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 ...


| Jul 16, 2009


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 ...

A freedom that fostered richness

Jul 3, 2009

A freedom that fostered richness

Two exhibitions now showing at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography offer a fascinating contrast in photojournalism. “Press Photographers’ Story,” in the second-floor gallery through July 5, brings together the works of five well-known Japanese news photographers who were active from the 1930s to ...

| Jun 18, 2009


Dear Alice, Based on my forays into Japanese restaurants in North America, I was under the impression that Japanese cuisine didn’t feature any spicy flavorsat all. Then, on my first trip to Japan, I wandered into a restaurant that specializes in soba noodles. When ...

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. ...