Wow! Japanese Style by Janine Donoho

A night view of cherry blossoms.

‘Wow’ or ワウ(wao)! if you read or speak Japanese. Sadly, my skills are rudimentary at best.

Yet we all have those ‘aha’ moments in life and, for me, travel amplifies that effect. In Japan, most visitors embrace the delectable, yet classic fare of sushi, spiritual Mt. Fuji, edgy Manga, sumptuous kimonos/obis, and breathtaking gardens. Now you’re invited to join me for a few of my Japanese inspired moments—and perhaps a few for you, too.

Maneki-neko

Maneki-neko 招き猫: Folktales of Maneki-neko vary, and all charm me. The one I heard most often? A wealthy feudal lord, Ii Naotaka, took shelter under a tree near Gōtoku-ji temple in Setagaya, Tokyo, during a thunderstorm. The temple priest’s cat beckoned to him and he followed; a moment later lightning struck the tree. In gratitude, the wealthy man enriched the temple, and when the cat died, the first maneki-neko was made in his honor.

This lovely kami-neko or cat spirit showed up during the Edo Period, which also happens to produce my favorite art. Who doesn’t love a ‘Beckoning Cat’ who may have saved a life? What proved my ‘ah-ha’ moment, though, connects Maneki-neko with the ‘Hello, Kitty’ craze that permeates both Japanese culture even as it’s spread throughout the world. Also, I can’t help but hear an American sailor’s voice echoing through my head, changing Maneki-neko into its alter ego with, “Look, it’s that Hello, Kitty.”

Kuzu: It doesn’t take long to recognize ‘kuzu’ as ‘kudzu’, the plague of the south

Kuzu

eastern and southern U.S. that’s creeping northward even as I write this. This Japanese arrowroot belongs to the pea family and receives adulation in its home country for its uses in cuisine and fibers for weaving. Introduced into the United States during the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, during the 1930s and 1940s, Florida nursery owners rebranded this invasive species as a way to stop soil erosion. During the depression, Soil Conservation Service workers received $8/hour to sow topsoil until kudzu covered over one million acres.

Oops! Also, pay of $8/hour during the depression!

Glorious inks!

Ink shops: So I love sumi-e, the black ink art of “writing a painting” and “painting a poem.” Ink colors other than black raise me to blissful, so when I found entire shops in Tokyo that cater to ink colors and even allow me to make my own special color…well, joy or 至福 (shifuku).

With only six weeks to sink into this rich culture, here are a few more epiphanies.

  • Religion in Japan seamlessly blends Shinto (kami-no-michi), Buddhism,

    Kitsune – Inari no Kami

    and Christianity into this sensitive and compassionate celebration of life. Kami—Shinto spirits of landscape, forces of nature, beings and the qualities expressed by those beings—spoke to me at a deeper level reminiscent of Shamanism;

  • Omotenashi おもてなし encompasses the respectful and warm spirit with which Japanese people welcome guests. This approach shows in finely developed attention to detail that embraces everyone from checkout clerks and building painters to business owners; 
  • Karōshi 過労死 involves the horrific downside to the Japanese single-hearted attention to detail. Translated it means ‘death through overwork’;
  • Luscious $50 watermelon

    The shocking cost of produce—envision a $50 watermelon—because, yes, the Japanese government treats farmers with respect—along with the natural resources that support rapturously sweet and juicy peaches, watermelons, kiwis, strawberries, tomatoes… Despite the sticker shock, I’d love to see this translated into an American view of productive family farms rather than the corporate undercutting of our farms and farmers.

Thus, amazing Japan or 素晴らしいです (subarashīdesu) 日本 (Nihon), don’t you think?*

Eileen Tanaka

This blog is dedicated to a shining, graceful, and brilliant woman, Eileen Tanaka, who happened to be my daughter-in-law. Her passage leaves this world a poorer and lesser place.

*A caveat: I won’t address my disappointment and ongoing horror of the Japanese thought process that views marine mammals and other living creatures as lesser beings here. Simply understand that as a conservation biologist, that approach to life is abhorrent to me.

