Yakuza Origins: Hatamoto-yakko and Machi-yakko

When you think of the yakuza, you probably think of hardened criminals that made up the deadly and sinister Japanese mafia. Or maybe you think of the dirty political deals, gambling empires, smuggling, and violence. Or you could just think of the hit video game series highlighting the aforementioned  criminal activities. But was this always... Continue Reading →


Come on now, that’s clearly green!

So I was driving with my fiancé the other day and imparted this fun fact upon him: Japanese traffic lights are not green. They're blue. Of course this was said literally as we were driving under a traffic light, so he looked up and pointed out that it was pretty obviously green light. Nah man.... Continue Reading →

Scooping Goldfish

If you think of Japanese fish, probably the first thing you think of is the beautiful koi. What you may come to second, or maybe third, is goldfish. To those of us in other parts of the world, goldfish may just be the cheapest thing at the pet store. But in Japan, they’re a hell... Continue Reading →

花火 – Fireworks in Japan

花火 (はなび) roughly translates to “fire flower” or fireworks. In the U.S., fireworks are most common on the 4th of July and New Year’s. So when are fireworks set off in Japan? Let’s start with a little history.  History:                                                                                    Gunpowder first came to Japan in 1549 (a.k.a, a long damn time ago.) This was a... Continue Reading →

Setsubun (節分)

So this post is a few days late because I physically need to procrastinate on everything in my life apparently. But anyway, February 3rd was Setsubun! Setsubun is a winter holiday which involves throwing beans around and yelling, so obviously a very important day. Festival Origins and Customs Japan switched to the Gregorian calendar in... Continue Reading →

Shakuhachi (尺八)

I had the very exciting opportunity to go see grand master James Nyoraku Schlefer play at my university this week o(*≧□≦)o so I figured this would be a good time to share some info about what a shakuhachi is and a bit of the instrument's history. Plus it's just pretty rad to listen to. (I'm... Continue Reading →

What’s up with blood types?

I was filling out a job application the other day for a Japanese company and in the health history section, the application asked for my blood type. Now that really doesn't come up in a lot of US applications, but it's a lot more likely to come up in a Japanese application. Do you have... Continue Reading →

New Year’s Traditions in Japan

Japan's native religion of Shinto is super-focused on the ideas of cleanliness and purity. So, New Year's, the holiday representing a fresh start and renewal, is a pretty big deal. Japan has TONS of New Year's traditions, and they can range from centuries old to within the last 10. Osechi Ryori お節料理 The big holiday... Continue Reading →

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