One of my favourite parts of Japan is a place few visitors ever go to: the middle, non-urbanised part of the main island, Gifu Prefecture. It has many preserved, old towns that are charming, super quiet and clean, and full of history.
This is the cartoon from Mr Donut, a delightful chain that I wrote about in both my non-fiction work Asian Dreams and my mystery novel Shanghai Passion. CLICK HERE.
I lived in Japan for eight years and had many interesting and wonderful experiences, too many to mention here..
If you look closely, you can see one of their characters, Pon de Lion. I still have a Pon de Lion in my office, along with several other Mister Donut animal characters.
I would end up teaching at 4 different universities. The high point was teaching full-time at Nanzan University.
To see more about my university teaching experiences in Japan please CLICK HERE for that page on my teaching website, www.balaoshi.com
EXPO was fantastic! It was environmentally-themed and it was not only fun, it was inspiring. It was not that far from where I lived and so I went 17 times!
Gifu is a beautiful place for momijigari 紅葉狩り, a Japanese tradition less famous than hanami, but equally lovely. Momiji means of visiting areas with fall colour show. have turned red in the autumn. Momiji is the Japanese maple tree, and it also means "red leaves." Kari means "hunting."
There were many reasons why it was time to go, but it still was incredibly sad. One of the last places I went was one of the first places I had gone to in Nagoya, Osu Kannon Temple.
Mino City is famous for traditional washi, handmade paper and decorative walls between shops to prevent fires called udatsu.
I departed for China in 2012, with hopes of making my fortune by starting a chain of English schools. I had to start low, at a kid's English school-- with a 90% pay cut from being a professional in Japan. Though I had visited China many times while I lived in Japan, I would soon find out that living there would be vastly different from visiting.
Higashiyama line to get to the city proper.
After Meito High School, I became a university professor. I was thrilled when I was chosen for a special Visiting Lecturer position at the prestigious Aichi Prefectural University. Here I am at a party with some professors from there.
Uji is also the location of The Tale of Genji, sometimes referred to as the world's first novel, written in the 11th Century.
Speech and Drama were a big part of Nanzan's English program.
Japan has many festivals, matsuri (祭), and there are always lots of food booths!
Nagoya is in Aichi Prefecture. The nearby Kansai region of Japan includes many wonderful places...
The Daibutsu (giant Buddha statue) in Todai-ji temple is famous. "Daibutsu" is actually a general term and there are others in Japan.
This was a prototype of what would be the world's fastest train.
The Meito Sports Center gym was my second home for 8 years. I made a lot of friends working out there.
Toganji Temple. I used to ride my bike past here on my way to work every morning and stop and chat with the big Buddha.
Because it was both Japanese and Catholic, graduation ceremonies were beautiful.
...and some of the guys from the
This is Sogisui Spring, which has been supplying pure water in the town of Gujō Hachiman for 400 years. The first section is for drinking, the second for washing rice, the third for washing vegetables, and the fourth for washing clothes and tools.
Kyoto, the ancient Capital, has many stunning sights, such as the extraordinary Fushimi Inari Shrine.
I liked it so much, I started a Pinterest board about it. CLICK HERE.
Nara is home to Todai-ji temple--and lots of hungry deer.
I lived in Japan from 2004 to 2012. It was one of the best times of my life.
This is Osu Kannon temple, a place I liked very much.. Kannon is the Japanese pronunciation of Guanyin, the Chinese name for the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Avalokitasvara. The original temple was in Gifu and was quite old (1333).
I got an incredible part-time job teaching at the Toyota Central R & D Laboratory. I had to learn auto engineering, metallurgy, the physics of motion, and many other things in order to teach the engineers English and edit their research papers. They were a truly amazing group and I miss them all very much.
Being a full-time teacher at a Japanese high school was quite an experience. To see my teaching history at Meito, please CLICK HEREfor that page on my teaching website, www.balaoshi.com. I put most of my pictures of teaching on that page.
Uji City, near Kyoto, is a lovely town on the Uji River and is famous for tea. There are many sweet shops by the water and romantic boat rides
Nagoya isn't the most exciting city in the world, but it's a really nice place to live.
At a US Consulate party with Aichi Prefecture Governor Hideki Omura.
I was in Shanghai when Kawamura made his infamous denial of the Nanjing Massacre--to the Nanjing delegation at a sister city event. Nanjing is part of the same sister city group that includes Los Angeles. I had met the Nanjing representative at an event shortly after my arrival.
This is the police mascot.
My favourite Japanese TV show, Fugo Keiji ("The Millionaire Detective") starring the adorable Kyoto Fukada, otherwise known as Fukakyon.
Teaching at Meito High School included an apartment in this building.
Needless to say, the Chinese were not amused. All of my Shanghai friends were furious and presented me with this article, with perhaps the worst picture ever taken of hizzoner, stuffing his face with noodles..
The towns of Gifu Prefecture are full of wonderful small shops, (and NO chain stores), such as this lovely old shop that sells candles that have been handmade the same way for generations.
When I was teaching at Manual Arts Community Adult School in inner-city LA, I was chosen for a special program with the Los Angeles Nagoya Sister City Association. I became a full-time, licensed public high school teacher at Meito High School in Nagoya Japan for two years, coinciding with EXPO 2005 to be held in Nagakute, right next to Nagoya, in Aichi Prefecture.
The comedian-like Mayor of Nagoya, Takashi Kawamura, at the same US Consulate event
This leaflet is from the Post Office about some of its services.
This gentleman attacks passengers aboard the Sagano Romantic Train, which runs between Arashiyama and Kameoka and offers a spectacular view of a gorge through which the Hozugawa River passes.
The area where I lived is called Gokuraku, which means "paradise" or "heaven." That's Meito High School in the background.
Such as Kobe...
Osaka is an especially fun city for nightlife. Many of Japan's comedians come from there. This is the Hanging Gardens.
I had an urban-equipped mountain bike that was my beloved steed.
I have taught engineering and technical English for business at many companies. To check it out, CLICK HERE.
As the representative of LANSCA, part of my job was to attend official events related to EXPO.
Japan is...a bit different from the US.
Drinking parties are a big part of life in Japan. Here I am with my teaching partner from Meito, Lilliana, and some Toyota engineers
Character mascots are big in Japan. Nagoya airport, officially called Chubu Centrair, has a cute mascot named Fu.
The Shinhotaka Ropeway Tram in Okuhi is spectacular.
These are the mascots for EXPO,
Kiccoro and Morizo.
Everyone always asks me about cherry blossoms in Japan. There were places in Nagoya where they were quite pretty (including near Meito High School), and I enjoyed hanami 花見, drinking and eating under the trees. My favourite experience was at night in Maruyama-koen Park near Kyoto. There were lots of drunk people, but they were friendly and not dangerous
It is the home of the Byōdō-in temple, which adorns the 10 yen coin.
I started a Pinerest board about it. (That I have been slow to finish, sorry. CLICK HERE to see it.
One of the highlights of my days at Meito High School was a trip to Gifu with the Principal, Suzuki-sensei and my teaching partner, Lilliana. Here we are in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).
The air at the top is very clear!
By the way, if you ever had to get stuck in an airport, I recommend Tokyo's Narita. I used to love getting a shower and massage on layovers here, so I had the lead character in my mystery novel Shanghai Passion feel the same way! You can preview this unpublished work by CLICKING HERE.
Robert Badal, A Writer and Teacher
It was moved here in 1612 by Tokugawa Ieyasu. It also has a shopping mall that is the most bohemian of the shopping areas of Nagoya. It was one of the first places I went after I moved here.