Karatsu

I thought that the last stop on my potter’s pilgrimage, on the island of Kyushu, would be the most remote and provincial, but Karatsu, Japan is a thriving city, the women were fashionable, and it’s a bit of a resort town. Several school children called out “Hello, how are you?” giggling as they tried outContinue reading “Karatsu”

Hagi

The town of Hagi lies on the Japan Sea, near the western tip of the main island. The lonely, one-car train chugged along through tiny mountain towns, crossing the island and following the coastline at the very end of its journey. Misty rock islands appeared and disappeared in after-rain gray skies. My large room atContinue reading “Hagi”

A potter’s pilgrimage: Bizen

During my third year living in Japan, in 2011, I made a potter’s pilgrimage to three historic towns where contemporary potters, many descended from old masters, still produce mingei, stoneware folk pottery. This trip had been long planned; I had spent years gathering information and improving my Japanese. For a week, I alternately traveled aContinue reading “A potter’s pilgrimage: Bizen”

Shirakawa-go

A day bus trip from Takayama to Shirakawa-go brought me to the UNESCO World Heritage village of Shirakawa-go. Weathered brown wood cottages topped by steeply angled, thick thatched roofs have been well preserved, probably because it was so isolated in years past. Gassho-zukuri, the architectural style, means “praying hands.” Some of the existing houses were built overContinue reading “Shirakawa-go”

Takayama

It was a long ride to Takayama: a couple of hours west to Nagoya by Shinkansen or bullet train, then a couple more on an express. The train headed north into Gifu prefecture to what is known as the Japanese Alps, following the Hida river in a spectacular stretch, at first along a rock canyon. Deep andContinue reading “Takayama”

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”