Sunday, November 18, 2018

Your Process and Mine

NaNoWriMo is a one month challenge for writers to write 50,000 words in a single month.  It's a kick in the pants for many people who have a hard time actually settling in to work on their writing on a regular, preferably daily, basis.

The goal is supposedly to complete a novel manuscript of 50,000 words in a single month, but a novel is usually 75,000 or so.  NaNo therefore produces a short first draft, which must then go through all of the remaining stages of book production -- resting, rewriting, resting, rewriting, betas, editors, copy editors, proofreaders, additional research and so on -- before it's ready to go.

I decided to use NaNoWriMo this year to get the first draft of Book 6 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, Renko's Challenge, done by a specific date to coincide with friends coming to Japan so I can join them on a Buddhist pilgrimage and set myself up for a read-through and beginning of a rewrite during a planned ski trip (YES!) at the end of January.

Lately, I've been working on a marketing class because I'd like to be able to reach more of MY readers, because once people read my books, they're hooked and continue to read more. That's fun for me and fun for them!  I see plenty of posts from Facebook groups related to both these things.

However, I have found that both of these are causing me anxiety because I just don't work the way both groups encourage.  I don't like chasing daily word counts.  I don't want to produce five books a year. I prefer quality to quantity.  So far, I have always met my book-a-year production goals, and had very little trouble doing so.  A book a year is a reasonable goal for a series when the finished product is a damned good series that's going to last far beyond its release date.

I'm very much a self-starter.  I am not a "job" person.  I've always had businesses, and have no problem getting myself out of bed and getting myself going.  While law has many deadlines imposed from without, I am also good at imposing deadlines from within.

Until now.

Not only has life gotten in the way, like it sometimes does, but I find the very deadlines I have imposed are curtailing my production.

I need time to think.  I need time to walk in parks, visit museums, relax my brain and let the characters and story come forth.  They don't do that very well when I'm chasing word counts.  So I'm taking some time off.  I am going to honor MY process and keep my goal of getting Renko's Challenge out by Summer Solstice 2019.

I don't need competition or pressure from others to accomplish that.  I need my own cranky form of self-discipline that allows me to shut myself off and make my writing my first priority.  I need to recognize and honor my own process.

It's important, I think, for all writers to discover and honor their individual processes.   Your process is the one that produces your books -- not just some quota of words -- in a reasonable time frame with the level of quality you want.  This is the process, moreover, that makes you love what you do as a writer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Characters Making Magic

There are plotters -- writers who carefully plan every move in every chapter of their books.  When they sit down to write, they simply fill in the blanks.
Then, there are pantsers, as in "by the seat of their pants" writers.  These writers just start writing and see where the material leads them.
I'm a little bit of both.  I like knowing my first line.  I like knowing my last.  I like having a major dramatic arc for the book more or less in place.
With an ensemble cast that keeps growing, I know I'm going to have to have a dramatic arc of some sort for each of the major characters.  I often have stacks of scenes that play into these anticipated arcs playing around in my head, but I am not sure where they're going to be in the finished work.
All of these intertwine to make what I hope will be an interesting, entertaining, book.

I'm about 16,000 words into Renko's Challenge, Book 6 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series. I am sort of doing NaNoWriMo in that I am making a major push to have the first draft finished about a month from now.  I'm very close to a quarter in, so I should be able to do this with the push of a solid deadline.
When I am writing draft, I can't do anything else.  If I take a few days off, I have to read from the beginning, just as I reread the entire series before I start thinking about the next book, what it's going to say and how it'll come together, and maybe even before I book a single research trip.

I do not keep frantic track of daily word counts.  I'd rather have quality than quantity.  50,000 words is a novella, not a novel, and I write novels.  A first draft is a FIRST draft and will need a great deal of revision before it's ready for betas, for editors and before it gets anywhere close to publication.  Still, NaNo has virtues, and the biggest one for me is setting a firm and solid deadline.  Another is clearing my schedule so I am interrupted as little as possible and can plow straight through.

Why do I do that?  Because that's when the magic happens.  Yesterday, two of my characters got to talking.  They were talking about something that they started discussing in Noriko's Journey, Book 5.  I meant for them to pursue the idea, but suddenly their conversation was setting up an aspect of future history I hadn't known how to handle.  When you write historical fantasy, sometimes actual history rears its ugly head and you have to get your characters through what would likely have been a highly unpleasant time for them.  It's still not going to be fun for anybody, but I now know how they'll all get through it.

Just for a bonus, I've been wondering what to do with some reappearing characters who don't quite fit into this particular year of this particular time period.

Now they do.

That's why I am a plotting pantser.  This one is going to be good.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

# 1 -- THANK YOU!

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Three Book Omni Edition is a box set containing Book One, Coming Home; Book Two, Chasing Dreams and Book Three, Together.

This book is in e-format only, available on Kindle at Amazon.

It was on special through today (depending on what side of the International Date Line you're on) and was also's Book of the Day on October 19.

And it hit number 1 in its category on Amazon, so it's an official #1 Best Seller.

Welcome to all the new readers!

You'll also enjoy Book 4, Uncle Yuta has an Adventure and Book 5, Noriko's Journey.  I am starting Book 6, working title Renko's Challenge, right now.  Have fun with this series -- I certainly am.

Thank you all so very much for making the Box Set a success.  Do enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them -- and do leave reviews.  Short is fine. Short is great. Besides providing feedback, something I value, reviews tell the computer innards at various retailers what to do -- something I have no control over.  I almost called them Ghosts in the Machine -- but I'd be a lot more comfortable with ghosts!

Again, thank you.  Keep flying!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Like a candle

I was fortunate enough to go on a pilgrimage to Taiseki-ji, the head Temple of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, of which I am a member, this last weekend.

It's always wonderful, but this was my first official Tozan as a Japanese member.  Tozan is the word we use for a pilgrimage.  It's also used for mountain climbing -- it means "to climb the mountain" and in the case of a pilgrimage, the mountain is enlightenment.  It's the only native-to-Japanese pun I know.

As so often happens, it was full of significant experiences.

Here's one.

Many Temples use oil candles.  They look like wax candles and have actual flames, but they are china, hollow, and filled with lamp oil into which a wick is inserted.  They pose much less risk of fire and don't spatter wax all over, either.

