Evacuation turns into chance to help victims

Apr 9, 2011

Evacuation turns into chance to help victims

OXFORD, England — When the offshore Tohoku mega-quake caused tsunami to slam ashore on March 11, crippling the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Japan was figuratively as well as literally shaken. In the disaster zone, communities and families were literally torn apart. In less-stricken ...

Those old Snow Country blues

Mar 6, 2011

Those old Snow Country blues

Sometimes I’m not even sure we were there at all. Distance and time often give perspective and clarity, but now when I try to call that day to mind, everything is obscured by a thickening curtain of falling snow. Our train pulled into the ...

Tsumago: Living off its past

Feb 6, 2011

Tsumago: Living off its past

Tsumago is, indisputably, a charming place. Low mountains swing the former post-town’s main street around in a curve of weathered wooden houses, backdropping the scene with the dark green of the firs that cloak the hills. Along this section of the old Nakasendo road ...

Back in the mists of time

Nov 14, 2010

Back in the mists of time

It was November, and the leaves were ocher on the trees swathing the hills behind the reconstructed wooden buildings. Gaggles of chattering exchange students ducked in and out of the faux historical shops and houses, obviously enjoying themselves and their day out. The odd ...

It's the history that keeps a growing city from ruin

Oct 10, 2010

It's the history that keeps a growing city from ruin

We first stepped off the train at Matsumoto Station several years ago. It was August and the ripening rice paddies tinted the surrounding farmland chartreuse. Conifers darkened the distant hills. We were greeted by the eerie, long announcement that makes the station famous. “Matsumotoooo, ...

Getting high in the highlands

Aug 8, 2010

Getting high in the highlands

High in the Northern Alps of Japan there are snowfields in August. Up above the tree line, wherever the bare geology dips into cirques, thick blankets of dirty white stretch out between the peaks and jagged ridges like caught clouds. In summer, these mountains ...

Takamatsu then and now

Jul 11, 2010

Takamatsu then and now

In 1988 I was an awkward, dreamy kid with clumsy elbows and scraped knees, and Japan was a place I’d never even thought about. Impossibly far away and altogether foreign, it seemed fantastical. I had no idea back then that as an adult I’d ...

Soaking up the simians

Jan 3, 2010

Soaking up the simians

Outside the car windows the landscape was a textured patchwork: winter orchards, rice paddies and tile-roofed farmhouses all stitched together by the threads of narrow roads. I kept one eye on the way ahead, but the other was caught by the repeating monochrome pattern ...

Where myth meets the present

Dec 13, 2009

Where myth meets the present

On the edge of town, by a bridge over a stream amid fields of rice stubble, there is a roughly hewn stone Buddha. The path to it is well worn, and though someone has left an offering of the last of the season’s quinces ...

Jul 5, 2009

Taking an Izu Islands tonic

Through half-closed eyelids, the sea sparkles. A bamboo screen dapples the sunlight, and the world is reduced to contrast, to flashes of light and shade. The air is a hot, distilled essence of summer. Each time the salt dries on my skin, I make ...