Hanoi Vietnam luxury hat shop at night

Hanoi, Vietnam, 11 p.m.  A taxi delivers a travel-weary American to the heart of Old Town.  The car stops in front of a building whose facade has been torn down.  Inside the building are signs of construction and neglect, in equal measure.  The American re-reads the address on his folded computer print-out. Me:  Umm…this is […]

About these ads
Arakawa red sluice gate open

Introduction The two toilets shown above are typical of Japan: one is playfully guarded by Godzilla; the other has a faucet used for hand-washing that also refills the tank. This simple water-saving design is completely foreign to a visiting American. My friends refused to use the toilet/faucet, convinced that the water was “dirty”. The “water-saving […]

0 Onigiri cannibals yellow

Onigiri おにぎり are Japanese rice balls, often triangular and wrapped with seaweed, and usually filled with a salty item such as salmon or pickled vegetables. Onigiri are carried by all convenience stores in Japan as they are portable and filling. Onigiri is a great food for hiking, which helps explain why a family of onigiri […]

Favorite coffee in Japan

A recent rainy day reminded me of the best coffee I’ve ever had. In early April my brother and I were in Shirakawa 白川村 to see the gasshō-zukuri 合掌造り houses (farmhouses with steep, thatched roofs). Up in the mountains the air was nearly freezing, and by afternoon a steady rain punished us for not carrying […]

Sound of the Mountain 1954 Naruse double suicide

A traditional Japanese house nestled in the hills of Kamakura provides a tranquil setting for Sound of the Mountain 山の音 (Yama no Oto), a 1954 family drama directed by Mikio Naruse 成瀬 巳喜男. Like the house, the elderly mother and father are slowly and steadily aging, following routines established over the course of years. Living […]

Yoshiwara bordello women 1800

Welcome to Tokyo There’s an intersection in Shimbashi that is a microcosm of Tokyo. On the four corners are a FamilyMart, a pachinko parlor, an old mall, and a Kentucky Fried Chicken…and often a handful of Chinese prostitutes. In September 2011, when I first moved to Japan, I was walking through Shimbashi on my way […]

Tsukiji fish market blood

Despite all the guidebooks and blogs, everyone who’s visited me in Tokyo seems to have trouble visiting Tsukiji market 築地市場. As you may have read before, Tsukiji market is not built for tourists yet is among the most visited places in Tokyo (it is the first item on Trip Advisor’s 3 days in Tokyo). Before […]

1949 Akasaka Intersection zoom

As a movie buff and walker of Tokyo’s streets I take great interest in identifying the locations of Tokyo-based films. The photo above is stitched from five stills from the 1949 film Ojôsan kanpai お嬢さん乾杯 (aka Here’s to the Girls, or A Toast to the Young Miss). It’s a large intersection, joining several roads, and […]

25. Yabusame Zushi beach procession horses woman

Here’s the thing about yabusame…it’s pretty freaking awesome. In yabusame 流鏑馬, the objective is to hit a target with an arrow while riding on a fast-moving horse. The arrows have blunt, “turnip-headed” tips [hikime 蟇目/ ひきめ], which carry enough mass to splinter their intended targets. When I watched a tournament last year there were three types […]

Kamakura Buddha dusk slide

When I ask friends and acquaintances about their favorite places near Tokyo, I’m surprised by the regularity with which they respond “Kamakura” 鎌倉. Before my first visit I regarded Kamakura as something of a tourist trap, an obligatory stop on a tour of Japan. I still partially feel this way. But with every trip south from […]

Mokichi Trattoria in Kagawa

Recently while exchanging emails with a reader of my blog, we got on the topic of beer in Tokyo. My response was so long it only made sense to turn it into an entry. Although edited, I’ve tried to maintain the conversational tone to (perhaps) give you my most honest impressions. While no expert in […]

