Zen and the cross-cultural art of tree-climbing

| Jan 19, 2013

Zen and the cross-cultural art of tree-climbing

In the upstairs meeting room of a camping lodge in Komagane, Nagano Prefecture, two women and about 20 men walked slowly and intently in circles one rainy day last November. At the front of the room, a weathered and wiry Englishman intoned the sort ...

Farmers try to fence out nasty nature

| Jul 15, 2012

Farmers try to fence out nasty nature

I once asked a professor of agriculture in the southwestern United States what sort of fence would keep a goat from escaping. “Well,” he replied, taking a long and pensive draw on his cigarette. “If it can keep out air and keep out water, ...

Chernobyl expert takes a look at Tohoku's trees

Apr 22, 2012

Chernobyl expert takes a look at Tohoku's trees

Somewhere between downtown Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture, and the village of Ogisu an hour’s drive to the northeast, Dr. Tatsuhiro Ohkubo pulls over to buy a box of sakura mochi. Back on the road, he passes one of the bright-pink rice cakes to the ...

Matsumoto in May means 'crafts '

Apr 22, 2012

Matsumoto in May means 'crafts '

England gave the world the Windsor chair, but it was the city of Matsumoto in central Nagano Prefecture that reinvented it for Japan. Of course, such a universal masterpiece only needed a few tweaks. A coat of traditional Japanese lacquer here, a lowering of ...

Behold! Christ's grave in Shingo, Aomori Prefecture

Dec 25, 2011

Behold! Christ's grave in Shingo, Aomori Prefecture

One line of text from Wikipedia was all it took to lure me to the town of Shingo, in south-central Aomori Prefecture. It read: “The village promotes itself as the home of the Grave of Christ after a local legend.” As I was in ...

Hachinohe's markets serve up feasts in the streets

Oct 23, 2011

Hachinohe's markets serve up feasts in the streets

Two hundred and sixty-two years ago, the feudal domain of Hachinohe was besieged by wild boars. The Wild Boar Famine that resulted, writes environmental historian Brett Walker in his recent book “Toxic Archipelago,” was the result of “the perfect ecological storm.” That came about ...

Three Mile Island's lessons for Japan

| Aug 21, 2011

Three Mile Island's lessons for Japan

In the early hours of March 28, 1979, human errors and mechanical failures combined to cause a cooling system to stop working at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One of the station’s two nuclear cores overheated, thrusting the plant ...

Powering Japan's future

Jul 24, 2011

Powering Japan's future

Last year, Japan produced close to one quadrillion watt-hours of electricity — that’s 1 followed by 15 zeros. The vast majority of that — which translates into one billion megawatt hours (MWh) — came from coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants operated by ...

Jul 24, 2011

Distribution gridlock restricts renewables

Dial the clock forward a decade or so, and Japan will be getting a lot more of its electricity from renewable resources and a lot less from nuclear power and fossil fuels — that is, if you go by recent government announcements proclaiming 2011 ...

Enjoy art with alpine views

Jun 12, 2011

Enjoy art with alpine views

Back in the 1960s, a New York postal worker named Herbert Vogel and his librarian wife, Dorothy, began buying paintings. Using Herb’s modest salary, and living off Dorothy’s, they picked out affordable pieces that took their fancy — most of them by artists unknown ...