Spotlight: Meigetsu-in Temple (Kamakura)

Fifty minutes south of central Tokyo lies one of my favorite places in Japan. In truth, there's a host of things that could bring you to the town of Kamakura - the Daibustsu (Big Buddha), the second largest Buddha statue in Japan; the beautiful pageantry of archers on horseback at the Hachiman Shrine's autumn festival; the hiking... Continue Reading →

Crash Course: Shinto and Shrines

Temple? Shrine? Shrine? Temple? There are few greater perplexing questions for travelers to Japan than how on earth (or in heaven 🙂 ) to refer to the myriad religious structures dotting the landscape. The word Shinto, when translated poetically, means "the way of the gods". It's Japan's native religion, though not an exclusive one. Many Japanese claim... Continue Reading →

Manhole Monday: Obuse

This post is part of a series on artistic manhole covers around Japan. This is the manhole cover that started it all. For me, at least. I don't really know which municipality in Japan actually had the first designed manhole cover, but this was the first time I ever really noticed the art beneath my... Continue Reading →

Family Fun: Iga Ninja Museum

Have a kid (or spouse) who can't get enough of Japan's shadowy warriors? Then make tracks to Iga City, the ancestral home of one of the country's prominent ninja clans. Iga City isn't on the beaten tourist trail - it's a good two hour journey from either Kyoto or Nagoya. But the Iga Ninja experience... Continue Reading →

Experience: Itako Iris Festival

For most of Japan, June is the rainy season. But with the seasonal showers come the indigo blooms of irises. My favorite color being purple, I'm rather partial to these delicate flowers. There are plenty of places around Japan where one can catch a glimpse of irises in bloom but one of the best I... Continue Reading →

5 Faves: Specialty Travel Guides

I must confess, I am a guidebook junkie. Some people smoke, some people imbibe their daily Starbucks. Me? I line my shelves with the likes of Lonely Planet and her kin. If you want to get under a country's skin, however, you'll need to look beyond the general guidebook market (Frommers, Fodors, Rough Guides, etc) and... Continue Reading →

Spotlight: Meiji Shrine (Tokyo)

Meiji Shrine (or Meiji Jingu) is not Japan's oldest shrine but it's one of its most beloved. Established in 1920, the shrine houses the spirits of the Emperor Meiji and his wife. Besides lending his name to a tasty chocolate bar (check your nearest Japanese convenience store), Emperor Meiji is best remembered for bringing Japan... Continue Reading →

Good Eats: Kushikura (Kyoto)

I was sold from the minute I saw the hearth. It was in the entryway of Kushikura, a slightly upscale yakitori (grilled meat on a stick) restaurant in a converted machiya house in central Kyoto. Since our dinner was reserved for 8pm on a wintry February evening, I was more than happy to sit and warm... Continue Reading →

Manhole Monday: Osaka

It might sound silly, but I get really excited about Japan's manhole covers. That's because over 1500 communities in Japan - ranging from tiny villages to megacities - have specially designed manhole covers that showcase what makes their town known. It's literally a piece of art beneath a traveler's feet. I hope you enjoy this bimonthly series on... Continue Reading →

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