Hokkaido Ad in New Yorker

 

Sounkyo in Daisetsuzan National Park

Sounkyo in Daisetsuzan National Park (photo by Beth Reiber)

Hokkaido is Japan’s second-largest island and takes up about 22% of the country’s landmass, and yet it has less than 5% of its population. It’s considered Japan’s last frontier, having been settled by Japanese only after 1868 (though it did have an indigenous people called Ainu, who, like American Indians, were discriminated against and assimilated).

A photo of Lake Akan taken on one of my solo hikes

A photo of Lake Akan taken on one of my solo hikes

In other words, Hokkaido has what the rest of Japan doesn’t have: space. With its dairy farms, expansive fields planted with corn and potatoes, crystal-clear lakes and majestic mountain ranges preserved in national parks, Hokkaido is the place to get away from it all. After all, from what I’ve experienced, foreigners flock to Kyoto and other cultural hotspots in Honshu, while Japanese tend to stick to the tried and true, whether it’s a popular hiking trail or a famous scenic mountain top. For that reason, getting off the beaten trail is easy in Japan, and I’ve had some wonderful day hikes all over the country without ever meeting another soul, but nowhere is that easier than in Hokkaido.

This ad I wrote, appearing in the August 10/17 2015 edition of the New Yorker, extols some of Hokkaido’s virtues, though it doesn’t cover nearly enough. For that, you’ll just have to buy a guide book (like my Frommer’s Japan) or go to the Japan National Tourist Organization website.

Hokkaido Advertorial 1

 

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Oklahoma is Oil Country

It’s easy to rave against oil in today’s world–it pollutes, our dependency on it keeps us from developing more environmentally friendly resources, etc.–but the simple fact is that we largely depend on it. While I am hopeful that we can eventually be weaned off oil, it’s useful to remember how it was in the beginning, long before we knew what we know now. It is, after all, a part of our history.

The story of oil in Oklahoma is a good place to start, for it was oil that literally put the region on the map and helped gain OK its statehood. This article I wrote, The Oil Legacy: Oklahoma’s Oil History and Wealth,  for www.gonomad.com is about the northeastern region of the state, where two big names in oil–Frank Phillips and E.W. Marland–struck it rich and built unimaginably huge empires. But as the article shows, success stories don’t always end in happiness.

 

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Austria–Transportation and Lodging

Innsbruck

Innsbruck

My paternal grandmother was born in Schwaz, not far from Innsbruck, and I’ve always been proud of the fact that I am one-fourth Austrian. In fact, it was from my grandparents, both of whom spoke German, that I was inspired to learn languages and ultimately to travel. I first visited Schwaz as a college student while studying in Erlangen and met my father’s cousin, Otto. In subsequent years I returned often, bringing along my mother, boyfriend, sister Kristin, and my two sons. Luckily, my work updating Austria for Frommer’s Europe on $$ a Day and then Frommer’s Europe by Rail brought me often to the country of my grandmother; ironically, that work included the Swarovski Kristallwelten just outside Schwaz. When I was a little girl listening to my grandmother talk about Austria, neither of us could have imagined that I would grow up writing about a place so near where she was born.

 

Salzburg

Salzburg

Otto died some years back and I haven’t been in Schwaz for more than five years, but I will always return to Austria every chance I get, especially to Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck where I have friends.

I wrote two articles about Austria for the website Independent Traveler, one covering various transportation modes throughout the country and the other about different kinds of lodging, from rustic mountain huts to chalets and hostels. You can see them here:

Getting Around Austria

Austria Lodging: Castles, Mountain Huts, Spa Hotels and More

Yet although I’ve traveled to Austria more times than I can remember since my college days in the 1970s, there is so much I’d still like to explore. It’s that urge, that curiosity, that makes life worth living.

Me traveling by train

Me traveling by train

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Rocheport–1950s Times Capsule

Rocheport's one-block downtown

Rocheport’s one-block downtown

It was 10 years ago that I first visited Rocheport, a sleepy town on the Missouri River, and was astounded to find myself transported to the days of my childhood. As I walked Rocheport’s wide and mostly deserted streets lined with modest clapboard homes, images of carefree summer days floated up from the murky depths of my memory, calling forth summers filled with kickball, bike rides, novels and lemonade on the front porch. I was entirely smitten.

