Saturday, February 20, 2016

this is only a drill

Lifted from the Atlantic's excellent photo series Animals in the News, plugged by David Pell in yesterday's NextDraft (subscribe today!):

Caption: Employees at the Ueno Zoo use a net to capture a mock zebra during an emergency escape drill in Tokyo, Japan, on February 2, 2016. 
Photo Credit: Shizuo Kambayashi / AP

Thursday, December 31, 2015


Saw this Odyssey article by Marie Sugoi — a glossary of terms that have no real English equivalent — and thought it was well worth sharing (for the lovely photos, too). While I do not recall hearing most of these words while we were living in Japan, many of the concepts are familiar — particularly the notion that beauty comes from imperfection, as with this broken piece of pottery mended with a bit of gold, an art form known as Kintsukuroi.

Click here for more "Beautiful Japanese Words That Don't Exist in English." The one term I recognize is Itadakimasu, or "I will have this," the Amen of a secular form of grace recited by school children before meals...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

wait...this is a car commercial?

I've watched this "Baseball Party" ad about eight times now. You can find it on the Toyota website here. There's a behind the scenes/making-of video too. I managed to capture a few screen shots, which I kindly share below. (And yes, Tokyo side streets really are this clean and tidy.)

Friday, November 7, 2014

'Happy Halloweeeeeen!'

Halloween in Japan = party time for adults (or for a Cosplay kid, just another night on the town). offers full coverage of this year's festivities here, including a terrific video shot mainly in and around Shibuya's famous Center Street and "scramble" intersection..

Thursday, October 30, 2014

amazing music video shot in Japan - with a drone! and umbrellas!

It's good to be back, posting for the first time in months... So here's what prompted me to return, two years, three months and exactly 18 days after leaving Tokyo for New York and share something with ya'll.

OK Go's new music video!

Spoon & Tamago sums it up nicely: 2,400 dancers with umbrellas, a drone and an incredible 5-minute single sequence shot. The band teamed up with Honda—who provided the motorized scooter-chairs—and Japanese creative director Morihiro Harano to make this marvel happen. Watch it on YouTube here. The song "I Won't Let You Down" is from album Hungry Ghosts, out now in North America on iTunes.

Remember back when OK Go did their treadmill video? Get your flashback here.

Ok so I'm just now reading Billboard's coverage of this, which mentions that the members of the band, while cooking up their latest "eye-popping, retro-futuristic" video, visited "Tokyo's Robot Restaurant, a 12-floor underground theater with robots roller-skating to heavy metal music." HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS PLACE? Now I really have to go back.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Here's a cool shot published by The Wall Street Journal showing folks in Wakayama, Japan, receiving fire from special torchbearers at a festival there on Thursday. Once the torches are lighted, temple gates are opened and participants run down hundreds of stone steps to the bottom of a mountain - an ancient ritual and part of the annual New Year's celebration. 

Photo credit: Everett Kennedy Brown/European Pressphoto Agency

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

just in time for Valentine's Day

Today I learned the following while listening to a podcast of my favorite NPR program, the news quiz show, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. It came up during Lightning Fill In the Blank

Host Peter Sagal: "Japan has introduced the Love Bra, which has a clasp that will only unlock if the wearer's heart rate elevates to a certain level. Meaning that the bra can only be removed if the user is in love. Or... jogging."

Panelist Mo Rocca: "Or... had a lot of coffee."

Sagal: "Or...thinking about her bra suddenly popping open."

You can watch the ad from Japanese lingerie brand Ravijour here. In it, a man in a white coat explains that when we're excited, the adrenal medulla secretes catecholamine; this affects the autonomic nerve, which stimulates the heart rate. (It's science!) Then the company's technical director chimes in with a bit about the bra's built-in sensor detecting that heart rate, and using Bluetooth to transmit the data to a smartphone app for analysis.
"Like a chastity belt for the social network age, the bra remains firmly locked shut most of the time, to defend its wearer from hordes of sleazy menfolk," The Guardian's culture blog reports. When it's true love, the bra "dutifully bursts open with a gleeful spring." 
Did I mention there's an ad?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

bunking with the royals

I am hoping to have a close encounter-by-proxy with Japan's Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko. They're in Lima this week, staying in the same hotel as my husband, who's there on a consulting gig. The purpose of the royal couple's visit is to commemorate 140 years of diplomatic ties between Japan and Peru. (Prince Akishino is second in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne - his older brother, Crown Prince Naruhito, has one child, a daughter, so it is Akishino's son who is third in line.)

So far no confirmed sighting, though Terry has noticed an unusual number of Japanese moving through the hotel lobby - the security detail, or other members of the royal entourage, perhaps. In the meantime, this photo will have to do.
 Photo credit: Andina, for Peru This Week

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dispatch from England

My friend Anna grew up in Arkansas, spent a decade of her adult life in Asia (Hong Kong and Tokyo mostly) and now lives in the UK. She writes:

10 Things I Miss Most About Tokyo

1. Needing sunglasses. Ever.

2. The vegetables. Even if they were radioactive. Oxfordshire's can be quite repetitive: broccoli, broccoli, broccoli, broccoli, broccoli, broccoli, oooh! a carrot!

3. Ian's commute lasting 20 minutes, not 2 hours: file under ‘trains that run on time.’

4. Seasons - although last summer almost made up from the gloomy spring. Oxford is colder than London, and Ian & I joke that Tolkien wrote from life (Laura has a teacher who is a proper hobbit) and I know exactly where C. S. Lewis came up with the White Witch's Endless Winter.

