I was feeling self-congratulatory on the train to Osaka.  All of our other plans had fallen through because of the typhoon but we had a train pass and hotels in Osaka were cheap so we made a last-minute decision to head there from Nara.  I’d never visited a place without a binder full of research […]

My standard travel practice involves avoiding anything that smacks of shiny; palaces, treasuries, and—most dreaded of all—collections of silver tableware.  Nevertheless, I wanted to see the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.  HOB and I had both read Yukio Mishima’s novel The Temple of the Golden Pavilion and were curious about this temple which had been rebuilt […]

Oh 2019, you were a silly end to a hilarious decade. As usual, I saw a lot of funny signs this year. Best love hotel name, ever.  Also, extra points for the subtlety of the logo. On second thought, this taco joint wins the award for subtlety of both name and logo. I made too […]

After we had to cancel our pilgrimage hike across the Kii Peninsula because of Typhoon Hagibis, HOB and I visited the tourist information center in Nara to try to find another hike.  I read that there was a primeval forest nearby and wanted to see if we could hike there.  The friendly man at the […]

  Janacek was a homely cat—with his mottled brown, gray, white and striped fur—not to mention clumsy, and rather lazy.  They say pets resemble their people, so who knows; perhaps that’s why we picked him from the shelter, this cat who had been dropped off, adopted, and returned to the shelter a second time, before […]

This symbol is all over Japan: Yes, that is the international symbol for “spray your butt.” And for the ladies: Spray your ladyparts while wearing a bike helmet. This button is either the dry cycle or a close up of ramen noodles. Toilet shy?  No problem—your Japanese toilet also provides a soundtrack to cover embarrassing […]

In 48 hours: one flight from Chicago to Tokyo, one bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, nine subway rides, one bus and one frantic taxi ride after a different bus didn’t show up as scheduled.  We arrived at the Moss Temple just in time for the admission slot which our hotel managed to reserve for […]

Show up at the last second and buy two tickets to something you don’t know the name of and receive a program you can’t read. Have 5 minutes to eat convenience store food while watching women in gorgeous kimono pour into the hall. Feel bad about wearing clothes you haven’t washed since you walked around […]

Hey, you’re in Japan—-want to get naked with 126.8 million new friends?  You got this! Do you have tattoos?  No onsen for you.  There are about 20 different signs saying “No tattoos in the onsen.”  Well, maybe if you just have that one lame butterfly tattoo from high school you could put and bandaid over […]

Arriving in Nara last night, we went in search of udon,  While slurping up our noodles in a random noodle joint, I looked up at at the TV and said to HOB “look at that weather forecast—looks like there’s a typhoon over Japan.” Oops!  There was a typhoon bearing down on us, projected to be […]