• Onsen Hopping in Kyushu

    I can hear the gushing of the stream as its white-frothed water cascades over a small boulder and rushes towards a cluster of rocks. It’s snowing. Big feathery snow flakes swirl towards me, threatening to turn my hair white and my face red.  But I am sitting in a pool of perfectly warm hot-spring water, comfortably insulated from the snow and chilly air around me. Evocatively named “bath in the forest,” or Mori-no-Yu, this onsen open-air bath overlooking the rushing stream… Read more »

  • Nicolai Bergman Hakone Gardens

    I had always been curious about Nicolai Bergman, the Danish flower artist whose eponymous shops are a treasure-box of colorful, eye-catching floral creations, both fresh and preserved. Neatly packed into beautifully designed boxes or transformed into flower sculptures, Bergman’s preserved flowers are in a class of their own because they look so natural. Walking by Bergman’s shop in Roppongi Hills or Omotesando, it is difficult to resist the temptation to stop by, if only to have a look at what… Read more »

  • Hot Spring Hopping in Tohoku (1 ) – Toshichi Onsen

    Hitou, or hidden hot springs, are the holy grail for onsen lovers. Often difficult to access, usually exposed to the elements and generally for mixed bathing, hitou are not for the shy or faint-hearted. But for those with fewer inhibitions who enjoy a steaming soak under open skies, surrounded by pristine nature, hitou are the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate and feel at one with the universe. I had a taste of that sense of abandon and oneness with… Read more »

  • Staring Out to Sea at Hiramatsu Atami

    If you need a quick getaway from the hubbub of Tokyo and appreciate good French cuisine and a stunning sea view, try the Hiramatsu Hotel in Atami, which is just a two-hour drive from the heart of the Japanese capital. The hotel is part of the Hiramatsu group of restaurants and hotels, best known for its main restaurant in Tokyo’s Hiroo neighborhood. As the cuisine is decidedly French, this may not be an ideal gourmet experience for those who prefer… Read more »

  • Autumn in Kyoto Offers a Feast of Colors and Seasonal Dishes

    Autumn is one of the best times to enjoy Kyoto in all its glory. The weather is generally mild and the city’s historic temple grounds and gardens are transformed into a kaleidoscope of fiery autumnal colors. It is also the season to sample some of Japanese cuisine’s most beloved ingredients, such as matsutake mushrooms, It is impossible to predict when nature will perform its magic on the maples, gingko and beech trees that adorn Kyoto’s famous architectural sites and surrounding… Read more »

  • A Stroll Amid Rustic Houses and Temples at Yokohama Sankeien

    The Meiji Era (1868-1912) was a time of tumultuous change in Japan that brought rapid industrial development and western ideas to a feudal society. The social and economic upheaval of the time provided unprecedented opportunities for several astute industrialists and businessmen, who not only amassed huge fortunes but also left their mark as patrons of the arts. There is Kaichiro Nezu (1860-1940), who was both a successful businessman and tea ceremony connoisseur and used the wealth he made in railways… Read more »

  • Yakushi Onsen – Time Travel Back to a Traditional Way of Life

    For many people living in Japan today, the sight of smoke swirling over a thatched roof or fish grilling over a hearth is likely to stir a strong sense of nostalgia for a more peaceful and simpler way of life. Such idyllic scenes have all but disappeared from contemporary life, but Hatago, a hot spring resort in Gunma Prefecture, has brought together several traditional houses to form a mini-village reminiscent of a lost Japan. Located in Yakushi Onsen, the grounds… Read more »

  • A Weekend Break In Snow Country

    Minami Uonuma in southeastern Niigata is an area known for its flavorful rice and deep snow. It is just a short drive north of Yuzawa, where novelist Yasunari Kawabata, who won the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature, set his famous novel, “Snow Country.” So, when we visited the region in late January, the view from the rotenburo, or open air bath, at our lodgings in Minami Uonuma was not quite what I had expected. The hills in the distance were… Read more »

  • Of samurai and storehouses – Aizu Wakamatsu and Kitakata.

    On the morning of Oct. 23, 1868, 19 young soldiers between the ages of 15 and 17 took their own lives on Mt Iimori in the castle town of Aizu Wakamatsu, Fukushima prefecture. It was the year after Japan’s military government had been overthrown and the Aizu domain, which rebelled against the new government, was under siege. The young soldiers, the sons of Aizu samurai who were members of the Byakkotai (White Tiger Force), had been forced to flee from… Read more »

  • Art, both modern and rustic, beckons in Aomori

    The massive steed stands on powerful hind legs, its forelegs thrashing high above our heads, while its coat — a mosaic of multicolored flowers – brings to mind a horse in a child’s picture book. It is the iconic, 5.5-meter-high monument standing at the entrance of the Towada Art Center, a contemporary art museum that bears the name of the city located deep inside Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan. My friend and I dropped by the museum on our travels through… Read more »

  • Karuizawa – A Tale of Two Shoppers

    The day felt like somewhere between late winter and early spring as we dashed to Tokyo station and jumped on an early Shinkansen train to the mountain resort town of Karuizawa hoping for some retail therapy and much needed relaxation in hotspring baths at Hoshino Onsen. It was the perfect time to visit without the crowds of spring, summer and autumn. We’d heard about the infamous two-hour taxi ride through unreasonable seasonal traffic from Karuizawa station to the outer reaches… Read more »

  • Kumano Kodo – Discovering mysteries of the Kii peninsula

    The mountain path is deep, dark and dense with trees that send their gnarled roots over the verdant forest floor. Some of the moss-covered trunks shoot up to the skies while others, massive and aged, seem to merge with hulking rocks that stand in the way of all but the most intrepid traveler. We are standing at the entrance to an ancient pilgrimage route – one of seven trails that have for centuries led the faithful into these forbidding mountains… Read more »