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 ...

Another strange tale from east of the river

Aug 26, 2012

Another strange tale from east of the river

River Road: a Novel of Six Stories, by Hillel Wright. Printed Matter Press, 2012, 146 pp., $15.00 (hardcover) Writer Hillel Wright’s seedbed of ideas, fertilized in the work of American giants like Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe and William Burroughs, also owes something to the ...

For the sake of survival: concealing the cross

Aug 12, 2012

For the sake of survival: concealing the cross

In Search of Japan’s Hidden Christians: A Story of Suppression, Secrecy and Survival, by John Dougill. Tuttle Publishing, 2012, 272 pp., $22.95 (hardcover) When you travel with a mission, a theme in mind, encounters unfold, stories are forthcoming, history uncoils. John Dougill begins his ...

A heavenly retreat amid the bustle of Kyoto

Jul 29, 2012

A heavenly retreat amid the bustle of Kyoto

On my first visit to the ancient pond garden of Kajuji, it took me a devil of a time just to locate it. Alighting at Ono, a subway stop on Kyoto’s Tozai line, there was nothing to suggest the area might be of interest ...

Written out of history: a female Edo master's story

Jul 22, 2012

Written out of history: a female Edo master's story

The Printmaker’s Daughter, by Katherine Govier. Harper Perennial, 2011, 512 pp., $14.99 (paperback) In this story of Katsushika Oei, the little- known daughter of the late Edo Period printmaker Hokusai, the author examines not only the constraints of politics and censorship under which artists ...

Naoshima: art colony risen beautifully from ruination

Jul 8, 2012

Naoshima: art colony risen beautifully from ruination

Packing his trademark black Walther PPK 7.65 mm automatic, a small pistol with a mighty punch, agent 007 set foot on the island of Naoshima just one day after escaping the clutches of a powerful sociopath and his henchman. The scene is from “The ...

Easy does it on Taketomi

Jun 17, 2012

Easy does it on Taketomi

Consulting a map of Okinawa, you might be forgiven for thinking that the Yaeyama Islands group comprises fragments of Japan and China that have become loosened and detached. It’s an impression confirmed at every turn once you set foot on these remote littorals. Ferries ...

Matsue: 'City of Water ' with a history set in stone

Jun 10, 2012

Matsue: 'City of Water ' with a history set in stone

The train from Okayama to Matsue took nowhere near as long as the one the English writer Sacheverell Sitwell boarded in 1959 to the same destination: “Nine hours from Osaka, into a remote and little-visited part.” The region still feels faintly remote, the train ...

Making a life after surviving the war

Jun 3, 2012

Making a life after surviving the war

My Postwar Life: New Writings From Japan and Okinawa, edited by Elizabeth McKenzie. Chicago Quarterly Review Books, 324 pp., $19.95 (hardcover) The first entry in this new anthology begins with the blackened image of a watch, its hands stalled at 11:02 a.m., the precise ...