What do you need for cherry blossom season? Your own light-up Lego cherry tree!

Remember when I ordered all those fab Lego village kits? Well, the Buildiverse folks sent me one that I missed (or I would have already bought it instantly): this light-up pinkness of pinknesses! If you can’t be in Japan right now to see the real cherry trees put on their signature splendor, this is totallyContinue reading “What do you need for cherry blossom season? Your own light-up Lego cherry tree!”

Girls’ Day dolls with a side of quirky

Every March 3rd, families with daughters display a set of Girls’ Day dolls that represent the Imperial court at its Heian Era finest… …but these days, you don’t have to be a nobleman or a shrine maiden to ascend the vermilion steps! I saw all these sets in the town of Katsuura, which is famousContinue reading “Girls’ Day dolls with a side of quirky”

Live eel sushi rolls

Just in time for Setsubun—the Japanese holiday on which demons are exorcized with dry beans and smelly sardines—the Sendai Umino-Mori Aquarium built this hilarious (and twisted!) ehōmaki sushi roll hideout for its garden eels. You’ll get the joke immediately if you know that ehōmaki rolls are only sold on Setsubun (which happens to fall onContinue reading “Live eel sushi rolls”

The best winter gift of 2020? A Japanese stomach warmer!

Don’t laugh! The humble haramaki is making a comeback, because nothing—and I mean nothing—keeps you warmer while sitting at your desk fielding endless zoom calls than this legwarmer for your midriff. Major tip o’ the blog beanie to my journalist friend Helen Foster from Down Unda, who reminded me that it’s haramaki season again! HerContinue reading “The best winter gift of 2020? A Japanese stomach warmer!”

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”

Japanese Lego Town Kits

If you don’t have someone on your list who would kill for one of these, you need new friends. These Lego kits for building your very own Japanese town populated by Japanese minifigs from all walks of life are hilariously accurate, and they keep delivering the delight, right down to the tiniest details. For example…Continue reading “Japanese Lego Town Kits”

When Nothing But Unnecessarily Large Tanuki Testicles Will Do

You’ve probably seen these adorable tanuki figures outside of your favorite Japanese bar or restaurant, but did you happen to notice how, er, well endowed they are? Yeah. Can’t unsee. Now that you know to look, it’s amazing you never noticed before, right? But nobody celebrated these giant gonads more inventively than Edo period artists.Continue reading “When Nothing But Unnecessarily Large Tanuki Testicles Will Do”

When you wish upon a…monk?

I don’t know about you, but this year has given me a lot more respect for luck than I used to have. In Japan, people are a lot more comfortable with acknowledging that stuff we can’t control—aka Fate—plays a huge part in determining the course of our lives. But, of course, they still try toContinue reading “When you wish upon a…monk?”

Six Surprising Reasons Japanese People Wear Masks, Even When There’s No Pandemic

If you’ve been puzzling over why Japan is such a “mask-wearing society,” it’s not because they’re all super-OCD about germs. Here are six excellent Japanese reasons to wear a mask that have nothing to do with the dread COVID: 1 – You overslept Because if this is your typical morning routine… …you can cut yourContinue reading “Six Surprising Reasons Japanese People Wear Masks, Even When There’s No Pandemic”

Japanese Emoticons: So Many Feels Beyond Emoji

You know how they keep adding emoji, but there never seems to be one that matches exactly how you’re feeling? Do you ever find yourself wishing that, for example, there was one to represent the happy you feel when the shoes you ordered online turn out to be cute AND comfortable, and a different oneContinue reading “Japanese Emoticons: So Many Feels Beyond Emoji”

How To Measure Social Distance, J-Style

Those of us who’ve been under quarantine for a month have stood in enough lines by now that we’ve probably got a pretty good eye for the “six foot” (two meter) guideline, but in crowded Japan, not so much. So they’ve plastered the subways with posters giving hilariously helpful hints for judging how close notContinue reading “How To Measure Social Distance, J-Style”

Kawaii Masks

Hey, just because we all have to wear masks now doesn’t mean we have to look like grim extras from ER. In Japan, face masks have been a fashion go-to forever, because everyone still wanted to look kawaii while not spreading around their sneezy, cough-y plague-droplets in public. But it wasn’t long before the mastersContinue reading “Kawaii Masks”

Artist Turns The Best Pet Tweets Into Hilarious Tiny Sculptures

If I had to nominate one artist for Most Sanity-Saving In The Time of Coronavirus, it would absolutely be @meetissai, whose miniature sculptures inspired by pet tweets never fail to make me laugh out loud. Step away from your keyboard if you’re drinking tea, because I now present, for your spench-worthy enjoyment, these. If youContinue reading “Artist Turns The Best Pet Tweets Into Hilarious Tiny Sculptures”

Cutest Curry Rice Molds On The Planet

I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to Japanese curry rice molds, but these two cuties redefine ADORABLE. The only problem is that it comes in both cat and panda, and it’s too hard to decide (would it be greedy to get both? SHUT UP) •

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”

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 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”

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”

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”

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!”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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. •  

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”

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!”

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”

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”

Let’s Go To Bunny Island!

If your squee-meter isn’t totally burnt out after Fox Village, it certainly will be, after we check out BUNNY ISLAND! Okunoshima isn’t easy to get to, but that’s why there’s an entire chunk of land off the coast of Japan where adorable bunnies run free, without fear of being eaten (or, obviously, having their natural urges curbed in any way). Okay, admitContinue reading “Let’s Go To Bunny Island!”

How To Go To Zao Fox Village: Squeeee Capital Of The World

Jaded denizen of the interwebz that I am, there’s not much that makes me leap out of my chair and scream “WANT!” but when I first saw a picture taken at Zao Fox Village, I had to drop everything and figure out a way to get there. It’s far from Tokyo – five hours by car –Continue reading “How To Go To Zao Fox Village: Squeeee Capital Of The World”

Tokyo Design Festa 2015: Seriously, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Last weekend, Tokyo’s Design Festa delivered a level of craziness so far beyond words that once again, I’m just going to have to show you pictures. First, from the double rainbow world of animal goods… Design Festa is held twice a year, in May and November. Admission is ¥1000 for a one day ticket, ¥1800 for a two-day pass, childrenContinue reading “Tokyo Design Festa 2015: Seriously, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up”

Godzilla In Legoland

The Grand Imperial Empire Of Lego obviously isn’t only in Japan, but an especially awesome part of it is! Welcome to Tokyo Legoland, where Godzilla is king, and Pokemons rule! Open: Tokyo Legoland is open 7 days a week. Hours: Weekdays 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Weekends & holidays 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Admission: ¥2300 per person, under 2Continue reading “Godzilla In Legoland”

I Love Japanese New Year’s Decorations!

In Japan, the frenzy of weird Santas and blue poinsettias are whisked away the day after Christmas, and replaced with something far better…new year’s decorations! I never saw them before I lived in Tokyo, but it was totally love at first sight. New year’s decorations are sold in November & December at small shops in Asakusabashi, andContinue reading “I Love Japanese New Year’s Decorations!”