The Great Toilet Parade Mystery of 2018

The Great Toilet Parade Mystery of 2018

My Japanese skills are improving rapidly since my move to Japan, and I’ve achieved a state of relative (dis)comfort with basic functions like travel,  shopping, restaurants, and paying basic bills. In other areas, I can often “keyword spot” and intuit the portions of a conversation I don’t know, to at least achieve an acceptable result. However, it doesn’t take much to remind me that, in the immortal words of Robert Frost, I have “miles to go before I sleep” in terms of linguistic fluency. Case in point: this afternoon’s Great Toilet Parade. (Read to the end to understand the photo…)

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The Hydrangea Festival at Hakusan Shrine

The Hydrangea Festival at Hakusan Shrine

As I wait for the snow to melt on the hyakumeizan peaks, I’m also visiting sites of interest and festivals (matsuri) taking place around Japan. Flowers are a particularly important part of Japanese culture, and Bunkyo City, in Tokyo, celebrates five major flower festivals every year. Last weekend (June 9-10) was the Ajisai (Hydrangea) matsuri, celebrating the spectacular hydrangeas that bloom in Tokyo–and across Japan–each June.

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Let The Quest For 100 Summits Begin!

Let The Quest For 100 Summits Begin!

My husband, our cat, and I arrived in Japan on Wednesday afternoon so I could begin the 100 Summits project. As always, Japan was beautiful from the air: The patchwork quilt of green fields interspersed with towns and villages, looks similar to other agricultural areas from thousands of feet in the air. But the plane descended, the curved tile roofs, bamboo groves, and sparkling, water-filled rice paddies of Saitama revealed their distinctive details. We passed through customs and animal import inspection quickly, and hopped on the N’EX (Narita Express) for the 90-minute ride to central Tokyo. (Haneda airport is closer to the city

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Hanami and Cherry Blossom Forecasts in Japan

Hanami and Cherry Blossom Forecasts in Japan

Yesterday at Murder is Everywhere, I posted a blog about the traditional hanami – “flower viewing” – parties that happen at sakura (cherry blossom) season. (Photo credit: Xyrenth – used with permission.) Cherry blossoms are such an important part of Japanese culture that the Japanese National Tourism Organization (and other media outlets) publish an annual “sakura forecast” predicting the date when cherry blossoms will open across Japan. 

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Traditional Sweets at Hamarikyu Gardens

Traditional Sweets at Hamarikyu Gardens

Although I can’t do much sightseeing this trip due to chemotherapy (compromised immune systems and crowded places do not mix) I’m cleared for outdoor walks, and since Tokyo’s famous Hamarikyu Gardens are only two short blocks from my hotel, I took advantage of the excellent weather and went for a lovely walk this afternoon. Hamarikyu Gardens opened to the public in 1946, but the park has existed for centuries. Originally the private hunting and falconry ground of the Tokugawa shoguns, the gardens are now a public park. The gardens contain several lakes – some of which originally functioned as duck hunting

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A Visit to Nakamise Shopping Street (Part 1)

A Visit to Nakamise Shopping Street (Part 1)

Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, Senso-ji, is also one of my favorites. The massive Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate, is one of Asakusa’s best-known landmarks: and visitors often take photos with the gate’s massive chochin, which weighs almost 1,500 pounds. But a visit to Senso-ji is not complete without a stroll down Nakamise Shopping Street – the vibrant line of shops and stalls that lines the approach to the temple. Traditionally, vendors’ stalls or shops line the approach to Japanese shrines and temples. The goods on display can vary, but they usually include a variety of tasty local specialties, like these small cakes

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A Visit to Nezu Jinja, Part 2

A Visit to Nezu Jinja, Part 2

(To read Part 1, click here.) Like many Shintō shrines in Japan, Nezu Jinja features a subshrine dedicated to Inari Ōkami, the kami (god) of foxes, rice, sake, fertility, swordsmiths, merchants, agriculture, and worldly success (among other things). There are over 10,000 Inari shrines across Japan — and with good reason, given Japan’s historical dependence upon rice as a primary source of food (and, at one time, as the measure of wealth as well).

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