Review: Allegiance (Musical/Movie)

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to support one of those crowd-funded projects that seem to be ever-more popular these days. Sure, many of them sound cool, but this one in particular caught my eye. Actor and activist George Takei (you may remember him from the original Star Trek series) was raising funds for... Continue Reading →

Review: Real Samurai

When I picked up last month's Review selection (K is for Kabuki), I also grabbed another book called Real Samurai. This nonfiction book is written by Stephen Turnbull, a noted military historian. I haven't reviewed many samurai books so I thought I'd take it home and give it a go. Confession time - I find... Continue Reading →

Top 5 Samurai Neighborhoods

Want to get a feel for Japan's feudal past? Wander any one of the samurai quarters scattered about the country to get a taste of how the warrior class lived. While much of Japan's medieval architecture is gone, several cities and towns still manage to preserve their historic neighborhoods. Below are some of my top... Continue Reading →

Spotlight: Matsuyama Castle

While Japan boasts dozens of castles dotted around its islands, only twelve of them are considered "original". Of those dozen, four are located on the little-visited island of Shikoku. Matsuyama Castle (also known as Iyo-Matsuyama) is one of Japan's hilltop fortresses, perched on a peak in what is now the downtown area of the capital... Continue Reading →

Celebrate: Foundation Day

Today is a holiday in Japan, but not that you'd really notice. And frankly, given Japan's somewhat inglorious history in the first half of the 20th century, that may be entirely by design. Foundation Day (Kenkoku Kinen no Hi) makes no secret of what it celebrates - the foundation of the nation of Japan and the... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Mon (or Kamon)

Chances are you've come across a mon (or kamon) during your time in Japan, even if you weren't aware of it at the time. Mon are symbols used to identify different families of clans in Japan, similar to the coat of arms of European aristocracy. From the chrysanthemum crest of the royal family to the Tokugawa's hollyhock,... Continue Reading →

Spotlight: Ao no Domon (Oita)

Some people atone for past deeds by finding religion. Others change their lives to help others. One monk in Japan decided to dig a two-hundred meter tunnel. By hand. Hey - to each his own. Before the arrival of Zenkai the monk, the people of Yabakei town in northern Oita prefecture had a problem. One... Continue Reading →

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