Tag Archives: travel

Nagori Yuki, Late Snow – by Melissa

Ume BlossomsOn the Boy Scout Trail, in the Redwood National Forest, 12 miles from coastal Crescent City, California, and 27  from the Oregon border, an informational sign at the 6 meter wide base of a fallen tree explains that the Redwoods are gregarious trees. Their shallow root system, relative to their massive hundred meter heights, requires them to live in groves.  Their long roots grow shallow but reach out to neighboring roots, wrapping and coiling, and eventually growing together in order to support the upright weight of a community of trees which average 600 years old. In May, when Emmett and I crossed the country to meet these trees, I imagined them holding hands underground, fully aware of their reliance on each other.

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Filed under Art, For the Love of Japan, Japan, Language, Laos

O-koto – by Melissa

I have been living in Japan and taking koto lessons for 6 months.  I have a students’ concert in one month and here I am, full of mistakes and cold reading the last part of “Sakura Saukra” in practice with my teacher, Mizutani-sensei.  She gets the patience award. Big time.  I take lessons weekly in her traditional home. She serves me tea and we bow with an “Onegaishimasu” before we begin the first song of the lesson. Continue reading


Filed under For the Love of Japan, Inspiration!, Japan, Music

Four – by Melissa

Or, Another Installment from The Pedestrian Diaries

On Friday morning the weather was cold and wet.  We readied to leave for work half an hour before departure, the two of us dealing out rain gear and  debating the need for boots.  I was going to meet Emmett at the train station after work and then off to Kyoto with us!  We were celebrating our fourth anniversary.  Four years of solid high fives, dancing in the kitchen, making instruments out of empty containers, packing and moving, making homes, making food, making friends, and participating in spontaneous a capella eruptions of Joanna Newsom’s “Bridges and Balloons.”  Leaving the house, Emmett said, “Our adventure begins tonight!”  I summoned Cary Grant, “Our adventure began four years ago.” Continue reading


Filed under Food, For the Love of Japan, Inspiration!, Japan

10 Mile Walk – by Melissa

In Kentucky we used to walk a mile to Kroger’s grocery store to buy Soy Delicious peanut butter chocolate swirl ice cream.  We would bring our own spoons and eat out of the pint on the way home. We didn’t keep soda in the house so that I could take thesis writing breaks and walk to the corner store.   Earlier on than that, a few friends and I walked to a creek 15 miles outside of town. We packed olives and bread and apples and forgot to apply sunscreen to the backs of our necks.  Our long hikes on the trails of Mammoth Cave National Park and through Daniel Boone Forest changed what we considered “walkable.”  Continue reading


Filed under Food, Japan, Language, Reviews

Mochi – by Melissa

A few years back, my roommates, some friends and I were sitting around the dinner table making lists.  The lists were of our top ten favorite smells, tastes, sounds, textures and the like.  I filled mine out carefully, each decision sifted from a wide variety of synaesthetic moments in my life. In my sixth month of living in Japan, I now feel so strongly about one of these items that I could forgo the other nine and fill the entire textures list with one word: mochi.

Mochi is rice pounded into a paste and then shaped into or wrapped around whatever its maker wishes.  It is the Plaster of  Paris of Japanese food and it is divine; it feels like baby cheeks. Along with the apparent magic of mochi, it factors beautifully in Japanese culture, becoming not only a triumphant symbol of Japanese cuisine but also the industriousness of rabbits.

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Filed under animals, Food, For the Love of Japan, Inspiration!, Reviews

Christmas Koto Jam Session – by Melissa

On Monday, I played Jingle Bells on the koto.  Mizutani-sensei tuned it on a traditional Western do-re-mi scale and sounded out the sheet music’s title in katakana.  “Jinguru Beru,” she said and beamed at me. I had been playing Sakura Sakura and other Japanese folk songs whose names in Kanji I could not read.  Jingle Bells seemed unsuited for the koto, but her eyes were excited, like we were in for big fun.  Even with the new tuning, I had to play in funky half notes. This was hard for me and I kept losing my place on the vertical sheet music.  I could tell I was disappointing her the same way I disappoint other Japanese people when I don’t know something about American pop culture.  Like when my supervisor was shocked to learn I haven’t seen Bad News Bears and that I don’t own any Police albums.

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Filed under Music

Takaoka to Nagoya: Preparing for Laos! – by Emmett

Well, our adventure to Laos begins 15 days from now on a Saturday. We will take a 3.5hr train ride–our first trip on the fabled Japanese Shinkansen “bullet train”–to Nagoya in neighboring Aichi Prefecture to catch our flight to Bangkok and from there, a flight to Luang Prabang, Laos.

The Nagoya airport is on an island made of trash.

It’s exam week in Japanese high schools so neither Melissa nor I have had much to do other than grading tests. I used today to gather information for our trip to Nagoya, probably too much info.  Here’s the email I sent to Mel and Ally (who is taking the same flight to Bangkok for his trip to Cambodia):

Nagoya Meitetsu station is the largest and 6th busiest station in Japan. There are plenty of hotels around to stay at around 5000yen for the evening. I don’t think its a hostel town.
More Nagoya Meitetsu Station maps: http://www.meitetsu.co.jp/english/major/stations/1176171_2163.html
Nagoya meitetsu Station to centair by rail, timetable: http://www.meitetsu.co.jp/english/airport-access/centrair/timetable/access_e01_02.html
Station Map:http://english.jrcentral.co.jp/info/station/nagoya.html Bus Schedule: http://www.nagoya-airport-bldg.co.jp/en/access/index.html
Centair Website: http://www.centrair.jp/en/

I’m excited to get out of the ken for at least an evening, not to mention a ride on a nice train for once. Every day I commute on an aging JR West workhorse of a train that has the atmosphere of a disused city bus. Taking a ride in a train with some comforts will be a nice change.

Winter is coming back with a vengance it seems. This morning was unsettlingly warm. I felt as if I was biking through the warm memory of spring in San Antonio on my way to the station this morning as I fought through sudden warm gusts of wind on my way to Takaoka Station. By the time the train reached Futatsuka (one stop down the line) rain was lashing the windows and students were jerking their heads out of sleep to gasp at abrupt thunder and flashing lightening. I picked up this morning’s paper and spotted the forecast for the week which reports a drop in temperature down to 0°C and snow. Eek! I can only hope that it ceases raining for the 10 minute window of my school-to-station commute.

That said, Winter is upon us at last. The real transformation will come, no doubt, when we are away in the tropical Laotian hinterlands and will be all the more amazing to our under-clothed selves as we arrive in Nagoya for a grueling 7 hour trip home by way of local train lines. A flight from Nagoya to Toyama, by the way, a mere distance of 350-some kilometers, runs to around $800 with an average flight time of 32 hours. This is perhaps the worst country for domestic air travel. I can only express astonishment and humor at such a figure. I believe I could hitchhike that distance in less time.


Filed under Laos