Kabukichō 歌舞伎町

Three squat and unshaven men in khaki coats walked towards us, flanked by policemen. Mumbling to each other, they paid us little mind as they passed.“Yakuza”, one of my companions said. “Really?”They must have been low-level thugs, far below the slick, besuited rogues one imagines from cinema and video games. Kazuma Kiryuu, these guys were […]

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Adashino Nenbutsu-ji 化野念仏寺

We walked under a cloudburst of the brightest autumn hues we had witnessed this far into the trip. We were at Adashino Nenbutsu-ji, and after a morning milling around thousands of other tourists at Tenryu-ji and Arashiyama’s Bamboo Grove, we had ventured to the furthest periphery of Kyoto, where it meets the mountains and countryside […]

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Ryozen Kannon 霊山観音

Through the trees, a giant stone face smiles serenely down on the Higashiyama district of Kyoto. The few people walking the rain-slicked cobbled streets pay it little mind. The statue doesn’t seem to care. Arms folded, eyes closed, face restful, it seemed to wish compassion to all who walked past. As I spotted her through […]

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Kagurazaka 神楽坂

When I mentioned to someone that we’d visited Kagurazaka, they merely asked me ‘why?’. True enough, it isn’t one of the most well-known areas of Tokyo to international tourists, and although located within Shinjuku City, there are more renowned areas to visit, explaining why most people overlook it. There aren’t any grand landmarks, fashion hubs, […]

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Second Time in Japan, First Time in Tokyo. 東京は初めてです、日本は2回目です。

I half-expected Tokyo to hit me like a tsunami. I stared sleepily from the coach window and imagined myself engulfed by a wall of sky-high glass buildings as soon as we hit city limits, with armies of besuited salarymen and women cascading over hectic cross-walks, under bright neon lights, with Tokyo Skytree in the background, […]

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The Travelogue: Kawa-Kawa Hill

It had only been ten minutes since alighting from the Jeepney, and I was already soaked with sweat. Tita L joked that this was our ‘penitensya‘, as we trekked under the baking, unrelenting sun up the long uphill path through the forest to the peak of Kawa-Kawa Hill. Penitensya, or feeling regret or sorrow for sins […]

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