I'm big in Japan (music by Tom Waits)

Dear friends and family,

Now you are probably convinced that we are insane, but we are in Japan. We were at Magnolia for a little over a week, trying to catch up with things which occurred while we were gone, trying to anticipate and get ready for being gone again. This Spring has been so busy, and the trip to NY and Santa Fe was so packed with activities that I did not have time to write anything - plus taking care of business on the road and putting in two offers on buildings in Oakland while we were on the road. We didn’t get either of them. We’re in competition with dot com billionaires and rich marijuana growers. However, I felt that it was important to let you all know what we’ve been doing (and to record it all while I can still remember it). So I was writing the NY and Santa Fe blogs on the planes from NY to Santa Fe, and then SF to Korea, and while up with jet lag. But now that I’m done I feel more fully here and can write about Japan while in Japan. 

We would never in our right minds schedule two trips so close together, but the scheduling was out of our control. This is what we were given, and while initially stressful, it’s working out great.

Flew Korean Airlines - we had points with sister airline American, so we were able to upgrade to Business. Almost have to do it on a flight this long when you get to be our age. We were very happy with Korean Air.

Lovely Korean Air stewardess replenishing Don’s burgundy.

Unfortunately, the plane pulled into Seoul, Korea late for our transfer to Osaka, so we had to run or hobble through the airport with our carry-ons on our swollen feet. 

Korea from the sky.

Japan from the sky.

We booked a nice hotel right at the airport (Hotel Nikko), which I highly recommend if you arrive in the evening and can swing it (booking it or a hotel with a similar setup that is part of the airport). When I say it was at the airport, I mean you just wheel your bag from the boarding gate down the lobby and into the hotel. No taxis, no vans, you are there in minutes. 

Security was higher than I’ve ever seen it at a Japanese airport. We think it had something to do with Obama being in the country. By the way, wasn’t his speech in Japan awesome? It is such a pleasure and a point of pride to have such a highly intelligent and eloquent President of the United States. Almost makes you proud to be an 'Merican.

When we went to get our luggage, mine was there, but before we could notice that Don’s hadn’t arrived, a trio of lovely young Korean Airline employees, except that they were Japanese, intercepted us and said Don’s bag didn’t make it on the plane as the connection was so short. They were so apologetic, as only the Japanese can be. We said not a problem, as we were staying at the airport. 

Next day, what a delight! A full-on, no holds barred Japanese breakfast. This alone almost made the trip.

Don’s photo of me taking a photo of the food. It looks a little like Vegas here, but believe me, the food was Nothing like an American buffet. It was absolutely delicious, fresh and exquisite. 

L to R, starting at the top row:
a braised chicken with a delicate teriyaki sauce
the most delicious pork bun I’ve ever had — I had to get another — and I usually don’t like them
some marinated veggies
middle row:
marinated gobo or burdock root
bottom row:
soft tofu with miso
eggplant and a slice of egg omelet

miso soup and cappucino, which doesn’t really go well with Japanese food, but I’m addicted

This is not all I ate, folks.

Don got his bag and we hopped a train for Kyoto. Kansai, which is Osaka’s International Airport, to Kyoto takes about an hour.

We’re here in the rainy season, it’s hot (high seventies, low eighties) and humid. Drizzling on and off. Later in the summer, it will probably get hotter. I didn’t realize this, but Kyoto is hotter than most of Japan as it’s in a basin. 

A coffee shop near our hotel in Kyoto. Their food was pretty unexciting, but their coffee was sublime. It’s cold-brewed and slow drip.

We’ve been to Kyoto several times and loved it, although our last trip it was so crowded that we couldn’t find a hotel or even a locker to put our baggage, and just gave up. 

Japanese schoolgirls posing with Don; he’s big in Japan. 

But where is Don's tie?

The local 7-11 has a Muji section with white shirts and ties, for those businessmen who had a rough night the night before, or for whatever reason. Also black socks, but no shoes, pants or jackets.

This trip we managed to reserve a hotel (actually several months ago), we were a little jet-lagged, but decided to go to somewhere we hadn’t been before and somewhere within walking distance. We went to Nanzen-ji, a beautiful temple in the eastern area of Kyoto, rather north of many of the famous temples.

The walk was beautiful and fascinating, as so many walks are in Kyoto, but the temperature was climbing and the weather quite humid. We ducked into a Starbucks for some cold drinks. This Starbucks had a view of the Sanjo Bridge and the Kamo River, which looked kind of low for such a wet country.

If you squint your eyes and are able to ignore the large Starbucks sign and coffee cup, you might imagine samurai, geisha, and palanquins crossing the Sanjo Bridge. 

I read that there was a famous sword fight amongst samurais who were followers of the Tokugawa Shogunate and those against it at the west side of this bridge, which is where the Starbucks is now located. Supposedly you can clearly see a sword mark in one of the bridge pillars. We didn’t look for it.

Almost fluorescent persimmon-colored torii peeking through the trees.


Don lounging against one of the huge pillars of Sanmon Gate at Nanzen-ji Temple

Nanzen-ji was a former emperor’s retirement home, which he converted to a Zen temple. This seemed to have been a common practice amongst emperors; which is probably a contrary statement, as what is common about emperors?

Aqueduct on the grounds of Nanzen-ji. Obviously built later than the temple (during the Meiji Period). It was constructed to carry water and goods between Kyoto and Lake Biwa. We didn’t take this photo; picked it up from the web.

Top of the aqueduct. We walked a path next to it, one of the cooler options which seemed available.

Also went to the nearby Eikando Temple. When we got there, we realized we had been there before. (Kyoto is full of temples) It’s got a beautiful garden and pond full of chirping frogs.

Stairs going up the mountain.

Rooftops of Eikando temple complex

And closing off, with the fascinating Japanese dessert machine. Every tourist is captivated for at least a minute or so.

Love from Japan,

Era and Don