Dake-san (English version!)

This is a long bit of prose about my hiking trip.

They say Mount Dake is in the shape of Buddha, reclining on his side.  His head lays toward the East and the sun rises behind his crown.  Some people who are particularly devout, start the day by facing the mountain and clapping twice toward this figure in prayer and gratitude.

When I set out to climb the mountain, I wasn't quite sure where I was going.  I downloaded a map of the area's topography and hiking trails, but I hadn't taken in to account that roads and homes had been built since then.  Seeing the mountain up close, it was just another hill among the others, and I wasn't sure if I was really going the right way.  Suddenly I saw a statue of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of mercy, standing tall at the intersection of two country roads.  As I made my way toward her, I found a sign pointing up the hill saying that the hiking trail was near.  After a long morning of walking and searching, I'd found it!

All the way up the hill, my eyes fell across the flowering gardens of quaint farm houses and butterflies scattered in front of me.  Soon, large branches of trees began to close in over my head, cutting the heat from the air and letting just the wind blow in.  Cool and refreshed, I was in good spirits when I arrived at the hiking trail.  I don't know if this joyful energy was because of the beautiful countryside, or if it was just my own excitement at being able to navigate to an unknown place on my own two feet.

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朝ごはんが終わって、山まで歩こうと思いました。きれいな田んぼ、静かな川、個人の庭、歩きながら目のごちそうになりました。 山の近くに来たら、道を迷うことを心配しました。きれいな青空のしたに、私の背中が汗だらけになりました。やっと看板が出ました。



帽子がなかったら、そんなに長い冒険ができないと思うので、取りに行ってよかったです。 日差しが強くても、帽子の陰から花をみたり、写真を撮ったりしました。














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"Slow Bread"

Hello all.

(The subject is from the package of bread I bought.)

The warring states period of Japan lasted for 150 years.  When I was younger, in college, knowing only my small groups of people, this was but a fact in a book with no emotion behind it at all.  But now that I'm older and I've seen the ugly side of the world, it's unthinkable for me to imagine living at that time, in constant fear that your neighbor might go to war with you the next day.  Even in today's world of relative peace, there are black patches in society where one violent act has spread to cause deterioration and corruption, where instability in one area causes instability in another, where discrimination is fostered to be used for political gains.  At least, I think to myself, in my quiet neighborhood, I never have to worry about anyone killing me, even by accident or by "accident."

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Matsue City

While the rest of Japan probably spent Golden Week in quarantine at home, I headed off to Matsue city where I'm spending two months on a business trip helping out a school that has merged in with my company.

Matsue is squished between two giant bodies of water.  See here: 

Lake Shinji is freshwater but turns brackish as some of the sea water gets up the river from Nakanoumi.  This has resulted in a lot of different kinds of fish, eels, and shells that can be taken from the lake.  There are lots of little clams that people gather and put in their miso soup.  I think the geography is really interesting and I was super excited to go exploring.

On the map, my new apartment looked like a straight line from the station.  It didn't mention the two rounds of stairs and the fact that I'm living on top of a hill.  When I got there, I was surprised to find that my company has put me in a house!  I've got two floors, two bedrooms, a parking lot, a storage shed, and all appliances included!!  Being at the top of the hill, the view is kinda amazing.

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"This door will not open in conductor-less"

(Subject was written on the window of a train.)

There's a legend in Japan called, "Kaguya-hime," or Princess Kaguya.  Inside each segment of a bamboo stalk is a hollow formed by a divine spirit, so that a bamboo tree is simultaneously both a tree and a divine vessel.  Inside one such vessel was born a princess called Kagu-hime who's mother was the moon.

This was the last thing on my mind when I was ripping bamboo out of the side of the mountain a month ago, but recently some local people put on a play where Kaguya-hime isn't just a fairytale, but a multi-dimensional superhero sent from space to Earth to get everyone to stop polluting the earth and use bamboo instead of plastic.

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Happy New Year!

Dear all,

Thanks everyone for all your Christmas cards, birthday messages and emails, and everything.  I've been very lighthearted and not the least bit lonely during the holidays!  My card wall is now full of personal messages, even though they came late!!!


This is a story about my little hero, Haru-chan.

We gathered, as we always do, at the small, local shrine that rests unobtrusively near the top of a steep hill.  This tradition is called, "Hatsumode," the first visit to the shrine of the year.  Yossi and I have a ritual.  We pray at the shrine together, and then we walk once clockwise around it while holding hands.  Then we're served half a sip of sake from the shrine priestesses.  Every hour on the hour, a man sitting by the fire lights a cracker that soars up in to the sky and thunders across the valley, making me jump out of my skin.  Even if I know it's coming, it still makes me jump.

This all takes about 10 minutes.  After that, we jump in our cars, turn on the heaters, and go off for lunch.  Once in a while, we'll run in to someone that causes a bit of a chat for a while, but that didn't happen this year.

This year my 5-year-old niece, Haru-chan, had a camera with her.  I asked what we should take pictures of.  She took me off to the side near a stone stairway and we took pictures of the Shishi stone guardians of the gates.  I looked over my shoulder.  What is this stairway going down?

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"Enjoy your "And Tea" and what it will bring to you."

Merry Belated Christmas everyone!

(Subject is from a cafe's brochure)

Yesterday was the last day of work for most of us Japanese residents (with the exception of my husband who just works way too much...)  Now I can focus on things like.. Oh crap I haven't sent out all of my Christmas cards yet!  Better get on that...

Every year I take all the Christmas cards I get and hang them up on my wall in lieu of a Christmas tree.  But this year the only card I got before Christmas was a "thank you" card from the World Wildlife Fund for opting on a donation istead of a party favor from my friend's wedding.  But Christmas afternoon, a letter arrived from my aunt Janet.  Thanks so much!  Since my Christmas door was pretty sparse, I decorated it with streamers from a concert I went to.  (If there are any other Yasunori Mitsuda fans in my mailing list, please reach out!)

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"Ruralize. Ahead leading American Style."

(subject was on the back of someone's jacket)

Up north in the mountains, a river meanders down toward a small town built on its very edge.  From the hills, boiling spring water flows in to the river.  The town is there is to catch that interaction and make money from it.  There are various foot baths in the city and there's an outdoor full natural bath at the river's shore.  But if you don't want to be seen in your birthday suit, there are a range of hot springs where you can enjoy a pleasant bath, a traditional Japanese meal, and a wonderful night's stay.  Other activities include fishing or shopping in the small craft stores and galleries.  This place is called Yubara.

When I tell people I went to Yubara, they ask how the hot springs were.

What I say to my students is that they were great!  It's a bit of a white lie, though.  Actually, I didn't step one foot in a spring.  There were other things on my mind when I went there.  Namely, giant salamanders.

I'm not really sure if this all started when a student of mine was researching salamanders and needed to know English so she could go study in Borneo in hopes of discovering a new type of salamander.  I think she was the person who first told me about these Giant Salamanders.

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