Look up! It’s koi nobori season!

In Japan ’tis the season to look to the sky for swimming fish! May 5th is the holiday formerly known as Boys’ Day, but now the charming flags called koi nobori fly for girls too. On Children’s Day, any child can be the carp that climbs the waterfall to become a dragon. In the monthContinue reading “Look up! It’s koi nobori season!”

Hacking cherry blossom season

How to beat peak pricing and crowds, while still enjoying maximum pinkness! You go to Japan for cherry blossom season expecting it’ll be like this: But if you come during peak season, you’re more likely to get this: And trip dates are becoming harder to guess. Thanks to global warming, the sure bet of “last-few-days-of-March-through-the-first-few-days-of-April”Continue reading “Hacking cherry blossom season”

Feast your eyes on these Japanese New Year decorations

From December 28 to January 7, Japanese new year decorations hang on every door, beckoning in good luck and prosperity for the coming year, but they’re just plain beautiful too! Shimenawas are stuffed with symbolism (red and white, to scare away evil spirits and attract good luck, rice straw for a good harvest/that raise youContinue reading “Feast your eyes on these Japanese New Year decorations”

Design Festa: Your one-stop shop for predatory purses, zombie nesting dolls & more

Twice a year, Design Festa takes over the Big Site convention center in Odiaba, and artists selling everything from zombie matroyshika to predatory purses gather to outdo each other. Get one in every color! Or if that isn’t creepy enough for you, perhaps a crying baby head? Or you can take blowing your nose toContinue reading “Design Festa: Your one-stop shop for predatory purses, zombie nesting dolls & more”

Get the best cherry blossom pix in Tokyo: Where, when & how

Whether you’re an Instagrammer with a mega-following or just want to capture some of the pink magic to show your besties back home, snapping some envy-inducing photos is on every cherry blossom to-do list. But getting those perfect shots isn’t easy, especially if it’s your first time in Tokyo, so here’s how & where toContinue reading “Get the best cherry blossom pix in Tokyo: Where, when & how”

Weird Chocolate

When Japan embraces Western holidays, things can go a bit…sideways. And the biggest example of Getting It Wrong is nearly upon us: Valentine’s Day. Why? Because only MEN get chocolate!* That’s right. For Japanese women, Valentine’s Day might as well be called Big Fat Obligation Day, because not only are they on the hook for giftingContinue reading “Weird Chocolate”

Let’s watch an epic pagoda parade…at night

Oeshiki ikegami at Ikegami Hongan-ji temple What better way to spend a fine fall evening than watching scores of five-tier pagodas parade down the street, all lit up and festooned with garlands of paper flowers? For over seven hundred years, the festival of 10,000 lanterns known as oeshiki ikegami has been happening every October atContinue reading “Let’s watch an epic pagoda parade…at night”

Floating lanterns on a warm moonlit night

Toro Nagashi at Shinobazu Pond in Asakusa Candle-lit lanterns floating across a pond on a warm moonlit night? Yes, please! This toro nagashi ceremony is held at the temple that sits on an island in Tokyo’s Shinobazu Pond. It signals the end of annual O-bon festivities—the three days in summer when the spirits of ancestorsContinue reading “Floating lanterns on a warm moonlit night”

A sea of purple, delighting the populace for hundreds of years

Famous iris gardens near Tokyo  In the West, it’s rare to see more than a couple of delicate butterfly-like Japanese iris artfully ringing a pond at the local botanical garden, but in Japan, they grow whole fields stuffed with every variety and color combination imaginable, to create a sea of graceful nodding purple, as farContinue reading “A sea of purple, delighting the populace for hundreds of years”

If you thought quilts were a Western art, think again!

The Tokyo International Quilt Festival You know how Japan embraces stuff from all over the world, and then turns it uniquely Japanese? Every year at the end of January, Tokyo hosts one of the most magnificent displays of quilting in the world—the Tokyo International Quilt Festival.* Japanese artists come from a long tradition of meticulousContinue reading “If you thought quilts were a Western art, think again!”