Perhaps it's the result of a frugal upbringing or perhaps it's the fact that the day is cold and rainy and I want something to warm me, but as I am walking along the street, a sign that says "free coffee" catches my eye. What's weird is that a price is given just below those … Continue reading What does it mean to be free?
Old stone quarries are fascinating places to explore. They are full of man-made shapes and angles that nature is working to reclaim. At Nokogiriyama (lit. Sawtooth Mountain) in Chiba--a perfect distance a day trip from Tokyo--, part of the mountain was quarried away over several decades, leaving lots of fun nooks and crannies to explore, … Continue reading Nokogiriyama – stepping it up on Sawtooth Mountain
Old Edo was a firetrap. One and two-story structures, made mostly of wood, straw and paper, standing cheek-by-jowl with the neighbors, with everyone cooking and heating with open fires or charcoal braziers. Any little fire quickly got out of control and equally quickly spread to neighboring structures. Major fires were so common in the Edo … Continue reading Hashigo-nori (ladder-top acrobatics) at Ikegami Honmonji
This article takes readers on a walk to visit Japan's seven lucky gods at shrines and temples in the Minato neighborhood of Tokyo. Such walks are a popular new year's activity, said to bring luck and fortune to participants. This walk can only be done for that purpose between New Year's Day and Coming of … Continue reading The seven lucky gods of Minato: A different perspective on a well-known Tokyo district
Most people, upon hearing mention of fortune cookies, think of the waffle cookie confection that is usually served with the bill at Chinese restaurants (especially in North America). But we have fortune cookies in Japan, too, and one variety is available only at New Year's. Fortunes at new year's are a popular part of getting … Continue reading Fortune Cookies for the New Year
In traditional Japan there are many rituals observed relating to seeing out the old year and successfully bringing in the new one. Sometimes these rituals, most of which occur in December, also involve acquiring “lucky charms” of various sorts. Asakusa, a venerable Tokyo neighbourhood known for its efforts to preserve traditions, is a particularly good … Continue reading Good fortune is child’s play at the Asakusa Hagoita Ichi
Who doesn't love a good open air market? And this time of year, German-style Christmas markets are particularly popular in Japan. The lights, music, and festive atmosphere are great to put one in the mood for Christmas. Last year I visited the Tokyo Christmas Market at Hibiya Park, which is on again this year through … Continue reading Christmas spirit in Yokohama
In our travels, we often find particular pleasure in getting off the beaten track and exploring the road less traveled. This is true whether we're walking or driving. On a recent car trip in Kyushu's Oita Prefecture, while driving from Yufuin to Nakatsu, we had the opportunity to take smaller side roads that led us … Continue reading Unexpected respite on the road less traveled
This article profiles Midori Okazaki, a female master sake brewer (toji) who is the head of a sake brewery in Ueda, Nagano that has been run by her family since 1665. (Archived article - Originally published by Number 1 Shimbun.)
Soba, a Japanese noodle made of buckwheat, became popular in Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and remains popular to this day. Frequently consumed as a snack or fast food, it can also form a complete meal. Buckwheat has been cultivated in Japan for centuries, although much of the buckwheat flour used these days is … Continue reading So many ways to eat soba!
More than half of the apples produced in Japan are grown in Aomori Prefecture at the top of Honshu, the largest island in the Japanese archipelago. That's nearly 450,000 tons of fruit coming from Aomori alone. Aomori's northern climate is particularly conducive to apple production, a fact recognized by the American missionaries who first introduced … Continue reading All things apple are in Aomori
This article introduces netsuke, a decorative accessory for traditional Japanese garments that serves a very practical purpose. These little toggles have evolved into intricate art forms crafted from various materials. (Archived article - Originally published by Japan Today.)