Travel: Weird subway ads in Japan

Seven Unique and Moving Fictional Books Set in Japan

Japan is a country close to my heart and since I first went there a few years ago, I have become a big fan of Japanese fiction and Asian fiction translated to English. Japanese fiction tends to emphasise the liminal and fantasy aspects hidden at the edges of everyday reality and also exploring the inner…

Book Review: The Sky Atlas: The Greatest Map Myths and Discoveries of the Universe by Edward Brooke-Hitching

Book Review: The Sky Atlas by Edward Brooke Hitching

Edward Brooke Hitching, history-hound, lover of quirky things and writer for the ever-popular and erudite quiz show QI, has written The Sky Atlas. A treasury and history of some of humankind’s most beautiful maps and charts. Yet this book is more than that, it’s a sparkling and glittering array of sky-bound achievements. It’s a visual…

Ryoan-Ji zen garden in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Content Catnip 2018 www.contentcatnip.com

No news of the affairs of men

In the age of omnipresent news and digital devices dominating our every waking moment, this poem by 18th century Japanese hermit poet Ryokan seems very relevant. No news of the affairs of men. How lovely to be without the news of the world. Whatever the news of the day, Ryokan sure as hell didn't give…

Adventures on the Forth and Clyde Canal

The Empty Boat by Chuang Tzu

He who rules men lives in confusion;He who is ruled by men lives in sorrow.Yao therefore desiredNeither to influence othersNor to be influenced by them.The way to get clear of confusionAnd free of sorrowIs to live with TaoIn the land of the great Void. Chuang Tzu (300 B.C.) Water of Leith at dusk, Edinburgh. Copyright…

Inspirational People: Tenzin Gyatso

Inspirational People: Tenzin Gyatso

"If we look at human history, we will find that a good heart has been the key in achieving what the world regards as great accomplishments in the fields of civil rights, social work, political liberation and religion for example. Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, after a school talk in Tibet. "A sincere outlook…

Fisherman at dusk, Auckland © Content Catnip 2018 www.contentcatnip.com

The challenge of a life’s time and a lifetime

It may be when we no longer know what to do, We have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, We have begun our real journey. Wendell Berry (b. 1934) is a poet, farmer, writer and activist. Frozen Lake Menteith in Scotland during mid-winter. Copyright Content…

Book Review: The Mindfulness Survival Kit by Thich Nhat Hanh

Book Review: The Mindfulness Survival Kit by Thich Nhat Hanh

This is a handy guide for mindfulness for busy people living at full throttle in the world. It's a gentle calling to slow down and to heed the five mindfulness training precepts which are: not to kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, or take intoxicants. These are the basic ethics and morality in Buddhism. Zen master…

Hidden shinto shrine in Kyoto Copyright © Content Catnip 2018 www.contentcatnip.com

The Enlightenment of Everyday Objects

In ancient Japanese tradition, when a treasured household item reaches the end of usefulness, it is given the proper funerary send off that it deserves. This unusual ritual harks back to two ancient philosophies. The Shinto Animist philosophy that all things alive or otherwise have a soul. And the Nichiren Buddhist philosophy that when a…

Ryoan-Ji zen garden in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Content Catnip 2018 www.contentcatnip.com

Jisei: Haunting Japanese death poems from history

Japan has a long history of jisei, or death poems. Jisei is the “farewell poem to life.” These poems were written by literate people, often monks, royalty or courtiers just before their death.  A Jisei from Prince Otsu in 686 BC is one of the earliest recorded death poems. Not all death poems are written…

Travel: Tenryu-ji temple and gardens Arashiyama Kyoto

Travel: Tenryu-ji temple and gardens Arashiyama Kyoto

Tenryū-ji is a temple and gardens founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339. It's purpose at the time was to venerate Gautama Buddha. It's considered as one of Kyoto's so-called Five Mountains. In 1994, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tenryuji dates from the Muromachi period in Japan's 14th-16th century. Among its many…

Travel: A curious history of Nara's holy deer

Travel: A curious history of Nara’s holy deer

Nara has had sacred significance long into the ancient mists of time in Japan. Long before Tokyo and Kyoto became the capital of Japan, Nara reigned as the most important city in Japan, its capital from 710-784 AD, before this mantle was passed on to Kyoto. By decree of the emperor of Japan in 724AD,…

Travel: Ryoan-ji temple and gardens, Kyoto

Travel: Magnificent Ryoan-ji temple and gardens, Kyoto

Ryōan-ji (meaning the Temple of the Dragon at Peace) is a Zen temple located in Kyoto, Japan. The Ryōan-ji garden is considered one of the finest surviving examples of Japanese Zen temple garden design generally featuring distinctive larger rock formations arranged amidst a sweep of smooth pebbles arranged in immaculate linear patterns, designed to facilitate…