Archive for the ‘miscellany’ 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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Japan Blogs

Blogs about Japan are the whole reason this site exists.  Whether you live in Japan, hope to visit Japan one day, or simply have an interest in Japanese pop culture or the Japanese language, my goal is to point you toward Japan blogs worth reading.

I’d like to ask for your help.  If you happen upon this site, and you know of a great blog on Japan written from a foreign perspective, let me know.  It can be your own blog or one you regularly visit.  My own tastes can be a bit narrow, and I’d like to introduce an element of democratic involvement in choosing the blogs on Japan that appear here.  So put us in your feed reader, and leave a comment with any questions, suggestions, criticisms or blunt insults that spring to mind.  And thanks for reading!

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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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Problem: You’ve just arrived in Japan and are standing in the supermarket weeping softly at the price of steak, or you’ve spent all Saturday wandering the blistering streets of Tokyo looking for shoes that will fit your prodigious, paddle-like feet.

Solution: Nihonhacks.com

Thomas Hjelms keeps this blog, which is devoted primarily to offering quick answers to questions that plague some foreign residents for years.  Some of the suggestions here may seem fairly obvious, but it’s alarming how often the obvious can go unnoticed.  From where to buy ingredients for Thai food to using your new keyboard to type Japanese characters, Thomas has your back.  And best of all, he’s constantly looking for further questions or tips, so feel free to jump right in, here or from the sidebar.

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The most common advice bloggers receive, other than to post regularly (ha!), is to find and hold a focus.  Few Japan blogs have managed that better over the past several years than the consistently useful Get Hiroshima Blog.  Kept mostly by a British and American couple living and working in, well, Hiroshima, the blog keeps running tabs on news, events and other developments around town that might be of interest to locals, foreign or otherwise.

The blog focuses on Hiroshima and its environs but manages within that purview to include everything from restaurant and film reviews to glosses of local news stories, interviews, opinion pieces and more.  Part of the larger gethiroshima.com site, both the blog and its parent site are uniquely useful resources for prospective visitors to western Japan.  Check it out here or from 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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