A winter's tale of time-warp Takayama

Feb 14, 2010

A winter's tale of time-warp Takayama

After a while you tire of the easy destinations — the usual spots with their inevitable touristic clutter. So you decide on somewhere different — somewhere that’s far from the madding crowds and far, too, from the yet more madding megaphone-toting tour guides. And ...

Going to pot down Mashiko way

Jan 10, 2010

Going to pot down Mashiko way

For the most part, visitors to Tochigi Prefecture hit the well-trodden tourist track to the rococo extravaganza of grandiose Toshogu shrine in Nikko. Yet those in search of a more refined showcasing of the Japanese aesthetic would be better directing themselves to a spot ...

Dancing in the Tokushima streets

Nov 22, 2009

Dancing in the Tokushima streets

After being in Japan for a while, you get to know a place by its festivals. See a gaggle of folk in a TV clip freezing their extremities off while gawping at vast, whimsical sculptures carved from snow and ice, and you recognize immediately ...

Pottering down Chita way

Oct 18, 2009

Pottering down Chita way

It dangles down from Nagoya, dividing Ise Bay from Mikawa Bay in the inglorious shape of one of yesterday’s socks. While the upper, northern end soaks up the industrial overspill from Japan’s fourth-largest city, its southern half works as a calming antidote to the ...

On a high road of old

Aug 23, 2009

On a high road of old

In stark contrast to many of today’s passport-toting Japanese, their compatriots of old weren’t a well-traveled bunch. During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the feudal government was keen to keep its populace in check, and travel by ordinary citizens was tightly regulated. To this end, ...

History in a stunning setting

Jul 19, 2009

History in a stunning setting

It may be hard to imagine of a Saturday night in the gaijin gulches of Tokyo’s seething Roppongi entertainment district, but back in the 16th century, foreigners — especially of a Western ilk — were a complete novelty in Japan. In the years after ...

Oranges and felons

Jun 14, 2009

Oranges and felons

The 19th-century Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson got it spot on about traveling when he noted that to do so hopefully was a better thing than arriving. Should you venture forth to Hagi, whatever you may feel about the actual Yamaguchi Prefecture ...

The wax and wane of Uchiko

Apr 20, 2007

The wax and wane of Uchiko

To the enormous surprise of absolutely no one except the most irrepressible Pollyannas in or closely connected with the construction industry, the 19 years since the opening of the first of the gargantuan civil-engineering white elephants that go by the name of the Honshu-Shikoku ...

Roofs raised in prayer

Feb 23, 2007

Roofs raised in prayer

Most people are only too aware of the devastating effects of global warming — the breaking up of polar ice shelves, weather patterns going haywire, glaciers in retreat, that documentary starring Al Gore. But the thermal consequences of all the carbon that humans assiduously ...

Jewel of the north country

Jan 26, 2007

Jewel of the north country

At its northern tip, Japan’s main island of Honshu sprouts what looks like a massive pair of pincers that reach up into the Tsugaru Strait toward Hokkaido. The point at the southern end of Hokkaido that the twin peninsulas seem to be homing in ...