A Gen­tler Ja­pan

The Washington Post Sunday - - Details -

WORTH A TRIP: April’s Conde Nast Trav­eler finds Pico Iyer scal­ing spir­i­tual heights at Koy­asan, the Ja­panese moun­tain “con­se­crated to ev­ery­thing old and change­less and hushed.” While mod­ern Ja­pan’s cities scream with night­time neon, its moun­tains are “the only places in the of­ten overde­vel­oped coun­try where you can get in touch with a kind of abo­rig­i­nal land of spir­its and folk­lore.”

The fo­cus for the many Ja­panese pil­grims here is Kobo Daishi, 9th-cen­tury na­tional hero and Shin­gon Bud­dhist mas­ter. But what Iyer finds among the 2,000-plus shrines, sym­bolic bridges and 800-year-old cedars is “a prior Ja­pan . . . a kind of fam­ily heir­loom kept in a dusty at­tic of the coun­try.” Yet the sa­cred moun­tain is not with­out pro­fane touches: “in truth, many of the tem­ples are fa­mous for their sake and beer.”

WORTH A FLIP: Flamin­gos in the snow are a phe­nom­e­non not lim­ited to sou­venir pa­per­weights. Amer­i­cas finds the un­gainly beau­ties high in the Bo­li­vian An­des. Why there? One ex­pla­na­tion is that the moun­tain wa­ters they love weren’t al­ways so high; when ge­o­log­i­cal forces pushed the baby An­des — and the lakes in them — sky­ward, the flamin­gos went along for the ride. Their lives to­day hang in a del­i­cate bal­ance, im­per­iled by seem­ingly small fac­tors such as soap residue in the geo­ther­mal pools where tourists do laun­dry. . . . “River cruis­ing is all about slow­ness and in­ti­macy.” Bud­get Travel drifts down the Danube from Nurem­berg to Bu­dapest aboard, well, not a lux­ury liner but not Huck Finn’s raft, ei­ther. The Vik­ing Europe car­ries 150 pas­sen­gers and 40 crew mem­bers. There are no glitzy floor shows aboard; rather, “You’re en­ter­tained by the towns and scenery.”

So. Crimea. “Charge of the Light Brigade” and all that. But what does the fa­mous bat­tle­ground penin­sula look like to­day? Ac­cord­ing to Men’s Jour­nal, it some­times re­sem­bles “Mal­ibu a hun­dred years ago,” but also “At­lantic City gone to seed.” But, hey, “Ukraini­ans have just cast off the shack­les of al­most a cen­tury of dic­ta­tor­ship. Let them throw a lit­tle trash.” . . . It’s “The Green Is­sue” for Out­side this month, and “China is the as­ter­isk at the end of ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion about the en­vi­ron­ment.” Pa­trick Symmes blends a dis­course on China’s huge en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges with his own story of white­wa­ter raft­ing down the Yangtze — the Yangtze whose val­leys may soon be flooded as China’s hunger for elec­tric­ity leads to con­struc­tion of hy­dro­elec­tric dams.

In Gourmet, Pete Hamill paints an un­sen­ti­men­tal pic­ture of mod­ern Dublin. Al­though Ire­land basks in re­cent eco­nomic progress, he sees “the ca­su­al­ties not of­ten present in glow­ing tales of the Celtic Tiger”: drifters, beg­gars, junkies, drunks. While ac­knowl­edg­ing the city’s many glo­ries, he heeds Jonathan Swift’s ad­vice to writ­ers “that it is bet­ter to write with the point of the pen, not the feather.” . . . “The Flint Hills are no longer hard to get to,” says Na­tional Ge­o­graphic, but they’re still hard to con­tem­plate. “The last great swath of tall­grass prairie in the na­tion” may strike you first as “noth­ing,” but this Na­tional Park Sys­tem pre­serve in east­ern Kansas demon­strates, among other things, tough­ness. The re­silient land is more than a match for grass fires and graz­ing cat­tle. Yet the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pho­tos prove that “noth­ing” can be beau­ti­ful, as in the golden mo­ments be­fore sun­set or when fire­flies dance in the twi­light over the wild al­falfa.

WORTH A CLIP: “What’s new in Europe?” Rick Steves asks rhetor­i­cally in Tran­si­tions Abroad. Bet­ter you should ask, “What’s closed?” But for­tu­nately, “for ev­ery­thing that’s cov­ered in scaf­fold­ing, many more at­trac­tions are newly re­stored and look­ing bet­ter than ever.” The clock tower in Venice’s Pi­azza San Marco is still closed, but the bell tower across the wa­ter at San Gior­gio Mag­giore has re­opened. In Paris, the six-year re­fur­bish­ment is fin­ished at the Musee de L’Orangerie, home to many fa­mous im­pres­sion­ist paint­ings; Monet’s wa­terlilies are now bathed in nat­u­ral light. . . . If you’re 21 years old and think­ing of trav­el­ing for ro­mance, sorry, you’re too young. Ac­cord­ing to Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Ad­ven­ture, “The Age of Ro­mance” com­prises ages 25 to 45, while 17 through 22 is “The Age of Virtue.” You’re sup­posed to be build­ing schools and pro­tect­ing en­dan­gered apes. NGA sug­gests ap­pro­pri­ate es­capes for its seven de­mo­graphic ranges, from Yel­low­stone horsep­a­ck­ing trips for the kid­dies to Aegean is­land-hop­ping for the el­derl — uh, for “The Age of Rea­son.” WORTH A NOSH: Could two cuisines be more dis­sim­i­lar? But whether Saveur’s edi­tors in­tended it, there is a com­mon theme to its ar­ti­cles on Sin­ga­pore and a New Eng­land diner: hon­est cook­ing in a cul­tural cross­roads. The cafe fare and street food of Sin­ga­pore owe much to the Ny­onyas, eth­nic Chi­nese women who decades ago merged their her­itage recipes with lo­cal tech­niques and in­gre­di­ents. And in Mas­sachusetts, a clas­sic Greek diner, which goes through 600 eggs in a typ­i­cal break­fast, serves tra­di­tion as it slings the hash.

— Jerry V. Haines

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.