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 ...

Spirits linger on storied Kudaka Isle

Oct 14, 2012

Spirits linger on storied Kudaka Isle

The 25-minute hop from Azama Port to Kudaka Island provides just enough time to glimpse back at Okinawa’s receding coast before turning to gaze at the shoreline looming — not that I expected a great deal from an island so easily and frequently linked ...

Exploring the garden of absolute infinities

Oct 7, 2012

Exploring the garden of absolute infinities

Tenryu-Ji: Life and Spirit of a Kyoto Garden, by Norris Brock Johnson. Stone Bridge Press, 2012, 368 pp., $39.95 (hardcover) If the Western garden is bulging with organic matter, the Japanese one is animate with deities, allegory, symbolism and mythology, hinting at a greater ...

Time seems to slow as Joei-ji Garden comes alive

Sep 30, 2012

Time seems to slow as Joei-ji Garden comes alive

“The whole countryside was full of snakes sunning themselves along the roads and swimming in the ditches and newly flooded rice-fields. … Out in Sesshu’s old garden behind the temple, the pond was starred with tiny twinkling water-lilies.” Such was, in part, how Glenn ...