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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Happy Holidays from Los Angeles to Japan












There is magic around us 365 days of the year, if we pay attention.


My friends and family don’t exchange gifts anymore, but we do buy gifts for the kids.


It’s always fun to bake a few cookies. 

This is a photo of my friend standing by a Christmas tree at The Dolby theater in Hollywood.








I took this picture a few days into November in Japan.








Christmas decorations go up early over there.












This man in Osaka was so nice to let me take a picture of his shop that hadn’t opened up to public yet. He was just starting to set up his merchandise for sale.









Another picture I took while in Osaka. It was near the Umeda Sky Building. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Meiji Jingu, a Shinto Wedding, and Shinkuju Goyen


My guide and I visited the Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine in Tokyo, dedicated to the emperor Meiji and his wife empress Shoken.








A photo of my guide, Mari. She is such a nice person. I still think about her and miss hanging out with her. We sat down to have a cup of coffee as she explained a few things.

The entrance has an impressive torii gate. The entire place has a Zen atmosphere and is green and relaxing.


The grounds are breathtaking. When you walk in, you feel as though you have stepped into a forest. The tall trees are donated by the Japanese and outsiders.


Mari said that this is an important flower competition among growers. A nearby sign read: These flowers are given by Chrysanthemum groups with a deep relationship with Meiji Jingu. The perennial plant has a long tradition in Japan and is a flower of appreciation.









These are empty sake barrels, kazaridaru, displayed as decoration by the entrance. They are offerings by sake makers with their names printed on them. Donators also give full barrels as offerings so that they may have a good harvest. The sake represents sharing of drink with gods and there is a ritual connected with it. Once the sake is first offered to the gods, then people can enjoy drinking it.









There are also donated wine barrels. The sake and wine barrels are offerings to emperor Meiji and empress Shoken who led the modernization of Japan.









During the important Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of New Year, visitors are squashed like sardines.


We saw a traditional shinto wedding at the adjacent Yoyogi park. I was so excited.





After that, we went to Shinkuju Goyen for a quick visit. Wish we had more time here. 







This is the park where Tessa and Toshiro meet for the second time in The American Outsider.



Monday, November 14, 2022

Tokyo Okonomiyaki

I would like to share some of my experiences of when I traveled to Japan. Japan is a great country that offers something for everyone. It’s a mélange of tradition, modern times and futuristic experiences for all ages. 












I was at this restaurant in Tokyo with Masae, my tour guide.











This place is in Asakusa near Sensoji Temple. In The American outsider, Toshiro hangs out with Tessa near the area where this restaurant is located.












Masae and I took our shoes off and went upstairs. 



On her second day in Tokyo, Tessa is writing to Bruna about how much she loves vegetarian Okonomiyake—a savory Japanese pancake. Here, Masae is adding mayo from a special jar to the Okonomiyake we are sharing. I based my character Akira after Masae because Masae is so down-to-earth and easy going.















The servers were absolutely wonderful.



I was the only gaijin in the restaurant. I don’t recall if they had an English menu. Massae ordered for us.








This restaurant had Horigotatsu—tables that sat low to the ground with a recessed floor underneath it. We sat on Japanese floor chairs and our feet dangled down the recessed floor where there used to be heaters to keep the feet warm during wintertime.