Gallery: seeing Japan in black and white
There’s a restraint, a rejection of what is not necessary, in Japanese art and architecture. What is left out is as important as, if not more important than, what is put in.
Gallery: the humble manhole cover as public art
The Japanese seem to take pride in making everything look the best it possibly can; even the humble manhole cover is an opportunity for some decorative design. Each town or city has its own unique styles, and many are not only intricately moulded but also colourfully painted.
Exploring the temple gardens of Kyoto
Japanese gardens are not beautiful by accident. Every detail is carefully considered, every plant and rock precisely placed. And the result is often stunning. It was in Kyoto that I really came to appreciate the nuances of Japanese garden design.
Celebrating childhood at the shrines of Japan
Nikko’s Futarasan shrine is only five minutes’ or so walk from its more famous neighbour, Toshogu, but it seemed to us that we were in a different world. The crowds had dissipated, leaving just a handful of tourists and some local families. We strolled around in a much more leisurely way than had been possible at Toshogu, taking photos and soaking up the tranquil atmosphere and the rich colours of the leaves just starting to take on their autumn hues.
Gallery: on Tokyo’s lively Takeshita Dori
The Tokyo district of Harajuku is known as a focal point for some of Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles. And at its heart is Takeshita Dori, the perfect place to see Tokyo’s youth at play. This narrow street, little more than a lane, is lined with uber-trendy clothes shops interspersed with the kind of refreshment stops likely to appeal to its mainly teenage market.
Gallery: a visit to Takayama’s morning market
Takayama is a mountain town, and the river that runs through it, the Miyagawa, is a clear mountain one. Every morning on its banks stall-holders set out their wares at the town’s famous morning market, in a long-held tradition.
Where the gods descended: Kamikochi
Nestled among the dramatic peaks of the Japanese Alps lies the high plateau of Kamikochi; the name means ‘Where the gods descended’. The Azusa River flows through a valley formed by great elemental upheavals, including glaciers and volcanic eruptions, over many thousands of years.
Gallery: Dining in (Japanese) style ~ kaiseki
A traditional Japanese feast, a kaiseki, is a thing of beauty. It isn’t just a meal; it’s an art form balancing taste, texture, appearance, and colour. The dishes are beautifully arranged and presented, on plates chosen to enhance the visual impact, and equally beautifully decorated, often with edible garnishes.
The Bake-Jizō of Kanmangafuchi Abyss
Red, in Japan, is the colour of the sun (not yellow as in other cultures). It stands for life, power and protection, but also for death. It is thought capable of expelling demons and illness. You see red everywhere; on temple roofs, torii gates at shrines, lanterns and pagodas. And in the bibs and caps worn by the haunting Jizō statues of Kanmangafuchi Abyss in Nikko.
Gallery: the merchant houses of Takayama
There was something special about Takayama. I could feel it in the air as soon as I stepped off the train – crisp, fresh mountain air, so refreshing after the heat of Kyoto.