Pico Iyer Journeys


Living Among Incompatibles

I walked into the center of old Kyoto not long ago and found myself in a scene from a Hiroshige painting. Huge floats containing ancestral treasures stood on the narrow lanes at the heart of the ancient capital, while rows of lanterns bobbed above the wooden houses. Old men played piercing melodies on bamboo flutes, […]

What I Love About Kyoto

What I love about Kyoto is the night. Almost every visitor to the ancient Japanese capital, home of geisha and tea-ceremonies and kimono and 2000 temples–is shocked by the first view, as she steps out of Kyoto’s ultra-modern train station, with an eleven-storey department-store and a luxury hotel attached: the “City of Heavenly Peace,” the […]

Our Lady of Lawson

To live in Japan without eating Japanese food seems an advanced kind of heresy. My sushi-loving friends in California regard me as a lost cause; my housemates in Japan simply shrug and see this as ultimate confirmation — me dragging at some lasagna in a plastic box while they gobble down dried fish — that […]

The Fan in Japan

The Japan we imagine from afar is placid, tidy and seamlessly efficient, correct to the last place. The trains arrive on the dot, and when the crowds pour out of them, in streamlined rows of look-alike Chanel and grey suits, not a bead of sweat is visible even in the heat of summer rush-hour. Japan […]

A Call Through the Mist

The foreigner in Japan, more than anywhere, stands at the edge of an intimacy that is closing slowly in his face. He walks along a beach, perhaps, as darkness falls, with a young, a beautiful girl, and they talk of loneliness, and all the places he has seen, the nights. The girl offers to introduce […]

King of Infinite Space

When you step into a classic ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn, you step into decades, perhaps centuries, of silence. I was reminded of this as soon as I returned, not long ago, to Tawaraya, a nineteen-room inn that sits on a tiny lane of lanterns near the heart of old Kyoto. Though the place is […]

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