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The view out the apartment window of Cerro San Cristobal.

The view out the apartment window of Cerro San Cristobal.

I woke at 6:18 am refreshed after a great sleep. Soon Margaret was up too and we were out the door around 8:30 and headed for Cerro San Cristóbal, or hill of St. Christopher. It would be quite a hike and we wanted to hike in the early morning coolness. And…can I say…after the heat of the day yesterday, it cooled down overnight and was deliciously pleasant sleeping weather. The morning was cool and breezy and perfect.

Street art on the way to the hill of St. Christopher.

Street art on the way to the hill of St. Christopher.

Empty streets in the morning.

Empty streets in the morning.

More art. I can't help myself.

More art. I can’t help myself.

We walked a few blocks north, a few blocks west, and there we were at the bottom of the hill. Rather than go up, we backtracked a little through the tree-lined empty streets in search of coffee and sustenance. I am impressed by so much street art here, and stopped so often to remark and take photos that Margaret began to point murals out to me!

We found the perfect cafe, some sandwiches to go, and off we went on our trek uphill. It was a slog, but with plenty of shade, continuing morning breezes, and fabulous views of a hazy city, it was really no chore. At the top we found the beautiful white statue of the Virgin Mary. Surrounding it at the top of the hill were a lovely garden area with many benches in the shade, and a small and lovely stone church called the Motherhood of Mary Chapel. To save our feet, we rode the funicular (a….train?) back down.

The Virgin Mary, surrounded by admirers.

The Virgin Mary, surrounded by admirers.

Holy water in Mary's Church.

Holy water in Mary’s Church.

I am standing just below Mary, getting a sunbun as we speak.

I am standing just below Mary, getting a sunbun as we speak.

Our car is passing another as we ride the funicular down the hillside.

Our car is passing another as we ride the funicular down the hillside.

View of Santiago from the funicular.

View of Santiago from the funicular.

Bridge at the bottom of the hill covered in locks of love.

Bridge at the bottom of the hill covered in locks of love.

Lovers names inked onto them.

Lovers names inked onto them.

Our host Angelo had raved about Valparaiso and Viña del Mar (vineyard of the sea) the previous day, enough that we were convinced, and made on-the-spot plans to catch a bus there after our hike up the cerro. And that’s exactly what we did: back to the room, freshened up a bit, and headed for the metro. We took the metro to the bus station, and then we asked enough people in broken Spanish to express our need. (bless the patient Chileans) Tickets in hand, we jumped on a bus for the nearly 2 hour ride to Viña del Mar.

Views of the Andes from the bus.

Views of the Andes from the bus.

We saw multiple wineries from the tour bus.

We saw multiple wineries from the bus.

Our plan had been to explore both cities, but we stumbled serendipitously upon a Chilean-born Canadian, who was working for the Viña del Mar tourist office. She easily explained why we couldn’t do both cities – not enough time. And since we were walking, she quickly mapped out the best walking route through her fair city, so that we would return before the last bus of the evening.

We were so impressed we followed her suggestion exactly. First through the Parque Quinta Vergara, a lovely park but not especially remarkable. Margaret pointed out that the tourist lady was very proud of the place and eager to send us there, and for that reason, we were happy to go see it for her. There was renovation underway at the park, of the old Governor’s mansion. Restoration is something we have seen regularly here, and I think that’s a good sign of how well a city is doing.

A tree at the park. The fruit is bright orange/red as you can see, and are dropping to the ground.

A tree at the park. The fruit is bright orange/red as you can see, and dropping to the ground as it ripens.

Fabulous houses in Viña del Mar

There are fabulous houses in Viña del Mar.

I get happy in water.

I get happy in water.

