• “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.

  • 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 »