Evening Gongyo, the evening practice service, was at 5:30.  The Chief Priest, a small man who looks deceptively elderly and fragile, with Coke-bottle glasses, came bustling in at 5:26.  There are a few things that need doing to prepare for this service, including removing the morning water offering, lighting incense and lighting the candles.  Often there's an electric candle, too, that gets switched on with the lights, but this day, we were having oil candles, too.
He trimmed the wicks and refilled the candles, then he lit them.  The one on the right from my view didn't take.  It seemed to go on and off, sputtering and flaring alternately, and looking like it was going out, then flaming more brightly.

I couldn't help glancing at it.

It seemed to me that this was like our Buddhist practice.  Our lives wax and wane with obstacles and successes, but over time that's how we attain enlightenment.

By the end of Gongyo, it was burning brightly.  I hope that we all do.

More Hokkaido Photos

Well, I sure hope so.

At that time, the late 1800s, taxidermy was a popular method of collecting and preserving specimens of animals, insects and birds so that people who lived where those beings didn't would be able to see them.  Taxidermy exhibits are all over Hokkaido museums.  Some of the specimens represent beings now extinct, so I guess it's not all bad.  This is very strange today, since we have photography and also the ability to transport and house living specimens.  The sea eagle and the crane are from a museum in the Hokudai botanical gardens.  That's a very interesting place, and the two museums on the grounds are well worth the trip alone.  They have the only authentic period films of Ainu ceremonies that I encountered.  Today, Ainu people (and everybody else on Hokkaido) celebrate and
share Ainu culture and art for tourism and entertainment as well as cultural preservation purposes.  The music and dance are wonderful!  The wood and fabric art are well worth a look. The history of the Ainu and the other northern people, with their trade routes, cultural interactions and incredibly wide rage shows how people lived quite well in inhospitable climates.  Yes, they did have skis!

The building is another period farm house, and the little streetcar is the one the horse pulls!  The horse is not abused at all.  He seemed to quite enjoy pulling the street car, gets a break after every run of the short track, and trades off with his buddy.  Do NOT worry about the horse!

This village is a little hard to get to without a car -- many places in Hokkaido are like that -- but there is a bus, and I took it!  There's also a cafe where they have many wonderful things, including the ubiquitous potatoes served with butter.  Hokkaido potatoes are creamy and delicious, and the butter is excellent!  The ones I order are usually roasted.  Wonderful!

Hokudai and the Tondenhai

At the end of the 19th Century, William S. Clark came to Hokkaido by invitation.  His mission was to found a University and establish agriculture.  He did both.  What's fascinating to me is how much of what he established during his brief term resembles what was going on in Seattle at the same time.
Since there were a lot of unemployed samurai in mainland Japan at that time, and Hokkaido needed both warriors and farmers, the Tondenhei program was established to address those problems and needs.
These pioneers not only gave Hokkaido Japanese wa-jin pioneer settlers, but also a population of soldiers who could be called upon at need.  This is rather like Switzerland's citizen-soldier system, and may have been adopted from there. Japan's really good at adopting the useful.
Wa-jin people are what we think of as ethnic Japanese, not just people who are citizens.  The indigenous Ainu people were almost immediately made citizens.  Their restoration as indigenous people is very recent.
Between 1875 and 1877 about 2000 of these Tondenhai settlers arrived.  Men were assigned to regiments, given cold-weather uniforms, and families were allocated 8 acre homesteads.
On the Hokkaido University campus, there are demonstration farms and dairy barns.  Hokudai is the popular name of the University.  It's a lovely campus.  The farms and barns are oh-so-familiar to me, because my ancestors were doing pretty much the same thing in parts of the US northwest.
There is also one of Japan's great outdoor museums.  This is an artificial village made by moving historic buildings, many donated by families, from the original sites.  It's fun!
Here are some pictures.

Here are the horse who pulls the streetcar (there are two who trade off), interior of a Tondenhai house, the exterior, and here is William Clark, whose famous motto, "Boys, be ambitious," is still seen everywhere.  There were, of course, no girls at the university in those days.  Empress Shoken was instrumental in forwarding the rights and education of women, though, and it looked about 50-50 on the lovely campus now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ferry good fortune

I'm back in Tokyo after a research trip to Hokkaido for Renko's Challenge, which will be Book 6 in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series.  Here are some highlights.  There is more to come.

Hokkaido is recovering quickly.  While many people cancelled their plans, I only had to cancel one leg of my planned trip because I couldn't get there by train due to tracks still under repair from earthquake damage, and bus involving backtracking and very long rides that would have left me no time to go in search of Sea Eagles.  It's early for them at that location, so it's all good.  I have an excellent excuse to go back.

Hakodate and Sapporo were developing madly with the sought-after aid of the USA during the late 1800s.  Seattle and western Washington, where I hail from, were doing the same thing, but not because  Russia wanted to annex large territories the US wished to hold on to. Seattle's phenomenal growth was largely attributable to the Alaska Purchase of 1867 and the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896.

Russia still wants to get undisputed title to many islands that string off the north coast of Hokkaido, locally known as the Kurils, and Japan is still resisting. I know I was looking at the Japanese side of history, but Tokugawa Ieyasu first formally made Hokkaido part of Japan in 1604 by establishing a definite national presence there.  There was trade with and through Siberia, much of it with China (quite legally; Chinese trade was not proscribed), and also through the Aleutian Islands with North America.  Russia didn't seriously show up until 1859, when it established a consulate and a church the instant Hakodate was opened as a free port.  Japan played a very long game and a very clever one here.  Unless Russia can show some more evidence, Japan's the clear winner in this ongoing dispute.

But!  The BOAT!  With only occasional cancellations for storms, the MOL ferry line runs two boats a day from Oarai, a port north of Tokyo, to Tomakomai, a port east of Sapporo.  You get a package, if you want, that includes transport to and from Tokyo station and to and from Sapporo, or several other towns via Sapporo, plus your ferry fare. The basic fare includes Festival Sleeping, a Japanese style dorm, for men or women, or you can get a cabin. Many of the cabins have balconies and views.  They are expensive, with a single surcharge.  The passage is overnight, and while you can bring a vehicle or a commercial truck, you can't stay in your vehicle, so you must have provision for a passenger.  You can also bring your pets, if you have a cabin.  There are buggies to transport your pets from your cabin to the designated pet playrooms and dog runs. This is hilarious, but Japanese dogs tolerate this quite well.  They are used to having chauffeurs.  I was on the Sunflower.

