Category Archives: Japan

Get Your Bookworm On

The Between Boyfriends Book: A Collection of Cautiously Hopeful Essays

Erica and her boo were talking about their reading habits, how it developed, what they’re reading now and the obstacles to a more robust bibliophilic life. They’ve also taken up a reading challenge which I think is a cool way to push yourself.

I developed the reading habit early on, praised for my abilities in first grade, that compliment fueled an above average vocabulary and a voracious appetite for books. My room as a teenager would be pretty spotless, but if you looked under my bed…dozens of books. My favorites were Judy Blume, Madeline L’Engle and then Stephen King. But I read almost anything, trashy romances, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, whatever.

I never developed much of a TV habit, even now I haven’t seen my favorite shows (Grey’s Anatomy or 30 Rock) in weeks but I almost always have a book going. I just finished Tourist Season: Stories by Enid Shomer, which I’d recommend if you are into short, character driven stories. I liked it but probably won’t read it again. Prior to that I was reading The Between Boyfriends Book (hilarious!) and Female Chauvanist Pigs (hilarious but smart!) at the same time, which I tend to do, read a “light” tome and something “heavier” at the same time. Sometimes I’ll have 3 books going at once.

Like most readers I have both a physical pile of “To Be Read” and an Amazon Wishlist full of dream books. I’m starting Kickboxing Geishas tonight which I’m looking forward to and I owe a copy of FCP to a friend who is in grad school, but I might have to buy her her own copy because I CAN see reading this one again.

Some of my favorite books of all time:

The World According To Garp, A Prayer For Owen Meany, IT, The Secret History, The Vintner’s Luck, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Honeymoon With My Brother, PUSH, Holidays On Ice, A Memory of Running, Children of Ham, The Alchemist, Vagabonding, The Power of One, The Bible (seriously) and The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart.

One book I’ve tried to read twice and just give up on: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.

Book Bandwagon that I haven’t jumped on: Harry Potter.

Let’s hear some of yours…

Oh and also, if you are a reader have you ever seriously dated a non-reader or someone with lopsided reading habits from your own? For example, one of my exes didn’t read alot of books but was a ravenous newspaper nerd, another ex doesn’t read alot of fiction but is into finance, real estate and personal development stuff. I was joking with a friend recently and we both agreed that we have fallen a little bit in lurve with someone based solely on their bookshelf. I know, I’m so shallow!


Nara, Japan: Templed Out? or Out Templed?


There comes a time in every trip, every journey, every story where you’ve reached the limit of things you can absorb. I still can’t wrap my mind around Carnival in Brazil (February), Dancing in Mauritius (March), Volunteering at a school for the disabled in Vietnam (April) and I still have things to see.

Poetically, just when I thought I had nothing left in me to oooh and ahhh over another temple, synagogue, world heritage site or church…we head to Nara. At this point I was fighting off the germs the students had brought back to the ship in China, coming out of denial that this voyage must end, and that the end is coming sooner rather than later.

On the day when I most wanted to stay in bed, drinking orange juice, writing in my journal and sorting through the thousand pictures I’ve taken, I grabbed my Nikon, my iPod and hit the road. Mostly to spend time with Professor J and some students, and to soak up some of the springtime sun. It would be an understatement to say that I’m glad that I did. In that one day, I saw the oldest wooden temple on earth and the largest wooden temple on earth (pictured).

You have to walk a little way to get to the main temple. Through a maze of long-haired deer, so tame that they literally eat out of your hand. I was walking with my head down, full of the thoughts of all we’ve done and all we’ve seen in almost 4 months of circumnavigating the globe. Feeling like there was nothing left to surprise me and again, I was stopped in my tracks when the temple came into view. You can see from the scale of the picture how small the people are in comparison to the main building. I was so stunned that tears sprang to my eyes. All you can think about when you see the place is how many people, worked how many years, with how much wood, to build a shrine that encloses one of the largest Buddahs in the world.

One of the most fun things about going to all of the temples and shrines was seeing all of the school kids, dressed in matching outfits or hats, learning about their culture and history. The students were so excited to practice their “hellos” and “nice to meet yous” that we couldn’t resist delaying their education a bit and engaging them in the timeless game of intercultural introductions.

It was also fun watching them climb through the Buddah’s hole of enlightement.

We also visited a Shinto shrine that was a brilliant orange and the perfect place to watch the sun wane. I got to try a Shinto cleansing ritual, trying to remember to do each step in order to avoid offending any of the local people tending to their spiritual tasks.

I learned long ago, that I will never regret pushing through when I know I can, sitting still when I know I must, but it feels good to know that I know the difference between the two.

Osaka, Japan: Play Ball


We headed out to an evening baseball game at the Kyocera Dome Osaka. I loved the deep green of the turf against the vibrant orange of the baseball diamond. Attending a baseball game in Japan is one of the top 10 things you must do when you get the chance. I finally got to hang out with Drew, one of my staff colleagues and a fellow UVA grad (Go Hoos!). He is 3 years younger than I am, but we were both Resident Assistants in college so I knew him from our time on staff, something we both agree changed our lives.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a big baseball aficionado, I love going to games for the fresh air, beer and pretzels. The comaraderie of friends laughing in the sunshine. This was no different (minus the sun due to the dome being an indoor sort of thing). Very cool beer dispensing method!

It was fun to watch the Japanese fans root on the Orix Buffaloes (yes, they spell it with an “e”) with their numerous coordinated cheers, the HUGE team flags and their love for each player. Every.single.player. has his own song, and the fans know each one. It was great to crowd watch because in between bouts of riotous cheering the Japanese fans are very sedate and quiet. They are either all cheering together or totally quiet, there’s no random hootin’ and hollerin’, its all or nothing.

I had yak noodles and fried squid on a stick at the game, same same..but different (some of yall will get that!).

**In response to the comments: I’m not ready to come home yet, so I banish any such conversation on that topic!

Kobe, Japan: So Sushi


The weather in Kobe is gorgeous. Just perfect for strolling and hopping on and off the impressively spotless rail system. The people are all smiles and style. Everyone is rocking either the Armani businesswear or the Hipster kid/Hip Hop/Glam Grunge look. They definitely appreciate individuality and artistic expression. We hit up Uoyatei for some conveyor belt sushi. Real sushi, not that supermarket stuff (that I confess that I love). Fresh wasabi, sweet ginger, hot green tea – spring in Japan. Amazing.