Cool beans! Not exactly sure how to take this – ‘though the expression “with a grain of salt” jumps to mind – but apparently I have earned “suggested writer” status in the Travel section on Medium.com.
I’m genuinely flattered, and it makes me want to sit down and write more essays and stories and publish them online, though to be honest I’m not sure what, exactly, it means to be a suggested writer. Is it a decision made by a cabal of wise gnomes at Medium.com, or is it some less-personal, more automated process, an algorithmic accretion of views/reads/recommends?
In either case, I’ll put aside the salt for a moment, as well as the self-deprecating humour, and take the credit gracefully and gratefully.
A photographer-friendly, photogenic site half-hidden in rural Japan.
We were on an overnight staycation in the mountains of Gunma prefecture, a couple of hours’ drive north of Tokyo. Kayabuki no Sato Yakushi Onsen Hatago is a traditional ryokan onsen hot spring inn half hidden on the shore of the Nurukawa River in a remote river valley.
The short version:
I’ve posted about Golden Gai many times on forums and even written an introductory guide to “Tokyo’s worst-kept secret,” a cluster of dive bars near Shinjuku’s notorious nightlife district where hipster travellers and in-the-know locals mix and mingle and together enjoy a unique Tokyo experience.
In 15 years of exploring Golden Gai’s narrow streets and cluttered bars, I’ve never really felt threatened, even when out all night, alone and killing time ‘til first train…
Until last night, Thursday Tokyo time. For the first time that I’ve seen, some of the touts from the dodgy nightclubs in the surrounding Kabukicho red light district are now in Golden Gai itself. One guy, in particular, chatted up patrons at the landmark Champions bar near Golden Gai’s unofficial entrance. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t take NO as an answer from me, and actually followed me right into Champions bar and wouldn’t leave until he thought I was calling the cops. When he did leave, it was with a threat that “he’d be waiting for me” outside Golden Gai.
Lousy way to end the night.
A one-off, rogue tout, or the beginning of a new and unwelcome phase in Golden Gai’s growing popularity? We shall see…
Not surprisingly, Yakushima – wet, wild, off the beaten path, and featured in poems, movies, and even video games – is on many peoples’ shortlists of “power spots” in Japan. The mountains and mossy, antediluvian cedar and cryptomeria cypress rain forest on this mist-shrouded island off the coast of Kyushu resonate with the kind of “ki” energy that draws poets, movie directors, and even computer game designers: the Beat poet Sansei Yamao and friends founded a community inland; the forests in Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke anime and the Dremuchij forest in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater were inspired by the green trees and rocks of Shiratani Unsuiko and the island’s mossy, mountainous interior.
Yakushima’s unique ecological diversity, the subtropical coastal areas reaching up 2,000-meter mountains to sa-sa bamboo grasslands at the – snowy, in winter – summits, and the 1,000+-year-old yakusugi Japanese cedar trees, especially the millenia-old “Jomon sugi” tree have also been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
R. and I visited in the spring, when it rained – apparently it’s always raining on Yakushima – on our hike to the Shiratani Unsuiko Princess Mononoke forest and kayaked on the Anbo River.