Dispatches from 1999
Dispatches from 1998
July 19 - Yokohama, Japan
I'm outta here!
I fly from Narita to Chicago to Syracuse, New
York; then drive to Watertown for my
20th High School Reunion.
Before leaving, I had a pretty action packed
On Friday, I went to a summer festival
full of beer, wine, octopus balls, half-naked drummers, teary-eyed
enka singers, and the ancient Japanese
tradition of BINGO...
Saturday was spent drinking with a group rowdy
And Sunday found me in Harajuku - ground zero
for bizarre fashion. I've got a bunch bunch
of pictures from there that will make it
onto these pages in August.
July 14 - Yokohama, Japan
Well, here's a redesign for my front page.
I hope it will make navigation easier, along with offering a better design.
Now that my writings have found a home on planetexpat.com,
"Wonderings" seemed to be rendered
irrelevant on Range of Vision.
So now, ROV will primarily focus on my "Wanderings".
By the end of the summer, I'll have the whole
Let me know what you think...
July 13 - Yokohama, Japan
I'm one week away from my 20th High School Reunion.
It'll be my first time back to my
hometown, Watertown NY, in 10 years.
My Singapore friend, Nicole, wonders if American
Reunions are just like the movies portray
them. I wonder that myself!
Any way you slice it, it should be a very, very
I'll then go to visit my parents at their new
home in Philadelphia, and catch up with Indy
The Wonder Dog. Licks for everyone!
The final leg of the trip will be a couple of
business days with Angie in the scenic Silicon Valley.
We'll be back in Japan on August 8th, but I'll get
in some updates before then
July 3 - Yokohama, Japan
We had a great, though very hot, weekend here in Yokohama.
My friend Oshimo-san came up from Osaka to show off her Buddha
Belly. She's pregnant, so it's pretty impressive.
Tsuji-san and Sakamaki-san joined us for a mini-reunion.
Oshimo-san dictated the schedule, so
we spent most of our time eating.
Garlic Jo's followed by TGIFridays followed by
Chinese Dim Sum. All of it was great.
We also watched HANZO THE RAZOR, a film from the 70's about
a samurai with a really, really big, ummm, sword.
It's really funny and really good.
In other news, I was shocked to see WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE
on Japanese Television. It's been cloned!
It's the same set, the same music, the same format.
The host even looks like a Japanese version of Regis.
The strange thing is - it doesn't look strange...
BTW, I put up the last two Guilin, China pages.
June 25 - Yokohama, Japan
Three new pages are up today. "Faces of Guilin, China",
"Chinese Performers", and "Yangshuo". Two more will be
up in the next few days.
You can reach the new pages from "Wanderings", or from the
Also, be sure to check out Planetexpat. I've
added a link below.
June 22 - Yokohama, Japan
Things have been pretty busy for me lately.
My recent promotion has given me a lot more responsibility.
And, my freelance writing assignments are a happy addition to
my workload, as well.
Some of my writing has already appeared on the website
Check it out, as it's shaping up to be an excellent resource
for people who live in other countries, and those who want the perspective
of people who live in other countries.
I'll be adding a better link to PlanetExpat this weekend.
I'll also be adding some long overdue photos
from our trip to Guilin, China.
The scenery was spectacular. The people were friendly.
And the whole nation was on holiday.
Which made it even more interesting.
Come back for details on Monday...
April 21 - Yokohama, Japan
The last few weeks have been busy and kind of exciting.
First, Range of Vision received a very nice review from "MariaPia's
Personal Site Reviews 2000".
She does a very nice job pointing out well-made sites on the the web. I'll
put the link on the Views page.
Here's what she had to say about ROV:
"Range of Vision is Asia done
This smart site brings Eastern culture to the West and, admittedly, mixes
Please read Views: 1-Welcome To the East/West World, as soon as you finish
a quick tour of the Java quote applet, the very clever use of a dropdown
selection box as a text box on the main page (I thought it was a floating
frame), and a few photos in the Journal.
I was charmed by the "intelligence" and beauty."
All I can say is, thanks!
In other news, I'm working with a HK based web site to provide some essays
and photos of Japan and Asia to their May
1st launch of a web resource for expats.
I'll let you know more as the date approaches.
And, finally, it's travel time again!
I'm getting that 'gotta get a stamp in the passport' itch again.
So, we're off to Guilin, China for 10 days.
Then I've got 10 days of business in
Should be cool.
April 10 - Yokohama, Japan
About 2 years ago, I prophesied to Angie that there would come a day when
the line between sanity and insanity would be blurred by cellular phones.
That day has come.
Today, on the train, I saw a completely psychotic man.
He seemed to exhibit many classic signs of dementia:
incoherent babbling, angry shouting, unkempt physical appearance,
and carrying all his possessions in a Takashimaya shopping
Amazingly, no one thought his shouting was worth notice.
