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”

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”

Emergency Funeral Tie

Every convenience store in Japan sells clothes. Emergency clothes. Say you missed the last train home and have to prop yourself in a comic book café cubicle all night, then head straight back to the hamster wheel the next morning. Your white shirt no longer passes muster, and your underwear? Let’s not go there. ConvenienceContinue reading “Emergency Funeral Tie”

Forever Alone: Japan Version

In The Land of Group Harmony, doing things by yourself is almost un-Japanese. But because Japan is also the country which offers a hot spring resort for dogs, a store that only sells big red underwear for people over sixty, wine matched to your blood type, a club for people who gather in the park everyContinue reading “Forever Alone: Japan Version”

The Annual Host Convention!

Picture this. It’s a quiet Monday night in January. Usually the hosts who work in the Zero Group’s bars would be giving their hair a much-needed rest, kicking back to annihilate some video game zombies, and ordering take-out. But tonight is different from all other Monday nights. Tonight is The Annual Meeting! In any business,Continue reading “The Annual Host Convention!”

The Japanese Bus Tour: A Cultural Experience of Epic Proportions

I’d have to say that going on a two-day bus tour to the Ise Shrine has to rank right up there with staying overnight at a comic book café and going to a host club as a peak Only In Japan cultural activity. Allow me to highlight a few features of this once-in-a-lifetime experience! TourContinue reading “The Japanese Bus Tour: A Cultural Experience of Epic Proportions”

Break Glass In Case Of Poetry

Wandering the grounds at Hikone Castle, I came across this curious little box on a post. It had cards, it had a writing shelf, it had a slot for depositing the cards after one had used the writing shelf. I couldn’t read the kanji on the front. What was it? A suggestion box? Why wouldContinue reading “Break Glass In Case Of Poetry”

Hangover Coffins: Rent ‘Em By The Hour

Next time you wake up and feel like you’ve died and gone to hell, spend an hour sleeping off that mandatory company drinking party in an oxygen-filled hangover coffin! You’ll not only emerge without that pounding head and queasy stomach, you’ll feel thinner, younger,  more relaxed and able to perform feats of athletic prowess withContinue reading “Hangover Coffins: Rent ‘Em By The Hour”

Pooping On Laundry Prohibited!

Okay, this sign actually reads “Don’t Give Food To The Pigeons!” but it goes on to give a rather elaborate rationale for withholding bread crumbs from the little beggars. It seems that not only will feeding them provoke an unnatural population explosion, the poop from all those extra pigeons will be a scourge on localContinue reading “Pooping On Laundry Prohibited!”

Monkey Business

I was walking around the Decks shopping complex in Odaiba, and suddenly, MONKEY SHOW. Seriously. Right in the middle of the mall. A monkey show. Of course, trained monkeys have been entertaining people for a long time in Japan – the tradition dates back to before the samurai era – but usually you have toContinue reading “Monkey Business”

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”

Job Description: Wizard of Oz

It’s amazing that a Japanese train ticket machine has never been in the running when it’s time to elect a new pope, because they are about as close to infallible as a machine can get. You stick in your money, and – unlike the ticket machine I once encountered in San Francisco, which rained downContinue reading “Job Description: Wizard of Oz”

Kayak The Untamed Canals Of Tokyo!

After you’ve climbed the north face of Everest, surfed the 50-footers at Mavericks, and helicopter boarded the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, what’s left for next year’s Golden Week? Sadly, you discover that your idea of kayaking the Amazon from its headwaters in deepest darkest Brazil would require longer than five days. But then you see this subway posterContinue reading “Kayak The Untamed Canals Of Tokyo!”

Wanted: Human Shield And Occasional Apologizer

See those guys in blue uniforms? Their job is to stand there like human bollards until the massive crush dies down, making sure the mob getting off the inhumanly packed morning train doesn’t block the people scampering to catch their ride going in the opposite direction, out to the burbs. This is rush hour atContinue reading “Wanted: Human Shield And Occasional Apologizer”

Real Live Tanuki Sighting!

Ahahaha, I bet you thought tanukis were the stuff of Japanese legends – crafty tricksters with notoriously large cojones who play pranks on gullible humans – but it turns out tanuki are alive and well and living on some of the choicest real estate in Tokyo! I saw this little guy at the Meiji Shrine’sContinue reading “Real Live Tanuki Sighting!”

I Thought I’d Seen Tricked-Out Cars, But…!

I’d whipped out my camera to capture some arty-farty reflections of the Shibuya neon on cabs stuck at a traffic light, and when I looked at the display YOWZERS there was this CAR! And because traffic getting through Shibuya was wicked slow even at midnight, Lady Luck smiled upon me and gave me a halfContinue reading “I Thought I’d Seen Tricked-Out Cars, But…!”

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?”

Tokyo At Night: Kabuki-chō

In Kabuki-chō, the day starts when the sun goes down. The streets are thronged with those who are looking for a good time, and those who are looking to provide it. I got to know this area pretty well when I was researching Fallen Angel, the second book in my mystery series, because it mostlyContinue reading “Tokyo At Night: Kabuki-chō”

The Head Is The Best Part

The head is the best part. Or so I was told by the ayu vendor at the  Yasukuni shrine. My new pet fish-on-a-stick looked too big to be eaten whole, but apparently that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. Head, tail, innards, bones, everything. My main grill man helpfully informed me that they’re skewered upside-down so asContinue reading “The Head Is The Best Part”

The World’s Shortest Elevator

If you want to contend for the title of World’s Laziest Human, get off the train at Takadanobaba Station and wait for the elevator to take you down the five steps outside the ticket gate. Okay, of course, this provides access for people who have difficulty climbing stairs, are toting giant suitcases or wheeling monstroContinue reading “The World’s Shortest Elevator”

Lights! Camera! Wedding!

