In Japan, You’re Never Too Young To…

…learn to charge your devices • …eat instant ramen • …get addicted to those coin-gobbling, impossible-to-win claw machines • …learn to drive a train • …drink tea • …start your own maid cafe • …organize your action figures’ weapons neatly on a 1/2 scale gun rack • …summon the forces of darkness •

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”

Subway manners meet covid—with a side of prejudice—in these new posters

Subway manners posters have admonished commuters not to whack fellow commuters onto the tracks with their rockabilly hair, avoid grabbing the station employees by their neckties, and stop dying from overwork, but this is the first time they’ve taken on rudeness in time of pandemic. Dashing onto a car just as the doors close andContinue reading “Subway manners meet covid—with a side of prejudice—in these new posters”

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?”

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”

An Only-In-Japan Problem If There Ever Was One

We’re coming into high matsuri season, when the local Shinto gods are paraded through the neighborhood to remind them of all the people and businesses they’re supposed to be keeping a lucky eye on, but these sake-filled summertime festivals that feature scantily-clad men rocking that shrine through the streets… come with their own peculiar anxiety…Continue reading “An Only-In-Japan Problem If There Ever Was One”

One Fried Noodle Sandwich, Please

From the land that junk food shame forgot, this. A yakisoba sandwich is basically the Japanese equivalent of cold pizza for breakfast, on a bun. This is what frugal Japanese fry up for breakfast if one of their fridge leftovers happens to be noodles, so it was rare to find this homely item for saleContinue reading “One Fried Noodle Sandwich, Please”

I Saw Another New Wild Animal In Tokyo!

There I was, drinking in the serene green at the Kiyosumi Garden… …when I nearly stepped on this. It’s (weirdly) classified as “invasive” (because China) and “threatened.” Which shouldn’t surprised me, after hearing what Japanese visitors talk about at the aquarium. In these here parts, this unlikely snack is better known as suppon. •

The Tool For All Your Chrome-plated Outdoor Needs

The must be the tool you’d need when pulling into the glamping spot in your pristine 4-wheel drive, to, I dunno…shovel a few more steaks onto the barbie? Return your cocktail garnishes to the earth from whence they came? Bury bodies above your pay grade? •

The Scourge Of The Orange Jacket

Okay, I know you think I’m a whiner because I went off on this guy wearing an orange jacket, sitting right in the middle of a shot I wanted to take during cherry blossom season at Shinjuku Gyōen. I mean, one guy, minding his own business—so what if his head’s inside his phone instead ofContinue reading “The Scourge Of The Orange Jacket”

Soft Drink Flavors I Do Not Want To Try

This yogurt-banana mash-up surfs in on the enduring popularity of the local favorite soft drink, Calpis, which inexplicably established sweetened sour milk as a delightful flavor in Japan. Peach Coke is just a blatant season grab. Here, eating “seasonal” fruits and vegetables delivers wave after wave of short-term binge buying on the part of consumers,Continue reading “Soft Drink Flavors I Do Not Want To Try”

Remote Control Hell At The Traditional Inn

On Tuesday I arrived at a fabulous onsen in Tateshima, expecting to simmer in their hot spring, gaze at splendid autumn leaves in luxurious quietude, and stuff myself with regional specialties, but when I got to my room I found…this. I mean, what the heckin’ heck? Five remotes to control a tatami-floored room at aContinue reading “Remote Control Hell At The Traditional Inn”

Failed Rock Gardens Of Japan

Nobody’s going to deny that rock gardens are one of the great art forms of Japan. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy an exquisitely designed miniature landscape of meticulously raked gravel… …swirling around a few mindfully placed boulders? Plus, compared to even your most basic Japanese garden, they’re really low-maintenance. I mean, once you plant aContinue reading “Failed Rock Gardens Of Japan”

Japanese Invent A New Way For VIP Visits To Annoy The Populace

You know how it goes when a VIP comes to town: streets unexpectedly blocked, swarms of shifty-eyed men in dark suits with little curly wires in their ears, cavalcades of unnecessarily long dark cars swanning through the streets? Annoying, right? Well, in Japan, everybody takes the subway, so you’d think these irritating VIP visits would beContinue reading “Japanese Invent A New Way For VIP Visits To Annoy The Populace”

At The Ise Shrine, Everything New Is Old

The god of rice’s building at the Ise Shrine sits next to a vacant lot. Or, actually, a construction site. Because every twenty years, a replica of the rice god’s shrine is lovingly built right next door. In the twentieth year, the god of rice is moved from the old shrine to the new, andContinue reading “At The Ise Shrine, Everything New Is Old”

My Beautiful Handwashed Trash

Check this out. I totally have the cleanest trash in all the land. If I lived in America, (this would be some weird parallel universe America that has the same insane garbage rules as Japan, which require that recyclables be CLEAN before they are put out for collection on the appointed day), I’d have putContinue reading “My Beautiful Handwashed Trash”

What’s With The Tiny Door?

