Exploring early industrialization in Izu

Japan's rapid industrialization during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), when the country was re-opened to international trade after more than 250 years of isolation, was nothing short of remarkable.  The various achievements of the period were recognized by UNESCO in 2015 when it listed 23 components at 11 sites as "Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution: … Continue reading Exploring early industrialization in Izu

Rakan-ji: Buddhist ascetism amid dramatic scenery, yet a sort-of hole in the wall

Not long ago, we were driving in north-central Oita on the island of Kyushu when we spotted a mountain with a hole it.  Needless to say, such a phenomenon must be explored!  So we did. We learned that the top of this mountain was historically a hermitage for the practice Buddhist asceticism--reputed to have been … Continue reading Rakan-ji: Buddhist ascetism amid dramatic scenery, yet a sort-of hole in the wall

Hina Dolls at Meguro Gajoen–all kinds of traditions at once

This time of year in Japan, displays of Hina dolls are ubiquitous. Historically the third day of the third month is Girl's Day (while the fifth day of the fifth month--now the Children's Day public holiday--was Boy's Day). The traditional observation of Girl's Day included displays of Hina dolls--dolls depicting a king, queen and courtiers … Continue reading Hina Dolls at Meguro Gajoen–all kinds of traditions at once

Ninja: spies with secrets and cool moves

Ninja! Black-garbed fighters stealing through the darkness to engage in acts of espionage and subterfuge, combined with acrobatic fighting.  Like many stereotypical images, this is an over-generalization that misses many of subtle aspects of these "warriors in the shadows". Nonetheless, Ninja are somewhat romantic figures and it's fun to search out traces of these Edo-period … Continue reading Ninja: spies with secrets and cool moves