• Edo Kiriko – a Cutting Edge Experience

    For centuries, Japanese craftsmen have, with a mix of remarkable dexterity, a keen eye for detail and a finely honed aesthetic sensibility, transformed all manner of material into works of art, in the form of pottery, textiles, basketry and even glass. While it takes countless years of dedicated practice to achieve even a moderate level of success in any type of craft, it is possible these days to find studios all over Japan where complete novices can try their hand… Read more »

  • woman in snow

    Bijinga – The World of Shoen Uemura’s Beautiful Women

    Whenever I host foreign visitors in Tokyo, they invariably comment on the meticulous appearance of Japanese women. Depending on their viewpoint, my friends see this adherence to a particularly Japanese idea of beauty – elegant, modest, and feminine – as (usually) something admirable and aspirational, or (occasionally), evidence of a patriarchal society in which women are encouraged to conform to a tightly-defined aesthetic standard. Regardless of whether you think a focus on appearance is liberating or restricting for women, I… Read more »

  • Miya Ando

    Artist Miya Ando grew up on the grounds of a Buddhist temple in Japan and in a remote area of California. Her spare and contemplative works in metal, glass and natural materials are filled with light and strength, revealing ancestral influences as the descendent of Nicheren Buddhist monks in Bizen, Japan and the 16th generation of a samurai sword craftsmen family. Her humor and warmth quite possibly come from her father’s Jewish/Russian lineage. Ando was born in the United States… Read more »

  • In Search of Autumn’s Fiery Palette

    Admiring nature’s colorful transformation in the fall is a time-honored ritual in Japan that draws crowds from far and wide to distant mountainsides, hidden valleys and traditional gardens famed for their fiery autumnal palettes. While Kyoto is, without doubt, everyone’s favorite spot for enjoying fall foliage, there are plenty of other less crowded sites that offer the chance to be mesmerized by the myriad hues of yellow, orange, red and brown that make autumn such a special time in Japan…. Read more »

  • Zakka – last chance to delve into “goods and things”

    The first thing to catch the eye when you walk into the extraordinary Zakka exhibition at 21_21 Design Sight is the stylized sign bearing the English translation of “zakka” as “goods and things.” What is a “good” and what is a “thing?” I wondered. In the end, this wide-ranging exhibit of retro-paraphernalia, contemporary design, with displays of everything from six-decades old cardboard packaging for toothpaste tubes and mosquito coils, plastic ice cream spoons (yes, really – my main thought was, who… Read more »

  • Sakura Elegy – photos by Mineko Matsuda

  • Issey Miyake Retrospective

    From the meticulously pleated, elegantly flowing pieces of his Pleats Please collection to the sculptural, recycled textiles of his “eco-fashion,” 132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE line, fashion designer, Issey Miyake, has continued to challenge the conventions of clothes-making and fashion textile design, in the process creating some of the most artistic and practical garments ever imagined. Widely recognized as one of the most creative designers of his time, Miyake, who first made his mark in New York and Paris, is being… Read more »

  • “Retro-sento,” or how the old Japanese bathhouse is streaming into the 21st century

    Bathing is an essential daily ritual in Japan, where the simple act of soaking in a tub of hot water has spawned an entire industry around the communal bath — whether it’s in the form of onsen hot springs, or the neighborhood public bathhouse, known as sento. There are hot springs all over Japan, which epitomize recreational Japanese-style bathing and are popular among tourists and locals alike. But sento, which used to be an intrinsic part of Japanese culture, have… Read more »


    A combination of two kanji characters, jutaku is a standard Japanese word that means “house.” But today many architect-designed homes in Japan are anything but standard. Freed from preconceived ideas about size, style and even shape, designers up and down the archipelago are building some of the most unique homes on the globe. Defined by contorted geometries, daring feats of structural engineering, awkward site circumstances and a host of other extreme conditions, many would be unthinkable anywhere else. It is… Read more »

  • Takashi Murakami’s Kaleidoscopic World

    Takashi Murakami’s art works are a cornucopia of ideas, trends and art forms.  As I entered the exhibition space at the Mori Art Museum, I was immediately struck by the force of the huge psychedelic paintings on display. But it was only after taking a couple of breaths and slowly walking around that I began to see the intricate details of the densely packed acrylic paintings. Murakami brings together his own take on Buddhist and Zen iconography, Chinese art, “otaku”… Read more »

  • Smartball Rosemary – special to japonica.info

    The fluorescent pink cherry blossoms look like they hang here all year round. This may be because at Rosemary, Tokyo’s only remaining Smartball parlour, the mood is eternal Spring. People come to revisit their youth, or bring their grandchildren to play. Local kids gather on their own. Families form crowds and egg each other on. For many, this original form of pachinko, the famed Japanese version of pinball, might seem like it’s from the steam age. Miki Egawa bustles up… Read more »

  • 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.