I recently returned for a third visit, for yet another weekend getaway. With relief IIMG_5188 noticed that Rocheport looked much the same as I remembered it, with a one-block commercial street offering a post office and a handful of businesses ranging from restaurants to antique shops. Scattered in the town of 240 residents are also galleries and about a half-dozen B&Bs and other lodgings. Since my last visit more homes were renovated and spruced up, with flower gardens gracing many front yards. Conspicuously absent from Rocheport, however, are gas stations, grocery stores, convenience stores, or any other businesses integral to most communities. For baby boomers, visiting Rocheport is like walking onto the set of Mayberry, the fictional town of The Andy Griffith Show. Only cars give clue that this is the 21st century.

Katy Trail

Katy Trail

Most visitors come to Rocheport because of the excellent Katy Trail, the longest developed rail-to-trail pathway in the country, which passes right beside the town as it winds its way 264 miles across Missouri. Most cyclists are on a day’s outing–you can rent bicycles in Rocheport and other places along the trail–but there are also those traversing the entire length. I’ve cycled only portions of the Katy Trail, but the limestone bluffs and wide Missouri River just outside Rocheport must account for one of its most impressive segments.

It’s obvious the Katy Trail has had a positive economic impact on Rocheport, but equally obvious is that Rocheport, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, must have strict zoning laws to keep it looking like the time capsule it seems. But what is it like to live here, with no place to shop for necessities? And how has the town changed over the years?

“Oh, no, I just work here,” answered an elderly clerk in an antique shop when I asked whether she had grown up in Rocheport. “I live in Columbia.”

Turns out, most people I met working or owning shops in Rocheport seem to live elsewhere, mostly Columbia, a university town about 15 miles away. And conversely, many Rocheport residents commute to Columbia to work. In other words, Rocheport has become a bedroom community, though retirees are also finding it an attractive place to settle down.

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View from Bourgeois Vineyards A-Frame

Curtis Bourgeois moved to the riverside bluffs outside Rocheport as a child in the early 1970s, when his parents bought a rustic A-frame without electricity or running water and started making wine. Through the years, Les Bourgeois Vineyards has expanded into Missouri’s third-largest winery, with a bistro overlooking the river and a tasting room just off I-70. The A-frame now offers snacks, wine and outdoor seating.

“When we moved here, this was way off the map,” Bourgeois said. “Rocheport had lots of trailers and was run down.”

Although he agrees Rocheport has changed for the better, he’s also disappointed that the town has become a bedroom community for Columbia. And because Rocheport is hemmed in on three sides–by the river, a creek and bluffs—it’s confined to a peninsula-like space.

“There’s no place to expand, so real estate has become more valuable,” Bourgeois said, adding that he’s disappointed Rocheport hasn’t developed more retail. Yet with high property prices and limited housing stock, young entrepreneurs find it difficult to live here.

To learn about Rocheport’s history, I dropped by the small Friends of Rocheport Historical Museum, manned that day by volunteer Sherry Moreau, who grew up in Rocheport and now lives in Columbia, though her parents still live here. First settled in the 1820s, Rocheport thrived as a river town. By 1835 it had eight stores, a steam mill, brickyards and other businesses, and by 1870, it had about 800 residents. But the coming of the railway was the beginning of the end for Rocheport.

“When the steamboats were here, Rocheport was thriving,” Moreau explained. “But the trains reduced the boats and cut jobs. I-70 was the killer.”

Not only did Interstate 70, completed in the 1960s, bypass the town, it also cut down onIMG_5206 the number of trains passing through. After floods damaged tracks in 1986, the route was abandoned. That turned out to be ultimately good news for Rocheport, with the Katy Trail opening in 1996. But the town’s subsequent gentrification has brought mixed feelings.

“Kids can get part-time jobs,” Moreau conceded, noting an improvement from when she attended elementary school in Rocheport, now the Schoolhouse B&B, and there wasn’t much for young people to do. “Older people are not so happy. It’s frightening to see changes.”

The former elementary school is now a bed-and-breakfast

The former elementary school is now a bed-and-breakfast

My own opinion is that the older we get, the more change we see–and we almost never think it’s for the better. Now when I think about Rocheport, I no longer see a rosy picture of a town that miraculously survived intact from my childhood, guided by locals who grew up here with a fierce pride for preservation of their hometown. But like most things, it’s complicated. Rocheport’s newcomers chose restoration over dilapidation, gentrification over low-income living. Although that choice is why I came here, it’s also why children growing up here might someday have to leave.

