Happy Release Day, GHOST OF THE BAMBOO ROAD!

Today marks the release date for the seventh Hiro Hattory mystery – with my favorite cover to date. This time, Hiro and Father Mateo find themselves facing their strangest killer yet . . . When a vengeful spirit terrorizes a mountain village, Hiro and Father Mateo must save the villagers from the phantom’s wrath. January 1566: En route to Edo, Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo spend the night in a rural mountain village whose inhabitants live in terror of a legendary vengeful ghost. When the innkeeper’s wife is murdered and Father Mateo’s housekeeper, Ana, is blamed

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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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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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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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