Yokohama’s Minato Mirai

The nightscape of Minato Mirai

Like other major cities in the world, Yokohama is divided into areas, and in my humble opinion, the Mintao Mirai area is by far the best.

It’s a popular date spot thanks to it’s tiny Cosmo World theme park, tons of shopping options (apparently dating here can sometimes mean shopping) and a recently installed cable car. There was even a wedding chapel installed within the last couple of years to really drive home the point this place is meant to be romantic.

There’s a ton of options for people who aren’t out on dates, though, so don’t let my professions of this area being romantic stop you from exploring it.

Quick note about Yokohama: This is a port city that is known for importing from other countries via ships, so expect to find more stuff from abroad in this city than in other parts of Japan.

Cosmo World has a ferris wheel that’s really popular with couples.

One of my favorite areas is right around JR Sakuragicho Station, which offers a glorious view of the bay, the theme park area and the famous Landmark Tower.

Landmark Tower

I think coming inside just to see the architecture is worth a trip to this tower, and there’s also a viewing area at the very top of the tower (expect to pay a lot for this honor, though). There’s always some interesting shops, too.

The first few floors of this massive tower are a shopping center that includes a few upscale stores and, more importantly in my opinion, restaurants from America. My favorite is Bubby’s, which has pulled pork and coleslaw. When you live in a different country long enough, you start to miss food. I don’t recommend wasting time at these import restaurants if you’re just visiting Japan for a few days, but if you’ve been here for at least a few months, they can be a godsend.

Inside Landmark Tower

I love visiting some of the cafes on the upper floors of the shopping center, too, where you can often be seated at a window looking out at the bay. Very few things in life are better than sitting there, enjoying a nice drink and watching the world go by.

The view from the ferris wheel

Cosmo World

Kids, families and couples love this tiny amusement park. The roller coaster is fairly tame, though there’s a part where you pretend to go underwater, and that’s fun. The rest is an homage to a carnival, I think. It’s a nice way to waste time, I think.

You have to pay for every ride, though entering the park is free. I sometimes like to just wander around near the ferris wheel, then cross the bridge to get to the other side of the amusement park where there are more places to win prizes and just stroll around.

The ferris wheel, of course, is the most popular part of the park for couples. Nothing like a chance to have it be just the two of you in the middle of a bustling city.

I’m not a huge fan of this park, to be honest, because I don’t like tacky things, but I do like riding the ferris wheel every now and then just for the views.

There’s always something to do at the Red Brick Warehouses

The Red Brick Warehouses

These boast quite a long history that I won’t try to put here for fear of getting things wrong, but they’ve been converted into extremely trendy boutique stores. The facade remains the same, at least, but inside you’ll see quite a few unique stores, including a music box store and one that sold (much to my shock) a lone box of American cereal for an outrageous sum. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m always on the lookout for American food.

The Red Brick Wareshouses also have, you guessed it, incredible restaurants. Some of them are from America, including a Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza restaurant. The pizzas were, quite frankly, life changing. They were well worth waiting in a long line just to be seated. I also loved the “urban warehouse” style of the restaurant.

I love you, Butcher Republic

There are quite a few more shopping centers, not to mention a quite lovely art museum nearby, but these are the main areas I usually visit when I visit the Minato Mirai area. If you ever get the chance, I hope you check them out on your next visit, too!

Naena Waterfall

I went camping during Golden Week in Nagano Prefecture, and I nearly froze to death because I mistakenly chose a campsite up in the mountains. The campsite I picked, at least, inspired me to write a short story, so the nearly sleepless nights shivering in my sleeping bag were worth it for me.

I’m a sucker for waterfalls, which seem like they’re a dime a dozen in Japan. Since they do seem to be just about anywhere you can find a mountain, I’ve decided to be both extremely picky and lazy about what waterfalls I choose to visit.

First, they have to be a relatively short hike from the parking lot.

Second, they have to be spectacular.

Naena falls fit both of my criteria, and the parking lot area even boasted a nice restaurant and a little place to get some ice cream.

There was even a place where you could go fishing.

I know the entire place was highly commercialized to the point it was clearly a tourist trap, but I have to say the hike to the waterfall was pleasant.

