The Magical Red Forest

If it happens to be raining when you are invited to walk through a magical forest carpeted with five million blooming amaryllis, do not say no. Because this. If you’re in Tokyo at the end of September and would like to see the higanbana in bloom, get thee on the train to Koma Station (it takes aboutContinue reading “The Magical Red Forest”

Goldfish, Goldfish, Everywhere

Although by now we’re all sort of feeling like “don’t let the door hit you on the way out, you miserably hot & humid Japanese summer,” some of the various celebrations of goldfish are lingering on in a most delightful way until the end of September. Here they are! ART AQUARIUM This year’s exhibit was a bit lessContinue reading “Goldfish, Goldfish, Everywhere”

Potatosaurus Rex

A few days ago I was climbing the escalators in the hated Skytree* in search of the Sumidagawa Aquarium, and was stopped in my tracks by this. An exhibition of fake food art! Best. Idea. Ever. All the art in this exhibit was made by the veteran food model experts at the Iwasaki Bei company. Apparently, they have a contest each year,Continue reading “Potatosaurus Rex”

Wading Through A Sea Of Stars & Flowers

It was the last day of the DMM Planets attraction out in Odaiba today, but if you missed your chance to roll up your pants & wade around in a cloud-like sea of flowers and goldfish with a kerbillion and a half other people, here’s what it was like: My favorite part of the thing, though, was the CrystalContinue reading “Wading Through A Sea Of Stars & Flowers”

It Must Be Fake Peach Flavor Season Again

The vending machines are suddenly stuffed with pink drinks. Of course, there hasn’t been a genuine fuzzy-skinned stone fruit within a thousand kilometers of these so-called “peach” libations, but that doesn’t stop them from making the point that even drinks flavored with highly unnatural chemicals must only appear when they’re “in season” in Japan. •

The Waterfall Made Of Light

This waterfall made of animated LEDs is conveniently paired with a pop-up mojito stand, so you can ooh and ah at the light-up while getting lit up yourself. Which would you rather do: Enjoy the serenity of a cascading river while sipping a cocktail? Or swat mosquitoes while smearing on blister cream after a pesky hike? They look kind of pixellated in the still photo, soContinue reading “The Waterfall Made Of Light”

St. Bondage

One painfully, BEASTLY hot day, I was scuttling along from shade puddle to shade puddle on my way back to Kanamachi Station, and I happened to glance through the gate of a random temple I was passing. Inside, I spotted this! This saint had to have some obscure specialty, like the Wart Curing Jizo or the Scrub Brush Shrine, andContinue reading “St. Bondage”

Which One Is The REAL Goldfish?

Not easy, is it? The lovely specimen in the wooden saké box is a painting of a goldfish. Actually, it’s about a gazillion paintings of a goldfish. Artist Riusuke Fukahori builds these 3-D wonders by pouring a thin layer of clear resin, painting a slice of goldfish, pouring another layer of resin, painting the next layer, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, rinse,Continue reading “Which One Is The REAL Goldfish?”

Hydrangeas: Gateway To A Life Of Crime

I have a confession to make. Although my job is to write about ingenious ways people commit murder and mayhem, when it comes to obsessing about how I’d commit the perfect crime, it always ends up with hydrangeas. Yes, hydrangeas. To be more specific, hydrangea smuggling. Because before I went to Japan, I never dreamed that the humble fluffballs flanking granny’sContinue reading “Hydrangeas: Gateway To A Life Of Crime”

The Catzilla Vending Machine

Overcome with a burning need for yet more weird plastic toys (hey, don’t pretend this doesn’t happen to you!) I was poking around in my favorite Akihabara gachagacha emporium when I discovered THIS: If you’d like to visit the Akihabara area the next time you’re in Tokyo, visit my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had. And although thisContinue reading “The Catzilla Vending Machine”

The Gods Of Cuteness Anoint The Most Inexplicable Animal Yet

If there was a vote on which animal is least likely to be described as “fluffy, “winsome” and “cuddly,” I think tapirs would pretty much win the internet. So why are tapirs suddenly everywhere? Honestly, I’ve been trying to ignore this. How can tapirs be a THING? Of course, Japan has tasted the depths of cuteness desperation before, but this has to be a new low. •  

