Finding fine porcelain off the beaten track

Without the mineral kaolin, fine porcelain could not exist. It is said that Korean potters first found kaolin in Japan near the village of Arita in Saga Prefecture in 1616, launching Japan's porcelain industry. These days, 80% of Japan’s kaolin actually comes from the Amakusa Islands of Kumamoto Prefecture, another area known for its pottery … Continue reading Finding fine porcelain off the beaten track

Yachiyo-za Theater: jewel in the crown of Yamaga

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

Sakitsu: a remote Amakusa port where Christians once concealed themselves

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

Unganzenji: a legacy of swordsmanship and piety

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