Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Back in Japan, with husband in tow

January 14, 2010

From my column “Where they Went,” first published in the Boston Globe on Sept. 6, 2009

Newlyweds Rick Walter and Kerri O'Neill Walter in Yokohama, Japan

WHO: Kerri, 36, and Rick Walter, 51, of Derry, N.H.

WHERE: Japan

WHEN: One week in March

WHY: “I taught English in Japan from 1998-2002 and wanted to go back and visit some friends and have Rick see where I lived,” said Kerri Walter. “We picked March because we wanted to try and see cherry blossoms.”

In front of the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo

HONEYMOON VOYAGE: In what was also a belated honeymoon (they were married last summer), Walter was eager to show her husband around on his first trip out of the United States and introduce him to friends there she has stayed in touch with.

TEEN ATTRACTIONS: The first few days, they toured Tokyo, especially the teen fashion sites. “I took him to Shibuya, which is a famous, huge intersection with neon signs where Japanese teenagers shop.” On Sunday they watched the famed scene at Yoyogi Park in Harajuku. “Young people come on Sundays and wear costumes; like there’s a famous group of them that dress up like 1950s greasers.” What amazed them both was that the scene has stayed constant for years, as had most of the places she lived and worked. “It didn’t seem like I’d been gone long at all.”

In Kyoto near the Kiyomizudera Temple

FRUGAL FUELING: Staying on a tight budget, the Walters often ate at an izakaya, a bar that serves food. “We had things like fried noodles, rice balls, little fried shrimp, curry rice.” Another destination was yakiniku, where diners cook their own meat on a tableside grill. “Rick’s favorite drink was plum wine. You can get it straight up or in a drink called an ume sour.” To save on transportation, they preordered Japan Rail passes, which cover most trains and buses in the country. “It’s an incredible deal.”

The Genbaku Dome was one of the few buildings left standing after the atomic blast in Hiroshima

FROM HIGHLIGHT TO HARD FLOOR: A bullet train took them to Hiroshima, where “my husband really wanted to see the peace park. That was the highlight of his trip.” There they stayed at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. “They have bath areas with really hot water and you sleep on a thick, thick blanket, like a futon. Rick liked the bath but not sleeping on the mat.” They stopped by nearby Miyajima to see the iconic pi-shaped orange shrine.

Mount Fuji as seen from the Hakone region

FUJI TIME: In Kyoto, they luxuriated at the Weston Miyako. “I got an insanely cheap rate on Expedia.” A view of Mount Fuji opened up to them on the final day. They took a well-known route by car, boat, and “ropeway” (cable car) in Hakone to bring them closer to Japan’s tallest mountain, at 12,388 feet. “I’ve been there a million times, but I really wanted Rick to see it.” The one thing Walter couldn’t show her husband were the cherry blossoms. “My friend said they were beautiful about 10 days after we left.”

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Catching Red Sox at a really away game

June 27, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published May 25, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: One of the best ways to experience a foreign country is to go to a public event where you’re not a tourist, but one of the crowd. This group certainly  was treated to some authentic Japan.

WHO: Michael Zimman, 58, his wife, Ellen Rovner, 59, their son, Sam Zimman, 18, all of Brookline, Mass., and Michael’s brother, Jon Zimman, 53, and his partner, Glenn Roberts, 42, both of San Francisco.

WHERE: Japan.

WHEN: Ten days in March.

WHY: To attend the Red Sox season opener and sightsee.

THE BIG IDEA: “My brother promoted this,” Michael Zimman said. “He thought it was an unusual opportunity and could get tickets through the Oakland [Athletics] organization.” The brothers, who grew up on the North Shore, are huge Sox fans, as is Roberts, who is from Connecticut.

TRANSCENDENT VIEWS: In Tokyo they stayed on the 46th floor of the Park Hyatt. “It’s where ‘Lost in Translation’ was filmed,” Rovner said. “I don’t know how Scarlett was bored there,” she said of the character played by Scarlett Johansson. “The views are amazing. Wherever you were, it was like floating among the skyscrapers. There are windows everywhere. At night it was just spectacular.”

Ellen Rovner and Michael Zimman at the Tokyo Dome during the Red Sox gamePREGAME SHOW: “When we got to the game, they had the World Series trophy on display, with armed guards, and there were literally hundreds of Japanese taking photos,” Zimman said. “The opening ceremony was quite the extravaganza,” Rovner said. “They had these kids in traditional costumes, wearing bright colors, and it was very choreographed.”

SOUND AND FLURRIES: “There were about 2,000 Americans out of 55,000 total in the stands. They were selling sushi in the stands with bento boxes for snacks,” Zimman said. “In general it was much quieter. They played ‘When you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.’ ” Fans also made “funny electronic noises when there was a foul.” The vendors were all young, attractive women in short shorts, Zimman said. “They’d run down the aisle to the bottom, bow to the crowd, and then walk back up to sell their beer.”

Glenn Roberts, Jon Zimman, and Ellen Rovner in front of Buddhist Temple in KyotoUBER-URBAN: They stayed in Kyoto and Tokyo for several days each. “Kyoto is physically more beautiful, though Tokyo has some incredible new buildings,” Rovner said. “Tokyo at first was overwhelming, but after a few days, when we could get around, we thought, wow, this is great.”

Ellen Rovner and Michael Zimman sampling scallops at the Tokyo fish marketSEAFOOD SENSATIONS: After visiting the giant Tokyo fish market, where they saw huge tunas wheeled around in motorized carts, they came upon a vendor. “They were grilling these giant scallops, like the size of a small orange. No one spoke a word of English, but a flight attendant who was there ordered a couple for us,” Zimman said.

FLOWERING FINALE: On their last day they happened upon blooming cherry trees. “All the Japanese were taking a gazillion pictures of them,” Rovner said of the blossoms. “It’s such a part of their culture.”