Wow, people were totally troll-size back in the days before homogenized vitamin D milk! Check out the tiny gate in this old wall! No, wait. Then why is there an eensy-weensy gate next to the car entrance at this temple in Daimon? It was built after the war, when hamburgers and milk had already invadedContinue reading “What’s With The Tiny Door?”

Can Foreigners Get Into A Host Club?

It’s possible, but it it’s not quite as simple as walking up to the doorman and asking to come in. Why? Isn’t my money as good as the next girl’s? Well, for starters, there’s a bit of a language issue. While there might be a few hosts who speak languages other than Japanese, most guysContinue reading “Can Foreigners Get Into A Host Club?”

Why Do Only Men Get Chocolate On Valentine’s Day?

So, you know how in Japan, women don’t get any chocolate or roses or 600 carat diamond necklaces on Valentines Day? On the contrary, they’re supposed to fork over chocolate to men, even male co-workers who might erroneously take it as a sign that the woman wishes to receive the gift of sexual harassment inContinue reading “Why Do Only Men Get Chocolate On Valentine’s Day?”

Garbage Police Of The Gods

Don’t even think of tossing your Daruma figures, dolls or stuffed animals in the Divine Trash Bin! The very existence of this sign on the collection point outside the Meiji Shrine suggests there’s a major issue with people chronically flinging the Wrong Sort Of Stuff into the sacred  New Year’s bonfires: grubby Pikachus, dolls that haveContinue reading “Garbage Police Of The Gods”

King Of Tattoo Returns!

The King Of Tattoo ink-o-rama is going on all weekend here in Tokyo, and this year the artists and crowd were even more spectacular than last year’s extravaganza! Nearly all the attendees – both men and women – had art over more than 50% of their bodies, and a lot of it was of subject matterContinue reading “King Of Tattoo Returns!”

Is It Headless Character Trash Day Yet?

I spotted the Headless Horseman’s Younger Sister out at the curb last Friday on Recyclable Trash Day among the ho-hum bags of beer cans, plastic water bottles and onesie-twosie hard liquor empties. The Garbage Powers That Be evidently decided that this cranium-challenged miss was made of suspiciously unrecyclable plastic, because she was still standing there whenContinue reading “Is It Headless Character Trash Day Yet?”

The Scene Of The Crime

I get to Shibuya Station a little early to meet a friend, and suddenly I’m so hungry I think I’m going to die. Whipping inside the handy Tokyu store, I buy a miniature bag of chocolate cookies to wolf down before my friend arrives. Nom, nom, whew, ravenous feeling assuaged. Oh no, unanticipated pitfall! NowContinue reading “The Scene Of The Crime”

Tattoo Disguise

From this display at a trendy shop near Nakano Broadway, you’d think there was an epidemic of tennis elbow going around the yanqi-ish young men prone to wearing leopard fur accessories and clothing emblazoned with Our Lady of Rude Kustoms. In fact, this particular demographic tends to have something to hide, especially in summertime. Tattoos. DuringContinue reading “Tattoo Disguise”

So How Come Azaleas Are Chopped Liver?

Cherry blossoms are definitely the favorite child. Back in March, as The Season approached, the newspapers all breathlessly reported the movement of the pink tide from south to north, weather forecasts were read as anxiously as tea leaves in order to plan trips to cherry infested locations at the exact moment of full bloom, andContinue reading “So How Come Azaleas Are Chopped Liver?”

First, Poke A Hole With A Toothpick…

For some mysterious reason, milk cartons and styrofoam food trays are the equivalent of a wandering barge heaped with radioactive byproducts when it comes to curbside collection, and must be carted back to the supermarket for recycling. But don’t think you can just toss them in the bin! Oh no. Milk cartons  must be tornContinue reading “First, Poke A Hole With A Toothpick…”

The Garbage Police Strike Again!

Remember how I was stressing about not putting out the five different arcane types of garbage correctly? Well, this is what happens if you screw up! Your trash is shamefully left behind with big colorful notes on it to tell you what you did wrong! The yellow note says that the kind of trash inContinue reading “The Garbage Police Strike Again!”

King Of Tattoo

People from all over the world flew in to be worked on by the international artists at the King of Tattoo three-day inkfest in Daikanyama yesterday. I don’t have any tattoos myself, but I’ve always been interested in art that has to adapt to its environment (like, say, being applied to an arm rather thanContinue reading “King Of Tattoo”

Failing at Putting Out The Trash

Foreigners are legendary at garbage fail in Japan, but anxiety about Doing Trash Right runs deep here, even among native-born Nihon-jin. In a Japanese soap opera I watched recently, one housewife mercilessly bullies her neighbor by sneaking The Wrong Kind Of Trash into her bags once they’d been put out at the curb, causing themContinue reading “Failing at Putting Out The Trash”