Walk through the tunnel of ten thousand vermillion torii (gates) snaking their way up the mountain at Fushimi Inari Shrine outside of Kyoto and you’ll soon realize that no two are exactly the same. Look one way and you’ll see bare, unadorned orange posts. Turn the other and you’ll see the names of all the businesses or individuals who donated each gate as a sign of gratitude for their prosperity. Among the thankful, a range — from men of small business to giants of Japanese industry hailing from companies like Hitachi or Panasonic.
No business is too big to be thankful to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, sake and prosperity. Continue Reading »
When I first set off on the road many years ago, I did so to countries whose toilets were mere holes in the ground. I’ve come a long way – this time to Japan, a country whose toilets are virtual thrones of electronic feature-laden splendor, including some which make music, many which feature remote controls, and most whose seats are heated.
But I digress. (Why I am here on the topic of Japan, talking about toilets? After all, toilet talk is rather un-Japanese.)
Travelers and tourists are often taught to look to historical sites for cultural insight, but Japan evinces plenty of culture in the seemingly everyday. It’s clear that the country has a long and deep history — complex, with nooks and crannies, cultural twists and turns, and sweeping evolutions. However, while I’m tempted to share my first impressions of Japan’s Buddhist and Shinto shrines, I’ll instead first share the cultural bits in the current, the white spaces of travel. Continue Reading »
When you enter Heniyokutu Cave at Daisho-in Buddhist temple, pause for a moment. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, details begin to appear — prayer offerings and written wishes tied to the base of Buddhist statues, Japanese characters tracing the bottom of the lights, faint smiles on many of the icons. In the dim light, there’s a feeling of peacefulness amidst it all.
Open up the 360-degree panorama below to see for yourself. Continue Reading »
For this Mother’s Day, we are in Hiroshima, Japan, the site of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Although the city was once a site of death and destruction beyond what we could ever imagine, the message here now is one of peace.
A reflection at the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima, Japan
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When most people think about the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada, Egypt they likely imagine relaxing on the beach, scuba diving, adventuring in the desert, golfing, and lounging at a big resort. Hurghada does have all of that.
Rarely, however, does one think about fresh markets and a taste of local Egyptian culture. It’s there in Hurghada, if only you look hard enough. Continue Reading »
I have never been to Japan.
Audrey has, but she enjoys the distinction of having eaten a hamburger there. In fact, she requested it. Insisted even. Forgive her though, she was only seven, it was her birthday and she was tired of noodles. But she did wear a blue kimono to make up for it.
No, this is not Audrey.
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Whales with legs? In the desert?
That’s what you’ll find in the Valley of the Whales (Wadi El-Hitan) in Fayoum, Egypt. More accurately, you’ll find the over 35 million year-old fossilized remains of whales with short legs, appendages marking their evolution from land mammals to sea mammals. Continue Reading »
Do you remember learning about ancient Egypt in elementary school?
I do. I recall images of Cleopatra, mummies, hieroglyphics, and women with black bobbed hair and men dressed in kilts, all strutting. I remember pyramids that seemed too big to be real, as if aliens must have been the ones to deposit them in the middle of the desert.
And I remember an episode of Asterix and Obelix, a favorite childhood comic book of mine, where Obelix climbs onto the Sphinx, hangs on the nose and breaks it off. In response, all the vendors chip the noses off their ceramic Sphinx replicas to be sure they’d match.
Then I had the chance to see it all – the pyramids and the Sphinx after the nose job — in real life. Continue Reading »
Although the Saladin Citadel in Cairo was built in the 12th century to help protect the city from the Crusaders, the Muhammad Ali Mosque came much later, in the 19th century. Built in the architectural style of the Ottomans, the mosque has a feeling of wide open grandeur punctuated by chandeliers and cupolas.
Sit on the carpet in middle for as long as you need. Look up, look around and enjoy the peacefulness of the place. Continue Reading »
We’re headed again to Egypt, this time to experience a taste of what it can offer in the way of adventure and adrenaline travel.
We will also present at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Travel and Media conference. There, we will tie a real-time case study of this Egypt experience together with some of our prior travel experience to demonstrate the value to destinations of digital storytelling and engaging travel bloggers during challenging news cycles.
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