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 ...

Beyond a shadow of doubt in new Higashino mystery

Feb 24, 2013

Beyond a shadow of doubt in new Higashino mystery

SALVATION OF A SAINT, by Keigo Higashino. Little Brown, 2013, 376 pp., £12.99 (hardcover) When the pregnant lover of a murder victim receives the sympathetic ministrations from the deceased’s wife at the funeral service, you know you are in no ordinary emotional terrain. This ...

Recommended reading

Feb 24, 2013

Recommended reading

Donald Richie was a scrupulous writer who paid finite attention to language and content. The following are 10 outstanding choices — titles that should be on any discerning readers’ bookshelf. “Tokyo: A View of the City” (1999) Here Richie manages to give the impression ...

Japan's animal spirits

Feb 10, 2013

Japan's animal spirits

BONES OF CONTENTION: Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan, by Barbara R. Ambros. University of Hawaii Press, 2012, 255 pp., $29 (paperback) Bumping into a Japanese acquaintance on the street recently, I inquired where he was going on his day off dressed in a ...

Sapporo's wonders of winter

Jan 13, 2013

Sapporo's wonders of winter

It seemed to me on a recent winter’s visit to Sapporo that everyone was a performer: from the flamboyant gestures and bullhorn announcements of the tour guides, to the showy dismembering of crabs by vendors, to the owners of the cubbyhole restaurants in Ramen ...

Landscaping the doors of perception in Japan

Dec 30, 2012

Landscaping the doors of perception in Japan

ZEN GARDENS: The Complete Works of Shunmyo Masuno, Japan’s Leading Garden Designer, by Mira Locher. Tuttle Publishing, 2012, 224 pp., $39.95 (hardcover) Although the term zen-tei (Zen garden) exists in Japanese, its usage is a largely Western one, first coined by the American garden ...

Nov 4, 2012

Windmills on the poetic mind

FAREWELL TO NUCLEAR, WELCOME TO RENEWABLE ENERGY: A Collection of Poems by 218 Poets. Coal Sack Publishing, 2012, 321 pp., ¥3,150 Japan in many ways is the land of myth, of cozy self-assurances, national delusions and unfounded assertions. Incredulous claims, such as racial homogeneity ...

Hagi: restful cradle of a revolution

Oct 21, 2012

Hagi: restful cradle of a revolution

I had just been re-reading Paul Theroux’s African travelogue, “Dark Star Safari,” and was up to a part where he explains that he never books rooms on his journeys, just turns up and leaves the rest to chance. I thought I would test the ...