“In all the places I’ve been, I never felt it was like home,” said William J. Williams, a sculptor who moved to Rocheport in 1992. “This feels like home.”

An old house awaits renovation 10 years ago

On my first visit 10 years ago, this house awaited renovation

 

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Tokyo Woos Tourists, Business Entrepreneurs

View of Tokyo toward Tokyo Bay

View of Tokyo toward Tokyo Bay

Tokyo’s working climate has changed dramatically since Debbie Howard came to Japan in 1985 and subsequently set up her own market research company. Japan was on top of the world back then, and most Japanese seemed content with their own products and way of doing business. But the 1992 economic bubble burst made it painfully clear that Japan could no longer live without joining the global market. The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown was a wake-up call that Japan also needed international tourists.

Ginza

The Ginza

After launching an aggressive campaign to increase the number of international tourists to Japan, 2014 brought the largest number of foreign visitors ever, 13 million compared to 8.6 million in 2010. Japan’s goal is to have 20 million visitors by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic summer games.

Tokyo is also opening itself to foreign investors by creating economic incentives and providing assistance with complicated paperwork. All this and more is in my article Tokyo Focuses On A Successful Future appearing in the June issue of Global Traveler.

Young girl in New Otani Hotel's garden

Young girl in New Otani Hotel’s garden

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Buenos Aires–Europe with a Latin Beat

The Plaza de Mayo with its Casa Rosada government house.

The Plaza de Mayo with its Casa Rosada government house.

My first inkling that Buenos Aires would be a friendly sort of place came while I was still in Dallas, waiting for my connecting flight. A man sitting next to me struck up a conversation, and when he discovered it was my first trip to his hometown he started listing all the places I had to see. He then interrupted an Argentinian couple sitting across from us to ask them their recommendations. Soon they were all discussing the highlights of Buenos Aires. I felt welcome before even stepping foot in Argentina.

And so it was throughout my week’s stay. Taxi drivers were talkative and animated, especially upon discovering that my travel companion spoke fluent Spanish; it was the first place I’ve ever visited where taxi drivers shook our hands at the end of the ride.

Buenos Aires has a population of about 2.89 million, yet the people I met were considerate and happy to help wayward visitors find their way. Porteños (as residents of Buenos Aires are called) patiently and politely wait in queues, whether it’s for a taxi, the bus or the checkout line at the store. They apologize if they accidentally bump into you, even on crowded streets, which caught me by surprise after the bodily assault that happens in Hong Kong. Store clerks are friendly and unruffled even if you try on a million shirts and end up buying nothing, as though that were the most normal thing in the world. Restaurants let you sit for as long as you like. In the subway I saw younger people proffer their seats to the elderly.

Tango dancers entertain at an outdoor restaurant in La Boca

Tango dancers entertain at an outdoor restaurant in La Boca

Certainly the laid-back demeanor of its people is one reason Buenos Aires is easy to love, but I also like the stately central district full of portly buildings and wide avenues that remind of Madrid. Palermo is clearly the most hip neighborhood, with sidewalk cafes, clothing boutiques selling funky fashions, lively bars, plazas with weekend markets and cool restaurants offering waffles, Mexican fare and the ubiquitous steaks and pasta. Trees everywhere give the city a soft edge to its jumble of architecture, especially the shaggy sycamores that stretch past balconied apartments toward the sky. Where else might you hear an owl hooting every night, right in the middle of a metropolis?

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La Boca district with its colorful buildings and statues

In a week I think I saw pretty much everything you could possibly hope to see, including the contemporary Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Art, the botanical and Japanese gardens, the rather sterile Puerto Madero with its modern buildings and restored brick warehouses filled with restaurants, and La Boca district with its artisan stalls, colorfully painted storefronts and tango dancers.

Among my favorite places is the Recoleta Cemetery, one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. More than 4,000 vaults topped with imposing mausoleums and memorials crowd a labyrinth of tiny streets. Many presidents and other important Argentinians are buried

La Recoleta Cemetery

La Recoleta Cemetery

here, including Eva Peron, whose mausoleum is adorned with flowers left by adoring fans and plaques put up by various organizations. Many of the mausoleums have glass doors showing photos of the deceased, urns for the cremated and caskets. But others are decrepit and unkempt, lined with decaying coffins and woven throughout with cobwebs. I noticed that many mausoleums have stairways leading below ground, but it wasn’t until I found one with its glass doors and windows missing that I could peer into the crypt and discern rows of old wooden coffins stacked on shelves and descending into the dark bowels of the earth. Every vault has a story, but it was a sobering reminder that even the moneyed who could afford to be buried here are edging ever closer toward oblivion.

