War goes underground: Japan’s former Naval headquarters in Okinawa

Particularly after World War I (perhaps earlier and continuing even now), it was not unusual for military forces to build underground facilities.  The principal reasons were doubtless concealment--their presence was harder to detect--and protection--they were harder to be destroyed by the enemy if they were detected.  Examples include the facilities of France's Maginot Line, Singapore's … Continue reading War goes underground: Japan’s former Naval headquarters in Okinawa

Jizo by the thousands at Jomyo-in

Jomyo-in sits between Ueno's National Museum and Yanaka Cemetery, yet it feels off the beaten track and perhaps even somewhat forgotten.  A 17th century Tendai sect Buddhist temple that began its life as accommodation for monks associated with nearby Kanei-ji temple, Jomyo-in's principle claim to fame these days is the thousands of stone jizo statues … Continue reading Jizo by the thousands at Jomyo-in

How Sweet It Is! Making wasanbon tea sweets

The frothy whipped green tea served in traditional Japanese tea ceremony is strong and bitter.  But unlike Western style tea or coffee, one does not ever add sugar!  That is not to say that we completely ignore Mary Poppins' maxim. Rather, for over 400 years in Japan, whenever traditional tea ceremony tea is served, it … Continue reading How Sweet It Is! Making wasanbon tea sweets

Shakado Museum of Jomon Culture – really digging back in time

The valleys and mountains north of Mt. Fuji are full of remnants of the lives of some of Japan's earliest inhabitants--the Jomon hunters and gatherers of Japan's pre-agricultural period (traditionally dated between 14,000 and 300 BCE).  But archaeologists have had to dig for it. Archaeology has only been undertaken in Japan for about 150 years, a … Continue reading Shakado Museum of Jomon Culture – really digging back in time

Nakijin Castle – blossoms among the ruins

Semi-tropical Okinawa is famously the first place cherry blossoms are seen in Japan every year.  And they’re blooming now! One of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots on Okinawa’s main island is Nakijin Castle Ruins.  The ruins are on the Motobu Peninsula in the northern part of the island. There has been a stone … Continue reading Nakijin Castle – blossoms among the ruins

Nori making: insights into a staple of Japanese cuisine

Nori, those paperlike sheets of dried seaweed, are popular in Japan as a tasty snack, as well as featuring in sushi and other famous Japanese dishes.  But the stuff doesn't grow on trees!  Or does it? Rows of dark rectangles in the water--telltale signs of seaweed farming are portrayed in Hiroshige woodblock prints of the … Continue reading Nori making: insights into a staple of Japanese cuisine