You start off crossing a suspension bridge in front of the first set of waterfalls, which I believe many might mistake as the actual waterfall in question. While they’re pretty to look at, and they spray a nice mist across the bridge to help you cool off on a hot day, it was a relief to me to discover these are not the main attraction.

The first set of waterfalls. If you look to the left in the picture, you can see the tower of stairs.

You continue alone the suspension bridge until you come across a tower of stairs. After a few flights, you find yourself on a dirt path in the middle of some woods, and the path grows steadily higher until you come across yet another tower of stairs.

A walk in the woods

After clambering over some rocks and just generally enjoying the cooling effects of there being a river nearby and some shade from the trees, you come across another suspension bridge that gives you a lovely view of the sharp rocks below, the rapids, and in the distance, the waterfall you’ve been waiting for.

The waterfall, rocks and some rapids

Crossing the suspension bridge, you come across the pile of boulders and rocks you can see in the picture above on the right, which allows you an even closer look of the waterfall. I mainly was busy having a heart attack watching people stretch out on some boulders just in front of the rapids. Maybe I just missed them, but there weren’t any signs warning that these types of rapids could probably kill even the best of swimmers, and nothing was roped off.

I think maybe the area was simply a test of your intelligence to see if you could discern for yourself whether sitting on boulders dangling you out into rapids is a good idea or not. It’s also entirely possible that maybe I, who knows little about anything, was overreacting, and the rapids weren’t that dangerous at all. Maybe the water was so shallow you could just stand up in it rather than get swept away. I have no idea. All I know is I was practically biting through my lip to stop from yelling at people to stay away from the white water.

Overall, though, it was a really nice hike. It was long enough that it felt like you deserved to eat a lot at the restaurant near the parking lot, but not so long that the entire day is spent going to see a waterfall. I’m just glad I brought my camera and some good walking shoes.

What surprised me since I started living here

I’ve been living in Japan for about 14 years now, and there are still some things here that take some getting used to.


I come from the United States, where having a washer and dryer is as common as having a front door. In Japan, however, expect to find only a washer.

Everyone here hangs their clothing outside, so much so that you can spot a residential building by the balconies and clothing moving in the wind. People here follow the weather far more than I remember people did in the U.S. just so they can figure out when they can hang up clothing outside.

Japan has a rainy season, usually in June, however. That means hanging laundry inside, often off the backs of chairs and such. A few industries have answered this dilemma by creating detergent and fabric softener specfically for when you have to hang up laundry indoors to dry, and most new builds (houses/condos/apartments) offer a “drying option” in the shower room specifically for drying clothing inside.

Note: If you ever do rent or buy a place here and wonder why the shower rack in the shower room is cutting straight across the bathtub in a most un-shower-rack-like way, please know this is actually for hanging up clothing.

If you feel like you really want to pull out all the stops and have about 300,000 yen or more to spend on a washer/dryer combo, then you can almost feel like you’re living in America again.

Garbage disposal

A new build might have this feature, but it’s rare here. Instead, people buy little nets from the drugstore/grocery store that fit inside the kitchen sink’s drain, and they pull out all the stuff that ends up down the sink that way. Most 100-yen stores will sell a little tub you can set on your sink where you can dump out all the stuff, too. It’s annoying.

Putting out the trash

Japan has a crow problem (they are the size of cats). The crows are quite clever, of course, and they adore ripping apart trash bags left out on the side of the road. Therefore, most places in Japan basically demand that you put your trash out no later than an hour before pickup. For some people, this isn’t feasible (if trash pickup is at 9 a.m. and you have work an hour away, for example), but most of the time people try to abide by this idea.

Newer places, especially condos, adore offering a trash room where you can just leave your trash and recyclables 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For everyone else, the best way to combat the crows has been setting up massive garbage bins for everyone to dump their trash bags into. You will still find lots of places, though, where the only defense against the crows is flimsy plastic netting.

Shower rooms

This is something I love if it’s done right. Some smaller places will have the toilet and sink in with the shower, and then it’s a nightmare since everything in there usually gets at least damp, but if the place you’re in has enough space to seperate the sink, toilet and shower, then you have a wet room of paradise. I love being able to just close the door to the shower room and not worry about getting my toothbrush wet, for example, while I’m washing my hair. I’m not even sure if Japan sells shower curtains, because most places simply have a wet room idea going on where you need only close the door.

