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

Origami Kaikan: a chance to explore the folds and layers of paper

It is often observed that Japan borrows ideas and technologies from various sources, adapting them to suit Japanese needs and sensibilities, essentially making them Japanese.  Paper, one of Japan's earliest borrowings from China, is no exception. Japanese paper is nothing short of amazing.  Traditional hand-made washi paper is lovely and soft; fun to make and … Continue reading Origami Kaikan: a chance to explore the folds and layers of paper

One impact of war, the desire for peace

August in Japan is always a time when television programming is replete with movies and documentaries about World War II.  It was on August 15, 1945 (JST), that the Japanese officially surrendered to the Allies, thus ending the Pacific War.  That fact, combined with the fact that August is traditionally a time when Japanese people … Continue reading One impact of war, the desire for peace

Nagoya’s Osu – a fascinating temple and market district

Thanks to its position as the leading city of central Honshu island, Nagoya has a long and fascinating history.   One place where some of that history can be discovered is the neighborhood of the Osu Kannon. Osu Kannon Temple (official name Kitano-san Shinpuku-ji Hosho-in) was originally founded in 1324 to house a wooden statue of Kannon, … Continue reading Nagoya’s Osu – a fascinating temple and market district

Nittele Big Clock: a Ghibli-inspired clock like no other

Who doesn't love a performing clock, with various figurines that dance or move at appointed times throughout the day?  In Tokyo there are a number of such clocks, including the Marionette Clock at Ebisu Garden Place and the Mullion Musical Clock outside the Hankyu Men's Store in Yurakucho.  But perhaps the busiest and most intricate … Continue reading Nittele Big Clock: a Ghibli-inspired clock like no other