Author Archives: Mike Yamashita

Wugiao: Hi-flying Hometown of Chinese Acrobatics

Wugiao: Hi-flying Hometown of Chinese Acrobatics

After executing six handsprings in a row, the cherubic six-year-old beams with satisfaction, while one of his fellow acrobats winces as he tries to contort his body into a metal tube.  It’s all in a long day’s work for these Chinese children in Wugiao, in Hebei Province, who are studying at the elite International Acrobatics Art Training Center.  Their parents have paid as much as 8000 RMB ($1280) per month for the privilege of having their children learn an ancient art that has thrived here for over two thousand years and that may prove to be their ticket to success.…

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Fighting Fire With Fire

Fighting Fire With Fire

The Fourth of July is a day when members of fire companies all over the country, myself included, dust off their dress blues and shine up the trucks, in preparation for local parades and all the other Independence Day festivities.  It’s usually a day of great camaraderie and celebrations, but this year, we’ll be marching with soberness and sadness, as we think about the 19 firefighters who lost their lives fighting the wildfires in Arizona.  Whenever a fire-related disaster occurs, it feels personal to anyone who’s ever entered a burning building or raced to push back a wall of fire…

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Where There’s Smoke…1997 All Over Again

Where There’s Smoke…1997 All Over Again

As Colorado fights some of the worst wildfires in that state’s history, fires are also raging in Indonesia again and the polluted haze caused by them is the worst since I photographed the story, Indonesia’s Plague of Fire… for National Geographic in 1997.  The fires we covered then, caused by the annual (illegal) burn-off of fields, forest and plantations designed to clear large tracts of land for new planting, are counted among the world’s greatest environmental disasters. They spread as far as Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore.
Unfortunately, despite laws enacted since then to prevent agricultural burn-off, this year’s fires are even worse, bringing down a shroud

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Happy Losar! Tibetan New Year

Happy Losar! Tibetan New Year

Happy 2140, the year of the snake! Though Losar, like Chinese New Year, is generally an occasion for festivities, things for Tibetans are a little different this year. For the fifth year in a row, Lobsang Sangay, the exiled prime minister of Tibet, has asked Tibetans to tone down celebrations for the new year, in memory of those who have self-immolated in recent years (up to 99) in protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
“No one feels like dancing and singing anymore,” says Kunga Tashi, the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Americas. In lieu of…

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A New Year’s Workout

A New Year’s Workout

The new year brings resolutions, pacts with oneself to accomplish goals, quit bad habits, begin new ones, eat less, exercise more.  As I was taking stock on this New Year’s, I couldn’t help remembering a man I met in Tibet, who was making good on a resolution of his own.
One of the constants of travel on the road to Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region is the procession of pilgrims along the route.  It was on this road, on the way to Labrang Monastery in Gansu Province, that I first encountered a pilgrim performing the Tibetan Buddhist act of…

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Yak Butter Blog

Yak Butter Blog

In this season of festive hospitality, I can’t help think about the many homes I’ve visited on assignment around the world.  Some of the most hospitable people in the world are the Tibetans, who never hesitate to invite visitors to partake of at least three cups of po cha, or butter tea.  The incredibly friendly Tibetans rarely let anyone take leave from their homes, be they houses or tents, without drinking at least three cups of butter tea, never letting a visitor’s cup go empty. Much more pungent than cow’s milk or butter, and closely resembling goat milk or cheese,…

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