Category: Japan

  • Review: A Diplomat in Japan by Ernest Mason Satow

    Review: A Diplomat in Japan by Ernest Mason Satow

    The book A Diplomat in Japan, by Ernest Mason Satow describes Satow’s work and life from his arrival in Japan in 1861 to his first home leave in 1869. Satow maintained a diary throughout his working life, and this book is essentially a reworking of the diaries of that period into a more abstract chronological description…

  • The sad history of the Japanese tower and the Chinese Pavilion in Brussels

    The sad history of the Japanese tower and the Chinese Pavilion in Brussels

    In 1900 there was a world fair in Paris. The Grand Palais and Petit Palais, as well as the nearby Pont Alexandre III, were built for this fair, and are famous Paris landmarks to this day. The fair showed novelties such as Rudolf Diesel‘s engine (running on peanut oil!), Russian matryoshka dolls, talking films, and escalators. The…

  • Review: The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

    Review: The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

    According to wikipedia, a netsuke is a miniature sculpture. It goes on to explain that it was invented for a practical purpose: to hang an object such as an inrō box from a belt. In reality, that practical purpose was mostly just an excuse to own a netsuke; a simple piece of wood would have worked…

  • Things to do: Visit the Saitama railway museum

    Things to do: Visit the Saitama railway museum

    The history of Japanese railroads goes back as far as 1872, when a railroad was opened between Yokohama and Tokyo (just in time for Isabella Bird to use it in 1875). The network was quickly expanded, but the highlight of the modern Japanese railway system is the Shinkansen, a network of high-speed trains with a remarkable track…

  • Review: The Roads to Sata, A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, by Alan Booth

    Review: The Roads to Sata, A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, by Alan Booth

    Japan seems to inspire long walking trips; pilgrimages are an old and respected tradition. Even by that standard, what Alan Booth did is remarkable: he walked from the northernmost tip of mainland Japan (Cape Soya on the island Hokkaido) to the southernmost tip (Cape Sata on the island Kyushu), a distance of more than 3000 kilometers.…

  • Review: Isabella Bird – Unbeaten tracks in Japan

    Review: Isabella Bird – Unbeaten tracks in Japan

    Isabella Bird is one of those travelers and writers that only the 19th century could produce. She was born in 1831 as the daughter of  Reverend Edward Bird and Dora Lawson. Because she had poor health from her youth, the doctors recommended an open-air life. Her family encouraged her, for example by letting her learn…

  • Review: The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon

    Review: The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon

    The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon, was written in the approximate period of 990 to 1000 by a court lady serving empress Teishi. It is one of the earliest surviving pieces of Japanese literature. The book consists of small and large fragments of text with observations made by Sei Shonagon. As such it is comparable with many…

  • Review: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō

    Review: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō

    Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō (Record of a Yokohama Shopping Trip) is a Japanese cartoon series, (a manga) written and drawn by Hitoshi Ashinano. However, the title is somewhat irrelevant, because it only covers the first few pages of a long story. Manga like Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō are published as serials in thick weekly magazines printed in black-and-white on rather coarse…