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Sea eagles, Owls and Cranes – Japanese winter birds

  Japan has several claims to fame as a travel destination, but relatively few people think of the country as a wildlife destination. Fewer still choose to brave the bone-chilling temperatures on the northern island of Hokkaido to see the birdlife which is drawn to this harsh winter climate. Yet there we were, certainly not […]

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A visit to the Japanese snow monkeys

Everyone loves monkeys. Actually no, that’s not strictly true. While many people coo at the sight of seeing our distant cousins pulling funny faces, most of us consider them a pest when they get up to their usual mischief and try to separate us from our snacks and loose camera gear. The macaques that come […]

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Nagano Temple

Zenkoji Temple in Nagano: The High Priestess and the Bumbling Idiot

I’m never at my best first thing in the morning. We’d woken early at our temple lodgings in the Zenkoji temple complex in Nagano. The accommodation in the two-storey wooden house had been basic but the hospitality typically warm. Fearful that the winter nights in such an old place would be uncomfortably cold I’d packed the […]

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Japan and an ongoing affection

For a long time I had the same reaction as many folks when asked to name a favourite country from my travels: “How can I pick a favourite? It’s impossible; they’re all different and each has its own merits.” When we came back from a month in Japan in 2011, I changed my tune and […]

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Collection of Japanese signs

We’re just back from a couple of very enjoyable weeks in Japan and I’ll post several stories from our trip on here in the coming weeks. For now I thought I’d quickly share some of the funny Japanese signs and strange English translations we encountered on our way around the country. I should stress that […]

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Brunei and the art of throwing fish

  Earlier this month I spent four days in Brunei to research a nature-focussed article I’d been commissioned to write. Despite (or because of) my very short exposure to Brunei, its social structures and its people I left the country with many unanswered questions. I entered Brunei with media accreditation and as a result I […]

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Postcards from Aleppo in happier times

Many blog entries, particularly photo posts, are designed to inspire others to visit a particular place. This one is a definite exception. No tourist is likely to being visiting Aleppo anytime soon. As I heard the depressing news from Syria I looked back at my photos of our trip there in 2009. Our happy memories […]

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12 things you wouldn’t expect to find in Japan

Five-storied red pagodas, carefully manicured gardens, geisha girls and futuristic skylines: just a few of the most popular images of Japan. During our month travelling around the country we saw all of the above. Yet Japan is a country we hear relatively little about and in the course of our travels we stumbled across plenty […]

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Miyajima – Japan’s Holy Island

Before we came to Japan I received suggestions from several people about the places we shouldn’t miss. The advice to visit Miyajima was unanimous. Reading a little further into this I discovered that Miyajima is also listed as one Japan’s three most scenic spots. I felt compelled to find out for myself what the fuss […]

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Nagasaki and the Atomic Bomb Museum

Most of us would never have heard of Nagasaki had it not been for a few rogue clouds. On the morning of August 9th 1945 an American B-29 bomber carrying a nuclear bomb with the code name “Fat Man” was circling over the city of Kokura, its intended target. A late covering of cloud had […]

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