Beneath the Sea by Train to Hakodate

The famous night view from Mount Hakodate…

I had a chance to visit Hokkaido this summer, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands.

Tachikawa: Where My Writing Life Began

Tachikawa has grown and changed...

Tachikawa has grown and changed…

I’ve been running this website since March 2009, and this is my 300th blog. I guess that’s an anniversary of sorts, and it got me thinking about my early years as a writer.

Gunkanjima: The Bond Villain Island in Skyfall

The James Bond island in Skyfall is real...

The James Bond island in Skyfall is real…

That mysterious ruined island in Skyfall is real.

If you saw the 2012 James Bond film, you were likely as mesmerized as I was by the scene. Bond and Séverine are prisoners on a yacht, and as they sail towards the villain’s lair to meet their doom, a mysterious island emerges from sea mist.

Nagasaki

After hours on Nagasaki's small bar streets...

After hours on Nagasaki’s small bar streets…

We arrived in Nagasaki just as the late afternoon light began to slide down the mountain sides, reflecting off the long narrow harbour and casting the first shadows into the crevices of the steep hillsides clustered with dwellings.

Hanami Nights in Shades of Pink

These beautiful flowers which bloom so briefly reflect the fragile impermanence of all our lives...

These beautiful flowers which bloom so briefly reflect the fragile impermanence of all our lives…

The city of Hakata — on the island of Kyushu — has been completely overrun by mainland Chinese.

We’d stopped there for a night on our way between Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And we’d just walked over to the new Canal City shopping complex in search of something to eat.

Landing in Hot Water with Naked Strangers

A visit to an onsen (“hot spring”) is an essential part of any trip Japan...

A visit to an onsen (“hot spring”) is an essential part of any trip Japan…

A ride was waiting for us at the station when we returned to the mainland from Miyajima.

The Shrine That Floats Over the Sea

The floating torii of Itsukushima-jinja...

The floating torii of Itsukushima-jinja…

We continued our post-Hiroshima adventures down the coast about half an hour by train from the city, where we explored one of the official National Treasures of Japan.

Hiroshima, Mon Amour

Hiroshima Memorial Park...

Hiroshima Memorial Park…

Hiroshima was once a vibrant castle town. And the Sarugaku-cho neighbourhood was a lively place of noh actors, artisans, physicians and shops.

Until the day that everyone died.

At 8:15am on Monday August 6, 1945 an American B-29 bomber called the Enola Gay flew over and unleashed the greatest destructive force the world had ever known.

Taiwan Tea Plantation Exploration

I wouldn’t do that for all the tea in…. Taiwan?

That’s right. Taiwan grows some of the best teas in the world. Tea cultivation only really began there in the mid-19th century. But it spread like crazy, thanks to strong domestic demand.

Taiwanese teas are also greatly sought after by foreign tea connoisseurs.

Reflections in a Broken Mirror: Impressionist Sketches of Istanbul

Istanbul is a city of memory.

The past permeates every street, shop, iconic edifice and passing face. As I walked through its streets and explored its buildings, I began to detect the city’s dominant themes.