- Pisac’s Market is More than I Bargained for
- Machu Picchu–Better than Imagined
- Ise-Shima Famous for Shrines, Pearls and Female Divers
- Beyond Tokyo and Kyoto
- JNTO offering a Free Trip to Japan: The Winner chooses a World Heritage Site
- John Lennon in Karuizawa
- Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak Always a Draw
- A 12th-century Buddhist Utopia in Japan
- Kume & Kobe Refound
- Two New Tokyo Hotels, Worlds Apart
- Memories of Isla Amantani, Peru
- Japan’s Koban–Public Relations Ambassadors
- Rocky Mountain High
- My Favorite Cuban Town Blasted by Hurricane Matthew
- Colonia del Sacramento Preserves its Past in Uruguay
- A Face in the Crowd
- Spain Leaves its Mark at St. Augustine
- Patagonia is a Slice of Paradise in Chile
- Mesa Verde Vertigo
- Hotel Reviews in Forbes Travel Guide
Category Archives: Beth Reiber in the News
I consider Hong Kong one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Not, necessarily, on street level, where there’s such a jarring juxtaposition between the profound and the mundane, the grand and the gross, it’s hard to take in the whole picture.
Take the Peak Tram to The Peak, however, and you’re met with a sweeping panorama of the harbor, the high rises of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, and undulating hills in the distance. There are plenty of restaurants and shops in Peak Tower and Peak Galleria, but my favorite thing to do is take the circular, 2-mile hike around the peak, which offers different views along its shaded path and glimpses of millionaires’ mansions.
Because of the differences in what you see, I recommend going to The Peak twice: during the day and again at night, when the city lights up like few others do. If it’s cloudy or rainy, however, don’t bother. In fact, pollution over the years has become so ubiquitous, if you have a clear day consider yourself very fortunate.
I discovered this article about The Peak, which quotes from my Frommer’s Hong Kong:
It’s always nice to get recognition in your hometown, especially if most people you know never read anything you write (unless, of course, they happen to be traveling to Japan….).
This short article appeared in the winter edition of Lawrence Magazine, ironically, not long after my spectacular bicycle crash in which I broke my left arm and several fingers in my right hand, thereby rendering me incapable of hefting a suitcase, not to mention typing.
After surgeries in October and November (metal plate and eight screws in my arm; two screws in my right-hand little finger, which had only 15% of the remaining middle joint intact and required a bone graft from my hand) I am much better, since almost anything would be better than not being able to dress yourself, wash your own hair or cut your own food. Indeed, my left arm is now out of its sling and I can remove my finger brace to type, but there are several months of therapy in my future. Someday I’ll be on the road again.
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 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.
During my travels to Japan in October/November, I gave Gillian Ferguson, supervising producer of KCRW 89.9’s Good Food, a short tour of Tsukiji Market. She asked me a few questions about the market for a segment on Good Food, which aired January 11 and was called Inside Tsukiji Market.
I first went to Tsukiji about 30 years ago, on when of my first days in Japan. My landlady, who had a friend working in the market, woke me up in the middle of the night, and when we got there we saw rows of frozen tuna laid out on the concrete. Men with flashlights moved up and down the straight rows, inspecting the huge tuna with flashlights and writing down notes on pads. The auction went quickly, and afterward the market broke out in a frenzy as motorized carts began moving fish to wholesale stalls.
Back then, I didn’t see foreign visitors, or very many of them. When I wrote Frommer’s Japan, I decided that visiting Tsukiji Market on the very first morning in Japan made perfect sense, because everyone’s awake before dawn with jetlag anyway. I recommended eating breakfast at a hole-in-the-wall sushi stall located in the market, Sushi Dai. But over the years the number of visitors grew, prompting the tuna auctioneers to limit the auction to the first 120 visitors on a first-come, first-serve basis. The queue at Sushi Dai is so long, it takes more than an hour wait to get in there.
