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A few days ago, as I realized my packing for my upcoming travel to Japan was taking entirely too long to pull together, I began to think what it must have been like just a few generations ago to undergo travel across the country by wagon train. Now I realize that has nothing to do with travel to Japan .  In that era, it was practically impossible. However, that’s where my mind went. How the hell did they pack for a trans continental trip by covered wagon? A few cute prairie dresses and a pair of sturdy boots.  I guess you couldn’t bring prescription drugs along. Nor protein bars. No music to plug into.  No wifi either. NO podcasts to break the tedium or distract from the monotony.  No cell phone call along the way to assure loved ones, you’re still alive and kicking. No Departure Lounge to sate oneself on food and drink before hitting the road.

Heaven help me, if the dust and horse dander had  brought on an asthma attack. I’d have been buried by the side of the road, probably a mile out of our first town.

Those thoughts quickly put everything in perspective.  I wrapped my preparations up quickly, boarded a 787 and gratefully flew to Japan, glad that I”m living in the 21st century. I could be certain there’d be no gangs of marauding  angry Indians. What did one wear for that terrifying event?

As for now, my computer was safely tucked along in my carry – on luggage, as were my Bose headphones.  I was prepared as I could be and happy to be on the road to my favorite place.  All I hoped for was a smooth flight.

After an hour long taxi from the airport to Kyoto, I tore off my clothes in the entry way of our apartment and made a b line to my unmade bed. Who cared if there were sheets, as long as I could be horizontal, had a pillow for my head and could just let go to sleep. And sleep I did.

This morning, as we ventured out to find breakfast, I felt myself opening to my alternate world. Little moments, that I hadn’t experienced since leaving Kyoto last May, now were in my sight lines again.  The carefully tended flowering plants that stand in front of most buildings bring nature up close.  The antique machiya that still remain standing, testaments to the important role Kyoto played as the cultural heart of Japan for hundreds of years, never fail to catch my breath.  The smiles on most people’s faces in daily interactions warm my soul.  I feel sadness too at the loss of buildings taken in the rush to provide more hotel rooms here to meet the demand.   The smorgasbord of enticing baked goodies displayed  at the local coffee house/bakery where we like to have breakfast  is a strong source of temptation this morning, but displaying newly learned and probably fragile self control, I manage to overcome.  Just say no.


Crisp noren at entry of store. Note protective figure (almost hidden) above doorway.


Welcome flowers at the entrance of my favorite grocery emporium.

The weather is still warm here.  I won’t be needing the warmer clothes I brought along for a while.  The leaves are all green too.  We need a cold snap.

One hundred years from now, what would someone make of this blog?  No answers there, but surely time marches on.  My twelve hour  journey across the Pacific will probably seem primitive.


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.