CLIMB

CLIMB

I’m thrilled to announce that the memoir about my #100Summits journey, titled CLIMB, will release on January 2020 from Prometheus Books! From the jacket: After more than forty years of living “safe and scared,” California attorney and mystery author Susan Spann decided to break free by climbing one hundred of Japan’s most famous mountains, inspired by a classic list of hyakumeizan peaks. But when an unexpected cancer diagnosis forced her to confront her deepest fears, the mountains of Japan became the setting for an even more transformative journey from pain and fear to a new life fueled by hope, confidence, and strength.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

(And a brief hiatus…) It’s Mother’s Day here in Japan (we observe it here as well) and the ajisai (hydrangeas) are beginning to bloom. I love these spectacular flowers, with their large, puffy heads composed of smaller individual blossoms. They remind me of my mom, who always had some growing in the yard when I was small. I haven’t posted in a while, because I’ve been so busy working on manuscripts – for my next Hiro Hattori mystery and for the 100 Summits book (which will release early next year — look for an exciting update soon). My posting will

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Heaven, Hell, and Off the Beaten Path in Japan

Heaven, Hell, and Off the Beaten Path in Japan

I love traveling to new and unexpected places here in Japan, and sharing the experiences I encounter. My trip to Kyushu (Japan’s southernmost major island) last January was both exciting and unexpected, and I’m thrilled to be able to share my experiences in “heaven and hell” at Matcha–which is also, hands-down, the best English-language website for travel ideas and travel advice about Japan. Here’s the link to the first installment of my “Japan, Off the Beaten Path” series: “To Heaven and Hell in Beppu” (with plenty of photos of the adventure, too!)

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A New Cover – and a Paperback release – for CLAWS!

A New Cover – and a Paperback release – for CLAWS!

I’m proud and delighted to announce that my publisher, Seventh Street Books, is releasing paperback editions of the first three novels in the Hiro Hattori series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, and Flask of the Drunken Master. Claws re-releases next month, on April 23, but the paperback is already available for pre-order at your local independent bookstore (like Northern California’s FACE IN A BOOK) or at online retailers like Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com. Hiro and Father Mateo’s first adventure sends them deep into the floating world of the entertainers who would, in the century that followed,

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Cock-a-Doodle Lunch!

Cock-a-Doodle Lunch!

Last week, while visiting Mt. Haruna in Gunma Prefecture, the freezing temperatures (well below freezing, with the windchill factor) forced me to truncate my climbing plans and head back from the mountains earlier than planned. As I walked to the bus stop, feeling a little low (I hate canceling climbs) I paused in front of a restaurant that advertised the local special: “Cock-a-Doodle Menu.” I’d first heard of this specialty a couple of hours before, while reading a brochure about the Lake Haruna area. I knew it involved chicken, but that’s about all I knew. Even so, I like chicken,

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Riding the Haruna Ropeway

Japan has many mountains, and many ropeways (often called “gondolas” in the States). While some go all the way to the top of mountains, others–like the Haruna Ropeway in Gunma Prefecture–carry visitors only most of the way to the top. On the day I visited (February 23, 2019), windchill dropped the temperature well below freezing–so cold that my fingers went numb in the seconds it took to remove my gloves and snap even a single photo. I have seldom been so glad that, in Japan, a ropeway-assisted “climb” still counts as climbing the relevant mountain. (As one Japanese climber told

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The “Fuji” of Gunma Prefecture

The “Fuji” of Gunma Prefecture

Mt. Fuji’s iconic shape is so beloved in Japan that other stratovolcanoes that share the “classic cone” configuration are often nicknamed in homage to the famous peak. Mt. Haruna rises 1,390 meters high, towering over the shores of Lake Haruna (Harunako) in Gunma Prefecture, about 4 hours from Tokyo. (A little less than 3 hours by shinkansen and local train from Tokyo station, followed by a 90-minute bus ride from Takasaki Station to Harunako) At first glance, if you didn’t know what you were looking at, you might even mistake Harunafuji for the real thing. In addition to its Fuji

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By Ferry Across the Seto Inland Sea

By Ferry Across the Seto Inland Sea

After finishing last week’s climbs in Kyushu, I decided to travel home by a slower, and often (wrongfully) underrated means of transportation: an overnight ferry across the Inland Sea. The shinkansen (bullet train) is faster, and the overnight bus much cheaper, but overnight ferries have a surprising amount to offer . . . especially when you splurge on a private room. Like most Japanese ferries, the Meimon Taiyo ferry that sails between Kitakyushu and Osaka (the black line on the map below shows the route) offers several classes of accommodation. Tourist and economy classes basically consist of dormitory-style rooms with futon on the floor for sleeping and shared bathroom and shower

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