DiscoverJapan Explained
Japan Explained

Japan Explained

Author: Stray Toki

Subscribed: 28Played: 262


Discover Japanese culture, history, food, crafts, architecture, people and more one topic at a time. Made by a former tour guide tired of old myths overstaying their welcome.I believe in research. And if you do too, we have a lot to talk about ;)

26 Episodes
Saigo Takamori, the Great Saigo or the Last Samurai is the ideal Japanese man and one of Japan's most beloved historical characters. In popular imagination, Saigo is THE perfect samurai. His image is so heavily embellished that it is sometimes hard to see where reality meets fiction. But let's try to separate them anyway.  Support the show: Cover art: @justlavi
Tanuki Explained

Tanuki Explained


Happy Halloween everyone! We started this October with kitsune, and I thought it would be great to finish it with tanuki. So let's see how tanuki and kitsune influenced each other, what tanuki has to do with the 150th anniversary of Japan Railways and how this powerful yokai ended up as a chubby sake-loving goody of today. Support the show: More info on Cover art: @justlavi
Kitsune Explained

Kitsune Explained


Kitsune – Japanese foxes, who are they? Multi-tailed shapeshifters, companions of the god Inari, animals that bring good luck or beasts that inflict madness? Let's find out! Bonus episode: Support the show: More info on Cover art: @justlavi
Ikebana Explained

Ikebana Explained


This time let's have a look at the Japanese art of flower arrangement also known as Ikebana. When did the first flower compositions appear in Japan? How did it evolve into complex art with sets of rules and artistic competitions? And which styles of ikebana are there to try your hands on? Let's figure it out.   More info on Support the show: Cover art: @justlavi
To help me break down the many myths about sake, this time I am joined by Dick Stegewerns, the founder of Yoigokochi Sake Importers. We talked about how sake came to Europe and America, how to choose and drink sake, what are the similarities between sake and other alcoholic beverages, how come sake is still mostly produced in tiny breweries, and which sake can be rightfully called the most unusual. More info on Yoigokochi Sake Importers: Bonus episode: Support the show: Instagram: @japanexplained Cover design: @justlavi
Continuing to uncover the truth about sake, let's see how this beverage is made, which types of sake you can find in the shop and how to drink it properly. Or maybe there are no rules at all? More info on Bonus episode: Support the show: Instagram: @japanexplained Cover design: @justlavi
Few things in Japanese culture are covered by so many myths as sake. For example, sake is not rice vodka and not even rice wine, but in essence it is rice beer. And it is far from being the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan. Starting the 3 part series on sake, let's look into the past, present and future of this traditional Japanese beverage. More info on Bonus episode: Support the show: Instagram: @japanexplained Cover design: @justlavi
This time let's take a look at different types of travellers using the road in the 17th-19th centuries. From foreigners who loved Tokaido to an elephant who absolutely hated the journey, there is a full range of opinions about travelling in Japan and the Tokaido road in particular. And that's exactly what we need to understand the life of this famous road. More info on Support the show: Bonus Episodes on Patreon: Shukuba Post Stations ( & River crossings and Sekisho checkpoints ( Instagram: @japanexplained Cover design: @justlavi
Have you ever heard about Tokaido? If you live in Japan, I bet yes. If you’ve ever visited, I’m positive you took Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. And if you love art, you’ve probably seen some of the prints from the Tokaido series by Hiroshige. Tokaido road has a history of more than 1000 years, and this time I suggest diving into it together. More info on Support the show: Bonus Episodes on Patreon: Shukuba Post Stations ( & River crossings and Sekisho checkpoints ( Instagram: @japanexplained Cover design: @justlavi
Ramen Explained

Ramen Explained


You asked for it, so this time let's look deep into the bowl of ramen and try to figure out why Japan (and now the whole world) is absolutely obsessed with this seemingly simple dish. More info on Support the show: Bonus Episode on Patreon: Instagram: @japanexplained Cover design: @justlavi
In the previous episode, we looked at the origins of ukiyo-e, the development of printing techniques and the classical period in the history of ukiyo-e. We followed the works of a few brilliant artists such as Harunobu, Sharaku and Utamaro and ended up in the late 18th century. So definitely check it out if you haven’t listened to it yet. This time let’s look at ukiyo-e in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Lots of things are going to happen in Japan, affecting all aspects of daily life and culture. And ukiyo-e won’t be left aside. Check episode notes and support the podcast on
This time let‘s talk about art. And speaking of Japanese art, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? I bet most of us thought of ukiyo-e. These colourful prints represent Japan to the world, but what do we know about them? Not much. What is ukiyo? When did these prints appear? Who made them? Were they always as expensive as now? Let‘s follow the history of ukiyo-e and find the answers. Say hi, learn more and support the show at
Karaoke Explained

Karaoke Explained


Why do people go to karaoke? Why in the West people prefer karaoke bars while the East is all about karaoke boxes? Was karaoke really invented in Japan? How old is it? Why karaoke songs sound so different from the original ones? The list goes on and on. My friends asked me so many questions about karaoke that I decided to make an episode about it to answer them all at once. More information at
This time let‘s talk about Japanese curry that has a rather short 150-year long history yet managed to become one of the national dishes of Japan. Lets‘s see how it climbed to fame and how many varieties of the dish we have now in case you want to cook one.
Perry promised to come back the next year. And so he did. Now, let's check out what happened next. More info on the show: @japanexplainedCover design: @justlavi
In 1853 Commodore Perry came to the shores of Japan and "opened" it to the world. Or did he? Let's see what actually happened when four black ships appeared one summer day near the shore of Uraga. More info on the show: @japanexplainedCover design: @justlavi
In the second part of Yokai Explained, I‘ll tell you how strict censorship made yokai superstars of the Edo period, which Japanese monster made a big fuss in 19th century London and New York and why in the 21st century we are still fascinated by yokai, creating more and more of them all the time. Learn more on
We all love something cooling during the summer heat. And what can be more refreshing than a spooky story that makes you shiver. But sorry, I can't handle scary stories. They are, well, scary. Japanese people, on the other hand, are really good at making and retelling them. So this time let me introduce you to the Japanese monsters - yokai, and help you understand how they came to life and what turned them into Pokemon. More info on Support the show: Bonus Episode on Patreon: Instagram: @japanexplained Cover design: @justlavi
Nabe Hotpot Explained

Nabe Hotpot Explained


You voted for it, so today I’ll look into a long history of nabe hot pot cuisine in Japan, millions of its seasonal and regional varieties and give you a few tips on picking the best pot for your nabe (spoiler alert: you can use pretty much anything).
The second part of Michizane's story starts with his exile to the island of Kyushu, where he dies. And then the unexpected happens... More info on the show: Article on Patreon: @japanexplainedCover design: @justlavi
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