Hachioji Festival

Hachioji Matsuri

For a few weeks every summer in Japan the streets of neighbourhoods around the country come alive with the sights, sounds and smells of traditional festivals (matsuri 祭) usually sponsored by a local shrine or temple. Notable matsuri often feature processions including elaborate floats (dashi 山車), which are pulled through the town, accompanied by performers and musicians. Read more

Master of Nets

Master of Nets Garden Map

On an overcast day in July this year I made a return day trip to Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai, known for its canals, bridges and classical gardens. Read more

Demystifying Wabi-sabi

Photo by Phil Shirley

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of thing unconventional.

While sitting beneath the cherry blossoms at a typical Hanami (“flower viewing”) party in Japan it’s easy to forget that behind the alcohol-fueled revelry you’re actually taking place in a very particular form of appreciation centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

Aesthetic ideals are central to Japan’s cultural identity and the Japanese language has all sorts of fancy words for describing our feelings towards how we perceive the world but underlying them all is the notion of wabi-sabi (侘寂). Read more

Yumenoshima Park

Yumenoshima Park

Back in 2013, shortly after I had moved to Japan, the language school I was attending at the time took us on a class outing to Yumenoshima Park (夢の島) for a sports day (as if we were 10 years old…). Literally meaning “Dream Island”, Yumenoshima Park was built on land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay using waste landfill. Read more

Sagami Bay Sunset

Sagami Bay Sunset

Every couple of months my team at work take a day or two out from our normal schedules to work remotely on an individual project of our choosing. Our favourite place to go is a co-working space along the coast near Kamakura. It has beautiful views over Sagami Bay (相模湾) and on our last visit we were treated to a gorgeous sunset. Read more

Kōya-san Pilgrimage


Around 1.5 hours by train from Osaka, Mount Kōya (高野山) is located in an 800m high valley amid the eight peaks of the mountain and is home to the Kōyasan Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. The original monastery has grown into the town of Kōya, featuring a university dedicated to religious studies and 120 temples, many of which offer lodging to pilgrims. Read more

Tsūtenkaku Tower

Tsūtenkaku Tower in Osaka

Tsūtenkaku Tower (通天閣) is the centrepiece of Shinsekai (新世界) district, an old neighbourhood south of Osaka’s downtown “Minami” area. The district was created in 1912 with New York as a model for its southern half and Paris for its northern half (the original tower being patterned after the Eiffel Tower). Read more