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?”

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”

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?”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

It’s Time For The Craziest Car Show In Tokyo

If it’s mid-January, you know where to find me: Tokyo’s biggest eye-candy car event of the year, Tokyo Auto Salon! Unlike the more stuffy Tokyo Auto Show (where big makers debut their new offerings and concept cars), Tokyo Auto Salon is for people who definitely don’t want something off the rack. From samurai rides toContinue reading “It’s Time For The Craziest Car Show In Tokyo”

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”

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!”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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?”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

“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”

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?”

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”

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”

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”

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”