• Katsuyama Noren

    Katsuyama (勝山) is a sleepy little town in Okayama prefecture, which has preserved old buildings, including kura warehouses and minka, or traditional country homes. Many shops and houses in the historic district put out distinctive noren (shop curtains) to inform passers-by of their line of business or merely as a decorative touch.

  • No Country for Old Homes

    In the remote rural town of Katsuyama, nestled beyond the San-In mountains, opposite a lumber yard and next to a gaudy supermarket, is the house my cousins grew up in.   It is a grand, old Japanese country house, complete with massive wooden doors for a gate, two kura (warehouses), an inner courtyard and expansive front garden crowded with ancient trees, including pines, maples and a magnificent cherry tree.   I used to visit this house as a child, every… Read more »

  • Akomeya

    If you like Japanese food, enjoy seeing nicely designed packaging or just have time to kill in Ginza, visit Akomeya, a food and household goods store that is chock full of unusual Japanese goodies. The name, which is a rather peculiar combination of the Japanese word for rice store – komeya – and the English pronoun “a,” points to its distinctive eclecticism. Akomeya stocks a mesmerising variety of Japanese foodstuffs from all over the country as well as tableware, socks,… Read more »

  • Ken Mihara

    When Ken Mihara signed up to join a pottery club, he had no idea that this decision would change the course of his life. The ceramic artist, whose work can be found at top museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, entered university to study civil engineering with a view to becoming a bureaucrat. It was 1970s Japan, when the economy was growing rapidly and the then prime minister, Kakuei Tanaka was plastering the country with concrete,… Read more »

  • Cooking with Kikuo Muramatsu at Totoya Uoshin

    At first glance, cooking traditional Japanese food may not strike the uninitiated as particularly complicated or even very time-consuming. After all, how difficult can it be to slice raw fish or cook vegetables in broth? Difficult indeed, I discovered one afternoon as I stood in the kitchen of Totoya Usohin (ととや魚新), a comfortable and welcoming Japanese restaurant conveniently located 3 minutes from Akasaka subway station in central Tokyo. We had come to Totoya – nine women of various ages eager… Read more »

  • Cooking with Elizabeth Ando

    The problem was, the egg mixture just wasn’t cooperating. I was standing in Elizabeth Ando’s highly organized and functional kitchen, a square frying pan in one hand and long cooking chopsticks in the other, trying to make tamagoyaki, or Japanese rolled egg omelet. It is, at first sight, a fairly simple-looking omelet, sometimes with flecks of aonori (dried green seaweed) mixed in with the egg and sometimes with nori (dried seaweed) sandwiched in between the layers of egg, which is… Read more »