Yard space

It’s not much of a thing in the suburbs and, naturally, the city. If you live out in the middle of nowhere then you might get a fairly sizeable yard, but I’ve noticed a recent trend here seems to be to move away from having outdoor space. I guess most people think of gardening or tending to a lawn as annoying, and most opt for more indoor space and a sliver of land out front. Backyards are simply not a thing here.


This is something I’m sure most people know by now, but Japan does not allow shoes inside the home. So much so that I read a murder mystery in Japanese where the murder victim was found inside her apartment, in her tiny living room, with *gasp* her shoes on. I swear to you about three pages were dedicated to figuring out why on earth she would be in her living room in shoes. That’s how taboo it is here.

There’s even usually a space by the front door of where you live that is either lower than the rest of your home or at least sporting a different flooring. To many Japanese, this portion of the home by the front door is “outside.” This is where you are to leave your shoes, and you must never go into this special “outside” area unless you are wearing shoes. I’ve sometimes walked to get my keys or something I left by the front door while in my socks and heard audible gasps from friends like I’d just stepped out onto the streets barefoot.

The quest for American food

Be still, my beating heart

I know there’s the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and I think that beautifully applies when you’re traveling.

Living abroad, however, means I can throw that saying out the window, I think. It’s one thing to travel to France for a week, for example, only to seek out the nearest fast-food restaurant before heading home; it’s another to have lived in France for over a decade and need a hit of fast-food grease every now and then.

I’m that way living near Tokyo for over 14 years now, anyway. I find myself constantly looking at grocery store shelves for any hint of American food because every now and then, I need it.

Food is the heart of a culture, I think I read somewhere, and for me that means crazy cereal, candy from America and “real” frosting on cake – like buttercream.

A few years ago, I remember a local grocery store actually, to my complete shock, stocked Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They even offered samples in the hopes of getting more Japanese to buy it. It was a short-lived campaign – I guess not enough people hear enjoyed the fantastic combination of chocolate and peanut butter to keep it on the shelves. I was heartbroken to see it go, though, and now every time I stumble across an “international grocery store,” it’s one of the first things I look for.

I was at a shopping center the other day, and I found amid rows of plates and accessories for sale at a random store promising everything was 300 yen, rows upon rows of Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese.

I’ve had dreams about this sort of thing, where I’m able to pop into a grocery store in America long enough to buy food I dearly miss, then immediately come back to Japan. I wasted no time filling my basket with about six boxes.

Having been burned before by food from America that was on and off the shelves within months, I quickly asked the cashier if they were planning on stocking the macaroni and cheese for a while.

“Yes, we plan on reordering it should our stocks become low so it should be here a while,” she replied, bemused by the intense look in my eyes.

With my luck, the store will suddenly go out of business and I’ll never see my beloved macroni and cheese again, but for now, I have a new favorite store.

Wakanda Forever

Wakanda Forever trailer

I finally got around to watching Wakanda Forever on Disney Plus. I’d been meaning to for quite some time now – I’d actually planned to watch it in theaters but ran out of time.

Some spoilers ahead

I have to say, though, that I was kind of disappointed by the film. To me, it felt like I was watching a runner going from a nice jog to a wild sprint – a nice jog through the action scenes, then a wild sprint through story and dialogue. I thought back to Patton Oswalt’s interview about how too many times people making action movies will cut out parts of the story or condense it just so there’s more time for action scenes.

Giving Shuri’s character more room to breathe on screen would’ve really made this story a masterpiece. Instead, the film had so much plot to move along and so many required action sequences, that it felt like the heart of the story was pushed off to the side.

Instead of a movie, I really think this would’ve made for a fantastic series, like WandaVision. A series format would’ve given Shuri more time to develop as a character. Given how condensed the film felt and how they just shoved Shuri’s character development in between action scenes, it felt like the only reason I was fine with her wanting revenge so much was because it just seemed like the logical thing everyone in her position would want. Rather than that, I would’ve loved to have hung out with Shuri for four or five episodes so I could really better understand her thought process and how she was handling how she felt.

