I worked on this 24-page spread (yes, 24 pages!) on Japan for the Sunday Times Travel Magazine May issue.
“With its wide-open spaces, national parks, active volcanoes, forests of silvery beech, forlorn coastlines and remote fishing towns, Hokkaidō is ideal for road trips….”
Seriously people, there has never been a better time to visit Japan, with the yen as low as it is. Some tips to stretch your money even further, in the Independent.
“Wagyu literally translates as ‘Japanese beef,’ but that translation doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s a word that calls to mind images of rural Japanese cows being fed beer and massaged daily, and richly marbled ruby-red steaks, shot through with fine ribbons of glistening white fat. . . . However, exactly how wagyu gets from the fattening farm to the table is more of a mystery.
“Tokyo’s municipal meat market — the last slaughterhouse in the city — hasn’t become the tourist pilgrimage site that the Tsukiji fish market has. In fact, most people, tourists and locals alike, wouldn’t even recognize the meat market if they saw it.”
Read the rest in the Japan Times.
The slaughtering of animals in Japan was traditionally carried out by the burakumin, a kind of “untouchables” class in feudal Japan. Many of their descendents still work in the industry and many still face discrimination. Mike Sunda has an excellent follow up story to mine that goes into more detail about this.
“Traditional bathhouses are an essential part of contemporary Korean culture. Literally ‘heated rooms’, these jjimjilbang (찜질방) are where locals come to unwind, hang out and engage in a whole host of health and beauty rituals that go far beyond a quick soak. They attract grandmas and young couples alike. . . . There is, however, an unspoken code of manners and customs, which can make visiting a jjimjilbang intimidating for foreign travellers. So we’re breaking it down for you, step by step. Just don your towel and follow our guide below and you’ll be soaking in a Korean spa like a pro in no time.”
Read the rest on LP.com.
“Jeonju is one of South Korea’s top destinations, though it remains under the radar for international travellers. The largest city in the country’s southwest, Jeonju has a vibrant historic district and a fantastic food scene: ‘eat once in Jeonju and you’ll be spoiled for life’, Koreans say.”
Read the rest on LP.com.
“In a city like Tokyo, there is something particularly decadent about a building that sprawls horizontally as the Hotel Okura does. It’s such a flagrant misuse of space, especially in the heart of downtown. And oh, how the Okura sprawls — its grounds cover an expanse more than three times the size of the city’s baseball stadium. It has its own post office, its own barbershop, a private art museum, a tea ceremony room, and a salon just for playing go, an ancient board game akin to chess.
“Opened in 1962 in the Toranomon business district, the Hotel Okura is a window into the luxuries of another time, when seats in coach had legroom and nobody had ever heard of molecular gastronomy. The genteel Orchid Room restaurant still serves things like lobster thermidor, brought to the table by tuxedoed waiters. Lobby attendants wear kimonos. But it couldn’t last forever; it’s a miracle it lasted as long as it did.”
Published in the Dec/Jan 2015 issue of DestinAsian Magazine.
The Okura lent me some awesome vintage photos for the article, which are worth a look!
“If woodblock prints are to be believed, the metropolis was once awash in greens and blues. Reedy riverbanks, grassy hillocks and marshes draped with willows all feature in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, the 19th-century series of woodblock prints of the capital (then called Edo) by master artist Utagawa Hiroshige. Above all are the waterways, wide rivers and narrow canals colored a deep Prussian blue, crisscrossed by gently arching wooden bridges. Boats — cargo boats, piled high with barrels and steered by stooped men in sampans; pleasure boats, their blinds drawn on the courtesans and patrons within — make their way up and down these causeways. One hundred and fifty years ago, Tokyo, at least from the right angles, looked downright romantic. So the question is: What happened?”
Published in the Japan Times On Sunday Timeout section.
“There’s a scene in Junichiro Tanizaki’s serialized novel Naomi (originally titled A Fool’s Love) from 1924 where the besotted protagonist, Joji, watches his wife, Naomi — part Lolita, part Madame Bovary, all trouble — through the pine trees. Having just emerged from a seaside villa, she is sashaying across the sand in nothing more than a cloak and high heels; the pied piper to no less than four men. The beach is Kamakura’s Yuigahama, which was a draw for moga — the new so-called modern girls who emerged after the 1923 Tokyo earthquake shook up the city and its culture.”
Published in The Japan Times.