Reflections on two cities

Jun 23, 2013

Reflections on two cities

Having written over 10 guidebooks myself, I speak from experience when I say that working on these projects is a mixed blessing. Writing a first-time guide to a little-known part of the world, with the freedom to innovate with format and content, can be ...

May 19, 2013

Ranpo's novella of a desecrated grave continues to send shivers

There has long been a taste in Japan for the bizarre and abnormal. The experimental Taisho Era was no exception. A desire for sensory experience existed even in cinema. During a funeral scene, for example, an attendant might light sticks of incense in the ...

Taking it easy on stroll-size Omi-jima

May 19, 2013

Taking it easy on stroll-size Omi-jima

Mr. Hirohisa had made it clear when I called him from the nearest mainland city to the island — Nagato in western Honshu's Yamaguchi Prefecture — that there would be no supper provided that night; nor would he be able to pick me up ...

A double dose of guidance offers more than usual information

Apr 28, 2013

A double dose of guidance offers more than usual information

SHINTO SHRINES: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan’s Ancient Religion, by Joseph Cali with John Dougill. University of Hawaii Press, 2012, 328 pp., $24.99 (paperback) KYOTO MACHIYA RESTAURANT GUIDE: Affordable Dining in Traditional Townhouse Spaces, by Judith Clancy. Stone Bridge Press, 2012, ...

Daytime in Kin Town's nocturnal city

Apr 28, 2013

Daytime in Kin Town's nocturnal city

The three drunken U.S. Marines who stumbled into my motorbike headlamps were clearly combat-trained, as their agility in shifting from advanced inebriation to performing a nimble leap onto the sidewalk suggested seriously attuned reflexes.

The 'eternal modern' gardens of Matsuo-taisha

Mar 31, 2013

The 'eternal modern' gardens of Matsuo-taisha

When new buildings were constructed in 1971 at Matsuo-taisha in Kyoto, one of Japan's oldest shrines, the largely self-taught landscape master Mirei Shigemori was commissioned to create a series of gardens on the site.

Playing to the beat of the gods

Mar 17, 2013

Playing to the beat of the gods

TAIKO BOOM: Japanese Drumming in Place and Motion, by Shawn Bender. University of California Press, 2012, 259?pp., $29.95 (paperback) No one can fail to be impressed by a live performance of Japanese drumming, the primal elements of stretched animal skin and wood striking a ...

If you do like to be beside the seaside, try Kamogawa

Mar 10, 2013

If you do like to be beside the seaside, try Kamogawa

Chiba is a large prefecture, something you notice while traveling from Tokyo to the southern seaside resort of Kamogawa. The journey takes a good two hours — and this by express train. Once past the city of Mobara, the JR lines enter a more ...