Sep 25, 2011

The helping hand of travel

Travel Guide To Aid Japan. WAttention, 2011, 159 pp. ¥1,000 (paper) Tourism is the world’s foremost industry, one that Japan, until very recently, has been rather slow to take advantage of. Sophisticated travel writing has never been a significant component of Japanese literature, the ...

Aug 21, 2011

Poetry as stimulating as a stun gun

THE NEW YURI AND SELECTED YURI: Writing From Peeling Till Now, by Yuri Kageyama. Ishmael Reed Publishing Company, 2011, 134 pp., $19.99 (paper) In the babbling cosmos of contemporary literature, there have been a handful of distinguished cross-cultural writers who have made the English ...

Aug 7, 2011

Ultimate guide to boozing in Japan

DRINKING JAPAN: A Guide to Japan’s Best Drinks and Drinking Establishments, by Chris Bunting, Tuttle Publishing, 2011, 272 pp., $24.95 (paper) I don’t recall who wrote the line “If Venice is built on water, Tokyo is built on alcohol,” but the author was spot ...

Step back in time down Chofu way

Aug 7, 2011

Step back in time down Chofu way

The map of Japan is full of intriguing holes and fissures, provincial areas that are not perhaps terrae incognitae in the strictest sense, but are nevertheless puzzlingly overlooked by visitors. Preserved by neglect, they are often proximate to better-known locales that sap the will ...

Have a hideously good time in Tono's past and present

Jul 3, 2011

Have a hideously good time in Tono's past and present

The professor’s snoring had kept me up until the wee hours of the morning. When I awoke, the reading light in the hostel’s upper bunk was still on and a copy of “The Legends of Tono” lay open at the page where I had ...

Jun 26, 2011

The other day of infamy

A TRAGEDY OF DEMOCRACY: Japanese Confinement in North America, by Greg Robinson, Columbia University Press, 371 pp., $29.95 (hardcover) The facts are well known. In the spring of 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, some 112,000 Japanese American ...

Jun 5, 2011

Exquisite designs for better living

TRADITIONAL JAPANESE ARCHITECTURE: An Exploration of Elements and Forms, by Mira Locher. Photography by Ben Simmons. Tuttle Publishing, 2010, 223 pp., $39.95 (hardcover) In Zen Buddhism there is a ceremony called “The Transmission.” The ritual, both mystic and arcane, is little known in lay ...

Electrifying one-act lives

May 29, 2011

Electrifying one-act lives

The late Meiji Era (1868-1912) to early Showa Era (1926-1989) saw the creation of a body of short, one-act dramas akin in their electrifying impact to the 1960s in Japan, with its upsurge in theatrical experimentation. This book begins with a telling quote from ...

A garden pictogram lives on

May 29, 2011

A garden pictogram lives on

Japanese gardens are often associated with temples, feudal estates or castles. Genkyu-en in Shiga Prefecture is certainly no exception, sited as it is adjoining a detached palace in the grounds of Hikone Castle, one of only a handful of the nation’s feudal fortresses to ...