We continued walking toward the beach, and enjoyed the small landscaped flower garden pointed out to us by the tourist guide. Almost as soon as we reached the sand, one of the many women selling things offered us something we actually wanted: a flaky sugary pastry and we scarfed it down, only after a very long discussion about how much it should cost. We began the conversation at something that sounded a lot like $5,000 pesos for a single pastry (close to $8). When it was clear that we were shocked and walking away, the women quickly explained that we didn’t understand. After much talking and confusion, many prices being discussed, always with the woman saying we weren’t understanding her. Finally we paid $1,000 pesos for two pastries, which is more like 75 cents each. Now THAT I can understand just fine. 😉

We ate our pastries on the beach and I was not able to resist the water. I stripped off my shoes and socks and splashed in the sea. Imagine! Swimming in the ocean in December.

Lovely views of the seashore are found in Vina del Mar.

Lovely views of the seashore are found in Viña del Mar. Wulff Castle is in the center, on a rock outcrop in the sea.

Pelicans groomed themselves into awkwar poses, though I begged them to raise their heads for a more flattering photo.

Pelicans groomed themselves into awkward poses, though I begged them to raise their heads for a more flattering photo.

We find the cities in Chile to be tastefully lovely and very clean.

We find the cities in Chile to be tastefully lovely and very clean.

This tree has seen better days.

This tree has seen better days.

Castle Wulff

Castle Wulff

Pisco Sours

Pisco Sours

We were able to walk inside Castillo Wulff (you can barely make it out in the shore photo above). It was purchased in 1906 and transformed into a castle in 1916 by Gustavo Adolfo Wulff. Inside was empty but for an art show of local bird photography. We crossed the mouth of a river and continued on along the playa, past a splendid casino in a huge building with classic architecture. There were horses with carriages out front, but that was too touristy for our mood just then.

Finally, tummies rumbling, we went in search of a place to eat. Margaret has been pining for local seafood, possibly a Chilean seafood soup, so we walked past the Peruvian Thai restaurant (Er?), the many pizza places, the Italian restaurant. We skipped a few that looked promising because they were closed. Finally we stepped a place advertised as a pasta restaurant, because we spotted fish on the menu. The beach here is touristy, and thus the waiters brought us menus in English. Sure enough, seafood was on the menu, so I ordered Chilean Pot (mussels, squid, and shrimp sauteed in garlic butter) and Margaret ordered white fish ceviche. We sipped Chilean Pisco Sours, an alcoholic drink made of egg white, Pisco (a brandy made of grape wine), syrup, lemon juice and bitters, and found that our luck remained with us because the generously-sized dishes came out made to order and scrumptious.

We have been admiring so much of Chile’s architecture. The lovely folks at Castle Wulff had provided us a walking map of some of the more remarkable homes in the city, so after we ate we headed for the bus station via these homes. We spotted a couple, but even more fun was that in front of one such gorgeous mansions was an event of some kind. At Palacio Carrasco we stood with the crowd and watched schoolkids take the stage and sing songs – one song for each school – and watched the parents and grandparents cheering and smiling and holding up their phones to get videos.

Schoolkids singing

Schoolkids singing

At the bus station.

At the bus station.

Subway entertainment.

Subway entertainment.

We left for the bus station and settled in for our 2-hour ride back. After that long long day, and after two days together, Margaret and I had finally exhausted our supply of things that needed to be talked about in order to catch each other up on our lives, and our trip home was somewhat more subdued than the one earlier. We caught the metro back to downtown Santiago and were surprised (shocked actually because of the deafening volume) when a man came up and played his boom box, then accompanied the song with his saxophone and pipe. He had a woman in tow, who was asking for money. Eventually they moved off. Soon they were replaced with two teenage boys who looked like they were having a blast earning their coins. They also played boom boxes, but brought mics and began rapping about the passengers on the subway. Smiles all around showed that their show was much more appreciated than the first one. But it was our stop and we hopped off and easily made our way in the dark to our apartment. It was about 11 pm as we sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of wine to get ready for bed (me to begin my blog post), and M figured we had spent $40 each today for all those adventures. Wonderful!

Trails in Forest Park are irresistible. Like this. Could you stand here and NOT pick a path and walk?

