Tag Archives: Culture

Train Travel: ‘Kyushu – Southern Japan’ (Video)

Kyushu is said to be the wellspring of Japanese civilization. Yet few tourists visit the southernmost of Japan’s main islands. This documentary contrasts modern Japanese cities with traditional customs in the countryside.

The rail journey begins in Fukuoka – a city with a metro population of 2.5 million – and ends at the southern tip of the island, in the city of Ibusuki. As the train rolls along, it travels through time – and reveals the amazing diversity and contrasts of the most southerly of Japan’s four main islands. The trip provides spectacular landscape views, as well as deep insight into a foreign culture, and its ancient traditions and modern lifestyles. In the West, Kyushu is one of the lesser-known regions in the “Land of the Rising Sun.”

Even for the Japanese, the green, mountainous island is seen mostly as a holiday spot. Europeans rarely visit this part of the country – but there are plenty of restaurants and cafes that have names like “Wolfgang,” “Bavaria,” or “Côte d’Azur.” Travel guides say that these words sound “European” to Japanese.

The family of the emperor, or Tenno, comes from Kyushu as well. This is also where the dynasties of the proud warrior class, the samurai, have their roots. And there are a number of active volcanoes on Kyushu. One of the most famous is Mount Aso. Its caldera – the cauldron-like hollow at the top — has a circumference of about 120 kilometers.

Travel & Culture: The ‘Nishikigoi’ – Koi Fish Of Ojiya, Japan (Video)

Scoop up the rich tapestry of traditional culture and natural beauty of Ojiya, a small city in Niigata Prefecture’s snowy mountains that’s had to scale back as it steers through a global pandemic.

Koi or more specifically nishikigoi, are colored varieties of the Amur carp that are kept for decorative purposes in outdoor koi ponds or water gardens. Koi is an informal name for the colored variants of C. rubrofuscus kept for ornamental purposes. 

Travel Tour: ‘Welcome To Afghanistan’ (BBC Video)

Afghanistan was once a firm fixture on the backpacker trail, but decades of war and violence have crossed it off the destination list for almost all tourists. Most governments advise against travel there. But American blogger Drew Binksy is one traveller bucking the trend. He says he has a coronavirus test before travelling to new countries, and follows local measures in the places he visits.

Video produced by the BBC’s Suhrab Sirat and Kawoon Khamoosh

Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; and China to the northeast. 

Books: ‘Forbidden City – The Palace at the Heart of Chinese Culture’ (Video)

For more than six centuries, the Forbidden City has awed all those who have travelled from near and far to explore its 900 golden-roofed buildings, set amid moats, gardens, and plazas, where thousands of people lived and worked in service of the world’s largest and most sophisticated pre-modern empire. Marco Polo called it “the greatest Palace that ever was;” Simon Leys praised its architectural genius; and Franz Kafka viewed it as an impressive yet alarming symbol of power.

In this compelling addition to Assouline’s Ultimate Collection, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ian Johnson guides readers through the magnificent and storied palace built by China’s Yongle Emperor to serve as the seat of the Ming dynasty. Weaving in history and events of the past six centuries and featuring more than 100 photographs, artworks, and historical artifacts, this luxury tome conjures life in this imperial sphere—a small city unto itself, in which soldiers, eunuchs, concubines, and merchants resided alongside the royalty they served. A stunning homage to the grand beauty of one of the most complex structures in all of history, Forbidden City reveals that 600 years after its construction, this royal monument endures as the physical and spiritual heart of Chinese civilization. This volume is presented in a regal, glossy red box reminiscent of traditional Chinese lacquerware, and that features a delicately carved map of the Forbidden City’s grounds.

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Travel & Culture Tours: ‘South Iwate, Japan’ (Video)

Iwate Prefecture may be known as a place devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, but it’s coming back better and stronger than ever.

Iwate is a large prefecture on the northeastern coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island. The southern city of Hiraizumi contains a rich architectural legacy from its period as a political center in the 11th and 12th centuries, including Chūson-ji Temple and the adjacent Mōtsū-ji Temple. Northeast, the city of Tōno was the birthplace of many folk tales, now recounted in traditional surrounds at its Old Tales Village. 

Travel: ‘A Different View Of Amsterdam’ (Video)

Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital, known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades, legacies of the city’s 17th-century Golden Age. Its Museum District houses the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, and modern art at the Stedelijk. Cycling is key to the city’s character, and there are numerous bike paths. 

Amsterdam has more than 100 kilometers of grachten, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings.

Travel Video: ’48 Hours In Villages North Of Madrid’

North of Madrid lies the Sierra de Guadarrama, part of the larger Sistema Central, the chain of mountains snaking down the centre of Spain. With their close proximity to Madrid, the mountains are a popular spot for a day trip, whether you like sports, nature or exploring historic towns and villages.

City Life: The ‘Vibrant, Artsy & Friendly’ Borough Of Hackney In London

December 2, 2020 Issue

Walking down Mare Street, vibrant even in these days of restrictions, it’s hard to reconcile today’s Hackney with pictures from the past. Shop-lined roads were once babbling streams, pubs were market gardens and this bastion of hip, edgy, urban creativity was a remote village where people retreated for a taste of idyllic countryside. But then, few places have changed more over time than this corner of East London.

According to local lore, the small settlement that sprung up along the Roman roads to Lincoln and Colchester owes its name to a Danish chief called Hacon, whose eye — islet—this was. No trace remains of this early history, but some medieval records indicate that the Knights Templars owned about 110 acres in the Hackney Marshes and built some mills on the River Lea — hence today’s Temple Mills. The village’s first parish church, St Augustine, was named after the Templars’ patron saint.

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Food & Culture: ‘Demise Of The Traditional Sushi Restaurant’ In Japan

Even before coronavirus, soaring fish prices and competition from big chains had wiped out more than half of Japan’s traditional sushi restaurants. With most owners at or near retirement, the pandemic is accelerating the demise of neighborhood sushi. Correspondent Lucy Craft looks at how fast-food sushi is remaking a dining tradition.

Culture & Design: 15th C. Tuscan Villa, Siena, Italy

Even now, the approach to the 1,200-acre property is just as it must have been centuries ago: a long, winding ride through pale, undulating fields, leading to a dignified hilltop retreat. The three-story ivy-wrapped building is ringed by 20-foot obelisk-like cypress trees — a private citadel entered through a wrought-iron gate. Beyond the vista of olive groves, another fortresslike outcropping is visible in the distance: the mottled russet city of Siena, three miles away.

WHEN RENÉ CAOVILLA, the 82-year-old Venetian shoe designer, was first shown the Tuscan villa he bought in 1977, he fell in love with it instantly. He wasn’t only taken with the house, a 15th-century red brick monastery that had undergone a slow transformation into an austere 20-bedroom private home in the 17th century, but the Chianti landscape as well — the whole of classical history evoked in a flash.

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