Skip to main content


Book Review: David Peace's 'Tokyo Year Zero'

Talking about purges. Talking about trials. Talking about all our trials: to work, to eat. Talking about food. Talking about food. Talking about food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food -
In whispers. In screams. In whispers. In screams -
If you’ve never been defeated, never lost -
If you’ve never been beaten before -
Then you don’t know the pain -
The pain of surrender -
Of occupation …
In whispers, in screams, this is how the Losers talk -
Their chests constricted and their fists balled -
Their knees bleeding and backs broken -
By the fall …
This is how the Losers talk -
To whisper, to scream -
‘We are the survivors. We are the lucky ones.’

“Tokyo Year Zero” is a sensationalized telling of the investigation surrounding real-life serial killer Yoshio Kodaira, who is believed to have raped and killed 10 women between 1945 and 1946. Detective Minami, of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, is one of the men assigned to solve the murder of several unidentified female bodies,…
Recent posts

ABCs of Tokyo: Art, Blossoms and Condensation

I've come full circle to my life in Tokyo: when I moved here last June the ajisai (hydrangeas) were already blooming, and here they are again...reminding me that Japanese rainy season is about to metaphorically punch us in the kidneys with endless rain and humidity. At least they look pretty. 
Hakusan Shrine is known in Tokyo for having lovely hydrangeas. It's even one of the stops for the Bunkyo Ward Hydrangea Festival. The official festival, timed to coincide with peak blooming, isn't for another week or so but I was wisely advised to go as early in the season as I could, in order to avoid the worst of the crowds and camera-wielding middle-aged men. 
Japan has so man varieties of hydrangea; many more than the typical pale blue spherical flowers I tend to associate the name with. Hydrangea fun fact: the pH of the soil affects the color of the flowers! So you could have two plants right next to each other with drastically different shades of pink, purple, or blue: 

There w…

Kamakura in a Word: Green

This is the last in my unofficial Golden Week Adventure Series (#GW2018? Anyone?).
sort of got lostwalked amongst some historyand felt very, very small.

For the last day of Golden Week I returned to someplace I'd already been before: Kamakura. I was last there in January of 2011 (also with Troy, come to think of it--I'm sure there's an old blog post about the experience buried in the archives somewhere) but was excited to return with fresh eyes and new perspectives.

Kamakura is perhaps best known, nowadays, for its own Daibutsu, albeit one that is minuscule in scale compared to the one at Ushiku. Since Troy and I visited that statue the last time, we elected to see some of Kamakura's other sites, taking advantage of the weather to walk the streets of the city and truly get a feel for its flavor.

Our first stop was Hokokuji Temple, a zen temple built in 1334 and known for its bamboo garden, where there are apparently over 2,000 shoots!

As you walked along the pat…

The Ushiku Daibutsu Takes Pure Land Buddhism to New Heights

Japan has a quite a few "giant" things: giant cotton candygiant ramenand a giant rice scoop. It also has a giant Buddha. In fact, it has multiple giant Buddhas--and while the daibutsu at Todaiji Temple and in Kamakura are arguably more famous, the Ushiku Daibutsu, the third-tallest statue in the world, dwarfs them all. 

The Ushiku Daibutsu is in (surprise) Ushiku, a city in Ibaraki Prefecture, which is to the northeast of Tokyo. It sort of...sits in the middle of a vaguely themepark-like garden where, in addition to the Daibutsu, is a flower garden, some symbolic water features, and a....petting zoo?

Even if you're just there for the Buddha, however, it's worth the trek.

It's impossible to overemphasize how simply MASSIVE this statue, at 120 meters (393 feet) tall, feels. You approach it from quite a ways away and, as you get closer to its base, it truly seems to loom over and glare down at you. One of the factoids that really stuck with me from a Japanese a…

Cowabunga! Kawagoe!

It surprises me sometimes how we miss the things closest to us. 
When I was here for six months in high school I lived in Sayama-shi, in Saitama Prefecture. Every day I rode the Seibu-Shinjuku Line to and from school, and I became fairly familiar with the various stops, even the ones I never had occasion to go to, such as Hon-Kawagoe. So I was pleasantly surprised (although perhaps I shouldn't have been) that when heading to Kawagoe I would, in fact, be heading to the Hon-Kawagoe area. Go figure, but, it was slightly nostalgic for me--I don't exactly have much reason to head to Saitama on a day to day basis anymore. 
Kawagoe is also known as "Little Edo" for the number of Edo Period (1603-1868) buildings that have been preserved, lining several of the main streets. Troy and I arrived during their Spring Festival, so there were plenty of koinobori, or carp streamers, hung in honor of Children's Day, which falls on May 5th. The koi are supposed to represent vitali…