The custodians of culture in Koishikawa

| Jun 27, 2015

The custodians of culture in Koishikawa

by Kit Nagamura

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

by Tom Hanaway

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

by Mandy Bartok

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

by Stephen Mansfield

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

by Kit Nagamura

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

by Lesley Downer

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

by Stephen Mansfield

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

by Mandy Bartok

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 ...

Solitude is where you find it

| Sep 28, 2013

Solitude is where you find it

by Kit Nagamura

Under cartoon-blue skies washed by early-autumn typhoons, I stand at Sendaizaka-ue (summit of Sendaizaka Slope) in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. Sendaizaka was named for daimyo lords from Edo Period (1603-1867) Sendai, now in Miyagi Prefecture, who maintained a yashiki (suburban home) on the slope that ...

A swim with turtles (maybe)

Sep 14, 2013

A swim with turtles (maybe)

by Christopher Johnson

For snorkelers, there’s perhaps nothing better than hanging out underwater with a hawksbill sea turtle. Safer than sharks, they are graceful and beautiful, ancient and wise. But sightings are rare. Of my hundreds of snorkeling adventures, I’ve only seen turtles, from a distance, in ...

Tracing the path of history in northern Nagasaki

Sep 7, 2013

Tracing the path of history in northern Nagasaki

by Mandy Bartok

The horn blast from the incoming ferry echoes clearly through the top-floor hall of Hirado Castle. From the donjon’s vantage point, my husband and I can clearly see the large passenger ship as it enters the sheltered bay of Hirado’s port, marking the end ...