Trails in Forest Park are irresistible. Like this. Could you stand here and NOT pick a path and walk?

Arno and I met for the very first time on Mount Tabor, a beautiful Portland park so close to my home that I walked there to meet him. It’s the site of an ancient, dormant volcano. The date went so well that we spent about four hours on Mt. Tabor, till we got hungry and had to come down off the volcano.

After eating, we weren’t ready to separate quite yet. Arno had moved from Chicagoland only months before, and didn’t know many places in Portland, so he asked where we should go next. I had had been in Portland a couple years, and didn’t know the place like a native, but knew of Forest Park, rumored to be one of the largest city parks in the country (5,172 acres). (I’m determined to do some real research some day, and figure out precisely where Forest Park fits in the list, since the lists I have found don’t mention it.)

The sun thought about getting stronger and lighting the world.

In this photo, the sun is thinking about getting stronger and lighting the world.



On that day, we walked the trails and tried to keep ourselves steady as we tumbled madly for each other. We came to a beautiful little bridge over a creek, and stopped. Arno called it The Troll Bridge. We paused awhile to see if the troll would come out, and in fear for my life, I caught Arno in an embrace. (ok, maybe it wasn’t out of fear…)



We shared our first delicious kiss on the Troll Bridge. And since then Forest Park has held a special place in our collective memory.

Yesterday the sky threatened rain, and I told Arno I was determined to go outside for a good long while, and get some exercise, rain or no rain. We found our way to the other side of town, to the west hills, and to one of the many trail heads. The drive was beautiful in itself, winding up through the gorgeous homes in Portland’s King’s Heights. The homes are so eclectic, so fascinating, so obviously loved, that it’s always worth the trip there.

Path through a decadent green carpet

Path through a decadent green carpet

We didn’t get rained on, though the sky remained cloudy. It remained warm, and our walk was lovely. Arno turned on the GPS to track us, and we did a 7 1/2 mile loop, which was enough to get the stir crazy out of my bones.

This picnic table is begging for someone to stop for a lunchtime break.

These picnic tables are begging for someone to stop for a lunchtime break.

We crossed many little wooden bridges, but did not come across our Troll Bridge yesterday. We did pause on a couple of them, however, to share a kiss and wait to see if a troll would come out.

Most of the people we passed on our walk were joggers and cyclists.

Most of the people we passed on our walk were joggers and cyclists.

I asked Arno to hold the camera while I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist. He took my photo! Can't trust that guy... ;-)

I asked Arno to hold the camera while I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist. He took my photo! Can’t trust that guy… 😉

Awwww, I thought this was a really wonderful tribute. Here's a place to read more and see a video about Dave Terry's memorial.

Awwww, I thought this was a really wonderful tribute. Here’s a place to read more and see a video of Dave Terry’s memorial.


adiantum aleuticum. Eye-catching, lacy, fern hands.

adiantum aleuticum. Eye-catching, lacy, fern hands.

I watched her plane land and pull up to the gate. Then I squealed with joy when I saw the wind whipping the long blonde hair of my pretty girl.

Now that my computer is finally back from having the motherboard replaced (who is the fatherboard?), I can make blog posts once more. So many things have happened since the middle of June when I last had my computer. I made the Fuji postwhen my daughter, Tara, aka girlie, was here and loaned me her computer. However, there is much yet to tell.

We got your dried fish in a bag, right here!

Tara arrived July 21st, and stayed 10 days. She left the drizzly cool fog of Humboldt County, California, and was dropped smack into the middle of this wretched heat and humidity. We hit some of the hottest temperatures all summer that week, poor kid. She was a trooper, and enjoyed Japan with me while slowly adjusting to the 16-hour time change and the weather.

I had been so stressed out in the weeks leading up to her visit because it would be her first solo international trip. She had to collect her bags in Tokyo, go through customs, go through duty free, and then find the domestic travel counter and get herself onto a local flight to Hiroshima. That’s a challenge for anyone, much less a 15-year old! (She turned 15 the day before her flight – happy birthday, kiddo!)

