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 ...

Strawberries and shoguns in Shizuoka

May 15, 2011

Strawberries and shoguns in Shizuoka

It’s a clear spring morning and the view over Suruga Bay just outside of Shizuoka City is captivating. At least, that’s what my travel companions say. As our car hugs the coastal road known as Ichigo Kaigan-dori, my husband and our friends are admiring ...

Hiking on Kyoto's doorstep

Mar 13, 2011

Hiking on Kyoto's doorstep

The Eizan Electric Railway serves a sparsely traveled route — or so I infer from the dinky two-carriage train we board shortly before it lurches out of the terminus at Demachiyanagi Station in Kyoto heading for the mountains on the city’s northeastern outskirts. Certainly, ...

Roads less traveled on Okinawa Island

Jan 23, 2011

Roads less traveled on Okinawa Island

I’m normally intolerant of Sunday drivers, but as our little car winds its way up the two-lane coastal roads of eastern Okinawa Island, I find myself pleasantly inclined to just that kind of unhurried progress. The motorcycle riders who have suddenly appeared in our ...

Dec 26, 2010

Exploring historic Nagasaki

The gate in front of me once opened to the world. Steps — now long gone — formerly led down from there to a quay in Nagasaki’s sheltered harbor where, in centuries past, visiting trading ships tied up. It was here that European mariners ...

Taking a tea break in Shizuoka

Aug 15, 2010

Taking a tea break in Shizuoka

It’s no secret what the cash crop of Shizuoka Prefecture is: tea. Green and generally reckoned to be healthful, this brew has fueled Japan for close on 1,500 years since being introduced from the Asian mainland. Now, as my Hamamatsu-bound train winds its way ...

Brides, boats and blooms

Jun 13, 2010

Brides, boats and blooms

The bride in the garden is a vision in white, her snowy dress contrasting sharply with the brilliant purple of the irises around her. “Beautiful!” sighs the gaggle of Japanese women around me, with that classic, high-pitched exhalation of breath and wistful looks in ...

Warming to Ryukyu culture

Apr 4, 2010

Warming to Ryukyu culture

The air is stifling in the cement interior of the Ishikawa Dome, despite the sides being open to the weather. I shift my limbs, in danger of losing circulation on the unforgiving benches, while my right arm furiously works my paper program as a ...