Where To See The Most Gorgeous Peonies In Tokyo

If you’ve never walked among peonies that stand shoulder-high, with flowers as big as your head, get thee to these Tokyo gardens right now and prepare to be amazed! NISHIARAI-DAISHI TEMPLE Admission: FreeHours: 6:00 – 18:00 • UENO TOSHOGU SHRINE Admission: ¥700Hours: 9:00 – 17:00 • HAMA-RIKYU GARDEN Admission: ¥300Hours: 9:00 – 17:00 •

Temple Cats, With Attitude

In Japan, neko and temples go together like fish guts and beer, and every graveyard attracts a cadre of cats to guard the departed. At first I tried not to think about what they might be eating to make them so fat and happy (DO NOT GO THERE) until I was lurking around taking pictures late one afternoon, and witnessed the duelling cat ladies. SufficeContinue reading “Temple Cats, With Attitude”

The Best Dressed Nude Statue In All Of Tokyo

Sometimes you’re trudging home and dreading getting on a crowded train, then you find THIS! How great is it that they have a peeing boy statue smack in the middle of the train platform at the otherwise grim Hamamatsucho Station? As if that weren’t cheering enough, for over fifteen years this bronze nude taking a perpetual whizz has been dressedContinue reading “The Best Dressed Nude Statue In All Of Tokyo”

Subway Manners…For Aliens

Because seriously, unless you were raised by Mechagodzilla, how could you not know that headbutting a station employee, grabbing him by his necktie and drunk-pitching your beer in his face are not exactly recommended by Miss Manners? (And if you were raised by aliens, expect a lump of coal in your next Xmas stocking if a wimpy poster convinces you to abandonContinue reading “Subway Manners…For Aliens”

The Best Cherry Blossom Spots In Tokyo – With Maps!

Whether you’re all about the beer drinking or just want to win a few photo contests, first you gotta find the big pink things. Here’s a list of my all-time favorite hanami party and petal-snapping spots, with maps so you don’t waste time trying to locate the pinkness! • Here’s what the early blooming flowers look like (see them in theContinue reading “The Best Cherry Blossom Spots In Tokyo – With Maps!”

Get Your Very Own 3D Selfie

The idea of being able to get a Barbie-sized clone of yourself has been an internet tease for so long that I almost walked past the studio displaying these super lifelike figures that had obviously been modeled on real people. Surely there would be the usual fine print: “GET A PERFECT PINT-SIZED REPLICA OF YOURSELF (for only $100,000,000,000)” or “NOWContinue reading “Get Your Very Own 3D Selfie”

Finally, Girls’ Day For Goths!

Is your favorite lipstick color black? Do net quizzes always sort you into Slytherin? Would you rather eat deep fried cod testicles than be seen in a pink kimono? Then this set of Girls’ Day dolls is for you! Goto Dolls has done a major update on the whole thank you very much we’re just sitting here with ourContinue reading “Finally, Girls’ Day For Goths!”

Fox Village: Even Better With Snow On Top!

I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I finally made it to Zao Fox Village last spring, but it’s a good thing I didn’t actually shuffle off this mortal coil due to fox-induced bliss, because then I would have missed seeing all these fluffy vixen in the SNOW! This is just the first installment of fox-centric posts, because the second I walked throughContinue reading “Fox Village: Even Better With Snow On Top!”

Honest Abe Gets An Extreme Makeover

I thought playing Rhett Butler in an all-Japanese, all-female production of Gone With The Wind was about as gender-bendy as you could get, but now one of the esteemed actresses in the famed Takarazuka troupe is donning beard and top hat to portray America’s most gangly abolitionist! •

Epic Japanese Quilt Show

Let me just say right up front that this quilt show exceeded expectations in every way. Something I really love about Japan is that Art-With-A-Captial-A is defined so generously, and artists whose work requires many years of mastering the technical parts of making it are not dismissed as “craftsmen” but given full respect. And when that happens, youContinue reading “Epic Japanese Quilt Show”