I couldn’t help but think of how much of a climactic end to an episode it would’ve been if we see her in the ancestral plane heading to the throne only to find Killmonger there instead of her mother.

I would’ve loved more time with Namor and his city, too, so I could better understand his way of thinking and feel that much more heartbreak at the idea iof Wakanda and Talokan being at war. It all just felt so rushed in the film.

I’m starting to think more and more that Marvel should consider creating more series and having fewer movies. The movie format doesn’t seem to be doing justice to the stories anymore.

Gardening updates

My nectarine tree is starting to bloom

I know I wrote last year about obtaining and attempting to grow Asian pear trees in my little terrace. Unfortunately, about a month after writing that, both trees got fire blight and swiftly died.

The whole experience has made me sad but undeterred, though I’ve decided I’m actually going to wait to buy any pear trees until I find dwarf ones for sale that won’t try to take over the terrace. So far, no luck.

I do, however, have a nice nectarine tree growing in its second year. I also have three blueberry bushes, about ten strawberry plants, three mikan trees, two lemon trees and two olive trees. I’m also trying to coax a grape vine to live, but so far it seems wholly unwilling to cooperate.

As I’ve probably written before, I adore fruit but live in a country that slaps exhorbitant prices on any of them. Thus, I’ve taken to trying to grow my own fruit, knowing full well this will probably end in disaster.

My mikan tree before I pruned it in the winter

In the world of gardening, I feel like winter is the time to take stock – repot, clean up your gardening stuff, prune, check the roots. In the spring, I’m enjoying watching my garden slowly wake up as the air warms. It’s made spring much more fun for me even as hay fever sets in.

To me, spring also feels like I took a test in winter with all the repotting and pruning, and spring is when the results came back of whether or not all my meddling killed the plant or not. So far, the results have been pretty good.

My mikan tree now


Most people who venture to Asakusa Station are there for the shrine.

Probably the main reason anyone goes to Asakusa Station is to see this shrine.

While it really is a beautiful shrine, it is absolutely soaked through with tourists on weekends, complete with tourist traps lining the streets leading up to the shrine.

Thus, I recommend to anyone visiting the area to venture just a bit off the beaten path until they come across streets lined with stores that sell anything and everything you need to open your own restaurant or bakery.

A wagashi Japanese sweets store near Kappabashi


It’s a haven for anyone who adores cooking or baking, with shop after shop lining the street offering everything from ladles as big as your head to uniforms for anyone hoping to run their own restaurant or bakery.

One baking store has aisles just of piping tips and cake pans ranging in any size you can think of. Another store is ingredients I can’t normally find in grocery stores here (though no butterscotch chips, alas).

It’s hard to tell, but the ladles at the top are as big as a massive bowl.

Even if you have zero interest in cooking or baking, the novelty of what they’re selling alone is, I think, worth the trip. Where else will you see Japanese restaurant signs for sale or a massive popcorn machine?

There are also a couple of stores selling the fake plastic food you can often find in display cases outside of restsaurants here so you know exactly what they offer. The plastic food models are extremely lifelike, meaning be prepared to pay a lot of money for them, but I think they make for a great souvenir from Japan.


I miss watching HGTV. There’s something incredibly soothing about watching other people take a house and rennovate it. For a while I even enjoyed watching shows about people fixing up old cars. The feeling was the same.

HGTV is one of the channels I miss the most since coming to Japan. I know I could always buy a VPN or satellite and get the channel back again, but the costs are fairly prohibitive to me. Instead, I try to make do with whatever little tidbits of shows HGTV’s official Youtube channel decides to upload.

Japan, for it’s part, has one home-rennovation show I used to watch all the time called “Before After.” It was the show that had it all for me – beautiful Japanese traditional architecture, rennovations and reveals with cozy music playing in the background. I really loved watching houses get rennovated, too, while being sandwiched right up against the neighbors’ houses. It is amazing what can be achieved here.

Unfortunately, this show is only sporadically aired, at best, and I don’t know any other shows like this in Japan. I wish they could make more.

Thus, I find myself going back to HGTV’s official channel, where I watch in disbelief at people who take one look at a massive kitchen and say “It’s so tiny.”


