You're So Good at Chopsticks!

If you travel to China and Japan or any other country that uses chopsticks you’ll find the locals always compliment you on your chopstick use.

It’s like they think no one else in the world uses chop sticks to eat their ethnic cuisine.

They may also race over a fork, even if you haven’t yet picked up the chopstick, because your white skin shouts “I hate the sticks, gimme the metal.”

I’m not a big fan of chopsticks. I didn’t know how to use them effectively prior to my Asia trip. Nonetheless, I have come to appreciate their utility. Certain small nuts are well suited to the chopstick.

Still, all in all, it’s hard to beat the fork and knife combination when it comes to sheer versatility, grip, and predictability.

Day 11: Hiroshima, Japan

Spent an hour at the peace memorial and other than that chained to my hotel room writing my book.

Needless to say, to visit Hiroshima now is special given N Korea situation. The Peace Garden is OK, but the museum inside is moving (and disturbing). It was interesting to be snuggled in with all Japanese people watching a little film about when America dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Outside it all there’s a "Flame of Peace" that won’t be extinguished until every last nuclear weapon on earth is destroyed. Sadly, that day seems farther away than ever.

Exploring the Japanese Alps — Takayama — Pictures Galore!

After Kyoto we trained several hours north to a small mountain town called Takayama. Did you know Japan has hikeable alps? Yup, and not only that, but our couple days there provided some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen anywhere.

Openair Our first afternoon there we went to an open-air museum. It was several cottages / houses nestled into the mountain all preserved as they were 50-60 years ago. Not a single nail; all wood, bark, grass, and bamboo. Quite beautiful. Sprinkled throughout were craftsmen carving wood structures or weaving blankets. The best part was the helpful and thorough English signs and materials which really enrich any experience when traveling.Img_1851

My Mom caught wind of a Mexican restaurant down the street from our hotel. We had dinner there. What a nice change of pace from fish! The food was so-so, but kudos to the owner who spent two months in Mexico, loved it, and now tries to make ends meet with this restaurant. I asked him if Mexican food was popular in Japan and he said "Hell no!". Everyone else in the restaurant (four people) were American tourists.


The next day we took an hour long bus ride to the true Japanese alps. Stunning! We hiked for about five hours. The designated route worked out well. Very few Westerners; almost all Japanese people. Why aren’t the Japanese alps more known?

Mom and I approached the meaning of "lunch" a little differently for our hike. Her approach was to hoard some rolls and hard boiled eggs from the breakfast buffet. I advocated for the procurement of "substance," aka sandwiches and the like. In the end there were food outlets in the mountains and we bought some hot buns.

In the Alps we encountered one other American who seemed to always show up next to us out of nowhere. Kind of like that girl in San Sebastian, Spain. When we got off the bus the first time this American solo mid-30’s traveler magically appeared and asked us, "Wait is this the last stop?" We were as confused as he. For the bus ride back, Mom and I were waiting in line to board our bus, but there was confusion over which line was the right one and whether we had assigned seats. Suddenly the conductor called us over and everyone started speaking really fast Japanese to us. Then out of nowhere this American dude shows up — he was on the same bus back to the town — and asks nervously, "What the hell is going on here?" That’s when I started laughing — stick a fork in me — and Mom had to handle all further communications. Our final encounter was later that night in the town, he showed up next to us and took pictures of the parade. The Mom smartly noted that we only saw him because as some of the few white people in town, we stick out.


After our long hike we both returned exhausted and headed to dinner. Takayama is known for their sake. I tried a local beer, Mom tried the sake. For food I had only one criteria: no do-it-yourself meal set-up like the people at the other table. I hate do-it-yourself. I ordered something that had no indication of do-it-yourself and sure enough 10 minutes I was presented with a grill and raw meat. Fuck! I spent the rest of the evening bemoaning my choice. The town parade of floats late that night picked my spirits up a bit, but then I had to return to hotel room to work on my book.

Meandma If you like the outdoors and are in Japan, GO TO TAKAYAMA! It kicks butt and isn’t in the tourbooks as much as it should be.

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Bye Bye Kyoto!

We spent the past four nights in Kyoto. Great city. If you visit Japan, Kyoto must be on the list. It’s the only city sparred from WWII bombing and as such its temples and gardens shine. The main tourist attractions are the temples / shrines. We did our fair share. We checked out a big castle that had hundreds of Buddhist statues — very cool — and lovely park outdoors. We checked out some temples that were surrounded with endless lush forest. Kyoto also has its fair share of high rises and neon lights. Finally, Kyoto has local cuisine that is quite tasty. Here are some pictures!


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