Cabins are pretty expensive if you're traveling alone, but there is something called "comfort class" which is essentially a capsule cabin.  You have a curtained berth, rather like a very large quarter berth, with a plug, a light, a couple of small shelves, hangers, headphones, slippers and your very own TV.  I did this and liked it very much.  There are 20 of these in a larger cabin, and I think 6 of these cabins.  I only saw women in mine.  I had lowers both times.  People are quiet and polite.  If you want to watch TV -- I didn't -- you use your earphones.  There is a Grand Bath with a View, one for women and one for men, and it's a delight to see the spa water rocking with the ship as you watch the sea slip by.  This coastal route is popular and you see other ships passing as well as fishing boats when you're close to shore.  Lighthouse spotting is fun.  People who take this mode of transport are people who like the sea, even if they are driving commercial trucks.

While you can bring food, or buy little things from the shop, most people get meals at the restaurant buffet.  It's not really cheap, but it's very good and there are plenty of choices.  You can get dinner and breakfast for 2400 if you buy both, and there is a light lunch (curry) served at noon, fairly close to landing, for 500 extra.  Wine and beer are available and vending machines abound, selling booze as well as coffee, tea and soft drinks. There's a game room and a kids' room, which came complete with a balloon artist! There isn't enough on-deck walking, but there are enclosed view seating areas which are pleasant.

Of course I liked it!  Of course I'll do it again!  I did get a couple of souvenirs.  The baths are bring your own towels, but if you forget, they sell hand towels in the shop so I expanded my collection.  I also got slippers, even though I had theirs, just because I can use them at home.  Individual servings of sake are often sold in what I would call juice glasses, so I had to have one of those, too.  I also got one on Mt. Asashidake, and I have another from the Nakasendo, so my glass collection is progressing nicely.

What may be the absolute best thing is that the weather was cool and wonderful!  It was chilly, foggy and a little rainy when I went to Mt Asahidake, and there may have been a touch of snow in the rain, though I couldn't tell for sure, but that was the only day that even approached iffy weather.  So I have another reason to go back.  And bring my skis.  You can ski absolutely everywhere in season, and the season runs about five months.

I'm back in Tokyo as of last night, running through a long list of accumulated tasks I could not get done while I was gone, and it's been raining all day.  It's going to rain most of the next two weeks, too.  I think my fortune has been very good indeed!

I forgot the thing on the right.  It is "mobile battery" for my cell phone, which all too often runs out of juice.  Yes, it does look like a calico cat.  It was selected for me by the attendant at the shop, after I had figured out how to ask for what I wanted, where to get it -- and finally learned that it has a formal name in Japanese.  "Mobile battery" is what you call it, said with a Japanese accent!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Coming Together

Every single day, somewhere in the world, some country, some county, some city, some town gets slammed.

Japan has had two big ones in quick succession. Typhoon Jebi hit strong and hard on Tuesday.  KIX, the Kansai International Airport, was flooded (it's on a low-lying island just outside of Osaka) and closed. A fuel tanker pulled its anchor. The crew was unable to start the engine, and it crashed into the bridge between KIX and the mainland, closing the bridge and damaging the ship. The crew, fortunately, was not injured. Winds were strong enough to tip over trucks and rip them apart.  At least six people died as a result of this storm.

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, a 6.7 earthquake (on Japan's scale, so this is really big) hit the northern island of Hokkaido, taking out power to the entire island, causing destructive and dangerous landslides, wrecking buildings and, as of this writing, killing two people, with 140 reported injured and about 40 sill missing. Four thousand of Japan's Self-Defense forces are on the scene, working with locals in search and rescue, with another twenty to twenty-one thousand on the way. A national task force was called together and mobilized rapidly. The island's major New Chitose airport is closed, Shinkansen service is suspended and local train and bus service is mostly cancelled for now, though people were able to leave the airport by taxi and, by now, likely by bus. Many roads are too damaged for use. Water supplies are cut off in vast areas. Hospitals are running on backup power, unable to provide normal services.  Updated to add:  As of this evening, it's 7 dead, 300 injured and 30 or so missing.  The intensity has been upgraded to 7, the highest level on Japan's seismic scale.  They're working hard at Search and Rescue, helping evacuees, and getting some infrastructure up and running, but it's going to take a week or better to get power restored to the whole island. You can keep up with both stories at

Things are moving rapidly. About 3000 people spent the night at KIX, without power, without A/C and with limited food supplies, but were ferried off starting early this morning, to the Kobe airport, where transportation is available. The damaged bridge has been inspected and deemed safe enough for buses to carry the remaining stranded flyers away from the airport island. I haven't seen new film of the ship, but by now, midday Thursday, I suspect it has been pulled away from the bridge to a repair facility. KIX will reopen Friday after it's determined the runways are safe for airplanes, and the airplanes on site are deemed safe to fly, beginning with domestic service with international service to follow.

On Hokkaido, people are being asked to stay calm, evacuate if they are in an area in danger of slides,
of buildings collapsing, or damage from aftershocks, which may persist for a week, and may be nearly as large as the initial quake.  People are opening shelters and gathering food and water for badly affected areas. People are going to their jobs at power plants, on road crews, at hospitals.  Schools are closed, but many are being opened as shelters for the displaced or evacuated, often, it seems, by school workers who came in for that purpose.

People are being asked to be careful and be sensible, to help each other.  And they are.

This is Japan.  People care, and the government cares, on the local, prefectural and national levels.  Preparation is extensive. There are plans ready to execute at need, and they are now quickly implemented.  Individuals see what needs doing and do it. People from here in the Kanto area and elsewhere will give up their weekends to go north and south as volunteers to help wherever there's need. In prior disasters, I've actually seen announcements thanking people for their efforts, but letting them know no more on-site volunteers are needed, however, those who want to help can contact agencies closer to their homes to learn exactly what kind of help they can give.

These are serious circumstances. The amount of damage is enormous.  It's on two separate ends of this long, narrow country.  But everybody's going to pitch in and get things fixed, because they're all in it together, and they know it.

I'm an American.  Right now, I see more divisiveness than I have ever seen in my country, a country that even has "United" in its name. I see people bickering about money while Puerto Rico is still mostly without power, though locals are doing their unsupported best, while Flint still doesn't have clean water to drink, and there's almost nothing locals can do about that.