So now I recommend that visitors come later, when the wholesale and outer retail markets are in full swing, and there are a number of sushi restaurants both inside and out the market. In any case, Tsukiji Market is scheduled to move in 2016, to make room for the 2020 Olympics. I’ll be sorry to see it move outside the city center.
On November 14 I had the honor of being a guest speaker at a
media event held at the Japanese Consulate General’s house in New York City. Co-sponsored by the Japan National Tourism Organization, the event focused on the island of Kyushu. While other speakers covered Kyushu’s cuisine, shochu and the new luxury Seven Stars train line, I spoke about Kyushu’s tourism highlights, from Kumamoto Castle and Mt. Aso to hot-spring spas and gardens. During my talk I showed 90 photos (all but two of them taken by me during my many travels around the island), which was quite a feat considering that all speakers were given only 15 minutes for their presentation. I don’t think I’ve ever talked that fast in my life.
But the surprise celebrity of the event was Kumamon–Kumamoto’s bear mascot. According to Ikuo Kabashima, governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, virtually all Japanese know who Kumamon is, and while I was thinking that Japan might want to lose the mascot theme for the 2020 Olympics (who remembers the Fuwa mascots for Beijing?), Mr. Kabashima’s talk showed me the light. Sale of Kumamon-related merchandise shot up from $25 million in 2011 to $293 million in 2012. Kumamon makes a ton more money than I do.
This is a press release put out by JNTO about the event:
Japan’s New Tourism Highlight in Kyushu
While Tokyo and Kyoto are noteworthy destinations for the majority of US travelers, the Japan National Tourism Organization in New York has introduced Kyushu as the next must-see destination. Extraordinarily rich in culture and nature, the profound culinary and pottery culture of Kyushu received new attention from tourism industry and media in New York, along with profound culinary and pottery culture. As the cultural crossroads of East Asia, and as the first settlement of early Europeans, the remarkable cultural experiences and exception train services offered in Kyushu were officially introduced to the US travel industry.
New York, New York, November 21, 2013: With the news about the launch of Japan’s first luxury sleeper train service, the Kyushu’s name became more visible than ever before. The Consulate General of Japan in New York and Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) invited editorial and tourism industry professionals to an event showcasing the region of Kyushu on November 14, 2013. The event introduced Kyushu from different perspectives of interest – history, tourism attractions, geographic diversity and culinary traditions. The event also featured specialists who spoke on Kyushu’s attractions in depth, including the long-time Frommer’s Japan guidebook author Beth Reiber, who briefed the audience on highlights of Kyushu’s landmarks and history. Stephen Lyman, a researcher of Kyushu’s regional liquor shochu, lectured on the culture of shochu.
Mr. Lyman clearly differentiated shochu from Japanese sake with ingredients and the processing methods, which are strongly associated with regional climate and geographic characteristics. For the very authentic experience of shochu, a shochu promotion company in New York Zation invited six Kyushu local shochu distillers to the event, serving their top of the line labels to the attendees.
In addition, the discussions also included tidbits on Kyushu’s regional tradition, craftsmanship, pottery pieces at the national treasure level, and premium quality of food. Each one of these exceptional extraordinary attractions was also introduced in the introduction of the “Seven Stars in Kyushu,” the newly launched luxury sleeper trains in Kyushu. With only fourteen suites on board, each room is carefully designed using the finest products of Kyushu, such as the Arita pottery ware basin on the vanity, local Oshima-Tsumugi fabric for the chair cushions, local premium cedar wood walls, and elaborate wooden fixtures crafted in the region’s traditional style from centuries ago. Meals are prepared with local premium ingredients, served in actual art pieces created by renowned artists in the country. The Seven Stars train travels to several magnificent tourist spots such as the hot springs area in Yufuin, the dynamic volcano known as Mt. Aso, the Southern coastal town of Miyazaki, the historic city of Nagasaki, and more.
