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Mandy Bartok

Mandy Bartok currently lives in Kyushu, and she has been a Japan Times contributor since 2009. When not chasing after her exuberant toddler, she blogs about Japan for travelers at uncoveringjapan.com.

For Mandy Bartok's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

Strolling the quiet alleyways of Japan's forgotten capital

Sep 3, 2016

Strolling the quiet alleyways of Japan's forgotten capital

It’s hard playing second fiddle when you used to be first chair. Just ask Nara, Kyoto’s underpraised southern neighbor. In 710, Japan’s seat of power settled in Nara, on the plains of the Yamato Province. While previous centuries had seen the capital move after ...

A waterlogged retreat, deep in the mountains of Gifu

Jun 4, 2016

A waterlogged retreat, deep in the mountains of Gifu

For a town so closely associated with water, it’s rather fitting that Gujo-Hachiman is shaped like a fish. “An ayu (sweetfish), to be exact,” clarifies Yuka Tanaka, my guide for the afternoon and a native of this small town of approximately 18,000 inhabitants tucked ...

A landscape of life and death in Kyushu

May 14, 2016

A landscape of life and death in Kyushu

Despite my short stature, I have to bend nearly in half to enter the underground chamber of reconstructed fifth-century tomb in the Kumamoto Prefecture Decorative Tumulus Museum. The entire tomb is modeled after an actual mound in the nearby city of Yamaga, and inside ...

The uplifting tones of Okinawan blues

Jan 30, 2016

The uplifting tones of Okinawan blues

The winter vocabulary of the majority of Japan residents doesn’t include the color turquoise. Or aquamarine, azure or the somewhat intellectually pompous “cerulean.” This, however, is the palette I attempt to describe with my husband as we turn our tiny rental car onto the ...

Exploring Niigata's snow country

Jan 23, 2016

Exploring Niigata's snow country

Marred though the view is with power lines and other trappings of modernity, the rainbow that appears at the far end of Tsubame-Sanjo Station seems a rather auspicious beginning. The initial impression that greeted us in front of this largely unpopular station just south ...

Warming to Tsuwano: a wintry visit to the town of fish and foxes

Jan 2, 2016

Warming to Tsuwano: a wintry visit to the town of fish and foxes

The first official gate to the Taikodani Inari Shrine sits at the turn-off to tiny Tsuwano from the circuitous mountain highway that links Yamaguchi and Shimane prefectures. The shrine’s main hall, however, sits on another peak halfway across town, a good five-minute drive away. ...

Sensory overload in Aomori's capital city

Oct 31, 2015

Sensory overload in Aomori's capital city

I nearly walk by Aomori’s Furukawa market on the first pass, expecting something akin to the cacophony of Tokyo’s central wholesale fish market (known casually to most as Tsukiji). Sliding open the door to the squat building, however, I am assaulted with the not ...

Kakunodate town: Looking back on historical charm

Sep 19, 2015

Kakunodate town: Looking back on historical charm

Despite the fact that we’ve arrived on a weekend, the parking lot along Kakunodate’s river is relatively empty. From our spot under the shady branches, my friends Felicity and Nori and I haul our convenience-store-purchased picnic up to the edge of the walking path ...

Okinawa: always worth returning to

Aug 29, 2015

Okinawa: always worth returning to

The island of Okinawa shimmers beneath the wing of our plane, a dark green smudge on the azure seascape. I can’t see it well, ensconced as I am in the aisle seat, already subconsciously distancing myself from this visit. But my daughter, on the ...