After Escaping Cannibals, Dealing With Politicians Was Easy

In September 1944 nine US airmen were shot down over Chichi Jima, a small island 700 miles south of Tokyo, Japan. Of these nine men, only one evaded capture by the Japanese. That man, Lt. George H.W. Bush, went on to become the 41st President is the United States. What he didn't know -- and... Continue Reading →


Did One Wrong Word Cause the Hiroshima Bombing?

Readers of Commonplace will not be surprised to learn that one little mistranslation from one language to another can be embarrassing. Whether it is one misplaced letter when cheering General Douglas MacArthur, an incompetent interpreter for a US President, or slip of a tongue during an word of encouragement from a member of the royal family, one... Continue Reading →

Under the Same Management for Over 1,300 Years

In the Western world hotels frequently attract customers by advertising "Under New Management." The family that owns the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan hotel hasn't been able to do that for more than 1,300 years.  Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is a hot spring hotel in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. It opened in the year 705 and has been... Continue Reading →

Pucker Up and Kiss Your Allergies Goodbye

Countless songs, poems, and dramatic works have been written about the power of a kiss. You may have been unaware of one of the additional benefits of the exercise: allergy reduction. Dr. Hajime Kimata, a Japanese scientist who specializes in allergy research, published the findings of his study on how kissing affected allergic reactions in patients... Continue Reading →

Have a Finger-Lickin’ Good Christmas!

While visions of sugar plums may dance in the heads of children in most of the world on Christmas Eve, in Japan the dreams are more likely to be filled with images of crispy and original recipe chicken. In 1974 Kentucky Fried Chicken launched an advertising campaign called "Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!!" -- "Kentucky for... Continue Reading →

Lucille Ball: Mistress of Comedy and Counter-Espionage

Lucille Ball (1911-1989) was not only one of the undisputed geniuses of comedy, starring in I Love Lucy, Life With Lucy, and more than 80 motion pictures, but she also played an unplanned and unscripted role in counter-espionage. In 1942 Lucy was driving home from MGM, where she was filming Du Barry Was a Lady... Continue Reading →

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

Got a craving for ice cream? Try one of these distinctive flavors from around the world: Honey Jalapeño Pickle from Sweet Action Ice Cream in Denver, Colorado Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel from Black Dog Gelato in Chicago, Illinois  Raw Horse Flesh from Namja Town in Tokyo, Japan. While you are there, you can also sample... Continue Reading →

Divine Wind

  A Japanese scroll art created 200 years ago during the Edo period (1603-1868) is dedicated to gas warfare, but not the kind of gas traditionally used in combat. The He-Gassen (literally "Fart Battle") portrays multiple scenes where individuals direct their flatulence against their adversaries. Art historians believe the work was inspired by a growing... Continue Reading →

One Little Letter Makes All the Difference

Japanese speakers frequently have difficulty differentiating between the English letters "L" and "R". This was particularly evident in 1950 when supporters of General Douglas MacArthur (then serving as military governor of Japan during the post-war occupation) tried to encourage him to run in the next US Presidential election. While the general undoubtedly appreciated the vote... Continue Reading →

Bring Your Appetite — and Your Wallet

One of the priciest dining experiences in Japan is at Kitcho, a beautifully designed restaurant in Kyoto run by award-winning chef Kunio Tokuoka. The chef believes every dish that is served to his customers is a work of art and represents the sights and smells of Japanese culture. A meal at this high-end establishment will... Continue Reading →

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