The Hiroshima airport has an observation deck on the roof, and from there I spotted her leaving the plane, and ran back inside, and down three flights of stairs. I hadn’t seen her since May, and I was missing her tremendously. I looked through the glass to baggage claim, and saw her the moment she came into the building. I was so relieved I started to cry, but I quickly got control of myself and smiled and waved through the windows. While waiting for her bag, she walked up to her side and put her hand on the glass, and I put my hand over hers on my side of the glass. That 10 minute wait seemed like forever!

Smaller shrines lined up beside the big one. These two had torii (gates) in front, one made of granite, and one of wood painted red.


Instead of being tired from 36 hours of travel, she chatted like a wind-up doll for the next 2 hours as we made our way home. On the shuttle bus, on the train, in the taxi, she chattered happily away, and I felt almost obliged to occasionally point: look! We’re in Japan!



The next day we hiked through town, and she did the best she could with the heat. I gave her the camera, and she took shots of all the things I used to notice myself: the tiled roofs of the homes, a turtle in the river, vending machines. “You were right, Mom, these vending machines are everywhere!” She began a game of trying a new drink every time we were thirsty.

Looking down the row of granite carvings

Tara posed in front of the white granite snake. White snakes, as you may have read in an earlier post, are a famous local resident of Iwakuni, Japan.

I showed her the lovely shrine I had discovered, with all the little shrines on the side, and the huge granite sculptures in the back. She loved the sculptures, and took a photo of every single one. We watched others praying, clapping and bowing and doing whatever it is they do in Japan at these multitudinous shrines and temples.

The weather was doing it’s best to wipe her out. We began looking for grocery stores, and popped into them every time we found one on the 4 mile walk. Grocery stores have the best air conditioning, and are also very entertaining to explore. I can usually identify only 1/3 to 1/2 of the vegetables. In one store, we found dozens of quail eggs on a shelf, next to the chicken eggs. We bought a peach, watermelon, water, and mandarin orange slices in some kind of clear jello. All the packaged fruit came in gelatin of some kind – nothing just in juice. We sat at a bus stop in the shade of a tree and ate our fruit, and then began walking again.

Respite from the heat in the shade beneath the Kintai Bridge. Miss T is glowing, but she was one hot and tired out kiddo at this point.

Then we made it to the Kintai Bridge. And since you’ve seen photos of it already, I’ll just include photos of stuff nearby.

Arches of the Kintai Bridge, leading to the old village at the base of the castle.

Lovely Nishiki River flowing through Iwakuni, with the castle on the hill.

Tara on the bridge, castle behind

We walked across the historic bridge, then explored the historic village on the other side. People live there now, but much of the area is public and touristy. There are gardens, statues, the snake house, Samurai house, water fountains big enough for kids to play in, a stage for performances, several restaurants, and many more things of interest. It’s all very nice and rather large. Miss T and I began to make our way through it, but it soon became evident that she needed food. We found a restaurant and made a bunch of hand gestures and got some food. Ha ha. For all the words I’ve learned to speak, I’ve only learned a couple of the kanji characters, and none of them help me read a menu. We ate, then got some ice cream, and explored some more.

Wielding her ballet bag like a weapon

It was early afternoon, in the 90s, and unbearably hot. When I say hot, you must understand. It’s not like 90s in Oregon, or 90s in Nevada. It’s 90s in a green house, where the air instantly sticks to your skin and feels thick to breathe. It’s step-out-of the-shower-and-instantly-sweat hot. We tried to rest in the shade, but girlie had had enough. Her face had been flushed bright red for the last couple of hours, and though I kept fluid pumping through her with the use of those vending machines, I could see it was time to get her cooled off.

Back across the bridge there was a taxi, and I splurged to get us an air-conditioned ride home. What had taken us 3 hours in the morning, took the driver 6 minutes in a car. We got back to the room, took showers, and lounged in the air conditioning the rest of the day!

