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

Shokokuji: The Mysteries of Zama’s Star Valley

Kannon, sometimes referred to as the Buddhist goddess of mercy, was introduced to Japan in the late sixth century, and many temples dedicated to Kannon can trace their origins back to the seventh or eighth centuries. Shokokuji, in Kanagawa's Zama city, is one such temple. It dates its origins to the Tenpyo Era (729-749) and … Continue reading Shokokuji: The Mysteries of Zama’s Star Valley

Celebrating the architectural wonders of Kuma Kengo

All eyes will be on the Japan National Stadium later today for the Olympics opening ceremony. The 68,000 capacity stadium, built especially for these Olympics, was opened in December 2019. It is the creation of favorite son architect Kuma Kengo. Kuma, who also teaches architecture, is especially known for the way in which his designs … Continue reading Celebrating the architectural wonders of Kuma Kengo

Flowers, the fount of knowledge at Kameido Tenjin Shrine

Early April sees the start of the Japanese academic year and for me as an academic, this seems the perfect time to seek out a Tenjin shrine and pay my respects. Tenjin is the deification of Sugawara no Michizane, a 9th century poet/scholar who, in his later life, served the emperor as a diplomat and … Continue reading Flowers, the fount of knowledge at Kameido Tenjin Shrine

Kion: Exquisite sake/cuisine pairings in Ginza

To enjoy fine food accented by good drink is the height of epicureanism. Kion, a small restaurant opening today in Ginza is dedicated to such pleasure. The name “Kion“ means “seasonal garden“ and the restaurant has taken as its mission serving set menu meals made with seasonal ingredients, each course set off by a carefully … Continue reading Kion: Exquisite sake/cuisine pairings in Ginza