How I Love Japan (Part Five)

I had read the book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, which helped me appreciate this site all the more. Still, my heart leaps at all things natural more than the man-made.

For example, this bamboo forest, along with the cedar forest in Nikko, takes my breath away.

Or, this shot of the Pacific Ocean as we drove south down the Izu Peninsula. (It’s obvious that the same ocean my friend Lesley sees in Oregon is the one I’m looking at in Japan, but that amazes me.)

I learned that there are two kinds of gardens. One is a strolling garden, usually with a water feature, through which one walks to enjoy the view. The other is a dry garden, in which one must use one’s imagination to interpret the rocks. Ryoan-ji Temple has such a garden which is famous.

This is only one end of it, as it is quite large. The garden has 15 rocks, none of which are able to be seen all at the same time. If you could see every one of the 15 rocks, you would have reached the stage of enlightenment. (I assume that is because you would have to be looking down on them from above.) I, myself, could count only 12 as I studied it from one side.

As we wandered through the Japanese gardens, my husband took many pictures as he hopes to duplicate some of their features in ours. This is a rain chain, a beautiful way to keep the rain falling from one’s roof instead of gutters.

I leave you with a smiling Buddha because he is so happy with his bird. He reminds me of my beloved friend, Jean, who is a bird whisperer.

How I Love Japan (Part Four)


Let’s talk about bullet trains first.

They are really fast. When I first took the picture above, I wasn’t even trying to capture a photo of a train. I was taking a picture of the track when all of a sudden one popped into view.

They aren’t that hard to navigate, and they are always on time. In fact, we joked that if you were standing in line at 2:31 for a 2:30 train, you’d probably missed it.

Here’s another thing you may not know. When the conductor, or whatever he is called in Japanese, comes through the train and reaches the end of the car, he turns and bows before entering the next car. And no one in the train is even watching! (Except me.) He bows, and turns, and goes on his way, while passengers read their papers, or eat their crustless sandwiches, or look out the window. They aren’t talking. They aren’t disrupting everyone around them with a phone conversation no one wants to hear. But, they are taking the conductor’s behavior for granted.

Another thing that seems to be taken for granted, (but maybe not) is the beauty. Everywhere I looked, there was something beautiful. It could be a tiny garden, or more often than not a floral arrangement. I leave you with a few of my favorites:

How I Love Japan (Part Three)

After we left Nikko, we went down the coast of the Izu Peninsula next to the Atlantic Ocean. I picked up a few pinecones to put in my pocket, a reminder that even halfway across the world, much remains the same.

We had the opportunity to stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel complete with tatami mat rooms, futons, and hot springs. One baths first, then submerges oneself into the naturally hot spring which is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I could only stay in about ten minutes, but it was so lovely to sit in the hot water surrounded by woods.

But, the second night was the most difficult one for me of all the trip. We were served another traditional Japanese dinner in eight courses, each dish more exquisite than the next. There were garnishes of chrysanthemum leaves vinaigrette, and other assorted plants and animals of which I could not be sure. I was told something was a scallop, but when I put it in my mouth, and with mounting nausea swallowed it, I discovered it was a raw Anglerfish liver.

I do not like my food uncooked. I am embarrassingly American at times.

There was a stop at Banjo Falls…

and the Black Ships museum, reminding us of Commodore Matthew Perry who brought his nine black ships to Shimoda to “request” that Japan leave her isolationist position and open the ports to the U. S. Fortunately, this is now seen as a good thing. What impressed me the most is that these documents were written in the 1850s. (Other museums had documents dating to the 1500’s. What Microsoft Word document is going to have that kind of lasting significance?)

Finally, we took the shinkansen (bullet train). I have never been on a ride as smooth or efficient as this. We absolutely glided to Kyoto in less than two hours. It wasn’t scary in the least.

How I Love Japan (Part Two)

20181016_000323We only saw the briefest glimpse of Tokyo, considering how big it is, before it was time to move on to Nikko. The first thing to delight me was the origami hanging in the train station. As I said on Instagram, what train station doesn’t need origami?!

20181015_2103342But, Nikko! Oh, my! I tired of the shrines (which we went to see) before I did the trees. Never have I been surrounded by such a majestic forest, not even in the Redwoods of California.


There was the Shinkyo Bridge:


and a shrine which made me cry, as it was for all the babies who had been lost to their mothers. The mothers knit little red hats, and put bibs on these stones, and the rows went on and on as far as my eye could see in any direction.


I loved Nikko, which is where we spent day 2.

