Anti-crime color balls

| May 20, 2008

Anti-crime color balls

Dear Alice, I’ve spotted pairs of plastic Day-Glo orange baseballs sitting in polystyrene containers behind the counter at banks and convenience stores. My friend reckons they have them in police stations too. Can you please tell us what the heck they are? Nicholas C., ...

Kyodo Bochi

| Apr 15, 2008

Kyodo Bochi

Dear Alice, On a recent train trip to Nikko, I spotted several small cemeteries in the middle of rice fields. I’ve also seen this from a taxi window on the way to the airport in Kanazawa. I’m guessing these little groups of graves are ...

Pocket bells

| Mar 18, 2008

Pocket bells

Dear Alice, Coming back to Japan, one tends to notice things anew. For me, returning from a stay in Ireland, I picked up on what seems to be the constant tinkling of little bells. Of course, they’ve always been around, on souvenirs and the ...

Chuhai

| Feb 19, 2008

Chuhai

Dear Alice, Recently, while conducting some, uh, research into Japanese alcoholic beverages, I was surprised to notice that the alcohol content of canned chuhai cocktails varies significantly by flavor. The grape-flavored chuhai I was imbibing contained 5 percent alcohol, while the lemon version of ...

Bento grass

| Jan 15, 2008

Bento grass

Dear Alice, My sister just made her first visit to Japan. Before she went back to California, she made me promise to ask you about what she disparagingly referred to as “bento turf” — the little strips of plastic grass that come in practically ...

Mistletoe

| Dec 18, 2007

Mistletoe

Dear Alice, I’ve got a question that comes to me only while riding chair lifts at Japanese ski resorts, not the most opportune time or place to send an e-mail. But yesterday, while cleaning last year’s debris out of my ski jacket, I discovered ...

Moles

| Nov 20, 2007

Moles

Dear Alice, I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of flack for even asking, but after five years in Japan I can’t sit on this question any longer. What the heck are those huge moles so many Japanese have on their faces? I ...

Sake barrels at shrines

| Oct 16, 2007

Sake barrels at shrines

Dear Alice, What the heck are those displays of barrels you sometimes see outside at Shinto shrines, especially at this time of year? My friend says they are sake barrels and full of rice wine. I find that hard to believe because I’ve seen ...

'Fierce scowl' stickers

| Sep 18, 2007

'Fierce scowl' stickers

Dear Alice, Having moved to Japan about a year ago, I have grown accustomed to the pleasure of living in a country where most people wear gentle expressions and polite smiles. Lately, however, I’ve been disturbed by an increasing number of fierce scowls! These ...

Pocket Tissues

| Aug 21, 2007

Pocket Tissues

Dear Alice, It seems like every time I pass through a major station in Tokyo there is someone handing out free packets of pocket tissues with an advertising insert. Is this form of marketing unique to Japan? I’ve never seen it in any other ...