About Craig Mod

Author of Things Become Other Things, and Kissa by Kissa. Japan. Writer, photographer, walker.

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[RIDGELINE] Ben Pobjoy's Tips for Long Walks

2024-05-10 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! Hello! As I wrote last week, my new pop-up newsletter/walk — The Return to Pachinko Road — begins on May 14. Subscribe here if you feel so inclined (almost 3,000 people have already signed up — thank you!): And, as I also mentioned last week, Ben Pobjoy — walker maximus++ — sent over a bunch of tips for my upcoming Tōkaidō walk. Here is his letter below. (With a few inline notes from me.

[RODEN] New Pop-up Walk, Reading Digitally in 2024

2024-05-08 08:00:00

Roden Readers — Here we are! May! Good god! Let’s dig right in. First, I’m running a new pop-up newsletter connected with my upcoming Tōkaidō walk. The newsletter is called The Return to Pachinko Road and you can sign up here. It starts on May 14, ends on June 1st-ish. I’ll be walking some 600 kilometers from Kyoto to Tokyo and, as usual, publishing a daily essay with photographs. I haven’t done a walk + newsletter of this length in … a long time.

[RIDGELINE] Pachinko Road, One More Time

2024-05-03 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! I’m going back, baby. BACK TO PACHINKO ROAD. From May 14 to May 30, 2024, I’ll walk approximately 600 kilometers from Kyoto To Tokyo, inshallah, along the old Tōkaidō Road, which isn’t really “old” at all anymore, and in many places is, indeed, loaded down with ball-jangling pachinko parlors. I will be running a pop-up, of course. You can subscribe here: Subscribe to THE RETURN TO PACHINKO ROAD (If that form doesn’t work (ad blockers, etc.

[RIDGELINE] Smelting and Steel in Photographs

2024-04-21 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! Last week I had a new piece for the New York Times go live: “A Japanese Village Wants Tourists to Come for Heat, Soot and Steel”. I took tons of photographs (also, this marks the first time for me getting some film-shot photos into the Times, if you’re keeping track / not that this means anything or matters, though.) and, naturally, many didn’t get included. So here we go.

[RODEN] Smelting in the New York Times

2024-04-18 08:00:00

Roden Readers — It may not feel like it, and I may not be sticking to the schedule, but in theory this is a monthly newsletter. It is I, Craig Mod, writing from a near constant state of frazzle and delight that has been this year. The cherry blossoms have come and gone for most of central and southern Japan, and now those cherry trees are back to their most-of-the-time totally unremarkable, goofball greenness.

[RIDGELINE] Continuous Uninterrupted Solo Walks

2024-04-17 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! For the first time in literally a month, I had a morning to myself and a day with nothing on the schedule — no movement, no interviews, no meetings, no calls, no to-dos. I spent it with the internet off, no phone nearby, reading. This is the way. If you’ve ever wondered what “richness” feels like — for me (and I suspect many others out there in the world), one valence of “rich” is being offline, away from the din of connectivity, the dopaminergic pull of the web and apps and social media, engaging directly with one or two well-considered things.

[RIDGELINE] Kitchen Arts and Kissa by Kissa

2024-04-08 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! Hello from the village of Yasuhara on the western edge of Kōchi, a village filled with Kengo Kuma structures. I’m writing from the shoes-off Yasuhara Community Library, which is beautiful, as you can see above. Here’s my little workstation: 1 Working at the Yasuhara Community Library With the launch of TBOT in November, Kissa by Kissa received a bump of attention. Blackbird Spyplane put the two on their favorite book(s) of 2023 list.

[RIDGELINE] Yamaguchi Once More

2024-04-01 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! Hello, Craig Mod here with a dispatch on my trip to Yamaguchi city last week. The blossoms are about to bloom! The cherries! Everyone told me this. It was supposed to be today! they’d say, sad the trees weren’t cooperating. But I didn’t mind. I’m not too fussed about the cherry blossoms in general (I’ll enjoy them if I catch them, of course) but there’s something thrilling about the almost-bloom, the just-about-to-burstness of trees on the cusp of a mega-blossom.

