Kamakura's historic 'flowering garden'

Apr 29, 2012

Kamakura's historic 'flowering garden'

When I meander through the gardens of Zuisen-ji Temple, I’m always reminded of a particular haiku by the 17th-century poet Matsuo Basho, which goes: Fading temple bell / The fragrance of flowers strikes / At evening. I’m not sure if its bell actually strikes ...

Chinese National Army and the Golden Triangle

Apr 22, 2012

Chinese National Army and the Golden Triangle

The Secret Army: Chiang Kai-shek and the Drug Warlords of the Golden Triangle, by Richard M. Gibson with Wenhua Chen. Wiley, 2011, 384 pp., $32.95 (paperback) Anyone who has stared into the devitalized eyes of an opium addict will know how grave the legacy ...

Yonaguni: Japan's most westerly isle

Apr 1, 2012

Yonaguni: Japan's most westerly isle

A colossal, dark-skinned man rides along the sidewalk on a motorbike: no helmet, two small children aboard — a vision of life in the laconic Tropics. There are times here too on Yonaguni, the westernmost land mass in Okinawa Prefecture, when you see a ...

Fiction that binds: Japan's hope after disaster

Apr 1, 2012

Fiction that binds: Japan's hope after disaster

Kizuna: Fiction for Japan, edited by Brent Millis. CreateSpace, 2011, 228 pp., $15.99 (e-book) It’s no coincidence that the Chinese character chosen to represent the most expressive sentiment of the year in Japan, one that signifies hope after disaster and misery, was kizuna, meaning ...

Feb 26, 2012

Fuji-san: reflections on Japan's iconic mother mountain

MOUNT FUJI: Icon of Japan, by H. Byron Earhart. The University of South Carolina Press, 2011, 238 pp., $40 (hardcover) It is significant that in a country where nature has long been transfused with the numinous, that Japan’s most iconic image is neither a ...

A glint of copper hints at Fukiya's mining past

Feb 12, 2012

A glint of copper hints at Fukiya's mining past

Sitting in sublime obscurity in a raised valley one hour by bus from Bitchu-Takahashi, Fukiya Furusato Mura in Okayama Prefecture must surely be one of Japan’s most under-appreciated rural destinations. Mention the name even to Japanese travelers and you are likely to draw blank ...

Naha gardens within a garden

Jan 29, 2012

Naha gardens within a garden

Amere 10-minute walk across busy Route 58 from the polyglot sidewalks, hotels and souvenir shops of Kokusai-dori, the faintly grubby, undulating Chinese boundary walls of a green enclosure announce the presence of a garden known as Fukushu-en. Somehow it doesn’t feel in the slightest ...

Jan 22, 2012

'Art Seto' bringing islands back to life

INSULAR INSIGHT: Where Art and Architecture Conspire with Nature, edited by Lars Muller and Akiko Miki. Lars Muller, 2011, 453 pp., $70 (hardback) Islands lend themselves to introspection, rebalancing, a yearning for independence and equipoise. They may not be the solution to all our ...

Celluloid celebration of Tokyo story

Dec 25, 2011

Celluloid celebration of Tokyo story

On my first trip to Cuba, I was delighted to find that not only was the city structure intact but that individual edifices could be matched with my memory of the 1959 film “Our Man in Havana.” The same cannot be said of Tokyo, ...

Education for all from '60s Tokyo tale

Dec 18, 2011

Education for all from '60s Tokyo tale

J-BOYS: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965, by Shogo Oketani. Stone Bridge Press, 2011, 211 pp., $9.95 (paperback) Like an affliction that allows you to function in an apparently normal manner but seditiously disables the sufferer, the dark legacy of war, never far from the minds ...