Where Every Bamboo Stalk Is Different

Katano near Osaka is one of those very typical small towns that surround the major cities in Japan – big enough to retain their status as an independent city, but too close to a major megalopolis to ever attract any of the spotlight. We are here on a regular basis since we have family in […]

Hoshigaoka’s Secret

We found this place several years ago, unlikely enough only a few miles away from where my parents-in-law live near Osaka, and we’ve been back this year since it had left such a great impression on our first visit. The Hoshigaoka Sewing School must have been closed many years ago but it was then reopened […]

Around the World in 1936

A while ago I bought this item on eBay – it was essentially a random find that intrigued me. It is the guest list of the 1936 round-the-world trip of the S.S. President Monroe out of San Francisco. (link to full scan of all pages on Flickr) The annotations on the actual guest list are […]

Memories: On The Yangtze

Memories… is a random series of memories of my trips to Asia in the late 80s and early 90s. In 1989, just weeks before the Chinese government breakdown on the Democracy movement, I bought passage on a Yangtze river boat from Shanghai to Chongqing – a distance of more than a thousand miles. For the […]

Memories: Ghost Stories

Memories… is a random series of memories of my trips to Asia in the late 80s and early 90s. I’d been trying to go to Hangzhou not too far from Shanghai for several years, but had always been deflected by inconvenient bus or train connections. In the summer of 1993 I finally managed to make […]

Memories: Steam Engines

This will be a random series of memories of my trips to Asia in the late 80s and early 90s. Here’s a first installment…. In the early nineties it was still very common in China to see steam engines pulling freight trains. I vividly remember the first time I saw these huge, smoke-black trains lumbering […]


China officially recognizes 56 ethnic groups in the country, a fact that is easy to overlook when one travels through the major population centers which look dominantly Han. A trip into the countryside very often reveals a different picture, with smaller villages sporting very different faces and sometimes also different attire from the typical Chinese […]

An Italian Romance

After visiting my family in Germany we tacked on a few days for ourselves in Italy – we have been there together before maybe five or six years ago and it felt great to go back for a little bit more time in that wonderful country. We traveled by sleeper train across the Alps and […]

Twenty Years Ago Like Yesterday

While walking through Chinatown a couple of days ago, I had this intense flashback – suddenly I was back in Shanghai… in May 1989. Memories just came flooding back, the smells, the sounds… the view along the Bund through the hazy air, heavy with thick smoke from the ships. There were the banners, held high. […]