Sankeien – a classic garden and classic architecture

For centuries, Japanese gardens have been places to stroll, enjoying greenery and seasonal changes set off by a central pond.  We often think of such gardens as dating to the age of sophisticated samurai, who wrote poetry under a full moon or performed tea ceremony in little huts.  Yet many fine classic gardens were actually … Continue reading Sankeien – a classic garden and classic architecture

Historical Fujisawa – the often overlooked Tokaido Post Town

Fujisawa, about an hour by train from central Tokyo, has a long history as a traveller's way station, including during the 250 years that the Tokaido was the major coastal road for travellers between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo).  Even before the Tokugawa shogunate, Fujisawa was popular with travelers bound for Enoshima and Oyama, popular … Continue reading Historical Fujisawa – the often overlooked Tokaido Post Town

Kanda Matsuri: a major spectacle not to be missed

Every two years, in odd-numbered years, Tokyo sees one of the three largest festivals in Japan, the Kanda Matsuri of Kanda Myojin Shrine.  This year, the biggest, most spectacular part of the festival is this week-end:  May 11 and 12.  Saturday, May 11 is the main procession, when Kanda Myojin's o-mikoshi, portable shrines, are paraded … Continue reading Kanda Matsuri: a major spectacle not to be missed

Commemorating Japan’s Post-war Constitution

Every year between April 29 and May 5 Japan celebrates "Golden Week", four public holidays over a period of seven days. This year, 2019, thanks to the abdication of Emperor Emeritus Akihito and the ascension to the throne of Emperor Naruhito, the government declared additional holidays, giving people in Japan a 10-day "Platinum Week": April … Continue reading Commemorating Japan’s Post-war Constitution

Putting a different face on Japan’s historical forays into colonialism

In the late 19th century, Japan, which had isolated itself from the outside world for two and a half centuries, was confronted with the need to rapidly modernize, and even Westernize, to ensure its survival.  As it did so, it was awakened to the value of  increased trade with its neighbors and territorial expansion to … Continue reading Putting a different face on Japan’s historical forays into colonialism

War goes underground: Japan’s former Naval headquarters in Okinawa

Particularly after World War I (perhaps earlier and continuing even now), it was not unusual for military forces to build underground facilities.  The principal reasons were doubtless concealment--their presence was harder to detect--and protection--they were harder to be destroyed by the enemy if they were detected.  Examples include the facilities of France's Maginot Line, Singapore's … Continue reading War goes underground: Japan’s former Naval headquarters in Okinawa