Crash Course: Rice Cultivation

They don't really grow rice in downtown Tokyo. And rice isn't one of the staple crops of Okinawa (that would be pineapple and sugarcane, if you're curious). So for the first four years of my life in Japan, I ate a LOT of rice but never quite saw where it came from. That all changed... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Onsen

Since moving to Kyushu over a year ago, I've made onsen-hopping my new (although only occasional) pursuit. In a country with an abundance of volcanic activity, it seems there's always a hot spring around every corner. So what do you need to know to enjoy one of Japan's best natural features? Read on and see.... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Ikebana

Chances are if you've spent any amount of time in Japan, you've seen an ikebana arrangement - at a tea ceremony, at a flower exhibition, in the lobby of a posh hotel or even in the alcove of a Japanese friend's home. These asymmetric creations bare little resemblance to the full-bodied bouquets of the flower... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Eisa

Obon in Okinawa ended yesterday, a week after that of mainland Japan, but I am sure the echoes of eisa music can still be heard around the island. Eisa is considered a Bon dance, meaning a dance that is performed during the Obon season to honor the spirits of the ancestors. In modern-day Okinawa, however,... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Oni (Demons)

If you saw the Uncover Japan facebook page the other week, you might have caught the picture of a rather angry-looking, red-faced man staring out at you. I found him in Noboribetsu Onsen in Hokkaido, where I was vacationing last month. He and his ilk were all over the place - in fact, Noboribetsu Onsen... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Daruma

I realize that in my post on Kurashiki's Bikan District, I casually threw out the word daruma without a second thought for an explanation. I apologize and will remedy that here and now - keep your eyes open for these little red dolls as they make classic souvenirs from Japan! Daruma are hollow, round traditional... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Fireflies

It's rainy season here in Japan but there is a small light at the end of the tunnel. And I do mean a very small light. More specifically, the light of a firefly. While June is the month of irises, hydrangea and rain, it's also the month of the firefly (hotaru in Japanese). Just like... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Bento

Back in grade school, a lunch box was a prized and magical possession. Not only did it matter what action figure or beloved character graced the outside (Spiderman! Rainbow Brite! ¬†Transformers! Have I dated myself yet? :)) but the contents of the box were also of the utmost importance. Opening the lid could either reveal... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Tea

Though Starbucks has indeed invaded the Japanese archipelago, this country has traditionally run on tea. Since its importation from China sometime in the 9th century, tea has become the drink of choice, the gatorade of the samurai class and the Miller Lite of the masses. Certain prefectures in Japan are known for their tea production,... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Shakuhachi

In keeping with the musical theme of the last Crash Course, I decided to do a post on the shakuhachi, Japan's traditional flute. This isn't an instrument people stumble across too often on their journeys through Japan but recently, my husband actually started taking shakuhachi lessons. Perhaps his ... shall we say ... "considerable" attempts... Continue Reading →

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