Kabuki: Japan’s historic theatre art

Japan has many great traditional performing arts, some with over a thousand years of history.  Perhaps the best known of these is kabuki, a form of theatre developed "only" about 400 years ago.  The plays involved relate-able stories, elaborate costumes and clever staging, making kabuki immediately popular across all social classes (must to the displeasure … Continue reading Kabuki: Japan’s historic theatre art

The Old Shinohara Family Home: glimpse into the lives of Meiji Period merchants

The Shinohara family of Utsunomiya were a long-established mercantile family and a visit to their beautifully-preserved home, just minutes from Utsunomiya, offers insights into how successful merchants lived, as well as into the architectural styles of late 19th century Japan.  As one might expect of a large family home in this area, it is faced … Continue reading The Old Shinohara Family Home: glimpse into the lives of Meiji Period merchants

Tokamachi City Museum – great on a rainy day, or when the sun shines

A few months ago I visited the Niigata town of Tokamachi with the intention of attending a local festival.  Alas, the festival was rained out and it seemed there wasn't much to do after checking out the intriguing sculptures on the high street. Fortunately, I found that Tokamachi has a wonderful city museum that proved … Continue reading Tokamachi City Museum – great on a rainy day, or when the sun shines

Obsidian arrowheads and other Jomon archaeology

Jomon is the name given to Japan's prehistoric "stone age" period, thought to be from 30,000 to 2,500 years ago.  The name means "rope marks" and derives from the markings on the pottery of the period.  During this period the people of the archipelago went from simple hunter-gatherers to being users of tools, the beginnings … Continue reading Obsidian arrowheads and other Jomon archaeology

General Nogi’s house – symbol of the end of an era

On September 13, 1912, shortly after the funeral cortege of the Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) left the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, General Maresuke Nogi (1849-1912) and his wife, Shizuko (1856-1912), committed ritual seppuku in the general's room of their house in Tokyo's Akasaka district, not far from the headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army.  Although it … Continue reading General Nogi’s house – symbol of the end of an era

Hida Folk Village: exploring traditional rural life

Before industrialization, Japan was largely dependent on its rice production for survival.  And the farming villages in Japan's many mountain valleys were at the center of it all. The Hida Folk Village (in Japanese Hida no Sato) on the outskirts of the Gifu town of Takayama is a wonderful place to spend a couple of … Continue reading Hida Folk Village: exploring traditional rural life