Takashi Yamada, 59, is an official at Shikoku's Kagawa Products Association, a public entity with offices in Takamatsu City's beautiful Ritsurin Park. Yamada promotes the prefecture's arts and products, including its famed bonsai, udon, olives and the artwork of more than 100 local artisans. An enthusiastic baseball fan, he loves the Hanshin Tigers, Ichiro Suzuki and straight talkers who can throw him a curveball.

Dirt might give you a cleaner bill of health. Takamatsu Yomeiri Ningyo are little dolls made of dirt that women would give to friends or neighbors' children in commemoration of their weddings. Babies and toddlers would lick these toys and the mineral-rich soil would calm them down and build up their immune system. Now parents are crazy about cleanliness and don't even allow kids to get dirty, yet Japan is filled with people suffering from allergic hypersensitivity and other diseases. Cleaner is not necessarily better, and it might just make us weaker.

We can feel naked in clothes, too. When I met my wife for the first time, I felt that way. Finally I was free to be the real me, honest and relaxed, which was very liberating.