The Parks of Peace Island: Adventure, Relaxation and maybe a bit of History

Tokyo has been expanding itself into shallow parts of Tokyo Bay through landfill and land reclamation for four centuries. It is thanks to such expansion that Tokyo's southeastern-most ward, Ota-ku, can claim the largest area of any of Tokyo's 23 wards. One of those Ota-ku landfill projects was begun in the 1940s and by 1960 … Continue reading The Parks of Peace Island: Adventure, Relaxation and maybe a bit of History

Ota Market: Tokyo’s Pantry

Most people living in Japan and many visitors from overseas know that the world's largest wholesale seafood market is located in Tokyo. But how many know that Tokyo also boasts other wholesale markets equally useful for stocking the kitchens of restaurants and homes across the metropolis? There are, in fact, eleven wholesale markets scattered across … Continue reading Ota Market: Tokyo’s Pantry

Gumyoji: Yokohama’s oldest temple and its modern surroundings

While many people associate Yokohama with Japan's 19th century history of opening to the world, since it was one of Japan's treaty ports in those early days of modernization, this former fishing village and its surrounding hills have much more history to offer. About five kilometers up the Ooka River from its mouth, near Yokohama's … Continue reading Gumyoji: Yokohama’s oldest temple and its modern surroundings

Sparkling Winter Lights: an evening at the racetrack

While many in Tokyo bemoan the early time at which the sun sets during the winter months, there is consolation in the various winter illumination entertainments offered around the city. Trees lining streets sport twinkling lights and some amusement venues set up special illumination displays. From October to April, the Oi Racecourse (a/k/a Tokyo City … Continue reading Sparkling Winter Lights: an evening at the racetrack

Tamozawa Imperial Villa: not exactly a holiday cottage

Tamozawa Imperial Villa was built in 1899 as a holiday residence for then-Crown Prince Yoshihito (1879-1926), who reigned as the Emperor Taisho from 30 July 1912 to his death on 25 December 1926. The Emperor Taisho spent much of his summers here throughout his reign and the villa continued to be used by the Imperial … Continue reading Tamozawa Imperial Villa: not exactly a holiday cottage

Curious Homage to a Great Buddhist Scholar

On a hillside above Jionji, a 1,300 year-old Buddhist temple in the northeast of Saitama City, stands a red Chinese style gate and behind that, a thirteen-tiered stone pagoda-like tower. It is an anomaly in this semi-agrarian, semi-residential neighborhood. I stumbled across this spot after visiting Jionji with some friends. A write-up we had of … Continue reading Curious Homage to a Great Buddhist Scholar

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