[RIDGELINE] Back to the Peninsula

2024-03-12 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! Hello, it is still I, Craig Mod, still writer of this newsletter. I went walking last week. It had been fifteen months since I had visited the Kii Peninsula, and this was the first trip since publishing the fine art edition of Things Become Other Things (which takes place there). Two friends and I started to do a yearly walk together in 2021. A pandemic response — hey, let’s get out of our house and walk somewhere in the countryside, far from the virus!

[RODEN] The Beautiful Meat Grinder and Scarcity Brain

2024-02-27 08:00:00

Hello Roden Subscribers — Running a membership program feels like sticking your head in a meat grinder and hoping a rainbow comes out. It’s a slurry of vulnerability and hubris and insanity, and it’s also a bit — let’s be honest — embarrassing. Please, you say, support my work? In the humble tone of a supplicant. #grateful Oops — there goes your ego, along with your head, into the grinder.

[RIDGELINE] To the Next Five Years of Memberships

2024-02-20 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! Hello, it is I, Craig Mod, writer of this newsletter. And runner of one membership program called SPECIAL PROJECTS, of which many of you are members (thank you!), and which makes Ridgeline and many other things possible, and which is now — somewhat unbelievably — FIVE YEARS OLD. That is, five years ago I launched this thing. This membership program. Somewhat sheepishly (OK — pathologically sheepishly). And the work I’ve been able to do in these intervening years — all the walks, the pop-up newsletters, and not-pop-up newsletters, and books (Kissa!

[RIDGELINE] Walking 2023

2024-02-04 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! Did I walk in 2023? Oh, I walked. Maybe not as much as some other years, but walk I did and here is where and what I did when it comes to walking. I started the year off with a TOKIO TŌKYŌ TOKYO walk, part two, and walked in the winter through the streets of Tokyo, a city I know better than and have spent more time in than any other in the world.

[ESSAYS] Five Years of Memberships

2024-02-01 08:00:00

2023 was amazing, bewildering, inspiring, gnomic, exhausting, bacterial, and mostly, fun. I mean — by the end of the year I was but a swollen forearm fighting for my life (OK, maybe not quite that bad), but wow … WOW. 2023: Easily the most monumental and generative year of my life. I owe that fullness to SPECIAL PROJECTS, my membership program. Now, a somewhat unbelievable five years old. Here is everything I learned last year.

[RIDGELINE] Parents in Japan in Photographs

2024-01-21 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! My parents have visited Japan twice. Once in 2018, some 18 years after I first moved to Japan. And then again this past December. That first trip, despite the pleas of my mom to go to Kyoto (which she still to this day calls, endearingly, “Ki-yōti”), like any know-it-all insufferable son, I took them on a kind of best-of B-sides tour: Kamakura, Kanazawa, Kōya-san, Hiroshima. If I may say so myself, I think it was a fabulous itinerary.

[RIDGELINE] Yamaguchi City — My 'New York Times' Pick This Year

2024-01-10 08:00:00

Ridgeline subscribers! Happy new year!! I meant to send a 2023 Year in Walking post, but then my arm got infected, and the year came crashing down, and now I figured I should address this new New York Times ranking ASAP. So here we are. Walking review coming soon, but we’ll have to wait a little longer. A few months ago The New York Times asked me for my picks for places to visit in 2024.

[RODEN] Goodnight 2023, What a Year, I love Antibiotics

2023-12-31 08:00:00

Thriving Roden Subscribers — I love antibiotics. I love them so much. I am in awe of how long I went without articulating this love. Each and every day we should open our front doors and yell into the crisp morning air: Thank you, antibiotics! Thank you dicloxacillin and ampicillin and minocycline and sarecycline and cefepime and delafloxacin and clindamycin and clarithromycin and oritavancin and cilastatin! When folks complain about the state of things today, I like to flippantly bring up the fact that two hundred years ago, if you got the wrong scratch — THE WRONG SCRATCH — you’d die.

