Month: Last updated Jun 24, 2017

Odd Scenes From the Tokyo Marathon (Part 2)

I quite enjoyed the costumes in the Tokyo Marathon, but I couldn’t help wondering if there isn’t something a little passive-aggressive about them. On the one hand, people wearing costumes are saying, “Hey, look. I’m just out here having fun in my costume. I don’t take this seriously.” But on the other hand, if I was out running my heart out in a marathon I trained six months for and some guy dressed up as Doraemon ran past me, I don’t imagine I’d feel too good about it. This is a karakasa, or umbrella monster. Ninomiya Kinjiro, a famous historical figure who got his education by reading books while carrying firewood. Have you ever seen a head as big as this? Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new...

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Odd Scenes From the 2009 Tokyo Marathon (Part 1)

The 2009 Tokyo Marathon took place last Sunday, March 22, 2009. I’ve never seen a marathon before, and I have to say that it was really entertaining and of course, completely different from watching the professional runners on TV. It’s quite amazing to see hundreds of people rushing by you every minute. I heard that 27,000 people entered the marathon this year, and I figure I must have seen about 20,000 of them rushing by me. If you ever want to get a real feel for what a big number like 27,000 means, the Tokyo Marathon is a good way to really understand just how many it is, and get a feel for just how many different kinds of people there living in Tokyo. This is a namahage. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new...

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Read the Kanji

I guess this site is pretty famous, since it’s already been on Japan Probe, but it recently got a lot better, so I’d like to write about it here. I’ve been struggling with kanji for 17 years, and Read the Kanji is the first study method I’ve ever found that was truly effective and efficient for learning them. It’s just a quiz site, but it’s done a thousand times better than all the other quiz programs and kanji books out there. It flashes a kanji on the screen, you type in the pronunciation, and it tells you whether you got it right or wrong. The great thing about Read the Kanji, though, is that it remembers the ones you have trouble with, and once you get a certain number wrong, it goes into “failure review” mode, and you do all the ones you got wrong (you have to set it to “Learning mode” for this to happen. Otherwise it’s a straight out kanji test). Once you get out of failure review mode, those difficult kanji keep coming up again and again until you start to get them right. I find the algorithm very clever about showing me the kanji just often enough that I learn them, but not so often that I get sick of seeing them. I’ve been using the site for a couple months, and I’m learning...

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Love Hotel Restaurant

In the 1920s, love hotels were called tsurekomi yado, which literally means “bring along inn.”  They evolved from tea houses called deiai chaya that allowed men to bring prostitutes or lovers onto the premises and rent a room upstairs for a liason. There are none of these operating as love hotels anymore, but there is one in Osaka that has been converted into a restaurant. It’s called Hyakuban and is in Tennoji. This elegant old building has so much character that you’re intstantly taken back in time to a simpler, more graceful time. Pull aside the sliding doors to reveal the elgant wooden bridge in the front hall, and walk past traidtional woodcarvings and woodblock prints on your way to your own little room. They serve traditional Japanese foods like sukiyaki, shabu shabu, and chanko nabe. I wouldn’t go there just for the food because it was good but not spectacular, but it certainly is a unique, atmospheric dining experience. Here’s the Hyakuban homepage (Japanese only): http://r.gnavi.co.jp/k069800/ Address: 3-5-25 Sanno, Nishinari-ku, Tel. (06) 6632-0050. Reservations required. Dinner costs an average of 5000 yen per person. There’s more information about   love hotels in my new book, Love Hotels: An Inside Look at Japan’s Sexual Playgrounds. I spent years visiting love hotels around Japan, interviewing love hotel designers, owners and staff, and wading through Japanese books on sex and love hotels...

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Samurai Frog

Giant Samurai Frog in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new...

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