Sexy Infrastructure by Janine Donoho

 

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

Japan’s Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

Hard infrastructure’s sexy. That includes our skeletal system. After all, our bones support us against external forces like gravity, manufacture major elements of our immune system, protect the squishy stuff, and offer a great framework for those ligaments and tendons that allow us to move. Sexy, indeed.

Yet the hard infrastructure I’m excited about, especially since my stay in Japan, does much of the same as our bones. I’m talking mostly public works here, people. You know, transportation grids, energy generation, telecommunications, water supply, and sewage disposal.

Oooh, be still my heart.

Japanese sinkhole repaired in 1 week

Rather than gush about how Japan employs highly efficient and diligent crews to maintain their transportation infrastructure, let me offer a visual tour of that country’s roads and byways juxtapositioned against ours. From the stats, America’s issue appears to be maintenance based and if so, think of expertly trained and conscientious American crews attacking these issues with efficiency, high-tech capability while earning full-time livable wages. The need to modernize our vehicles and transportation systems also bobs to the surface.

Now picture expanded networks of commuter trains and buses outnumbering single person cars leaning toward robotic. Oh, and commuter bicycle parking. Imagine this immaculate and comfortable network running on time. Then you be the judge.

American sinkhole map

American sinkhole map

Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, 25 Jan 2017

Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, 25 Jan 2017

I-5 Skagit RIver Bridge collapse 23 May 2013

Minneapolis I-35W bridge collapse 4 Aug 2007

Japanese drone monitors bridges and highways

Japanese maintenance workers

High tech truss tests in Japan

America’s maintenance crisis

America’s maintenance crisis 2

Japan’s commuter trains

Japan’s commuter buses

Japanese Trains

Commuter bicycle parking

Robotic car

Cat’s Pajama Tour by Janine Donoho

Counting sheep jammies

Counting sheep jammies

During the time that our home was under construction, we stuffed a whippet, a greyhound, two cats, and two humans into a 27-foot 5th wheel. That was over a decade ago. Our home now sustains a whippet, an Italian greyhound, one cat, and two humans, although on the animal front, only the cat and we – her minions – started this journey. So measurably, it appears that not much has changed.

Each morning our tuxedo cat, now 15 years old, sits on my lap after breakfast so I can ‘groom’ her with a boar bristle hair brush. That probably makes me her Big Kitty, an honor I accept. Yet a funny thing happened along the way — a theme emerged from her photos.

Now you’re invited into a tour of this cat’s pajamas.

Plushie garnet jammies

Plushie garnet jammies

Llama jammies

Llama jammies

Cayenne jammies

Cayenne jammies

Pink love bunny jammies

Pink love bunny jammies

East Indian elephant jammies

East Indian elephant jammies

Puffer fish jammies

Puffer fish jammies

Pink flamingo jammies

Pink flamingo jammies

Teapot jammies

Teapot jammies

Cinderella slipper jammies

Cinderella slipper jammies

Blue rose jammies

Blue rose jammies

Out of the Blurry Darkness by Janine Donoho

How cataracts affect vision

How cataracts affect vision

Like a lobster in a pot of cold water, over this last decade the water heated to boiling, yet I’ve been unaware. High desert sun initiated a progressive slide toward dwindling eyesight long before sunglasses offered more than a fashion statement. All that sunshine led to cataracts, which combined with extreme nearsightedness, ended in a debilitating cartoon fall last April. Small stuff compared to seeing the world in blurred and murky outlines, especially in dim light.

Retinal detachment with floaters

Retinal detachment with floaters

Then in January, I stepped onto a fraught road back to vision, shepherded by my fabulous ophthalmologist. Over five months bookended by cataract removal, she also repaired retinal tears—repeatedly—which pushed back my quest for sight. The unintended journey filled me with dread of what could become constant nightfall.

More than anything, I missed my lifelong habits of reading or writing. Gone, the effortless navigation through my rural surroundings. Without binocular vision, tiny rivulets of erosion appeared like canyons, the high points like mountaintops. Perspective flattened. I dreaded another tumble that could compound long-term issues from the first one. Can I just say I’m not a graceful dependent? Thus, a dark night of the soul indeed.

