Crash Course: Osechi

New Year's Day arrives in less than two weeks and I am just now coming to terms with that. What is it about December that makes it seem as if there are 15-20 fewer days in this month than all the others? Last year, I felt I had everything together by the time Christmas rolled... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Kappa

Now that I've moved back to Tokyo and finally settled into the new apartment, it's time to start shopping to kit out my kitchen. Compared to my old kitchen in Kumamoto, I have three times the space in this one. No more carting appliances from the living room when I want to use them and... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Tenugui

It's July 1st and I've got to say, the heat is STILL not here. I'm a bit surprised that rainy season has lasted so long this year, with no break yet in sight. (It's currently pouring.) Not that I am complaining, mind you. I am not a fan of the stifling summer temperatures. Summertime means sweat,... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Fans

It's June 1st and the heat is on (yes, now YOU also have cheesy 1980s song lyrics stuck in your head). Luckily, we haven't yet broken the 90 degree barrier here in Kumamoto, although poor Kyoto has been stewing all week. Rainy season seems set to arrive tomorrow, though, so we'll hopefully see a few... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Tosenkyo

When I was planning my trip to Kyoto last week, I went through my list of gardens, temples and shrines (and restaurants, of course!) to see what would occupy my time for three glorious days of solo travel. I hadn't exactly planned on the pouring rain. But thankfully, the bad weather gave me a reason... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Mon (or Kamon)

Chances are you've come across a mon (or kamon) during your time in Japan, even if you weren't aware of it at the time. Mon are symbols used to identify different families of clans in Japan, similar to the coat of arms of European aristocracy. From the chrysanthemum crest of the royal family to the Tokugawa's hollyhock,... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Bingata

My husband is in Okinawa (again) this week and normally, I wouldn't give it a second thought. (Except to lament how long the weekends feel when you are single parenting! 🙂 ) I've made no secret of my .... ahem, lack of love for Okinawa, whose steamy climes I called home between 2009-2012. Yet as... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Tori no Ichi

October has barely started and I am already thinking about the end of the year. A quick glance at the calendar this week reminded me that the Tori no Ichi rake fairs are coming up in just a few weeks. Tori no ichi (rake fairs) are, as far as I am aware, nationwide celebrations though... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Tanuki

My husband is a big knickknack collector. Somewhere in a storage unit in California, there are way too many boxes of snow globes, Eiffel Tower key chains, Russian matryoshka dolls and dozens of mini flags (with stands of course) from our many and varied travels. I always seemed to be fighting an endless battle against what I -... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Kokeshi Dolls

During our trip to Tohoku earlier this month, we encountered shops and shops of kokeshi dolls. Kokeshi are wooden dolls with heads and bodies only, traditionally made only in the six northern prefectures of Japan's Honshu Island. The history of kokeshi is a bit murky. My research shows that kokeshi were first created in the... Continue Reading →

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