Ohsawa Concrete Airplane  hangars model

In the greatest film ending of all time, Charlton Heston collapses in despair upon seeing the Statue of Liberty half-buried in sand, instantly realizing that the Planet of the Apes is, after all, Earth.  Imagine how less dramatic this climax would be had it taken place in the great ape library, Heston reading the troubling […]

21. Ueno marsh people umbrella

Punk Kabuki rockers, window washers in the morning sun (times two), and Tokyo after dark, here are 30 of my favorite images from November. …………………………     Google

Kannon Hanajima - Hanami River - cat zoom

I. In which the author makes the discovery of a tranquil river A week removed from that frigid Saturday, the day all of Tokyo celebrated hanami 花見 like cherry blossom addicts, the day I missed with a stubborn spring cold, it is now this Saturday, a dreary excuse for a weekend during which spring continues […]


Can I walk to Haneda airport? Please read on… 1.  The road more traveled In Edo-period Japan the Tōkaidō 東海道 road linked the shōgun’s capital, Edo (modern-day Tokyo), with the emperor’s capital, Kyoto, allowing the shogun to maintain administrative control over Japan.  The 303-mile (488 km) coastal road was dotted with 53 government-sanctioned post stations […]

1 - teen japanese girl subway slip

Do you suffer from the following symptoms: precipitous mood swings, bouts of depression, uncontrollable laughter, feelings of invincibility, a gnawing fear that you’ll never fit in? If yes, you may be a teenager. Or you may be an expat. Many years ago I put teen angst and emotional chaos in my rear-view mirror, but since […]

Building 15 (June 2012)

“Visiting a ghost town is like seeing someone wearing a California Golden Seals hockey jersey: it’s sad and cool at the same time.” - http://planetross.wordpress.com/2008/04/       I.  Team ground 団地  In February I stumbled through the tightly packed streets south of Chitose-Karasuyama station and into an open patch of ground dotted with dilapidated houses […]

Soraya Umewaka and father

I.  “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.” ― George Carlin Soraya Umewaka is best known for her documentary Eu Sou Feliz ‘I am Happy’ (2010), an intimate profile of several Rio de Janeiro residents (her website: http://www.streetwitnessproductions.com/). From a live-in maid to a stay-at-home mom, a policeman to a graffiti artist, the […]

Heroes have always been cowboys - oil derrick

  The Ferry Driver did good business, if only because of our small group of expat English teachers.  The bar sat in the middle of a strip mall on the dusty street running along the western perimeter of our university.  We’d meet 3 or 4 nights a week at eight o’clock and leave by 11:48, […]


“Buildings and cities should be designed and developed in the same continuous way that the material substance of a natural organism is produced.” – Metabolism   “Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancerous cells are also called malignant cells.” – National Institutes for Health I. A man, a plan, a […]

Kawasaki Children on gravel - Kazuaki Nakata 中田 和昭

I.     What’s in Kawasaki? Three times at work today I was met with blank stares when mentioning my weekend visit to Kawasaki 川崎市, an industrial city probably overlooked by most travelers (and Tokyo natives) as they head south from Tokyo to Yokohama.  The wide and occasionally flood-prone Tama River 多摩川 (Tamagawa) acts as a physical […]

robert oppenheimer time magazine cover

Went to see a pair of unusual musical performance recently: the Japanese premier of the “Doctor Atomic Symphony” by John Adams (adapted from the opera of the same name), and Symphony No. 6 “Hiroshima” 交響曲第6番「HIROSHIMA」 (1985) by Ikuma Dan 團 伊玖磨.  About the latter piece, it is difficult to find online information, even in this […]

Meat Market Manila at night

From the files. Meat market at night, Manila.

Drowning woman sign

Originally posted on Funny Japanese Street Signs 面白い道路標識:
Drowning woman sign In the following collection of signs, my favorite is of the woman drowning. Above her is a man with a net and a boy with a fishing pole. The black “X” and red “O” can be read to mean that if a woman is drowning,…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 699 other followers