The late nineteenth/early twentieth century in Japan was a time when kabuki as an art form was liberalized, becoming more popular than ever. As a result, many communities built their own theaters. By the end of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) there were between four and five thousand such theaters across Japan. Only a few have … Continue reading Yachiyo-za Theater: jewel in the crown of Yamaga
“Aso is a good-natured, even-tempered volcano, and it is not often that the steady cloud of smoke and steam which it emits varies in volume...” These words are from In Lotus-land Japan, a 1910 travelogue by Herbert G. Ponting. In these days when actual travel is not possible, I am enjoying reading (and in some … Continue reading Mount Aso: Armchair Travel, Art, and Memories
On the west coast of Shimoshima, the largest of the Amakusa Islands of Kyushu, is a large bay known as Yokaku Bay. Because of its location on the East China Sea, the bay, and particularly the town of Sakitsu in a small, but deep, harbor on the north shore, has a centuries-long history as a … Continue reading Sakitsu: a remote Amakusa port where Christians once concealed themselves
On the outskirts of Kumamoto City sits an isolated Zen temple that guards over an historic cave and a hillside of rakan (arhat) statues. Rakan are devout Buddhists who have attained enlightenment and live in a state of Nirvana. In Japan, collections of statues of 500 rakan, the number of disciples of Buddha believed to … Continue reading Unganzenji: a legacy of swordsmanship and piety
On a windswept hilltop north of Kyushu's Mt. Aso caldera, one of the largest volcanic caldera in the world, there stands a bunch of giant boulders. They seem to be arranged in two somewhat straight lines, with a couple of clusters of boulders off to one side. There is nothing else around but grass and … Continue reading Oshito-Ishi: Japan’s Stonehenge?