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 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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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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On the Road…to Bouchercon!

This morning, I’m flying to Los Angeles to pick up my mother, and tomorrow she and I fly to Toronto, Canada for Bouchercon (the World Mystery Convention). On Friday at 2pm, I’m speaking on a panel about mysteries set in foreign times and places. After that, I’m looking forward to spending a lovely long weekend with my brothers and sisters in crime-fiction – writers and readers! This will be my mother’s first Bouchercon – and I’m excited to share it with her. She loves a good party, and the world mystery convention is tremendous fun. My regular Japan posts are on hiatus

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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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Introducing … Hakone!

During my research trip last autumn, I spent several days in Hakone, a hot spring resort in the Fuji Five Lakes region of Japan. Hakone is famous for many things, including views of Mount Fuji, onsen (hot spring baths),  and the ability to enjoy “sightseeing through different modes of transportation”–including trains, cable cars, ropeways, and a ride on a pirate ship.  I went to hike a preserved section of the Tokaidō–once, a famous travel road connecting Kyoto with Edo–but added a few extra days to the trip to ensure I had time to enjoy Hakone, too. (Spoiler alert: I loved it so much I returned with my

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Rice Fields in Magome

One benefit of travel is the opportunity to see amazing things – some of which don’t always fit neatly into an article or blog post.  A good example is this rice field in Magome, Japan – a town in the Japan Alps on the old Kisoji and Nakasendo routes. I walked upon this scene accidentally while waiting for the bus the morning I left Magome after a three-day research stay. The air was crisp with autumn, sharp with wood smoke, and carried the musky scent of drying leaves and ripened rice stalks. My jacket was warm enough, but just barely–another week,

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Kanda Myojin – the Tutelary Shrine of Edo

Kanda Jinja (also known as Kanda Myojin) is one of Tokyo’s oldest Shintō shrines. Founded in 730, the shrine was originally located in Chiyoda-ku, near the Imperial palace; it was moved to its current location in 1603, when Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the Japanese capital from Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo). The shrine’s entrance is unassuming–in fact, you could easily miss it if you didn’t know what you were looking for.  The torii that marks the official approach stands on a downtown street, between a pair of buildings. The shrine’s main entrance gate sits just beyond the torii. If you visit, don’t rush past the

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A Visit to Magome, Japan

(To start this series from the beginning with a night in a Japanese guest house, click here!) Magome (also called “Magome-juku”) is a preserved post town in the Japan alps which was once the last of the stations on the Kisoji, an ancient travel road that passed through the alps from north to south. Later, during the Edo period (1603-1868) Magome served as the 43rd station on the Nakasendo–the northern travel road connecting Edo (now Tokyo) with Kyoto. Today, Magome and neighboring Tsumago (the next post town to the north along the Kisoji and Nakasendo routes) have been preserved and restored to their Edo-period state, allowing

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