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: 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: 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 →

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 →

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