| Apr 16, 2006

Ring trilogy spirals past science fiction

RING, SPIRAL, LOOP, by Koji Suzuki. Vertical Publishing, 2003-2005, each $24.95 (cloth). One cinematic treat that 1998 turned out was “Ringu,” which was the rarity of a well-worked, intelligent horror flick that won broad appeal among movie fans who ordinarily look askance at efforts ...

Here's one castle to crow about

Mar 31, 2006

Here's one castle to crow about

They may be unloved and unwanted, but even their detractors would have to admit that Japan’s crows are tough, resilient critters. It is, then, entirely appropriate that the oldest castle in Japan should be named after these intimidating birds. The Japanese of yore had ...

You can't get too much snow up here

Feb 24, 2006

You can't get too much snow up here

Glaciers are in retreat, global weather patterns are going haywire and the Earth’s climate is the warmest it’s been in a millennium. Nonetheless, every winter, as regular as clockwork, winds from Siberia howl across the Sea of Japan, siphon up moisture, and dump it ...

A fortress to be reckoned with

Jan 27, 2006

A fortress to be reckoned with

From the soaring beeches in the forests of northern Honshu’s Shirakami-Sanchi to the funereal Buddhist gloom of Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture, those who let UNESCO be their guide will find no dearth of variety among Japan’s World Heritage Sites. Of the places in this ...

A slow dive into Ishigakijima

Dec 23, 2005

A slow dive into Ishigakijima

You quit the airport and drive along roads flanked with palm trees, past fields of tall sugar cane and stone-walled gardens bristling with red hibiscus flowers, and it’s clear that you’ve arrived in a very different part of Japan. Ishigakijima Island might be the ...

Izu's Shimoda basks calmly in past glories

Nov 25, 2005

Izu's Shimoda basks calmly in past glories

Jutting south from Mount Fuji into the Pacific, the Izu Peninsula has something of a holiday air about it. The warm Kuroshio current flowing northward lends the peninsula a mild climate, and its position close to the suture lines of shifting tectonic plates means ...

Journey to the end of the world

Oct 28, 2005

Journey to the end of the world

The name in Ainu means “the end of the Earth.” And the bleakness and ruggedness of this lonely peninsula jutting out into the Sea of Okhotsk are such that little imagination is required as to how the Ainu — the indigenous people of Hokkaido ...

The taste of Tosa in Tokyo

Sep 30, 2005

The taste of Tosa in Tokyo

Long before the ballyhooed construction in the 1980s and ’90s of the three stupendous bridge systems linking Honshu with Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s main islands was by far the least visited. But despite the completion of those civil-engineering white elephants, Shikoku has pretty ...

War and peace in Hiroshima

Sep 23, 2005

War and peace in Hiroshima

Before coming to Japan, most people don’t know more than about half-a-dozen place names in the country. But one name certainly familiar to all is that of the largest city at the western end of Honshu. Sixty years ago last month, on Aug. 6, ...

Visitors become statuesque in Kawagoe

Aug 26, 2005

Visitors become statuesque in Kawagoe

Tokyo may be big, but it’s not big on history. The city’s most popular historical spot, Asakusa, is centered on Asakusa Kannon temple, and its main hall was built in 1958. Frank Lloyd Wright’s sublime Imperial Hotel survived the onslaughts of the 1923 earthquake ...