Blog Archives

Tsukiji Market

So I’m back in Tokyo for the Rugby World Cup (and having a great time; a few pics here), and I finally made it to Tsukiji fish market! Even after living here for over a year, and having made so many visits to the city before &

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Teaching English in Japan

Note: this post isn’t about how to actually teach the English language – for that start by doing a TEFL course. This post deals with your options when applying for jobs teaching English in Japan.

Teaching English in Japan: first day of training in OsakaTeaching English in Japan: with my boy Darin on our first day of training in Osaka.

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A Local Shrine Combat Festival in Ikebukuro Honcho (Tokyo)

So one Sunday afternoon a few years ago while living in the Ikebukuro Honcho district of Tokyo my hungover ass was woken up far earlier than intended by the sound of drumming and rhythmic shouting coming along the street:

Tokyo local festivalTokyo local festivalTokyo local festival

A parade was coming my way,

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Photos of an Ultra-Nationalist March I Witnessed in Tokyo

When I was living in Tokyo a few years ago I sometimes used to walk half an hour from my place down to Ikebukuro if I needed to do a little shopping or whatever. On one occasion as I got near the station area I could hear a crowd calling in response to an amplified voice,

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Koyasan is a large temple complex in the mountains of Wakayama, located not far south of Osaka. It works well as a day trip from Osaka and is a great option if you’ve already been to Kyoto and Nara and want to check something else out. It’s also a popular place to stay overnight (temple stays are available),

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The Owls of Ikebukuro

A few years ago I was living in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district while teaching English a few miles away in Shinjuku. Ikebukuro is written 池袋, and the second character bukuro happens to sound very close in pronunciation to the Japanese word for owl fukurō. The entire district has taken this little linguistic coincidence to heart and adopted the owl as its symbol –

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Damage to Kyoto’s Hiking Trails from Typhoon Jebi

On my recent visit to Japan (researching my new website Rugby Guide Japan for the Rugby World Cup) I spent a day in Kyoto doing a couple of hikes so I could update the crappy photography on those pages (namely, the Shogunzuka and Kami Daigo hikes).

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2018 updates

It’s been a couple of years now since I launched this blog, yet I’ve been so busy catching up on writing posts from many years of earlier travel that I’ve largely failed to write posts updating where I actually am and what I’m actually doing. So with that in mind,

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Tokyo’s Controversial Yasukuni Shrine and Yushukan Museum

Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo

This isn’t a politics blog. But when I travel I like to learn about the history of the places I visit, and to at least somewhat get a handle on the political landscape. Fact is that politics & history are closely intertwined, and if you travel without paying any attention whatsoever to those things you’re travelling with your eyes half shut.

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How to Take the Ferry to Hokkaido

Coastal scenery on the ferry to Hokkaido

Most visitors to Hokkaido fly in, but to do it overland you have two options – bullet train or ferry.

If you have the JR Pass, the train’s the way to go – with the bullet train having recently been extended from Aomori through the Seikan Tunnel to Hakodate,

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The Gion Festival

Gion Festival float preparing to turn at Shijo-Kawaramachi

The Gion Matsuri is foremost among the 3 great matsuri (festivals) of Kyoto (the others are the Aoi Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri), as well as being recognised as one of the 3 great festivals of Japan (along with Tokyo’s Kanda Matsuri and Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri).

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An Ode to the Crows of Japan

Crow at Osorezan

One time while living in Kyoto… “I went for a midnight stroll around Mt Inari, the red gates picked out against the snow, and with the sounds of the city muffled to nothingness, the night deathly quiet and utterly still save for the flakes tumbling silently down,

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The Time I Got Apprehended by Ten Cops in Japan for Riding a Stolen Bike


“Boku no kotoba wakaru deshou!”

“You understand my words, don’t you?”

It wasn’t a question, more an accusation, and he delivered it in a point blank yell with a thump of the desk for emphasis.

They were literally playing the good cop bad cop routine,

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Volunteering in Tohoku after the 2011 tsunami

Tsunami damage in Onagawa

I didn’t feel the Earth move at 2:46pm on that day in early 2011, but I remember exactly where I was when it did; I was just finishing up my last lesson before lunch, a lunch break I’d be mostly wasting rushing out to buy white chocolates for my female coworkers (for White Day,

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Tohoku, Japan’s Treasureland

Bodai-ji, Osorezan

Tohoku, 東北 (literal meaning ‘Northeast’) is the northernmost region of Japan’s main Honshu island, consisting of 6 large but relatively sparsely populated prefectures of great natural beauty. It also has a rich folklore tradition and many sites of historical importance, with a recent marketing campaign branding the region –

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Osorezan, Mt Dread

Bodai-ji, Osorezan

For something a little different the Shimokita Peninsula at the northern tip of Japan’s main Honshu island fits the bill. The peninsula’s northern end is formed by the volcano Osorezan, which translates as Mt Fear or Mt Dread. Lake Usori, the caldera lake in the volcano’s crater,

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Yamadera literally means ‘Mountain Temple’, and that’s exactly what Yamadera is. The full name is Risshakuji (立石寺, Standing Stone Temple), but Yamadera’s far more commonly used. Some 1200 years old, it’s one of the coolest temples to visit in all Japan with an upper area accessed via a steep half-hour climb up the mountain.

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Neo Tokyo: dystopian dreams

While I do despise the YouTube algorithm as a radicalisation & bullshit engine that human society would be better off without, I must grudgingly admit that it does occasionally dig you up a gem.

It suggested this beauty recently after I’d been listening to some of the 

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Life in Japan: cicadas and the sound of summer

It’s been a long, hot summer in northeast Asia, with Korea and Japan both suffering record-breaking heatwaves. Things are finally cooling off somewhat here in Seoul, but my recent research trip to Japan coincided with their hottest temperatures on record and it was ridiculous, worse even than the summer I spent in the cauldron of Kyoto while working there a few years ago.

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Hozukyo Station

A train stopped at Hozukyo Station

From this distance the train appears to be suspended in the air across the valley, high above the river and motionless with its lights standing out like beacons against the backdrop of brooding forest in the deepening gloom. The tinny sounds of station announcements and departure chimes waft over on the breeze,

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