As I watch Japan's response to two near-simultaneous disasters, I think we Americans can take a lesson from this.  We are all in it together, and we ought to start acting like it.


Friday, August 24, 2018

The Wanderer -- poetry

In all the many years I have been traveling to Japan, I have never been a resident before. Don't get me wrong. After my first year, I still love living here.  My language skills are improving. I have even read handwriting -- no small feat.  I dive deeper into the culture, and that will enrich my further books.  Living here, I miss things -- festivals I want to attend completely slip my mind. I've yet to manage a free day at the beach. I saw summer fireworks by accident. The list of normal daily things dictate my days. It's taken longer than I would have expected to plan my upcoming research trip to Hokkaido for Book 6, as yet untitled, though I am now looking forward to it.  And yet, I finally feel like I'm home.

The Wanderer

Everywhere, the unquiet soul has said "not here, not yet."
Every place was hard to leave;
Every move a loss.
And yet...and yet...the voyager moved on.

It's never easy to give up
the people, sights and daily life
As itchy feet still yearn to move;
The journey incomplete.

Still, at last, there comes a time
of respite and of satisfaction.
Finally, home is found at last.
The wanderer's at peace.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


The Nakasendo is one of the old highways of Japan, passing through the Kiso River valley between Kyoto and Edo. When railways and highways came, many parts of it became train tracks and paved roads, but parts of the Nakasendo remain as trails that can be hiked by those who want to visualize the past, experience the woods, and, here and there, touch history.

The restored and preserved post towns of Magome and Tsumago link a walk of about 5 miles (variously reported as 8 or 9 kilometers).  There are some hilly places, but mostly it's a rolling trail.  Since it was a highway when built, original and restored stones still pave much of it.  Sometimes it crosses or even follows the modern road.  There are often bus stops in those places, in case it starts pouring or riding sounds like a better plan.

Bear bells, like farmhouse dinner bells, dot the trail.  There are about a dozen of them.  Yes, there are bears, and one sounds the bells in passing to alert the bears to one's passing.  There are so many humans using this trail, the bears are probably happy to stay away.  Yet, the human population seems huge only because the towns are tiny, the lodging limited and the trail narrow.  You pass people on the trail, but not that many of them.  It's about a three hour walk, depending on how often one stops to take pictures, or a rest, or stays at the halfway point tea house, where local volunteers continue to maintain fires and serve tea and conversation while hikers take a break.

In fact, that's one of the most Japanese things about this trek: that so much of the preservation and maintenance is done by volunteers who are proud of their area and their history.  The charming volunteer we met moved to Tsumago after retiring and hikes up when it's his turn to enjoy the woods and the passers-by.  Like everything else in this stretch, the building is either historic, carefully restored, or meticulously crafted to  preserve the history and the culture of this amazing place.

Of late years, injuries have kept me from doing a lot of walking, much less hiking.  I've managed to ride horses because I was, well, riding; sail because I can do that mostly sitting; and ski, because I could manage without any pressure on my bad hip.  Not great form, but you try skiing even a single diamond on one foot!  Being in Japan has been good for me in this sense.  You will walk.  Lots.  There are many stairs.  You will carry things to and from stations and up and down stairs, always.  The best available help isn't much unless you stay in a 4+ star hotel and what's the fun in that?

Intrepid fellow author Susan Spann twisted my arm, and since I'm always game for adventure, I journeyed from Nagano to meet her in Nakatsugawa, where we ended up on the same bus for Magome, with a plan to walk the trail from Magome to Tsumago.

Susan's done this before, so she was able to recommend an inn -- Magomechaya -- where the owner speaks English and foreign guests are welcome.  Susan can't eat fish and I don't eat meat, fish or fowl, so we can't speak to the quality of the meals, but they are reportedly delicious.  Get meals if you can because the town operates on the bus schedules:  things start to open early, when the first buses of day trippers come, and close between 4 and 5, when the last bus leaves.  Local grilled rice dumplings (gomei mochi) with a savory (and vegetarian) sauce are delicious, and good thing, too.  We ate a lot of them.  Magomechaya is a fairly classic minshuku, with tatami rooms, common living areas, toilets and sinks down the hall, and 3 person baths with good deep tubs. The tubs are available during evening hours only.  The futons are lovely, the comforters soft, the pillows rice bran.  The community announcement speakers will wake you at 6:30 am, and that's good because you want to get on the trail early when it's hot out.

The trail itself is beautiful.  It's either groomed or paved, often with original stones.  It's not too steep, except right in Magome.  The forest surrounds you in peace broken by rushing water, buzzing insects and your own conversation.  Ancient monuments periodically mark the trail, honoring Jizo, the Bodhisattva who protects travelers (among other things), or the horses and also the oxen who died on the journey.  Kiso horses are honored, and straw figures are available everywhere.  Souvenirs tend to be traditional local products, mostly of wood.  We mostly took turns ringing the official bear bells.  Susan has a couple on her pack, and I now have one on mine -- best souvenir I could have.  There is more walking, and maybe even some hiking, in my future. Maps, history and more: Nakasendo

Snow Monkey Park -- live cam link!

I wanted to go to a ski resort to check out the terrain and a "modern" hot spring that sounded like fun.  However, I couldn't find the bus.  The information desk people didn't know.  The people who sold bus tickets didn't know.  The Internet swore there was a bus, a nice long ride through interesting farm land, but the Internet was wrong.  Ultimately, a bus did come, but it was going to Snow Monkey Park. It announced that in a very professional voice, in English, quite often.

At Nikko, almost by accident, I saw Snow Monkeys bathing in a hot spring in actual snow, as it was snowing because it was late November!  This wasn't on the schedule, but it was a great bonus!  I like monkeys, and it did seem there were hot springs humans could use, so I decided to go to Snow Monkey Park.

The bus was a comfortable highway bus, and it wasn't full on this cloudy and showery Saturday morning, so it was a pleasant ride through orchard country.  It deposited us in the middle of nowhere, seemingly, though there was a Roman Museum (closed).  Monkey Park was a mile or two  away.  Uphill.  Still, having got there, I set off up a winding road that passed through a village of ryokans, a couple of restaurants, and a hotel before arriving at the actual trailhead you climb to the park itself.  There is an admission fee, but you don't pay it until you get to the top, so if you don't make it, there's no charge.  The fact that nobody warns you about the hike is one of those things you can expect in Japan and would happen nowhere else.

