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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:

The alluring lofty peaks of Iya Valley

May 2, 2015

The alluring lofty peaks of Iya Valley

It’s late afternoon as my family and I motor into the Iya Valley, a remote region of western Tokushima Prefecture. Billed as many things — a lost paradise, a secret hideaway, a rural escape — by the area’s tourism brochures, I find that no ...

Kochi doesn't need to fish for compliments

Apr 18, 2015

Kochi doesn't need to fish for compliments

The fire is supposed to be searing my skipjack tuna, but I feel as if it’s my cheeks that are cooking instead. Turning away from the intense heat, I extend my arm as far as it can go while still keeping my speared hunk ...

Fukuoka awash with hina dolls, hidden temples

Mar 14, 2015

Fukuoka awash with hina dolls, hidden temples

My daughter, having a little girl’s predilection for princesses, turns out to be an excellent spotter of kids in kimono. “Look Mama, another one!” she whispers to me and my friend Elaine excitedly, as we make our way down the back alleys of Yanagawa, ...

Journey of 'eat, pray, bathe' awaits pilgrims to Mount Koya

Feb 14, 2015

Journey of 'eat, pray, bathe' awaits pilgrims to Mount Koya

Although pilgrims have been coming to this center of Shingon Buddhism since its foundation in 816, the 1,200th anniversary of the monastic settlement promises an increase in curious tourists who have heard of Mount Koya's serenity and want to experience it for themselves.

The mountain village that tried to disappear

Jan 31, 2015

The mountain village that tried to disappear

Our arrival at Yunishigawa-Onsen Station in Tochigi Prefecture is more than a little disconcerting. The two-carriage train, which until now has been chugging determinedly through an increasingly snowy landscape, pulls to a halt in the middle of a tunnel. The doors slide open to ...

Soaking up the very best of Wakayama's hot springs

Dec 20, 2014

Soaking up the very best of Wakayama's hot springs

The two sounds occur almost simultaneously: Just as my cellphone alarm begins its melodious chime to rouse me from sleep, the dark clouds above my guesthouse in the town of Tanabe on the Kii Peninsula burst forth with a pounding rain. Within minutes, it’s ...

Yamadera: 1,000-step staircase to paradise

Nov 8, 2014

Yamadera: 1,000-step staircase to paradise

We’re only a few minutes into our climb up one of Yamagata Prefecture’s holy mountains, Mount Hojusan, and already our pace has slowed considerably. Our destination is Risshakuji Temple, more colloquially known as Yamadera (literally: “mountain temple”), a far-north outpost of Tendai Buddhism since ...

Soaking weary bones and saving a sole on Kyushu's Mount Yufu

Oct 11, 2014

Soaking weary bones and saving a sole on Kyushu's Mount Yufu

It’s a rare day that the top of Oita Prefecture’s Mount Yufu (or Yufudake) isn’t obscured by clouds, claims Lonely Planet’s “Hiking in Japan” guidebook. Luckily, our visit happens to coincide with one of those rare days — there is nothing but an unbroken ...

Slow food and fast water in a rural corner of Kumamoto

Aug 2, 2014

Slow food and fast water in a rural corner of Kumamoto

It starts off as a dull roar, prompting those of us sitting in the rice paddies to look skyward in anticipation. Then it builds, in the same way an orchestra tunes its instruments: first discordantly out of key before reaching a crescendo of perfect ...

Takachiho: Gods and gorges in divine Miyazaki

May 10, 2014

Takachiho: Gods and gorges in divine Miyazaki

The already cloudy sky darkens perceptibly as our car descends into Takachiho Gorge. This area of extreme scenic beauty — carved out of the earth by lava flow from Kyushu’s volatile Mount Aso and further eroded by local rivers such as the Gokase — ...