Why? Because he was shouting into a cell phone.
I can't imagine how he got one. I don't know how he pays the bills. I
suspect it may not even have been on.
But the very presence of the phone allowed him the appearance of
acceptability. At least, I think that's it.
It can't be that they think he was normal just because he had a phone. Can
In Japan, after all, appearance is everything.
To hike, you dress like a hiker. To ski, you dress like a skier. To be a
mom, a business man, a punk - whatever.
Each calling has its' uniform.
And now, it appears that sanity carries a cell phone.
April 08 - Yokohama, Japan
It's Cherry Blossom time again!
We went to Sankei-en, a local garden that's also a home for
Japanese architectural wonders - a collection of temples, shrines,
houses, pagodas, and even a castle wall.
The park is also home to 2,000 cherry trees, and this weekend the
park lit up all the buildings and trees into the night.
We arrived at sunset, upon a typical Japanese scene.
There was the smell of cigarettes, sake and beer.
The calls of 'KAMPAI' and 'CHEESU'!
The sight of men mounting $10 disposable cameras onto $100 tripods
in an attempt to get that once in a lifetime photo.
All the things we love about Japan.
We walked through the smiling, laughing, drinking throngs to
a stage where there was a traditional music performance.
Two women, clad in kimono, sat in front of kotos, as a man came onto the
stage with his bamboo flute - the shakuhachi.
The crowd grew silent, as the flutist blew his first breath.
And what a first breath it was! Under normal circumstances, the shakuhachi
has a haunting tone - raspy, full, and ghostlike.
But under the moon and the blossoms, this particular note must have called
straight to the kami - Japanese gods - because, as
that note held wavering in the wind, the wind seemed to
draw strength from that breath. We felt it first, then heard it racing down
the side of the hill. We shivered and
so did the trees. Then, as the hundred or so people in
attendance looked up, cherry blossoms rained down upon us
from the trees. The note, the wind, the cherry blossoms,
and the oohs and ahhhs of the audience mixed
in the air above us. How long?
I don't know. Long enough to bring me a smile.
Long enough to bring Angie a tear.
Then the moment was gone, though the music played on.
But we know the gods don't live here, anyway. They just visit once in a
April 7 - Yokohama, Japan
More proof that it's an east/west world:
-America's hottest new action star is Jet Li.
-Japan's hottest new restaurant is TFIFridays.
That's right, TGIFridays. There's one in Tokyo, one in Yokohama, one
opening in Shinagawa soon, and another opening in Yokohama
in the fall.
And they're packing em in!
Feb 27 - Yokohama, Japan
Well, today was certainly a mixed bag...
I'm sick as a dog, with some kind of stomach virus.
That's not good.
On the other hand, Nicole Ong - a friend from Singapore
who happens to be one of my favorite people in the world
to talk to - is in town. I can see her for the first time
in over a year.
We had plans to meet and do some sightseeing in Tokyo.
For me to go, while sick, would be stupid, of course.
But I went, of course.
My thinking is that when you make friends in a far-off country
(Singapore qualifies, obviously), there is a
strong possibility that you might never see them again.
So, you should not let an opportunity pass.
Anyway, I took her and her co-workers to Asakusa Shrine by boat.
We were fortunate to have a beautifully clear day, though
it was quite cold.
After the shrine, we went to Harajuku for lunch, souvenir
shopping, and some people-watching.
The food filled their stomachs, the shopping emptied their wallets, and
the sightseeing overloaded their senses.
I then took Nicole back to Yokohama, where we met up with
Angie, and had dinner in Chinatown.
It wasn't an exciting day, but it was great to hear her
laugh again, and see her
After diner, we saw Nicole off, and I allowed myself to get sick again.
Yes, it was worth it.
Feb 21st - Honolulu, Hawaii
Four days in Oahu. This was the first time we've had a
car here, so we took advantage and drove around the island.
We were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful and quiet
the windward coast is. We drove the back roads that lie
beneath the 'pali' (cliffs) and stopped at numerous beaches
to feel the wind, watch the waves, and smell the sea.
Last week, in San Jose, drinking in a Mexican bar, we
talked about what landscape speaks to our soul. Jesse chose
mountains. Bill choose desert. Angie chose forest.
I chose water, particularly ocean.
We watched the legendary waves on the North Shore for awhile
and had some shaved ice at H. Miura's. A leisurely drive
though the pineapple plantations of Central Oahu brought
us back to A Pacific Cafe for another incredible dining
Other highlights of Oahu included:
-A nice dinner in the romantic courtyard of Indigo with
-Stumbling on a performance by Hapa, perhaps Hawaii's best recording
artists. We only had time to hear 3 songs, but
it was great to see them live.
