Okinawa: always worth returning to

Aug 29, 2015

Okinawa: always worth returning to

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The island of Okinawa shimmers beneath the wing of our plane, a dark green smudge on the azure seascape. I can’t see it well, ensconced as I am in the aisle seat, already subconsciously distancing myself from this visit. But my daughter, on the ...

Nothing is too bright for Ikuchijima Island

Jul 4, 2015

Nothing is too bright for Ikuchijima Island

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Islands can quickly lose their charm when they become attached to land masses. This, mercifully, has not happened to Ikuchijima Island in Japan’s Geiyo archipelago, a cluster of islets in the Seto Inland Sea that, despite its two connecting bridges, feels defiantly detached. Writers ...

The custodians of culture in Koishikawa

| Jun 27, 2015

The custodians of culture in Koishikawa

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Exiting the Nanboku subway’s Korakuen Station near Tokyo Dome, I gaze up at clouds resembling bunches of purple hydrangeas. Directly overhead, a roller coaster car swooshes by, its passengers shrieking, which is a good sign, because, despite its aquatic name, the Thunder Dolphin coaster ...

Dive into the culture of Minamiboso

Jun 20, 2015

Dive into the culture of Minamiboso

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It is just after sunset and hundreds of people have gathered around the docking bays of Minamiboso on the southern edge of Chiba Prefecture. As men bang away on taiko drums, dozens of women emerge from a hilltop shrine. Dressed head-to-toe in white outfits ...

Above and below the Yamaguchi plains

Jun 13, 2015

Above and below the Yamaguchi plains

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Three meters above my head, the rectangular offering box of Motonosumi Inari Shrine seems impossibly out of my reach. For the 23rd time, I wind back my arm and attempt to lob my chosen donation between the narrow slats. For the 23rd time, the ...

War and peace on Okinawa's Iejima Island

Jun 6, 2015

War and peace on Okinawa's Iejima Island

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Beside their coastlines, there are other insistent geographical features that identify islands. In Okinawa, there is the great escarpment of Tindahanata on Yonaguni-jima Island, while Ishigaki Island has the strangely occult form of Mount Maapee, shaped like a sorcerer’s hat. Iejima Island is defined ...

Flora, fauna and fellows on the river

| May 30, 2015

Flora, fauna and fellows on the river

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With summer’s heat punching in early this year, I’m already angling for riverside relief. I trundle down to Ota Ward’s Rokugodote, the southernmost train station in Tokyo’s 23 wards, and a stone’s throw from the Tamagawa (Tama River). The 138-km-long Tamagawa, which in this ...

Cruising the waves of Japan's culture

May 16, 2015

Cruising the waves of Japan's culture

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As the great ship surges into Tokyo Bay I’m on the prow, hair streaming in the wind, like Kate Winslet in “Titanic.” Wooded crags come into view, dotted with buildings and the odd factory chimney. The buildings are modern, not wooden houses, but the ...

The temporal shift of Ainokura village

Apr 25, 2015

The temporal shift of Ainokura village

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The tour conductor waved her flag furiously as she directed the bus driver into the last remaining slot in the parking lot that serves the village of Shirakawa-go. The jam of large vehicles and private cars was replicated in the droves of visitors streaming ...

Kochi doesn't need to fish for compliments

Apr 18, 2015

Kochi doesn't need to fish for compliments

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The fire is supposed to be searing my skipjack tuna, but I feel as if it’s my cheeks that are cooking instead. Turning away from the intense heat, I extend my arm as far as it can go while still keeping my speared hunk ...