Remembering The 47 Rōnin

Remembering The 47 Rōnin

On December 14, 1702, the 47 loyal retainers of Asano Naganori, lord of Ako, avenged his death by killing another samurai, a court official named Kira Yoshinaka–whose behavior caused their lord’s death almost a year before. The event, which became known as the “Ako Incident” (赤穂事件 Akō jiken) remains an influential part of Japanese culture and history. Under the title Chūshingura, the Ako Incident has been fictionalized in numerous Japanese plays, films, and other works of art – and the story has also inspired Western works in multiple genres.

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The Gift of Grapes

The Gift of Grapes

Fresh fruits and vegetables are popular in Japan–as everywhere–but fruit in particular holds pride of place. It’s more expensive here than in the United States, and often larger, too. The most unique way Japanese fruit diverges from its U.S. counterpart (at least in my opinion) is the presence of gift stores selling specially-packaged fruit. The shops sell only fruit and a small assortment of fruit jellies (both the spreadable kind and the kind that has the texture of Jell-o and comes in small plastic containers). Each piece of fruit is perfect, large and unblemished, and individually packaged in plastic or paper designed

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Christmastime in Tokyo

Christmastime in Tokyo

Last Friday, my son and I arrived in Tokyo for business trips. He has a job interview for a permanent position here in Tokyo, and I needed to meet with my immigration representative about my visa application for the 100 SUMMITS project, which I’m hoping to start in early May of 2018. (I originally planned to start even earlier, but now I’ll need to finish my cancer treatment before I move.) 

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Hello, Tokyo!

Hello, Tokyo!

By the time you read this, I’ll be on a plane to Tokyo! My son and I are heading over together–him for a job interview and me for a research trip–while my husband stays home and holds down the fort. (I’m lucky to have a guy like that!) I’ve got my trusty roller bag: and my laptop, and in addition to research for the next Hiro Hattori novel (and some preliminary work for the secret project I hope to announce very soon) I’m hoping to visit several–if not all–of the Christmas Markets going on in Japan between now and my return to

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The Water Gate at Hakone Shrine

The Water Gate at Hakone Shrine

Today we continue the virtual tour of Hakone Shrine with a trip to the water gate. In the Shintō faith, torii (the red-orange gate in the images) mark the boundary between the secular and the sacred – though on occasion, it often seems that the areas on both sides of the torii are equally sacred. The water gate at Hakone Shrine is one of those places.

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The Main Shrine at Hakone Jinja

The Main Shrine at Hakone Jinja

Last week, I started a virtual tour of Hakone Jinja (Shrine), one of my favorite Shintō shrines in Japan – and today, we continue that tour with a look at the shrine’s main courtyard and worship hall. In some ways, the layout of Shintō shrines varies more than Buddhist temple architecture, in part because of the way Shintō attempts to integrate the shrine with the natural landscape. Hakone Jinja is no exception. The main courtyard, where the worship hall stands, sits uphill from the entrance. Because of the distance, and the fact that several paths lead up to the worship hall

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