The Doves of Suizenji Jojuen

The Doves of Suizenji Jojuen

This morning I took a break from mountain climbing to visit Suizenji Jojuen, a 17th century garden established by the Hosokawa samurai clan, who ruled Kumamoto at that time. At the entrance to the garden, a gentleman sells food for the koi and birds that inhabit the park — the English translation of his sign reads “Bait for Dove,” which sealed the deal for me. I love birds (including the ones called “doves” in Japan but known as pigeons in the USA) and jump at the chance to feed them. That being said…I didn’t anticipate the unusual friendliness of these doves. They ran to me the moment they saw the bag of popcorn

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New Year Fireworks at Fuji Five Lakes

New Year Fireworks at Fuji Five Lakes

I tend to plan my travel fairly thoroughly, but always leave enough flexibility in my plans to enjoy the unexpected opportunities that happen frequently here in Japan. Last week, I traveled to the Fuji Five Lakes region, near Mt. Fuji, to continue my climbs for the 100 Summits project. While on the train to Kawaguchiko (Lake Kawaguchi), I saw a flyer advertising New Year fireworks–a common celebratory event here in Japan. To my surprise, the flyer said the final night of fireworks was that very night–and since my ryokan (traditional inn) was located near the lake, I hoped I would be able to

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A Visit to Solamachi Skytree Christmas Market

A Visit to Solamachi Skytree Christmas Market

Tokyo has a variety of holiday-themed options, from spectacular illuminations to Bavarian Christmas markets. One of my favorites takes place throughout the month of December in the fourth floor courtyard at Solamachi Skytree Center (Access: Hanzomon or Asakusa line to Oshiage Station, and exit to Skytree Center). I’m spending the next few weeks in Tokyo, hoping my ankle heals from the recent sprain-or-tendonitis that struck shortly before my 100-km trek along the Kumano Kodo (more on that in the weeks to come) – but it’s a good time to heal. You see, although most Japanese people practice Shintō, Buddhism, or both, Japan loves

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Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

We don’t technically celebrate American Thanksgiving in Japan (although the country observes “Labor Thanksgiving” this coming Friday, in recognition of all Japanese workers’ efforts and the products they produce). However, gratitude is never out of season, and although you can take the girl out of the United States, you’ll probably never completely take the U.S. holidays out of this particular girl. In recognition of which, I’m thinking about all the things I’m grateful for this week.

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Almost-Halfway 100 Summits Update!

Almost-Halfway 100 Summits Update!

I’ve been climbing my way through the autumn, and simultaneously working on the next Hiro Hattori mystery (tentatively titled Ghost of the Bamboo Grove), and it occurred to me that I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogging updates. Whoops . . . The summit count currently stands at 43 – a respectable almost-halfway total, though the coming snow will present some challenges moving forward.

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