How I Love Japan (Part One)

We left for Japan, my husband and I, on October 11. I looked at this plane, JAL, and I could hardly imagine the next 13 and a half hours in which we would be inside, flying to Tokyo. (Fortunately, I had Haruki Murakami’s latest book, Killing Commendatore, with me.)

When we arrived in Tokyo, we were taken 60 kilometers from Narita Airport to Tokyo, where we were staying at the Asakusa View Hotel. The above picture is the view outside of our room’s window, giving us the skyline of the east side of Tokyo. The needle-like structure is the Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest tower in the world.

We immediately went out to discover our surroundings. I had to snap a picture of a convenience store, especially after reading Convenience Store Woman last month. We were told that there are approximately 60,000 convenience stores in Japan; people need them to be close by with their small refrigerators at home.

I photographed drink machines, as I have constantly read of characters in modern Japanese literature buying a can of coffee from one. Indeed, there is a myriad of beverages from which to choose.

One of Japan’s most popular beers is Asahi, and this building is the headquarters. Can you see how the tall golden building was meant to represent a tall glass of beer with the foam on top? But, the golden tadpole puzzled me, until I learned it is the Flame of Passion (for beer) which was meant to stand upright. Sadly, it blocked the residents’ view of the apartment building behind it, and was consequently forced to lay on its side. Now it has become more famous than it would have been if it had kept its original position because it looks so…odd.

The top photo is the Senso-ji Temple, guarded by a thunder god to keep the evil spirits away. Which the vermillion color is also supposed to do.

Before leaving Tokyo, we visited the Hamarikyu gardens where we took a stroll through “the playgrounds of Japan’s old shoguns”. The contrast between the skyscrapers of today, and the teahouse of the Edo period, amazes me.

Tomorrow, I will share pictures of day 2.

Winner of The Kairos Novels by Madeleine L’Engle


Because I am not a large fan of computer generated results, I wrote down the names of each person who submitted a comment on the original give-away post from last week.

Each name was folded once and randomly put into a crystal dish.

The name which was pulled as the winner for the 2 volume set of Madeleine L’Engle’s Kairos Novels is: Nadia.

A big thank you to all who read the post and entered for a chance to win. A big congratulations to Nadia, of A Bookish Way of Life. May you enjoy these novels as I have in my life.

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll (“With each page, you improve your ability to discern the meaningful from the meaningless.”)

You can’t imagine the number of flags I’d scattered throughout this book. It seems that almost every page had something I wanted to think about, remember, and record in this post to show you the power of the Bullet Journal. (Just in case you are unfamiliar with it.)

Whether you’re an experienced Bullet Journalist or a newcomer, The Bullet Journal Method is for anyone struggling to find their place in a digital age. It will help you get organized by providing simple tools and techniques that can inject clarity, direction, and focus into your days. (p. 11)

Perhaps you have seen the brief, but extremely helpful, video that Ryder put forth on It was enough to get me started with the bullet journal system. But, I wanted an even more in-depth explanation, and this book gives me exactly that.

I have been a journalist for most of my life. My journals have been the place to record a written “scrapbook” of my life; they contain memories, catharsis, and a written record of how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned. I have always known the power of writing things down. But, I have never looked at journaling as a way to be more productive.

…to be more productive we need a way to stem the tide of digital distractions. Enter the Bullet Journal, an analog solution that provides the offline space needed to process, to think, and to focus. When you open your notebook you automatically unplug. It momentarily pauses the influx of information so your mind can catch up. (p. 17)

After Ryder gives compelling evidence for the need to keep a Bullet Journal, he carefully explains the ways to do so. He begins with Rapid Logging.

Rapid logging will help you efficiently capture your life as it happens so that you may begin to study it. (p. 59)

One begins with a Topic, so that you can define the purpose of what you’re recording, and so that you have a reference to go back to. (The only time not to use a Topic is when one is writing a Daily Log.) Under the Topic go the Bullets, which are a concise but clear way to capture:

  1. Things you need to do (Tasks, marked with a bullet dot)
  2. Your experiences (Events, marked with an open dot)
  3. Information you don’t want to forget (Notes, marked with a dash)

Interspersed with his explanations, Ryder has included photographs of sample bullet journal pages which help clarify exactly what he means and how to implement his system.

The book goes on to contain information about Collections (which consist of the Daily Log, Monthly Log, and Future Log, as well as any personal collections one might wish to add), the Index, Migration, and Threading. It contains ways to keep habit trackers, gratitude, goals, and reflections. There is a section with Frequently Asked Questions and content from the community of bullet journalers. It is a clear and concise explanation of a system which is helping people define their goals and find the time they thought they didn’t have.