How we see perspective

How we see perspective

Finally in late May, I emerged as a sighted person with only minimal correction. When sprung from the gloom, we went mobile and off the grid, traveling to visit friends in Oregon and family in Nevada, then back again. Then we took off for more exotic climes, disembarking in Japan. More on these adventures in future posts.

Now I’m back in my mountain home, surrounded by brilliant hounds, who shadow me as I pluck a fall offering of tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons—thank you drip system. Then on to winter prep, while anticipating a blissful season in my writing cave. In other words, paradise.

Fall garden harvest

Fall garden harvest

I look forward to reaching out again to those who follow this post along with those readers anticipating new works. Thank you for your patience, my friends, and know you’re always welcome into my worlds.

Reflections of beauty in the garden

Reflections of beauty in the garden

Oh, Canada by Janine Donoho

Wine country

Wine country

Graceful carved art

Graceful carved art

Because I really can see British Columbia, Canada, from my uplands home in Washington state, sometimes I yield to the lure and drive along the glorious Okanagan River valley that takes me to Penticton. It’s noteworthy to mention that the Okanogan River, a tributary of the Columbia River, shifts to ‘Okanagan‘ in neighboring Canada, although the river’s not nearly as polite as its humans. Also, the national anthem alluded to in this blog’s title is actually ‘O, Canada‘.

Dogs of Penticton

Dogs of Penticton

My last trip to Penticton, British Columbia, can be shared via photo gallery. So if you crave a trip to a more civil society than our current political season serves up, here’s a virtual journey. Please enjoy!

Penticton view

Penticton view

Torii leading to garden room

Torii leading to garden room

Japanese garden pond

Japanese garden pond

Perfect lunch

Perfect lunch of wild salmon & salad

Dark chocolate ginger - yum!

Dark chocolate ginger – yum!

Ikeda Japanese Garden

Ikeda Japanese Garden

Paddle-wheeler as museum

Paddle-wheeler as museum

Go Big and Connect with Our Universe by Janine Donoho

A light in the greater darkness

A light in the greater darkness

When our stunning blue globe shrinks around us in sadness and horror at what harm humans can do to each other, we need to go big.

Horsehead Nebula by Dholakia

Horsehead Nebula by Dholakia

For me, big doesn’t make me feel smaller, but more connected. I hope this stunning photography from Insight Astronomy Photographers brings you joy and fosters a relationship both to this beautiful world and the greater cosmos.

IAP

IAP

Full moon

Full moon

Astro1 1688728

Astro1 1688728

IAP of year 4 150715

IAP of year 4 150715

Article 0 1B0D5EEA000005DC-794

Article 0 1B0D5EEA000005DC-794

1a616ed4ad262c68167c4e46a6de6b2f

1a616ed4ad262c68167c4e46a6de6b2f

Bigness

Bigness

Famous, Infamous, and Notorious Firsts Revisited by Janine M. Donoho

Self portrait

When this website launched, I introduced myself via firsts, and a giddy lift-off it was. Never fear, the navel gazing implicit in attempts at age 7 to write about planets (of which Pluto no longer qualifies), my angst-riddled teen poetry, and my first produced play at 16? Omitted. In fact, I didn’t want to write about writing at all. Instead, consider this my hand extended to those who relish a shared virtual journey.

Cowgirl

Cowgirl resolve

So, ahoy, fellow voyagers. Let us cast off from the shores of Mundania and make this fun. There will be pictures…beginning with my 1st cowgirl hat.

Springer spaniel Pete & me

Springer spaniel Pete & me

1st best dog buddy: Springer spaniel Pete, who saved my diaper-clad butt by grabbing onto it as I rolled out the car door on a corner in South San Francisco.

1st best girlfriend: Teresa Giles, with whom I fished for catfish and carp, rode horseback through the Ponderosa pine forests and sagebrush steppes of our youth, and survived the first 10 years of schooling in Washoe Valley, Nevada.

Swing in Washoe Valley - Polly Jo, Robbie, moi, Shell, Teresa

Swing in Washoe Valley – Polly Jo, Robbie, moi, Shell, Teresa

1st amazing son: Chad Elliott, young man extraordinaire, who finds his joy with his equally brilliant and beautiful companion Shannon. He spins and mixes incandescent music, then prepares incomparable meals paired with

My oh-so-cool DJ/Chef/Sommelier son

My oh-so-cool DJ, chef, & sommelier son

the perfect wine.

