Sound trucks

| Apr 18, 2006

Sound trucks

Dear Alice, Once again, loudspeaker trucks marred what should have been a peaceful weekend at home. First it was a parade of vehicles blasting nationalist songs, then it was that pesky guy who circles round and round calling out for used appliances. Even the ...

White Day

| Mar 21, 2006

White Day

Dear Alice, Well, I made it through another Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan without getting divorced. My Japanese husband very nearly committed suicide our first year together because I gave him a valentine card but no chocolate, which he saw as a ...

Suicide

| Jan 17, 2006

Suicide

Dear Alice: The day after Christmas I went with friends to the top of Jukkoku Pass in Shizuoka Prefecture, which offers fabulous views of Mount Fuji in one direction and the Izu Peninsula in the other. We decided to hike down rather than take ...

Baggy trousers

| Dec 20, 2005

Baggy trousers

Dear Alice, On a trip to Japan last year, I passed some time watching a building in Toyohashi [Aichi Prefecture] being remodeled. A couple of the workmen were wearing these really baggy trousers. So, what the heck is the deal with those? I assume ...

Gigantic spider

| Nov 15, 2005

Gigantic spider

Dear Alice: My husband and I were touring Tokyo on my first trip to Japan when we suddenly found ourselves under a gigantic spider sculpture in Roppongi Hills. I was bewildered! I love to read about exciting structures and the stories behind them. Please ...

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 ...