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Seahorses and Pipefish: Cousins of the Reef

by Susan Spann Most people recognize seahorses at once, almost instinctively. Their distinctive bodies and curled-up tails are familiar even to those who have never seen one in an aquarium or the wild. Pipefish are more unusual, and far less [...]

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 [...]

Bumblebees of the Sea

by Susan Spann I’m not only a mystery writer and ninja enthusiast–I’m also an avid aquarium keeper. As such, I often have the chance to share some things most people never see. In the coming weeks, my Saturday posts will sometimes [...]

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, [...]

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, [...]

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 [...]

Independence Day Trivia – How Much Do You Know?

 by Susan Spann Most of us know that the July 4th holiday (celebrated in the United States) is also known as Independence Day. However … how much do you really know about the day that most of us spend by the pool, eating hot dogs, until [...]

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” [...]