Tetrapod

| Apr 14, 2014

Tetrapod

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, I have always wondered about the curious cement structures you see up and down the coast of Japan, the ones that look like the toy jacks I played with as a child, except that they’re massive in size. I assume they are ...

Kobe beef

| Dec 16, 2013

Kobe beef

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, I’m making my first trip to Japan early next year, and there are two things on my “must do in Japan” list: see Eric Clapton play at the Budokan, and eat Kobe beef. (Actually, I want to be Kobe beef, spending my ...

Elevation signs

| Oct 21, 2013

Elevation signs

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, Over the summer, a new sign appeared on the wall of the elementary school closest to where I live. The sign includes the English words “above sea level,” along with some kanji and numerals, so I assume its informing us of the ...

Okigusuri

| Jun 18, 2013

Okigusuri

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, I was on a two-week home stay in the countryside of Japan when a visitor came to the house. I don’t think he was expected, but my home-stay mother greeted him like an old friend and fetched a plastic drawer-box from the ...

Postal symbol

| May 21, 2013

Postal symbol

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, This may seem like a stupid question, or too trivial a subject for you, but what the heck is the symbol that precedes the post code on every piece of domestic mail I receive here in Japan? I’m sure you know what ...

The 5 p.m. bell

| Apr 16, 2013

The 5 p.m. bell

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, I live in a medium-size city in Saitama Prefecture and am puzzled by a speaker system mounted on a huge pole right outside my apartment. Every evening at 5 p.m., music plays from the speakers for 20 or 30 seconds and then ...