| Jul 19, 2013

Knocking on knickknacks

My grandma used to be the easiest of all my relatives to buy souvenirs for. That’s because she was a collector and, like many a collector, what she collected most was . . . . . . junk. And Japan is full of junk. ...

| Jul 5, 2013

Stressing on stress

The Internet is ablaze with lists suggesting ways to fight back against the deadliest foe of modern man — stress. Yes, stress. It will boil your blood pressure, electrify your nerves, scramble your stomach, ruin your happiness and lead you straight to the grave. ...

| Jun 22, 2013

The death of civilization

I once had this Japanese student who told me he could tell a book’s publisher from the smell. He would close his eyes, crush a paperback into his face and inhale. Deeply. As if sucking down a cold beer after a hot day on ...

| Jun 8, 2013

A great big one up on the roof

A Japanese colleague trying to improve her English via episodes of the TV sitcom “Friends” once asked me this . . . “Was ‘Friends’ really aired on prime time television? The content seems so racy. Here this would have been late night fare, for ...

| May 25, 2013

The junkie and his fix

“Weird,” he says. “Give me something weird.” The menu boasts both fish sperm and odorigui — small fish you chew while they’re alive. But such food is not on his wish list. At least not anymore. My dinner friend has lived here for years. ...

| May 11, 2013

What my dentist wants to know

“Ever thought to change your nationality?” This asked by my dentist, as he bent over my mouth and polished my molars with what sounded like a buzz saw. For full effect, repeat his words while running a power tool next to your ear. And ...

| Apr 27, 2013

Carping on carp

Whenever you find someone tossing bits of bread into a pond, you have to assume this: Something’s fishy. “Fish?” the guys snorts. “These aren’t fish. They’re carp. Meaning they’re a lot closer to cows. Fat, stupid cows.” The water below him froths with the ...