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Steve John Powell
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Jul 18, 2015
Yuki's hot pools and cool trails are truly the stuff of legends
According to legend, the hot spring in Yuki town, in western Hiroshima Prefecture, was discovered way back in the sixth century, when villagers noticed an injured heron bathing in the waters. Somewhat later, the Asano lords, who ruled the Hiroshima area from 1619 till 1869, used to enjoy a break in this...
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
May 9, 2015
Dancing on the waves at Miyajima
"The mystery of the Orient is legendary . . . it was in the air the moment we stepped ashore in Kyoto, and now in Tokyo it began to envelop us." That's how Charlie Chaplin described his arrival in Japan. I'm not sure if the "Little Tramp" ever visited the island of Miyajima on any of his four trips to...
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Nov 15, 2014
Tomonoura: lost in a storied landscape
The priest from Fukuzenji Temple is sitting cross-legged on a cushion in front of us like a Zen-sage. He has his back to a window of the Taichoro Guesthouse as he explains the significance of the astounding view before us. We are looking out at the nearby islands of Sensuijima and Bentenjima floating...
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Oct 4, 2014
Jidai Matsuri: Sad-eyed lady at the festival of the ages
The young lady sitting on the bench nearby straightens her wig and applies the finishing touches to her makeup — face porcelain-white, lips blood-red and heart-shaped. She is wearing multiple kimono, one on top of the other, and must be boiling. It's only 10.30 a.m., but already it feels like a...
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Aug 30, 2014
Kintaikyo: A bridge reincarnated over troubled waters
Below the bridge, flat-bottomed boats are ferrying people across the Nishiki River, just as they did centuries ago — back when commoners were not permitted to walk over its wooden arches, and even centuries before that, when there was no bridge at all. The long wooden craft glide with hypnotic languor...
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Jul 19, 2014
Yabusame archers of the lonely Chugoku Mountains
What are those peculiar scarecrow figures, lolling about the villages of the Chugoku Mountains?
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
May 31, 2014
Walking on water: the seven bridges over the Seto Inland Sea
Through the clouds of steam rising from the hotel's hot spring, I can make out Jupiter — a tiny pinprick of light beaming over the twinkling black waters of the Seto Inland Sea. It's easy to see why this hotel is called Bella Vista. Tucked into the hills outside the historic town of Onomichi, in...
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Feb 15, 2014
Dazaifu dalliance reveals curious case of a plum-struck deity
It's all thanks to the Spanish ambassador, really. Angeles and I were at the Spanish Consulate in Fukuoka, Kyushu's biggest city, to pick up her new passport. By midday, we'd done the business, slurped our way through the obligatory bowl of Hakata ramen, and were looking for a way to fill a few hours...
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Dec 7, 2013
Fabled strand of 500 pines
Beautiful beaches, we've all seen our share, right? But a beautiful beach that's also historic and sacred? That sounds worth driving out of our way for — especially as the way takes us over a span I've long yearned to traverse: the Ondo Bridge, a delightful crimson structure over the Ondo Strait, a...
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Jul 6, 2013
Hats off to Chiyoda's rice-field rites
I can't quite believe we're getting up just after dawn on a Sunday morning for an event that doesn't start till lunchtime. But our Japanese friends all assured us we'd regret it if we didn't arrive early.
Japan Times
LIFE / Travel
Apr 14, 2013
The Oki Islands: where time seems to have stood still
Before he left Japan after several years spent in Hiroshima, the multi-award-winning English novelist David Mitchell advised me: "If you only make one trip while you are here, make sure it's to the Oki Islands." They were, he assured me (in not quite so many words), little patches of ye olde Nihon as...

Longform

Traditional folk rituals like Mizudome-no-mai (dance to stop the rain) provide a sense of agency to a population that feels largely powerless in the face of the climate crisis.
As climate extremes intensify, Japan embraces ancient weather rituals