Of course I visited markets, always my favorite thing to do in any city, including the never-ending Sunday market of San Telmo with its crafts, clothing and antiques and the weekend markets in Palermo’s Plaza Cortazar and Plaza Viejo Palermo. But my favorite is the Feria de Mataderos, a festive affair held astoundingly every Sunday with a market selling folk crafts and local foods, gauchos with their horses, a musty but interesting gaucho museum and, best of all, a stage with folk singers and dancers; even the audience joined in traditional dances. It was very much a family affair and worth the hour’s bus ride to reach it.

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A gaucho at Feria de Mataderos

 

Audience participation at Feria de Maderos

Audience participation at Feria de Maderos

Dog walkers are popular for owners who can't or don't have time to walk their own dogs

Dog walkers are popular for owners who can’t or don’t have time to walk their own dogs

Among many observations from my week of walking the streets of Buenos Aires is that Porteños love their dogs, but they don’t like cleaning up after them. The tiled sidewalks are also minefields because of crumbling or missing pieces, inexplicable deep holes and buckling surfaces due to all those sycamores.

Argentinian bidets are sadistic, at least the ones I encountered, shooting straight up and with no discernible way to control temperature or pressure. The overriding women’s fashion is leggings, regardless of whether it’s a teenager or grandmother, and the very popular platform shoes make traversing the sidewalks even more of a hazard. It’s not a look I’m likely to adopt any time soon, but there are many other aspects of life in Buenos Aires that make me wish I were a porteña.

Weekend market at Plaza

Weekend market at Plaza Cortazar in Palermo

Of course I couldn't resist buying a necklace made by this artisan at the market at Plaza Cortazar

Of course I couldn’t resist buying a necklace made by this artisan at the market at Plaza Cortazar

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The Greeting wins Honorable Mention

I submitted a short store called The Greeting to Kansas Voices, a writing contest open to Kansans. It won honorable mention. This is the story:

THE GREETING

The wheat stood white under the glare of the sun, and the air pressed down over the Kansas fields like layers of hot steamed cotton. The whizzing and buzzing of the cicadas’ shrill scream gave voice to the oppressive heat, as grasshoppers flung themselves from one blade of grass to another.

But Lucy, who had lived all her life in Kansas, neither felt the heat, nor heard the cicadas, nor acknowledged the grasshoppers that whirred around her legs as she walked along the path to the barn door. She was buried in her thoughts, as she usually was when she did her daily chores. But this time, unlike most days, she was thinking about her husband.

She entered the dusty darkness of the barn, swung open the gate to the stall and patted the side of the old milking cow before setting herself on a stool with her pail. As her strong, brown hands pulled milk from the udders, Lucy was thinking that in thirty years of marriage, this was the first time she and Harry had ever been separated for more than a day.

It had finally come at last. Harry’s mother was dead. Just as well it’s finally over with, Lucy thought to herself, as the ping-ping of milk hitting tin rang hollow through the barn. Now they wouldn’t have to drive to Wichita once a month to see his ailing mother. They wouldn’t have to feel guilty for not going more often. They wouldn’t have to visit that sick-smelling rest home and watch his mother growing thinner and frailer and listen to the stories about her pain. It wasn’t that Lucy didn’t like her mother-in-law. It was just that she hated watching her die. She hated being in the city with all its traffic and she hated all those people. She had lived her whole life here on the farm, and every time she left it, she felt vaguely uneasy, as though she were moving out of her realm and into a world over which she had no control.

Lucy finished the milking, pushed open the barn door and emerged into the white light that for more than half a century had molded the deep creases around Lucy’s narrow eyes. A big yellow dog uncurled itself from a shadow underneath a tractor and came up to nudge Lucy’s hand. “Don’t worry, Jones.” Lucy patted the dog’s head. “Harry is coming back today. I imagine he’ll be here in an hour. You’ve missed him, haven’t you.”

Swinging open the screened backdoor, Lucy followed the dog into the house. She set down her pail and peered into a big pot resting above a small flame on the stove. The smell of roast swelled upwards. She was making roast stew, Harry’s favorite.

