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 … Continue Reading Shirakawago In The Snow
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 … Continue Reading Remote Control Hell At The Traditional Inn
OK, I admit, I did not make this lollipop. I went to the workshop taught by the artist who made it, but the thing I ended up making did not remotely, remotely, REMOTELY resemble … Continue Reading How To Make The Most Beautiful Lollipops In The World
At first I thought this was some kind of wacky winter kimono from prehistoric, pre-Patagonia days, but no: it’s actually a futon built for two! This fancy sleeping bag was actually used by courtesans when they entertained their customers … Continue Reading Sleeping Bags Of Yore
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 … Continue Reading I Love Japanese New Year’s Decorations!
…I’d have realized I could have had a smashing set of ram horns to wear all day, to welcome in the Year Of The Sheep! Happy New Year, everyone! May the … Continue Reading Dang, If Only I Hadn’t Been Distracted By The Satan Horns…
In the cosmic battle between epic thirst and historic preservation, these vending machines make a heroic effort to deliver the goods in stealth mode. • Read a novel set in Tokyo…
Remember those big white snowball-y bushes that bloomed next to Grandma’s porch all summer long? Believe it or not, those everyday flowers were where they started hybridizing to get these fancypants. Some temples in … Continue Reading Gorgeous Japanese Hydrangeas = Summertime!
Of all the rakugo performances I’ve seen, Fishing For Women is my fave. It’s got great characters, including a guy who’s more of a nightmare than the worst Tinder story you’ve ever heard! THE CHARACTERS In … Continue Reading Fishing For Women
Japan isn’t short on shrines that cure warts, protect your electronics from the forces of eviltude, and jumpstart your career as a manga artist, but this is the first one I’ve heard of that … Continue Reading The Dog Blessing Shrine
Warts. Just hearing their name makes you want to get rid of them faster than pronto. And what easier way, than to visit the Wart-Be-Gone Jizo at Nishiarai Daishi temple? Just toss … Continue Reading The Wart Shrine
Do you think the artist who carved these beasties had ever actually seen one? I guess it doesn’t matter, as long as the guy who paid the bill hadn’t either. These elephants … Continue Reading Furry Elephants. With Claws.
So, I’m trudging back to the bus stop after catching Sankei-en having the Japanese garden equivalent of a bad hair day,* when I spot this odd little shrine tucked between two houses. The altar … Continue Reading The Scrub Brush Shrine
If I were a samurai in the olden days, these would totally be my sneakers of choice for the cherry blossom viewing marathon. I’d stock up on those shoelaces hanging up above too. … Continue Reading Sneakers Of Yore
I’m not sure who first thought that walking across burning coals would be an awesome superpower to have, but sometime in the distant past, that’s exactly what a bunch of … Continue Reading Firewalking 101
If you live, breathe, and want to work in anime, the Kanda Myōjin shrine is the place to pray that your dreams come true. But you’d better bring your markers … Continue Reading The Anime Shrine
Give granny a heart attack with a Coming-Of-Age kimono that shows as much leg as your old schoolgirl uniform, bares a shoulder and some black-lace-edged cleavage, or cinches everything together … Continue Reading Alt Kimono
It’s that time of year when too much is just enough. And biggest of all, my thanks to all you wonderful readers and commenters (and especially those of you who … Continue Reading At New Year’s In Japan, Bigger Is Better
What’s wrong with this box of traditional new year’s food (besides the fact that two measly boxes of cold appetizers cost $525)? Well, if it came from any one of the … Continue Reading New Year’s Food Scandal!
Lines stretch around the block at every KFC in Tokyo on Christmas Eve, as household minions are dispatched to pick up the traditional holiday fare, but this year they have a … Continue Reading Traditional KFC Christmas Dinner, Now With Seaweed!
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 … Continue Reading At The Ise Shrine, Everything New Is Old
It’s not every day I nip out to the local shrine for a little photo taking and run into gaggle of women dressed as eight foot tall birds. Japan can … Continue Reading Giant Faux White Herons
The first time I explored a Japanese department store, I was excited to see that they had an entire department devoted to clothes in my favorite color: black! Then a … Continue Reading All Black, All The Time
There’s one problem with shopping at the chiyogami store in Yanaka – in a matter of minutes, my shopping basket was stacked with ten times the number of sheets I … Continue Reading Wrapping Paper That’s Too Nice For Any Present
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 … Continue Reading Monkey Business
Hey, I was visiting the Togenuki Jizo and I got you a present. Wow, thanks. What is it? Guess. Oh no. On second thought, I don’t want it. It’s something … Continue Reading What’s Long & Skinny And Not What You Think It Is?
Now you no longer have to do the heavy lifting when it comes to heaving that sacred garbage into the shrine’s designated bin! Here at the Narita Fudo-san Shrine, this … Continue Reading Auto-Incinerate, For All Your Sacred Garbage Needs
In case you don’t live in Japan or were raised by wolves in rural Aomori, the story of the 47 rōnin goes like this: After being insulted in the castle of the … Continue Reading Three Things They Never Tell You About The 47 Rōnin
Mmm-mmm, on market day in Koshinzuka, they still sell inago tsukudani, scoops of Jiminy Cricket’s relatives all toasted up nice and crispy in a salty-sweet marinade. And what do they … Continue Reading I’ll Take A Pound Of The Cricket Snacks, Please
First, you take a dried snake. A dried poisonous snake. Then you chop it into little pieces. Add some dried ginger and garlic and a few other secret ingredients. Powderize … Continue Reading How To Make Poisonous Dried Snake Tea
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 … Continue Reading The Head Is The Best Part
Which one of these traditional Japanese tenugui hand towels is not like the others? Hint: it’s the one with the poem that reads: “One of these is small, but he … Continue Reading Cherry Blossoms for Geeks
In Japan, February 8th is the day that old and broken needles are laid to rest. Anyone whose work involves sewing stuff together gathers at Awashima Shrine in Asakusa for … Continue Reading Funeral For A Pin
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 … Continue Reading What The Well-Dressed God Is Wearing This Season
Seriously, which would you rather have? Long-faced celibate guys in brown robes or strapping Japanese dudes in fundoshi (see above)? It’s fall festival season here in Japan right now, and … Continue Reading In My Next Life, I Definitely Want To Come Back As A Shinto God
One day last fall, as I was walking through Yoyogi Park on my way to fall off the slackline, I saw this guy standing by a tree in a vaguely … Continue Reading Sit Down Stand Up
Just because you’re a bodhisattva and charged with the un-small task of looking after children and travelers doesn’t mean you never get to kick off your sandals and party. This O-Jizo-sama at … Continue Reading Party Bodhisattva
Today was the official day of Shichi-Go-San, but for weeks families have been dressing their 7-year-old girls, 5-year-old boys, and 3-year-old girls in traditional finery and taking them to shrines … Continue Reading Mini Kimonos
I love the idea of death anniversaries. In Japan, people don’t forget all about you after you die. One year after, they throw a party. Family and friends are invited, … Continue Reading Happy Death Anniversary