Nori

| Feb 19, 2013

Nori

Dear Alice, I was out for a walk with my camera the other day and came across a puzzling scene. I saw people putting what I thought were squares of dark paper onto easels in the sun, as if to dry. But when I ...

Warōsoku

| Jan 15, 2013

Warōsoku

Dear Alice, My Japanese mother-in-law is very traditional and spends at lot of time maintaining the family butsudan, the cabinet-like Buddhist altar in the main room of her home. It is part of her daily routine to light candles, pray and make small offerings ...

Senkyo postā keijiba

| Dec 18, 2012

Senkyo postā keijiba

Dear Alice, Thank you as always for your interesting column. I have a question about those temporary bulletin boards that crop up from time to time, the ones with the blank squares with numbers in the center. One appeared recently near my home, soon ...

Emergency announcements

| Nov 20, 2012

Emergency announcements

Dear Alice, I’ve lived in Japan for four years and although I speak a fair amount of Japanese, I can’t make out what the heck ambulance crews are saying on their loudspeakers when they’re trying to get through traffic. Are those set phrases or ...

Straw belts

| Oct 16, 2012

Straw belts

Dear Alice, My question is about those straw belts that get wrapped around the trunks of pine trees a meter or so above the ground. I know they have something to do with fooling insects into laying their eggs in the straw instead of ...

What it means to be 'Made in Japan'

Oct 2, 2012

What it means to be 'Made in Japan'

“Made in Japan” is a such a simple phrase, yet it instantly evokes an image of exceptional design and high-quality production. Japan today is known for creating some of the most stylish, innovative and whimsical products in the world. Tokyo-based architect and writer Naomi ...

Kaohame

| Sep 18, 2012

Kaohame

Dear Alice, I travel a lot within Japan, and often come across a dated sort of tourist attraction that I don’t know quite how to describe. They are wooden façades, often hand-painted and rather amateurish, depicting a person or persons with a hole where ...

Chindonya

| Jul 17, 2012

Chindonya

Dear Alice, Some years ago on a visit to Japan, in Osaka, we came across a wandering band dressed in full kimono and playing what sounded like Dixieland jazz on an odd assortment of Japanese and Western instruments. From what I could make out, ...

Slow design: Everyday objects that make us rethink our lifestyle

Jun 21, 2012

Slow design: Everyday objects that make us rethink our lifestyle

If you’ve never been to the 21_21 Design Sight exhibition space in the Tokyo Midtown complex, and have even a passing interest in craftsmanship, now is the time to pay a visit. Just touring the building, which was designed by famed architect Tadao Ando ...

Seaweed Salt

| Jun 19, 2012

Seaweed Salt

Dear Alice, I recently received a gift of some special kind of Japanese salt. If I understood correctly, this particular salt is made from seaweed and by some ancient Japanese production method. It’s beige in color and has a nice, rich taste. But I ...