She can’t tell you what it is, only that it’s good! In mere minutes, and with the unfamiliar chopsticks, Miss T empties the bowl of rice, vegs, and chicken.

Arrow points to white buildings you can see on the horizon. That is the Iwakuni Marine base. I walked to where I am standing while taking this photo. Whew!

It’s been pouring for a couple of days, and everyone said the rainy season has begun. When I left my room this morning, prepared for a 3 1/2 mile walk to the Kintai Bridge, I brought my umbrella expecting rain. I ended up using it for shade, since it never occurred to me that I would need sunscreen today!!

Part of my long walk to the Kintai Bridge

Look at these little metal walkways to connect the door of the home to the busy street.

These homes have the luxury of off-street parking!

Iwakuni Castle on the hill above the Kintaikyo Bridge

Good news: sun! It made the views, the photos, the whole experience way better I am sure. It took me two hours to get to the bridge (long ass walk+getting lost multiple times), then it was a whirlwind of fun and sights and craziness for another couple hours (I accidentally joined a Japanese tour group….ha ha!!)

My tour group at the top of the Iwakuni Castle

So. How did I accidentally get in a tour group? By not understanding Japanese, that’s how. I read beforehand that it was 300 yen to cross the Kintai Bridge. So I’m all over that. I walk up to the ticket booth with three, hundred-yen coins, all ready to go. She says blabbity blabbity blabbity bridge? Or blabbity blabbity castle and museum and bridge? I could see the castle from where I stood. I’ve always wanted to see a Japanese castle. She’s holding the tickets: 300 yen for bridge, 930 yen (about $12) for several things. I bought the bigger ticket. She smiles, makes change then blabbity blabbity something or other, question mark? I smile and bow and say arigato gozaimasu. She points at the bridge and I bow and thank her again and I’m on my way, smiling, tucking the tickets into the cat bag. But a guy in a reflector vest is trying to get my attention, and points out a tour group just beginning, and calls to the tour guide. The tour guide is a super friendly woman about 4 1/2 feet tall, with short hair under her bright blue cap with buttons all over it. She has a neon green reflector vest and a microphone hooked up to herself, and gestures me to scurry and join the group. She’s doing the tour guide talk: a mile a minute. Apparently, that’s what I bought: a tour.

I missed a whole huge bunch of information today, while the sweet, 50-something mini-lady talked in Japanese and got everyone laughing. I laughed too, but it was because everyone looked so happy, not because I understood the jokes. She tried to include me many times. I practiced my deer-in-the-headlights look. But eventually we all made friends and I had a very good time despite pretty much never knowing what was going on. She went out of her way to find stuff written in English for me. Once we passed a tour booth of some kind, and she stopped the whole group and went inside and came out with two brochures written in English for me.

Irises reflecting in a pool

We crossed the Kintai Bridge, then went to one of the very few Samurai houses left in existence. I didn’t realize they were rare. I was able to recall scenes from The Last Samurai, set in a Samurai house. It was one of those traditional Japanese places with beautiful patterned floors and nothing else in the room, with sliding paper walls between rooms.

The White Snakes of Iwakuni are a designated natural monument because they are not found anywhere else in the world.

Next we saw a statue of Hiroyoshi Kikkawa (the Kikkawa family built the castle), a park with lots of water features, the famous Iwakuni White Snakes. Just one couple and I agreed to pay the 100 yen ($1.25) to go into the snake house. There, I saw a tangle of about 5 albino snakes. The brochure claims that these white snakes are found nowhere else in the whole world. Apparently, it’s a form of albinoism (white snake, red eyes) that has stabilized, and all of the offspring are white. I was very lucky to see a rather active snake – you know that snakes in glass houses typically doze – moving quite a bit.

