“Saturday Morning in Okazaki”

Hanafusa Siphon Coffee. Marutamachi-Shirakawa. August 13.


I place this photo essay back atop letsjapan.wordpress.com on August 1, 2014, almost three (3) years after first posting it on August 2011. In the mean time I’ve published Dancing Over Kyoto (in 2013), but it was August 2012 that an occurrence in Kyoto hit me and rocked others’ worlds. But I won’t speak of that here. I’d rather celebrate a Saturday Morning in Okazaki. . .


I woke up at Three Sisters Inn this morning with sunlight barreling in from the crest of Higashiyama through my east-facing window.  I answered some emails, made a remark and post or two on Facebook and Twitter, then went out for a stroll.  I lit out, not from Three Sisters Inn Annex, but from the main building, just a block away.  When I stay at Three Sisters I’ve always, to date, stayed at the Annex.  But unfortunately a pipe burst yesterday morning at the Annex so I’m over here at the main building, which is comparable (but the curfew, alas, is 11:00 p.m., not 11:30 p.m. like at the Annex).  Yes, curfew.  The sisters must get their sleep, bless them.

At any rate, my walking route was simple and familiar to me:  up the street from the inn (turning left as I walk out the front door) about two or so minutes to the entrance to Kurodani Dera, stroll around Kurodani, leave out the narrow, back side alleyway and walk to Marutamachi Street.  Take a left and continue east towards Okazaki Shrine.  After stopping by Okazaki Shrine, continue on to Hanfusa for a cup of (siphon) coffee.  Then wind my way back to Three Sisters.

It’s Obon season across Japan, which means in part that families return to their ancestors’ grave sites and give them a cleaning, both real and symbolic (of the respect and veneration still paid to the departed), and place some flowers and other whatnots around the headstone.  This is what was going on this morning at Kurodani Dera’s cemetery.  At Okazaki Shrine some new rabbit figures have been installed.  Part of ancient Okazaki Shrine’s lore and lineage is steeped in being a (Shinto) shrine bringing blessings of easy and happy childbirth to those who come and ask for the blessings of the resident spirits.  Thus the rabbits.  2011 also happens to be the Year of the Rabbit, which makes Okazaki an even more auspicious place to visit.  As I’m a Year-of-the-Rabbit person myself, I took some particular delight in stopping by Okazaki Shrine.


Between Three Sisters Inn and the Kurodani entrance. August 13.


Facing west on the edge of Kurodani. August 13.


26 Seconds of Cicadas (Semi・セミ) while looking up at Kurodani’s Main Gate (Daimon・大門).


A long-time friend. August 13.


Washing an ancestor’s grave site. Kurodani Dera. August 13.


Okazaki Shrine Digs Rabbits. August 13.


Have I mentioned that Okazaki Shrine Digs Rabbits? August 13.


Hanafusa Coffee on Marutamachi Street. August 13.


Man at bus stop. Woman and child. Marutamachi Street. August 13.


toMAre. Okazaki. August 13.


That’s all for now.  It’s about 10:35 and I’ve got a couple places to go.

Snow in July. . .

Friend and author, Michael Gillan Peckitt (@peckitt), lives in Suita, Japan. He posted this photo today (Wednesday, July 30, 2014) on Facebook of what the weather’s like there (33C is about 91.5F, by the way). Warm enough.


I this deserves a photographic response, a scene from the small town where I lived some years ago, a February photo from Asago, Japan (called “Asaki” in my book). Consider this a cooling respite from the dog days of summer, which are now upon the Northern Hemisphere. . .

Asago, Nii.  Winter '91. View from top floor fo Asago Middle School.


Godzilla Week


Several years ago I interviewed Godzilla. That link just linked, that’s the interview, which I re-posted a half-a-year ago or so. I hope you’ll read the whole interview so that you can get a good idea of what makes the Big Guy tick before going to the theater to see him act.  I found him incredibly candid and much more open than his reputation suggests. He could get prickly, but he’s been through a lot Here’s a short excerpt from the interview:



Whether or not deserved, you mentioned you prima donna reputation. Where do you think that comes from.


