Ear rakes

| Apr 15, 2010

Ear rakes

Dear Alice, Imagine my horror when I came home one evening to find my Japanese wife bent over our little son, about to thrust a sharpened stick into his ear! I shouted at her to stop, giving her the fright of her life. She ...

Dump-truck identification numbers

| Mar 18, 2010

Dump-truck identification numbers

Dear Alice, It has been my great pleasure, these past few months, to watch from my window the total destruction of a large building. The work started with three hydraulic excavators that carefully crushed their way down from the roof. Now I’m watching a ...

Logo for recyclables

| Feb 18, 2010

Logo for recyclables

Dear Alice, What the heck is that symbol I see on plastic packages in Japan? I assume, from the arrows in a circulating pattern, that it means the package is recyclable. But I’m not sure because I can’t read the Japanese inside the arrows. ...

Landlocked 'lighthouse'

| Jan 21, 2010

Landlocked 'lighthouse'

Dear Alice, I’m very curious about a building I passed the other day on my way to Shinagawa Station. It’s an old Western-style building, probably from before the war, and it has a tall, way-out-of-proportion tower on top. To be honest, it looks like ...

Scary crow

| Dec 17, 2009

Scary crow

Dear Alice, I live in rural Kyoto and am puzzled by what seems to be the local version of the scarecrow. They take plastic crows and hang them, usually upside down, on a string off a pole. I can’t figure out what the heck ...

<em>Keikaisen (guard ships)</em>

| Nov 19, 2009

Keikaisen (guard ships)

Dear Alice,When I’m in Tokyo on business, I like to take my morning run along the rivers and canals in the eastern part of the city. On several occasions now I’ve noticed smallish boats parked smack dab in the middle of a river, where ...

The first Western diplomat in Japan

Oct 3, 2009

The first Western diplomat in Japan

Pop quiz: The first Western diplomat to set foot in Japan came from what country? Portugal? Holland? England? Actually, the correct answer is Mexico. The diplomat in question was Rodrigo de Vivero, a high-ranking official who was returning from a post in the Philippines ...

<em>Ishigaki</em>

| Jul 16, 2009

Ishigaki

Dear Alice, Is it weird to love a wall? I recently visited the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and was totally blown away by a high rock embankment on the far side of the moat. That rugged face! Those elegant lines! I am completely enchanted ...