On mountain peaks and tourist trash

Jul 4, 2015

On mountain peaks and tourist trash

Discussing Mount Hayachine, ethnologist Kunio Yanagita observed that it stood on, “a somewhat different plane from the normal world.” This could be a description of mountains in general, a landscape where we may experience nature in the raw, and even at times, a numinous ...

War and peace on Okinawa's Iejima Island

Jun 6, 2015

War and peace on Okinawa's Iejima Island

Beside their coastlines, there are other insistent geographical features that identify islands. In Okinawa, there is the great escarpment of Tindahanata on Yonaguni-jima Island, while Ishigaki Island has the strangely occult form of Mount Maapee, shaped like a sorcerer’s hat. Iejima Island is defined ...

Breaching the secretive sects of Shin-Buddhism

May 30, 2015

Breaching the secretive sects of Shin-Buddhism

The tendency to perceive covert groups as reticent conspirators rather than curators of hidden knowledge is universal. Secrecy’s Power, by Clark Chilson 235 pages.University of Hawaii Press, Nonfiction. In Japan, secret oral transmissions, chants, rituals and services have long been identified with esoteric schools ...

Sound waves: the music of Okinawa

May 9, 2015

Sound waves: the music of Okinawa

How is it possible that a people who have experienced poverty, famine and discrimination, outlasted efforts at cultural annihilation and suffered the indignities of occupation can manage to celebrate life in song and dance with a passion and joy that belies everyday reality? Music ...

The temporal shift of Ainokura village

Apr 25, 2015

The temporal shift of Ainokura village

The tour conductor waved her flag furiously as she directed the bus driver into the last remaining slot in the parking lot that serves the village of Shirakawa-go. The jam of large vehicles and private cars was replicated in the droves of visitors streaming ...

Okinawa: In the crosshairs of war

Apr 4, 2015

Okinawa: In the crosshairs of war

“We always seem to be at the tail end of history, dragged along roads already ruined by others.” — “Memoirs of a Declining Ryukyuan Women,” Kushi Fusako On a recent trip to the Pacific island of Guam, I came across a peculiar omission in ...

Soraku-en: Kobe's well-grounded garden

Mar 28, 2015

Soraku-en: Kobe's well-grounded garden

On Jan. 17, 1995, as the city of Kobe suffered one of the country’s worst earthquakes in living memory, the rocks, artificial hills and root systems of Soraku-en, a Meiji period (1868-1912) circuit garden, held firm. This was rather remarkable, given the extent of ...

The wanderer, writer and suspected spy who embraced Japan

Mar 21, 2015

The wanderer, writer and suspected spy who embraced Japan

T.S. Eliot may have written that “April is the cruellest month,” but for Roger Pulvers, this spring is an extraordinarily felicitous one. In March, an English translation of his novel “Starsand” was published and in April, translations will be released of both an anthology ...