It was Mayberry transformed into a Kurosawa movie.
Smiling Japanese grannies in smocks sold fruits and vegetables out of wooden boxes along a mountain path, while unmanned kiosks had merely change bowls and signs saying "100 yen for anything." Scarecrows in tidy rice fields wore doll costumes and name tags. Dogs and cats strolled from tile-roofed, wood-beamed homes and sidled up to strangers for a pat on the head.
This was my welcome to the farmlands of central Japan. The scene was a world away from the crowd-filled steel-and-concrete metropolises such as Tokyo or Osaka, and the reason why I joined a hiking trip through these quiet hills. I wanted to get a different view of the country, a more traditional perspective devoid of Hello Kitty and bullet trains.
And the key to it all was "SPAM."
This acronym is a quick way students remember the hierarchy of medieval Japanese society: samurai, peasant, artisan, merchant. On my tour, I followed their paths, literally, and discovered how the modern world has reinvented this SPAM sandwich of vocations.
The government of Japan has bestowed one of that nation's highest honors on a Japanese-American, a former U.S. Soldier and World War II veteran, for his work furthering relationships between the Japanese and Americans. (army.mil )
This Monday, members of the seminal metal band X Japan were in Odaiba rubbing shoulders with the likes of Brad Pitt, Lady Gaga and AKB48′s Yuko Oshima. The catch? They were all made out of wax. (Japan Times )