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 ...

White gloves

| Mar 19, 2013

White gloves

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, I’m curious about the prevalence of white gloves in Japan. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, all sorts of people wear white gloves on the job here, including taxi drivers, police officers and elevator girls. I have no idea if this is true, ...

Nori

| Feb 19, 2013

Nori

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, I was out for a walk with my camera the other day and came across a puzzling scene. I saw people putting what I thought were squares of dark paper onto easels in the sun, as if to dry. But when I ...

Warōsoku

| Jan 15, 2013

Warōsoku

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, My Japanese mother-in-law is very traditional and spends at lot of time maintaining the family butsudan, the cabinet-like Buddhist altar in the main room of her home. It is part of her daily routine to light candles, pray and make small offerings ...

Straw belts

| Oct 16, 2012

Straw belts

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, My question is about those straw belts that get wrapped around the trunks of pine trees a meter or so above the ground. I know they have something to do with fooling insects into laying their eggs in the straw instead of ...

Kaohame

| Sep 18, 2012

Kaohame

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, I travel a lot within Japan, and often come across a dated sort of tourist attraction that I don’t know quite how to describe. They are wooden façades, often hand-painted and rather amateurish, depicting a person or persons with a hole where ...

Chindonya

| Jul 17, 2012

Chindonya

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, Some years ago on a visit to Japan, in Osaka, we came across a wandering band dressed in full kimono and playing what sounded like Dixieland jazz on an odd assortment of Japanese and Western instruments. From what I could make out, ...