered the trending hashtag and the snarky tweet ten centuries before anyone had ever heard of Twitter… • @seishonagon One has gone to bed and is about to doze off when a mosquito appears, announcing himself in a reedy voice #hatefulthings @seishonagon One has been foolish enough to invite a manContinue reading “Tweets From The Pillow Book”

Thanks For Destroying My Fantasies, Little Host Stickers

Okay, when I spotted this page of stickers at Tokyu Hands featuring smokin’ hot hostboys, I thought they were kinda fun. Even considered buying a bunch of them to give to my favorite hostboy fangirls. And then I looked a little…closer. Sheesh, leave me some illusions, will ya? •

The Drunken Pet Vending Machine

So, today I came home and found THIS. I don’t know what kind of shenanigans YOUR gacha-gacha toys get up to when they’re alone in the house, but… 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,Continue reading “The Drunken Pet Vending Machine”

The Werewolf Shrine

High on top of a snowy mountain in Chichibu – so far from any train station that you’ll be eligible for a senior citizen discount by the time you get off the bus – is the Mitsumine Jinja. At first it looks like a typical Shinto shrine with fox messengers at the gate… …but a closerContinue reading “The Werewolf Shrine”

Top Ten Crazy Holiday Gifts From Japan 2016

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when you comb your list of friends & family for those who truly deserve that rare and awe-inspiring gift from Japan… 10. If there’s nobody on your list who needs a MANEATING VAMPIRE PURSE, you need to make new friends. 9. CUTEST WASHCLOTHS OF ALL TIME! Who could fail to smile after ripping the wrappingContinue reading “Top Ten Crazy Holiday Gifts From Japan 2016”

Fox Village Videos!

Here’s what it’s like to visit Fox Village in the snow, when the foxes are at their fattest & fluffiest! I have to confess, when it comes to which animals would get to sit in business class in my ark, it’s all about the tails. Foxes, of course, have the most magnificent fruffy tails in all of the animalContinue reading “Fox Village Videos!”

At The Crazy Cat Parade

I have to admit, I was powerless to resist going to a thing where hundreds of people dressed more or less as cats pranced down the street, some of them raucously performing musical numbers in which “nyan nyan nyan” replaced all the lyrics. The Bake Neko Parade gives everyone and their granny an excuse to dress up every October near KagurazakaContinue reading “At The Crazy Cat Parade”

Japanese Food Styling Gone Wrong

Okay, as you know, I’ve long been fascinated with Japanese menu depictions of hot dogs, because they can’t seem to resist making them look a little, er, over-eager. But don’t you agree that these take hot dog styling to a whole new level? I mean, how do you even EAT these? They look  like scale models forContinue reading “Japanese Food Styling Gone Wrong”

The Peeing Statue Vending Machine

It’s always hard to say goodbye to my favorite costumed peeing boy statue when I leave Tokyo, but now I don’t have to! Thanks to the awesome vending machine I discovered at Yodobashi Camera, I can take him home with me and develop a whole new level of procrastination skillz, crafting little costumes for him… But,Continue reading “The Peeing Statue Vending Machine”

A Prickly Day At The Hedgehog Cafe

Turn down the volume on your squee-meter, unless you want to lose a little more of your hearing! Check out the little prickle monsters you can snuggle up with at Tokyo’s new Hedgehog Cafe… The reason it’s called the Harry Hedgehog Café is that these little animals are known as hari-nezumi in Japanese, which means (brace yourself for the most perfect name EVER)Continue reading “A Prickly Day At The Hedgehog Cafe”

Where To See Huge Fields Of Cosmos In Tokyo

If you think that vast fields of blooming wildflowers are something you won’t find in Tokyo…think again! From mid-September to mid-October every year, the lowly cosmos is elevated to extravaganza status at two different gardens, blossoming in snapworthy profusion for about four weeks. • SHOWA KINEN PARK – Tachikawa This truly enormous park is about an hour from Shinjuku station,Continue reading “Where To See Huge Fields Of Cosmos In Tokyo”

In Which An 8th Century Monk Trolls Us All

Inside this telephone booth of yore lies the Miroku Stone. For hundreds of years (since the time of the venerable Kobo Daishi*) it has been known that if a virtuous person reaches through the little window and picks up the stone, it will feel light. But if you’ve been a bad boy, it will be unbearablyContinue reading “In Which An 8th Century Monk Trolls Us All”