Saying “yes” to Noh: Oyama’s Takigi Noh Fire Festival

Noh, often associated with the masks worn by actors playing certain roles, is widely regarded as Japan's oldest surviving performance art, with 650 years of history. (There are, of course, many older arts, such as Kagura ritual dancing, but those were developed for the entertainment of the gods, not for entertaining humans.) The stories portrayed … Continue reading Saying “yes” to Noh: Oyama’s Takigi Noh Fire Festival

The Happy Energy of Sake Brewing: Watanabe Sahei Shoten

Thanks to the pandemic, public consumption of alcohol is currently banned in large parts of Japan. What better time to tour a sake brewery? Watanabe Sahei Shoten is a fun and easy to access sake brewery in Tochigi's Nikko area. It was founded in 1842 by an ancestor of Watanabe Yasuhiro, the current proprietor, who … Continue reading The Happy Energy of Sake Brewing: Watanabe Sahei Shoten

Odawara Castle: guarding the southwest approach to old Edo

In 1590 Japan was in turmoil. There had been civil wars raging intermittently for over a century as various warlords vied to take control and unify the country. Finally it had come down to three men: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. After Nobunaga's death in 1582, Hideyoshi was best positioned to prevail and … Continue reading Odawara Castle: guarding the southwest approach to old Edo

Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden, a place to find every bloomin’ thing

A few years ago some friends from the U.S. visited around this time of year. They had a wonderful time in Japan, but observed that they managed to visit Japan during the only time of year when nothing is blooming. Of course, it's the end of summer and most flowers have probably withered away in … Continue reading Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden, a place to find every bloomin’ thing

Zuihoden: Honoring Sendai’s Date Daimyo

Sendai became the Tohoku region's premier city under Daimyo (feudal lord) Date Masamune (1567-1636) at the beginning of the Japan's historical Edo Period (1603-1867). Images of Date, and especially his iconic samurai helmet with its ornamental crescent moon, are ubiquitous across the city, which well remembers its founding father. Another way in which Sendai honors … Continue reading Zuihoden: Honoring Sendai’s Date Daimyo