I loved the monkeys!  Apparently, they will grab and run with any food items (or plastic bags, which often contain food) they see, and there are signs everywhere in multiple languages reminding you that monkeys can get aggressive around food, and not to feed them or show them food -- or plastic bags.

Troupes are mostly females with their young.  They have babies every two years, and mothers with juveniles and infants were everywhere.  Juveniles and infants ran all over, playing and climbing.  Lots of grooming and napping going on, too.  Nobody was in the hot spring but a couple of adults sprawled on the edge of the pool.  This natural hot spring is tended for monkey enjoyment, with rock-lined pools and ledges, nicely arranged riverfront basking areas, and a small shelter where Healthy Monkey Snacks are placed periodically, so the monkeys will come down despite the human presence.  Many come down in the morning, spend the day at what should be called Monkey Spa, and retreat up the hills into the woods at night.  They are free to do as they please, so they do.

Sometimes an infant gets separated from its mother, and will cry, sounding much like a bird, until its mother reappears.  There was a set of twins -- rare -- and sometimes juveniles and adults would get into discussions about I'm not sure what.  They communicate very well.

The best part came when I was walking down.  A juvenile was sitting in the middle of the path.  I spoke to it, and it came up to me.  It sat down again, reached out and gently touched my leg!  I was a little concerned it was going to try to climb me, so I stepped around it and headed on, talking softly all the while.  It followed, and I stopped.  It touched me again!  Humans are not supposed to touch the monkeys, but apparently the monkeys don't read the signs!

I stopped at one of the restaurants for a vegetarian sandwich (hey, eat when you can, if you're a veg in Japan) and then went in search of a hot spring for humans.  No luck.  They were all attached to ryokans (inns) and were for guests only.  Too bad for me.  I was able to catch a local bus to a train station and see some new towns.  It was a great day!

You can go, too, via the magic of the Internet:  Click here to see the Snow Monkey Park LIVE STREAMING camera!

Here are some of my pictures.  I didn't get one of my little friend because I didn't want to scare her, or have her decide my i-phone looked edible!

Travel -- days 1 & 2: Manga and Ninja

As I hope you know by now, Noriko's Journey goes to places where she spent her childhood.  I've been there, as far as I could identify them, but recently I found another place of interest.  Of course I had to go.

I found a museum connected to the remaining known school of Nimpo, or Ninjustsu, which is no longer there, but left behind a wonderfully rich history.  So I planned a trip to Nagano, the closest large base of operations.

Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mystery series, which takes place 200 years before the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series and features Iga shinobi Hattori Hiro, is presently writing a book on the 100 Sacred Mountains of Japan.  This means she has to climb as many as she can (a few are are closed, there are others to add.  Read her book when it comes out.  It's going to be great.)  Susan and I bonded over moving to Japan to write our books, getting our visas in a troublesome new category, and generally finding ways to live in this quirky country we both love.  I'm a couple of months ahead of Susan on the curve, so she's been able to slipstream behind me on lawyers, and now, real estate agents. (Yay!  She and husband Michael plus cat Oobie have just found a place -- yesterday!)

Susan asked me join her on a hike covering a beautifully preserved portion of the old Nakasendo, the original highway through the mountains of central Japan.  Hiking hasn't been my strong suit of recent years due to injuries, but she said it was mostly down hill and only 8 kilometers, and, besides, it sounded like great fun!

I didn't realize that Magome, where we went, was darned near in Nagoya, and much farther from Nagano and Tokyo than my phone intimated.  But that's another tale.  This is about Nagano.

In Chasing Dreams, book 2, many of the illustrations came from a sketchbook by the famed artist Hokusai in the collection of the US Library of Congress!  Hokusai spent a number of years in Obuse, a town near Nagano, under the patronage of a local lord, painting.  And not only is the area known for   chestnuts, it's known for Hokusai's history, paintings, and wonderful sketchbooks preserved in a local museum dedicated to his art and legacy as an artist.  They don't allow photography, but the museum is well worth the trip, and their website has better pictures than I can take.  There are painting in festival floats.  There are paintings on Temple ceilings.  There are many wonderful sketchbooks as Hokusai's growth as a freeform artist is reflected in his work.  The current exhibit was on his Manga (sketches).  Here's the link.  Hokusai Museum, Obuse

The next day, I went to Togakushi, where there is a mountain (for Susan) and folk/Ninpo museums for both of us, and a popular shrine not quite at the top of the sacred mountain. This involves a bus ride into the resort area, and a pretty fair hike.  I do have photos from the hike, including a famous and ancient alley of trees planted to line the path.  Their pictures are, of course, much better than mine.  Here's the link:  Togakushi Shrine  This is the best link I have to the Ninpo and Folk Museums, which are the best on the subject that I have found.  Naturally, they don't allow photography, but theirs are better than mine, anyway.  Togakure Nimpo and Folk Museums 

There are bears!  It is recommended that you carry a bell so that the nice, polite Japanese bears will hear it and stay out of your way.  I nearly missed the downhill bus, so I didn't get a bell there.  But I have one now!  Pictures!

Internet Hell -- Part Two (Final -- I hope.)

I got the router from the US quickly because I paid for Apparition Service (apparently -- it was very fast and quite expensive) and discovered it worked!  Everything had the right lights on, all checks seems wonderful.  This happened before I was even allowed to call SoftBank and order their modem through them.  How cool is this?

Not very.  I can't get to the site I need to actually TURN ON the internet service, which is supposed to be working now, if I can only log in to it.  I can't do it from either of my tablets, I can't do it from my phone, and I certainly can't do it from my computer.

I have to call the Tech Support Number that has English service, something for which I had to fight and will hoard jealously.  I find that when I call the regular numbers, I can hear them just fine.  I even understand what they're saying, but, again, it just doesn't make sense in the World As I Know It.  So, after much difficulty, I had actually obtained the Eigo Tech Support Phone Number.

Although they beat around the bush a lot, it quickly becomes apparent that the ONLY way I can get Internet Service is to rent their modem.  (They talk a lot about calling other support options for my computer, the Other Modem, and so on, but they all ONLY have on-line support.  I tried that already.  And we ALL know the problem is that I CANNOT GET ON LINE.)

