Hiking the Hills of Kamakura: a spring day’s walk from Kita-Kamakura to Hase

Kamakura, less than an hour by train from Tokyo, is a popular day tripper destination because of its abundance of things to see and do.  A city built in finger valleys radiating from a small bay, one of its many fascinating features is the hiking trails that connect the different valleys. Recently a few friends … Continue reading Hiking the Hills of Kamakura: a spring day’s walk from Kita-Kamakura to Hase

A traditional river crossing…and meandering old neighborhoods

In the opening scene of the 1968 movie, "Admiral Yamamoto", starring the great Mifune Toshiro, Yamamoto is being ferried across a river in his hometown and is challenged by the boatman to make the crossing standing on his head, thereby demonstrating his superior balance and seamanship. Perhaps because I know there was a time in … Continue reading A traditional river crossing…and meandering old neighborhoods

Nihonga: Distinctly Japanese Modern Art

"Modern" Japan dates from the Meiji Restoration of 1868.  During the reign of the Emperor Meiji (1868-1912), Japan modernized and Westernized.  This transformation included not only Japan's political, economic, and education systems, but also various aspects of fine arts.  With respect to the latter, many feared that Japan's cultural identity might be lost in the … Continue reading Nihonga: Distinctly Japanese Modern Art

The colors of Ko-Imari: it’s all about the glaze

Stepping into the latest exhibition at Shibuya's Toguri Museum of Art, I felt as if I was in heaven. The exhibition, entitled "Beautiful Glazes in Ko-Imari Ware", features the glazes used on Ko-Imari ware, some of Japan's earliest refined porcelains, dating back to the 17th century. The pieces on display are exquisite. It was refugee … Continue reading The colors of Ko-Imari: it’s all about the glaze

Nokogiriyama – stepping it up on Sawtooth Mountain

Old stone quarries are fascinating places to explore.  They are full of man-made shapes and angles that nature is working to reclaim.  At Nokogiriyama (lit. Sawtooth Mountain) in Chiba--a perfect distance for a day trip from Tokyo--, part of the mountain was quarried away over several decades, leaving lots of fun nooks and crannies to … Continue reading Nokogiriyama – stepping it up on Sawtooth Mountain

Hashigo-nori (ladder-top acrobatics) at Ikegami Honmonji

Old Edo was a firetrap. One and two-story structures, made mostly of wood, straw and paper, standing cheek-by-jowl with the neighbors, with everyone cooking and heating with open fires or charcoal braziers. Any little fire quickly got out of control and equally quickly spread to neighboring structures. Major fires were so common in the Edo … Continue reading Hashigo-nori (ladder-top acrobatics) at Ikegami Honmonji

The seven lucky gods of Minato: A different perspective on a well-known Tokyo district

This article takes readers on a walk to visit Japan's seven lucky gods at shrines and temples in the Minato neighborhood of Tokyo.  Such walks are a popular new year's activity, said to bring luck and fortune to participants. This walk can only be done for that purpose between New Year's Day and Coming of … Continue reading The seven lucky gods of Minato: A different perspective on a well-known Tokyo district

Good fortune is child’s play at the Asakusa Hagoita Ichi

In traditional Japan there are many rituals observed relating to seeing out the old year and successfully bringing in the new one.  Sometimes these rituals, most of which occur in December, also involve acquiring “lucky charms” of various sorts. Asakusa, a venerable Tokyo neighbourhood known for its efforts to preserve traditions, is a particularly good … Continue reading Good fortune is child’s play at the Asakusa Hagoita Ichi