おみくじ Omikuji: A Japanese Fortune Telling Slip

A Japanese language teacher gifted me an おみくじ, Omikuji, from the Dazaifu Tenman-gū, a famous shinto shrine in Fukuoka, Kyushu. She sat down to explain it to me, letting me know that Omikuji is best translated as a 'Fortune Slip'. As the Dazaifu Tenman-gū is a large and famous shrine, they had English Omikuji available. She happens …

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廃虚 Haikyo: Abandoned Bowling Alley

My accidental encounter with an underground Japanese hobby happened when we came to Sagami to spend a day drifting over the lake. We were taking in the burnt shades trees give off at that time of year, when we saw it. The entrance to a building over run with foliage, a squat Doraemon with waves …

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節分 Setsubun: A Japanese Coming of Spring Festival

A normally robust P.E. teacher quietly issues a ‘sumimasen’ at my shoulder. She stands behind my chair with a small paper bag in two hands outstretched, in the polite style of giving something. Rough calligraphy style kanji swoops over the front as is the norm with small, locally crafted gifts. She offers me the bag …

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節分 Setsubun Festival: 恵方巻 Eho-maki

Setsubun is here and so I'll be celebrating it in the Kansai tradition. On my way to work today I dropped into my local convini to pick up an Eho-Maki 恵方巻, translated as "lucky direction roll". Eho-Maki is an uncut roll of sushi, otherwise called makizushi. Once a year the stores will line their shelves with …

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A Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Daisetsuzan National Park’s The Grand Traverse – Part 1

Daisetsuzan, the largest national park in Japan, is located in the centre of its northernmost island, Hokkaido.  Measuring a gargantuan 2,267km² the expansive area hosts every biome imaginable; sprawling forests, marshland, snow drifts, shifting volcanic rock, bamboo forests, the list goes on... The landscape, wild and stunning in its sheer size, gives a hiker plenty …

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語呂合わせ Goroawase – the Art of Japanese Mnemonics

Smiling, and with the slight self-awareness that comes with starting a conversation in an otherwise empty staff room, one of the older teachers at work swung round in his chair today to speak to me about Shakespeare. As a literature graduate who has seen that meme illustrating the heart wrenching uselessness of my degree far …

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Taiikusai: Inside a Japanese Sports Day

May is a little early for Japanese Sports Days but in compartmentalised Tokyo these rentable sports grounds are booked solid through the summer months. The entire student body, and teachers, are assembled on the pitch. The students lined up according to colour coded houses, and the teachers are sitting under the just erected canopy, the …

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Gontran Cherrier – Tokyo’s French Bakery

On a rainy afternoon in Tokyo it pays to be sat in a large window. From here, you can watch as the lights change and opposing hordes of umbrellas crash, then merge. It's a fitting tribute to commuter culture in Japan. As the sky darkens, the multicoloured lights wash over the pavements like glitter shifting over …

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VIA – A Cycle Café in Saitama, Japan

The Breakdown VIA is a cyclists’ café filled with references and in-jokes for the dedicated cyclist, as well as serving as a pit stop on a much longer journey. However, if you’d like to get out and see a bit more of the Japanese countryside, then this’ll be a nice day out. VIA Opening Hours: …

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