(Sighs) Oh, a number of things. Most of them should be pretty obvious. I win all my fights. Hey, it’s in the script, you know? Plus a lot of the actors I’ve worked with over the years, God bless them all, seemed to have this little thing in the back of their head where it was, you know, real. So they’re like thinking if they can beat me, and I mean really upstage me, in a fight scene, then they’ll be the next Godzilla. I blame The Method.


You mean “method acting?”

 Yeh. I mean I’m not totally dismissing The Method, I’m just saying that there’s getting into a fight, and there’s getting into a fight, and for too many it was the latter. You know that King Kong broke one of my teeth, no, it was two of my teeth, shoving a tree, a freaking ginormous-ass tree down my throat when we did our thing? That was not in the script. I came this close to walking, but we only had a few more days of shooting left and he got all weepy and apologetic afterwards, so I let it go. Anyway, The Method kind of takes egos and ramps them up a few notches. Seems to me. But that’s the thing, I’m the one who gets walloped on and yet I’m the “prima donna.”


Well, you did hurt a lot, how many thousands? during your career.

 Hey, nobody got hurt that didn’t get in my way first. Let’s get that straight.


So what did you think about the American-made 1998 Godzilla, the one staring Mathew Broderick?

If you think you’re going to get a rise out of me, you’re wrong. I thought it was a joke. Sure, I didn’t and don’t appreciate them using my name. And my lawyers won’t let me talk about all that. But I know who I am and everybody who inflicted that movie upon themselves knew that that wasn’t Godzilla. I tried to watch it. Hand to God, I tried. But I couldn’t sit through it. Couldn’t decide if that was CGI or Adam Sandler in a rubber suit. Either way it sucked.






Happy New Year 2014! ・ 明けましておめでとうございます!



Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

Happy New Year!

2014 is the Year of the Horse!


I took this photo at some friends’ house a few years ago. Newtown, Connecticut.


In 2013 I published a book, a memoir of 30 years back and forth between Japan and the U.S.  (with a few India and China chapters). The book was, and remains, Dancing Over Kyoto. I published it as an Ebook. In 2o14 I plan to publish an expanded edition of Dancing Over Kyoto in hard copy form. I’ll update this site in the spring or early summer when that gets done.

Japan Noumen Newton 01y - Copy

It was “Health & Sports Day” (体育の日 Taiiku no hi) in Japan.


The second Monday in October marks Health & Sports Day (体育の日- Taiiku no Hi) in Japan. It’s been going on since 1966 to commemorate the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  Taiku no Hi means Sports Days (Undoh-kai 運動会) at schools throughout Japan.

These photos are from October 15, 1990 (the second Monday in October), from Asaki* Middle School’s Sports Day. It was cloudy and muggy that day. The photo above shows the principal being saluted by the boys as they marched by during the opening ceremony. Asaki Middle School’s girls were integral to Sports Day, too. The photo below shows the commencement of a synchronized calisthenics display.


*My year in Asaki, teaching at Asaki Middle School, is covered in the eight chapters of Part 2 of my Ebook, Dancing Over Kyoto. I’ve slightly changed the town name.Oct91_SportsDay_2.1

_Dancing Over Kyoto_ – A new, just published Ebook.

Friends and followers of this site know that this has been a work-in-progress for some time. A love letter, tribute, homage and tragicomedy.  Link to the Amazon purchase site below.


Available at Amazon.com.  Dancing Over Kyoto:  A Memoir of Japan, China & India.

To Kill a Mockingbird ( アラバマ物語 ) – On this Day (May 1) in 1961

On May 1, 1961, Alabama author Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize.  In Japan To Kill a Mockingbird is called アラバマ物語 (Arabama Monogatari, or “Alabama Story”).  In 1999 Library Journal readers voted it the “Best Novel of the 20th century.”



“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” —
Attorney Atticus Finch (see Gregory Peck above, in the 1962 film) in To Kill a Mockingbird


I didn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird until I was 21, when I happened to be an exchange student at Kansai Gaidai (university) in Japan.

