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Alice Gordenker

Alice Gordenker writes the "So, What the Heck is That?" column, providing in-depth, carefully researched explanations of the things foreigners find so puzzling about Japan. Her work has been modified as a textbook for Japanese university students called "Surprising Japan" (Shohakusha, 2012).

For Alice Gordenker's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

Stoke the flames of tradition on Shimane’s ‘Iron Road’

Travel Sep 14, 2018

Stoke the flames of tradition on Shimane’s ‘Iron Road’

Shimane Prefecture is an under-discovered wealth of history, natural beauty and high-quality artisan crafts — such as katana-quality steel. On this drive-yourself adventure step straight into Irontown and immerse yourself in the history and culture of tatara steel production.

Legacy of genius: Kyosai and Kyosui

Art Apr 17, 2018

Legacy of genius: Kyosai and Kyosui

Kawanabe Kyosui might not be as well-known as her father Kyosai, but the prolific painter helped pave the way for women artists in early 20th-century Japan.

Snow and spirituality in Tottori: Winter on a sacred peak

Travel Jan 26, 2018

Snow and spirituality in Tottori: Winter on a sacred peak

Mount Daisen in Tottori Prefecture is the largest mountain in the Chugoku region of western Honshu. An isolated peak with views over the Sea of Japan, the mountain stands at 1,729 meters and gets plenty of snow in the winter, making it one of ...

Kakiemon: Generations of beauty

Art Apr 11, 2017

Kakiemon: Generations of beauty

There's still time to enjoy cherry blossoms. Through May 14, the Toguri Museum of Art in Tokyo is exhibiting a stunning new work by Sakaida Kakiemon XV, the current inheritor of one of the most famous names in Japanese porcelain. The very large lidded ...

Sharpen your knowledge of Japanese swords

Art Feb 14, 2017

Sharpen your knowledge of Japanese swords

If you've ever wanted to learn about Japanese swords, now's the time, as an unusually large number of top-quality blades are currently on view at two Tokyo museums. Either exhibition is well worth a visit but together they're dynamite. "Perfect Guide to Japanese Sword" at ...

Japan's TOP museum sees the big picture

Art Sep 6, 2016

Japan's TOP museum sees the big picture

After being closed for two years for major renovations, Tokyo's best-known photography museum in Tokyo's fashionable Ebisu neighborhood reopened on Sept. 3, just in time to celebrate its 20-year anniversary. The venerable facility now boasts a new look, improved exhibition spaces and a new ...

Nihonshu overflow

Reference | SO WHAT THE HECK IS THAT Jul 25, 2015

Nihonshu overflow

Dear Alice, You know how when you order nihonshū (Japanese sake) in a bar or restaurant, and your server brings a glass to the table and sets it inside another vessel? And then he or she picks up a bottle of sake and pours until ...