Category Archives: FEATURED

Journey Through 100 of Japan’s Finest Gardens

Gate at Yoshikien, Nara, Japan

Marc Peter Keane in an American landscape architect who spent almost 20 years in Kyoto practicing landscape design. In fact, he was the first foreigner to receive a working visa as a landscape architect. Now back stateside, Keane maintains an office in upstate New York where he designs Japanese gardens for both public and private spaces. It’s hard to think of a better person to serve as a personal guide through 100 of Japan’s Finest Gardens.

Balance at Ryōanji, Kyoto, Japan

Keane spent a good part of 2015 visiting more than 100 Japanese gardens and photographing aspects he felt were particularly revealing about Japanese garden design. The resulting book, “Japanese Garden Notes,” contains some 400 beautiful color photographs of some of Japan’s most notable gardens.

What I particularly enjoyed about the book was that the gardens are divided into 6 sections that look at different elements. Intent & Time studies elements that are intentional (balancing stones) and those that require time (growing moss). Space & Passage discusses the way walls and stepping stones regulate the way we move through those space.

Keane’s book is available through Amazon.

…continue reading


Ginza Six opens with Ringo Sheena theme song and 90,000 visitors

ginzasix sheena ringo music video

Tokyo’s latest retail complex is Ginza Six, which opened in the eponymous district of central Tokyo on the location of the old Matsuzakaya Ginza department store.

The shopping complex, which officially opened on April 20th to a line of 2,500 visitors, includes many high-end brands, restaurants, and even a Noh theater. There is also spectacular art by Yayoi Kusama hanging from the ceiling and other art displays by the likes of teamLab, Shinji Ohmaki, Yuumi Domoto, and more.

Ginza Six is really pulling out all the stops for the opening. In quite the marketing coup, it has even created its own theme song with Tortoise Matsumoto of Ulfuls fame and Ringo Sheena, the successful pop singer who was also part of the team behind the Rio de Janeiro Olympics handover ceremony. While neither of the artists have much overseas name value, this is still undoubtedly an impressive way to launch.

ginzasix sheena ringo music video

ginzasix sheena ringo music video

ginzasix sheena ringo music video

The song, “Menuki-dori” (literally, a busy city street), comes with its own music video, which takes place in a nocturnal Ginza that is …continue reading


How to prepare for a North Korea ballistic missile attack on Japan in 10 minutes

Post-March 2011 residents of Japan have become used to a life of preemptive bleeps, emergency apps, and speaker systems issuing warnings about the imminency of an earthquake and possible tsunami. Quite often, after a nervous few seconds, very little materialises. If it does, it’s, what, about 30 seconds later? By comparison then, 10 minutes might appear a chasm of time in which to prepare for an impending emergency. According to a Q&A document released by Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat Civil Protection, 10 minutes is the time it would take for a ballistic missile launched from North Korea (where else?) to reach mainland Japan. (Ballistic missile in Japanese: 弾道ミサイル / dandō misairu)10 minutes then. What’s to be done? Smoke a cigarette and reflect on a life well lived? Make for the bedroom (is 10 minutes enough?). Call the folks back home? Run for the hills? Well, none of the above, according to the Government of Japan, who, for the first time, have issued a set of ‘directives’ in the event of a ballistic missile attack on Japan, in a pamphlet issued by the Cabinet Secretariat entitled; Protecting Ourselves against Armed Attacks and Terrorism. …continue reading


How to Speak in Japanese Number Code

Source: Gaijin Pot
How to Speak in Japanese Number Code

The first time I noticed that Japanese people are a fan of number codes was on a rainy Saturday evening. I got a text message from my girlfriend asking me if I was going out with her. Being really tired, I wrote back that honestly I was going to spend the night at home with a book. Her reply? “221”.

221? I remember looking at that message for a long time. What could it mean? I know, I thought, it must mean that before we were doing something together “2” and now we had gone from a couple “2” to 2 solos “1”.

Wait a second? Did that mean she wanted to split up with me?!?

In fact, she was using a Japanese code language of numbers. To decipher this language each number corresponds to a sound in the language.

  • 1 is い
  • 2 is に or じ
  • 3 is さ or み
  • 4 is し or よ
  • 5 is ご
  • 6 is ろ
  • 8 is はち, は or や
  • 9 is く

Therefore her message should have been read じじい (a slang phrase for an old man). She was calling me an old guy for not going out with her!

Hmmm, maybe I was happier when I thought she wanted to split …continue reading


Japanese Umbrellas

Japanese Umbrellas.

One of the most colorful and appealing images of traditional Japan is the graceful paper umbrella. Forty years ago there were almost 10,000 artisans in Japan making umbrellas of oiled paper and bamboo; now very few remain.

A few years ago Jacqueline Ruyak interviewed Shigeta Zenji, an umbrella maker from Obama in Fukui Prefecture.

“I’m working for my health,” laughed Shigeta. “I thought about retiring when I turned eighty-three, but I start to feel all my aches and pains if I don’t work.”

A native of Obama, Shigeta says that he never wanted to make umbrellas. Being the oldest son, however, he had no choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps. He used some tools his father made.

“I always used to envy salaried workers because of their steady incomes, but I guess you could say my work is now my hobby. Now I have the time to enjoy both working and talking with customers.”

Hard times hide in those words. In the 1950’s, when the market for traditional umbrellas all but disappeared, Shigeta watched as the number of active umbrella makers dwindled, forced into retirement or another line of work.

“It was hard, but I see it now as a kind …continue reading