This travel article for Japan Today visits Suizenji Jojuen, a traditional samurai strolling garden of the feudal age and an absolute must-see for visitors to Kumamoto. (Archived article in Japan Today.)
Augustus the Strong (1670-1733), Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, was an ambitious man who sought to surround himself in the trappings of wealth and power. Perhaps for this reason, he became an avid collector of porcelains from China and Japan, precious and rare in Europe at the end of the seventeenth century, a … Continue reading Zwinger: A Palace for Porcelains
My June 2022 article for Japan Today explores the Yoshinogari archaeological site, at which some structures have been reconstructed based on the archaeological record. Truly a fascinating place. (Archived article in Japan Today)
During my last visit to Kumamoto Prefecture, I spent a bit of time acquiring some samurai skills, an experience I shared in this article in All About Japan.
In 1994 I planned a three week journey from Tokyo to Kagoshima with a friend who was a Japan neophyte. I included in the itinerary several of Japan’s castles. When my friend saw the itinerary, he scoffed saying, “I’ve seen plenty of castles in Europe; I don’t need to see more castles.” Nevertheless, I left … Continue reading Kumamoto Castle: rising from the rubble
Kujukushima Bay in Nagasaki Prefecture is both a popular recreation/sightseeing spot and a thriving fishing port especially known for its pearl farming and oyster production. Although "Kujukushima" literally means "99 islands", there are actually 208 islands in the bay not to mention a number of rocky outcrops that don't meet the technical definition of island. … Continue reading Kujukushima – how many pretty little islands?
This article introduces the dramatically-located Udo Shrine, on the south coast of Miyazaki, together with the story of the shrine's origins and another related Japanese folktale. (Archived article – Originally published by Japan Today.)
The city of Shimabara sits on the Ariake Sea in the shadow of Mount Unzen, the volcano responsible for creation of the Shimabara Peninsula (albeit several tens of thousands of years ago). The city has a long and diverse history, making it well worth taking a bit of time to explore. Yet many travelers quickly … Continue reading Shimabara’s Town of Swimming Carp
There has been exchange between Japan and Asia for more than 2,000 years. In the early part of what Westerners know as the first millennium, the objects and ideas introduced to Japan from China and Korea, in particular, enabled Japan to develop its own distinctive culture. The Asuka Period (538-710 CE) of Japanese history is … Continue reading Dazaifu, ancient Japan’s Western capital
This article is about Aoshima, a Miyazaki beach town with a legendary island just offshore. The island is home to a romantic shrine and is surrounded by distinctive rock formations. (Archived article – Originally published by Japan Today.)
One of my favorite times in Japanese history is the Meiji Period (1868-1912), when Japan re-opened itself to the world and rapidly modernized. Inevitably it was a time of turmoil. There was substantial economic and social upheaval as Japan industrialized and the rigid structures of shogunal Japan were abandoned. Satsuma Domain (now known as Kagoshima), … Continue reading Satsuma Contributions to Meiji Modernization
February 11 is celebrated in Japan as "National Foundation Day", commemorating the date on which Japan's first emperor, Jimmu, ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 660BC. Except…it never happened. Or, at least, there is no evidence that it did. Japan's earliest written records were written by the Chinese around the first century AD and the … Continue reading Hyuga, where Japan’s imperial dynasty was launched