OK, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here.  I plead…well…busy-ness.  Michelle and I have been shopping and making up the itinerary for her soon-move to Pennsylvania.  My neighbor whose husband works for Google has added me to the Google+ beta, and I’m seeing if that will be a good way to talk to my daughter when she’s away at college.  I’m trying to get a jump on my new Film & Lit class (I’m only on lecture 3, but I have the framework of the class all set up).

On the learning Japanese front, I’m still not the wunderkind that would make a language teacher beam.  Ito sensei has saved some conversational Japanese cassettes (and accompanying books) for me, and that’s a blessing, but I”m still distractable by the little things.  I was reading episode 23 of Hikaru No Go, and I came across henohenomoheji–doodling with Japanese characters.  Michelle remembers Kazumasa showing her simple nonomo face drawings when he stayed with us.  Here’s a simple site with some information:


And I’m been reading George Meegan’s book The Longest Walk in bits; he’s reached Central America at this point.  Aside from feeling that I’d really not enjoy the hardship that even a yoshikart could not make up for, I’m struck by how the walking diary is really a love story.  And putting this together with Kintaro Walks Japan (Kintaro is in love with Ayumi, George and Yoshiko Meegan’s daughter), the whole thing washes over me with joy and relationship.

It’s a very busy time, but I’ve not vanished.


Savoring Booth

I’m reading the last little bits of Alan Booth’s Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan.  The final section has him walking from Nagoya to Taira, and there are nuggets of delightful Japanese–words I’ll likely never get a chance to use, but I’m writing them down in a little notebook.  Just a couple of chapters from the end, he visits a preserved five-story gasshozukuri (“built like hands folded in prayer”) style house in the steep hills near Gokoyama (“Five Mountains”).  The roof is steeply pitched to shed the heavy winter snows, and the building is tall because there is little arable land; this housed several generations at once.

Sitting in the dark-beamed living area on the ground floor Booth notes an in-English pamphlet that says, “the house is so spacious and dimly lighted inside that it is not fit for our modern way of living.” It is only fit to remind us of what “the real Japan” was like once upon a time and to provide visitors with an opportunity to go “oooh” and “ahhh” and “natsukashii” (“that brings back memories”).

I”m not sure I will ever use words such as natsukashii or O-nyanko (“meow-meow girls), but shizuka na yado (“quiet inn”) seems practical.

I”m sad to be reaching the end of the book.  Booth died young; his body of work (at least what is readily available) is small.  But he’s packed human interest, humor, travalogue, insight, history into this small body.  And just maybe his sharing words popular at the Ava Odori Festival in Takoshima could become a mantra:

“The fool who watches the fool who dances is a big fool, so he might as well dance.”


A thousand paper cranes

I’ve finished Alan Booth’s The Roads to Sata, and although the book does not end with fireworks and rockets, I still feel mightily impressed by his 2000-mile trek down the length of Japan.  The whole thing was filled with humor, beauty, earthiness, unexpected twists, useful information, idiosyncrasy.  Much of the image many westerners have of Japan is reinforced; much of the book shows a different side.

I must note that when he entered the Hiroshima area, the tone changed, and the people he met in outlying villages brought a sense of the horror of the atomic bomb to the front.  He writes that he could barely write anything about that particular experience in the book, but he devotes half a dozen pages to his stay at a nearby ryokan where the mama-san tells that her husband died in the bombing (and what she saw when she went to the city two days afterward) and to his trip to the Peace Museum.

And how could writing about the bombing be avoided as he walked through Hiroshima?  When he recounted the (true) story of a thousand paper cranes, I cried.  It was a powerful moment.

The book?  If you are interested in walking/touring, if you are interested in Japan–read it!  I’m moving on to his other book.

The Roads to Sata

In addition to having widgets for Books and Sites at the bottom of my blog; I thought it might be nice to have a forum for talking a bit about some of them.

I’m currently reading Alan Booth’s The Roads to Sata, his account of walking the length of Japan (3,300 kilometers or 2,000 miles) in the 1980′s.  He’s not walking on The Old Tokaido, so I won’t get any map information or route clues from his book, but his experiences are delightful, surprising, and useful (I am getting a sense of which ryokan and minishuku to avoid, for example), and I think it would be worthwhile capturing some of my thoughts on his book here.  Heck, it may encourage someone else to walk the 2,000 miles; I’m not up for that trip myself.

What am I learning so far? Continue reading