Mishima: sliced from the shackles of time

Dec 27, 2014

Mishima: sliced from the shackles of time

Henry Scott Stokes, Yukio Mishima’s first biographer, once told me that the thing he most remembered about the writer was his exquisite manners — one of those telling details that lend a touch of authenticity to the work of those who knew Mishima personally. ...

Isolation helps preserve Ishigaki's unique charm

Dec 27, 2014

Isolation helps preserve Ishigaki's unique charm

In his 1926 story, “The Man Who Loved Islands,” D.H. Lawrence wrote, “Isolate yourself on a little island in the sea of space, and the moment begins to heave and expand in great circles, the solid earth is gone, and your slippery, naked dark ...

Mirei Shigemori: at home with stone

Nov 29, 2014

Mirei Shigemori: at home with stone

Between the years 1924 and 1975, Mirei Shigemori (1896-1975) designed more than 180 gardens in Japan, an extraordinary creative output by any standard. If Shigemori was best known as a landscape designer, an artist in the placement of stones, it is worth noting that ...

Cultivating shrunken worlds in Bonsai-mura

Nov 1, 2014

Cultivating shrunken worlds in Bonsai-mura

Omiya is one of greater Tokyo’s rare pockets of residential comfort that can accurately be defined as middle class — a trait it shares with places such as Chiba’s Ichikawa Mama or southwestern Tokyo’s Denenchofu district. Bonsai-mura (literally: “Bonsai Village”) is a neighborhood of ...

The Great Wave

| Oct 18, 2014

The Great Wave

The phrase oyatoi gaikokujin refers to foreigners hired by the Meiji Era government and various educational institutions to impart their skills to Japanese eager to advance in the modern world. The Great Wave, by Christopher Benfey.Random House, Nonfiction. There was a veritable legion of ...

A Drifting Life

| Oct 4, 2014

A Drifting Life

Readers tired with the glut of violence, wonderment and sentimentality that defines manga fantasies centering on characters with extraordinary powers and cute, eroticized females will find the unsparing social realism of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s autobiographical “A Drifting Life” a breath of fresh air. A Drifting ...

Glimpses of Lafcadio Hearn's Matsue

Sep 20, 2014

Glimpses of Lafcadio Hearn's Matsue

The Matsue-bound train I boarded at Okayama Station was pointedly named Yakumo, a reference to its destination’s best-known former resident: Greek-Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), whose adopted Japanese name was Yakumo Koizumi. Although Hearn stayed in Matsue for only a year, he developed a ...

Kanazawa City: the architecture of tea

Sep 6, 2014

Kanazawa City: the architecture of tea

One of the first things you see as you exit Kanazawa Station is a giant brass sculpture of a teapot sunken drunkenly into a mound of grass or, depending on your interpretation, tilting to fill a cup of the refreshing green brew the city ...

Kiun-Kaku: a garden of elegant period taste

Aug 30, 2014

Kiun-Kaku: a garden of elegant period taste

Despite the seasonal limitations for visiting, the Atami Baien, a plum garden, is a better-known sight that the Kiun-Kaku garden, which is an all-seasons landscape also found in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture. Perhaps it is the thirst for scale that has prioritized the plum trees in ...