So round and round and round we go.  I obtain some major billing concessions because I don't like this paying for something that DOES NOT WORK thing.  Nor do I like surprise charges.  And different numbers for the bill for the same services.  However, they clearly felt badly about it because they managed to get THEIR modem to me in two days (rather than two weeks).

And it WORKS.  The bill will be higher, but it better be the amount last quoted, and it WILL have concession on it.  But, cutting to the chase, it WORKS.  That was the goal all along.

Wonder of wonders, I was able to send the other modem back to Amazon (by repacking it and dropping it off at my friendly 7-11, good for almost everything), and this whole escapade is only costing me an extra $15.  Which is something.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Disconnected: Life on the Floor

Since I last posted here, I've moved.  This has taken a while and is still very complicated.  I swear this is a True Story.

My Internet comes and goes as I'm using my phone where I can grab free wi-fi.  It usually takes so long to log in on these "free spots" that all the time I had has gone just trying to log in.  What they will allow you to do is also severely limited.  I've also paid enormous sums to get internet on my phone, also extremely limited.  Let's start there:

My phone is a pre-paid that I have had, not entirely properly, for many years.  This gives me a consistent number, one of the great virtues of having your own phone rather than renting (formerly) a phone or (more recently) a SIM card.  I don't want to change that number, and you can't port a number from pre-paid service to regular.  I don't call out much, but I want people to be able to call me, so I will fight to keep my number.

To obtain Internet service on my phone, I have to "apply" for it from the phone, which basically means selecting it from a menu at absurdly high prices and only for short times.  I have to make sure the phone is loaded with adequate funds to pay for this before I call.  Since I will have real Internet soon, I hope, I won't have to continue to do this.

My new building is wired. This is supposed to give me faster speeds, greater reliability and cheaper rates. First thing, you have to call the wiring provider.  I have to WAIT for them to call me back because they are absurdly proud of having a few people who sort of speak English available and I simply MUST talk to one of them.  That takes a while, as in a couple of weeks.  They're sending something.  I can't tell if a router is required or not.  My web searches indicate not.  This is good because I have yet to see one for sale.

There is also a SERVICE provider.  This is the company through which you actually get your internet.  Again, not understanding this dual system, I have to wade through ultra-polite Japanese on the phone and then locate a person who speaks English because what they're telling me makes no sense in the World As I Know It.  A wireless receiver/router thing arrives, to cover the waiting period at no cost to me, they say.  I think I am finally in decent shape because I hook it up and it works.  Hurray!

But no!  I get a letter informing me that I'll be charged an absurd amount for this wireless device if I don't send it back. I would LOVE to send it back if I only had another source of Internet.  A device from the wiring people arrives.  I hook it up.  It appears to WORK!  Yay!

Yesterday was supposed to be The Day.  The day when my building's wired Internet will finally WORK.  But I do everything the directions say to do and it doesn't.

Recall, if you will, that all the correspondence and almost all the conversation is in Japanese.  My reading skills improve by leaps and bounds, but my facility in keigo (ultra-polite) with new technical vocabulary leaves quite a lot to be desired.

I decide I need an English speaker of some sort.  I get on the Internet to find SOME number I can actually call as my phone won't call toll-free numbers.  First try:  Endless hold music only to discover I am talking to the wrong, but very nice, company.  Second try:  MORE endless hold.  They're very nice and very apologetic but tell me that not only do I require a router (which they can rent me for only @1600 yen a month, and another two weeks worth of waiting, while paying for service I can't get.)  They also say the wireless device will to turn off any second now.  I must also remember that my birthdate is entered incorrectly in the system.  Admittedly, "kyu" and "ju" sound very much alike, but now I must remember my Faux Internet Birthday for use with them alone.

I hadn't seen any routers for sale anywhere, I'd looked many places, and I did not feel like spending days and days wandering around Tokyo in 90 degree heat searching further, so I wended my way to US Amazon -- a feat here, since Japanese Internet takes me to Japanese sites whether I want to go there or not -- and ordered a router, paying an unconscionable amount to get it here by Friday.  We hope.

So much is good and convenient about Japan, this sounds entirely unlikely even given my lack of fluency.  I assure you, though, that every single word of this is true.  If I vanish again, I am simply lost in Internet Hell.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Very Big Deal

It may not seem like a big deal to you, but the release of a new book is an extremely big deal to a writer.  Suddenly the work of a year, often more, is finished and available in its final form.

The book's been researched, thought about, composed, written, rewritten, beta-read, edited, copyedited, proofread.  Covers have been designed, illustrations selected (something that's getting harder and harder as the 19th Century falls in love with photography and woodblock print artists are mostly producing publicity prints to encourage the export market), and the whole thing at last coming together and being released.

Now, Noriko's Journey, Book 5 in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, is out and available everywhere.

Hard copies are available through Amazon and also through the Baker & Taylor Catalog for retailers, schools and libraries (ask your library to get it: they will), and e-books are available everywhere!  Click this link and get to the retailer of your choice.  One link to find them all!

Noriko's Journey: all retailers

I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Something lovely this way comes....

Noriko's Journey will be out everywhere shortly, all e-formats and all retailers.  Hard copies will be available through Amazon and the Baker & Taylor Catalog for retailers.

Libraries and Schools will shortly be able to buy a specially sized hard copy library edition through Baker & Taylor of all five books in addition to being able to purchase e-formats through their usual distributors.

You can ask your library to purchase these books and they WILL!  What a deal!  Please do this.

When I lived aboard a 43' sailboat, I couldn't resist buying books, so I'd buy them and donate them to my library, so I could visit them whenever I wanted without losing precious storage space on my boat.

Then I discovered that if I asked, the library would buy them for me!  WOW!

If you think getting this distribution set up was easy, think again!

I'm so thrilled about getting this done that I'm giving things away again.

Please go to our webpage and get your free copy of Book 1, Coming Home.  Do that by June 14, 2018, and there will be another very special free offer coming your way!


Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Mysterious Treat From Susan Spann

Susan Spann is a mystery author who writes in the period just before the Tokugawa (Edo) period in Japan.  I write in the period just after.  She has a series of tightly crafted mysteries that I enjoy very much.  I was lucky enough to score an ARC of her latest.  It'll be release mid-July.  Here's my review.