She gathered potatoes and carrots on to her cutting board and began slicing them. Lucy wondered what it was like for Harry to be in Wichita alone without her, taking care of his dead mother’s business. Suddenly she wondered, did Harry ever regret having left Wichita to come live with her on the farm? He had never said anything about it one way or the other. And after all these years, it had never occurred to her to ask.

It had all happened so long ago and so quickly. Her parents had died in an automobile accident when Lucy was in her late-twenties, leaving the modest farm and small herd of cattle to her. She knew she would have to find someone to help her run it. The farm was simply too much for her to handle alone. The neighbors, what few there were, speculated among themselves that Lucy would never find a husband, for she was not a pretty girl, her features were harsh and unfriendly and by nature she seemed sullen and unresponsive. But Lucy went to Wichita to stay with her aunt and to look for a husband. Harry, quiet, shy and unassuming, was the first man she met.

Lucy finished cutting up the potatoes and carrots and plopped them into the pot. She began to peel the skin away from a large onion.

Being alone must be affecting me strangely, Lucy mused to herself. It had put her into a contemplative mood. She was surprised to find herself wondering whether after all these years, Harry had grown to love her. Not that it mattered much now. Their life had never been passionate or romantic. She had married out of necessity, and she had never looked back. She was a hard-working, humorless person, this she knew, but neither of them had much need for words. After thirty years together, there wasn’t much left to say.

Their life was a routine, repeated day after day, year after year. Even the things they said to each other were part of the ritual. Like when Harry came in from the fields to eat, sweaty and dirty, sometimes with hired help, and Lucy always said, “Wash your hands. Dinner’s ready.” Stuck in her reflective mood, it occurred to her now how absurd it was to always tell her husband to wash his hands. Useless words, she decided, and resolved to quit saying them.

Lucy became aware that tears were running down her cheeks. From the onions. She dabbed at her eyes with her apron and then blindly threw the onions in with the rest of the stew.

Corn on the cob would be good. She filled a pot with water, lit another fire on the stove, pushed against the creaky backdoor and walked out into the vegetable patch. Perspiration beaded on her forehead and upper lip. She had forgotten to turn on the fan in the kitchen. Damn these insects. They were devouring her corn. She selected what looked like two good ears and returned to the kitchen. She remembered to turn on the fan.

Although it was only a vague feeling, Lucy realized she missed him. Would he be depressed? They hadn’t talked about it before he’d left. She didn’t even know how he felt about his mother’s death. It had seemed too difficult to talk about. And, when it came right down to it, unnecessary. Talking wouldn’t change anything.

He had been gone a whole week, and Lucy was looking forward to his coming home. But since they had never been separated, how should she greet him? She thought of the movies she had seen with wives running up to their husbands and flinging their arms around their husband’s necks. Lucy laughed out loud. Harry sure would be surprised if she did something like that. Maybe even pleased. But she would feel foolish doing that. After all these years.

Lucy shucked the corn, dug out the worms, put the corn into boiling water and turned down the heat. Then she went back outside to collect and fold the laundry from the line.

Harry would be home in time to enjoy the evening. It was their favorite time of the day, when all the work was done, when the sun hung low on the horizon and a warm glow threw everything into soft pastels. They usually sat on the front porch after dinner. It was part of their routine. The land in front of their house undulated softly and stretched for miles and the only thing that stood in the way was one lone tree. Lucy loved looking at that tree. As a child, she had always wondered how it had gotten there. The only other trees were along the hedgerow to the north.

“Maybe your grandmother planted it when they first settled here,” Harry had once said long ago. “So she’d have something to look at.” Lucy liked to believe him. It made the ties between her and that tree seem stronger. But as the years went on, that tree also made her sad if she let herself think about it. The bond with that tree, this farm, her parents and grandparents would die with her, since Harry and she hadn’t been able to have children. Harry would have been a great father, she certainly gave him that, the way he poured all his love into his long succession of dogs, into the farm animals, into work. For herself, she never could imagine some kid clinging to her leg, needing her comfort. But still. For the farm. She would have done it for the farm. It didn’t occur to her that a grown child might have wanted a life of its own.

Lucy carried the laundry basket into their bedroom and put the washed clothing and linens away. Then she went back into the kitchen to stir the stew.

