JANE SINGER Special to The Japan Times

It wasn't the taste of sushi or the kindness of strangers that hooked American magazine editor John Einarsen on Japan on his first visit in November 1974.

Appropriately enough for a visual kind of guy, it was a single scene: "I had arrived at the Yokosuka naval base in a rainstorm so strong that we could see nothing but mist from our ship. The next day the storm lifted. I walked out the gate of the base in late afternoon as the sun was casting a golden autumn light across the landscape. To my left was a narrow road climbing a hill, so I walked up to the top. From there I could see a flat area down below, where a group of Japanese were doing ballroom dance. The scene presented an image of such incredible gentleness in their movement, and in the light . . . I thought, 'What is this place?' That made quite an impression on me."

The memory testifies both to Einarsen's singular vision and his affectionate take on Japan, both of which have sustained him as the founder and continuing editor of Kyoto Journal, an all-volunteer triannual magazine focused on Japan and Asia that is now in its 23rd year. While other, more commercial publications are folding like origami, Kyoto Journal has managed to thrive, pulling in high-profile contributors like Pico Iyer and Gary Snyder and garnering awards like the Utne Reader Independent Press award for magazine design.