[RIDGELINE] The Walk and Talk: Everything We Know

2023-12-25 08:00:00

Happy holidays, walkers! Kevin Kelly and I began talking while walking together some twelve years ago, near his home in Pacifica. Eventually, we branched out, and for these past six years have been running more “formalized” walk-and-talks across five countries with some 40+ people. We’ve walked-and-talked in China, Spain, England, Japan, and Thailand. These experiences are some of the best weeks of our lives. We’d love for you to be running walk-and-talks as well!

[RIDGELINE] Walking the Heck out of Thailand

2023-12-15 08:00:00

Ridgeliners! Thank you all for the rapturous response to the TBOT announcement. We’ve finally shipped almost all of the orders, caught up with the rush, and new orders are now being tackled next business day. You can (probably?) still sneak a TBOT in before Christmas. Grab a copy here. Onward to the latest issue about a walk in Thailand I recently completed: It was hot. I was sweating. We — were sweating.

[RODEN] Things Become Other Things Become Books

2023-11-26 08:00:00

Faithful Roden Subscribers — Things Become Other Things, fine art edition, launched a couple of days ago, and — I swear — I was about to send a letter here, to you kindly folks of Roden, but sales were happening so quickly, flying at my head like JK-Simmons chairs (except infused with love and kindness, and not chairs, but stuffed, plush, capybaras), and I had so much laundry to do (where does all this laundry come from, and how do I generate so much of it?

[RIDGELINE] Things Become Other Things — Available Now!

2023-11-22 08:00:00

Walkers, have I got a walking book for you: Things Become Other Things. It’s a book about walking thousands of kilometers of the Kii Peninsula. About walking those old Kumano Kodō paths — but not the ones you probably know. It’s about talking with a thousand fishermen and farmers and kissa owners, about communing with the mountain fauna, about hopscotching around leeches. It’s about floods and tsunamis and the capricious fecundity of nature.

[RODEN] Tokyo Walk, TBOT Cover, Aloneness

2023-11-05 08:00:00

Roden Readers — My third big Tokyo walk kicks off tomorrow today in a couple hours — TOKIO TŌKYŌ TOKYO³, a six day, 150km walk from edge to edge of Tōkyō-to. More info on it here, and you can sign up directly here. I’m Craig Mod, and it looks like I might be walking through some typhoons this coming week. But I also got my second skin cancer biopsy back the other day and — hooray hooray, just a dumb mole.


2023-10-24 08:00:00

Hello Ridgeliners! It’s been 10 months since my last big Tokyo walk, so once again, here we go — I’m gunna walk the heck out of Tokyo. And once again, I’m running a pop-up newsletter for the walk: TOKIO TŌKYŌ TOKYO³! You can sign up here: (Note: If you subscribed to my previous TTTs, you aren’t subscribed to this one; I like all my pop-up newsletters to be enthusiastically consented to!

[RODEN] New Tokyo Walk, Fried Bologna, Louis Glück, Werner Herzog, Influenza

2023-10-22 08:00:00

Roden Readers — By far the most interesting moment of my three days of non-stop 39℃ fever happened around hour twenty-six. My grandmother — deceased some twelve years — appeared to me in the doorway to my studio and said, Craigy, get dressed and go next door. It was two in the morning. I had been curled in a ball on my couch since nine a.m. the previous day. Influenza A or B had dropped hard.

[RIDGELINE] TBOT Press Check, Walking Matsumoto

2023-10-15 08:00:00

Hello Ridgeliners! The mid-sized city of Matsumoto has always felt sunkissed to me. Bright. Never gloomy, though I’m sure it gets gloomy enough on certain days (maybe even on most days). For me, its rivers have always sparkled and burbled and the evening light has always cast the black castle into a strange golden grey. The trains into and out of the city are impressive — skirting cliffs, riding high above expanding valleys and through the hulking alps ranges and generally providing the drivers with, one imagines, a surfeit of excitements riding up in that flat nose of the lead car, hanging over the tracks, watching the world flit past.

[RIDGELINE] The Last Summer Walk

2023-09-29 08:00:00

Hello Ridgeliners! I walked wonky alleys flanked by old wooden temples and stone walls that looked like they had been there for a few hundred years and, reader, I was sweating. Sweating so much I don’t know if you could call it sweat anymore — it was just a profusion of wetness all about my body. From above, it felt as if some terrible damp hand was pushing down on my head and shoulders, pushing me into the pavement, weeping onto me, wrapping me in a wool rug and depositing me in a sauna.

