"If you can’t take a trip to the Land Down Under, come enjoy the Australia-like Yamaguchi Prefecture!"
35 days, 2822 miles through 9 states at a cost of $252.51 ($7.21 per day). George 'the Cyclist' Christensen spends a good part of each year bicycling through a different country and wild camping in places like Iceland, Turkey, China, the foot of Mt Fuji and around Lake Victoria; And writing about his travels on his blog from libraries and internet cafés. For the past eight years, too, he has also followed the Tour de France after first watching upwards of 70 films [in 12 days] at the Cannes Film Festival.
The funicular railway is a kind of cable-based railway that gives me great joy because of its peculiar shape and its uselessness for doing anything other than what it does. A funicular carriage is generally stairstepped or terraced, so you can't repurpose these cars for other uses. They generally work in a particular way, too, as pairs: one goes up the mountain, one comes down the mountain! Maybe this kind of glee is why they seem to be especially popular in Japan today, where they can be taken to many popular sightseeing areas--but a fair number of funicular railway riders are probably there for the journey, not the destination. [more inside]
Women Explorers and Travellers of Asia and the Middle East - In an age where women struggled for basic human rights, these individuals were literal trailblazers. Leaving their homelands for varying motivations (but often due to dissatisfaction with their social lot in life), they devoted their lives to "explore these antique lands before they are irretrievably caught up in the cacaphonic whirl of the modern world." [more inside]
"My humble efforts to assist in the elucidation of the social condition of a distant and comparatively unknown race."
A Tale of Two Chinas, by photographer James Whitlow Delano. Whole swaths of cities have vanished, to be transformed with developments that have quickly made them look more like Houston, Qatar, or Singapore than the ancient China of our mind's eye. The old hutong, or alleyways, of Beijing that once formed a mosaic of passageways and the siheyuan, or walled courtyard houses, have been largely razed. The old brick rowhouses of Shanghai, are now being leveled and replaced by modern high-rises. Traditional marketplaces, residential neighborhoods, streets where medicine shops or bookstores bunched together, are now either gone or have been rouged up as tourist destinations, part of a new synthetic, virtual version of China's incredible past. The energy fueling this transformation bespeaks a powerful but often blind, unquestioning faith in an inchoate idea of progress that takes one's breath away, often literally. (Unrestrained growth has left China with the dubious honor of having 9 of the 10 most polluted cities in the world). Delano's new book is "Empire: Impressions from China". More inside.
"In fact the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people".
Discovering Japan. As a perennial outsider at loose in Japan, writer Donald Richie captures the joyous freedom of being foreign. The foreign observer is likely to be happy only if he sees his foreignness as an adventure, and recognizes that he has given up a sense of belonging for a sense of freedom, traded the luxury of being understood for that of being permanently interested. Richie, the philosopher-king of expats in Asia for the past half-century, arrived in Tokyo in 1947 as a typist with the U.S. government and never really left, writing dozens of books , on Japanese movies, temples, history and fashion, while enjoying himself as an actor, musician, filmmaker and painter. The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 is a monument to the pleasures of displacement. Richie watchers can observe, more intimately than ever, a man who is generally happiest observing. More inside.
Comparison of life in Piscataway, New Jersey; Kochi, Japan; and Zhuzhou, Hunan Province, China by Ernie French.