Theaters of war and peace in Kumamoto

Jul 20, 2013

Theaters of war and peace in Kumamoto

The pamphlet tells me this is a “castle” — but the structure in front of me defies that description. Granted, my frame of reference is greatly informed by the impressive edifices of Kumamoto, Himeji and Matsumoto that date back to the gory Sengoku (Warring ...

On the trail of ninja in Iga's shadowy past

May 12, 2013

On the trail of ninja in Iga's shadowy past

The bright-pink ninja-emblazoned train isn’t exactly the epitome of stealth as it cuts through the forested hills and rice paddies of Mie Prefecture. Neither are visitors’ pint-size offspring who race excitedly up the paths of Ueno Park in the city of Iga shrieking their ...

Diving into Ise-Shima's ancient womanly traditions

Aug 12, 2012

Diving into Ise-Shima's ancient womanly traditions

The hut of the pearl divers is more modern than I’d expected. Here, in the village of Osatsu along the craggy coast of the Ise-Shima region in Mie Prefecture, the small concrete building named Hachimankamado blends in with its 21st-century surroundings. But inside the ...

<em>Bashōfu</em> culture weaves its spell in Kijoka

Jun 3, 2012

Bashōfu culture weaves its spell in Kijoka

White-caps beat steadily against the northwestern shore of Okinawa’s main island. Winds have stirred up the seas, yet the water looks as cerulean and inviting as ever. I should be paying more attention to this enviable vista but I’m preoccupied, indifferent. The circuitous coastal ...

Dazaifu's rich past still delights today

Mar 18, 2012

Dazaifu's rich past still delights today

The gravel of a path in the garden at Komyozenji Temple has been swirled into the shape of the kanji for “light.” It’s a bit of an ironic choice for the fall day I visit, as only a few of the sun’s rays have ...

Exploring Yanagawa's watery world

Dec 4, 2011

Exploring Yanagawa's watery world

The boatman sings a low-pitched, wistful air as he poles our craft down the watery freeway. Some of my fellow passengers obviously know the melancholic song, and join in on what passes for a chorus as we’re propelled otherwise noiselessly down the wide canal. ...

Castles and Crafts on the Yomitan Peninsula

Sep 18, 2011

Castles and Crafts on the Yomitan Peninsula

Most people come to the Yomitan Peninsula on Okinawa’s main island for the sand and the scuba opportunities. I, however, am one of those island residents on whom paradise is wasted — I like neither a sweltering day at the beach nor an afternoon ...

Beat the heat in the green hills of Izu

Jul 17, 2011

Beat the heat in the green hills of Izu

Nobody likes Japan’s cities in the summertime — at least not those south of Hokkaido. With heat rising off the tarmac and radiating from the concrete, and humidity that clings like a wet towel, thoughts of escape come readily to mind — and there’s ...