Ancient GyeongJu

In the historic capital of Korea, GyeongJu, Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto were our third and fourth World Heritage sites on this journey. A steep hike up to the grotto revealed an amazing stone arc-shaped room, housing a magnificent Buddha looking out over the countryside, surrounded by figures in bas-relief. The ever-present Korean street markets wereContinue reading “Ancient GyeongJu”

Busy Busan

In Busan, South Korea, Beomeosa temple climbed up a steep hillside. Legend says that at the temple’s mountain peak, there is a golden well which never dries up, home to a mythical golden fish. Hence the name of the temple, Beomeosa, means “Heavenly Fish.” The temple is home to so many Buddhas—big and small, goldContinue reading “Busy Busan”

Icheon pottery

Having been a potter in my younger days, I often seek out traditional ceramics when I travel. Not to be confused with Incheon, the city with the major airport serving Seoul, South Korea, the town of Icheon is known as a pottery center and is about an hour southeast of Seoul. The area came toContinue reading “Icheon pottery”

The soul of Seoul

The Insa Dong neighborhood in the heart of Seoul was vibrant with activity: tiny shops with gifts in vivid primary colors, goods in bins on the sidewalk, the smell of food from street stalls around every corner, textured handmade paper hanging on racks, tea shops, young couples, tourists, and just life. I was traveling with aContinue reading “The soul of Seoul”

Fuchū, Japan

My teaching assignment in Japan, in fall of 2008, with a recruiting company that hired and placed foreign English teachers in Japanese universities, came with housing in Fuchū, about a half hour by train from Shinjuku, a major Tokyo hub. It’s a small city in Tokyo prefecture with an urban neighborhood feel, west of TokyoContinue reading “Fuchū, Japan”

Jigokudani Monkey Park

When a Japanese friend learned that I was planning a winter trip to see the snow monkeys north of Nagano, she told me she had always wanted to see the Hokusai museum in nearby Obuse, so, although she was not fond of cold weather, she agreed to accompany me for a few days. It wasContinue reading “Jigokudani Monkey Park”

Hiking Mt Fuji

The recommended way to climb Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san as it is called in Japan, is to begin at midnight in the summer months when the weather is less volatile and extreme. Hikers carry flashlights or don lighted headbands to illuminate the trail. The goal is to arrive at the top for sunrise, then descendContinue reading “Hiking Mt Fuji”

Lotus of Ueno Park, Tokyo

The Zen of lotus leaves: graceful, reaching, curling, budding, nurturing, blossoming, caressing, open and welcoming, hiding, labyrinthine, blanketing. Several of my fellow bloggers have recently written about Ueno Park in Tokyo and others about the concept of wabi-sabi (Travels and Trifles, Albatz Travel),  and some of my older photos popped up on Facebook to remindContinue reading “Lotus of Ueno Park, Tokyo”

Armchair Historians podcast: Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami

I had the pleasure recently of being interviewed on Armchair Historians podcast about my personal account of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Although I wasn’t in one of the disastrously affected areas, I was living twenty-five minutes west of Tokyo at the time and it literally shook my world and impacted the lives ofContinue reading “Armchair Historians podcast: Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami”

A Japanese treasure

I first become interested in Japan in my college days, when, along with a generation of hippie potters, I was inspired by the works of Shoji Hamada. Declared a Living National Treasure, Hamada and his twentieth-century contemporaries created functional stoneware vessels. Sturdier-looking than decorative ceramics, in simple but graceful shapes, but with a strength andContinue reading “A Japanese treasure”