[RODEN] Decisions, In-Person Joy, Mt. Fuji, Also — Skin Cancer

2023-09-26 08:00:00

Roden Readers — Hello from the tail end of about twelve-million decisions. I’ve never made more decisions-per-hour than I have this past month. Good lord, if I haven’t yet ascended to some lambent seat of decision making sainthood, then I never will. I’m Craig Mod, and I’ve been working day and night to finalize the fine art edition of my forthcoming book, Things Become Other Things. First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who responded to the TBOT survey (still accepting responses!

[RIDGELINE] The Magical Japanese Art of Luggage Forwarding

2023-09-19 08:00:00

Hello Ridgeliners! I don’t aspire to write “Japan travel tip” notes here on Ridgeline, but this is such an easy trick, and one seemingly rarely known, that I can’t help it. As Japan has seen a resurgence of tourism, I’ve noticed more and more slightly-confused looking folks hauling their colossal suitcases around like traumatized barbarians. If you’re one of these suitcase luggers, there’s an easy, cheap way to relieve yourself of this burden: takkyu-bin (pronounced: tah-cue-bean, written sometimes oddly in English as “ta-Q-bin”).

[RIDGELINE] My Next Book: Things Become Other Things

2023-08-24 08:00:00

Hello Ridgeliners! I’m Craig Mod, and as you may have seen, I recently announced my next book: Things Become Other Things (TBOT). It’s a walking book, a book about a big walk around the Kii Peninsula, and picks up where Kissa by Kissa leaves off. (Reductively: It really is like an extremely leveled-up sequel.) That photo above is from an in-progress InDesign spread — I’m trying to figure out a) what to put on the map, and b) how to style it.

[RODEN] The Random House Book Deal

2023-08-21 08:00:00

Roden Readers — Big news: This is Roden, I’m Craig Mod, and I sold my next book to Random House. (!) Here is the industry-hallowed Publisher’s Marketplace announcement screenshot: It’s an honor and great privilege to be working with editor Molly Turpin on this book. (And to have Random House’s Andy Ward (Publisher) and Ben Greenberg (Editor-in-Chief) fully behind it as well; a potent publishing trio if there ever was one.

[RIDGELINE] Movie Credit Boredom in Japan

2023-08-12 08:00:00

Ridgeliners — When I started Ridgeline some many many years ago (4.5-ish), the plan was to cap each post at about 300 words. I was cribbing from Sam Anderson’s “New Sentences” column that had a similar rule. Obviously, I didn’t stick to that rule. But the reason for that cap was to make weekly-consistency non-negotiable. As in, you can always bang out 300 words, you fool. So in honor of all that, a shorter one.

[RODEN] Sandwiches, Oppenheimer, Shooting Film

2023-08-08 08:00:00

Rodenians — Hello from the other side of England-to-Tokyo jetlag, from a week of nights where I’ve slept only three hours and nights where I’ve slept a terrifying fifteen hours (sublime, but I also felt as egg-hatched as Richardson for the rest of the day). It’s been a busy few months. Good lord. What’s happening out there? Are you all well? This is the Roden newsletter, founded in ~2012, run off Craigstack.

[RIDGELINE] British Sandwiches and Walking 300km of Wainwright's Coast to Coast

2023-08-01 08:00:00

Ridgeliners — I ate a cheese sandwich. I ate a cheese sandwich with Branston Pickle. I got crisps. I put the crisps in the sandwich. I ate a cheddar cheese sandwich with Branston Pickle and salt and vinegar crisps on brown bread while looking out over Lakeland. I got more daring with my sandwich orders. To the consternation and confusion of various surly-yet-kind proprietresses, I ordered Madness: brown bread tuna no mayo, French mustard, cheddar cheese, Branston Pickle.

[RIDGELINE] Jazz Kissa Tour — Thank You!