The Angry Fox Ghost Vending Machine

I thought I’d reached the highest level of gacha-gacha nirvana when I discovered the Angry Cat Ghost vending machine last year, but yesterday walking through what I’d previously thought of as the ninth-circle-of-hell Shinagawa station, I spied these: YOKAI FOXES! As you can see, they come in six, count ’em SIX, fabulous colors, three with lucky messenger-of-the-gods markings. And yeah, as youContinue reading “The Angry Fox Ghost Vending Machine”

Setagaya Boroichi: The Grand Pooh-bah Of All Flea Markets

I’d heard about the Boroichi Flea Market for ages, but never made it to one until today. Yikes, it filled every street and alleyway for BLOCKS! In classic flea market style, there was loads of crap studded liberally with actual finds, but I think I can pretty much guarantee that somewhere within this maze you can satisfy your burning desire for…Continue reading “Setagaya Boroichi: The Grand Pooh-bah Of All Flea Markets”

Flowers By Naked

(I put together this one-minute video because seriously, stills just couldn’t capture how awesome this show is YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY) The name of this exhibition only makes sense if you recognize the name of the digital artists known as Naked, who are the hottest projection-mapping badasses in Tokyo right now. And HOO BOY they did not disappoint! I’m always ready toContinue reading “Flowers By Naked”

Yomiuriland Illuminations

By the time I took four trains and a bus to the gates of the aging amusement park Yomiuri Land, I had already decided that no illuminations could possibly be worth the schlep. Good thing I was SO WRONG! Hats off to whoever produced this kerbillion-light extravaganza – it totally exceeded expectations. Best ¥1000 entertainment I’ve seen in ages. I’m sure my impression wasContinue reading “Yomiuriland Illuminations”

How About A Nice Cup Of Civet Poop Coffee?

The kopi luwat civet poops coffee. Or, to be more precise, it climbs to the top of coffee trees, eats the ripest beans, digests the fruity bits around the seed and, er, leaves the rest for industrious pooper-scoopers to turn into the world’s weirdest brew. Of course, once I spied a weird old-fashioned coffee bar near Shinjuku station withContinue reading “How About A Nice Cup Of Civet Poop Coffee?”

Midnight Fox Parade

Middle school boys in foxface and golden skirt-pants carrying gigantic fox heads through the streets of Tokyo? Can you think of a better way to ring in the new year? Every December 31st at midnight, the good citizens of Oji gather at the local inari shrine to show the furry-tailed messengers of the gods a good time.Continue reading “Midnight Fox Parade”

The Best Tokyo Winter Illuminations 2015

Are you ready once again to have holiday lights spoiled for-e-ver by the insanely great Tokyo Illuminations? This year, the old favorites do not disappoint, but there are a couple of new contenders amid the light-up extravaganzas going on right now in Tokyo! Feast your eyes on… • TOKYO DOME CITY The Tokyo Dome City amusement park puts onContinue reading “The Best Tokyo Winter Illuminations 2015”

2015 Top Ten Crazy Gifts From Japan!

It’s time for Only In Japan’s yearly holiday gift round-up, and it looks like 2015 is holding its own! I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be the only one to bestow one of these awesome gifts from Japan on your nearest and dearest… 10. Warm in winter, cool in summer, give this CREEPY CONSTRUCTION WORKER HEAD TOWEL, so they can enjoy displaying their brains asContinue reading “2015 Top Ten Crazy Gifts From Japan!”

What’s Purple And Squishy And Tastes Like Thanksgiving?

This time of year, if it’s sweet and purple, it tastes like…WAT? Yes, sweet potato candy (and muffins and ice cream) is a THING, and anything that’s purple in Japan right now tastes kind of like Thanksgiving without the marshmallows. Let’s sidestep the impossible task of pondering why anyone would make desserts that taste like sweet potatoesContinue reading “What’s Purple And Squishy And Tastes Like Thanksgiving?”

Battle Dress Kimonos

Okay, you’ve gotta help me out here: what sort of manly occasion could possibly call for donning a kimono fashioned from American mil-spec camo? Defcon 3 tea ceremony behind enemy lines? Tactical assault on the afternoon kabuki performance? Undercover date to the summer fireworks, knowing your recently-jilted ex will be there and gunning for you? Whatever occasion calls for strategicContinue reading “Battle Dress Kimonos”

The Deli For Dogs

I was cutting through my favorite crazy pet store in Odaiba, when I spotted what I thought was a deli counter where pet owners who had become famished while stocking up on camouflage dog strollers and duck muzzles could grab a bite, but when I looked closer, all the artfully styled food models above the refrigerator case were intended for dogs! I know. I shouldn’t beContinue reading “The Deli For Dogs”

Level Up, Halloweenies!

