A song for the sakura

Kyoto in full sakura-bloom is a sight to make the most confirmed teetotaller drunk, and I’m partial to a cup of sake at the best of times. There, under the cover of the floral parasol of a cherry blossom, rested a heron, its grey-and-white silhouette easily mistaken for an ink wash painting.
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Notes from Tokyo

There are four different Japanese onomatopoeia to describe rainfall. When the rain falls ‘shito shito’ it is constant and enveloping. When it rains ‘zaa zaa’ it’s a sudden downpour, typhoon-strong. At the very outset of a shower, it rains ‘potsu-potsu’ which describes a few early drops and a darkening sky. At this stage it can also be ‘para para’, a bit random as though someone were spraying occasional moisture on plants out of a watering can.
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A plane ride away from a broader mind

Travel for pleasure or out of curiosity has historically been the preserve of elites in privileged nations. For much of the colonial and post-colonial periods, most Asians who traveled did not belong to this group of tourists. They were "immigrants," fleeing political persecution or economic hardship. Does this matter? Isn't leisure travel a mere luxury,…
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Indonesia’s Rain makers

Babey’s face is gnarled, yet implacable, like an aged banyan tree. He smokes compulsively through a wracking cough, putting down his cigarette only occasionally to wipe the sweat off his brow. When we met, the heat was stifling. The rains were late this year, a fact that weighed on paunchy, 65-year-old Babey’s mind even more…
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Contradictions of Islamic Schooling

The mosque’s brick-like silhouette was blurred in the downpour. The rain in East Java is heavy, which gives the land its sparkling, paddy-green hue and fills the villages with the scent of moist-earth. It was the hour of the maghrib prayer and all 4,000 of the students at Pondok Modern Darussalam Gontor were gathered inside…
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Chinese Wine Barons in France: The New Barons of Bordeaux

CAMPIAN, BORDEAUX: Deep in the Bordeaux countryside, Chateau du Grand Moueys is a sprawling 170-hectare expanse of vineyards and forest. At its center, a neo-gothic castle with turrets and crenellated walls, bring to mind a medieval world of knights and romance. Seated within the chateau’s genteelly dilapidated dining room, the estate’s new owner, 49-year-old Chinese…
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Punjabi farmhands in Italy: From Ludhiana to Latina

The low-lying hills that punctuate the countryside of Latina in central Italy reverberated with the screams of Harbhajan Singh’s chainsaw. The 41-year-old Sikh attacked the trees that carpeted the hillside like a demon, cutting great bloodless gashes into the trunks. Originally from a village near Kapurthala in Punjab, Harbhajan has spent over 10 years felling…
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Postcard from Macau

On either side, the ocean, inky blue in the gathering twilight rises up as the plane noses downwards straight into the hungry, open mouth of the water. When we touch down on solid earth its miraculous, as though Moses himself had returned to part the ocean. In fact we have landed on a narrow strip…
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Rags to Rolls Royces: Huaxi’s story

ROW AFTER row of two storey mansions with shingled roofs, stucco walls, and the occasional mock Tudor turret. A picture perfect slice of American suburbia, except only a few metres to the south of this idyll the smokestacks of steel works belch out black vaporous clouds while to its north the Great Wall of China…
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