I Love Yu! Japanese Bath Houses, Hot Springs, and How to Soak Up at Home

photo credit: Stéphanie Crohin

*this post is sponsored by Japan Foundation New York, Center for Global Partnership*

On Saturday, July 18, 2020 join a free online event with two experts to discuss Japan’s history of bath culture, art of public bath houses, science of Japanese bathing habits, and how to try at home.

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JR East Redesigns All 78 of Their Central Tokyo Train Station Stamps

Rubber train station stamps, known as eki stamps, are a uniquely Japanese phenomenon formally dating back to the early 1930s. Train stations would create their own stamps, usually based on local landmarks, and place them within the station for those who pass through to stamp their self-ordained “passports.” The system gave birth to an entire sub-genre of enthusiasts who would travel around collecting stamps. Now, these oshi-tetsu, as well as and other fans of train lines, have something new to get excited about. For the first time in 17 years, JR East has redesigned the stamps of 78 train stations across 11 train lines in Central Tokyo.

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The New Kitamura Camera in Shinjuku is Six Floors of Photography Paradise

Kitamura Camera, a Japanese photography specialty shop with roots dating back to 1934, has opened a new flagship location in Shinjuku. With 6 floors of new & used cameras, along with a cafe & photography book lounge, the new location, which just opened in early July 2020, hopes to become a one-stop shop for amateur and professional photographers alike.

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Shiro: A New Minimal Hotel in Ikebukuro

Shiro means white in Japanese and is the name of a new hotel inspired by the color and kanji character for white, 白. Located in the neighborhood of Ikebukuro, and with its clean lines and emphasis on minimal creativity, Shiro attempts to provide travelers with the authentic experience of staying in a neighborhood, rather than staying in a hotel.

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Japanese Aqarium’s Flowchart Illustrates the Complex Relationships of Their Penguins

the Kyoto Aqarium’s 2020 Penguin Relationship Flowchart

Penguins, the way they waddle around and protect their eggs, are often thought of as cute, cuddly and romantic. But those who observe them for extended periods know they have a dark side. Two aquariums in Japan, Kyoto Aquarium and Sumida Aquarium, keep obsessive tabs on their penguins and maintain an updated flowchart that visualizes all their penguin drama.

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Japanese Gum Wrappers Double as Beautiful Origami

Rather than just let the small piece of paper that wraps around individual sticks of gum go to waste, Japanese snack-maker Lotte decided to get playful. For each of their 7 different flavors of gum the firm created a series of graphic wrappers, a total of 58 different designs, each with their own distinct look.

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A New Line of Hanko Ink Inspired by the Colors of Nature

Times have been difficult for Japan’s hanko, a personal signature tool that dates back centuries. Technology has been rendering the system obsolete and a work-from-home environment triggered by the global pandemic has only accelerated this phase-out. But it’s a beautiful tradition. And in order to rethink the hanko’s place in modern society, stationery company Shachihata has released a new line of hanko ink, normally just red or black, in beautiful, lush colors inspired by nature.

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Miyanoyu: a 70-Year Old Tokyo Sento Renovated into an Art Gallery and Cafe

all photos by Kohei Yamamoto

Public baths, or sento as their called in Japan, are a dying breed. Their beloved architecture, endearing interiors and murals of Mt. Fuji have not been enough to maintain the flow of customers and keep them alive. It’s said that in Tokyo every week another sento goes bust. One of those was Miyanoyu, located in the Nezu district of Tokyo.

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Theatrical and Surreal Images Painted in a Renaissance Style by Tokuhiro Kawai

“Fantasy of a pet cat” (2006) by Tokuhiro Kawai

Japanese contemporary artist Tokuhiro Kawai uses his mastery of oil painting to create surreal images that invoke the Italian painters of the High Renaissance. But instead of biblical figures, kings and queens, Kawai infuses his paintings with cherubs, children and cats. Lots of cats.

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The Life of Two Adopted Kittens Under Quarantine Lockdown in Tokyo

all photos by Benjamin Beech

One of the invisible victims of the global pandemic and physical distancing measures have been stray animals. When the streets of Tokyo emptied out in April as the city entered a state-of-emergency-induced lockdown, many strays were left to fend for themselves. Sadly, two kittens, Olive & Pepper, were abandoned on a roof in Tokyo. But the story has a happy ending.

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