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 Mandy Bartok

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Mandy Bartok
Mandy Bartok currently lives in Kyushu, and she has been a Japan Times contributor since 2009. When not chasing after her exuberant toddler, she blogs about Japan for travelers at uncoveringjapan.com.
For Mandy Bartok's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Jan 23, 2011
Roads less traveled on Okinawa Island
I'm normally intolerant of Sunday drivers, but as our little car winds its way up the two-lane coastal roads of eastern Okinawa Island, I find myself pleasantly inclined to just that kind of unhurried progress. The motorcycle riders who have suddenly appeared in our rearview mirror, however, seem less enamored of our languid pace.
LIFE / Travel
Dec 26, 2010
Exploring historic Nagasaki
The gate in front of me once opened to the world. Steps — now long gone — formerly led down from there to a quay in Nagasaki's sheltered harbor where, in centuries past, visiting trading ships tied up.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Aug 15, 2010
Taking a tea break in Shizuoka
It's no secret what the cash crop of Shizuoka Prefecture is: tea.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Jun 13, 2010
Brides, boats and blooms
The bride in the garden is a vision in white, her snowy dress contrasting sharply with the brilliant purple of the irises around her.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Apr 4, 2010
Warming to Ryukyu culture
The air is stifling in the cement interior of the Ishikawa Dome, despite the sides being open to the weather. I shift my limbs, in danger of losing circulation on the unforgiving benches, while my right arm furiously works my paper program as a fan in a desperate effort to gain respite from the Okinawan humidity.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Feb 7, 2010
Go to where your cup runneth over
The green and white taxis are lined up outside Katsunuma-Budokyo Station like the stripes on a holiday peppermint stick. I readjust the contents of my daypack after the 90-minute train trip from Tokyo, take out my map, and hop into the back of the first cab in line with my husband in tow. We clue in the driver to our intended destination — Budo no Oka (Grape Hill), a hilltop retreat and prime wine-tasting spot in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Nov 15, 2009
Shades of Greece on the Inland Sea
The windmill is the first thing I notice, its delicate white blades gleaming against the cloud- flecked sky. Nearby, a semi-circle of polished Doric-style columns occupies prime position overlooking the glassy sea. As a breeze blows gently through olive trees on the shady hillside, it's easy to imagine I've landed on some idyllic Greek isle.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Oct 4, 2009
Diving with dolphins in the Izu Islands
It's Saturday morning and I'm sitting on the beach, struggling to strap on a pair of oversize flippers. When they are securely in place, I waddle down to the water's edge and gingerly step into the sparkling, crystal ocean lapping Miyake Island.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Sep 13, 2009
Serving up soba and shrines
The lump of dough in the large mixing bowl in front of me doesn't look like much, but soba-making instructor Hatuko Tokutake isn't concerned.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Aug 16, 2009
Striking it rich on the Izu Peninsula
Gold may be heavier than water, but all that's rattling around the bottom of my panning bowl are lots of multicolored pebbles.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Jun 7, 2009
All aboard for Saitama's splendors
"Get ready!" comes the call from Kato, our river guide who is standing at his post in the stern of our wooden longboat. My gaze snaps forward, scanning the waterway.
LIFE / Travel
Apr 12, 2009
Slow train coming in Shizuoka
Standing on the platform at Kanaya Station in Shizuoka Prefecture, the enthusiastic crowd — myself included — watches with fascination as the train pulls in. Because this train is different. It's not a sleek, aerodynamic bullet train; nor is it one of the ubiquitous, striped JR jobs. Rather, the tar-colored engine that's creeping ever closer belches great plumes of smoke and cuts through the rural silence with bursts of its low-pitched whistle. On the tiny platform, a buzz of excitement is rippling through the group and we push forward eagerly as the carriage doors roll open.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Apr 12, 2009
Slow train coming in Shizuoka
Standing on the platform at Kanaya Station in Shizuoka Prefecture, the enthusiastic crowd — myself included — watches with fascination as the train pulls in. Because this train is different. It's not a sleek, aerodynamic bullet train; nor is it one of the ubiquitous, striped JR jobs. Rather, the tar-colored engine that's creeping ever closer belches great plumes of smoke and cuts through the rural silence with bursts of its low-pitched whistle. On the tiny platform, a buzz of excitement is rippling through the group and we push forward eagerly as the carriage doors roll open.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Mar 29, 2009
Uncovering an ukiyo-e master in Obuse
The small town of Obuse nestles quietly in the foothills of the Japan Alps, a 30-minute ride on a local rail line from the prefectural capital of Nagano City.

Longform

Historically, kabuki was considered the entertainment of the merchant and peasant classes, a far cry from how it is regarded today.
For Japan's oldest kabuki theater, the show must go on