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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Visiting Hakone Shrine: Subshrines & Komainu

Visiting Hakone Shrine: Subshrines & Komainu

(To read this series from the beginning, click here!) Hakone Shrine sits on the shore of Lake Ashi, in a grove of massive, sacred trees. The scents of pine and cedar follow visitors up the shaded paths. In winter months you may also catch a whiff of wood smoke in the air. After visiting the purification fountain, most visitors either head down to the water gate on the shore of Lake Ashi or up the steps to the shrine’s main worship hall.

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The Graves of Okunoin

The Graves of Okunoin

Okunoin – “the temple at the end” is Japan’s largest cemetery. Sacred to the Shingon Buddhist sect (though non-Buddhists can be buried there, as long as they believe in the teachings of Kōbō Daishi), the cemetery has over 250,000 graves and monuments, the oldest of which date to at least the ninth century (if not before). The grave monument above dates to 1375, and marks the resting place of a Buddhist nun. According to legend, if you lay your ear to the stone, you can hear the screams of people suffering in hell. I admit, I did not try. While I’m not superstitious, there

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A True Ghost Story From Japan

A True Ghost Story From Japan

All my life, I’ve professed to believing in ghosts … primarily to prevent them feeling the need to actually prove their existence to me. In other words – I believed by choice so I didn’t have to experience ghosts for real. That worked pretty well for me until last November, when I went to Japan to research my sixth Hiro Hattori mystery (next year’s TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA – which is now available for preorder) – and encountered one of Japan’s most famous yūrei (ghosts). I spent the early days of November 2016 doing research on Mount Kōya, the heart of Shingon (esoteric)

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Marking the Way on the Tokaido

This waterfall runs down a mountain and crosses the original path of the old Tokaido near Hakone. During the Edo period (1603-1868) the Tokaidō was one of five major travel roads, and one of the two most important linking the former capital city of Kyoto with the then-new capital, Edo (now called Tokyo). The Tokaidō, or “East Sea Road” roughly paralleled the southeastern coast of Honshū (Japan’s largest island). Its 53 stations, or post towns, were (and remain, to an extent) famous subjects of Japanese art and literature. I hiked a section of the old Tokaidō near Hakone last autumn, and visited again in

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A Night at Tonosawa Ichinoyu Shinkan, Hakone

(To read this series on Hakone from the beginning, click here.) From Tonosawa Station, it’s a beautiful, forested 5-minute walk to Ichinoyu Shinkan, the ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) where I’ve stayed during both of my research trips to Japan.   The paved path winds along the hillside, under a beautiful canopy of trees: . . . with views of the foliage on the hill across the way. It’s peaceful and lovely in any season, although the autumn leaves make this a truly spectacular walk. Ichinoyu Shinkan sits against the side of a hill. Despite its unassuming exterior, the rooms are a lovely blend of convenience

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