Japan’s funniest Mundane Halloween costumes 2021!

This year, pandemic-emergency bar, restaurant and movie theater lock-downs and working from home all came together to create the ideal conditions for an excellent crop of new Mundane Halloween costumes! Here are my favorites, and links to much, much more… ••• These are from @dailyportalz Twitter feed—he took these photos at a Mundane Halloween costumeContinue reading “Japan’s funniest Mundane Halloween costumes 2021!”

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”

Speed Tribes come of age, Yanki style

Every year in the city of Kitakyushu, Coming-of-Age Day is celebrated in over-the top style by 20-year-olds kitted out in outlandish versions of Japanese formalwear. The second Monday in January (the holiday on which all Japanese twenty-year-olds become legal adults) is well known by kimono-spotters all over Japan as the best day all year toContinue reading “Speed Tribes come of age, Yanki style”

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!”

Uber Dandy Kimono: Wildly modern, breathtakingly bold, insanely stunning

I’ve been a fan of the divine Tia Oguri since long before she began designing kimono with traditional African fabrics, because her kimono styling has always been out-of-this-world fresh and exciting. Her latest venture, though, is pure WOW. Take a look at her Uber Dandy Kimono designs, and I think you’ll agree that they showContinue reading “Uber Dandy Kimono: Wildly modern, breathtakingly bold, insanely stunning”

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”

The World of The Last Tea Bowl Thief

The new book is a two-timeline tale, with one thread taking place in the samurai era, and the other unspooling in modern-day Tokyo, where two women from opposite sides of the globe discover that both their futures depend on possessing a cultural treasure that’s been missing since before they were born, but neither can getContinue reading “The World of The Last Tea Bowl Thief”

Amazing scenes emerge as you use this notepad

The Japanese design firm Triad just released one of the most Japanese products ever: the Hogwarts Castle notepad. Wait, that’s not Japanese! But…it is. Obviously, people who just need to jot down their grocery lists aren’t going to shell out nearly two hundred bucks. This is about buying an experience, paying for the delight ofContinue reading “Amazing scenes emerge as you use this notepad”

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?”

Modern Kimonos To Die For: These Designers Are Giving An Old Artform New Edge

Hello, fellow kimono lovers of all shapes, sizes, colors, & geographic persuasions! Kimono princessing is all about mixing East and West, colors and patterns, styles and eras, and it warmly embraces vintage, second-hand delights as well as new. But there are a growing number of talented designers who have boosted the ancient artform onto modernContinue reading “Modern Kimonos To Die For: These Designers Are Giving An Old Artform New Edge”

Tweets from the Pillow Book: Pandemic Version

If Sei Shonagon (author of that famous tenth-century snark-bible The Pillow Book) had been alive today and quarantined with the rest of us, I’m pretty sure she’d have tweeted these: @seishonagon The flowers in full bloom at a closed park #thingsthataredistantthoughnear • @seishonagon You finally make it to the front of the line for the supermarket, but realizeContinue reading “Tweets from the Pillow Book: Pandemic Version”

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”

Feast Your Eyes On This: A Shop Full Of Taisho, Meiji & Showa Era Kimonos

Today I was beelining toward a garden, through a neighborhood I never visit, when I was stopped cold by the kimono lovers’ equivalent of Aladdin’s Cave. Before I knew it, I was inside, powerless to resist. Which is a good thing, because otherwise I never would have discovered that this emporium of jazz-age kimonos, obis,Continue reading “Feast Your Eyes On This: A Shop Full Of Taisho, Meiji & Showa Era Kimonos”

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”

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 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?”

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 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”

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”

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”

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!”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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?”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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!”

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!”