On friendship, the drugstore, and another weekend trip

I consider myself to be somewhat of a self-reliant introvert, a dangerous classification that manifests itself in a “just let me figure it out by myself” mentality. Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in a foreign country; whether traveling or just taking care of business, it’s always preferable to work things out on my own. Ask for directions? No way, just give me a map! Ask someone else to take our picture? Nope, I’d rather devise an acrobatic/engineering feat of epic proportion to steady the camera and propel myself into the picture a split-second before the self-timer releases. I’ve got it, thanks.

This past week, though, I was reminded of just how great it is to rely on the help and expertise of others. This may not sound like rocket science to you, but believe me… it’s a real revelation to me.
Continue reading


A mountain tale

This is Mount Fuji:

Mount Fuji (from Wikimedia, public domain images)

According to sources on the internet, this is what the summit of Mount Fuji is like:

Mount Fuji torii (from Wikimedia, public domain images)

I will have to take their word for it.

Continue reading

The fish market

Not long after moving here, I stumbled upon a gem tucked in some back alleys and warehouses near Nagoya Station. I’ve been around Seattle long enough to know what it means when you see men running around in rubber boots and carrying Styrofoam boxes full of ice: it must be a fish market. After a few days of walking past and trying to catch a glimpse inside, I finally worked up the courage to venture into the fray. Hanging around Pike Place Market in Seattle doesn’t prepare you for the utter chaos that is a high-volume wholesale fish market in Japan. Restaurant buyers are placing huge orders, men are carving tuna with 3-foot-long “knives”, and orders are being rushed to and from trucks on speeding carts.

Visits to this morning market have become a real treat for me over the past six months. I always make a point of taking visitors there, since it is such an “authentic” experience. I’ve grown from being too nervous to check it out to becoming a regular customer… I even have “my guy” that always gives me a discount on a small package of tuna from that day’s fish. I love it.

Today I visited the market with my camera in hand, hoping to capture some of the experience in order to share it with you. Warning: there are a lot of dead animals in the following blog post. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
Continue reading

Fire, birds, and boats (or, how to go fishing)

When I was little, my favorite book in the whole world was “The Story About Ping.” It was the best kind of children’s story: a tale full of mystery, suspense, loss, redemption, and of course a happy ending. Ping is a young duckling who gets separated from his flock on the Yangtze River and encounters all kinds of strangers on his big adventure. In one scene, he meets strange black diving birds that are catching small fish for the handler on the boat. This was such an unusual idea that I became intrigued by these exotic fishing birds.

Fast-forward twenty-some years and here I am in central Japan where, much to my delight, cormorant fishing has been practiced on local rivers for over 1300 years. Seeing this spectacle (and fulfilling a childhood fantasy) immediately made my to-do list.
Continue reading