Water pumps

| Oct 18, 2005

Water pumps

Dear Alice: I was startled the other day, while walking in Shinjuku, to see an old-fashioned water pump, the type with a handle pushed by hand. It was on the sidewalk along a major street, up against a guardrail and half hidden by a ...

Breathe deep, don't worry, it's only O2

| Sep 27, 2005

Breathe deep, don't worry, it's only O2

As soon as I accepted the assignment I realized I had a problem. My task was to test Tokyo’s latest fad, the oxygen capsule. The trouble is I’m claustrophobic. Elevators make me tense. When watching reruns of “Star Trek,” I have to avert my ...

| Sep 20, 2005

Maru boats

Dear Alice, This past weekend I was having a relaxing wander around Shimoda harbor, enjoying the boats and birds, when I wondered for the umpteenth time why the heck all Japanese boats seem to be called the something-or-other maru . And I remembered that ...

Jizo

| Aug 18, 2005

Jizo

Dear Alice, Being an academic, I get to meet people researching all sorts of interesting topics, often completely unrelated to my own field. For example, I recently met a fellow Swede who is studying the practice of creating temporary memorials at the site of ...

Yutai-ken

| Jul 21, 2005

Yutai-ken

Dear Alice, I was at one of those “family” restaurants the other day, waiting to pay for my pancakes, when the woman in front of me used some kind of certificate to settle her check. When she left, I asked the cashier if that ...

Owaraji

| Jun 16, 2005

Owaraji

Dear Alice, Last month, I was one of the two million spectators in Asakusa for the Sanja Matsuri. It was thrilling to see the festival up close, but the crowd was so thick that sometimes I couldn’t move. At one point I found myself ...

PET bottles

| May 19, 2005

PET bottles

Dear Alice, I saw an odd thing in Osaka on a recent visit: a tiny plot of grass surrounded by PET bottles filled with water. What the heck is that all about? Diane O., Redmond, Wash., USA Dear Alice, I have seen plastic bottles ...

A pack of dog statues

| Apr 21, 2005

A pack of dog statues

Dear Alice, Please do me a personal favor and go to Tokyo Tower and find out the story behind that pack of dog statues at the entrance. I know what you’re thinking: “A pack of dog statues? She must mean a statue of a ...

Tails of alley cats

| Mar 17, 2005

Tails of alley cats

Dear Alice, I’m crazy about cats but my landlady won’t allow pets. I’ve tried to make nice with the neighborhood nora-neko (alley cats) but, to be honest, their stumpy twisted tails gross me out. What the heck is that, anyway? Some kind of infection? ...