Solitude is where you find it

| Sep 28, 2013

Solitude is where you find it

Under cartoon-blue skies washed by early-autumn typhoons, I stand at Sendaizaka-ue (summit of Sendaizaka Slope) in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. Sendaizaka was named for daimyo lords from Edo Period (1603-1867) Sendai, now in Miyagi Prefecture, who maintained a yashiki (suburban home) on the slope that ...

Log-jamming in Shin Kiba

| Jul 27, 2013

Log-jamming in Shin Kiba

Last month, readers of this column found me frolicking in the sawdust and lumberyards of Shin Kiba — meaning “New Wood Place” — which arose on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay in the 1970s when the city’s timber businesses were moved there from their ...

Blazing a woodland trail through Shin Kiba

| Jun 30, 2013

Blazing a woodland trail through Shin Kiba

Even if you can’t read the kanji for Shin Kiba, you’ll sniff out its meaning of “new wood place” the moment you arrive. The Yurakucho subway line’s terminus there in eastern Tokyo smells like a cedar closet. Inside the station, a display of Japanese ...

Wisteria wanderings in Kameido

| May 26, 2013

Wisteria wanderings in Kameido

Each year, I tell myself I have to make time to enjoy the famed trellises of wisteria blossoms at Kameido Tenjin in Tokyo’s eastern Koto Ward. Then, I blow it. This year, I enlist my mother-in-law, who’s savvy about such things, to get the ...

Spring training in Mukojima

| Feb 24, 2013

Spring training in Mukojima

It’s hard to think of February as springlike, what with snowfalls, freezing winds and a dusting of dead leaves everywhere. But I know from experience that the intrepid Prunus mume, or plum tree, blooms this month, and a trek to see some blossoms seems ...

Mining gems in Okachimachi

| Jan 26, 2013

Mining gems in Okachimachi

On early maps of Edo, as Tokyo was known prior to 1868, Okachimachi is rendered as a town (machi) densely packed with the tiny dwellings of okachi — low-ranked, poorly paid samurai infantry.

The fall fires of Nishigahara

| Nov 25, 2012

The fall fires of Nishigahara

Burning to see fall colors, I head to Tokyo’s northern Kita Ward, where Kyu Furukawa Teien, the former estate of copper magnate Ichibei Furukawa, features not only a traditional Japanese garden but also Western-style flowerbeds of autumn-blooming roses. At this time of the season, ...

Seeking out what's in store for Kuramae

| Oct 28, 2012

Seeking out what's in store for Kuramae

Back when Tokyo was Edo and Tokugawa shoguns ruled the land (1603-1867), the burgeoning city’s most vital staple, rice, was protected in kura (storage houses) along the right bank of the Sumida River. Then, by the simple expedient of adding mae (in front of) ...