The fairy tale chapel in this subway ad has nothing to do with religion – it’s actually a new wedding hall outside of Yokohama! Traditionally, Japanese couples got married in a shrine with only immediate family in attendance, then threw a reception party afterwards at a restaurant or nice hotel. But recently, wedding halls andContinue reading “Lights! Camera! Wedding!”

Shop ‘n Chill

So you get to the Ginza Mitsukoshi department store food hall bright and early to nab a coveted bunch of First Grapes Of The Season before they’re sold out, then you spot a nice piece of salmon for dinner. You buy it before remembering that you have to go to the dentist after doing yourContinue reading “Shop ‘n Chill”

A Japanese Garden That Makes Music

This garden is actually a musical instrument! All you have to do to play it is scoop up a dipper of water and pour it over the rocks. If you put your ear up to the end of the bamboo stick nearby, you can hear the water as it drips down into the buried cistern,Continue reading “A Japanese Garden That Makes Music”

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?”

What The Well-Dressed God Is Wearing This Season

As I walked through the grounds of Zōjōji Temple after watching some obligatory bean-throwing at Setsubun, I couldn’t help but notice that several of the figures of o-Jizo-sama had been gifted with quite the fashionable winter outfits! But while these displays of Jizo fashion creativity made me smile, they made me kind of sad too.Continue reading “What The Well-Dressed God Is Wearing This Season”

From Sixteen Nearly-Extinct Barley Seeds…

Only in Japan would a guy bent on coming up with a new brewskie start by requesting sixteen seeds of a nearly annihilated strain of barley from the Department of Agricultural History, then spend years cultivating his little two-foot-square patch of grain into a crop big enough to malt for production! After-work company drinking partiesContinue reading “From Sixteen Nearly-Extinct Barley Seeds…”

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”

Stealth Holidays Of Japan

Nooooo! How could it be Monday morning already? If I hide my head under the pillow, will it go away? Ugh, even through the pillow, I can hear the rain. Wow, I really, really, really, really don’t want to get out of bed. Or get packed onto a train full of snuffling commuters and wetContinue reading “Stealth Holidays Of Japan”

Just Try To Toss Your Round Garbage Into My Square Garbage Bin NOW!

What is with you people?! It says right here, RIGHT ON THE RECYCLING BIN, in the kind of phonetic letters ANY SIX-YEAR-OLD should be able to handle: P A P E R    P A C K Does that say “plastic” to you? Seriously, people, read the sign. This bin is for square paper packsContinue reading “Just Try To Toss Your Round Garbage Into My Square Garbage Bin NOW!”

Tools For The Fingernail Challenged

Congratulating yourself that your spanking new nail art will definitely make it impossible for you to be selected to wash dishes or chop vegetables, you whip out your smartphone to send your ten best friends new shots of your to-die-for talons, the bowl of abura soba you just ordered for lunch, and a snap ofContinue reading “Tools For The Fingernail Challenged”

Standing Room Only…Restaurants?

Taking the single-guy-wolfing-down-a-microwaved-burrito-over-the-sink to new levels, check out these SRO restaurants! Not uncommon, especially near train stations, these places solve a major problem for harried Japanese citizens: how do you grab a bite when you’ve got 30 minutes from office to meeting and 20 of those are going to be spent in a subway car?Continue reading “Standing Room Only…Restaurants?”

Try Not To Think About The Sizzling Fish Brain

Maybe it’s because we’d just finished watching The Matrix, and the post-movie izakaya conversation is all about comparing the worldview of the Wachowski Bros to the Buddhist concept that all reality exists only in our minds, but when I see that someone has ordered these little silver fish, I know a “clear your mind ofContinue reading “Try Not To Think About The Sizzling Fish Brain”

The Fish Bone Restaurant

You know how in America some serious steak restaurants have honkin’ big showcases of  marbled beef displayed near the front door? Well, this is the equivalent come-hither to dine at a joint where himono is the specialty of the house! Himono is basically fish jerky, but it’s different from beef jerky because it features the addedContinue reading “The Fish Bone Restaurant”

What Not To Do On Japanese Trains

The Spitfire demon’s evil twin has donned a suit and volunteered to show commuters what not to do on Japanese trains. Hint #1: Do not bully schoolboys about their pink hair. They can’t help it. Hint #2: Pinching that salaryman will only get the office lady’s knickers in a twist, so please direct your attentionsContinue reading “What Not To Do On Japanese Trains”

Special today! $300 Mushrooms!

I had to stop and count the zeros, because I can honestly say that even in Japan, I’ve never seen a number of that size attached to a piece of FOOD. To be fair, this is a jumbo pack of matsutakes (they’re usually sold onesie-twosie), and the price per shroom works out to a bargainContinue reading “Special today! $300 Mushrooms!”

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?”

Sleepover at the Comic Book Cafe

It was 2:30 in the morning on a rainy Shibuya night. Not a cab in sight. And if there had been, chances are, one of the hundreds of other people straining their eyes searching for one in vain would have beaten us to it. What to do, what to do? Fortunately, my friend was Japanese,Continue reading “Sleepover at the Comic Book Cafe”