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Dining Alone – Day 3

Dining Alone – Day 3

So I vowed to be frank and honest about what I was finding on my tour to Japan and this report is a little more difficult to write than others.   The most distressing part about this trip has been the noticeable lack of tourists everywhere we go.   In Tokyo we noticed it in the train station, when we only saw one other couple that appeared to be foreigners. Actually, they looked Japanese, but were clearly of Japanese descent – the shorts, crocs and the fact that the man was videoing the Shinkansen pulling out gave them away as not native Japanese! On the train to...
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Falling Backwards into Love – Day 2

Falling Backwards into Love – Day ...

I fell back in love with Japan yesterday – on the 20 minute ride from Nagoya to Gifu, sitting backwards… Perhaps it’s the same way that you fall in love again with a spouse or a child when you almost lose them or they are going through great challenges.  Their vulnerabilities seem more tender—their idiosyncrasies seem more dear. On my last couple of trips to Japan I’d been feeling a little bit of the “I’ve seen this before” or “ok, it’s another temple”.   The delightful tile roof houses and the ubiquitous rice fields had lost their charm.  What was quintessentially...
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Return to Japan – Day 1

Return to Japan – Day 1

Note to self:  Do NOT plan to do 30 things upon arrival into Tokyo when you are leaving early the next morning… sometimes there are air delays.   After sitting in LAX for an unexpected 3 hours (making the 11 hr flight into a 14 hr sit in the seat flight…), we arrived into Tokyo Narita a little after 6P.   Customs was extraordinarily quick – probably because there were so few “other passports” deplaning – only about 15% of the 2/3 full flight were actually going to Japan – the rest were transiting to other parts of Asia.  For this time of year, that’s a little unusual and...
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Off to Japan Again

I’m going to be going to Japan next week.  It’s a trip that was planned a while ago and we decided to still go after getting all the information from our friends and contacts in the places we are visiting.  It will also give me a good chance to see exactly what is going on in areas that tourists frequent – to find out if reports of power outages, food shortages, despondent natives and all the other things that rumor mills are circulating have any truth in them.  I will be traveling as the average traveler to areas unaffected by the...
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Off the Map

Off the Map

We usually use those small local tourist maps when getting around in new towns and cities in Japan, and they’re usually handy.  But on a trip to Koya-san we ran into an unusual problem… the city is small and the map seemed pretty good, but it turns out that with one wrong turn or misread of a path, you are quickly off the map.  And because of the scale, we didn’t realize it for quite some time.   But getting off the map can yield some great results – we found ourselves at a wonderful temple that had no visitors and was a sea of calm on a very busy...
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Moms Are Everywhere

Moms Are Everywhere

The gentle women of the ryokan were fussing around, putting each plate just-so, wiping up a tiny little crumb from the table and making sure that each course was presented perfectly.  Our information indicated that we were not to worry if we didn’t eat everything, as many of the dishes were unfamiliar, and that gaijin were not expected to finish every bite.  But apparently, the authors were unfamiliar with one particular attendant in Karashiki… It started with simple instructions, all communicated in sign language and three words of English.  Put this sauce on...