The Old Shinohara Family Home: glimpse into the lives of Meiji Period merchants

The Shinohara family of Utsunomiya were a long-established mercantile family and a visit to their beautifully-preserved home, just minutes from Utsunomiya, offers insights into how successful merchants lived, as well as into the architectural styles of late 19th century Japan.  As one might expect of a large family home in this area, it is faced … Continue reading The Old Shinohara Family Home: glimpse into the lives of Meiji Period merchants

Origami Kaikan: a chance to explore the folds and layers of paper

It is often observed that Japan borrows ideas and technologies from various sources, adapting them to suit Japanese needs and sensibilities, essentially making them Japanese.  Paper, one of Japan's earliest borrowings from China, is no exception. Japanese paper is nothing short of amazing.  Traditional hand-made washi paper is lovely and soft; fun to make and … Continue reading Origami Kaikan: a chance to explore the folds and layers of paper

One impact of war, the desire for peace

August in Japan is always a time when television programming is replete with movies and documentaries about World War II.  It was on August 15, 1945 (JST), that the Japanese officially surrendered to the Allies, thus ending the Pacific War.  That fact, combined with the fact that August is traditionally a time when Japanese people … Continue reading One impact of war, the desire for peace

Nittele Big Clock: a Ghibli-inspired clock like no other

Who doesn't love a performing clock, with various figurines that dance or move at appointed times throughout the day?  In Tokyo there are a number of such clocks, including the Marionette Clock at Ebisu Garden Place and the Mullion Musical Clock outside the Hankyu Men's Store in Yurakucho.  But perhaps the busiest and most intricate … Continue reading Nittele Big Clock: a Ghibli-inspired clock like no other

Never get tired of recycling at Nishi-Rokugo Park

These days we hear a lot about recycling to reduce waste and ease pressure on the environment.  Nishi-Rokugo Park, also known as Tire Park, is a great example of turning waste items into something both useful and fun. In this suburban playground/park, more than 3,000 tires are repurposed into whimsical shapes and playground equipment to … Continue reading Never get tired of recycling at Nishi-Rokugo Park

The not-so-Lucky Dragon – “fallout” from nuclear testing

On January 22, 1954, a 25 meter long wooden fishing boat named Dai-go Fukuryu-maru (in English "F/V Lucky Dragon #5") set sail from Yaizu, a fishing port in Shizuoka, Japan, with a crew of 23.  The boat was scheduled to be at sea for approximately two months, making a clockwise sweep around an area of … Continue reading The not-so-Lucky Dragon – “fallout” from nuclear testing

Sankeien – a classic garden and classic architecture

For centuries, Japanese gardens have been places to stroll, enjoying greenery and seasonal changes set off by a central pond.  We often think of such gardens as dating to the age of sophisticated samurai, who wrote poetry under a full moon or performed tea ceremony in little huts.  Yet many fine classic gardens were actually … Continue reading Sankeien – a classic garden and classic architecture