Category Archives: FEATURED

Learning the Way of the Monks in Wakayama Prefecture

Source: Gaijin Pot

I’m not a spiritual person. As someone who grew up in America’s “Bible Belt”, I’ve always been put off by the idea of touring religion. Still, I was genuinely excited to explore the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Routes and sacred Koyasan (Mount Koya) in Wakayama Prefecture.

The monks of Mount Koya.

Wakayama is one of the most revered places in Japan. It’s a mountainous and forested region on the southernmost point of the Kii Peninsula in the Kansai region. Japan’s earliest text refers to it as the “land of the dead,” where the spirits would ascend after death.

Looking at its landscape—pristine coasts, winding rural roads overlooking vast forests, and rivers with transparent waters—you can see how it earned its reputation.

The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Routes

You’re on sacred ground now.

During the Heian period, three grand shrines in Wakayama’s Kumano region were the most revered: Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Kumano Hongu Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha. These shrines became known as the Kumano Sanzan, and routes were established to connect them from as far away as Kyoto.

My mother can’t get me in a church on Easter Sunday and even I felt like I was walking on sacred ground. Which was also slippery ground.

People from all over Japan, regardless of their class—imperial and noble families, samurai and commoners—made the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. They could purify their past at Hayatama Taisha, reflect on the present at Nachi Taisha, and pray for the future at Hongu Taisha.

Following my monk guide on the Kumano Kodo.

While not as perilous as it used to be, the Kumano Kodo can be quite challenging. The four main routes vary in length and …continue reading


Savings In Japan: How To Get Smart With Your Yen

Saving In Japan: How To Get Smart With Your Yen

Picture this: You’re living in Japan—maybe even far away from your family and friends back home. You have a wonderful life now, a stable partner, a job with the right income, security, and fulfillment. Not to forget: access to every seasonal Starbucks or Tully’s latte you’d ever want. But you wake up the day after and suddenly this is all gone.

What are you going to do and will you be able to protect yourself financially? Do you even know how much you spend each month?

Now, forgive me if I sound like your grandma back home, but these are important stuff to keep in mind—especially when you live abroad in a country where no job is really that secure.

Savings in Japan: starting with the basics

As the late Carl Sanburg said, “money is power” and while these words usually get associated with politics, the actual meaning lands much closer to home. Having your own stash of cash means that you will be able to weather any kind of situation: from divorce to death or even disaster.

Money allows you to save yourself from abusive situations. A lack of independent funds is often a reason why many women stay in unhappy relationships. It allows you to walk away from a soul-crushing job. To negotiate raises or tell your handsy boss to go to hell with no fear of starving. Most importantly for me, it is also the ticket to retiring several decades early to pursue your passions. And this, I believe, is the ultimate freedom.

Having your own stash of cash means that you will be able to weather any kind of situation

However, like all worthy endeavors, it requires a few lifestyle changes and joining a simple three-step program. Reducing your expenses, saving up and then making your money work for you. Here’s …continue reading


From ‘I Told You So’ to Hopeful, Japanese People React To 2020 Olympic Postponement

Source: Gaijin Pot

The flame for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games arrived in Japan from Greece just in time to be extinguished.

Let’s face it, the COVID-19 pandemic is here and it’ll take months to get back to our normal lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) knows it, the governments know it, hell, we all know it. Regardless of this well-known fact, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government stubbornly put off deciding to postpone the games for weeks.

We both got off the phone with the same painful feeling. I hope we’ll be able to meet and laugh about this in one year.

If it weren’t for the Canadian committee’s decision to withdraw from the 2020 Olympics had it not be postponed, the IOC and the Japanese government would still be turning a blind eye to the current outbreak.

About freaking time

A survey last week showed that two-thirds of Japanese people believed postponing the games was necessary, and it was only a matter of time before the government finally caved in.

This was the perfect opportunity to parody Tokyo Olympic bid ambassador Christel Takigawa’s speech on Japanese おもてなし, a term expressing the spirit of Japanese selfless hospitality, with relatable memes.

Twitter users reshared the parody below spelling out how the Olympic postponement was an obvious move.


— ただのホークスファンです (@8llu_ull8) March 24, 2020


No other move.



— 袋小路みきまろ (@MIKIMARO_imp) March 24, 2020




Let’s reset the clock

The iconic anime Akira predicted 2020 Olympic Game setbacks in a scene that showed a signboard with a countdown until the 2020 opening ceremony. Japanese Twitter peeps kindly offered to reset the countdown timer to 444 days.


— ルイケ🐘4/29誕生イベ🎂 (@RUIKE_trhp) <a target=_blank …continue reading


For Over 30 Years Itsuo Kobayashi Has Been Keeping an Illustrated Food Diary

All images © Kushino Terrace Years before the era of Instagram and food bloggers, the self-taught artist Itsuo Kobayashi was memorializing every meal he ate. Using a combination of illustration, collage and text descriptions, Kobayashi has been creating a food diary of the last 30 years of his life. Born in 1962, Kobayashi worked in […]

…continue reading


7 Japanese Superfoods To Boost Your Immune System

7 Japanese Superfoods To Boost Your Immune System Matcha

Many of Japan’s traditional foods are fortunately both healthy and delicious. Keep your immune system flourishing by adding these Japanese superfoods to your next grocery store haul!


Matcha was consumed in Japan long before it was a trending latte flavor—it was first introduced from China by a Japanese Buddhist monk in 1191. Matcha is made from whole, high-quality green tea leaves, de-stemmed and ground down to a powder. The powder is mixed with water so you consume the whole leaf, unlike regular green tea, where the leaves are steeped in hot water then removed.

Matcha is traditionally consumed in tea ceremonies, where the drink is prepared step-by-step with elegance and respect. In modern-day Japan, matcha can be found in assortments of drinks, desserts, candies, and baked goods, and can be recognized by its deep green shade.

Health Benefits

Matcha is packed with antioxidants—up to 137 times more than other types of green tea—which help to reduce cell damage and fight chronic diseases. Drinking matcha may also help protect against heart disease by lowering “bad” cholesterol, and increase your metabolism. Matcha contains a lot of caffeine, about three times more than regular coffee or green tea, so expect heightened brain function, but without the crash: an L-theanine compound also found in matcha alters the caffeine to prevent a crash in energy levels, while also inducing feelings of relaxation.

Savvy Tip

When preparing your own matcha, be sure to use hot, but not boiling, water for mixing (about 80ºC).

2. Miso

7 Japanese Superfoods To Boost Your Immune System Miso

Miso is a fermented soybean paste that’s a culinary pillar in Japanese food flavoring. Historically, miso …continue reading