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Monday, November 30, 2015

Wonderful Reunion With Yasu & Mayumi

Aloha Everyone,

Yasu and Mayumi are one of our very dear friends. Our special friendship began in the Philippines over 30 years ago.

The couple modestly refers to themselves as "farmers" but they are extraordinary individuals. Yasu, an IT specialist in banking operations has worked for multinational banks. A visionary, Yasu with a friend wrote the first book on personal computer for Japanese readers.

Youthful and energetic, when Yasu speaks of his new career of growing grapevines to being able to harvest grapes and producing organic wine, his entire body moves with excitement.

Yasu and Mayumi's vineyard is located in the city of Niseko on the island of Hokkaido. Between December to March, Niseko welcomes about 400,000 foreign visitors. Annually, the visitor count is about 1.5 million while their resident population is 5,000. Yasu explained that Niseko is now an international resort. Visitors are attracted to her natural beauty and her famous "powder snow." Skiers come from all over the world.

Yasu's eyes shine like a child with a favorite toy when he talks about wine making. For example, there are 250 wineries in the whole of Japan. Twenty-six of them are located on the island of Hokkaido and only one in Niseko. With a big smile, Yasu stated, "I have a monopoly!!!" An astute businessman and a kind, compassionate man, Yasu's goal is to help other farmers in Niseko to consider growing grapes and eventually to produce their own wines. He gives a credit to an American from California who is currently assisting them by teaching about the ins and outs of winemaking.

Yasu is out in the field from 4:00 am to 7:30 pm or until the sun sets while Mayumi works along with Yasu until noon then takes care of their business in the afternoon.

A great partnership exists between Yasu and Mayumi, the latter teaches Japanese to foreign students and had written and published several children's books.

Immersed in our conversation both J.J. and I enjoyed the quality and the presentations of the dishes at a Japanese restaurant, "Hibiki." The 4 hours we spent with them went too quickly. We parted company looking forward to our next get-together either in Hokkaudo, US, Canada or elsewhere.

"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." -Marcel Proust

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Visit To The Temple District in Kanazawa And Return To Tokyo

Aloha Everyone,
This morning J.J. and I took the circular city bus to visit the Nishi-chayamachi (The West Entertainment District), and Teramachi (Temple District) where there are more than 50 temples.



The most interesting and the most visited is the Shoukyuzan Myuoryuji Temple. Founded in 1643, this temple is also known as the "Ninja Temple", because of its complex structure with many stairs and maze-like corridors. One is required to make a reservation in order to join the guided tour of the temple. J.J. and I passed. The Disneyland-like atmosphere, in my opinion, is very not conducive to a temple visitation.

Shichi-Go-San, translates as "Seven-Five-Three" is a traditional celebration for 3, 5 and 7 year-old girls and boys. Held annually on November 15  it is a rites of passage, to commemorate the growth and well-being of young children.

The city of Kanazawa, like most of Japan, is tidy and clean with contemporary architecture co-existing with the traditional Japanese buildings. In addition to visiting the temples, there is so much to see and learn here. I would definitely add Kanazawa to a list of cities J.J. and I would revisit.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, November 28, 2015

To Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture on the Sea Of Japan

Aloha Everyone,

Japan's population is 126 million. It is the world's 10th most populace country and over 35 million people live in the Greater Tokyo area.

Domestic tourism is highly developed and the Japanese love to travel. Hotels are full during weekends and holidays. Additionally, the strength of the US dollar vs Japanese Yen has resulted in an influx of foreign visitors. 

While one can find staff at train stations who can communicate in English, announcements are in Japanese. I translated for J.J. that due to a problem with a track in Ueno, all train arrivals and departures are delayed by 15 - 20 minutes. These announcements were followed by expressions of profuse apologies.

To reach Kanazawa, the Shinkansen Kagayaki traversed Honshu from Tokyo on the Pacific Ocean to Kanazawa City in Ishikawa prefecture located on the Sea of Japan. About 73% of Japan  is mountainous. During our 
2 hrs 35 minutes trip, our train went in and out of numerous tunnels.

Arrived in rainy Kanazawa a little past noon. Our Hotel Dormy is located just 3 minutes walk from the train station through Forus, a contemporary department store complex with two floors of restaurants. After lunch, J.J. and went to Higashichaya, an old entertainment area. Even though it was cold and rainy, the district was full of tourists. It certainly was well worth the bus ride as the place was very photogenic.

Tonight we walked across the street to Forus for dinner.

Aloha -- Cathi