Nipple Fruit

| Nov 15, 2011

Nipple Fruit

Dear Alice, I have lived in Japan for almost a decade. Every fall I see in flower shops the most unusual and fantastic plant, and I would like to finally know what the heck it is. It is sold as cut branches that are ...

Annoying TV pop-ups

| Oct 18, 2011

Annoying TV pop-ups

Dear Alice, I want to ask about something that has bugged me the entire 17 years I have lived in Japan. It irritates me so much I am tempted to replace the “heck” in “what the heck” with something considerably stronger but I will ...

Anzan kigan

| Sep 20, 2011

Anzan kigan

Dear Alice, My friend and I stumbled upon something mysterious on the Izu Peninsula. We were walking along the picturesque Matsukawa River, where it runs through the town of Ito, when we came upon a shrine with no one about. It looked like any ...

Growing up with photography and picturing youth

Jul 28, 2011

Growing up with photography and picturing youth

You know how difficult it is to get good photos of children. They fidget. They cry. And just when you think you’ve got the perfect shot, they turn the other way. Now try to imagine how challenging it must have been for early photographers, ...

Japan's incompatible power grids

| Jul 19, 2011

Japan's incompatible power grids

Dear Alice,As Japan sweats through this summer of inadequate power, many more people now know that there are different electrical supply systems in eastern and western Japan, and that the two systems are incompatible. This is such a crazy situation that I’d really be ...

<em>Kinpū</em>

| Jun 21, 2011

Kinpū

Dear Alice,I am fascinated by the elaborately decorated envelopes offered for sale in Japan. I know they are used for giving money, because the first time I came to Japan to study martial arts a friend taught me to put my lesson fees into ...

Bridges with names

| May 17, 2011

Bridges with names

Dear Alice, I’ve noticed something that no one has ever been able to explain to me: It seems that absolutely every bridge in Japan has a name! Size, length and location don’t seem to have anything to do with it: I once saw two ...

Setsuden

| Apr 21, 2011

Setsuden

Dear Alice, Everywhere I go now I see signs for setsuden (conserving electricity). There’s a notice at my local convenience store explaining that the lights are down for setsuden. My post office has shortened its hours for setsuden. And the subway is running with ...

Yokobue

| Mar 17, 2011

Yokobue

Dear Alice, Last November, I went to Kyushu to see the Karatsu Kunchi festival. It was a wonderful spectacle, with huge, flamboyant floats pulled through crowded streets to the rhythmic accompaniment of drums, music and shouts of “Enya! Enya!” I loved it all, but ...

Bloomers

| Feb 17, 2011

Bloomers

Dear Alice, I’ve never been to Japan but I do watch the Japanese channel that comes in my cable television package. The programming is in English, so I understand what everyone is saying, but I have to ask one thing: What the heck do ...