Japan

Bye For Now, Wonderful Asia

On the path of the Temple Walk near Tokushima, Japan

Today is my last day of almost 4 months in Asia. I am feeling sentimental about it….so many special moments, beauty, pathos, fun, learning, unbearable heat and food I didn’t like. Here are a few photos that I haven’t posted previously .

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Okonomiyaki, Japan’s Slow Fast Food

Street food stand in Fukuoka

Most Americans probably think of Japanese food as sushi, ramen, and chicken teriyaki. But of course, in actual Japan, there is a lot more to it. The small restaurants and street food stands serve various kinds of brothy noodle soups and mysterious pickled vegetables, breaded pork chops and barbecued meat skewers. Sweet and savory stuffed buns and dumplings, and bento boxes full of a dozen things most Americans, including me, probably could not identify.

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Kanazawa and Awazu Kiyoshi

Chillin in Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden, considered among Japan’s most beautiful.

History matters and the Japanese City of Kanazawa has been lucky that way. The city’s good fortune began before it was a city when a farmer found flecks of gold in Kanazawa’s water as he was digging for potatoes. Things went uphill from there. The powerful Maeda family moved in during the 17th century and, for 300 years, invested in the arts, infrastructure, and education, creating a thriving, beautiful city. Also lucky — in the 20th century, Kanazawa was spared the devastation of WW II.

The result of all that good history is a wealthy, modern city with a focus on the arts, parks, historic neighborhoods and local foods.

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My 12 Henro Temples. Only 76 To Go.

Temple 4, Dainichi-ji, way up in the foggy hills

The Japanese island of Shikoku is well-traveled — but not by tourists. For more than 1200 years, thousands of pilgrims every year have walked the “Henro,” 800 miles to 88 of the island’s temples. Today, about 200,000 pilgrims visit the temples every year, sometimes walking, sometimes in cars or using public transportation. The Henro and many of the 88 temples are believed to have been founded by a monk named Kukai, who is a hero to the people of Shikoku.

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Embracing Your Inner Washlet

I have always wondered why women spend so much time in the stalls of public bathrooms. What are they doing in there that takes so long? I am a woman and I don’t understand it! No wonder we suffer through long lines in public places! But now, Japan has provided an easy explanation for why women spend so much time in bathrooms. Now, even men’s bathrooms can have long lines.

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Tokushima, A Case of Mistaken Identity

Some of the puppets at Tokushima’s puppet museum.

Sometimes, all the travel planning in the world leads to surprises. For example, when I planned our Japan itinerary, I thought Tokushima on the island of Shokoku was going to be a small town and our accommodation there would in a small wooded village. Wrong.

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The Funky Charm of Onomichi

Raffia woven sandals cover a temple wall representing the strong legs we will need for the journey of life.

If towns were family members, Japan’s Onomichi would probably be your eccentric aunt — the one who has cats, and an antique store that is only open on Thursdays, and sings along with Puccini arias, and drains her small bank balance to host elaborate dinner parties. Continue reading

Fukuoka: Land of Many Malls and Other Cool Stuff

This week in Japan — a new emperor, a new era, an earthquake, and Golden Week.  When I scheduled my visit to Fukuoka, Japan several months ago, I didn’t know it would be at such an auspicious time. Or that I would arrive on the weekend of the city’s Dontaku Festival. It was a great way to start my visit to Japan!

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