All posts filed under: TRAVEL FEATURES

The Best of Kyoto

For more than a thousand years, Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan. Tokyo may now be the center of business and government, but Kyoto remains as Japan’s spiritual and historic heart. Kyoto is a busy vibrant city with a population of over 1.4 million people. Like any other Japanese metropolis it has an eclectic mix of old and new, with ancient shrines dwarfed by skyscrapers and department stores. Kyoto, however, has managed to retain far more of its past than other, more modernized, Japanese cities. It was spared the ravages of aerial bombardment during World War II, and has survived-relatively unscathed-the tsunami of concrete and architectural monstrosities that followed the war. Hidden amongst the contemporary buildings are secret gardens, shrines and temples. Along the narrow alleyways of Gion, visitors can sip jasmine tea and wait for a fleeting look at Asia’s most iconic figure, the geisha. It would be impossible to see all that Kyoto has to offer in a single year, let alone a few days. There is not just one temple, but hundreds …

Snow Monkey Magic

Bathing naked in a hot spring is a common, if not daily, event for many Japanese. The warm mineral waters soothe aching muscles and relax tired minds. In a country renowned for its almost fanatical work ethic, traditional onsen pools provide a moment of much needed relief. The Japanese people, however, aren’t the only ones enjoying the thermal waters. When snow begins to fall, a new group of bathers comes down from the mountains, and soaks in the steam enshrouded pools. Lounging around, they scratch and watch the world go by, unconcerned by the presence of video cameras and photographers. They are the ultimate hot spring aficionados — Japanese snow monkeys. In a remote part of the Japanese Alps, near Shiga Koen Volcano, there is a quiet steep-sided valley called Jigokudani. A rough translation of the name would be Hell Valley, and every winter hell freezes over. A thick coating of snow and ice covers the valley sides, but plumes of steam continue to rise from the river below. There is also the faint, but …

Words of Warning and Wisdom – Interview with Dr. Andrew Weil

Dr. Andrew Weil is the director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. He’s been on the cover of Time magazine, written several best selling books and was recently described as one of the twenty most influential people in America. During his visit to Okinawa I talked to him briefly about his thoughts and views on healthy living and the longevity of Okinawans. What do you think are the major problems with the western diet? “Too much meat and animal products in general. Too few vegetables and too few fruits, the wrong kind of fats especially too much refined vegetable oil, margarine and artificially hardened fats, and too few of the Omega-3 fats from fish. Also too much refined carbohydrates, highly processed wheat flour and in general too much processed food, not enough fresh natural food, I’d say they were the main problems.” What can we learn from the Okinawan diet? “Many more vegetables and a greater variety of vegetables, more legumes especially soy and other special Okinawan foods, goya and …

The Okinawan Elixir

  The secrets of longevity are found not in Shangri-la, but in the homes and hearts of the people of Okinawa. Large numbers of people on Okinawa remain strong and active well into their eighties, nineties and even as centenarians. They have amazingly low occurrences of cancer, heart disease, and strokes. And, on Okinawa the proportion of life that is spent with chronic disease is also much less than the average American. This means that Okinawans, in addition to having a longer lifespan, have more healthy years free from medical problems during which they can live a full and active life. Everyday Keiko gets up at 5 a.m. and prepares breakfast for her family. She spends most of the morning in a small field near their home tending the vegetables and fruit trees. Later, she will prepare the evening meal, and then spend the remainder of the day chatting with her friends. The fact that Keiko is over ninety years old is impressive, but there are exceptionally old people all over the world. What is …