East Asia Travel Articles and Photos

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine on Miyajima Island, Japan [360-Degree Panorama]

miyajima shinto

Miyajima, a sacred island in Japan. So sacred in fact that its famous Itsukushima Shinto Shrine (now a UNESCO site) was designed very cleverly 500 years ago. You see, the raised boards provided a way for pilgrims to visit the island without actually touching sacred land directly. The purity of the island was kept in check for hundreds of years. (Another feature of the … [Read more...]

Japanese Food: From Tempura to Takoyaki

Traditional Japanese Breakfast

Japanese food, where clean eating meets culinary artistry. Where raw fish and pickled vegetables sit astride seaweed strands and tempura sculptures. Japan, the place where you can eat blowfish sashimi, octopus balls and cow rectum one evening, then follow it all up the next day with a 15-course meal that might qualify as one of the truly greatest eating experiences … [Read more...]

Panorama of the Week: The Great Buddha — Kamakura, Japan

kamakura buddha

Just outside the big city bustle of Tokyo lies little Kamakura, once the political and cultural capital of Japan during the 12th to 14th centuries. Kamakura is one of those places whose city map paralyzes the indecisive, for every few blocks is another Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple, many of which run 700-800 years old.So where to get started? … [Read more...]

Fantasy Meet Reality: An Afternoon at a Japanese Maid Cafe

Tokyo Maid Cafe Card - Japan

I’m about to try to explain why, together with the woman who does the English language voice of Hello Kitty, Audrey and I stalked a couple of girls in rabbit suits, only to end up in a big pink room eating scrambled eggs and ketchup served up by teenage Japanese girls in French maid outfits singing high-pitched children’s rhymes.A G-rated reality wrapped in the … [Read more...]

Panorama of the Week: Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Where Sushi Gets its Start

tokyo fish market

A visit to Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market is a rite of passage for sushi enthusiasts. For those of us who bow at the altar of raw fish, it's truly a must-see.After you've visited Tsukiji, you may never look at that piece of tako (octopus) or toro (tuna) in quite the same way ever again. Outside of the seas themselves, it doesn't get any fresher than this. … [Read more...]

Panorama of the Week: Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Vermillion Gates — Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto fushimi inari shrine

Walk through the tunnel of ten thousand vermillion torii (gates) snaking their way up the mountain at Fushimi Inari Shrine outside of Kyoto and you’ll soon realize that no two are exactly the same. Look one way and you’ll see bare, unadorned orange posts. Turn the other and you’ll see the names of all the businesses or individuals who donated each gate as a sign of … [Read more...]

From Remote Control Toilets to Konbinis: Japan First Impressions

Remote Control Toilet in Japan

When I first set off on the road many years ago, I did so to countries whose toilets were mere holes in the ground. I’ve come a long way – this time to Japan, a country whose toilets are virtual thrones of electronic feature-laden splendor, including some which make music, many which feature remote controls, and most whose seats are heated.But I digress. (Why I … [Read more...]

Panorama of the Week: Daisho-in Buddhist Temple — Miyajima, Japan

daisho temple

When you enter Heniyokutu Cave at Daisho-in Buddhist temple, pause for a moment. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, details begin to appear — prayer offerings and written wishes tied to the base of Buddhist statues, Japanese characters tracing the bottom of the lights, faint smiles on many of the icons. In the dim light, there’s a feeling of peacefulness amidst it … [Read more...]

Next Up: Going Big in Japan

Japan Geisha

I have never been to Japan.Audrey has, but she enjoys the distinction of having eaten a hamburger there. In fact, she requested it. Insisted even. Forgive her though, she was only seven, it was her birthday and she was tired of noodles. But she did wear a blue kimono to make up for it.No, this is not Audrey. … [Read more...]