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 ...

Wide-bottomed noh costumes

| Jul 17, 2007

Wide-bottomed noh costumes

Dear Alice, A new noh theater has opened at the Takeda Shrine here in Kofu, and I went to see the first performance, a play called “Makiginu.” The actor who played the role of the priestess wore a very beautiful costume. Seen from the ...

Small statue in Azabu Juban

| Jun 19, 2007

Small statue in Azabu Juban

Dear Alice, I’m sending you a photo of a small statue in Azabu Juban in Tokyo. According to the sign, part of which is in English, it’s of a little orphan girl who inspired a famous Japanese song called “The Girl in Red Shoes.” ...

In focus: 150 years of Japanese photography

Jun 14, 2007

In focus: 150 years of Japanese photography

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the oldest-known photograph taken by a Japanese person. Yet it is only in recent years that Japanese have started to take a serious interest in the history of early photography in this country, according to Terry Bennett, ...

Indented circles on roads

| May 15, 2007

Indented circles on roads

Dear Alice, This is probably too much of a nerdy engineering question for you, but what the heck are those indented circles in the road on many hills in Japan? I hope you know what I mean because I’m not sure how to describe ...

Gold poop

| Mar 20, 2007

Gold poop

Dear Alice, While browsing through the souvenir shops on a recent layover at Narita Airport, I came across a very curious Japanese good-luck charm. It featured – I kid you not — a gold poop which, by the way, looked disturbingly like soft ice ...