We are spending a few days in the industrial city of Kurashiki to enjoy its non-industrial, historic, perfectly preserved village of Bikan. Bikan has been called “the Venice of Japan” (as if Japan needs Italy as a reference!) and “Japan’s most beautiful village.” It was once a merchant’s quarter in the Edo period, generally the 17th century. Its location on the road between western Japan and Tokyo (then called Edo) made it an essential asset in Japan’s national economy — so the Shogun himself managed it.
Onomichi is so much fun. In addition to having its own set of charms, it is a staging point for nearby places with other charms. One of them is the Shimanami Kaido cycling course. Visitors, including serious cyclists, come from all over the world to ride the 50-mile course from Onomichi across six incredible inland islands. Most do it in a day and so did we. Except, er, we did 15 miles on one island. But they were great ones!
If towns were family members, Japan’s Onomichi would probably be your eccentric aunt — the one who has cats, and an antique store that is only open on Thursdays, and sings along with Puccini arias, and drains her small bank balance to host elaborate dinner parties. Continue reading
This week in Japan — a new emperor, a new era, an earthquake, and Golden Week. When I scheduled my visit to Fukuoka, Japan several months ago, I didn’t know it would be at such an auspicious time. Or that I would arrive on the weekend of the city’s Dontaku Festival. It was a great way to start my visit to Japan!
Hiroshima is not far from Kyoto and I felt a sort of responsibility to pay my respects. I also wanted to understand how the community has survived the tragedy of its recent past. So I took a 2 hour ride on the bullet train and spent a couple of days visiting Hiroshima’s memorials.
Kyoto is just one amazing thing after another. Honestly, I don’t know where to start or end. So much here is full of meaning and humanity. My only regret is that I am barely scratching a very small part of a very big surface.
Kyoto is Japan’s cultural center and land of many temples. Kyoto has a long history and was once Japan’s capital. It feels relaxed compared to Tokyo but, like Tokyo, it is warm and polite, clean and safe, and attentive to some of the finer details. Everything here is so visual! Traditional Japanese style says a lot with a little. Drama is presented with simple beauty and attention to detail. The message is there if you are paying attention.