Kids’ Cigarettes


You probably won’t find these cigarettes anywhere else but in Japan these days! Because in most countries it’s completely illegal to sell cigarettes to kids even if they are fake candy cigarettes! You can normally find these amazing cigarette sweets in dagashiya (Japanese sweets shops). The two flavours I’ve seen so far are orange and chocolate, but there might be more out there!

Sword Master


This is a Japanese Tengu, which is a mythical creature that lives in the mountains of Japan. It is said that Tengus have incredible sword fighting skills and if you’re lucky and they think you are worthy then they might take you on as an apprentice so you can learn how to be a master sword fighter. There are quite a lot of these statues of Tengus in Buddhist temples in Japan and supposedly if you rub the foot of the statue of a Tengu it gives you good luck and good health (see how shiny his feet are!)

Strange Way to Eat Pizza


I was eating in an izakaya pub in Tokyo and I was surprised to find a pair of kitchen scissors with the pizza I ordered. For a moment I didn’t know what they were for but then I realised they were for cutting up the pizza because we were eating with chopsticks. As you can see Japanese prepare for everything!

Racing Boats


I’ve already covered horse racing and now we have boat racing! There are about 20 boat racing stadiums in Japan and this particular one is located in Heiwajima in Tokyo. About 95% of the onlookers are men of course, but surprisingly about 10% of the boat racers are women! Unlike horse racing where the horses simply run around the stadium from start to finish line and the fastest wins, here in boat racing there are different sections that the boat racers have to get through in a certain amount of time. So the racing isn’t just about speed but it’s also about timing and precision, especially when the boats go around the corners of the race track. Sometimes they cut the turns so tightly that you think they are surely going to crash… But somehow they don’t! Just like in horse racing you can bet on the racers (but this time my family and I didn’t). It is quite a nice experience and fun to watch!

A Spicy Plant


This is wasabi in its natural form. Normally you only see wasabi in a tube or on a plate. But I was lucky and managed to get hold of a stick of wasabi. It’s actually the root of the plant that you eat with sashimi or sushi (although you can eat the leaves too). It’s easy to prepare – all you have to do it use a fine grater and gently grate the root. Chefs in Japan use a sharkskin grater (!) but I used a little ceramic grater. You don’t even need to peel the root, just wash it. After you have grated the wasabi apparently you should leave it for about 3-7 minutes because that brings out more taste when you eat it. I tried this and it’s true, if you leave the wasabi a little while it becomes much stronger than if you eat it right after you first grate it! Don’t leave it too long though as the taste fades again after 30 minutes or so.

Problems with Water


In Japan there is large prefecture called Saitama which is located north of Tokyo. This prefecture has lots of problems with flooding because the main part of the prefecture is in a kind of natural bowl in the ground and in this area there are 5 pretty big rivers which flood several times a year. So to stop this flooding problem they made a HUGE complex of tunnels under the prefecture and the rivers called the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel (quite a mouthful!) This discharge channel is connected to all 5 of the rivers which are the ones that flood, and if some of them do flood the discharge channel sucks the water in and then lets it out in a much bigger river just outside of the natural bowl the prefecture is located in. You can get a guided tour and go down into the huge water storage chamber of the discharge channel. Flood water isn’t clean of course so when the water clears from the chambers there’s a ton of mud left over and they actually lower a bulldozer down through the roof of the chamber so they can bulldoze the mud out again!