Blog

Reading Tokyo’s History from Ukiyo-E prints

One of my favorite tools that I use on my Walks are ukiyo-e woodblock prints. They are also a passion – I love looking them, their style, bold colors, and atmosphere. I also love being able to walk in the very areas where these were first created and often being able to see the same vistas. In a city whose …

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How to Avoid Temple Burnout, pt. 2 (The Fine Points)

If you haven’t read the first article in this series (“How to Avoid Temple Burnout, Part 1”), you might want to check it out for some essential background. Click here to read it. Now that we have some tools that will allow us to put what we are seeing into context – that is,  we have a larger view of …

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How to Avoid Temple “Burnout”, part 1

It is probably inevitable that if you visit Japan – it doesn’t matter whether it is major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima or smaller towns and villages in the countryside – you will also visit numerous Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. After the first few temple and shrine visits (your mileage may vary), it is also inevitable that you will …

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Shichi-Go-San (“7 – 5 – 3”): Celebrating little kids becoming big kids

Starting to see lots of beaming children clad in colorful kimono (girls) or hakama (boys), often clutching sticks of red and white candy, wandering around shrines and temples? Is it late October to mid-November? If so, then it must be  “Shichi-Go-San” – a very special time for children and parents in Japan. “Shichi-Go-San” may seem like a coming-of-age ceremony, and …

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Tokyo’s man-made forest: Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine is known in Japan as the most popular shrine for people to do their hatsumoude (first shrine visit of the New Year). Every year about three million people pass through the shrine gates over a three day period starting on New Year’s Eve. It is also a very popular destination for foreign visitors coming to Tokyo, many marveling …

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Making Sense of Tokyo

One of the most common refrains I hear from people, both online and from clients directly, is that “Tokyo is so overwhelming.” A frequent second is “I don’t think that I can navigate Tokyo on my own.” While Tokyo can seem overwhelming in the scale of its activity and the multitude of areas and neighborhoods, it is possible to get …

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Tips to make your visit to Tsukiji Market more enjoyable

  The Central Wholesale Market, more commonly known as Tsukiji Market, is one of Tokyo’s most popular destinations, and for good reason. It is the world’s largest fish market, its vendors selling more than 500 varieties of seafood from 700 stalls. Mountains of Styrofoam boxes greet the visitor prior to entering the market. Men with cigarettes dangling from lips or …

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O-Sen, Poster Girls, and the “Aidoru” phenomenon

For the past six or seven years here in Tokyo, if you flip on the TV, open a magazine, climb onto a train, walk down the street, or even use a vending machine, it is almost inevitable that you will encounter at least one member of the hugely popular aidoru (idol) group AKB 48. This group consists of far more …

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Cherry blossoms in Ueno: more than 380 years of history and revelry

  After a long, cold winter the sight of the first cherry blossoms are a welcome sign of spring in Tokyo. Soon after the petals open to the sunlight, hordes of people come to camp out under the blossoms and one soon learns that the old saying hana yori dango (lit. “dumplings rather than flowers” – Better fill a man’s …

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Yushima Tenmangu: Shrine for Tokyo’s Students, Pleasure Quarter for Edo

You wouldn’t know it from looking at it, but Yushima Tenmangu (commonly called Yushima Tenjin), a small temple famed for its plum trees and tucked away just a stone’s throw from Ueno Park, was once one of Edo’s liveliest religious and entertainment quarters. Time and weather had taken their toll on the Main Hall built in 1885, so it was …

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