Yokokawa to Karuizawa-on Foot

Following the original Nakasendo, we have reached the end of the rail line at Yokokawa. Here we continue on foot. Our goal is the modern resort town of Karuizawa, about five hours away.

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Walking through 17th Century Japan

The ridge trail beginning at Sakamoto through the ancient forest is at least as old as 1604, and little changed since then.   With the dissolution of the Samurai class, it’s been a hundred and fifty years since anyone walked this route wearing a sword.   Continue reading “Yokokawa to Karuizawa-on Foot”

The Nakasendo 中山道

Much of what we understand today as Japanese excellence, trace its roots to the Samurai warrior class which dominated Japan for over 600 years. We will walk in the footsteps of fierce warriors from Sakamoto to Karuizawa, one of the more challenging passes along the Nakasendo.

Continue reading “The Nakasendo 中山道”

Tokyo: Kichijoji

I nod and smile at a uniformed policeman, he bows back an even deeper bow. I am humbled and pleased by this sign of respect. Respect seems to be a dominant characteristic of this Polite Japan, even in this most Europeanized of Japan’s cities. So far, the familiar Japan in the europeanized Tokyo is delightful. I drink in each treasure. Our own glimpse of unfamiliar Japan continues. We’ve planned a trip walking along the Nakasendo, the ancient route from Tokyo to Kyoto.

The first charm of Japan is intangible and volatile as a perfume   — Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, 1894

First Impressions of Tokyo

More than a hundred and twenty years ago, Patrick Lafcaido Hearn, whose musings about Japan seem fresh today, opined on the charms of Japan in his series of books “Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan”.   Although I spent time as a child in Kindergarten in Kobe, Japan, Japan is unfamiliar to me, and yes, quite charming.    Continue reading “Tokyo: Kichijoji”

Japan: First Impressions

Everything is Smaller in Japan. Except the Bathtub. That’s about 4″ taller.

Riding in a car in Japan

I’m in a taxi.  The road is wide enough for two cars, at times.  Its twisty, windy, full of curves, up a hill. Houses on both sides of the road.  No sidewalk to speak of. 

This is Japan… It is the opposite of Texas. Everything is small.  The roads are narrow, the cars are small.  Everything is Small.  Except for the Bus coming at us, around the hairpin curve.  It is Huge. Taking up the whole road.  Too big for us, seemingly, and its coming at us from the wrong side… The cabbie deftly moves us a bit to the left. The bus passes.  On the right.  Pucker factor high.

I am used to oncoming traffic coming from the left, and huge busses are coming at us from the wrong side!  The effect is disconcerting.  I can’t shake it today. 

Exceptionally Polite and Service Oriented Continue reading “Japan: First Impressions”

Shinkansen: Osaka to Tokyo

I am remarkably impressed with the efficiency, the orderly use, and the pleasant nature of the transportation facilities in Japan…. the train leans into curves. Even though we are going 200 mph there is no sensation of speed and no lateral acceleration. Only when looking out the window… At times it appears the houses are built on a plane that isn’t level… As if the houses were not constructed plumb.

From my hotel, I take a taxi ($10) to the Shin-Osaka station.  Waiting for a taxi, a pair of young women pass by on their own journey.  Curiously they are pushing luggage on wheels and carrying stuffed teddy bear backpacks.  College kids, I assume.  Many Japanese use these rolling luggage cases.   Continue reading “Shinkansen: Osaka to Tokyo”

Early, Early Morning: Hungry in Osaka

It’s 4:30 in the morning, and I am hungry. In the USA, just about the very last place I want to eat at is a 7-11 mini-mart. Ugh, just how long have those hot-dogs been on the grill, exactly?

I awake — hungry — at 4:30 a.m. in Osaka.  It’s 11:30 a.m. in California, so almost lunch time.  The only place open at this hour is the local konbini (コンビニ) mini-mart, less than a block from the hotel.   Continue reading “Early, Early Morning: Hungry in Osaka”