Cable car coming to collect us and haul us up the mountain

Then we boarded a cable car. A cable car! I had no idea that was coming up. Mostly likely it was explained to me in Japanese at the time I purchased my ticket. The cable car took us to the top of the very steep mountain on which the castle is built. We had a deliciously cool walk from the cable car to the castle, where our guide talked on and on about…um, stuff. Then we reached the castle grounds. There is the original foundation, still in place. The castle was built in 1603. Then (the brochures are vague on this…) it appears that the castle had to be destroyed due to enforcement of a “Law of One Castle Per

Iwakuni castle

Province.” That’s all it says, I’ll have to look it up. The current one was rebuilt in 1962 (about the same time the Shinkansen started business), and is now a museum. In the museum, as we went up the four flights of stairs to get to the top of the castle, I finally began getting more at ease with my Japanese tour group. I wanted to know how to

Samurai armor

hold the weapons that I saw. Some of them knew a couple of words of English. I was looking at this gigantic curved sword, about six feet long, and asking “How do you hold this thing?” And they managed to explain to me that it was only a gift, this one was too big to be used as a weapon. too heavy. So then, they pointed out the smaller ones, used as swords. They mimed how they would be used, how held, how carried on the belt. Then, we had a talking point. Each new weapon, they tried to mime for me how it was used. At one neat display, a series of things was laid out in a row. Some rocks at one end, a sword at the other. It turned out to be the stages of creating a sword, heat and hammer, till the sword was the final result. Cool. The museum also had a full samurai suit.

Women dressed in kimonos to celebrate their day at Kikko park

Torii at the entrance to this sacred garden

Back at the bottom of the hill, we went into a traditional Japanese garden and heard a concert of people playing instruments like big zithers. My guide told me the name, but I don’t recall it. We crossed a creek with not only koi, but also soft-shelled turtles. An older gentleman in my group kept saying suppon nabe, which I found out is turtle soup. He gestured to me that I must eat soft-shelled turtle soup to get big muscles!

A teacher I met, in his traditional clothes

In the garden, there were people dressed in tradi- tional kimonos having picnic lunches. Jap- anese dress in traditional clothes sometimes when visiting a special place, particularly on holidays, to make it more of an event. I overcame my resistance to photograph people obviously (it’s not in good taste to stare, or even to hold eye contact, so I am reluctant to obviously photograph people), and snapped two of people in kimonos. I also saw my first Torii.

The rest of the group waved sayonara and took off then. The tour guide asked me something. A lot of words. I don’t know what she was saying. I said warkarimasen a few times (I don’t understand), shook my head, nodded. Whatever. I understood that it was over and I was trying to give my acquiescence. The guide kept trying to get me to respond and I had no idea. So she pulled a brochure of a flower show featuring irises, out of her bag. I made appreciative sounds. I love irises. So, she promptly waved goodbye to the rest of them, and took me under her wing for some more tour. It was just the two of us.

An iris garden  near Kikko park

A young artist takes inspiration from gorgeous irises

I can’t help but get romantically artistic here in Japan.

People enjoying the irises

I guess I showed up during peak iris blooming season. And wouldn’t you know it, that very weekend was the main advertised iris show! There were people there with gigantic cameras and tripods and lenses right out of Hollywood. Holy cow. Many of the tourists had cameras that made my Nikon D5000 look like a point-and-shoot. I was now the sole tourist in the group, and my guide led me to two different iris gardens. The first, she explained, had 90 colours and contained 10,000 plants. The second, only 50 colours but 100,000 plants. They were both remarkable and I was very grateful that I had done whatever it is I did to get this personal tour. After that, she showed me the statue of Kojiro Kikkawa, and finally she said sayonara for good, and I was released.
That’s when I walked into the very first restaurant I found. It was tiny, and beautiful. They handed me a menu, and the entire top section of drinks was translated into English. I ordered iced tea. It came with lots of ice, and a little glass container with liquid sweetener. I was happily drinking my iced tea and NOT WALKING (my feet were singing my praises for the decision to sit down), when the table next to me had their meal delivered. It looked like Indian dal. I could smell the curry. I was practically swooning from the delicious smells drifting over to my table.
I shot covetous glances at the table next to me until I could get one of the staff over to me again. I asked if I could have “that” (pointing but trying not to point, because it’s not polite). She didn’t understand. I tried several times. Blatantly, I pointed directly at a woman’s plate, and then pointed to the empty table in front of me, “Please, I want some of what they are eating.” Still, she didn’t understand. I rubbed my hand over my belly in a circle. “I am so hungry and that smells so good,” I moaned.  She laughed (and so did the poor woman whose plate I had been pointing to) and asked, “You want menu?” I pointed to the Japanese characters on the menu that looked most promising, and I did receive the same large plate of dal and rice and tomatoes, with the side salad, that my neighbors were eating.  I wished I could apologize for my behavior, but I didn’t know how, other than bowing and saying sumimasen– excuse me.

