A nightingale sings in Nijo-jo (Nijo Castle) – with every step you take. Centuries before the Twitter age, the Tokugawa shogunate already used tweets. This castle, built in the 17th century in Kyoto, is famous for its wooden floors that tweet – the uguisu bari (nightingale floor). When I got to Kyoto, it was the first place to wanted to see – and hear.
Tokyo Towel. No, not a cloth to cover your nakedness as you emerged from an onsen (a public hot bath). Just an example of the Japanese quirk of rolling the hard /r/ to a loopy /l/, as in that hilarious scene in Lost in Translation involving a befuddled Bill Murray and a demanding dominatrix. In my case, I got befuddled looks because I looked Japanese but couldn’t speak Nihonggo. Continue reading “Found in Translation”→
I survived Tokyo. Its crowds, its convoluted metro lines, its punishing summer heat. “There’s got to be a morning after,” went the cheesiest song ever from a disaster movie. After a full day traversing Tokyo, I found that perfect morning after in Yokohama. Not that the day, or night, before was a disaster. It was just the most gruelling city tour I had ever done.
The world’s most faithful dog and the last samurai. Two stories. Two statues. Two symbols of loyalty. Two sides of one city. I saw the dog statue first thing in the morning, the samurai one before I ended my first day in Tokyo. One devoted his life to loyalty; the other sacrificed his for it.
A long long time ago…in a land far far away…there was a lady with powdery-white face, blackened teeth, and brows in the middle of her forehead. She retreated to a mountain temple and came up with an epic tale “on the night of the full moon.”
Part of what made visiting Himeji Castle truly exhilarating – and exhausting – was the fact that the donjon could be scaled up to its top, treating visitors with a panoramic view of Himeji City from its famous castle.
I had seen posh palaces, towering temples, and formidable fortresses, but a castle complex eluded me – until I got to Himeji, a quaint little city near Kobe. Himeji-jo (jo being castle in Nihongo) was completed in the early 1600s, yet it stood as the best-preserved castle in Japan, even emerging unscathed from WW2 bombings.
Less than two weeks before my flight to Japan, WHO declared the swine flu, or A(H1N1) flu, outbreak, a pandemic. By then, the virus had circled the Pacific Rim, having started in Mexico on that side of the ocean and now spreading like a viral Susan Boyle video in the Asia-Pacific region.