Wild orchids

| May 21, 2009

Wild orchids

Dear Alice, Can you please find out what the heck I saw on Mount Takao on the outskirts of Tokyo? Last spring, about this time of year, I was on a trail with a lot of other hikers lugging cameras and tripods. All of ...

'No-wash rice' (<em>musenmai</em>)

| Apr 16, 2009

'No-wash rice' (musenmai)

Dear Alice,I recently returned to Japan after 12 years back in my home country. I knew a lot of things would be different after such a long time away, but I never expected the rice to have changed! My former home-stay mom was always ...

Lost & Found

Apr 3, 2009

Lost & Found

The discovery in a German archive of documents and photographs related to the Prussian mission to Japan in 1860-61 has shed new light on the early history of photography in Japan. In particular, newly uncovered letters and records help explain the mystery of why ...

Feral parakeets

| Mar 19, 2009

Feral parakeets

Dear Alice, Please settle an argument. I play tennis on the public courts in Arisugawa Park in central Tokyo. On several occasions I have seen bright-green noisy birds flying free around the tall outdoor lights there. I’m convinced these gregarious dandies are wild parrots. ...

<em>Tome ishi</em>

| Feb 19, 2009

Tome ishi

Dear Alice, Recently I toured a beautiful traditional garden in Kyoto with a Japanese friend. At a fork in the path, I was about to turn to the right when my friend stopped me and said we were not supposed to go that way. ...


| Jan 22, 2009


Dear Alice,My husband attended a business dinner late last year at a very fancy traditional Japanese restaurant. At the end of the evening, as he was heading out the door, the kimono-clad proprietress presented him with a gift of a single piece of fruit. ...

Manhole covers

| Dec 16, 2008

Manhole covers

Dear Alice, Can you please tell me what the heck is the deal with all the pretty manhole covers in Japan? They can be so lovely that I’ve started taking pictures of them when I travel around the country. When I shared these sewer ...

<em>Kokuwa</em> (monkey pear)

| Nov 18, 2008

Kokuwa (monkey pear)

Dear Alice, On a recent weekend, I joined the throngs enjoying the fall weather at Mount Takao on the western edge of Tokyo. Just before the top there was a man selling what I suppose was local wild produce, collected from the woods. He ...

JR gestures

| Oct 21, 2008

JR gestures

Dear Alice, Until recently I lived in Tokyo and commuted on the JR Chuo Sobu Line from Kameido Station. I made it a practice to ride in the last compartment of the train, just so I could enjoy the spectacle of the driver making ...

Jitensha odantai

| Sep 30, 2008

Jitensha odantai

Dear Alice, I recently returned to Japan after almost 20 years back in my native Canada. Among the many new things I’ve noticed are crosswalks with special lanes for bicycles. As an avid cyclist, I welcome anything that makes it easier to get around ...