I had found a copy at some campus used book sale for, I don’t know ¥500 or something (then, just a couple of dollars). Lying there late at night in my little room at the Nakae’s (my host family) home in Tsuda, Japan, reading about the fictitious Maycomb, Alabama (my Alabama home town is the very real Slocomb) and the quiet courage of attorney Atticus Finch (my father, was also a courageous attorney from South Alabama) was a strange, but wonderful thing. Reading about the cowardice of the racists, Atticus’ resolve and his instilling the sense of Justice over mob rule to Scout, it made me both alternately ashamed of how my adopted state could be, and so very proud of the kind of people is was capable of producing.


Strictly Business

I work with Japanese companies.  As I’m an attorney, I’m duty-bound by strict confidentiality rules to never disclose any of the goings-on between me an my clients, any of them.  I’ve been employed by a Japanese company, JVC.  My short, nine or ten-month tour of duty with JVC occurred before I went to law school, so all bets are off with that employer.  Those stories will come someday.  I’ve no actual scandals to report.  The words “wacky” and “mad-cap” are much more descriptive of life as an American employed at a manufacturing facility owned by a Japanese company in the U.S., at least much moreso than, say, “witness-to-scandal.”

That said, I’ve recently lived- and worked-through a Situation with one of my Japanese corporate clients, which, of course, will remain nameless.  I won’t describe the Situation.  I will say that I’ve enjoyed serving this client for more than a decade and hope to continue to for years to come.  The client seems satisfied with my work, too.  I’m honored to have been this company’s U.S. attorney for these many years.

What I can do is share a story with you, dear readers.  The facts laid-out in this story are nothing like the facts involved in the Situation I’ve been a witness to.   However, by reading the story set forth below, a true story, you will begin to understand the broader contours of the Situation, about which I’m not allowed to, and would never, discuss.  By reading the story, though, you will begin to understand a lot about Doing Business in Japan (or with Japanese companies that do business overseas).

This very short story, Parking Anyone?, is true.  Robert J. Collins wrote it.  Collins was a corporate executive for an American company in Japan for years.  He wrote columns about his adventures as an American businessman living and working in Japan for The Japan Times.  A couple of times his columns were gathered together and sold as books.  This was back in the late 1980s.  Collins wrote under the pseudonym “Max Danger,” though everyone knew that Max Danger and Robert J. Collins were the same guy.  Collins’ Max Danger books remain Must Reads for anyone who finds himself, herself, on the brink of Doing Business in Japan.

Max Danger

I present most of Parking Anyone? by and under U.S. Fair Use law.  I’m not offering it for commercial purposes and seek no commercial benefit by reprinting this story in its entirety.  It’s just a short chapter in the larger work, More Max Danger: The Continuing Adventures of an Expat in Tokyo, which I encourage you, gentle reader, to buy.  In fact, I think Mr. Collins and his publisher should thank me for the free advertising.  At any rate, let’s get back to the point:  I invite you to read Parking Anyone? and understand this Situation I won’t discuss, and about Doing Business in Japan. I include a couple of links which, of course, are not part of the actual tale.


P a r k i n g    A n y o n e ?

There is a “Rube Goldberg” quality to the way things work around here.  For those who don’t remember, Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist whose specialty was depicting the accomplishment of a simple task through an incredible series of spectacularly complicated events .  .  .

There are good things to be said about these kinds of arrangements, however.  Well, at least one good thing — the system guarantees involvement.  And involvement means full employment.  But adjusting to this three-ring circus of activity takes time.  And patience.

Max Danger had the good fortune to witness, and compare, two identical projects as planned and executed in his New York Head Office, and in his Tokyo branch operation. The occasion was the seventy-fifth anniversary of his company’s founding, which coincided with the fortieth anniversary of the company’s Japan operation.

While on a business trip to New York, Max happened happened to sit in on a meeting wherein a tiny corner of the Head Office celebration was being planned.  The tiny corner of activity involved arranging for complimentary parking in a midtown Manhattan hotel for the guest of the company at a gala reception/cocktail party.

The strategy involved calling in a young dude from somewhere deep in the bowels of the building and telling him to call the hotel and “make arrangements.”  He said, “O.K.”  This aspect of the planning session took between twenty and thirty seconds.