Trial on Mount Koya
By Susan Spann
The Shinobi Mysteries, #6 *****

Shinobi Hattori Hiro and the Portuguese Catholic priest he is assigned to protect flee Iga to get Father Mateo to safety but must take a secret detour to Shingon Buddhism’s center at the temple complex on top of Mount Koya. This unlikely pair, accompanied by Father Mateo’s housekeeper, Ana, and Hiro’s cat, Gato, become embroiled in another complex, beautifully crafted, mystery.
I write in the Meiji era, some 250 years later, so I also research Japanese history and culture in great detail. One of my great pleasures in reading Susan Spann’s books is the quality of her research. I can’t fault it in any way. I love the clever way she has managed to get her characters out of a particularly unpleasant bit of history coming soon after this book ends while also providing a clear path to many future mysteries in this interesting and highly entertaining series.
Spann has described this book as an homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  Certainly, the isolated location and the blizzard isolating the participants still further are reminiscent of Christie’s work, but this book takes individual twists and turns, so don’t look too deeply for parallels. Just sit back and enjoy the show.
The use of Shingon doctrines is ingenious. Shingon itself is colorful and ritualistic. Since Japanese Buddhism in general contains many similarities, regardless of sect or doctrinal derivations, those who are members of other sects will feel right at home and those who are not Buddhist will be intrigued as well as enlightened about some of the foundations all Japanese Buddhist sects share. The comparisons of Buddhism with Father Mateo’s Catholicism ring absolutely true: it’s my experience that the Japanese generally do not understand Christianity and probably never will.  
My only possible gripe, and I think it is open to argument about whether it is justified, is that I would like to see more exploration of character and more detail.  That may be just my own continuing fascination with this nation and its culture and people.  For mystery devotees, there is nothing missing at all.
I don’t want to give out spoilers.  This is a first-class mystery and although mystery buffs will enjoy reading it – and the series – over and over, for your first read, sit back, relax, and allow yourself to sink into this interesting world, get to know these characters, and simply enjoy.  Susan Spann has a fan in me.  I am eager for more.  My highest possible rating!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


It's been a while because I've been working hard to get Book 5, Noriko's Journey, published on time!

It should be available at all retailers for readers and in the Baker and Taylor catalog for libraries, schools and brick and mortar bookstores around June 21!  It's really good!

If you go to the website, you can sign up for the FLY ON newsletter and get Coming Home, book 1 in the series, for FREE!
And, in about a week, there's another amazing deal coming your way.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Get your FREE BOOK here.

GDPR is a true bear.  Every single provider of internet services has paid a bunch of lawyers (I do like lawyers getting paid) to have its very own compliant language to give to its users.  Unfortunately, none of those pages are stand-alone.  Although they all claim to be all things to all people, they simply aren't.  All of them have to be somehow integrated.

I'm a lawyer.  I could have drafted compliant language in about a 10th of time time it has taken me to straighten this out.  It has nearly brought me to my knees, screaming.  Nothing works together.  And yet it must to do what I want it to do.

I think I have finally figured it out, and I hope to heck it is compliant (it should be) and that it works (it did in test runs).

What do I want it to do?

Give YOU a free book.

Because of GDPR it has a few more clicks, but your patience will be rewarded.  You'll also get exciting news about the upcoming publication of Book 5, Noriko's Journey, and notices of various other freebies, deals and special offers that might come the way of those who receive the FLY ON newsletter every so often.

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Book 1, Coming Home, is FREE at

Take a chance. Click the link. Read a book. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, April 23, 2018


The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy have joined with other fantasy creatures in a Group Giveaway at Instafreebie.  This is for book 1, Coming Home.

Here's the link.

Clean Fantasy Creatures Group Giveaway

Big changes coming for the TGSB series as Book 5, Noriko's Journey, moves to publication this summer.  As Azuki and Shota grow up, the series grows up, too, and Japan moves incredibly quickly to take its place on the world stage.  Advances in technology, education and diplomacy happening every day (and twice on Sunday!)

This giveaway runs through June.  Stock up on summer reading today!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Meiji Shrine with pictures!

Meiji Shrine is huge.  Built around a garden Emperor Meiji built for Empress Shoken, its vast forest is composed of individually planted trees from all over the country donated after their deaths when the Shrine was built to honor their souls, which are enshrined there.  Their bodies are buried somewhere else, in or near Kyoto.  There are two museums, the Museum, containing artifacts from the Emperor's life, such as his desk, carriages, uniforms and so on, a series of Imperial portraits, and many photographs.  The Annex, near Harajuku station, is much more accessible, and features a changing exhibit of collections, including clothing, accessories, personal items like desk sets, and often features photographs from what must be a staggeringly enormous collection.  I visit the Museum every few years -- that's a permanent collection  that doesn't change.  The Annex, however, I visit regularly and it's given me much information and many ideas for the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series.
Saturday, I was supposed to attend a hanami party to celebrate the close of the sakura season.  The group didn't send out location information, there were no signs, and the security guards and direction-givers stationed all around the park had no clue.
In Book 6, there will be a Shinto wedding -- a big one.  Saturday is a big day for weddings at the Shrine proper, so I went there instead.
First, one enters the outer shrine precincts through a gigantic Tori gate.  There are several of these.  One enters the inner precincts through a second gate.  The Shrine itself is inside a courtyard and includes several halls usually reserved for ceremonies and closed to the public.  There are any number of ancillary buildings where one arranges for various services and where various services are held, including the presentation and blessing of babies!  So many babies! Everyone was so happy, including the troop of security guards, whose main focus was clearing paths for people participating in ceremonies.
Wedding parties enter the courtyard and proceed to one of the inner halls where the wedding ceremony itself will be held.  These are private.  After the ceremony, the wedding party leaves the courtyard and processes to one of the photography areas.  One may watch, but the area is closed off to tourists.  After the photographs, the wedding party leaves and the bride goes into a screened off area where her first headdress is removed and her hair, make-up and clothes are refreshed while the groom waits, taking pictures on his phone and making jokes with the various attendants and experts.  When that's finished, there may or may not be photographs of the couple together, and then they go off to the reception.  One couple was kind enough to pose with a group of Chinese tourists on their way so the tourists could take pictures with them.
Pictures?  Yes, I took some.
Musician outside the entrance to the Park

Mendicant monks taking a break outside the entrance to the Park

One of the vast Tori gates signaling the entrance to the Shrine

Barrels of French Burgundy donated annually to the Shrine.  The sake is across the street.

