What. A. Year.
As we reflect upon our 13th year of blogging, there’s one thing we’ve learned for sure: just as you think you’re sailing smoothly, life has a way of upending everything you’ve become accustomed to. But regardless of the challenges, we’re thankful that we’ve been able to continue doing what we do, and proud of the new challenges we’ve taken on. In addition to our daily coverage of Japan, this year we launched a membership program – thank you to everyone who has already joined!
Our shop faced its own unique challenges: although it was a strong year for online shopping, when Japan Post halted overseas shipping, our shelves quickly emptied out and we ran out of inventory. That’s when my partner and in-house seamstress began making face masks. Her level of craftsmanship and attention to detail quickly won over fans and she single-handedly carried our shop through much of the year, while also helping so many stay safe!
Whether you read one of our articles, purchased something from our shop or became a Spoon & Tamago member, thank you so, so much for your support this year! We’re so happy to have been able to be your connection to Japan during a year defined by distancing and isolation.
Read on for our 10 most popular posts of 2020.
1. Capybara Social Distancing
Behold: our most popular post of the year. Our readers certainly loved this post about stuffed capybaras used for social distancing: a tactic employed by the Izu Shabonten Zoo just as Japan was lifting its state of emergency. And we don’t know if it’s complete irony or the universe’s sick sense of humor, but the post really complements this tweet we sent out heading into 2020 that aged oh so poorly:
2. Amabie: the anti-epidemic yokai
In early March, just as things were getting bad, we wrote about a legendary yokai who was resurfacing just in time. According to myth, in the 1800s the Amabie emerged from the sea and told people to draw pictures of it in order to stave off epidemics. Artists in Japan, and around the world, took the advice to heart and creating likenesses of the yokai exploded into a global phenomenon.
3. ‘Mundane’ Halloween Costumes
Our coverage of Japan’s annual jimi ‘mundane’ halloween contest was our 3rd most popular post. Despite the pandemic, organizers were still able to hold the event this year, both in-person and virtually. And many of the costumes reflected the very strange new reality that was 2020.
4. Daisugi Tree Pruning
In October we wrote about a horticulture technique called daisugi, which was developed in Kyoto sometime in the 15th century. Written as 台杉 and literally meaning platform cedar, the technique resulted in a tree that resembled an open palm with multiple trees growing out if it, perfectly vertical. Pictured above is a daisugi in Kyoto’s Kitayama district and is perhaps the most famous example in all of Japan.
5. Japanese Rock Garden Toast
We all spent a lot of time at home this year. In April, just as Japan’s state of emergency had taken effect, we featured one artist’s attempt to make the most of her time at home by creating quarantine breakfasts using toast as her canvas.
6. Japan, 100 Years Ago
Perhaps she was one of the first “Japan Bloggers.” Eliza Scidmore traveled extensively across Asia during the late 1800s to early 1900s, writing, photographing and publishing several books. In May, we featured some of her photos from everyday life in Japan. Some things have changed, but some things really haven’t.
7. Japan’s 1918 Pandemic
Speaking of life in Japan 100 years ago, our 7th most-popular post featured posters from the 1918 pandemic that ravaged the world, infecting one-third of the planet’s population. Despite significantly less travel compared to today, even an island nation like Japan was not immune. So in an attempt to educate the public and prevent further infections, the Japanese government released a manual that detailed what the flu was and how to deal with it.
8.Tokujin’s Face Shield
One theme that emerged during the year was Japan’s design industry jumping into action in support of healthcare workers and the larger community. In April, bespectacled Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka created a simple and easy template to make face shields, which he released online for free.
9. Ghibli’s Year of Giving
Studio Ghibli, Japan’s iconic animation studio, was certainly in a generous mood this year. As people transitioned to remote work and zoom calls, the studio offered some light-hearted relief: they made available a series of stills from their films that can be used as video conferencing backgrounds. Later in the year they went on to offer 50 free stills from all of their movies for free, to be used “within the bounds of common sense.”
Lastly, our 10th most popular post for the year was an article about these humorous posters created by Nosigner, intended to make you chuckle but also take social distancing seriously.