-Watching the new slack key band Hui Aloha in our hotel bar. The voice of
Reverend Dennis is a true pleasure.
-A visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Touristy? Yep.
Feb 16th - Kona, Hawaii
Back in Hawaii. Sun and Lava. Water and Sand.
Slack Key Guitar and Hula.
Of course I snorkeled, and of course, we ate too much great
food (Roy's Waikoloa Grill, Sam Choys, Cafe Pesto, Palm
But we're not entirely hedonists.
We hiked into the Waipio Valley, a spectacular green niche
carved into the northern coast of the Big Island.
Half shrouded in mist, black sand pounded by white surf, waterfalls
tumbling directly into the sea - it's easy to
see why Hawaiians have always considered this a location
of great mana.
It's this ability to directly interface with the natural
that I miss most in Japan.
At least in the Tokyo area.
Feb 17th - Kona, Hawaii
This afternoon, as I headed into the water for a swim, a couple of locals
called out to me.
They were loading an outrigger canoe into the bay and
were short one paddler. Would I like to join?
We took the canoe out over the reef and jumped in. They
gave me a quick lesson in commands and only two rules
to follow. One - paddle on the opposite side of the paddler
in front of you. Two - lean towards the pontoon,
not away, no matter what. Simple enough.
Anyway, they didn't know that I've kayaked enough for these two concepts
to be pretty intuitive.
As we paddled out, one guy called out to me, "Did they tell you it's
$125 for 50 minutes?".
I replied, "Well, I wasn't going to ask for pay, but if you want to
pay me, it's okay."
They laughed, and I added, "I just don't take personal
We paddled out of the bay, past the point, into bigger
waves, but nothing extreme. They were starting their
training for the racing season. We did sets at different
paces. Sprint, then slow, then steady, then sprint, and
There's something fundamentally right about the sound
of a paddle striking water,
as muscles stretch under the sun, and sea breezes blow through your hair.
It might have been the fastest 50 minutes of my life.
Feb 13th - San Jose, California
It's been a week of shopping, and visiting.
At work, I renewed all my business contacts for my new
assignment. After work, I renewed all my friendships.
I bought all the clothes I need. I haunted the used
CD stores and DVD shops. We spent late nights at Borders
and Barnes and Noble.
The tank is full again.
Feb 6 - San Francisco, California
Kung Hei Fa Choi!
This weekend is Chinese New Year, so of course we left
Chinatown, Yokohama for Chinatown, San Francisco.
Actually, we're just here to see friends before my meetings next week.
We did get some dim sum and look for Chinese DVDs.
We had two excellent meals, as well. One was at "Le
Colonial", an upscale
Vietnamese restaurant that was pricy,
but great. The second was with our friends
John and Ellen, at
"Straits Cafe", which serves Singaporean cuisine in an
environment that recreates Boat Quay.
Jan 12 - Yokohama, Japan
This weekend our friends Jodi, from Singapore, and Wendy, from
Taiwan were in town for a conference.
They spent the night at our apartment, and we all stayed
up late, talking. We hadn't seen them in over a year, a
year of many changes for all of us.
We went to Kamakura and visited a number of the most
important temples. It was 'Coming of Age Day', and also
the last day for New Years visits, so many women were in
kimono - adding to the color.
Kamakura is an ideal day trip, much like another favorite
place of mine, Monterey.
Both are located on bays, small enough to walk, blessed
with natural beauty and cultural significance, and both are
near large cities.
We visited the Big Buddha, and went inside him, where I
intoned, in my best 'god' voice, "Obey me....".
We visited Hase-dera, with it's jizo statues guiding
the soles of children (mostly abortions) to heaven, where
we rotated the scripture wheel to acquire an instant
education in Buddhism.
And we plopped onto tatami mats for a tasty tempura
But, Kamakura was merely a backdrop for the conversations,
stories, glances, laughs,
teasing, and sighs that sustain
friendships over the years.
And Kamakura was great for
Jan 1st - Yokohama
What did we do on the Millennium?
We ate another great meal at Chandlers Crab House. Then we went outside
among the gathering throngs to await the countdown
at the Cosmoclock, a giant Ferris wheel/clock.
I have to admit that it was pretty exciting, as the last minute
approached, and the roar of the crowd gained
momentum. Finally, "San, Ni, Ichi, Happy New
With that, the lights of the Cosmoclock simulated
fireworks, while real fireworks exploded behind.
It was short but appropriate.
At the harbor front, a number of guys stripped for the
crowd and dove into the cold water. We rewarded them
chants of, "One More Time".... And they did.
We followed like lemmings up a hill to Nogeyama Shrine
where we got some hot amezake and watched the crush of
people lining up to say
their first prayer of the year.
The line was too long for us, so we simply walked home.
Dispatches from 1999
Dispatches from 1998