Calm, Stern, and Beautiful: Travel Photo Contest Friday 13

Welcome to Travel Photo Contest Friday. Just in case this is your first time visiting, each week I post a beautiful picture (at least I think so) from my travels and you guess where it is. Where do these calm, stern and beautiful statues live? Update: The winner is David! The picture was taken in a Buddhist temple in Japan on the island of Shikoku. The island is the smallest of Japan’s 4 main islands and is one of the most remote and traditional areas in Japan. Most tourist usually don’t make it down there, so if you have the chance it is a great way to jump off the normal path. Dave has decided to highlight a nonprofit called CitiNature, dedicated to green urban projects around the world. He’s just getting started, and he has a blog/website at http://www.citinature.org/ so show him some support by visiting. The first person Read full article…

Crazy Japanese Food Find: Placenta!

I love Japan. I lived there for five years, I speak Japanese, my wife is Japanese, I even walked a 900 mile Japanese pilgrimage twice. And yet, every time I think that I have nothing more to learn, that Japanese culture cannot shock me any further I am pleasantly surprised. Actually there is nothing pleasant about this. While I was shopping I came across the wonderfully named drink Placenta! It is no secret that the Japanese love English, not speaking it fluently, but pasting it on anything and everything to make it seem cooler. Most items make no sense and are just random words strung together. Others are more unfortunate, like the  5 year old girl in my elementary school English class who showed up wearing a t-shirt that said “Smack the Bitch and Pump the Hoes.” I’m still trying to figure out if this was supposed to be a gangster tag line or that of Read full article…

Learn new Travel Secrets and Save the World

Think I’m exaggerating? Well, OK, maybe I am a bit. But you can at least help secure clean drinking water around the world while you walk away with 500 new travel secrets…all for free. I love it when travel and international development combine as they are the two motivating factors for this site and my wanderings. A few months back you may remember that I posted My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets on Japan, East Timor and Sri Lanka. This was part of an online collaboration by 200 of the best travel bloggers and writers out there. Now, all of the secrets have been combined into a series of free e-books by Tripbase and they are using the opportunity to do some good in the world. Yes, my tips are in the books as well (in the Worldwide Travel and Worldwide Beaches books), but the important thing is that each time you download an eBook Tripbase Read full article…

Mapo Doufu Recipe, Spicy Tofu and Pork (in Japan, commonly called Mabo Doufu)

I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite Chinese Dishes, Mapo Dofu. This recipe is from my Mom who learned it from a Chinese chef over 30 years ago. Over the years she has made a few changes here and there. The process is not that complicated, but this dish requires some specific Chinese ingredients and spices. But don’t worry. You can buy most of them at an Asian grocery store, or even in a big grocery store in the US or in some countries in Europe. I also tried to put suggestions for substitutes for some ingredients. I’ve lived in countries where these ingredients are not always available and I’ve learned to improvise and be a bit flexible when I cook. Some ingredients may seem unfamiliar at first but I’ll be introducing more recipes that use the same ingredients in the future. Before you know it you’ll Read full article…

Nishoku Gohan (rice) Recipe- Donburi Menu Part 1

When it comes to Japanese food, many non-Japanese tend to think that Sushi is the only Japanese food and it’s hard to cook in their home country without having the right ingredients. To break this image, I will be introducing some Easy, Quick, and Tasty Japanese foods. Please note that they may not be authentic Japanese, but they are definitely popular among all Japanese across all age groups! Today, I am introducing you to Donburi Menu called ‘Nishoku Gohan’. Donburi is a big rice bowl and Donburi menu refers to a dish that has a topping over a bed of rice in the big bowl. Nishoku-Gohan literary means ‘two-colored rice’ referring to rice with two colored toppings, which is one of the easiest dishes to cook and does not require different kinds of unusual Japanese ingredients. This is Todd’s and my ‘Comfort Food’. Ingredients (for 2 people) Prep and cooking Read full article…

Sexual Secrets of a Japanese Buddhist Temple

Japan is full of secrets hidden in plain view. To the casual observer Japan is a conservative and reserved society. Even those “breaking” with conformity tend to gather together and dress alike. But as most Japan insiders know, scratch the surface just a little and shocking secrets can come to light. I discovered one such secret while visiting a rural Japanese Buddhist temple on the island of Shikoku. While walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a 900 mile route which hits 88 Buddhist temples, I stopped for a rest at a simple mountain village temple in Ehime Prefecture. Sitting between Temples 65 and 66, Jofuku-ji Tsubaki-do, is an unassuming and polite temple. Precise cedar beams mirror the thoughtful manicured garden as every detail of the clean temple grounds  was carefully planned out.  Japanese temples are wonderful places that incorporate the the more mundane concerns of folk religion right alongside the loftier goals Read full article…

3 Most Dangerous Japanese Matsuri (festivals) to Experience

There is no better way to taste traditional Japanese life and culture than through one of the thousands of matsuri held across Japan each year. They come in all shapes in sizes, with dancing, singing, drinking, lots and lots of drinking, naked g-stringed men, massive floats, and portable shrines to take the gods (8 million at last count) out for a spin around the neighborhood and a bit of fresh air. Most are innocent communal affairs but a few are down right deadly.

My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

My friend Megan who writes the blog See. Write. Live. nominated me to share my three best travel secrets on Todd’s Wanderings. The nomination is a part of Trip Base Blog tag in which the Top Bloggers’ Best Kept Travel Secrets will be published in a free ebook that will be shared with the “entire online community…” Hmmm, good luck with that! First, I had to decide if my secrets were safe for the average traveler…my lawyers tell me I should be okay (by reading this you have now waived all your rights). So here you are, some of my well kept secrets, and favorite places in this wonderful world: 1. Mount Koya, Japan Aschaf Everyone visits the major temples in Kyoto and Nara but these days they are little more than tourist attractions, albeit pretty ones, lacking that lived in, struggle for enlightenment feel. Mount Koya, the secluded mountain Read full article…

The Hermit in Seclusion

Deep rumbling chants rolled out of the cedar temple, pushed by the rhythmic precision of the perfectly timed drums, as the Buddhist monk led the daily dawn service. The morning air was crisp and carried the scent of pine and earth from the remote Japanese mountaintop. Prayer beads wrapped around my left hand, 108 plastic balls reminding me of my earthly sins, I knelt Japanese style in a dimly lit temple wondering if feeling would ever return to my feet. Gold ringlets hung from the ceiling, radiating above a thousand armed statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion sitting directly in front of me. One hour later, my prayers were answered. The monk concluded the ceremony and encouraged us to relax our legs before he spoke about the Buddha’s teachings. Sighs of restrained relief and pain filled the dim temple as seven Japanese pilgrims sitting on either side of me shifted Read full article…

Back to Japan

I have been very busy these past few months, with work, travel, and updating Todd’s Wanderings. As I am sure you have noticed, I have redesigned the layout of the blog and I will be adding new features in the coming months. More importantly I bought a new Sony camera, the evidence of which you will find in all of my latest posts, starting with where I bought the camera…Japan. In late August I met Kay (during her home leave) in Japan for a 10 day vacation. I lived in Japan for 5 years but have not been back in over 2 years. Despite traveling during the hottest and most humid time of the summer we had a great time. We spent some time in Tokyo, in Kamakura, and up north in Gunma Prefecture to escape the heat and the traffic. Just outside of Shinjuku Station. Coming from Sri Lanka Read full article…

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