1st best horse buddy: Jumpin’ Jack Flash, who I miss daily; great-hearted beauty of thoroughbred and quarter horse ancestry.

My very own Jumpin' Jack Flash

My very own Jumpin’ Jack Flash

1st whippet: Amanda Pandemonium, a washed-out show dog at birth, who brightened my day with her liquid gaze and joyous attitude even as she proved lethal to rodents.

Patrick & Mandy

Patrick & Mandy

1st rescued greyhound: Patrick, a magnificent companion gone from this world. This greyt continues to romp through my dreams.

1st girlfriend trip through EuropeBackpacks and public transportation saw us through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. Gnocci, anyone? Here we are at Der Hofbräuhaus in Munich.

Besties in Munchen at Hof Brauhous

Besties in Munchen at Hofbräuhaus

Malaysian gate 17

Land of extravagant gates

1st trip to Malaysia: I emptied my backpack to bring back gorgeous fabrics and other lush trifles.

1st trip to Morocco: Yes, I went to Morocco and all the boys at home got Moroccan soccer jerseys. For me, mint tea began to equate with stunning rugs.

Rugs and mint tea

Rugs and mint tea

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

1st Class whitewater rafting: We began in Tumwater Canyon on the Wenatchee River—and yes, I went for my first swim. Here’s a river picture with the Captain of my Heart.

1st trip to Greece: History, anyone? Also, dogs & cats galore with all their bits attached—so shocking to Americans, who spay and neuter most domestic critters.

Nafplio - Dog, butcher shop, guy with opposable thumbs--perfect

Nafplio – Dog, butcher shop, guy with opposable thumbs–perfect

Clockwise in the thumbhole to make a wish

Clockwise in the thumb hole to make a wish

1st trip to Turkey: Cities carved from the earth and amazing textiles became my focus along with a millennia of sustainable agriculture. I once considered living there…

1st trip to Spain: Otherwise known as the sangria tour. We wept at the beauty and rhythmic poetry of Andalusian stallions, who danced just for me.

Seville April Fair

Seville April Fair

Hiking along the Portuguese Med

Hiking along the Portuguese Med

1st trip to Portugal: Can tiles be more beautiful? Also, we experienced the best calamari ever eaten.

1st trip to Egypt: Baksheesh demanded and sheesha experienced; Bedouins on the Red Sea. ‘Nough said.

Donkey drover & me

Donkey drover & me

1st pedicure: Yep, and most likely the last. Too much lost life in maintenance, don’t you know?

Now let us raise a glass to all the firsts in life—and perhaps to those finales we’ll have before we’re done. What’s on your list of firsts?

1st Moroccan carpet

1st & perhaps last pedi offset by Moroccan carpet

A Tale of Dismemberment and Mayhem by Janine Donoho

An Impressionist's view without correction

An Impressionist’s view without correction

Following a first cataract surgery with another scheduled in mid-March, I’m literally bumping my way through a 3-D kaleidoscopic life over the next month and a half. Once healed, my eyes will see the world in HD panorama. High density plastic lenses? Recycled and swapped for standard reading glasses. Yes, cool science has come through for this blue-eyed blonde who grew up in Nevada’s great outdoors—sans sunglasses. Ain’t life grand?

Future serial killer

Future serial killer

However, story will out. Within this very household, an exposed serial killer reveals himself via strewn limbs and mangled Awful Mad Kitty and Big Mean Kitty torsos. Reading further is not—repeat NOT—advised for the squeamish among you.

Dismembered

Dismembered

Nine months ago, we welcomed into our home a murderer, whose demeanor showed nothing of the impending catastrophe. Even as we allowed his tender looks and seemingly joyful attitude to lull us, his darker side took root. The rest of this story unfolds in pictorial devastation. WARNING: Graphic content of chilling mutilation follows.

