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The humble plum blossom is like, perhaps, the sakura's often overlooked younger sister. A bit of a wallflower, you might say. Sakura blossoms get most of the love both in Japan and overseas--you don't see Starbucks, for instance, putting out a line of ume-themed snacks and drinks.

I would argue, however, that ume are just as, if not more, delightful than sakura.

Ume bloom in a variety of colors, from a sort of pearly white to pale pink to a deep fuchsia. They also bloom as early as late February and truly seem to herald the beginning of spring, and if sakura are "cute" ume are "elegant." Hana-mi (lit. "flower viewing") is just as pleasant for ume as it is for sakura, with the added benefit of fewer crowds.

With these delights in mind I met up with my friend Kat for an afternoon of flower viewing and other traditional Japanese cultural delights. We elected to meet at Yushima Tenman-gu, a Shinto shrine near the Hongo campus of Tokyo University that …
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Todoroki Valley and Kofun

When I think of quiet, meandering rivers, lush vegetation, and little sound other than your own footsteps and the chirping of various hidden birds Tokyo usually isn't the first place comes to mind. That's what makes the Todoroki Ravine a bit of a hidden gem as well as a refuge from the hustle of the city. It's a bit of a hike (pun intended?) to get to, but it's worth the trip. 
One of the nicest things about Todoroki, in addition to its verdant charm, is the decrease in temperature. Even though I went there on a rather cloudy and somewhat chilly day, I've been told it's a popular refuge in summer when the heat and humidity become impossible to bear. 

Golf Bridge is at one end of the 1.2-kilometer course (so, really, even at an amble you can cover the entire length of Todoroki in an hour or so) and at the other end is the Chigo Daishi Mieido Shrine, dedicated to Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai, the monk credited with bringing Shingon Buddhism to Japan), and th…

100K Announcement


Thanks to everyone who has read and followed my journeys in Japan from 2011 to 2017. Your support of my adventures and observations means the world to me.

In celebration of Riceandramen finally hitting 100k views, I am pleased to announce that I will be running a giveaway!

I will send one lucky person a custom box of goodies from Japan that could include (but isn't limited to): snacks, stationary, character goods, traditional Japanese crafts and more. The only limits are weight and size and your imagination (I'll be keeping everything small and light to keep the shipping costs down).

Without further ado, the details and rules of the giveaway are as follows:


The giveaway will run from today, February 25 2018 JST/ February 24 CST to March 11, 2018 JST/ March 10 CST.You don't have to be in Japan to enter: since almost all of my readers are international, this giveaway will be, too. The winner will be picked at random and notified via p…

Taking a Breather

Sometimes when you're in Tokyo, as wonderful as its bustling atmosphere is, you just want to forget you're in the middle of Tokyo.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a guy from Sweden who regularly came to Japan on business and he said that despite how much he loved Tokyo he could never live here because of the lack of green space. Tokyo has its parks, of course, like all major cities, but if you want unspoiled greenery you have to be willing to head at least forty minutes outside of the sprawling metropolis limits. In winter this desire to surround oneself with greenery might not matter as much, but now that spring is seeping into the atmosphere and the upcoming sakura season is on everyone's mind (NHK even puts out an annual "forecast" for sakura!) the neon lights and concrete jungle start to feel a little oppressive.

That's when little hideaways like the Sato Sakura Museum and Kohmeisen come in handy.

The Sato Sakura Museum is a small museum in Nakameguro…

Mapping Claire's Weekend: Liberal(ly) Experienced Arts and Sciences

I've discovered a few perks to working in the Life and Culture division of a publication.
I'm definitely on top of the arts scene in Tokyo: if it's a major museum I probably know what exhibit is on display at the moment (and probably even what's coming up next). I also get to spend a lot of my working day reading about said art, if not new restaurants, new books, or interesting places to travel within Japan. It's almost enough to make me wish I wasn't gainfully employed so I'd have more time to take advantage of all these opportunities!

We are, however, occasionally given opportunities to preview exhibits and I decided to take advantage of one of those invitations. So it was with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I sent back my reply that, yes, I would be attending the opening reception for "Mapping the Invisible" at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum.

There were quite a few people milling about in the main lobby drinking wine or Yebisu Beer…