Japan Trip–Day 1


It’s been five years since Jan and I traveled abroad, my retirement began, and I started writing this blog.  Japan was the next destination on our list because we were attracted by what we knew of its culture–haiku, sashimi, kabuki, Toyota–and because we hoped to spend some time there with our nieces, Emma and Marie, whose mother is Japanese-Korean.  The nieces had gotten married and engaged within the last year and wanted to introduce their partners to the family, so the time had arrived to coordinate plans.  Jan and I would go on a ten-day guided tour of “Japan’s Cultural Treasures” and meet them afterward for a few days together in Osaka, where it happened a friend of ours from San Luis Obispo had been living for three years.  Once we decided our schedule, I contacted Kazumi Yamagata, an eminent scholar of English Literature who’d translated my book on Shakespeare and the Bible into Japanese, and he invited us to visit him and his family at home outside of Tokyo the day before the tour  started.

After 24 hours of travel and a good night’s sleep we were met at our hotel by a disciple of Dr. Yamagata who conducted us through the maze of downtown Tokyo to Central station where we met one of his disciples and boarded the bullet train for an hour’s trip north to the Professor’s home.


These men all teach English literature and were relatively easy for us to communicate with.  Kazumi’s wife, Satchiko, met us at the station in their daughter’s Jaguar and drove us to their  country home, where were we received warmly by the mentor, who’d turned 76 the day before.  We spent time gossiping about English literary critics, I signed their copies of his translation, and Kazumi brought out fourteen volumes of his collected works recently published–a minor portion of the 50 books that he’s written.


He was pleased when Jan mentioned that she’d written her M.A. thesis on Dante, who he’s now translating into Japanese.

After a couple of hours, they took us to a traditional restaurant in their neighborhood where we ate large quantities of melt-in-your-mouth and melt-you-away sashimi and tempura.



Then back to their house for tea and a tour of his study, and a visit with their daughter, Yumi, who’d just arrived from a concert she’d performed at in southern Japan.  Jan got to know her better than I did, but as her flute played quietly on the stereo in the background, they brought out gifts for us including a new CD of her work.


We toured their garden, where the same plants that we’d eaten in the tempura were springing up, plum blossoms in the background.


We returned to Tokyo in time to meet up with our tour group led by Maya, our striking and gracious guide. We marched together to a little dive for yakitori dinner and then home to this “modest” hotel, one of the best I’ve ever stayed in, that has a toilet with two different kinds of sprays for one’s undercarriage, along with a really deep bathtub.


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