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There is something about coming back to Japan that resets my clock. Backwards. In a good way.

Each time I arrive here I have the same feeling I’d get as a child when I’d go to NYC. On high alert,  senses stimulated, fatigue banished.

I quickly transform from a place of “been there, done that” to a place of discovery.  My brain cells get scrambled just enough so that I recover my sense of wonder, exhilaration  and inspiration.

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The Mother of all sushi bars.

A sushi bar dinner becomes an exalted dining experience under the capable hands of highly trained sushi chefs who are dedicated to letting us know where each piece of fish is from as well as which part of the fish we are eating?  Feeling full?  Let me present you with a smaller size of sea urchin.  

The seasonal changes are celebrated with more gusto here.  October is not just a lead up to Halloween, but also time to appreciate the first celebrated fall mushrooms, the most prized being the matsutake, which I’ve not seen in the USA.  Speaking of Halloween, the bakeries and candy makers seem to be outdoing each other in tempting adults with charming and delicious looking treats. The holiday seems to be getting more popular here and definitely is not just for children. I exercised supreme self-control in not snapping up Hello Kitty cakes.

Autumnal floral arrangements sensitively display the exuberance of fall color as well as the sadness inherent of coming into winter. Don’t look for a bunch of chrysanthemums stuck in a vase.  Think grasses and fall berries, vines and a few flowers.

The lifelong quest for mastery over and commitment to a discipline is a given.  Our sushi chef disclosed that he’d worked as a sushi chef for 16 years, working his way up from a low-end establishment to a rarified restaurant at the top of the sushi hierarchy in Tokyo.  The level of finesse and artistry in any handmade object brings craftsmanship to an extraordinary level of refinement that demands the utmost of respect.  The reverence for craftsmanship permeates the culture and add soulfulness to many experiences.

On a personal level, I am always touched by the consideration that Japanese offer visitors.  The politeness that they unfailingly share with each other has created a society that works for the benefit of all.  Kindness received demands kindness offered. After many months of feeling like my country has become a mean -spirited place, it is a relief to reassure myself that decency, integrity and consideration still exist and are honored.

And so, I return.  And so, I reawaken.

Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • Judi Wallner says:

    Love your pictures and comments…they took me back to our times in Japan together and yes the politeness, gentleness and kindness as well as a devotion to beauty are things that are sadly missing in some elements of our society right now. Enjoy your respite and all the eye candy…not to mention the beauty of the children.

  • Linda Mason says:

    I love Japan, it was a land of many discoveries and kindness for me.