Feb 21, 2010

Truly unique version of the foreigner's tale

Like a Yemenese bride-to-be who first sees the countenance of her fiance in a photo presented by relatives, Rebecca Otowa experienced a presentiment of her future in a black-and-white image of a building, a 350-year-old farmhouse in rural Japan. AT HOME IN JAPAN: A ...

Jan 31, 2010

Entrap, exploit and repeat

WESTERN POWER IN ASIA: Its Slow Rise And Swift Fall 1415-1999, by Arthur Cotterell. John Wiley & Sons, 2009, 439 pp., $29.95 (paper) This is three-dimensional historiography at its best. From the first European voyages of exploration to the Indian Mutiny and the independence ...

Adachi still lifes are sure to grow on you

Jan 24, 2010

Adachi still lifes are sure to grow on you

Just 20 km east of Matsue, the impressive collection of paintings and ceramics at the Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture, is at risk of being upstaged by its six superlative landscaped gardens. The museum and its surrounding horticultural wonders await ...

Jan 17, 2010

Mystery made of a rationalist's nightmares

A blood-soaked woman, clutching a child, stands on a barren moor. This is the image of the ubume of the title. This creature, or figment, who may or may not exist, but who haunts the narrative of this novel, is defined as the visible ...

A phoenix amid the tea fields of Uji

Dec 20, 2009

A phoenix amid the tea fields of Uji

Recalling the glorious Heian Period in Japan’s history from 794 to 1185 at once conjures up images of a world of courtiers, 12-layered kimono, elegant poetry competitions beside winding streams — and secret trysts in scented chambers. At its heart, the immensely priviledged Heian ...

Oct 18, 2009

The popular consensus: What's not to like?

FOREIGNERS WHO LOVED JAPAN, by Naito Makoto & Naito Ken. Kodansha International, 2009, 255 pp., ¥1,200 (paper) Arguably, Donald Richie’s “The Honorable Visitors,” a series of profiles of foreigners who lived or put in significant time here, is the standard against which most writings ...

Sep 27, 2009

The ink-stained road: impressions of Japan

JAPAN THROUGH WRITER’S EYES, edited by Elizabeth Ingrams. Eland, 2009, 336 pp., $29.95 (paper) Reviewed by Stephen Mansfield Recent years have seen a number of excellent anthologies of writings on Japan, including “Japan: True Stories of Life on the Road” and the superb “Southern ...

Aug 23, 2009

Rich material found in penury

It is 1995, that defining year of the Kobe earthquake, the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the year a man in Osaka confesses to dismembering the bodies of three women at his home in Osaka; the year a Buddhist priest is arrested ...

Jul 12, 2009

Finding much more to explore in Japan

If you are unsure whether Kinki lies to the east or west of Chugoku, what the principal city of Kagawa is, or which prefectures are landlocked — rest assured that you are not alone. If we have one failing in common, it is geography. ...