2023-07-26 08:00:00

Ridgeliners — Hello! It’s been a while. I’m still Craig Mod and this is still Ridgeline. I finished the big jazz kissa tour and then immediately set off on a 13 day / 14 night 300km+ walk across northern England. A kind of “vacation” — ha ha! It was great. More on that later. But for posterity I wanted to post here the thank you note(s) I sent to subscribers of BASIE!

[RODEN] A Jazz Tour, Literary Deaths, Sylvia Plath

2023-06-15 08:00:00

Rodenians — I am swaddled in The Great Busyness. The great swirl and swoop of book production and editing and launching new projects and fielding late night phones calls with folks in New York and folks in Amsterdam and folks in London. I am feeling both very full and very used up! Because I have a penchant for running myself into the ground (we can rest when we’re dead, etc.), I’ve decided to launch — amid this Busy Moment — a new Pop-up Newsletter: BASIE!

[RIDGELINE] A Northern Japan Jazz Kissa Tour

2023-06-13 08:00:00

Ridgeliners — I’m launching a new pop-up newsletter called BASIE!BOP!JAMAICA! It begins this Friday, June 16. For sixteen days I’ll be exploring a few of the greatest (and maybe not so greatest?!) jazz kissas1 of Tōhoku and Hokkaido. Like my previous pop-ups, each day I’ll send out a missive recounting the day’s experience — a waterfall of words all photograph’d up with possible supporting video. Sign up here (as with all pop-ups, this list and your email addresses are deleted as soon as it’s done):

[RIDGELINE] Walking Northern California

2023-06-06 08:00:00

Ridgeliners — I walked the dusty hills of Edgewood Park, up to Vista Point, looking back out over the flats of the south bay, looking out towards Atherton and Palo Alto and the bent-knee San Mateo-Hayward Bridge and Bair Island, thinking back to a life I once lived in these parts, now over a decade back. I walked the refined bits of Noe Valley (more like Noe Hill, amiright), with the manicured public green spaces and cafes run by Japanese folks in distinctly residential nooks.

[RIDGELINE] Things to Eat and Drink and Places to Stay Along the Kiso-Ji [Part 3]

2023-06-01 08:00:00

Ridgeliners — The Kiso-ji is pretty easy to get to from Tokyo. You just need to hop a Shiojiri-bound Azusa express from Shinjuku, and from there you’re at the start. But! If you’re going to walk the Kiso-ji, why not stay on that train for another stop, and head to Matsumoto? Consider spending at least a night there. Matsumoto is a fabulous mid-sized city, a little smaller and more provincial than Morioka, but an excellent place to spend at least a full day, if not two.

[RIDGELINE] Drumming is a Kind of Walking

2023-05-17 08:00:00

Ridgeliners — About six months ago I began drumming again. I had taken a fourteen year hiatus. I wrote up my return in Roden, and posted the essay as a standalone thing here: ”Drumming”. Six months later, and I’ve sat behind the kit almost every single day I’ve been home. Usually multiple times a day. It has become my thinking seat. The kit is electronic. I live in Japan and don’t have a soundproofed room in my studio, so the thought of playing an acoustic set, and barraging my neighbors with that banging, is enough to make my head retract fully into my chest.

[RODEN] Media

2023-05-09 08:00:00

Rodenianites — I watched 2001 for the first time. Yes, it turns out I had never sat through the whole thing. It was one of those movies like The Godfather, where I had hallucinated seeing it via a million media references (“Simpsons” gags, parodies), but had never actually put my eyeballs on it. Well, I saw it. And my big take away was: Damn, HAL is barely in the thing. I thought this was a movie about a homicidal AI?

[RIDGELINE] Death and Not Death Along the Kiso-ji [Part 2]

2023-04-18 08:00:00

Ridgeliners — Many have died since the last time I walked the Kiso-ji. I mean, this is obvious and folks are dying everywhere all the time, but I’m talking about people running places along the road and sometimes the places themselves. Until last month, I hadn’t been to the Kiso Valley since my 2019 Nakasendō walk, the first SPECIAL PROJECTS walk, the SMS walk. An important walk, really. Back then, I plowed through the valley en route to Kyoto.