Wanderlust Literary Travel Journal

I’m really happy to write that the Wanderlust Literary Travel Journal has published my photo, “Mikan” on their site.

As someone who’s struggling to keep two mikan (they’re like clementines or mandarin oranges) fruit alive on my little mikan tree, I’m growing more and more jealous of people who seem to put a massive mikan tree in front of their house here in Japan like it’s an afterthought.

I have three mikan trees I’m growing from seed at the moment, so I’m hoping maybe in ten years I can finally enjoy from fruit from them, but being impatient, I also bought a little stick of a tree from my local nursery. It had been growing about six mikan, but then three fell off in random acts of nature being cruel, and now I have two left I’m watching like a hawk.

Considering we have a tropical storm set to slam us tomorrow, I’m trying to find a place where I can protect my little tree from the elements.

The Olympics

I love the Olympics and Paralympics. I love the opening ceremonies, the closing ceremonies, and almost every sport available to watch. My favorite summer sports to watch are diving, archery, soccer, rugby and anything with a skateboard or bike.

When I learned the Olympics were coming here, I was beyond excited. It’s been my dream for a long time to see even one event in person. Finally, it was happening.

However, the pandemic put a massive cloud over any excitement I could’ve had. The Olympics are all about coming together from around the world, and the pandemic has made it imperative we do the opposite.

While I’ve heard vaccination rates are going fairly well in America, Japan is still far behind. Where I live, I finally got a little ticket in the mail that says I’m eligible to get a free vaccine, but when I logged on to the government website to book an appointment, I got a message saying, “Supplies to your area have depleted to the point where we can no longer accept appointments for a while.”

This all means that, to me, the Olympics are a disaster waiting to happen. I hope, dearly, that I am wrong. I hope the Olympics happen and don’t cause a massive wave in infections in Japan. But talking to my other friends here, no one seems hopeful we can avoid this. I’m left clutching my temporarily useless vaccination ticket and bracing myself. That is definitely not the sentiment the Olympics should instill.

The pandemic has ruined so many things. Above all, it has killed far too many and severely wounded too many. I hope these Olympics don’t add to either of those groups. Unfortunately, I think that is what will mark whether these Olympics and Paralympics were successful.



One place I’d really love to visit again is Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage site that has farmhouses dating back 250 years.

What I love most about it is that it’s an actual working village. People live there year-round, so you get to see little kids’ bikes left out beside a historic building. I love it.

The thatched roofs are also just spectacular.

I’m getting the sense from many of my Japanese friends that old, traditionally Japanese architecture are seen as ridiculously rundown and outdated. I think maybe that’s why cities like Tokyo and its surroundings are just knocking down old, traditional buildings and putting in the vogue architecture at the time of building.

To me, that’s a shame. Traditional Japanese architecture is spectacular, and Shirakawa-go really puts that on display.

I loved wandering around the village, following the little streams running throughout it and enjoying the massive sunflowers growing alongside the thatched-roof farmhouses. It was a place to go and quietly enjoy where you were, which made it peaceful.

My dream is to visit there in the fall or winter and take about a million photos.

Anime vs. reality

I think many fans of Japanese anime and manga will be disappointed that Japan isn’t much like what they see in their favorite stories.

Japan, in general, is a strikingly conservative and reserved society. I read a book Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior by Kate Fox, and in the book she likens Japan to England.

Both are island nations with people who generally seem to enjoy their privacy and not making loud scenes in public unless alcohol is heavily involved. Even the act of people kissing in public here is frowned upon.

Exceptions abound, of course. I can point to Tokyo’s Harajuku as one such example of creativity overflowing. Osaka is also apparently famous for people being loud and speaking their minds.

However, in general, I’ve found that Japan is extremely conservative. For example, apart from women dying their hair brown or the older generations dying gray hairs, hair-dying is heavily frowned upon here. Along with the school uniforms and then business attire dress codes, I feel like Japan is quite in love with the idea of uniformity in their society.

Above all, no one seems to want to make waves within their community. Whether that means dressing more conservatively or being quieter than you would like in any given situation, I haven’t met many people who are willing to contradict this idea.

I think that’s why a lot of Japanese anime and manga can get so crazy. I think it’s how many Japanese can vent their creative frustrations because this stifling society doesn’t allow too much creative expression.

I think that’s why a lot of Japanese TV variety shows are also absurdly over-the-top. I think it’s a way for people to come home from a day of conforming and relieve stress by laughing at people clearly not conforming.


Tokyo Disneyland in 2013, around Tanabata

The gist of the story goes: A long time ago a woman was weaving by a river, the Milky Way, though she desperately wanted love. Her father had her meet a cow herder who lived on the other side of the river, and the two fell in love so much they forgot to weave clothes or tend to their cows. The father was angered by this and separated them using the river, but the woman pleaded until the father took pity. Once a year, he decided, he would make a bridge that would let them cross the river and see one another.

Japan celebrates that day when they can finally see each other again and calls it Tanabata.

The story, the holiday and the tradition all originally come from China, which celebrates the holiday on August 7th, I have been told. There are a couple of places in Japan that keep to that, too, and celebrate on August 7th.

Mostly, though, Japan decided July 7th would be Tanabata.

To celebrate, people put up some bamboo branches (real or fake) in their house. You can buy or make a long slip of colorful paper and write your wish on it. Then you punch a hole through the top, put some string through it and tie it to your bamboo tree. The idea is that whatever you write will come true.

A lot of shopping centers here and condominium complexes have gotten into the spirit of it by having fairly large bamboo trees plopped into the middle of their lobbies, and trays of paper slips on which you can write your wishes for free. It has all the feel of decorating a tree for Christmas, I think.

Some people also like making food that has star shapes in it to celebrate, but that’s as much as people really do for the occasion here, I think.

As I’m a huge fan of stars, I’m a huge fan of this holiday. I love any excuse to decorate with stars.