Archive for the ‘people’ 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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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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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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Interesting primarily because there are so few similar blogs in English.  Jade (not her real name) is an American citizen working in a Roppongi hostess club.  In her blog, she writes about her co-workers, customers both good and bad, and her alcoholic mama-san.

The blog is obviously a place for her to blow off some steam, and the tone gets pretty vicious at times, but it works well as a window into the daily routines of a hostess in a small club.  She spends a fair amount of time wondering aloud just what she’s doing with her life, and after reading a few entries you’ll wonder too.  Still, the distinctly soap opera feel of the blog can hook you pretty quickly.

Here or from the sidebar.

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It seems a great many people who arrive in Japan wind up trying to reinvent themselves, even if that wasn’t their intention at all when they set out.  I can’t say for sure why this is.  Perhaps the relative scarcity of opportunities allows some of us to look into possibilities we wouldn’t have taken as seriously back home.

I certainly won’t try to guess at what motivates the author of Frangipani, a wonderful little blog from an Australian in Tokyo.  But it’s been fun reading her site and following her work as she’s honed her camera skills and begun to think about launching her own photography business.  She wrote recently about the “Thousand True Fans” theory, a somewhat optimistic idea making its rounds on the internet, claiming that all an artist needs to make a living is 1,000 devoted fans.  I can’t vouch for the theory’s soundness, but if her work continues in the direction it’s going, she can sign me up.  

Be sure to click around a bit; her photographs are kept in several different places.  Here or from the sidebar.

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