Iwate Prefecture in Japan's Tohoku (northeast) region is a beautiful and diverse area with much to recommend it to the intrepid tourist. Not long ago we were travelling the countryside between Hiraizumi in the interior and Ofunato, one of Iwate's coastal cities hard-hit by the 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster, and decided to make a stop at … Continue reading Iwate Off the Beaten Track
I find the Ikegami area of Tokyo historically fascinating and generally interesting as a microcosm of residential Tokyo. I’ve written elsewhere about the neighborhood and about the o-eshiki ceremony that commemorates the life and death of the Buddhist saint, Nichiren (1222-1282) every year on the night of October 12. But this year, I was privileged … Continue reading An inside look at the O-eshiki commemoration of Saint Nichiren
While sericulture was first developed in China about 4,500 years ago, Japan has also been producing silk since around the third century. Silk's heyday in Japan was during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), when it became one of Japan's first industrially mass-produced export products. The center of Japan's silk industry has long been Gunma Prefecture, which … Continue reading The Tomizawa Family Farmhouse – late 18th century “cottage industry”
Not long ago I received a postcard from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police notifying me that, as my birthday was approaching, it was time to renew my driver's license. According to the postcard, I could renew my license during the period from one month before my birthday to one month after. Foreigners in Japan as visitors … Continue reading Time to renew my driver’s license!
This article describes a Tokyo walk from Takebashi to Hongo, exploring many aspects of Japan's educational traditions--including several of its universities founded in the 19th century--as well as some other historical treasures along the way. (Archived article - Originally published by Japan Today.)
In modern day Tokyo, Shinagawa is a neighborhood considered quite central in the city. But during the Edo Period, Shinagawa was outside the Edo city limits. It was a "post-town" on the Tokaido Road that connected Edo (modern Tokyo) to Kyoto. There were 53 such post-towns on the Tokaido--places where travellers on the road could … Continue reading Shinagawa celebrates its Edo Period roots
Pirates! These days the word evokes various images from Captain Hook and Long John Silver to Johnny Depp and Captain Phillips. Asia, too, has its pirates, both ancient and modern. Since September 19 is "International Talk Like A Pirate Day", this seems a good time to talk about pirates in Japan. Oh yes! Japan has … Continue reading Avast! There be pirates in these waters!
Near Shimizu in Shizuoka Prefecture there is a spit of land extending into Suruga Bay that forms Shimizu Harbor. Known as Miho, the end of the spit was once its own island, but over centuries, silt has done its job to connect the island to the mainland and form the spit. On the outside of … Continue reading The Miho pines and the legend of the Hagoromo
Japan has a number of traditional fine arts that have been practiced for centuries and are still going strong today: flower arranging, tea ceremony, poetry and calligraphy, to name a few. This week I had the opportunity to attend a calligraphy demonstration and workshop at Tokyo's National Arts Center, conducted in English, sponsored by the … Continue reading Calligraphy – one of Japan’s “cultured” arts
A video produced by Miyagi Prefecture to promote tourism to the area has proven to be controversial. Late last year I posted about promotional videos for the Oita/Beppu area and what fun they were. The Miyagi promotional video is different. The video features Dan Mitsu, a Japanese actress known for trading on her sexuality, as … Continue reading Tourism promotion gone awry