Because in Japan, dressing up is no joke! Real cosplayers scoff at Halloween as Amateur Night, but for most people, the Big H is a chance to flaunt their secret zombie in public, and even ordinary citizens put serious effort into Doing It Right. •

Eat ALL The Bugs

Aieee, what is this, AUSTRALIA? I mean, what if you got up in the morning and snagged your bread from the toaster before you’d had your coffee and when you went to take your first bite, there was a giant BEE LEG staring right up at you? Or, even worse, what if you were deleting your spam while you ateContinue reading “Eat ALL The Bugs”

Because Who WOULDN’T Want A Cocktail Served In A Smoke-Filled Skull?

And that’s just the tip o’ the liquid nitrogen, flash-frozen iceberg at the Codename:Mixology bar! Because although no snozzberries were detected on the menu, this place definitely delivers the Willy Wonka of cocktails. One of the things I especially like about this bar is that most of the cocktails don’t knock you under the table, so you can try (or share) more than one. They’re prettyContinue reading “Because Who WOULDN’T Want A Cocktail Served In A Smoke-Filled Skull?”

My Worst Foreigner Moment

Okay, in the interest of not being That Hellishly Smug Foreigner, it’s only fair that I confess my most cringeworthy moment in Japan. Not that there haven’t been plenty of other times I’ve been secretly branded a henna gaijin by phalanxes of nice Japanese people averting their eyes and backing away slowly, but this one is a classic because it involves, yes, Mt.Continue reading “My Worst Foreigner Moment”

Jolly Despot Costumes I Would Regret

Recently I discovered this primo autocrat disguise, so you can give fellow revelers a choice: laugh at your jokes…or quake in fear as missiles are pointed in your general direction. Saw these at Don Kihote store in Shibuya. •

Haunted Prison Restaurant? Yes, Please!

Do you even have to ask? Of course Tokyo has a restaurant where you get locked into a cell and made to drink cocktails with eyeballs in them! Every group gets their own private cell, and each seating features a monster show with live cast members roaming the prison. Food is fairly decent, with well-executed prison-themed names andContinue reading “Haunted Prison Restaurant? Yes, Please!”

Give Yourself A Tooth Manicure

Want to perk up those pearly whites a bit, but don’t want to choose between paying for cosmetic dentistry and getting a new car? This Japanese tooth makeup is for you! For less than twenty bucks, Tooth Makeup is basically nail polish for your choppers! Yes, just choose the shade you’d like your new smile to be, paint it on, and you’reContinue reading “Give Yourself A Tooth Manicure”

Subway Safety For Rockabillies

Tokyo Metro’s subway safety posters always crack me up, because they all seem to be earnestly designed by Captain Obvious, but this one actually made me laugh with it, not at it. I mean DUH you’d have to be an idiot to know you shouldn’t prance along the scary side of the yellow line while drunk or shove unsuspecting fellow commuters into theContinue reading “Subway Safety For Rockabillies”

I Saw A New Wild Animal In Tokyo!

Walking home late one night, a flicker of unexpected movement caught my eye. When I looked up, there was something scampering along the phone lines above my head! A cat? A rat? No it was BIG. At first, I thought it might be a tanuki, but it was the wrong shape. It had a long body and an even longer tail,Continue reading “I Saw A New Wild Animal In Tokyo!”

Help, There’s A Hamster In My Drink!

Lately in Japan there’s been an explosion of vending machines selling little characters that perch on the side of your glass, so you never have to drink alone. But none of them has been nearly as cute as HAMSTERS. •

Princess Kimono, Animal Style

Obscure seasonal references to geese and crows? So tenth century! Leaf viewing and strolling beneath the cherry blossoms? Been there, called it a cab. Let’s strap on our princess kimonos and hit the animal cafés instead! Thanks to Kimono Hime magazine (#10 & #12) for the gorgeous new style kimono photos. • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick forContinue reading “Princess Kimono, Animal Style”