Suddenly old Jones perked up his ears and rose slowly to his feet. His tail began to wag back and forth. No doubt about it. Far down the road, you could hear Harry’s truck. Lucy got out the plates, her good china from the time they were married, the china they always used on Sundays and on special occasions. Jones left the kitchen and went expectantly to the front door. You could hear Harry’s truck on the gravel road now. Lucy laid out the silverware and brought out the milk and glasses. The car door slammed. Jones began to whine. She took the potholders, lifted the heavy pot to the table and ladled stew into bowls. She got sliced white bread out of the breadbox. She heard the front door swing open and knew Harry was patting Jones, because she could hear the dog’s tail banging joyously against the wall.

She speared the corn onto a platter, placed it on the table and removed her apron. Everything was finished just in time, and Lucy was pleased. She walked into the hallway and looked at her husband. He lifted his head from where he bent over Jones. Their eyes met and held. “Wash your hands. Dinner’s ready,” Lucy said. Then she turned and walked back into the kitchen.

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Nights in Macau

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Neon in Macau

Back in the days when the Portuguese still ruled over Macau, nightlife consisted of a few cafes and hotel bars. You certainly weren’t going to get into any trouble, unless, of course, you gambled in one of its dozen or so casinos.

A long-time neighborhood hangout in Taipa Village

A long-time neighborhood hangout in Taipa Village

Today, Macau has more bars and clubs than you could ever hope to visit in three nights, which may not seem like much compared to nearby Hong Kong but which is constantly evolving. I recently had the opportunity to check out some of the newer places, which I describe in this article, Macau Rocks from Dusk ‘Til Dawn, published in the March 2015 issue of Global Traveler with my own photos (the photos shown here are also mine).

 

In addition to new bars inside and out casinos, there are also shows. The number and quality don’t rival those in Las Vegas, with, perhaps, one exception. The House of Dancing Water is the largest water-based show in the world, performed on a gigantic pool that has ascending and descending platforms and featuring 80 acrobats, gymnasts, divers, trapeze artists and other talented performers. Because many of them disappear into the water, everything has to work to technical perfection; 36 scuba divers await underwater to assist them. I’ve seen the show twice and still marvel that everything works without a hitch.

The House of Dancing Water

The House of Dancing Water

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New Shinkansen Bullet Train to Hokuriku Region

One of Kanazawa's historic districts

One of Kanazawa’s historic districts

Japan is gearing up for the debut of a new bullet train in the spring of 2015 that will blast through relatively undiscovered territory. Called the Hokuriku Shinkansen, it will provide quicker access from Tokyo to Nagano, Niigata, Toyama, Gifu, Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures. I’m especially excited that travel time from Tokyo to Kanazawa, a former castle town renowned for its Kenrokuen Garden, artisan shops and former samurai and geisha districts, will be reduced by half, from about 5 hours to 2 1/2. This Hokuriku Shinkansen Advertorial I wrote, which appeared in the New Yorker in the August 11 & 18 issue and more recently on the Japan National Tourist Organization website, describes just some of the highlights of the Hokuriku region.

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Kenrokuen Garden

Kenrokuen Garden

 

 

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My Old Stomping Grounds in Omotesando

IMG_8190I didn’t know how lucky I was to get an apartment for practically nothing when I first moved to Tokyo in the 1980s. It belonged to a friend of a friend, a slightly eccentric Japanese woman who quickly became a good friend. The apartment was actually her office for an import jewelry business and was decorated in Parisian style to appeal to wealthy clients who came to peruse her jewelry cases. She used it during the day, and I had free reign after coming home from work at my magazine editor job and on weekends. I lived Harajukuout of a huge closet, laying down my futon at night and packing it away during the day. Rent was so embarrassingly cheap (there were parking spots that cost more than what I paid), I raised it myself after living there about half a year. Best of all, it was located in Aoyama 1-chome, one of Tokyo’s most fashionable addresses. Harajuku with its youth-oriented culture and shops was just a short walk away. It was where I bought almost all my clothes.

I wrote about Omotesando in the October issue of Global Traveler.  Just thinking about what I’d write brought back a flood of memories, though the entire area has changed drastically since I lived there. Aoyama was always upscale, but now it’s home to an army of exclusive international designer shops and very trendy restaurants, even along the back streets. Harajuku is more crowded and famous than ever, and in between is Omotesando Dori, which has come into its own with a wide range of shops and restaurants.

IMG_8182Although I’m an ancient one in my former neighborhood now, I still love roaming the streets, checking out the latest fashions, reveling in all its quirkiness and discovering the unexpected. You gotta love a neighborhood that features Condomania on its busiest and most prominent intersection.

 

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