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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Eric Cunningham is a graduate student keeping a fascinating blog of his time in Otaki, a mountain village in Nagano with a population of just under a thousand.   Recent posts include accounts of ice fishing for wakasagi, traditional roof construction in Otaki, and a neighbor’s water wheel, used to grind rice flour. 

Eric’s research, as far as I can tell, focuses on the relationship between modern Japanese forestry practices and the country’s declining upland communities, seeking in part to uncover traditional approaches that might alleviate some of the problems arising from 21st century pressures on local resources.  That by itself would interest some readers, but the blog also offers expansive meditations on hikes to frozen summits, including wonderful photos of alpine shrines wreathed in windblown snow, some drinking stories, and illustrated passages from Dogen’s “Mountain and Water Sutra.”  Especially for readers interested in Japanese folkways, from making soba to twisting shimenawa rope from rice straw, In the Pines is a real winner.  Here or from the sidebar.

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Gaijin Smash

By now, most regular readers of Japan blogs will have wandered across Gaijin Smash.  With fairly frequent entries going back to 2004, Az has been blogging long and well enough to have attracted an audience that extends beyond the gaijin blog ghetto.  It took me a while to warm up to Gaijin Smash.  For one thing, the gaijin vein is played out.  You’re not Japanese.  Neither am I.  Let’s move along.  Add to that a persistent, trilling whining in the background of many of the posts and some readers may begin looking elsewhere.  And yet…

The thing about Az is he’s smart, he has an excellent eye for what’s going on around him, and he’s often very, very funny.  And he’s been here long enough now to have had a broad range of experiences in Japan.  Starting at the first of his archived posts, it’s easy to spend an absorbing afternoon reading his story.  Real characters come and go, and Az himself quickly emerges as a very likeable, self-deprecating man, and because he’s been at it for several years you get a real sense of his developing relationship with the country.  I hope he’ll keep at it.  Visit here or from the sidebar.

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Frog in a Well is actually an umbrella site, containing blogs pertaining to the histories of Japan, China and Korea.  Here, we’re looking at the Japan History Group Blog, kept by a roster of students and scholars of Japanese history.  The blog isn’t updated very frequently and, alas, makes virtually no reference at all to Gundam, beer or J-Pop. But for readers who might be interested in the history of Japan and its interactions with other cultures, there’s a lot of interesting stuff here.

Recent posts include a glowing review of a Taiwanese documentary on children recruited to work in Japan’s wartime industry during World War II, an account of the confusion surrounding recently surfaced photographs initially thought to be of Hiroshima just after the atomic bombing, and an excellent little Mac dashboard widget that converts between the western and Japanese calendars.  Both interesting and useful, as any good blog about Japan should be.  Here or from the sidebar.

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Apparently this blog’s title came about in the aftermath of a failed college romance.  These days, though, the author (calling himself Claytonian) seems to have put those worries behind him and is keeping a very engaging personal blog of his time in Japan.  He’s recently finished the first chapter of his life here, in Kyushu, and has moved to Saitama.  In his writing, he comes through as a personable, intelligent, funny guy with something of substance to say about his daily life here.  That alone would be enough for many readers, but he’s also a dedicated student of Japanese, and fairly frequently offers posts that will be of interest to others studying the language.

Another welcome addition here is an ample Youtube presence, still surprisingly rare on Japan blogs, that gives you another point of access into Claytonian’s experiences.  An all around winner of a blog, and you’ll find it here or from the sidebar.

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Japanese film buffs who haven’t already stumbled onto Ryuganji.net are missing out on one of the web’s best English language resources on the Japanese film industry.  For two and a half years Don Brown, a Kiwi living somewhere in Japan, has kept up a running commentary on Japanese films, actors and related ephemera.  Posts run the gamut from release notices for both large-scale and minor projects, reviews, actor news and gossip and anything else Mr. Brown decides to throw on the site. 

Definitely worth a visit, and likely to become a regular stop on the web for anyone who shares the author’s love for Japanese movies and the often bizarre characters who make them.  Find it here or from the sidebar.

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Despite the title, this is not just another English teacher evincing the early signs of what will shortly become full-blown alcoholism.  Melinda Joe is, according to her profile, “a graduate of the John Gauntner Sake Professional Course and a WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Wine Certificate holder.”  She also writes a bar column for the Tokyo Food Page.  In other words, the lady knows her booze.

Her posts, though appearing irregularly, range from coverage of industry events to late night run-ins with sake sages in smoke-yellowed back alley pubs.  She does it all well, moving fluidly from personal anecdote to succinct and lucid appraisals of wines, sakes and food without a trace of pretension.  If you’re interested in sake, wine, or just finding a good place to eat and drink in Tokyo, this blog is an excellent place to start.  Find it here, or in the sidebar.

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Alright, no matter how it may seem from time to time, Japanese pop culture has yet to infiltrate every shadowed nook and cranny on planet Earth.  And perhaps you’re one of those who finds this an enormous relief.  If so, you are dismissed.  On the other hand, if you’re an anime and manga fan who has somehow missed this blog, you’ll want to visit right away.

An Eternal Thought in the Mind of Godzilla (I don’t get it either, let’s just move on) is the blog of Patrick Macias, a “writer, editor, and internationally recognized Japanese pop culture expert” who splits his time between Tokyo and San Francisco, editing “Otaku USA” magazine and contributing to a host of projects in various media formats.  The blog itself is an interesting and regularly updated look at the scene, exploring both its history and most cutting edge concerns.  A definite daily read for anyone who’s passionate about Japan’s popular culture and its trappings.  Check it out here or from the sidebar.

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