Kobe beef

| Dec 16, 2013

Kobe beef

Dear Alice, I’m making my first trip to Japan early next year, and there are two things on my “must do in Japan” list: see Eric Clapton play at the Budokan, and eat Kobe beef. (Actually, I want to be Kobe beef, spending my ...

Fender mirrors

| Nov 18, 2013

Fender mirrors

Dear Alice, I was a bit of a car nut when I was a boy, and while I’ve moved on to other interests, my eyes still tend to be drawn to automobiles. This is why, on my first visit to Japan just recently, I ...

Elevation signs

| Oct 21, 2013

Elevation signs

Dear Alice, Over the summer, a new sign appeared on the wall of the elementary school closest to where I live. The sign includes the English words “above sea level,” along with some kanji and numerals, so I assume its informing us of the ...

Oversized trash

| Sep 16, 2013

Oversized trash

Dear Alice, The other day, on the street outside the building next to mine, I saw a nice looking table with a sodai gomi (oversized garbage) sticker it. When I returned with a tape measure to see if the table would fit in my ...

Okigusuri

| Jun 18, 2013

Okigusuri

Dear Alice, I was on a two-week home stay in the countryside of Japan when a visitor came to the house. I don’t think he was expected, but my home-stay mother greeted him like an old friend and fetched a plastic drawer-box from the ...

Postal symbol

| May 21, 2013

Postal symbol

Dear Alice, This may seem like a stupid question, or too trivial a subject for you, but what the heck is the symbol that precedes the post code on every piece of domestic mail I receive here in Japan? I’m sure you know what ...

Early photos of northern Japan capture a time of change

Apr 18, 2013

Early photos of northern Japan capture a time of change

Although photography entered Japan in the mid-19th century, it took time to spread beyond the few port cities permitted to engage in trade with the West at that time. As a result, it was several decades before this imported Western technology reached outlying districts, ...

The 5 p.m. bell

| Apr 16, 2013

The 5 p.m. bell

Dear Alice, I live in a medium-size city in Saitama Prefecture and am puzzled by a speaker system mounted on a huge pole right outside my apartment. Every evening at 5 p.m., music plays from the speakers for 20 or 30 seconds and then ...