PICTURE PERFECT: Tokyo writer Ilene Prusher and a friend recently visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which she writes about today (page 7). Although it's considered by many a symbol of Japanese nationalism, Ilene found that many visiting the shrine were just ordinary people remembering a loved one - or celebrating a child's birthday by photographing her in front of the shrine in a kimono.
The point, she says, was driven home by an older woman who worked as a photographer outside the shrine. "At her little pushcart business, she showed me some of the beautiful photos she had taken. The one that caught our eye was a picture of the Imperial Palace moat, just across from the shrine. I wanted to buy the photo as a memento, but the photographer wouldn't let me - she insisted on giving it to me. It made me realize that there was much more to the shrine - and those who visit it or work at it - than just plain nationalism."
IN A NEW LIGHT: By going to Sighisoara (page 7), Lucian Kim retraced a trip he took more than 10 years ago. It was the winter after Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's fall, and people were really just scraping by to survive. "In my memory, the Sighisoara of those days appears only in black and white, like a scene from F.W. Murnau's classic vampire film 'Nosferatu,' " Lucian says. "For some reason, I only remember the castle being shrouded in either early dusk or perpetual fog. Returning this August, I hardly recognized the city in the bright summer light."
What seemed to attract the considerable number of foreign travelers Lucian spoke to, however, was Sighisoara's authenticity - not any connection to Dracula, real or imagined.
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