It comes with the territory of trying to become a professional author, but rejection still stings. I know fear of that pain is why many people I know have written stories that will never see the light of day.

For me, I have a couple of metaphors running around in my head when I submit stories to various publications and agencies, only to have them be rejected:

First, is the metaphor that my stories are like homeless pets. I feel like I’m their foster parent, and it’s my job to find their forever home. This metaphor helps to slightly lessen the sting because I can simply say to myself, “Well, then clearly that publication wasn’t meant to be this story’s forever home. I’ll keep looking.”

The second is dating. When I was younger, I felt the same sting of rejection from people I liked or even loved as I do now when I get that email starting with “Unfortunately…” A lot of publications may have realized this similarity, too, because I’ve noticed some have added words of comfort at the end of their rejection letters that amount to “It’s not you, it’s me.” Words like “Please note that this is a subjective industry” or “Please note that we reject up to 80% of what gets sent to us.”

It doesn’t help, to be honest. Much like, I think, it doesn’t help anyone during a breakup or any other kind of rejection to hear such words.

Every now and then I think “Maybe I’m just not meant to be an author,” and that could be the case, but I would love to learn that unhappy discovery on my deathbed, preferably at a ripe old age. Until then, I’m going to keep plodding along, nursing my rejection wounds and hoping I can find publications that will be my stories’ forever homes.

One podcast that has helped bolster my confidence comes from CBC, and it’s called “We Regret to Inform You”

The podcast focuses on some major Hollywood star, TV show, film or even brand that was repeatedly and horrendously rejected just before the breakthrough came. Hearing the show, I can only slightly commiserate with many of the rejections people like Ed Sheeran have endured, but it gives me hope that maybe if I keep going, something good will happen.

However, I also have to wonder how many countless others have gone through the same kinds of trials these major stars and major films survived, only to not make it out the other side victorious. How many great ideas, great actors, great stories have we lost along the way?

Being in an earthquake

Yet another devastating earthquake has struck the world, this time in a region that is already in chaos.

Before moving to Japan, I had no idea what it was like to be in an earthquake, and I think a lot of people in the world have no idea, so I thought I’d briefly share my own experiences to help those with no experience better picture the nightmare.

I think I’ve mentioned it before in previous entries, but try to picture yourself on a suspension bridge. Some playgrounds have them for kids to walk across and squeal with delight as the bridge shakes and rocks back and forth. So maybe picture yourself on one of those bridges right in the middle.

Now picture several adults suddenly grabbing the edges of that bridge and pushing that bridge back and forth like they’re trying to work through their aggression. They’re shaking it to the point you think “I want to get off this thing right now,” but it’s shaking so much you can’t even move anymore.

That’s one type of earthquake sensation I’ve experienced.

Another is standing on a platform at a train station only to have the ground rumble as a massive train suddenly thunders past. It’s like you can hear the earth grinding against itself as it moves. Right after the massive earthquake of 2011 in Japan, I moved to an apartment on the first floor right outside a busy road, and every time a bus rolled past, the floor of my apartment would rumble, and for the first year or so I swore another earthquake was starting up each time.

Another type I’ve experienced is one that felt like suddenly being thrown onto a boat that was at the mercy of some fairly high waves. So much so I thought maybe my eyes were deceiving me because I was looking at my apartment rather than the inside of a boat.

Now imagine being in a building that’s not meant for this type of shaking, and it’s woken you up in the middle of the night, in a place that apparently hasn’t experienced an earthquake like this in about 200 years. All the lights have gone off everywhere, too, just to make reality that much more distorted for you.

I’ve had friends say they want to experience an earthquake just once “for the fun of it”, and I can understand the thrill of the earth suddenly but lightly moving for a few seconds before settling again, but after the 2011 earthquake, now even the slightest movement has me on edge that the next big one is about to happen.

For the people living in Turkey and Syria right now having survived this nightmare so far, they might not know if the “big one” has hit yet or not. Every tremor is going to make a lot of them wonder if it’s an aftershock or the build up to another, stronger earthquake. It’s easy to look back later and sort the chaos out, but in the moment, you have no idea what’s happening, and you realize how much of your survival isn’t in your hands anymore.

Time Magazine has helpfully made a list of all the ways in which you can help the survivors. If you can, please donate.