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British Drug Pushers in China–The 2nd Opium War

Bayard & Holmes ~ Jay Holmes Last week, we began the sordid tale of the First Opium War, in which England pushed opium produced in India onto China to balance its trade deficit with that country. Today, we continue with the rest of the [...]

Seppuku: Ritual Suicide in Samurai Japan

by Susan Spann Seppuku (sometimes also referred to as hara-kiri) is a form of Japanese ritual suicide. Many Westerners recognize this Japanese form of suicide, in which a person (often, but not always, male) slits his own stomach with a sword, [...]

Hanging Out With a Noren

By Susan Spann If you’ve eaten sushi anywhere, or visited Japan, you’ve probably seen a noren–though you might not have realized it at the time.  Noren are traditional Japanese doorway hangings. Most noren are constructed [...]

Beautiful, Bombproof Bonsai

by Susan Spann Most people have seen a bonsai tree, and most of us know they come from Japan–or at least, that the techniques and art form are Japanese in origin. But many people don’t realize how ancient the art of bonsai really [...]

Shinobi Shuko: the Ninja’s Climbing Claws

by Susan Spann Ninjas are famous for climbing walls with the ease and grace of a spider. According to legend, ninjas could scale even impossibly high, completely polished surfaces with ease. Some myths even claimed they could fly. In reality, [...]

The Mysteries of Miso

by Susan Spann Many Westerners consider “miso” synonymous with “soup,” primarily because many of us had our first introduction to this Japanese specialty in that form. In the United States in particular, miso soup has become a familiar [...]

In Japan, the Floors Can Sing

by Susan Spann In medieval Japan, some castles (and other buildings) were constructed with special floors that made a squeaking or chirping sound to alert the residents to intruders (or anyone else) walking across the floorboards. Visitors [...]

Shuriken: the Ninja Star

by Susan Spann If I asked you to name a ninja weapon, the most common answers would be a sword and a shuriken, which many people call a “throwing star.” In reality, “shuriken” translates “behind-the-hand knife” [...]

Ninja Swords: Better Than Just a Blade

By Susan Spann Real ninjas needed lightweight, concealable weapons which also served a multitude of purposes. With limited space and weight available, ninjas (also known as shinobi) generally opted for multi-use weapons, and carried only those [...]

Know Your Ninjas – Shinobi Spies of Medieval Japan

by Susan Spann Ninjas are a popular part of 21st century culture. We see them in films and on television, in Internet memes, and even on chocolates and coffee mugs – but how much do you know about who ninjas really were? In medieval Japan, [...]