Crash Course: Shamisen

Last week, I posted about a great find of a restaurant in the Asakusa neighborhood where diners were treated to a shamisen concert during their meal. For those of you who may not be familiar with the shamisen, here is a brief introduction to this Japanese traditional instrument. The shamisen is thought to have come... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Ryokan

When most travelers come to Japan, they don't necessarily envision themselves bedding down in the nearest Best Western. Yet ryokan (Japanese inns) may seem a bit mysterious and intimidating. So, what exactly goes on behind the curtain? Here's a quick look at what staying in a ryokan entails. Ryokan came to prominence in the Edo Period (1603-1868), when... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Sumo

Six months of the year, I actually turn on my television. As the only channels we really get are the public NHK ones, I often don't bother ... Japanese game shows have yet to grow on me. But when the sumo tournaments are on, I'm glued to my set for at least the final hour.... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: The 47 Samurai

A grievous insult. A man wronged. A life avenged. Conspiracy. Murder. Honor. It's the plot of one of Japan's most popular kabuki plays, Chushingura. Only this story is no fiction, but the famous tale of the 47 Samurai (or 47 Ronin). The story begins back in 1701, when the country was in the throes of... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Samurai

Thanks to all of you for your patience. It took three weeks (!!!) but I'm finally hooked back up to the internet! Hopefully posting will resume a regular schedule from here on out. 🙂 I’ve just moved to Kumamoto (in central Kyushu) and man, is there a pretty impressive castle in this town. To me, castles are... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Jizo

You've probably noticed them at temples around Japan - silent rows of miniature statues, some clad in red caps or bibs, some with candles burned to stubs at their feet. Who are these tiny guardians? They're jizo, protectors of travelers, women and - especially - children. Jizo, also known by their longer title of O-jizo-sama, are... Continue Reading →

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