Just out of sight on the right is the chief Shinto priest who will officiate.  The second Shinto priest is on the right.  Next come two Miko, young women Shinto priests, followed by the couple.  They are leaving the central Shrine after the ceremony.

The bride has an official attendant who helps her walk in her ungainly costume.  Coming in, there is another woman attendant on her other side.  Now, it's her groom on her right.  They're followed by guests and family.  The security staff clears the way for this procession as it leaves the central Shrine for one of the photography areas, where six or eight photographers, make-up artists, costume coordinators and others wait to help arrange things.

I saw FIVE separate weddings!  Everything is beautifully organized.  Each couple gets personal attention. Nothing feels assembly-line.  They are lovely ceremonies!  

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Hang Of This

I've managed to figure out how to create new posts without randomly pushing buttons until something happens.  I may have figured out how to upload photos.  I have figured out a workaround (albeit an expensive one) and obtained the new Word upgrade.
I have spent many non-stop hours doing the rewrite of Book 5, Noriko's Journey, so I can get it to Beta Readers.
I'll be writing a Guest Post for Writing About Writing, explaining one of the virtues of Beta Readers for the driven.  Once things get going, I work 24/7 and can't be interrupted (oh, goodness, I get cranky) until I am DONE or can do no more.
One reason for this is that any interruption in my thought process means I have to go back quite a distance to catch up with my train of thought.  It takes me several days, sometimes more, to recover from a three-hour "break" that's forced upon me.
Just so not happening.
I did two run-throughs, and the draft is better than I thought it would be.  By that I mean not that the story itself is better or different, but the manuscript expression of it is fuller, more complete and better balanced than expected at this stage, even if surprising to me.  Book 6 is already starting to take shape, sort of, with characters setting themselves up for new challenges and new adventures, and things set up long ago are finally coming to fruition, many in ways I did not expect.
I never did find a radio I wanted to buy, but I did find my iPod and it's full of music, much of which is "best of" and live concert collections, including the live recording in which Jimi Hendrix does indeed say "kiss this guy."  I really enjoying having music.  I have no idea how to load more, but there's a lot of music in there and I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
My visa will actually appear soon in the form of a residency card, and then I can do all kinds of things, like rent a real apartment, get a real phone, get a bike, get a driving license, maybe, and so on and so on, and I'll be able to do them during the breaks in the publishing process.

I've never been fond of spring because in the PNW, it's all driving rain beating down all your lovingly planted tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, and pummeling the blossoms off the shrubs and trees.  It's too warm to ski (true in the California mountains where I lived, too) and too wet to do anything else. HERE, though, it is glorious.  It's warm but not hot.  It's sunny with just a little haze.  Birds are nesting.  Everyone's smiling.  Strawberry season is starting and you can get sakura-flavored everything.  I start to see why people LIKE spring.

The sakura are still going full bore and I have a hanami party I can go to on Saturday, if I want, and I have a friend who will be in town sometime this weekend.  Here are some pictures, if I actually have at last got the hang of this.

A magnolia, two houses down.  Yesterday.

The ultimate Meguro River with Sakura photo, yesterday.
A dark pink Sakura in full bloom, at Myokoji, yesterday.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

SAKURA -- poetry

By the Meguro River

The buds awaken, stirring, filling
Breaking through their shrouds of brown and green
With shards of pink exploding nearly overnight
to burst in sudden floral glory.

It seems too soon they pass their prime 
Withering to loose their grips in storms of 
Windswept floral snow gone in the driving rain.

How rapidly the flowers fall,
So briefly to they reign.
Vanquished for another year.
Yet, the tree remains.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spring! It's a holiday!

It's the first day of spring, and I'm stoked.  I'm trying hard to get many things done, and some of that is easy because it's raining so I don't want to go out much.  This will continue through today, tapering off tomorrow, and stopping late Friday.  After that will be a week of beautiful weather.
The sakura (cherry blossoms) haven't quite opened, so it's possible they'll wait until the rain stops, and give us a wonderful week of hanami (flower viewing), a time to contemplate the brevity of each individual life and its incredible beauty and pathos.  Also, to party down.  This annual ritual is one of the big ones each year.  If it rains, just move the party.  The blossoms last, from the very first to the very last, about two weeks.  There are several varieties of flowering cherries, and while most of the trees are the usual sakura, the variants extend the season for a lovely month.
However, I'm having a couple of problems with what I believe is called "localization" as I try to work my way through my list.  I want to complete this list before I do a comprehensive rewrite on Book 5.  Deadlines, goals, things like that.
A big problem is a situation in which Microsoft won't let me buy the new version of Word for Mac in English because I am in Japan.  My Japanese really isn't up to using that program in that language.  I could manage French, but it won't let me get THAT one either.  Because I am in Japan.  I also write in English, so an English program would be great, TYVM.
I also can't sign up for Amazon Associates, a program that will supposedly help me expose my books to a wider audience.  It requires a phone number and while I have one, and while they list the country code for Japan, their sign up page refuses to accept my phone number.
World Wide Web -- so not.
I have e-mails out to try and rectify these situations.  My wonderful editor is going to buy the new Word for Mac (and I'm paying for it, because this is going to be a pain for her as well as me.  Anyway, the old Word for Mac is not only "unsupported" it is now not working.  And Word is simply required in the publishing industry.) and send me the download codes.  I do NOT hold out high hopes of it working, but we shall see.
But today is the equinox, and in Japan that is a holiday, so I have some plans.  In a little while, I'm going to put on my rain boots, take my umbrella and go to the Temple, and I'm going to stop on the way back to look for a radio.  I've tried all the Apps that supposedly get me local radio on-line.  They don't.  If they had, I'd just get a decent set of speakers for my computer(s) and do it like that.  But the apps aren't working, so I am going to Hard-Off/Book/Off, which is a used merchandize store and see what I can find.  Through the Off chain, one can get furniture, appliances, clothing, electronics, outdoor gear, games and, of course, BOOKS.  Good deal!
Furthermore, I'm going to enjoy it!  These pictures were taken along the banks of the Meguro River, which is lined with cherry trees, and often featured in calendars and other depictions of this festive season.  It's a tamed and tidal river, and the heron is just hanging out, hoping a fish might come by.