Awful Mad Kitty

Awful Mad Kitty

I leave you with the knowledge that I am held hostage in this house by the perpetrator, even as a pile of ‘dead’ stuffed animals accumulates on my sewing box. Among the mortally wounded: Dirty Rotten Kitty, Real Mad Cow, Cold Hearted Snake, and Rocky Raccoon. Only when I can see well enough to mend the broken, the torn, the disemboweled, will this house be populated once more by squeaking plushies—lopsided though they may be.

Future Victims?

Future Victims?

Awful Mad Kitty deconstructed

Awful Mad Kitty deconstructed

The Fallen

The Fallen

The Perp

The Perp

Winter in Highlandia – A Pictorial Journey by Janine Donoho

Morning coffee and a view

Morning coffee and a view

Snow hound

Snow hound

The view from here

The view from here

Layers of scaping

Layers of scaping

Landscape in blue

Landscape in blue

The ins and outs

The ins and outs

Blue shadows

Blue shadows

Snow tufted winter garden

Snow-tufted winter garden

Icicles

Icicles

After the hike in her lined sweater

Iggy in her lined hoodie after the hike

Going Retro on 2015 by Janine Donoho

Happy New YearAs a singular flow in the space-time continuum, 2015 crested, then mired in unpredictable ways. The year began by launching Intrepid Guy to Japan for another stint just as I published yet another novel, Soundings, Water Elemental—this time through Booktrope. That vast ocean of social media became a marathon swim. Still I virtually encountered booklovers along the way who I’d have gladly met for a delightful cuppa and conversation.Soundings Cover Upgraded 1-23-2015

Then in March, I packed and brushed off my language skills for a month in Japan that ended when I picked Intrepid Guy up at the Penticton airport before driving him to a hospital in Wenatchee. This time his immune system attacked vital organs, requiring six-months of heavy immunosuppression followed by another half year of lighter drug therapy.

Pup & Man Dome

Pup & Man Dome

As a bubble boy, what bothered Intrepid Guy most was the loss of his rafting season, especially one that included another run down the Grand Canyon. To compensate him for his loss, we adopted—wait for it—yes, a whippet puppy, Bodhilicious. Bodhi’s puppy shots coincided with Intrepid Guy’s first drug regime. And yes, we went there and shaved his head. He turns out to have a very nicely shaped dome, but you be the judge.

Home on wheels

Home on wheels

Both burst back into the world during a shakedown voyage for our 16’ Lance travel trailer as we made the rounds from home to Spokane to Wenatchee and back again. The trailer balanced beautifully with our Ram 1500 Eco diesel, so Intrepid Guy did a happy dance. We also began socializing Bodhi and the AKC show in Chelan helped. We met very cool dog people plus gorgeous Bodhi took both Best in Class and Best in Show for puppies. Since this was a beauty contest, it’ll be his last. His big brain really needs a job and with his propensity for running through culverts—gasp!—agility training might do the trick.

Bodhi Wins Big at AKC 2015

Bodhi Wins Big at AKC 2015

Our year of wildfires proved utterly predictable. Canadian fire plumes began in April and our rugged landscapes can be problematic for firefighters. We bugged out during Level 3 evacuations as the 9 Mile Wildfire roared into being. Friends and neighbors lost outbuildings and homes to the inferno even as staunch firefighters stopped the blaze ¼ mile from our home. Air quality remained hazardous throughout summer and into fall. Recovery continues while winter snow and melt cycles cause slides along burn areas.

Valiant firefighters

Valiant firefighters

Soundings at Beach Books

Soundings at Beach Books

Yes, I’m furious with Volkswagen’s intentional lies about our Golf TDI’s environmental impact. Yes, the polluting machinery sits in our garage as we lean into a buyout. Nothing less should be allowed. Still I drove the beast to Oregon this October for our Seaside writers’ retreat and book signing at the hospitable and brilliantly arranged Beach Books. As always, joy prevailed as I embraced the chance to hang with writers and make new friends.

Anj & I at Seaside signing

Anj & I at Seaside signing

Please allow me to wish you all the most joyous of new years. May health and happiness infuse your lives. With our home-on-wheels, who knows? We may find ourselves in your neck of the woods during this coming year.

Happy pack

Travel rig

Hot wheels

Previous Older Entries

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
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