Mai Perso - Travel adventures

Camels in Japan?

May 15, 2011
Leave a Comment

There are no Camels in Japan. When I first visited the US from Israel, in the late 70’s, people asked me if I owned a Camel and if that is how I got to school. I always considered it a result of ignorance. Israel was a modern country and my Dad was driving an American car at the time.
During this trip to Japan, I had a few “Camel” gaffes and I am about to put myself to shame as a way of redemption.
Rice fields:
on the plane to Tokyo, a lady named Michiko was sitting next to me and we struck a conversation about what to see in Japan. I asked her where can we best see Rice Fields in the country.had pictured in my mind, steaming flooded fields stacked down a mountain side, in a foggy day. She smiled politely, and told me that there are several places depending on where we go. She was polite, Japanese style. Well folks, the answer is everywhere. Once we landed and got out of the airport, we found out that other then down town Tokyo, there is no single road or view that does not include a rice field somewhere. We have 2,000 km of footage to prove it.
When riding into Kyoto, a giant Buddha statue was seen on the mountain above one of the town’s shrines. Whe I was discussing what to see in Kyoto, with the concierge in the hotel, I asked what is the site of the giant stone Buddha. The lady concierge giggled in a typical Japanese way and told me that it was not Buddha, just a stone statue… It sure looked like Buddha to me.
Shoji doors:
Our first night was spent in a traditional Ryokan in Goyakama, a heritage village near Nagano. Danielle was interested to know how do the people here keep the snow out of the house, with the Japanese doors made wood and paper doors. She asked a girl who was sharing dinner with us, how do the doors with Rice paper windows, keep the snow out. The girl giggled and told us that it is just paper, not Rice paper… Didn’t we always learn that Japanese doors and screens are made with wood and rice papers?…

The iPhone in the wild

May 15, 2011
Leave a Comment

A BI article touching on iPhone use when traveling, triggered some random thoughts about the changing role of the phone when traveling. The iPhone is your pocket size laptop. Call it whatever you like but these days when we travel we use it for photos and short videos (check out the movie trailer on, all taken with an iPhone), I have my travel guides on the phone, maps, lists of must see spots. I have a GPS tracking app that records our trip, and a translation app for situations in countries with languages we do not speak. It is how we track our flight and change them on the fly if needed, keep up with our blog, post photos to mobileMe, send SMS and MMS to friends and family along the way. We twit and FaceTime when we can, keeping connected to the people who follow us while on the road.

Don’t leave home without one, and make sure you get an international plan to go with it, or AT&T or any other carrier, will take you to the cleaners.

Check out this link

Hello world!

May 8, 2011
Leave a Comment

… Before we knew it, a small crowd of 20 villagers surrounded our BMW 1200GS, our travel vehicle of choice. One of them spoke a few English words, hardly enough to communicate, and our Japanese could get us the right Sushi in a restaurant, but not a place to sleep in Gokayama, the Heritage village up in the mountains of Japan.
It was day two of our Japan trip, and we were still trying to understand the local manners.
The hotel we marked on the map, was close for the day. No other hotels available in a significant radius, unless we wanted to track back the 120 mile twisty road down the mountain.
Danielle, took out her iPhone, and started typing into the translator app, who we are and that we were looking for a place to stay.
A couple of toothless smiling old ladies,, read the message in Japanese, and a heated discussion broke out. A couple of minutes later, they pointed out to a house across the street and signaled us to follow them.
A younger lady came out as we approached the door and invited us in. It was getting dark. She told me I can park the bike on the balcony, under the roof, and bring our luggage in.
Shoes off and sandals on, she took us to a guest living room with tatami floor and a fire pit in the center, used for heating and cooking.
A side room with a sliding door, will be our room for the night.
Minutes later, a tea pot was brought in and served to us in small porcelain cups. A welcome aromatic green tea, that calmed our lack of comfort with the intrusion, and got us smiling about the new adventure we got ourselves into.
There is something about letting yourself get lost in a safe environment, that invites situations like this. See the world, meet new people and live to blog about them…
The tea ceremony was interrupted by a noisy group of Japanese art students from Tokyo, that came with their teacher to spend the night at the house. Their teacher, was a journalist who knew the family, and came once a year to visit. This time, he invited a few of his students to join him.
The guests joined us around the fire pit got the tea going and started a conversation. Who are we, how did we get here and why are our plans.
The land lady was sticking skewered fresh fish on bamboo sticks, around the fire, starting what was about to become a culinary feast. Plum wine and beer was served and aromatic rice with grilled fish, accompanied with home pickled cucumbers and Daikon. We were in heaven. Food was simple and great, the company amazing and the alcohol elevating the giggles of the young girls in the group.
One of the girls passed steaming rice bowls around and the group raised them and took the fragrant steam in. All praising the smell for a similar experience for the taste buds. Who would ever think of spending time adoring the rice, prior to the first bite. Oohs and Ahhs followed and chopstick after chopstick, the rice was consumed. The last BBQd fish was swimming in a large container with warm Sake, and passed around the room. Each one of us took a sip and the combination was surprisingly tasty.
Before we were ready to crawl into our beds that were set for us on the Tatami, the journalist, asked if we wanted to join them to a stroll through the village, to appreciate the moon and it’s reflection in the rice fields. We did. It was a perfect ending to a magical day. We found new friends, got a first true taste of local tourism and were allowed to participate in an experience reserved for locals. The moon and it’s reflection in the Gokayama rice field, promised an amazing adventure in the week to come.