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. ...

Jun 28, 2009

Making cycling trips cultural experiences

Among the thin crop of books on cycling in Japan are Josie Dew’s hilarious account in “A Ride in the Neon Sun,” of her trip from Tokyo to the edges of Okinawa and the extraordinary people and hospitality met. Then there is Leigh Norrie’s ...

Jun 14, 2009

Finding hope in the meaning of numbers

The beauty of figures plucked from an infinite numerical pool forms part of the theme of Yoko Ogawa’s novel, which is also a celebration of an improbable friendship. THE HOUSEKEEPER AND THE PROFESSOR by Yoko Ogawa. Picador, 2009, 180 pp., $14 (paper) The narrator ...

Jun 7, 2009

Illuminating flashes of China's fictive light

Divided into thematic segments such as Portraits, Relationships, Family and Existential Moments, more than a hundred writers are represented in this stubby new collection from China. THE PEARL JACKET AND OTHER STORIES: Flash Fiction From Contemporary China, edited and translated by Shouhua Qi. Stone ...

Mar 29, 2009

Searching for a sense of 'home'

THE CHINA LOVER by Ian Buruma. The Penguin Press, 2008, 392 pp., $26.95 (cloth) The first I knew of the actress Ri Koran, otherwise known as Yoshiko Yamaguchi, was in 1985, while staying in a grubby hotel in Beirut. An old face-cream advertisement for ...