The fabulous flower season that happens when nothing else is blooming

February in Japan is not fun. Cold and gray, its only festival involves demons, dry beans and smelly sardines. There would pretty much be nothing to look forward to, if it weren’t for the… Plum blossoms! And although their blooming doesn’t promise no more snow, plum trees bloom while every other flower and leaf isContinue reading “The fabulous flower season that happens when nothing else is blooming”

Icicles of wonder

The Misotsuchi Icicles in Saitama prefecture This secret Japanese pleasure isn’t a famous tourist destination—it’s really more of a pit stop along the way to Suwa City or the Werewolf Shrine—but it’s so spectacular in an ur-illuminations kind of way, I just have to show it to you. There’s a long history of rural folksContinue reading “Icicles of wonder”

Setagaya Boroichi: The mother of all flea markets

Let’s face it— we’ve all had a year of being stuck inside, getting rid of stuff that was oppressing us, and NOT SHOPPING AT ALL, so don’t you think we’re ripe for a new year of acquiring treasures that DO spark joy? There’s no better place to do it than the grand pooh-bah of allContinue reading “Setagaya Boroichi: The mother of all flea markets”

Nothing is weirder than Xmas in Japan

Santa blasphemy, blue poinsettias and Xmas hats from hell The first Christmas I spent in Japan, my head whipped around in a doubletake at the Santa with reindeer right next to a Godzilla made of white fairy lights. I stopped in my tracks when I heard churchy religious carols being played right alongside Jingle BellsContinue reading “Nothing is weirder than Xmas in Japan”

Let’s go see millions of twinkling lights

This month’s destination: YomiuriLand Even if you’re past the age when roller coasters and carousels thrill you, get thee to Yomiuriland at night to see this annual twinklefest! Every year they deck the aging amusement park with millions upon millions of dazzling lights—designed by Motoko Ishii, the lighting designer who famously lit up Tokyo Tower,Continue reading “Let’s go see millions of twinkling lights”

The Japanese art of gift-giving

Since we’re careening into that present-exchanging time of year, I thought you might enjoy a peek into the Japanese art of gift giving. Not to put too fine a point on it, they are MASTERS. If there was a medal for gifting, the Japanese would own the gold and the Guinness record for owning theContinue reading “The Japanese art of gift-giving”