Over a Thousand Years of Service: Japan’s Oldest Businesses Reign Supreme(ly Old)

Businesses die like anything else. I used to give joke directions to a house where I lived that involved a whole sequence of useless instructions like "turn left where the dry cleaner used to be." If you've lived in the … [Read more...]

Shunga: Japan’s Ancient Erotica

Vending machines selling school girl's panties?  Grown men reading pornographic comics in public?  Gender segregated train-cars to protect women from gropers? Ear-cleaning parlors with very happy-endings?  With situations … [Read more...]

Hell’s Bells: Gamers Steer Animal Crossing up a Silent Hill

There’s no wrong way to play Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which, depending on the kind of person you are, can be extremely frustrating or tremendously liberating. In this Nintendo 3DS game, you are the new mayor and it’s … [Read more...]

Interview with Medama-Sensei: The Racism-Battling Monk of YouTube

"In a couple of days, I will be gone for 1 year to become a buddhist monk in a forest monastery" is the Twitter post from last year that explained why one of my favorite Japan-video-makers had been absent on Youtube for a … [Read more...]

JAPANESE GHOSTS!! Everything You Want to Know Explained by Zack Davisson

Ghost stories have been big in Japan for about as long as there's been Japanese literature. When they were first written down in the Heian period, at the same time as the classic Tale of Genji, there were enough to fill a … [Read more...]

The Island Inbetween: Tsushima and the Sō Family

You may have never heard of the island of Tsushima, but for hundreds of years it was the door between Japan and Korea. Tsushima’s location was ideal for international trade, situated roughly fifty kilometers from the … [Read more...]

The Cicadas’ Song: Japan’s Summer Soundtrack

Japan's summers ring in to an annual soundtrack.  The melody rides the humid summer breeze from the mountains, down through the forests and along the rivers and roads.  Although the musicians prefer the trees, their … [Read more...]

Tracing the History of Japan’s Mythical Lion Dogs

If you’ve ever been to a shrine in Japan, odds are you’ve seen a pair of dog-like lions flanking the entrance. If you’ve been to Okinawa you’ve seen them just about everywhere. In fact you can see some variation on these … [Read more...]

Kitsune: The Real and Fantastic Japanese Fox

In every culture there are beliefs about animals that are so basic, we don't even quite realize that they are folklore. In English we talk about the lazy pig and the wise owl, even though most of us have never met one … [Read more...]

Top 10 REAL Pokemon You Can Find in Japan!

I think everyone has wished Pokemon were real at some point in time, and being a fan of the colorful and powerful roster of pocket monsters can make it easy to forget the majesty of our mundane world's animal kingdom. If … [Read more...]

Badass Chicks in Japanese History: Murasaki Shikibu

Second in a series chronicling—you guessed it—female badassery in Japan. As you might have guessed from the inaugural article in this series, the sword-slinging samurai Tomoe Gozen seems like a tough act to follow. That … [Read more...]

A Bridge Across Time

Nagasaki’s Megane-bashi (Spectacles Bridge) got its name from the way the reflection of its double arches in the river combine with the bridge itself to look like a pair of glasses. In addition to its historical … [Read more...]

Let’s All Get NAKED! Onsen and Body Image

There’s nothing better than slipping into a hot bath. You feel your muscles relax. The cares of the day float away on a cloud of steam. A butt-naked Oba-chan (old woman) is staring at you… wait! What?! Does that seem … [Read more...]

10 of Hello Kitty’s Most DISTANT Relatives

There was a time when I hated Hello Kitty. But once I understood her complexity and accepted her into my life, a whole world opened up. Sanrio, not unlike Marvel or DC, is an entire universe of characters, and exploring … [Read more...]

Lords of Kumamoto: Kato Kiyomasa and the Hosokawa

Last fall I visited Kumamoto Castle. Though mostly a reconstruction, it’s impressive nonetheless. There is currently a regular live show on the castle grounds, in which actors dressed as famous samurai stage mock fights … [Read more...]

A Crash Course in Japanese Poetry

I remember reading Japanese poetry for the first time in the second grade. Don’t ask why it stuck with me; I just remember reading a haiku by Matsuo Bashō and thinking it was awesome. I remembered it well enough that I … [Read more...]

Namahage – Akita’s New Year’s Ogres

泣く子はいねがぁ / “Are there any crybabies here?” may not be something you want to hear shouted through your door on New Year's Eve, but the people of Akita Prefecture, specifically Oga Peninsula, feel differently. The Namahage / … [Read more...]

Introducing Introduction: Mastering Jikoshokai and the ALT Self-Intro Class

Hajimemashite! It’s nice to meet you! If you come to Japan you’re going to find yourself saying this quite often. Introductions are very important in Japanese culture. It can be seen as an extension of the Japanese … [Read more...]

Can You Dig It? Of Love and Earwax

Forget hugs and kisses. Throw away your candy, flowers and rings. If you want to truly express love for someone, clean their ears. Is It a Love Story? Image from the anime, Hen Zemi (変ゼミ) Perhaps you’ve seen it in … [Read more...]

Is Japan Really “Conservative”?

I don’t think that I’m the only one who has experienced this but I often hear the word “conservative” being applied to Japan. At first I just accepted it as being true - because Japan is very obviously conservative on many … [Read more...]

Meet the Ogasawara Islands!

Ah, Tokyo, that shining island paradise. Turquoise waters. Palm trees and coconuts. Grass skirts and piña coladas. What’s that you say? These images don’t leap to mind when I say “Tokyo”? Well, to be fair, grass … [Read more...]

The Evolution of Karate

Karate stands alongside the likes of judo, kendo, and sumo as one of Japan’s most famous martial arts. However, as Karate Kid II taught us, karate was born in Okinawa. Not only that, but it was born in a time when Okinawa … [Read more...]

Being Fat in Japan (By Someone Who Lost Over 100 Pounds Here)

Note from the author: This is about my personal experience and opinions. I am not a licensed nutritionist. The following entry is solely based on personal research, experience, and opinions and should be read as such. … [Read more...]

It’s The 63rd Annual Sapporo Snow Festival This Week! Who’re You Rooting For?

Japan is known to for their bizarre and over-the-top festivals. A few that come to mind are the 裸祭り (はだかまつり, Naked Festival), the かなまら祭り (かなまらまつり, Penis Festival), and the 御柱 (おんばしら, festival with the extreme log … [Read more...]