How can Oreos be more Japanese than sumo wrestlers?

In last month’s Japanagram, we talked about turning foreign things Japanese, but I bet you never thought that the most extreme example of that might be…sumo. Foreigners have dominated this most sacred of Japanese sports since 1990. This photo, for example, is Asashoryu, the Mongolian who introduced revolutionary – and, for a while, unstoppable – techniques based onContinue reading “How can Oreos be more Japanese than sumo wrestlers?”

Why the most interesting food you’ll eat in Japan might be…spaghetti

I know. Nobody goes to Japan to eat spaghetti. It’s sushi that’s supposed to deliver the big revelations, right? The exotic fish. The squicky I-dare-you innards. The arcane serving rituals at a restaurant with no menu. But it’s eating spaghetti in Japan that will really make you think. Because although every “Italian” restaurant in Tokyo offers pastaContinue reading “Why the most interesting food you’ll eat in Japan might be…spaghetti”

Haiku that capture the small embarrassments and ironies of modern life

Yamada Zenjido (known on Twitter and Instagram as y_haiku) is a Japanese artist who pens haiku-like truisms paired with pitch-perfect drawings, and they are hella funny…if you read Japanese. A few translations, to brighten your day… • Elderly uncle buying sake.Do I really have toCheck his ID? • Why does the dirty rice cooker alwaysContinue reading “Haiku that capture the small embarrassments and ironies of modern life”

International Food Fails of Japan

How can they get it so wrong? In a country where only 24% of the population even have a passport (compared to 45% of Americans and 78% of Brits), the closest most Japanese have ever been to “foreign” food is the restaurant down the block. Not surprisingly, this black hole of experience plays out inContinue reading “International Food Fails of Japan”

Fiddler on the Roof…in Japanese

Japanese musicals: So far off Broadway, they’re an art form in themselves There’s nothing more entertaining than a good old-fashioned musical, performed by an all-Japanese cast. Boggle along with me as they tackle these classics of stage and screen… Mozart-san Yep, it’s the thoroughly be-wigged, all-Japanese production of Amadeus. • Just a spoonful of nattōContinue reading “Fiddler on the Roof…in Japanese”

Pre-battered suitcases and other weird travel necessities

Japanese fears, explained by travel products I used to laugh at the sheer array of disinfectant travel wipes for sale at Tokyu Hands (for planes! for trains! for public bathrooms!) but in this day and age, those aren’t so funny anymore. But there are a few Japanese travel aids whose entertainment value never grows old…Continue reading “Pre-battered suitcases and other weird travel necessities”

One more reason why I love Japan

Because the same culture that gave us this… And this And this Also came up with this If this isn’t the most butt-ugly building you’ve ever seen, wrap me in seaweed and roll me in fish eggs. Seriously, who could possibly have imagined this would be attractive? Who signed off on it? Who wasted months ofContinue reading “One more reason why I love Japan”

Japanese ceremonies we didn’t know we needed

In Japan, there are ceremonies for some very odd things Everybody knows about Japan’s famous tea ceremony, and of course they also mark weddings, funerals and graduations with ceremonies. But one of the most interesting discussions we’ve been having at book zooms about The Last Tea Bowl Thief is about how the Japanese have ceremoniesContinue reading “Japanese ceremonies we didn’t know we needed”