A week or so later, back in Tokyo, Max witnessed the beginning of a series of events in quest of the same goal — complimentary parking for the guests of the Japan branch at a gala reception/cocktail party.

So as to preserve an accurate chronicle of activity — perhaps for future study by management consultants, or as background information to be used in the preparation of a doctoral thesis — Max is reporting the following on a parallel basis.  New York and Tokyo.

NEW YORK, DAY 1:  “Call the hotel and arrange for complimentary parking.”  The young dude says, “OK,” and slouches off.  Time elapsed:  twenty to thirty seconds.

TOKYO, DAY 1:  “Call the hotel and arrange for complimentary parking.”  The seven people from the General Affairs Dept. look at their hands, cigarette lighters, out the window, at the ceiling, at each other — anywhere, in fact, except at Max.  Careful questioning reveals that the group is not certain why this should be done.  Careful explanations follow, with subsequent desultory conversation in Japanese among the group.  Finally, consensus is reached.  It should be done because it’s a good idea.  The meeting ends.  Time elapsed:  forty-seven minutes.


NEW YORK, DAY 2:  Nothing.

TOKYO, DAY 2:  A meeting is convened during which it is reported that the hotel would like to know the makes and license numbers of the cars of the people attending the party in advance so that arrangements can be made.  The practicality of this is discussed, but it is concluded . . . that the “hotel’s request cannot be complied with.  The group is charged with the responsibility of effecting an alternate plan — perhaps free parking stickers.  The meeting ends.  Time elapsed:  one hour and nineteen minutes.


NEW YORK, DAY 3:  Nothing.

TOKYO, DAY 3:  “Do free parking stickers mean free to the drivers but paid for by the hotel or by the company?”  The question had merit.  A sub-committee is established to analyze the quotation of prices, from the hotel to the company, to determine accountability.  Time elapsed:  twenty-six minutes.


NEW YORK, DAY 4:  Nothing.

TOKYO, DAY 4:  Parking must be an extra charge to the company because the ice-carving is being provided at a discount.  Would the company consider parking slips, sent with the invitations, instead of stickers?  Also, how many attendees will there be?  The hotel, a new one, has somewhat limited parking facilities, and arrangements must be made for the cars of the regular guests.  Answers slowly emerge.  Time elapsed:  fifty-four minutes.


NEW YORK, DAY 5:  Nothing.

TOKYO, DAY 5:  “Should the company logo be on the slips, and/or are there special number sequences preferred?” At issue is the question of paying a flat fee for all slips mailed out with the invitations, or merely paying for those people who actually attend with cars.  Of course — and how can we overlook these things?  “And what about overflow?”  The meeting group has expanded by the addition of two serious guys from the Accounting Dept. — the chaps in charge of watching the gala reception/cocktail party budget.  Answers sort of emerge.  Elapsed time:  one hour and thirteen minutes.


NEW YORK, DAY 6:  Nothing.

TOKYO, DAY 6:  The slips are too big for the invitation envelops.  Should:  a) the slips be reprinted, b) the envelopes made bigger, or c) the slips folded?  The last alternative is finally selected.  Elapsed time:  forty-one minutes.


Max is pleased to report, if only for the sake of comparison, that the end result in both places, New York and Tokyo, was precisely the same.  Scholars will note, however, that it took the Tokyo operation five hours and twenty minutes to plan for it, whereas it took less than a minute in New York.

Oh, yes, the end result was precisely the same.  Disgruntled guest in New York lined up in cars for over an hour waiting to pay parking charges on the way out of the hotel.  It seems the young dude had resigned from the company within days of receiving his assignment, no one noticed, and nothing had been done about complimentary parking.

In Tokyo, the black cars were backed up to parking level B-3 waiting to pay fees.  It seems that the folding of the parking slips created mysterious technical problems, and if the invitations were to be mailed on time, they had to go out without the slips. . .

Author’s Note:  The Japanese parking slips were eventually mailed, and were received by most guests the day after the gala reception/cocktail party.


I have disclosed nothing about my recent Situation with my cherished Japanese corporate client, about its management, about anything having to do with my representation of it.   And, yet, you now know all.


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