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Ami-kumi Basketry

In Aizu region, where it is known to have heavy snow during winter, people have learnt to utilize the time by weaving baskets and other tools with ingredients collected from the local mountains. During spring and summer, twigs, vines and barks are gathered and dried, using the long winter nights as a time to craft. The handmade baskets and daily items have a face of its own, and... Read More

Lacquerware- beautiful and functional

“It is difficult to handle Japanese lacquerware” We are made to think that way because the japan ware in this context is often meaning the art work of traditional craftsmanship. However, in the old days, japan ware was used to serve miso soup and daily foods. Japan ware has lower heat conductivity compared to glassware and chinaware, and it is known to keep warm things warm... Read More

Vinegar: The Essential Ingredient for Eco-Friendly Cleaning

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Vinegar might well be the kitchen’s best kept secret. Well-known for its virtues as a condiment and food preservation artist, this tart member of the pantry family is capable of much more. The mildly acidic quality that makes it so perfect for its many culinary roles also makes it an ideal natural cleaner that cuts through grease and grime, battles mold and mildew, and kills... Read More

Japanese Charcoal: How and Why this Natural Deoderizer Works Its Magic

There’s good reason for charcoal to be so popular in Japan. A long tradition of using it to heat and cook made it indispensable for a smooth running household, but it played other roles inside and outside the home. A charcoal maker would have gathered their raw material – wood – from nearby forests, which meant they played a significant role in the cycle of satoyama. The... Read More

Draft Dodgers: House-warming Made Easy

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Just as summer’s setsuden or energy conversation efforts required creative solutions to keep cool, winter winds call for similar ideas to keep warm. The draft dodger, a stuffed tube of cloth laid at the base of doors, on window sills, or wherever a slight gap lets a chill breeze in or warm air out, is an easy to make (and more often than not attractive) way to do just that.... Read More

Satoyama: The Wild Side of Japanese Farming

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Traditional farming in Japan has a wild edge.  Adjacent to the carefully tended rice fields and rows of vegetables is an area rich with life.  Birds dive over the trees and fields, catching insects, while bees drone from one flower to the next. Trees of all types and sizes move in the wind, and a fox pauses in his afternoon stroll to listen for a mouse feeding on a fallen berry... Read More

Green Curtain: How to Get Started

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Summer in Tokyo is nothing if not hot. Tsuyu (the rainy season) finished in Tokyo last week, and with it’s demise will be the official arrival of summer’s searing heat and sun. Combined with high humidity and this year’s calls for setsuden or conservation, people are scrambling to find ways to cool off other than air conditioning. Fans (hand held as well as electric),... Read More

Earthen Pot: Cook Rice with Less Energy

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Rice has long been a staple in the Japanese diet. Nowadays, most households use the automatic rice cooker, but even with the high technology, rice cooked with the traditional earthen rice cooker still cannot be beaten when it comes to taste. Plus, the actual heating time is only 10 minutes, and the rest can be cooked with the heat inside the pot- a smart way to save energy. Learn... Read More

A Brief History of Industrial Pollution in Japan

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What do Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, and Ultraman have in common? The previous two are globally recognized masterpieces of the acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. The latter is a popular SFX TV program. These works share one theme in common —a warning to environmental issues. For instance, both in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke,... Read More

10 Things You Can Do In Preparation For Earthquakes

In Kanto area, September 1st is the day of disaster drill. Even though some may not take it very seriously, rather considering it as a routine, they naturally learn more or less what to do when an earthquake comes. They probably remember two basic rules: to hide under a table to protect the head and “O KA SHI.” “Okashi” literally means “treat” in Japanese, yet taking... Read More