The Bullet Journal Method will be published October 23, 2018. It is a book I wholeheartedly recommend for its ability to “track the past, order the present, and design the future.”

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (“Maybe I’m working because I want to be a useful tool.”)

Keiko Furukura wasn’t “born a convenience store woman,” as she carefully explains in the beginning. She was once a child.

But, she was a very different child from the others. When finding a dead bird on the playground around which everyone is crying, she wants to take it home for dinner. When two boys are fighting, and another child asks how it can be stopped, Keiko bashes one of the fighting boys over the head with a spade.

I see her as practical. Odd. And, I commiserate immediately. (There was a time in my childhood when the kids in our neighborhood were discussing how much they disliked John K.; when he knocked on the door of the playhouse we were in, I punched him in the stomach. Suddenly, everyone was made at me.)

Keiko is completely happy being a convenience store worker. She has found a mask, of sorts, that fits. She is scrupulous in her efforts, highly praised because of the efficiency and dedication she gives to her job. But, it isn’t until she invites a strange, and selfish, man, Shiraha, (who has been fired from the convenience store) home to live with her that she suddenly finds herself accepted by her fellow employees. They are suddenly eager to invite her out for a drink with them.

I’d never known before now, but apparently they all went out socializing together now and then.

Her sister, without even knowing this man, says how happy she is for Keiko to have found someone who understands her. The assumption is that living within accepted norms makes one accepted by society.

She (Keiko’s sister) is far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has a lot of problems, than she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine. For her, normality–however messy–is far more comprehensible.

I loved this book, for its quiet explanation of the ways our crazy society is prone to think, but best of all for the way that Keiko remains herself. Perfect as she always was, in her very own way.

Madeleine L’Engle: The Kairos Novels, Review and Give-away

This beautiful set comes in a slipcover …

containing the Wrinkle in Time Quartets and The Polly O’Keefe Quartets.

I have long collected Madeleine L’Engle’s books, and so I have a rather haphazard set, all in different editions. Above are two from the Wrinkle in Time Quartet…

and here are two of the Polly O’Keefe Quartet. But, how lovely it is to have a two-volume set, with each volume containing all four of each series.

Volume 1 contains A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters.

Volume 2 contains the Polly O’Keefe Quartet, which consists of The Arm of the Starfish, Dragons in the Waters, A House Like a Lotus, and An Acceptable Time.

The Kairos Novels are edited by Leonard S. Marcus and published by the Library of America.

Few works loom as large in the history of young adult literature as Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 Newbery Award-winning classic, A Wrinkle in Time. A truly revolutionary book blending realism and fantasy, science and religion, it was the first great crossover classic, appealing to children, teens, and adults, and setting the template for books such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Now, in time for L’Engle’s centenary on November 29, 2018, Library of America brings readers MADELEINE L’ENGLE: The Kairos Novels, a deluxe two-volume set gathering Wrinkle and all seven of its sequels for the first time; an eight book sequence L’Engle collectively called the “Kairos Novels,” named for the Greek word for cosmically critical moments of time.

Edited by Leonard S. Marcus, one of the world’s leading writers on children’s books and the people who create them, this authoritative edition presents A Wrinkle in Time in a newly corrected text based on research in L’Engle’s archives and includes an appendix with four never-before-seen deleted passages.

Two of Madeleine L’Engle’s books changed my life. One was A Wrinkle in Time, the other was The Love Letters. They both taught me things about love I had never really understood before. I treasure rereading these classic books, most beloved by me.

And, I have the opportunity to give a set away (U. S. only, please). If you are interested in being considered for the give-away, please leave a comment below. I will select a name a week from today (on October 9).

November is Margaret Atwood Reading Month

1538481634614220282014I most emphatically do not like anything Margaret Atwood has written from The Handmaid’s Tale on. Oryx and Crake and subsequent books have become far too sci-fi for my taste, with a strong flavor of feminism and futuristic doom to boot.

But. Surfacing, The Cat’s Eye, and The Robber Bride are among three of my favorite books ever. (Particularly The Robber Bride which I have read at least three times.)


So, when Naomi of Consumed by Ink announced that she and Marci are hosting a Margaret Atwood Reading Month, I jumped right in. They have many events scheduled, in which you can participate or not as you choose. The point is, I believe, to celebrate the great power of Atwood’s voice.