<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 ...

Wagashi

| Jan 20, 2011

Wagashi

Dear Alice, I love desserts of all kinds, but eating my way through the cake shops of Japan is wreaking havoc on my waistline. When I mentioned this to a Japanese friend, she said I need to wean myself off crepes and cream puffs ...

Kiribi

| Dec 16, 2010

Kiribi

Dear Alice There is a shop in Ryogoku in Tokyo that sells a rock and a piece of metal as a souvenir set. I am wondering if this has something to do with an old Japanese custom I’ve heard about in which iron is ...

Shrine tags

| Nov 18, 2010

Shrine tags

Dear Alice, There’s a shrine near where I live that has stickers splattered all over it. The effect is pretty wild and free-spirited, as if a bunch of ravers were let loose on it, and it seems totally out of character for what is ...

Nature's air freshener

| Oct 21, 2010

Nature's air freshener

Dear Alice,The other day, while strolling in a park near my home, I overheard a group of middle-aged ladies. One of them said, “a, toire no nioi!” (“Oh, smells like a toilet!”) and everyone laughed. I was puzzled, since we were nowhere near the ...

Laundry logic

| Sep 16, 2010

Laundry logic

Dear Alice, I’ve been married for three years to a Japanese woman who insists on doing laundry every day. When I asked her why, she said, “That’s how we do it in Japan.” I find this strange because Japanese people are generally very ecologically ...