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Nature Worship in Old ShintōToya Manabu

Before Shintō came to be practiced in constructed shrines, it was centered on the direct worship of nature itself. Toya Manabu surveys the various objects of worship that formed the original focus of Shintō belief.

Northern Dancers: The Red-Crowned Cranes of Hokkaidō (Photos)Wada Masahiro (Photographs)

Red-crowned cranes are a traditional symbol of good fortune in Japan. Conservation efforts have brought regional population back from the brink of collapse and there is now a flourishing crane population in Hokkaidō. These photographs show the cranes’ graceful forms through the year, including the bitter cold of a northern winter.

Miyazawa Kenji’s Answers for Japan and the WorldRoger Pulvers

Neglected in his lifetime, the poet and author Miyazawa Kenji has come to new prominence in Japan, particularly in the last two decades. His pioneering environmentalism and emphasis on taking personal responsibility struck a chord with many in the wake of tragedies that shocked the nation in 1995 and 2011.

Lessons from the Bees: The Rooftop Hives of Central Tokyo

In 2006, the Ginza Honey Bee Project set up hives on the top of a multistory building in central Tokyo. A decade on, the project is a regular supplier of honey to local businesses and continues to provide food for thought on the relationship between the urban and natural environments.

Shimoguri-no-sato: A Japanese Shangri-la

Amid the soaring peaks of southern Nagano Prefecture, a solitary hamlet clings to a mountaintop, seemingly suspended in both space and time. We visited Shimoguri-no-sato, where crops grow abundantly on steep slopes 1,000 meters above sea level, and the villagers continue to observe the ancient harvest rite that served as inspiration for Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away.

Japan’s 72 Microseasons

In ancient times the Japanese divided their year into 24 periods based on classical Chinese sources. The natural world comes to life in the even more vividly named 72 subdivisions of the traditional Japanese calendar.

Soaking up the Benefits: Japan’s Hot Springs TraditionMatsuda Tadanori

Japanese people have loved onsen since ancient times for the comfort they bring to mind and body. We introduce the beauty benefits and anti-ageing effects offered by hot springs while examining the relationship between the Japanese people and onsen.

Five Places to See Autumn Staff

Just like the "cherry blossom front" in spring, the Japanese enjoy following the "fall foliage front" as it travels down the archipelago in the fall. Here are five selected locations to see the autumn leaves at their most vibrant. Daisetsuzan, before the snow falls. Early in the fall, people start looking forward to colorful leaves. Reds and oranges spread first across the mountain Asahidak…

An Agricultural Wonder: Japan’s Vanishing Terraced Rice Fields (Photos)Kit Takenaga (Photographer)

Terraced rice fields, constructed and refined by farmers over centuries, were once a common sight on Japan’s hillsides. Today, though, they are disappearing from the landscape. These photographs document the natural, agricultural, and cultural heritage of the tanada.

Ontake Erupts, Shows Difficulty of Predicting Volcanic Disaster

On September 27, 2014, Mount Ontake suddenly erupted. The 3,067-meter peak, which straddles the border between Nagano and Gifu Prefectures, is Japan’s second-highest volcano behind Mount Fuji and is listed as one of the nation’s “100 Famous Mountains.” Many climbers enjoying the fine weather of the autumn season were caught up in the disaster, which caused numerous fatalities. This is the first ti…

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