Mountain of dread

Dec 22, 2006

Mountain of dread

The stench of sulfur hits you long before you get off the bus. And when you do step off, it hits you all the stronger. Before you stretch the sickly, yellow-green waters of a caldera lake, whose acidity has expunged all fish life except ...

Netted by the charms of fishy Kochi

Nov 24, 2006

Netted by the charms of fishy Kochi

Arched around the underbelly of Shikoku and following the great indentation of Tosa Bay carved into that island by the Pacific, Kochi Prefecture is one of those places over which a sense of isolation has long seemed to hang. At one time, the impenetrable ...

Going by the book in Shikoku

Oct 27, 2006

Going by the book in Shikoku

A classic, once noted Mark Twain wryly, is what everyone wants to have read but nobody wants to read. Thus, Japan has such grand works as the hefty 11th-century “Tale of Genji,” which can claim universal respect, but relatively few readers. One classic, however, ...

On a pathway to the divine

Sep 22, 2006

On a pathway to the divine

Since it acquired the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, more people have naturally felt inclined to see the temples and monasteries of Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture for themselves. But more than a few visitors to the complex find that its ...

Remembering an ancient people

Aug 25, 2006

Remembering an ancient people

When Japan’s Meiji Era (1868-1912) government concluded that the country had a manifest destiny to commence full-scale colonization of the hitherto barely developed northern island of Hokkaido, it set about the task assiduously. Much as with the American frontier, people from other parts of ...

Window on the West

Jul 28, 2006

Window on the West

It’s hard not to feel well disposed toward a place like Nagasaki even before you set foot in it. Nagasaki was, after all, the port in western Kyushu that had to bear the torturous brunt of the anti-Christian persecutions assiduously pursued by the Tokugawa ...

Jul 9, 2006

Looking at Westerners' accounts of the salaryman blues

THE BLUE-EYED SALARYMAN by Niall Murtagh. Profile Books, 2006, 228 pp., £7.99 (paper). The phenomenon didn’t start with Lafcadio Hearn, but in his day he became best known for it — the foreigner who comes to Japan and writes a book about his experiences. ...

The garden of earthly delight

Jun 23, 2006

The garden of earthly delight

An air of seclusion still hangs over Shikoku. This is despite the building of Japan’s greatest civil-engineering white elephants — three grandiose and grandiosely debt-ridden bridge systems that span the Inland Sea and connect the island with Honshu. The smallest of this country’s four ...

The capital delights of Nara

May 26, 2006

The capital delights of Nara

To visit Kyoto is often to experience what Oscar Wilde thought of Wagner’s music — beautiful moments, but bad quarters of an hour. The time spent soaking up the splendors of its temples and gardens seems slight at the side of those long bus ...

Here be the land of the gods

Apr 28, 2006

Here be the land of the gods

You get them in research institutes, tucked away in small caves, perched atop spanking-new urban developments. Clamber up Mount Fuji and one is waiting there at the summit. Aside from desperately keen Shintoi aficionados, few people would complain that Japan suffers any dearth of ...