With my meal, I received a spoon and fork! It was the craziest thing, looking at the spoon and fork, and having to think through what to do with them. That is hilarious. It was incredibly delicious. I had two glasses of iced tea and two glasses of water. Wow, was I thirsty, hot, tired and hungry. I was in a few minutes of ecstasy while I tasted my meal. I think I actually moaned out loud. 🙂

Plastic ice cream! Point to the one you want and you get a real one!

I found something like a rose garden, with a few other flowers in it, and couldn’t read any signs except one in front of a dogwood. The sign explained that the dogwood was a gift from the U.S., in exchange for all the cherry trees sent to Washington, D.C. It said dogwoods are rare in Japan. Funny, they are so common in the U.S. Then I went to a market that was perfect because no one was screaming “one dolla! one dolla!” like in the last couple of countries I’ve visited. Just pleasant vendors, happy to explain their wares, give small samples, and answers questions as best they can. Up to that point, the only other non-Japanese I had seen were Germans. But there at the market were Americans in their easy manner of moving, and speaking. We Americans have a lower tone, and softer edges on our consonants than Japanese. Anyway, the sounds relaxed me a little.

boys play in the Nishiki River on a hot June day

The respite was so rejuvenating that I resolved to walk all the way home. In no time, I was sorry about that decision, but had left the tourist= taxis part of the town. My cat bag began feeling as though I had filled it with volcanic rocks from the mountain.

I learned some lessons about the trip that will make it easier the next time. And also, in case I get a chance to climb Mt. Fuji, I want a little practice wearing my body out. I want to walk it again, because you see SO MUCH of regular Japanese life. Like beautiful vegetable gardens, everywhere! I found a place where people swim in the river, totally by accident. I saw how, for example, every morning bed mattresses and clothes are hung over the porch railings. To air out, I assume. How nearly everyone dries their clothes on racks outside. Japanese dryers must be rare. How the houses have what look like plastic replicas of ceramic tile roofs. How the houses with actual ceramic tiles also have frosted glass tiles in little groups that make skylights. How many houses have solar panels. How the adults politely avoid eye contact, but the kids say, in English,  “Hello! How are you?” with total delight.

How I finally learned that there are different levels of greetings in Japan. Acceptable is to avoid eye contact, but if you make eye contact and want to quickly break away (or if you’re too far away for words), you can bow your head and it’s totally friendly and respectful. Then, if both people are really looking, you should probably toss out an ohayo gozaimasu (good morning sir or ma’am), or konnichiwa with a bow. And, if the greeting needs to be a little stiffer (because of personality maybe?), then just gozaimasu (sir or ma’am) will do. Always with a bow. And the friendlier and more genuine the eye contact and greeting, the deeper the bow. It’s actually very similar to our own greetings, once I just let myself get used to it.

It was a very good day. I’m beat.

“Furry animals with whiskers who dress in space suits frighten humans and cause them to run away. Therefore, they will be burned alive.” {This is thrown in purely for entertainment value. I get giggle fits every time I look at this image. The sign was on the hill, walking toward Iwakuni Castle. YES, I can guess what it really says, but I prefer to look at it as an ignorant American.}

One of my many guises

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