5. Ito-ya and Tokyu Hands. Remember that room with all the little screws & bolts?

6. Other expatriates & my Japanese friends. (Maybe this # should have been first?) Monica Anstey!

7. Groovy shops. Plus the vending machines…

8. Weird signboards in English (although "Bellyful of Tasty" in Oxford's train station almost counts).

9. Skiing in powder, not ice crystals.

10. Dressing up. I spend my entire life here in mud-spattered cords & Wellies.

11. Driving. I've forgotten how. (Again.)

Anna at a little Shinto shrine in Taito-ku in March 2012, the day she and I took the "Ghosts and Goblins of Old Tokyo" tour:


Monday, November 18, 2013

Keepin' it ladylike

This story was posted all over the place last week but I think Tokyo Desu put it best:
"Luckily, popular burger chain Freshness Burger has introduced the “Liberation Wrapper” – an oversized burger diaper with a cute face painted on it so women can clandestinely mow down and finish their burgers in two enormous bites without even tasting it, like the good lord intended."
Read their full coverage here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Breaking news: Phone calls through hug pillows decrease stress

Thank you, Tokyo Reporter, for tweeting the link to this story published today by The Asahi Shimbun:

“Pillow talk” can provide a soothing experience, even for people alone in bed.

A group of Japanese researchers said that embracing a “dakimakura” (hug pillow) while talking on a cellphone installed inside can significantly reduce mental stress levels.

The researchers are from Osaka University and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), an organization jointly operated by the public and private sectors based in Seika, Kyoto Prefecture. ATR last year developed “Hugvie,” a human-shaped huggable cushion with a cellphone in the head portion, that was used in the experiment.

Eighteen women around 65 years old volunteered for the study. Nine had a phone conversation through Hugvie while nine used conventional cellphones. Each of them talked for 15 minutes with a same male student on the same topics, including, “What was interesting last year?”

After the conversations ended, the researchers tested the women’s blood and saliva to record changes in the amount of hormone called cortisol, which increases when the person has high stress levels.

They found that cortisol levels in the women who talked through Hugvie decreased much more drastically than in the women who used conventional cellphones.

“The effects from hugging are higher than those previously thought,” said group leader Hiroshi Ishiguro, professor of robot engineering at Osaka University’s Graduate School of Engineering Science.

The results of their experiment were recently announced in a British science magazine. The group plans to continue the research to confirm the effects.
By SHIHO TOMIOKA/ Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

36-hr itinerary for a friend

A very dear friend of mine is Tokyo bound later this month, staying at the  Cerulean Tower, a classy place in the Sakura-gaokacho neighborhood of Shibuya ward (ku). Because this places her southeast of Dogenzaka, right on the 246, my friend will be reasonably close to some prime places to visit, like the Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest intersections in the world (and terrific for people watching), and the Tokyu Food Show, a noisy hall of gourmet vendors in the basement of the Tokyu Department Store at Shibuya Station. (One of the entry stairwells to the food show is right by the statue of Hachiko, the world-famous dog.)

If you like Japanese woodblock prints, I told my friend, you're in luck, because you won't be far from the Ota Museum, located at 1-10-10 Jingumae, just off Omotesando dori, the popular shopping street (follow the alley around the corner from the large Softbank). Below the gallery, down a back stairwell, is a fantastic shop selling tenegui, traditional Japanese dyed cloths that make lovely dish towels, dust covers, wall hangings, curtain ties, kerchiefs and head wraps.

The Meiji Shrine is a definite must-see, and would be worth its own taxi ride from the Cerulean hotel, but also quite convenient from the Ota museum. Walk outside the gallery and back onto Omotesando, turn right and head uphill in the direction of the Harajuku station; cross the bridge that spans the train tracks (a famous hangout for various costumed youth) and enter the complex from the east end of Yoyogi park. From there it's another 10-minute walk along the gravel path, through the giant cypress torii gates, to the shrine complex.

If she chose a stroll down Omotesando instead, some highlights would be Kiddyland, an delightful toy and novelty store, and Oriental Bazaar, offering antiques, vintage kimono, plates and bowls and more kitschy souvenirs too (because who doesn't want a Hokusai "wave" mouse pad?). A good coffee stop would be Anniversaire Cafe.

For dinner I recommended a traditional kaiseki meal at Akasaka Kikunoi, located at 6-13-8 Akasaka in Minato-ku. I had a memorable lunch there with friends Mizuho, Sandra and Anna back in June 2012; the chef's bento - listed on the menu as a Kodaiji Feast (and priced at about a third to a quarter of what the place charges for an evening meal) had us all swooning. Some pics:

 Where did they get these umbrella sake cups?!

 Dessert choices

 The cooks escorted us out down the pretty garden path -
even wiping rainwater off Sandra's bicycle seat!

If your friend had 36 hrs in Tokyo - and was staying in Shibuya-ku - what would you recommend?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring Fashions

My fearless street photographer friend Kathleen Paulsson snapped these fine pics last week in and around Yoyogi, Omotesando and Harajuku -areas she aptly calls the city's fashion trifecta. Many of her shots were taken at the intersection of Omotesando dori and Meiji dori, a.k.a. "Omohara," site of the shiny new Tokyu mall with the rooftop Starbucks and arguably one of the best corners for people watching in all of Tokyo. Thanks for sharing Kathleen! And keep 'em coming.
Click to enlarge...

All Photos by Kathleen Paulsson

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chidorigafuchi on Tuesday

My friend Julia shared some more photos...  (Click to view full shot)
To reach the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace, one of Tokyo's most popular hanami spots, Julia took the metro to Kudanshita station, where she found men in white gloves ushering people through

She reports that viewers in front would take advantage of their photo op then move on graciously to give the next wave of people a chance

 There was "a real buzz in the air" she says

(Nice shot, Julia!)

Meanwhile, a graduation ceremony was going on at the Kitanomaru National Garden and Nippon Budoukan (lovely!)

Nakameguro right now...

Thanks for the pic, Julia!