Kyushu has been relatively overlooked as a tourist destination, and the event attendees were all surprised by the unique history and cultural richness of the region. In his opening remarks, Ambassador Sumio Kusaka noted that “Kyushu is one of the most beautiful countries,” and after the event discover that many participants from local editorial industry described Kyushu as “culturally inspiring,” “the hidden gem of Japanese cuisine,” and “unexpectedly colorful.” In the very first official introduction of the Seven Stars in Kyushu to the US market, the luxury sleeper trains earned special attention not only from journalists and editors, but also from luxury tour operators such as Remote Land, a New York based tour operator specializing in the luxury market. After being introduced as the exclusive luxury train in Japan, the tickets sold out immediately, and the US tourism industry was already eager to find out the ticket sales schedule for the US market in 2014. “The new luxury train is extremely interesting and perfect for the US luxury travelers, and we would love to get booking information for 2014,” says Ms. Victoria Hiller, the general manager of Remote Land, who attended the event.
The event also included a special guest for a very unique tourism promotion: A regional mascot bear called Kumamon appeared alongside with the Kumamoto Prefecture Governor, Mr. Ikuo Kabashima. Kumamon has been hugely popular as the promotional mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, which is located in the Kyushu region. The popularity of Kumamon instantly raises awareness about the Kumamoto Prefecture, and he definitely brought attention to Kumamoto even at this event.
Kyushu is one of the four major islands of Japan. Because of its southwest location near the Korean Peninsula and mainland China, the regional culture has stemmed from foreign cultural influences, including influences brought by the first Europeans who traveled to Nagasaki for international trade in the 17th century.
I’ve been writing about Sammy’s Kitchen for as long as I’ve been covering Hong Kong for Frommer’s (almost 30 years). When I first went there, in the 1980s, it was because I was searching for an establishment offering Western fare in a neighborhood dominated by restaurants serving noodles and other Cantonese fare, so that readers might have an alternative while following my walking tour of the Sheung Wan area. With its large sign out front, shaped like a cow, it was easy to find and hard to ignore.
What I found was a friendly, family-owned locale that stood out in an area known for its stalls selling dried seafood, ginseng and other traditional goods. In fact, Sammy’s offers an eclectic choice of both Western and Chinese dishes, some the original creation of Sammy Yip, who started out working in the kitchens of the Peninsula and Mandarin Oriental before opening his own restaurant in 1970. Today the octogenarian is assisted by his offspring in this dark and cluttered restaurant with its outdated decor. But while there are now nearby trendy Western restaurants along Hollywood Road and elsewhere offering better food and more chic furnishings, there’s something comforting about an unpretentious restaurant that’s been in business for so long amidst so much change in this former British colony. You can stop in a full-fledged meal or just a soda and ice-cream sundae.
Now, it seems, there’s a controversy over the restaurant’s old sign, which extends over the street and has been a familiar landmark for more than 30 years. It’s apparently against codes for signage, with city officials demanding its removal, according to this article that includes a quote from my Frommer’s Hong Kong guide.
And so time marches onward, even for a restaurant that seems committed to remaining exactly the same.
I was surprised to see this video floating around on YouTube on Frommer’s Japan. Not sure it will help sales, especially since Frommer’s was sold to Google at about the same time. Luckily, got word that publication of my latest edition on Japan will go forward and should be out in early 2013. Unfortunately, Frommer’s Hong Kong, which I turned in in September, will not be published by Wiley, and I haven’t heard yet whether Google will publish it as a book or only online.
A reporter from the Garden City Telegram called me to ask about my choice for the USA Today article and why I chose Lake Scott State Park. Here is what she wrote:
This article appeared in January on the CNNgo website, which focuses on Asia. It’s about restaurants in Tokyo and includes my reasons for choosing the specific restaurants that end up in my Frommer’s Tokyo guide (hint: location, location, location).
My Branson app, Branson & Beyond Traveler, was featured in an article in the Branson Tri-Lakes News. There aren’t any other apps out there on Branson that are written by an independent author (the others are from specific resorts or organizations pushing specific products). Here’s the link: